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Need a one-stop shop to catch up on the top sports stories big and small? Time Out For Sports airs Mondays on WFAE's "All Things Considered" and has what you need to know about everything from Charlotte-area high school football highlights to the latest updates on the Carolina Panthers.

Time Out For Sports: Trump Calls For Apology From Bubba Wallace; Cam Newton's Salary

Langston Wertz Jr, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.
Langston Wertz Jr.
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It's time now for sports. President Trump is calling on NASCAR's only full-time top-level African American driver to apologize. Former Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is still in the news about his salary and future with the New England Patriots. And the Hornets season may not be over after all. With "All Things Considered" host Gwendolyn Glenn to talk about these issues is Langston Wertz, a longtime sportswriter for the Charlotte Observer.

Glenn Hi Langston.

Wertz Jr. Hi, how are you?

Glenn I'm good. Well, Langston, tell us about President Trump's tweet calling for an apology by African American NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace.

Wertz Jr. Yeah, I mean, it kind of came out of nowhere this morning. President Trump's another tweet calling on Bubba Wallace to apologize to quote all those great NASCAR fans with officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, only to find out that the whole thing was just another hoax. Trump also added that in the flag, this issue has caused the lowest ratings ever. Of course, The Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay reported, I mean responded that the Saturday's Xfinity race with the highest Xfinity race in three years. We don't know the ratings for Sunday's race in Indianapolis, where Bubba Wallace finished ninth. But we do know that NASCAR says some of its highest ratings were during the pandemic itself.

Glenn And also him calling it a hoax. There was a noose.

Wertz Jr. Oh, it was a noose. And NASCAR actually brought the noose to Bubba. They immediately investigated. The FBI investigated. The FBI discovered the noose had been there for six or seven months. NASCAR immeditely apologized for not using the word allegedly in terms of a racial incident.

Glenn And NASCAR also said they would put in more cameras to make sure something like that doesn't happen again. And they're also requiring sensitivity training on bias for employees.

Wertz Jr. Absolutely.

Glenn Well, last week we talked about Cam Newton signing with the Patriots but let's do a quick breakdown of the salary he's being offerd that many fans and sportscasters are calling disrespectful. But first, here's what Cam Newton had to say about the situation in an online post.

Newton I'm going to tell you this. I'm getting tired of being humble now. When you're humble, they start taking advantage of you, when you don't speak out, they take advantage...

Wertz Jr. He's mad, Gwen, and he's ready to proove a point.  Cam's made $100 million in 10 years, but it's coming year he's guaranteed $550,000 as part of a one year contract. His base salary is 1.05 million, which is the absolute minimum for a player of his experience. But Cam can earn up to 6.45 million in incentives or bonuses. But I think Newton is very, very, very motivated. The question is, once he starts getting hit on that shoulder and foot will they hold up? I think if so, he's going to have a monster year and perhaps be in the running for comeback player of the year.

Glenn Why do you think he took such a low offer? And did his shoulder and foot injuries make it that hard for him to get a better deal?

Wertz Jr. Yeah, I think the pandemic really hurt him because teams couldn't get him in to take a physical to see what his status was. I think the Patriots he probably feels like is a really good opportunity for him to become a starter again in play for, you know, an NFL Hall of Fame coach and a team that's won six Super Bowl.

Glenn And there's also talk about whether he will be the starting quarterback. What do you think?

Wertz Jr. Let me ask a question. Have you ever heard of Jarrett Stidham or Brian Hoyer?

Glenn Only recently.

Wertz Jr. Those are the two guys he has to beat out. Newton has the skills and talent to beat out both those quarterbacks. But Cam Newton will be the starter week one for the New England Patriots unless he gets hurt again and God forbid he does.

Glenn Well, let's move on to the Charlotte Hornets. They are not going to play in Orlando because their record was not good enough, but they still might play. Tell us how that can happen.

Wertz Jr. Reportedly, the NBA is planning on creating a second bubble. This will be in Chicago and they will take the 18, including the Golden State Warriors. You know, these teams didn't have anything, they'd be off from March to whenever. So they wanted to get a chance to ask in group workouts, maybe some intersquad scrimmages. It's gonna require approval from the players association and the NBA owners. I can't see how it doesn't go through. I think it's a great idea, you know, to let those teams also get some work in because it would create a national advantage for those are the teams that actually get together and play games.

Glenn Now, let's move to another topic in football. In the same week that the Washington professional football team is being pushed to change the team's name by major sponsors like FedEx. The team's stadium carries that company's name, here locally, a high school finds itself in a similar situation. What's going on and at what school?

Wertz Jr. First of all, back to the Washington NFL team. I think it's kind of cool some of the names that come out potentially.  One that really kind of struck me was Red Tail. And they would celebrate the World War II Tuskegee Airmen. They were the first black military aviators in the armed forces and the back of their planes had crimson paint on them. So they called a red team. That's kind of cool.

Wertz Jr. But the school in Gaston County, South Point high school, their mascot is a Red Raider, and it's a big red Native American face. That's probably the best way I can describe it. And a 2003 graduate, a woman named Laura Boyce, it just made her uncomfortable seeing it. She said when she was in high school there it didn't make her feel uncomfortable. But as she's learned more about race relations and things like that, she's come to understand that it can be offensive to some people. So she started to change.org petition that has more than 1,700 signatures. A 1979 graduate means Celeste Kitchen has started a competing petition as 2,500 signatures to keep the mascot. We're gonna see what happens there. West Mecklenburg in Mecklenburg County changed its mascot from Indians to Hawks with similar reasons more than 10 years ago. Monroe High School in Union County also did the same thing.

Glenn And Langston, Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools officials are delaying sports practices. What's going on there?

Wertz Jr. Some of the neighboring counties, including Union County, began practice today. Mecklenburg County was scheduled to do so. Last week, they decided they were going to postpone after consulting with medical officials and looking at the escalating case numbers in North Carolina. They feel like they want to wait a little bit. What I'm hearing from sources is if Cooper puts us in the phase three on July 17, a Friday, Mecklenburg County will come back and start working out that Monday.

Glenn Well, Langston the Black National Anthem written as a poem by civil rights activist James Weldon Johnson and dubbed the anthem when Johnson headed the NAACP, has been in the news lately regarding the NFL. Let's hear a bit of it.

Wertz Jr. I think the league is taking some positive steps. They recognized Juneteenth as an official holiday. They've donated 250 million dollars over 10 years of systemic racism. But a lot of people feel like this isn't going far enough to play this song (the Black National Anthem) on week one. They want, you know, Colin Kaepernick to be given the chance to get a job. They want more Blacks in head coaching positions, offensive coordinator positions, in the front office position. And I think the NFL needs to take those next steps.

Glenn Because you have a lot of African Americans calling this a token gesture that they didn't ask for and that you need more substantial change.

Wertz Jr. I think it is part of change but I think the real change is when you give people who can make hiring  decisions in those types of postitions. 

Glenn Well, let's hear more of the Black National Anthem as we sign off. Langston, thanks for being with us for Time Out for Sports. Langston Wertz Jr. is a veteran sportswriter for The Charlotte Observer.