Return to Transcripts main page
Interview with Former Iraqi Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. and Indiana University Bloomington Global Strategic Studies Professor Feisal al-Istrabadi; Interview with "The Afghanistan Papers" Author Craig Whitlock; Interview with "Rise of the Black Quarterback" Author Jason Reid; Interview with Grammy award-winning musician Angelique Kidjo; Interview with Global Citizen Co-Founder and CEO; Hugh Evans. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired August 30, 2022 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Hello and welcome to "Amanpour". Here's what's coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: Violence in Baghdad. How a powerful leader's decision to quit politics lead to deadly protest. Former Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N.,
Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi, joins me. Plus --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The war in Afghanistan is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: I year ago, since the last American soldier left Afghanistan, I asked investigative reporter, Craig Whitlock, where the country is now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON REED, AUTHOR, "RISE OF THE BLACK QUARTERBACK": Never before in this league, in professional sports' most powerful league, have black men been
in the position to do such great things collectively.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The rise of the black quarterback. NFL writer, Jason Reed, tells our Michel Martin how black players are revolutionizing that game. And --
SIDNER: The voice of African pop. Angelique Kidjo, she joins me alongside Global Citizen Festival co-founder, Hugh Evans.
Welcome to the program. I'm Sara Sidner in New York sitting in for Christiane Amanpour.
The Iraqi capital has seen violent protests that left at least 21 people dead after weeks of tensions. The spark was ignited after influential Shia
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr announced on Twitter, he was quitting politics for good. This comes after his supporters were unable to form a government,
even though they won the most number of seats in parliament in last year's elections.
Al-Sadr's announcement sent a shockwave through Baghdad. His loyalists -- you see them there, storming the, so-called, Green Zone, the seat of the
parliament and the presidential palace. Al-Sadr said, his leaving politics was in the response to the failure of other Shia leaders, many of whom are
backed by Iran, to address corruption and decaying governing systems.
Today, he apologized to the nation for the violence and urged protesters to go home. Correspondent Ben Wedeman has our latest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For almost 24 hours, parts of Baghdad slipped into what looked like its darkest days. Long
smoldering tensions broke into protest and then violence, sparked by the announcement by powerful Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr that he was
withdrawing, not for the first time, from politics.
Shortly afterward, hundreds of supporters of al-Sadr's movement, the biggest block in Iraq's parliament, broke into Baghdad's Green Zone, home
to the Iraqi parliament, government ministries, and diplomatic missions, including the U.S. Embassy. Clashes with security forces soon followed more
than 20 people were killed, over 250 wounded.
Iraq has been in limbo since last October's parliament reelections. The squabbling factions couldn't agree on a government. The politicians deft to
demand that the creaking infrastructure be repaired. That Iraq's huge oil wealth be better spent. That ramp official corruption be addressed.
It's as if they have cotton in their years, says Youssef (ph), a protester. We asked for reforms. We asked them to back down. They did nothing.
Midday, Tuesday, al-Sadr addressed his followers to live television. He condemned the violence.
If supporters of his movement don't withdraw from parliament within 60 minutes, al-Sadr said, I will disavow the movement itself.
Within minutes they began to leave. The guns went quiet. Within minutes, the Iraqi army announced the end of the curfew in Baghdad. Iraq's profound
problems haven't been resolved. Its deep divisions haven't been bridged. Yet, Tuesday, the worst fears of nationwide bloodshed of perhaps civil war
receded, for now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: That was our Ben Wedeman reporting there. And for more on that story, my first guest has firsthand experience of Baghdad politics.
Feisal Amin al-Istrabadi served as deputy ambassador for Iraq at the U.N. And he is joining me from Bloomington, Indiana. Thank you for coming on the
FEISAL AMIN AL-ISTRABADI, FORMER IRAQI DEPUTY AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N. AND PROFESSOR OF GLOBAL STRATEGIC STUDIES, INDIANA UNIVERSITY BLOOMINGTON:
It's my pleasure to be with you.
SIDNER: You know, the world's focus has really shifted away from Iraq after the war. And now, we're seeing these old wounds and this major
violence again. What is happening on the ground there, in your mind?
AL-ISTRABADI: Well, a number of things. One is indeed a corrupt and incompetent political class, which unfortunately has been running Iraq for
too long. It's the same characters. Muqtada al-Sadr has been a part of the Iraqi political scene since 2003, as have the other major players. And they
have never actually come to more than a temporary motives, even the -- on the -- around the distribution of seats around the cabinet table. There has
never been a shared vision, a common vision for the future of Iraq. Now, that is part of the problem.
Another part of the problem is that with the Biden administration, Iraq simply is not a priority. The Biden administration has not been engaging
the Iraqi political class. One thing we know, after every election that we have had since the very first ones in January of 2005, is without the
Americans as convenors, the Iraqi political class is in a stalemate. And that simply has not been a role that the United States has been willing to
play in the last year or more.
SIDNER: You know, you talk about the role of the United States. Muqtada al-Sadr himself has said he doesn't want any outside influence on a
sovereign nation, which is what most sovereign nations how they operate. But he has been, as you mentioned, in -- a major player, really, in Iraq
for years, for decades. And he's now a nationalist who is going up against Iran, a place where he took shelter.
Can you explain why he is so important and what he means to those who follow him, who now have the most amount of seats in the parliament there
AL-ISTRABADI: Well, he did until they resigned en masse in June. They had 73 out of Iraq's 329 parliamentary seats. But he ordered them to resign,
and they did, immediately, all of them. And they were replaced under Iraq's election law with whoever got the number two spot in the elections.
He, himself, was often referred to as a member of the clergy. He's not actually a senior clergyman. He, however -- his father, however, was. His
father was assassinated by the previous regime, by Saddam Hussein, along with his two older brothers, sort of -- in this set-up, kind of, narrative,
largely correct of his father and brothers having been martyred to the Ba'athist regime.
And so, he, sort of, inherited a kind of legitimacy. He is, obviously, a leading political figure in the country. But he's actually fairly minor in
terms of the clerical establishment in Iraq. But he wields a real influence and he has for most of the 2003 period -- post-2003 dispensation.
As you said, he did seek refuge in Iran, especially when the Americans were looking for him. There was an arrest warrant for him at one point. But he's
also kept his political distance from Iran. The block that has opposed -- the Sadrist block in Baghdad is much closer to Iran then the Sadrists are.
He has always had a, kind of, pan-nationalist discourse, even as he took part in the 2006 to 2008 or so civil war very much on the, sort of, side of
Nonetheless, he is an important figure, like it or not. And the fact is that his supporters were made to quit the scene because he told them to
leave, not because the Iraq security forces forced a peace on the combatant yesterday.
SIDNER: Can you tell us from the perspective of the citizens that are living there, trying to get their lives together in a country that -- whose
government is just in shambles? What do they need? What do they want?
AL-ISTRABADI: First and foremost, what caused us to go to elections last October were demonstrations in Iraq's cities throughout the country
demanding early elections. Elections were somewhat delayed but they went off a bit early. What the overwhelming bulk of those demonstrators --
-- particularly in Southern Iraq, which is predominantly Shia were demanding, first and foremost, was a sense of a future. They do not see
economic opportunity in a country in which the political class -- which the political class keeps saying is a wealthy country. They see no evidence of
They see no basic services, including electricity, in a country whose temperatures in July and August routinely reach 50 degrees Celsius and
higher. They see no electricity. There's no basic services, whatsoever. No economic future. No plan for economic development. No plan for how to get
us off an oil-based economy as the world looks to renewable energy. They simply see no future in the country.
They see a corrupt political class which is fighting for the distribution of seats. And frankly, most Iraqis, I think, have given up on the politics
of Iraq. You saw that in the October elections when, probably, about 30 percent of the country turned up to vote. Iraqis have simply given up on
this political class, in my view.
SIDNER: Do you think al-Sadr is serious about getting out of politics completely? I mean, he is making some of the same accusations that you are,
in a sense that the corruption is so high and the people are so angry that he doesn't feel like he wants to do this anymore. Do you believe that?
AL-ISTRABADI: I must say I don't. As Ben Wedeman pointed out. He has resigned, "From politics before." He made a brilliant political move today.
He apologized to the Iraqis. I can't remember an Iraqi leader who has apologized for failure in Iraq for maybe ever in our history since
independence in 1932. But certainly, not in the republican period since 1958. It's a brilliant political move.
There is a tradition begun by the late Egyptian President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, sort of, making a show of resignation. And then having
demonstrators in the street demand that you stay in power. I wouldn't be surprised if something like that didn't occur. I find it hard to believe
that Muqtada al-Sadr is really going to walk away from power after wielding it for so long. If he does, I'll be the first to say so. I'm skeptical.
I'll believe it when I see it.
SIDNER: He certainly has the power of word over those who support him. He asked them to leave, as you mentioned, the parliament. And they did. He
asked them when the violence was happening and they were storming the presidential palace, he said, stop this within 60 minutes, and they did.
So, his power is still very much there. We're looking at pictures of the people as they were storming the palace there in Baghdad. But with the
government in this scenario, I mean, where does the government even begin to go from here?
AL-ISTRABADI: Well, I think what the demonstrators wanted, and they are -- their views are almost irrelevant at this point. But what the demonstrators
wanted was, I think, they wanted to see new faces. And what they got were the same old faces. And part of it is because an insufficient number of
Iraqis went to vote. And so, the people who voted, voted for the same old faces they've been voting for since 2005.
But I think what -- that is what they expected. The problem is that the kinds of reforms that will result in a better future for Iraqis are going
to be deeply, deeply unpopular in the short term. And so, it isn't clear how you get a mandate from a political class that has never actually
debated those issues in elections. How you get a mandate to make those reforms?
And so long as you don't have that debate and don't get a mandate to make those reforms, the reforms will be impossible to make, as Iraq's now former
-- immediate former finance minister just resigned in frustration. He has some modest reforms that must be made for Iraq to gain control of its
economic future and to give people a chance. But he just has no mandate to make any of those reforms.
So, it's very difficult to see. I think that -- I think we're in for tough days ahead. I don't think the worst is behind us yet.
SIDNER: Those are very stark words. And we are seeing that violence crop up in a way that we haven't seen in some time. The frustration, clearly,
there for good reason for the citizens. Let's go back to some of your comments on the United States and their participation, or lack thereof.
David Shanker, who served as the former Assistant Secretary of State for Eastern Affairs under the Trump administration wrote this.
The absence of high-level administration engagement in Iraq's post-election attempts to form a government was not an oversight, but a purposeful
decision. As one anonymous senior Biden administration official said, rather indifferently, last December, their plan was to leave it to the
Iraqis to sort out. In other words, leave the building of the nation to the Iraqis, which, to many people, sounds like the right thing to do because it
is their sovereign country. What are your thoughts on the idea of this unnamed senior Biden administration official?
AL-ISTRABADI: Well, I mean, if Iraq had the political class, let's say, Switzerland had and the institutions that Switzerland has, that would be
the correct approach. You let the Swiss figure out after elections how to form a government. That's not the way Iraq has been run. And it's not the
way the Americans set up Iraq after 2003.
The last time that this view prevailed in an administration and the United States was when Brett McGurk, who now has a portfolio for the entire Middle
East, convinced President Obama that it didn't matter what happened in Iraq. Iraq should be treated like any other sovereign country. And Nuri al-
Maliki in late 2011 and early 2012 started to move against the other members of the political class in Iraq. And that led to the collapse of
2014 when ISIL occupied a third of the country, and the United States had to go back in for full force and fight for three years to liberate Iraqi
territory from a terrorist organization that was a threat to the United States and its regional allies.
This is what's at stake in Iraq. When America takes its eyes off the ball in Iraq, bad things happen. Bad things happen to U.S. policy in the Middle
East. Iraq is not Afghanistan. Iraq is much closer to vital national United States security interests that have been vital to the United States since
the end of the second world war. And unfortunately, not everyone in the U.S. administration seems to understand that.
SIDNER: Former Iraqi Deputy Ambassador to the U.N., Feisal Amin al- Istrabadi, thank you so much for coming on and giving such excellent insight into what's happening in the country now.
AL-ISTRABADI: Thank you very much.
SIDNER: And the final withdrawal of American troops from Iraq came just months after Afghanistan. A year since those chaotic images from Kabul
Airport, as people desperately tried to flee. And a year to the day since the very last U.S. soldier, seen here, left Afghanistan.
A legacy that United States still grapples with today. Craig Whitlock is an investigative reporter for "The Washington Post". He is the author of "The
Afghanistan Papers", which looked at how the war was sold to the public. And he is joining me now from Washington.
Thank you so much for joining the program, Craig.
CRAIG WHITLOCK, AUTHOR, "THE AFGHANISTAN PAPERS": Thanks for having me.
SIDNER: So, I want to talk to you about Iraq first, just because we have been seeing these pictures, disturbing pictures of violence and frustration
on the part of civilians. A particular party of Muqtada al-Sadr. Before we, sort of, delve into "The Afghanistan Papers", can you give me a sense of
whether, in your view, because you have looked into this for so long, if the United States still sees Iraq and its fledgling democracy as any kind
WHITLOCK: I think there's a real fatigue in the United States, particularly in Washington, with dealing with the legacy of these long wars
that we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. That all this effort that had been spent trying to stabilize Iraq, stabilize Afghanistan hasn't gone very
well. And so, now you have the Biden administration, which has taken over from its three predecessor presidents who had been in -- headed these wars.
It's really struggling, I think, to come up with a coherent policy in both places and really trying to figure out what to do in the aftermath of both
SIDNER: Now, I'm going to get to your excellent reporting, investigative reporting in "The Afghan Papers" and what they mean to all of us, and to
all the citizens around the world who watch this happen. You wrote this book. And in it, you really reveal to the public that we were all lied to
on many different levels.
And I want to read a couple of things. John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan said, government documents show the American people
have constantly been lied to. And then you, Army Colonel Bob Crowley, who said this, "Every data point altered to present the best picture possible.
Surveys, for instance, were totally unreliable but reinforced that everything we were doing was right.
And we became a self-licking ice cream cone." Those are some really damning words. Can you remind us all of, sort of, what your view with the central
reason why the United States failed in Afghanistan?
WHITLOCK: Well, there's sort of two separate issues here. In terms of the lies, I think this is something that the American people are still trying
to understand a year after the withdrawal. When people saw the Taliban sweep into Kabul while the U.S. military was still trying to evacuate
thousands of people from Afghanistan, it was a real shock to our country, to people who maybe hadn't been paying attention to what was going on in
They couldn't understand how could the United States military, the most powerful military force in the world, so vividly lose a war to the Taliban,
which is a, you know, hardscrabble assembly of guerrillas had been fighting us in a very impoverished country. How could this outcome happen?
Especially given that U.S. leaders at the Pentagon, the State Department, and the White House, for the better part of 20 years, have been telling the
American people that we are making progress in Afghanistan. That victory is around the corner. That despite some ups and downs here and there and
setbacks, that we were going to win the war. And even President Trump had promised, not just a satisfactory outcome, but he promised outright
victory. So, how could this happen?
And I think what I did in "The Afghanistan Papers" is we took confidential interviews that people had been involved with the war over 20 years had
admitted in these interviews with a government agency that the American people had been sold a bill of goods. That they had been told that thing --
the strategy was working. That the Afghan army and police force were effective and would be able to defend their own country. That this vast
amount of money we're spending in Afghanistan was taking root and building a new nation.
Yet, in these confidential interviews, government officials admitted that they knew this wasn't true. That they knew the strategy was a failure, and
that they were really just biding time and hoping for the best. So, I think this is something that for years U.S. people are really going to still try
and come to grips with.
SIDNER: Craig, you know, in politics -- as you know, everyone wants to point fingers, right? So, George W. Bush's administration still followed
this line. President Obama's administration followed this line. And so, did, as you mentioned, Donald Trump's administration followed the same line
that winning is, sort of, around the corner or we're getting there, or we're nation building.
Has anybody faced any sort of real accountability for the mistakes that were made? You are talking about, you know, so many people have died,
civilians. And so many soldiers from this country lost their lives and wonder now, in talking to some of them, as I've been to the country on
several occasions, what was it all for? I mean, who is accountable for these mistakes? And have they been punished?
WHITLOCK: Well, no. No one's been accountable at a strategic level or political level, or at the highest levels of the military. There actually
was one general who was held accountable in Iraq during the beginning of the Obama administration. His name was David McKiernan. He was an army
general in charge of all U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan.
And in May 2009, he was summarily fired. One day, then Secretary of Defense Robert Gates came into the Pentagon briefing room and announced that
General McKiernan was being removed as a commander. And this is highly, highly unusual. He was the first war commander to be relieved of command
since Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. And reporters kept asking Gates, what did he do wrong? And Gates said, well, nothing. We just thought
it was time for new leadership, new thinking at the top.
And as I reported in my book, there were documents, oral histories done with people who served in Afghanistan on McKiernan's staff who said that
McKiernan's failing was actually, he was the one general in public who admitted the United States was not winning. And he kept saying that things
were going in the wrong direction. And he was the one exception, the person who didn't guarantee victory. And that got him in trouble back at the
Pentagon. And that's what led to his firing.
So, that's a very clear message to every military commander who followed him for the next 10 or 12 years that if you tell the truth that things
aren't going well, this is what can happen to you. So, he's the only one who's been held accountable.
SIDNER: So, the one person that I was telling the truth and trying to warn everyone ended up being held accountable. Let's talk about going forward
and the threat, for example, of terror. You know, in places that are ungoverned and impoverished, you often see the idea and the terrorist
I want to let you listen to what FBI Director Christopher Wray has said this month about potential terror threats growing in Afghanistan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: Especially now that we're out, I'm worried about the potential loss of sources and collection over there. So, we're
going to have growing intelligence gaps. And I'm worried about the possibility that we will see Al-Qaeda reconstitute, the ISIS-K potentially
taking advantage of the deteriorating security environment. And I'm worried about terrorists, including here in the United States, being inspired by
what they see over there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: The Biden administration says that it is betting on something called over-the-horizon counterterrorism. But are your sources concerned or
confident that there's going to be enough done to, sort of, blunt any potential threats?
WHITLOCK: Well, I think this is going to require a whole relook at how the United States operates its counterterrorism programs. For the last 20
years, U.S. military and the CIA Intelligence Committee have gotten used to the idea of having U.S. forces occupying other countries where there might
be a threat or a potential threat.
Now, that U.S. has withdrawn from Afghanistan, it does have a big blind spot there as to what's going on. It has to rely on satellites and human
sources once removed. And it's difficult. We don't have an embassy there.
So, understandably, there is real concern. And particularly when Al-Qaeda's former number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a drone strike
in Kabul, very recently, you know, that does raise questions. Who might move into this vacuum?
The problem is that even when the United States had 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, even when we had 10,000 troops as recently as two years ago,
it wasn't that the U.S. controlled the country or that there were no threats in Afghanistan. We have tom kind of, look back to 9/11. 9/11, its
organizer, Osama bin Laden, he was seeking refuge in Afghanistan. That was his base. There's no question about that. There were training camps in
But 9/11 was carried out by Saudis and Emiratis who had been training in Europe and the United States. So, I think in a way, we've moved on from
those threats of 9/11 where it might be planned in a bunker or a camp in Afghanistan. The question is, how does the United States defend itself
against a much more diffused threat that could come from any country?
And certainly, U.S. military can't occupy every country in the world that might have a security vacuum like Afghanistan. So, it's going to require
real rethink of how we act to protect the country.
SIDNER: You have this real problem when it comes to how the country build, right? The Taliban is basically saying, you know, the U.S. is collectively
punishing the Afghan people by using sanctions to keep money away from them, to freeze assets. While the west is saying, we're not going to give
money to the Taliban who have, you know, done all manner of things to humanity there and punished women and those who were trying to help rebuild
But do you see any conditions under which the west decides to lift sanctions, because if they don't, does the Taliban go back to, you know,
selling opiates and those sorts of activities, including, you know, letting terrorism just grow out of control in the country?
WHITLOCK: Well, you're right. There's a real standoff there, a diplomatic standoff between the United States and European countries and the Taliban.
And I don't see a lifting of sanctions against the Taliban. I think what the U.S. and other western allies have tried to do is funnel aid through
independent parties, national, you know, different national aid organizations to try and help the Afghan people without giving money
directly to the Taliban government. I don't see that happening anytime soon.
But the Taliban, frankly, hasn't given any ground. You know, it's been very stubborn about not, you know, extending any rights, frankly, to women and
girls. We see all the time they're really constricting the little available space for women and girls in public. You know, that seems to be getting
worse, not better. And as long as that continues, I think that diplomatic standoff will continue. And you're right, to a large degree, the people who
will suffer will be the Afghan people who are just getting over 40 years of constant warfare.
I mean, you know, thank goodness that open warfare had ceased for the moment in Afghanistan. There's still violence in Afghanistan. But the war
that the United States had been involved in for 20 years took a real toll on Afghan people. So, at least that's over with. But now, you have famine
and you have other problems. And it's hard to be very optimistic about the future of Afghanistan at this point.
SIDNER: I think that is sadly well put. Thank you so much, Craig Whitlock, for your work on this.
Now, turning to sport. As arguably, the greatest female tennis player ever maybe playing her last game, set and match. 23-time Grand Slam champion
Serena Williams managed advanced, powerfully, to the second round of the U.S. Open in what she has heavily hinted will be her last tournament.
Her outfit included a customer six-layer diamond encrusted skirt, in a nod to her six U.S. Open titles. She is, of course, a pioneer in the world of
sports. Serena and her sister Venus became the first female black minority owners of NFL team back in 2009. Diversity and leadership remains a problem
for American football however, as a significant minority -- majority of coaches, owners and quarterbacks are white.
NFL writer and columnist Jason Reid is tackling the history of racism in the game with his latest book and joins Michel Martin to elaborate on
breaking these barriers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHEL MARTIN, CONTRIBUTOR: Sara, thank you. Jason Reid, thank you so much for joining us.
JASON REID, AUTHOR, "RISE OF THE BLACK QUARTERBACK": Thank you for having me.
MARTIN: So, your book, "Rise of the Black Quarterback," is based on reporting in a series that focused on the 2019 season. Why is that? What
was so special about it?
REID: Because never before in this league, in professional sports most successful powerful league, have black men been in a position to do such
great things collectively. And as it turned out, Lamar Jackson in his first world season as a starter won the league's MVP Award. Patrick Mahomes led
the Kansas City Chiefs to the first Super Bowl Championship in 50 years. Kyler Murray, who was the number one overall pick in the draft that year
won the AP offensive rookie of the year award. Dak Prescott with the Dallas Cowboys had a great season. Russell Wilson had another great season.
So, as it turned out, it actually truly was the year of the black quarterback in the NFL.
MARTIN: You know, quarterbacks -- just to wrap (ph) quarterbacks for a minute. I mean, I think even if you don't follow football, if you don't
really care, then people know quarterbacks. And you write that quarterbacks are the most celebrated players in football. They are among the most
scrutinized and the highest paid in professional sports, not just football, but in professional sports.
But by contrast, you say that black quarterbacks are the most marginalized group of players in NFL history. That's a pretty strong statement. I mean,
why do you say that?
REID: Well, historically, black men with the quarterbacks were the most marginalized in the league. They were believed to be too stupid, there's
really no other way to put it, to play the position because quarterback is the ultimate thinking man's position, you actually have to read the
defense, you have to be able to inspire. And obviously, when you're talking about inspiring people, intelligence is one thing that makes people
gravitate toward people who want to be leaders
So, yes, without a question, these were the most historically within the NFL marginalized players, marginalized group. But the racism that we saw
that prompted these ideas, these wrongheaded, these ideas, these myths, well it went away overtime, but went away over a great period of time.
MARTIN: You know, so, you had some really fascinating stories in this book that, you know, I'd certainly never heard these before about -- I guess
I'll call them hidden figures of the NFL, that you write that black players were actually intrinsic to the founding of professional football and yet,
they were, you know, isolated. I want to ask you to tell me about Fritz Pollard.
Now, this is a -- I mean, he is in the professional football Hall of Fame, but not for sort of the totality of his accomplishment. So, tell me about
that. Why was he such a pivotal figure?
REID: I'm so glad you asked me about Fritz Pollard. Fritz Pollard who was there at the beginning, when the NFL was founded back in 1920, he would go
on to become the first black head coach in NFL history. He was the first black quarterback in NFL history. He was the first black superstar player
in NFL history.
And, you know, when we talk about Fritz Pollard, you know, much of his story was lost to history for a very long time because the NFL didn't want
to celebrate the accomplishments of black players who were there at its founding. And Fritz Pollard was the first one.
And what he had to endure, what he went through to be a pioneer so that these other players who came after him could stand on his shoulders, it was
really a testament to his inner strength, his fortitude, that he could deal with the racist chants of crowds that he dealt with no one wanting him
around, you know, often when other -- when the other parts of his team, you know, his teammates were out doing things together. And when I think about
what he endured, he really laid the groundwork for all of the players who came after him.
You know, I talked about he was also quarterback. Now, he lined up at quarterback. It isn't quarterback as we know it today, this celebrated
position where, you know, these guys are paid so spectacularly well. But he was the first quarterback. And when you are the first of so many things,
you should be celebrated and honored. And finally, you know, long after his death, he did get into Pro Football Hall of Fame.
MARTIN: Talk a little bit more, if you will, about how he contributed to the creation of the Professional Football League that really is the
foundation for the NFL today.
REID: The NFL as we know today is the 800-pound gorilla. But back in 1920, the NFL, when it was in its infancy, taking its baby steps, it was dwarfed
by Major League Baseball and it was dwarfed in college football. And the reality of it is, no one knew for sure if this new upstart league was going
to even be able to take a foothold and survive.
So, the NFL -- the team owners of the time, they wanted players who had recognition from their college days. And Fritz Pollard, this black man,
who, you know, wasn't very big in terms of, you know, physical stature, you know, he's 5'9", but he was a great star running back at Brown University.
You know, Brown in the Ivy League, this prestigious school. He leads Brown to the rose bowl.
So, within the consciousness of football in America and specifically college football, Fritz Pollard was known. So, if you're starting up a new
league, you want people with some name recognition. Hopefully, they can draw people to the stadiums and put some butts in seats. And what Fritz
Pollard did in that first year, especially because he had this rivalry with Jim Thorpe, the great Native American athlete, the star of the 1912
Olympics, that what that did was Jim Thorpe and Fritz Pollard having this rivalry in this first of this new league, it helped to bring in fans and it
helped the new league to get going.
MARTIN: You know, it may not be surprising, but it is still shocking to read that despite the fact that black players were so valuable to the
creation of the league and so important to it, you said that there was actually a ban on black players, that all black players from 1933 to 1945.
Now, you say that there's no documentation of this. So, why do you call it a ban?
REID: In the 1930s, with The Great Depression, there was a feeling within the NFL that why are we giving jobs to black men when jobs are so scarce
that could go to white men? I mean, it was just, quite frankly, a very racist outlet but that's what it was.
And then, additionally, the NFL team owners, they wanted to basically attract more white fans. They really didn't want black fans. They wanted
more white fans. They wanted -- that was where they wanted to market the league to that segment of society. And with the emergence of Red Grange,
the great college running back who came into the league, they have this white superstar. Because you have to remember, at this point, Fritz Pollard
is gone, Jim Thorpe is gone, and the league really wanted a white superstar, you know, a great white hope, so to speak, to build around. They
had that in Red Grange.
Now, as far as the agreement to keep black players out of the game, it is absolutely true what you said, no documentation has ever been (INAUDIBLE)
that actually confirms that owners got together and had a meeting, and so, we're going to ban black players. It really was a so-called gentleman's
agreement. And how do we know this? Because from the end of the 1933 season all the way up to 1946 there were no black players in the league.
Now, later on, executives and officials would say, well, no, there was no racial bias. We just essentially couldn't find any black players. That just
doesn't ring true. It doesn't ring true when you say that with all the black men who were playing college football that none were good enough to
play in the NFL. I mean, it's ludicrous on its face. And as it turned out, the reality of it is that the team -- that some team owners did want to
have black players but there was such overwhelming opposition that it didn't happen.
MARTIN: One of the most insidious aspects of the treatment of black play callers that you point out in the book is how many talented collegiate
quarterbacks were forced to switch to other positions if they wanted to play professionally. Why is that?
REID: I hate to oversimplify this because -- but the reality of it is, it was just racism. The belief was that black men could simply not handle the
rigors of the position because quarterback is the ultimate thinking man's position. Yes, you have to have a physical skill set that allows you to
thrive, but it really all starts up here.
And, for years, at historically black colleges and universities, there were black quarterbacks, very successful black quarterbacks. Additionally, at
some other universities, some bigger schools where black people were not in enrollment in great numbers, Michigan State, the University of Southern
California in the '60s had black quarterbacks as well.
But the understanding was, and it wasn't -- just like with the band black players, there's no written documentation that this is what was said to be
done. But same thing with black quarterbacks being changed to different positions. There was nothing written, it was just an understanding because
black players, black men, black young men were not looked at as individuals, they were being looked at collectively. And the collective
stamp on them was that they just weren't smart enough.
So, it was really soul crushing for all these young men because they knew that they had to change positions. Nothing written, it was just understood.
MARTIN: So, what finally what broke the fever? What finally gave the -- you know, gave the league the understanding that either this was wrong or
that it wasn't constructive, right, that they were not benefiting from the talents of a whole group of people? What broke the fever?
REID: Yes. Well, what broke it was that the color green eventually trumped the color black. The team owners desired to make money eventually prompted
them to slowly -- and I mean, very slowly, change their opinions.
You know, I break this question up into two answers. We have Doug Williams' myth busting performance in the Super Bowl for the Washington -- well, for
the Washington Commanders now against the Denver Broncos, where he becomes the first black quarterback back 1987 to start in the Super Bowl and win
the game's MVP award.
He passed it with 340 yards and four touchdowns. Washington crushes the Denver Broncos. And that was a seminal moment because what it did was it
planted as seed that, OK, maybe this is a one-off, maybe this black quarterback just had a great day. But what if he didn't? What if it wasn't
a one-off? What if black quarterback can actually do this?
Then, the other part of the answer is, Warren Moon and Randall Cunningham. Warren Moon had a great career at the University of Washington, doesn't get
drafted in 1978. Goes to Canada. Lights it up in Canada. Puts up records. Win championships. Is signed as a free agent, finally, by the Houston
Oilers of the NFL. And after a rough transition period, he starts lighting up, lighting it up. He becomes a perennial pro bowler. And now, he's the
only quarterback, black quarterback, enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
At the same time in the late '80s, early '90s, Randall Cunningham with the Philadelphia Eagles, he's a second-round draft choice, but he gets in
there. And all of a sudden, he does things the NFL has never seen before because he doesn't just play from the pocket, which he can and which he
succeeds, but he also can outrun the fastest defensive players and becomes this incredible dual threat quarterback.
So, the three names that you have to remember when you talked about this law jam finally breaking, Doug Williams, Warren Moon, and Randall
Cunningham, and that's in the late 1980s and the early 1990s.
MARTIN: I don't know who we can talk about the black quarterback without talking about Colin Kaepernick, and his very kind of unique trajectory. I
mean, for people who don't remember, he was a very successful quarterback until he started kneeling and -- during the playing of the National anthem
in protest of what he said, social injustice in general, but police violence directed at people of color and specific.
He wasn't resigned after that and he hasn't played since. He since negotiated at some sort of settlement with the NFL related to that. But it
was a huge kind of cultural moment, this occurring sort of during the Trump administration, Trump himself was extremely critical. There was a
tremendous backlash against him.
Some people would look at that story and say, you can't have it both ways. You can't be socially active and still maintain your standing in a league.
What do you say?
REID: I disagree with the notion that these young black men, these black quarterbacks, can't be both socially active and maintain their level of
play and do the things that they want to do within their careers because several years after what happen to Colin Kaepernick, Patrick Mahomes
decided, after George Lloyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis, that he wanted to do something.
And so, what he did was with a group of other superstar black players, he got -- he put out a video. And in the video, Patrick Mahones said, black
lives matter. And this is very controversial. The NFL, at that moment, had -- did not want to address the Black Lives Matter movement. But what that
video was about, it was about pushing team owners and team executives to do more to partner with black players, black players representing about 60
percent of the NFL, to do more to partner with black players to address these issues in the predominately in the communities where these players
And Patrick Mahomes said black lives matter, which angered a lot of people. But you know what happened after that, Commissioner Roger Goodell, in
basically checking off every item on the players to-do list that they mentioned that video did. And he also said for the first time, black lives
Colin Kaepernick just ignited something. And then, these other players, they took it up and ran with it. And Patrick Mahomes, who's arguably, he's
either the first- or second-best quarterback in the NFL for a couple years there. He was number one without question. Patrick Mahomes used his
platform and his (INAUDIBLE) to effect change. And you know what? He still lining up behind center for the Kansas City Chiefs, because he's too good
to get rid of.
MARTIN: I want to go to the second -- the subtitle of your book. It's called -- it's "Rise of the Black Quarterback," but the subtitle of your
book is "What it Means for America." What does it mean for America? For people listening to our conversation, say, OK, that's very interesting from
a perspective of, you know, the sport pages. But what's the bigger significance of that?
REID: When we think of quarterback in America away from the field, we think of the smartness. We think of the person who's the best leader. We
think of the person that everyone else wants to rally around. So, the rise of the black water back in an NFL, if you can't -- if black men are
excluded from the ultimate leadership position, and we know in the way that the NFL dominates American popular culture, well, what does that say about
black people and black men about it our society overall writ large?
It says that black men and black people are inferior. So, the rise of the black quarterback in the previous century and this one, was what it shows
us is that when people get opportunities, when the playing field is not necessary completely level, but even just a little bit more level and
people have the opportunity to compete, all of us, regardless of race, can rise up and contribute to the fabric of the greatest country in the world.
So, the "Rise of the Black Quarterback" mirrors the rise of black people in this country in the previous century and this one.
MARTIN: Is there something in particular that gives you the sense that this sort of trajectory of inclusion is not to be reverse?
REID: Yes, I definitely do. And what I point to is that I look at the college ranks, I look at high school no, I look at youth football and, you
know, let's look at traditional college power, schools like Ohio State, Alabama, USC, all led by superstar black quarterbacks at the youth level
where, in decades past, eight-year-olds, nine-year-olds, 10-year-olds were told that they can't play quarterback and they're moved to the other
position. Now, those kids are at quarterback.
So, from youth football to high school to college, there is this pipeline right now. And we are truly now in the era of the black quarterback. And
what I would is that in five to either years, it would not be surprising at all to see 12 or 16 of the 32 NFL teams being led by superstar black
So, no, this is never going away now because, additionally, in addition to the pipeline coming, the money is too great, the pressure to win is
palpable. These teams, these owners, these coaches, these executives simply cannot afford to pass on a talented black quarterback.
MARTIN: Jason Reid, thank you so much for talking with us today.
REID: Oh, thank you for having me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SIDNER: And finally, the power of music to help fight global poverty. The Global Citizen Festival is returning for a 10th year. This year's concert
will be held on September 24th in two locations, New York City Central Park and Black Star Square in the Capital of Ghana.
Joining me now are co-founder Hugh Evans and five-time -- count them five- time Grammy award-winner Angelique Kidjo, who won a Grammy this year for her album, "Mother Nature."
Thank you both so much for joining the program.
HUGH EVANS, CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, GLOBAL CITIZEN: Thank you so much for having us, Sara.
ANGELIQUE KIDJO, GRAMMY AWARD-WINNING MUSICIAN: Thank you for having us.
SIDNER: Angelique, I'm going to begin with you. Can you tell us what brings you back? You've done this in 2021. What brings you back? Why is
Global Citizen so important to you?
KIDJO: Well, Global Citizen is important because we are trying to get the youth of Africa and around the World engage to help us help them. The
future is in line -- I mean, we have so much issues. We have woman in empowerment, young women empowerment. We have climate change. We have
poverty. We have famine. We have so much issue that we have to deal with. And we need the youth to be on board with us.
That's Global Citizen is so important by having that power to bring all those people, all those young kids around the world to come to the concert
to understand and to see celebrities, normal people, regular people doing the best they empower their life better.
SIDNER: We are seeing you jamming in September of 2021 in Paris at the Global Citizen concert there. And sound gorgeous as always.
Hugh, I want to ask you what is the main goal of this year's concert?
EVANS: Well, thank you so much. And firstly, I should say that we are absolutely thrilled to have Angelique join us this year on the great lawn
of Central Park in New York City for the Global Citizen Festival, on the same night that we're hosting the event in Accra, Ghana.
The main goal of this year's festival is really focused on issues of climate change, the empowerment of women and girls, and agricultural food
security. On the first topic of agricultural food security, we know that right now the war in Ukraine has made fertilizer so scarce and expensive
that Ghana's farmers are now facing a short fall of over 500,000 tons of fertilizer for the next planting season, that is this September.
And so, we need, world leaders, specifically the Bided administration, Secretary Blinken and the USAID administrator, Samantha Power, to step up
and contribute $500 million to provide those small hold agricultural farmers with the fertilizers they need to really stave off the food
security crisis that is facing them head on.
This is discretionary spending, the U. S. government could do it right now, and that's what Global Citizen is calling on. But we also know that
Angelique herself has been a huge champion of the issue of the empowerment of women and girls, because it is the closest we have to a silver bullet
for the eradication of extreme poverty.
And to the White House's credit, they have stepped up and they established the Child Care Investment Fund, which is focused on trying to support women
who were forced out of the workforce and into child care during the COVID- 19 pandemic. And we need the U.S. government now to encourage on the G7 nations like France, like Japan, like the U.K. to step up and also follow
the U.S. government's lead and invest in women and girls right now.
SIDNER: OK. So, you talk about this major issue and the World Bank says 75 to 95 million since the pandemic are now in extreme poverty, and this is a
way to try to raise awareness, but also to raise money.
Angelique, when you look around the world, what concerns you the most? I noticed that your latest huge hit, "Mother Nature," I'm going to read you
some of the words and I would love to hear you sing a bit. But you say mother nature has a way of warning us, a timebomb set on a lost count down.
Can you explain what you were trying to tell people?
KIDJO: I'm trying to tell people of the urgency of what is going on. I mean, everything that you say is close to my heart and we all -- I mean, we
are working absolute in many different ways to make these a reality and make profound change.
But how can we have fertilizer to the farmers if there's no more earth, (INAUDIBLE), if we cannot harvest what we plant. And we are -- for me, it
is urgent for us to put the climate change at the same level of all the issue that you have talked about. Because we empower young women. They can
create jobs. There are the solution to absolute to put a profound -- and profound check and dent in poverty in Africa.
But at the same time, we have another challenge that is looming on the high horizon that we don't have any control over, it is climate change. And I
think that the leaders of -- the leader of this world that we are talking to, as they help us invest in full security in girls and young women
empowerment, children's right, all those issue that we have to face, we need to secure this earth for all of us to be able to see the work we are
doing come to fruition in security and safety to make the school safe enough during these climate change.
The heat waves will be impossible for the schools that we have, the way we have them now in Africa. We need to create schools that are really
ecofriendly for young girls and young boys. I mean, investing climate change is, for me, as important as everything we are doing with Global
Citizen, is absolutely crucial.
SIDNER: I'm going to be a bit cheeky here, Angelique. Would you mind singing us a few bars just so that our audience can hear your lovely voice?
KIDJO: A which one? You want "Mother Nature" or something else?
SIDNER: Yes, absolutely.
KIDJO: Don't ever let them hurt you in any way, or never let them steal and take the best of you. Keep building cities from their ground. We rising
with the wave. Mother nature has a way of wanting us. A time bomb set on her lost countdown. Do you hear it? Will you stop it? Won't you listen?
SIDNER: Angelique Kidjo and Hugh Evans, thank you both. Angelique, that was marvelous.
And that is for us for now. Thank you so much for watching. And goodbye from New York.