Kneeling & Tweeting… and Speaking Truth to Power

Written by :
Published on : September 28, 2017

 

On Saturday night in Alabama, and then again on twitter, our hate-monger-in chief made it crystal clear that he has a bigger problem with black athletes speaking their minds than with the rise of tiki torch-wielding Nazis in his own backyard. Sunday, football players across the league came out in previously-unseen numbers to make it clear how they feel about the president’s ham-fisted efforts to quash free speech. And as we wrap-up week 3 of the NFL season with QB-turned-activist Colin Kapernick still out of a job due to the despicable and ongoing attempt by the league’s owners to silence him, here are 6 other moments in the history of sports when athletes have dared to transcend their role as national entertainers and took stands against racism and fascism.

 

1) Master Race No More

Olympian Jesse Owens delivers a swift and graceful repudiation of Hitler’s aryan supremacy theory by besting the Germans, and everybody else in the 1936 Games. In front of an audience that included der fuhrer himself, Owens struck gold 4 times – winning the 100 meter, 200 meter, long jump, and the 4×100 relay.

 

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Not content with the symbolic victory, and knowing that America itself was still lagging behind in the global race towards full equality, Owens later proclaimed that: “When I came back to my native country…I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the President, either.” Owens knew the fight against bigotry would be a marathon. What he might not have predicted was that his first strides out of the starting blocks in Berlin would pave the way for generations of “woke” athletes to come.

 

2) “Aint’t No Viet-Cong Ever Call Me Nigger”

Heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali defies his draft notice for service in Vietnam and issues a bold statement of solidarity with oppressed peoples of color the world over. His anti-war stance cost him his belt and earned him a five-year prison sentence (later overturned by the Supreme Court); but it also galvanized a generation of his progressive-minded peers.

 

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“The Ali Summit” as we now call it, is perhaps the watershed moment in sports-activist history. Future Hall of Famers Bill Russell, Jim Brown, Kareem Abdul-Jabar, and several other athletes and community leaders all came together at a 1967 Cleveland press conference to proclaim their support for Ali’s position and deepen the ties between the anti-war and anti-racist movements. Who knows… if our own orange Il Duce keeps sending hate-tweets about famous black athletes maybe we’ll see something like it again soon.

 

3) The Pre-Kapernick Sit Downs

Kap gets all the flack but he’s far from the first sports star to use the anthem to air a grievance. Long before his controversial kneeling, two marquee players, one from the hardwood and one from America’s favorite past-time were sitting-it-out for different, if not similar reasons.

 

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Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, then a sharp-shooting guard for the Denver Nuggets, started skipping the pre-game ritual in 1996 because in his opinion the American flag was a symbol of racism and oppression. He was fined by the league, harassed by fans, received death threats and even had his house burned down. His compromise with the NBA, brokered with help of the player’s union that had his back (You hear that NFLPA?) was that he would pray silently with his head down. To this day he remains committed to the right to protest and recently spoke out in support of Kaepernick and others.

 

Carlos Delgado, the two-time all-star first baseman who logged time with the Blue Jays and then the Mets, also made a stand by sitting. In the tense political climate that was post-9/11 America, Delgado began planting himself in the dugout during the 2004 season’s new practice of playing “God Bless America” during the seventh inning stretch. Delgado saw the sudden song choice as being used to support America’s ongoing occupation of Iraq. He refused to leave the bench for the whole 162 games that year – including an appearance at Yankee Stadium where boos were probably the nicest thing he heard all day.

 

4) The Round Mound of Tolerance/“That Ain’t on The Cue Card Chuck!”

Basketball legend and outspoken TNT commentator Charles Barkley shocked studio executives at least two different times when he went off script to address issues of social justice while on the air.

 

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During a Martin Luther King Day broadcast in 2011 the NBA Hall-of-Famer invoked the civil rights leader’s legacy to make a passionate speech affirming the rights of the LGBTQ community. And on a Cinco de Mayo themed game-day, Barkley went on a rant about the passage of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which basically legalized racial and ethnic profiling by the police. He issued a personal ultimatum to the then-governors of Arizona and Alabama: “Leave those people alone. They work their behind off.” He went on: “The Hispanic community, they’re like the fabric of the cloth. They’re part of our community and any time you try to do any type of racial profiling or racial discrimination is wrong.” Not too shabby for a tv talking head — and a one-time Republican at that!

 

5) Say It Loud – The Fists Heard ‘Round the World

Everybody knows the picture. It’s the quintessential image of Black Power. Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 68’ games in Mexico City, with heads down in defiance and with black-gloved fists raised high in the air.

 

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What most don’t know is that the two runners — Smith who won gold in the 200 meter, and Carlos who netted the bronze in the same event — had carefully planned their moment on the world stage. As the two victorious sprinters approached the podium, their outfits cleverly spoke to the myriad struggles and oppressions which they sought to shine a light on. They took off their shoes to protest poverty, wore beads and a scarf to protest lynching and Carlos un-zipped his jacket, despite Olympic rules, as a salute to “all the working-class people — black and white…who had to struggle and work with their hands all day.” How about that for inter-sectionality? Neither the sports world nor the country would ever be the same.

 

6) Teachers and Teamsters and Cheese-heads?

When mini-dictator and Wisconsin Governor, Paul Walker, launched his attack on the rights of public sector workers in 2011, thousands of union members helped flood the streets and government buildings of Madison in response.

 

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But perhaps none were a more welcome addition to the picket line than the members of everyone’s favorite publicly-owned home team, the Green Bay Packers. About 6 or 7 lesser known players were the first to come out and show face; and then local workers got the big-game play they deserved – Charles Woodson, the team’s defensive captain, union-rep, and all-around football icon released a moving statement in solidarity with all of Wisconsin’s working families. The heinous anti-worker bill was rammed through anyway but workers in Wisconsin will never forget when #21 and his crew of Packers laced up their spikes and knew which side to play for.

 

 


Pro Football’s Changing of the Guard

Written by :
Published on : March 12, 2016

 

The NFL lost some of it’s all time greats this offseason. A handful of Pro Football’s best players at their respective positions decided to walk away from the game. Some before their time, and some who had long and fruitful careers before deciding to hang up the cleats. Whether too soon or at the right time, the game of football, the NFL and the sports world in general will miss them.

 

Luckily for all of us, the game is in good hands. Those who decided to walk away this offseason will be passing the torch to the new generation of superstars, who will make sure that our Sunday afternoons are still full of joy and wonder. Let’s take a minute to reflect on the great players we are losing and see which players will help us forget about them.

 

intothesunset

 

 

Megatron shutting down

 

This is especially hard for me to process. Calvin Johnson is a future hall of famer, despite what some people might say. He played for nine seasons and for more than half of that period he was the undisputed best wide receiver in football. He consistently faced double and triple coverage and still caught almost everything thrown in his direction. I’ve never seen someone of his size have that kind of speed, agility and body control. You don’t earn the nickname Megatron for nothing and while I’m sad to see him go, the next big star wide receiver is nothing to sneeze at either.

 

I really think Antonio Brown is going to be the one to carry Calvin’s torch for years come. I’ve already thought that he is the best wideout in the league for a year or two now. He has a knack for making eye popping plays just like Megatron, and with LeVeon Bell’s rash of recent injuries, I see him as the most important part of that Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense. He’s lucky to have had the same quarterback for his entire career and their chemistry is something to behold. If I were a Steelers fan it might even be enough to feel better about Calvin Johnson’s early retirement, but at least I’ll still get to see someone making unbelievable catches every week.

 

 

The Sheriff has turned in his badge

 

I think we all knew that Peyton Manning was going to retire after he and his Broncos won Super Bowl 50. It shouldn’t be surprising, especially when you consider that he wasn’t exactly propelling his team to victory in that game, or the playoffs for that matter. It was the Broncos’ defense that was the driving force behind that championship run and anyone with cursory knowledge of the game could tell that Manning was struggling out there. Like Megatron, injuries had begun to wear away his ability to stay on the field for a full season, but unlike Megatron, those injuries had also begun to take a huge toll on his ability to make plays. For most of the last two decades he was the best QB in the league but it is now evident that his arm can’t keep up with his beautiful football mind. There’s not a more perfect time to walk away and that’s exactly what he did, but don’t fret, the game is in good hands.

 

It’s kind of fitting that Peyton would be handing the torch off to Cam Newton, the losing QB of Super Bowl 50. Cam gets a lot of criticism from people because of his attitude or the way he carried himself after losing the big game, but you can’t deny this kid’s talent. It took me a little while to come around, but now that he has fully developed his pocket passing, it’s clear that he isn’t going anywhere and we should expect him to be one of the best quarterbacks in football for years to come. Last year he had 35 passing touchdowns to go along with 10 on the ground, and only had 10 interceptions. Expect to see him in a few more Super Bowls because he is finally putting it all together and that should be scary for defenses around the league.

 

 

Charles Woodson’s next phase

 

Man, what a career this dude has had. He was the first and only defensive player to ever win the Heisman Trophy and won a National Championship with the Michigan Wolverines that same year in college (1997). In the NFL, he won AP Defensive Rookie of the year (1998), Defensive Player of the Year (2009), was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times, and won Super Bowl XLV with the Packers. He literally has nothing left to accomplish, as a player at least… I think the next phase of this amazing player’s life should be a foray into coaching. With few years as an assistant he can eventually ascend the ranks and become a head coach. First in college, where he obviously wins the College Football Playoff, then into the NFL where he wins a Super Bowl. After that he will transcend his earthly vessel and rise to the heavens as the greatest soul ever to participate in the sport of football, on any level. They’ll probably rename the Lombardi trophy after him. But until then, let’s see who will be filling the void that Chuck is leaving.

 

There were quite a few different players that I had to choose from here but I decided that Chuck Woodson would be handing his torch off to Arizona Cardinals defensive back, Tyrann Mathieu. I put him at the top of the defensive back totem poll because of his knack for making big plays and his ability to play all over the field. In the Cardinals aggressive, hybrid style defense, he is asked to play both cornerback and safety and he excels no matter where he’s at. He can play the run, he can rush the passer, he can play man, he can play zone. There’s really nothing that he can’t do in that defense, or any defense for that matter. There might be some defensive backs who are slightly better in coverage but there’s none that can to the variety of things that he can. It’s a shame that he tore his ACL in week 15 last year and missed the Cardinals’ playoff run because he could have been a difference maker. But he’s only 23 years old and will be making a difference for many years to come.

 

 

So long, Beast Mode

 

Oh Beast Mode, the NFL is really going to miss you, but not as much as I will. Marshawn Lynch was always a unique personality but just as unique was the talent he displayed out there on the football field. Fellow SBS sage, Roger Pretzel, talks a little more about his demeanor here, but I’m here to reminisce about his ability to run through an entire defense and leave them in his dust. I’ve never seen someone get swallowed up by tacklers only to come out on the other end of the pile and keep running the way that he did. He won’t go down as the best running back ever, but if you ask me, he’s the best tackle breaker ever to carry the rock. Fans in Seattle will be left wanting more from their now departed running back but at least NFL fans as a whole will have a new back to look forward to.

 

When the Rams, who at that point were still in St Louis, drafted Todd Gurley with the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, I was both surprised and relieved. Surprised because he was still coming off of an ACL tear that was going to make him miss at least some of his rookie season, and relieved that he didn’t fall to the Lions. I was scared that they would jump on the chance to draft him because of his high level of potential despite recovering from such a serious injury. I was an idiot because I now realize that my team, and every other team in the league, would be very lucky to have this guy. He won the offensive rookie of the year award and was selected to the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Rams. It’s obvious that this kid is going places. I can easily see him being the best running back in football next year and beyond.

 

newdawn

 

As the sun sets on one group of legends, the dawn of a new age of NFL superstars is upon us. While there’s nothing wrong with remembering all of the good times that these now-retired legends brought us, we shouldn’t be sad. Life goes on, and with the talent that these young badasses have, it won’t be long before we are forget all about those old fogies. So pour out a little liquor for guys like Megatron and Beast Mode and get over it, because next season will be here soon and then it’ll be time to move on and enjoy some highlights from the new kids on the block.

 

 


Why We Need Dadball

Written by :
Published on : February 16, 2016

 

 

Let’s face it: football is ageist. Like an unholy demon from the netherworld, it requires the vitality of youth to keep itself strong. Professional careers are usually over by 30 due to injury or an inability to keep up with the modern NFL, a punishing full-contact sport. Not only does this seem like a waste of talent, but a waste of an opportunity. Everyone enjoys football, why shouldn’t everyone be allowed to play professionally?

 

reeves football

 

I propose the creation of a new football league, which I will refer to as “Dadball.” This would be a throwback league, less focused on speed and intensity, more emphasis on fundamentals and strategy. No blitzing, kickoffs and probably not full-contact either.

 

Instead of seeking rookie talent, Dadball players would all be middle-aged athletes. Like a Pop Warner game, but with guys actually named Pop.  Slower, wiser players who don’t treat their bodies like rental cars would play a slower, more thoughtful game. The best part: an influx of retired NFL players. Some guys are happy to retire, but I bet a bunch of them would happily segue into a slower-paced game if it meant extending their career. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see an old ass Dan Marino or Brett Favre or Charles Woodson hit the field again?

 

Woodson

 

Also, let’s be honest: no matter how “no contact” this league is, these middle-aged guys are going to get killed out there. I’m talking enough wrecks on the field to satisfy a NASCAR fan.

 

I know this Dadball League would be a home run (see what I did there?) because my Dad would totally be into it. Watching it, not playing it. When he sits down to watch the Bears, he doesn’t care about statistic records or signing bonuses. He doesn’t want quantity without quality. He wants triumph born from experience, skill and sportsmanship. The NFL provides that, but a ragtag team of over-the-hill athletes leaving it all out on the field for the W? That would be gold.

 

 


Champ and Chump: Christmas Edition

Written by :
Published on : December 28, 2015

 

Ho, Ho, Ho. The Champ and Chump piece gets into the holiday spirit a bit this week by playing Santa and separating our naughty and nice lists, and yes we’ve definitely checked it at least twice. The bowl season is under way, the NFL is gearing up for playoff action and both the NBA and NCAA hoops are rolling along. So grab yourself some eggnog, some fig pudding, and sit back and enjoy this week’s Christmas edition of Champ and Chump.

 

Nice: Charles Woodson

 

He made just two tackles in a win over the Chargers on Thursday night, but after an amazing career, Woodson played his final home game for the Raiders and is sure to go down as one of the all-time greats. Coined “Mr Everything” during his days at the University of Michigan, Woodson won the Heisman trophy before being drafted by Oakland in 1998. He has been almost a perennial pro bowl corner and safety and went on to win a Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers before returning to Oakland to finish out his career in the black and silver. A pleasure to watch on the field, and off it, Woodson has been a leader in the locker room and in the community. For everyone at SBS, we tip our caps to the great career of Charles Woodson.

 

Honorable Mention:

Draymond Green- 22 points, 15 rebounds and 7 assists in a win over Cleveland, and NBA Finals rematch that I’d love to see again.  

 

Jamauri Bogan- The running back from Western Michigan led the Broncos to a Popeye’s Bahamas Bowl win over Middle Tennessee State by toting the rock 19 times for 215 yards and 4 touchdowns.  

 

Kahlil Felder- Standing just 5’9″ doesn’t keep Felder from showcasing himself as one of the premier point guards in the country, even though he plays for a small school in Michigan, Oakland University. Felder helped Oakland take #1 Michigan State to overtime before losing a close game. Felder finished with 37 points and 9 assists against the Spartans. Expect to see Felder leading an NBA team in the near future.

 

 

Naughty: Odell Beckham Jr

 

Last Sunday, the New York Giants hosted the undefeated Carolina Panthers looking to put an end to their perfect season while keeping their own playoff hopes alive. All week leading up to the game, there was a lot of trash talk between cornerback Josh Norman of the Panthers and New York’s Odell Beckham Jr. It turned into a very physical matchup on the field that afternoon. Beckham has been accused of some extracurricular activity this season with punching, hitting the face mask area but has also been one of the best wide outs in football. This week he took it too far and was fortunate to avoid an ejection when he threw a headshot at Norman by leading helmet to helmet after the play. Beckham wound up being suspended this week and deservedly so. His actions were incredibly selfish and for a team desperate to win, he put himself and his own personal vendettas over the team’s needs. We can all talk about how he was provoked and taunted prior to and perhaps during the game but you’re in the NFL. Trash talk has been around these athletes since they played high school ball.

 

Dishonorable Mention:

Donald Brown- While he did find the end zone once for San Diego, Brown could only muster 17 yards on 14 carries as the Chargers got nothing on the ground in a loss vs Oakland.  

 

New Orleans Pelicans- What happened to the Pelicans? An up-and-coming team, led by budding superstar Anthony Davis, made the playoffs last year. All of the sudden, they find themselves at 9-20 following a loss to Miami on Christmas. Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans combined to shoot 7-26 with just 9 assists and 8 turnovers.  

 

Hayden Moore- Cincinnati Bearcats’ quarterback had a tough go of it on Christmas Eve in a blowout loss to San Diego State. Finishing with under 200 total yards on the night, Moore threw 3 interceptions and had one returned for six in a 42-7 beat down.

 

 


NFL QUICK HITS FOR THE UPCOMING 2015 SEASON

Written by :
Published on : September 6, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

We are single digit days away from NFL KICKOFF!!! This season will be phenomenal and it has several storylines worth exploring. Aided by a bevy of issues that have surfaced since the Super Bowl (the spike in retirements due to concussions, off field crimes, the un-ending deflategate saga), the league has been able to once again remain relevant during the offseason. But with the preseason over, it’s time to focus on 2015, and put the offseason drama behind us.

 

-Will this be the end of the Madden curse?

What curse?

 

Second year New York Giants receiver, Odell Beckham Jr, is the latest player to grace the cover of the famous Madden football game. While the notoriety and respect gained is quite an accomplishment for such a young player, the supposed curse that comes with it is worth noting. Former Rookie of the Year, quarterback Vince Young, graced the Madden cover following his Pro Bowl rookie season. The year he was placed on the cover, he injured his quadriceps twice. He became a backup to Kerry Collins and was never the same player that led the Texas Longhorns to a BCS Championship.

 

Let us not forget 2012 cover athlete, running back Peyton Hillis, whose rise to fame with the Cleveland Browns came when he moved from being a blocking fullback to a dual-threat running back. He amassed over 1,000 rushing and 500 receiving yards during the 2010 season and was expected to be the new mold of running back; a hybrid of physical between the tackles bruiser and agile pass catcher. The 2011 season (his season on the cover) was a bust for Hillis, as he only played 10 games and was limited to 500 rushing yards. He floundered around the league after that and now remains unsigned. Add the likes of quarterbacks Michael Vick and Daunte Culpepper, running back Dorsey Levens, and it is a cautionary tale of injuries that derail players post-Madden cover. Beware Beckham Jr, beware!

 

2,500 Rushing Yards for Adrian Peterson? Really?

Keep it… 2,500.

 

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson recently stated that he hopes to rush for over 2,500 yards in 2015. In a league that emphasizes the passing game, Peterson would have to be force-fed the ball at an unimaginable clip to achieve that feat. He has averaged around 24 rushing attempts per game over the course of his career. His career yards per attempt stands at 5 yards a carry. Peterson would have to carry the ball 500 times to amass 2,500 rushing yards. There is no way in hell he gets close to 400 carries, let alone 500! With that being said, he has rushed for 2,000 yards in 2012, when he averaged 6 yards a carry. If he can average 6 yards per carry for an entire season he would reach his goal with 416 carries. Does that still sound far-fetched? The powerful running back carried the ball 348 times just a few years ago. If we consider the fact he only played one game last season, Peterson will be a refreshed 30 year old athlete with a chip on his shoulder. He will be looking for redemption after sanctions stemming from a child abuse case where he brutally “whooped” his 4 year old child.

 

Year of the Rookie Wideouts: Part 2?

Can the rookies top last year’s class?

 

Last season, rookie wide receivers tore the league up. The five receivers selected in the 1st round of the 2014 Draft were led by Buffalo Bills’ Sammy Watkins, selected with the 4th pick. His 977 receiving yards on 65 receptions would make any GM proud. Then you have the special case of New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. Only playing in the final 12 contests, he gained 1,300 receiving yards, to go with 12 touchdowns. Tampa Bay Bucs’ wide receiver Mike Evans and Carolina Panthers’ receiver Kelvin Benjamin both had 1,000 yard seasons. With 5 other rookies gaining over 600 yards receiving, it validated the notion that the NFL is now a passing league. The 2015 Draft saw six receivers selected, headlined by Amari Cooper, formerly of the Alabama Crimson Tide and now with the Oakland Raiders. Can this new class of receivers with the likes of Indianapolis Colts’ Phillip Dorsett and Philadelphia Eagles’ Nelson Agholor maintain the momentum?

 

Peyton Manning will be Available for more Papa Johns Commercials after this Season.

Enjoy it while you can. It’s all pizza from here on out.

 

I think this will be the last season for Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. He is still a top level signal caller going into the season but unfortunately, this will be his swan song. Over the past two years he has regressed in arm strength. Manning has never been mistaken for having a rocket arm, but after neck surgery, he is extremely limited in that department. Having already passed Brett Favre for all time passing touchdowns, he will easily eclipse Favre for the all time passing yards record by mid-season. With the NFC stacked with perennial Super Bowl contenders in Green Bay and Seattle, the Broncos Super Bowl prospects are dwindling, even if they do make it through the AFC. The Broncos are no closer to winning the Super Bowl than they were two years ago when the Seattle Seahawks massacred them. Bow out gracefully Mr. Manning, Papa needs you.

 

What “D” word?

How NOT to hit in today’s NFL.

 

Can we please allow some real defense this year? The league has cracked down on helmet to helmet hits and thus has made defenders leery of tackling. Defenders often have to take time to adjust or contort their body so that they do not risk hitting the opposing players above the shoulders. This has caused a lack of excitement in the game. Moreover, the fines that players receive due to illegal hits is preposterous. The NFL is taking unnecessary precautions to ensure player safety. The league may be garnering all time highs in profits and viewership, but that does not negate the fact that a lack of good defense makes for lopsided contests. The referees have been conditioned to throw a flag whenever an offensive skill position player is hit near the chest or above or when a quarterback starts to complain. Maybe I’m old school but just let the men play the game! As evidenced by the rash of retirements this offseason, these players aren’t forced to play and are able to walk away when they want. If they want to risk their health for the love of the game and financial prosperity then let them.

 

Super Bowl or Bust.

Can Matthews and the Packer’s defense get it together?

 

Some teams have been at the poker table far too long. They have been watching other teams collect their money and leave. Instead of folding and just walking away, some teams have held pat, taking loss after loss until they are down to their last few chips. There are a few teams that are all-in for this season and if they do not advance in the playoffs they will retool or implode. The Green Bay Packers are one team I think may do a defensive overhaul if they can’t get over the hump this year. The team has to be pleased with their offensive talent led by quarterback Aaron Rodgers but the defense started the purge a few years ago. They have recently let go of defensive backs Tramon Williams and Charles Woodson, along with linebacker A.J. Hawk. The Julius Peppers Experiment must show promise this season in order for him to stay around, and the resurgence of linebacker Clay Matthews must continue, who just a few years ago had J.J. Watt-esque stock. The aforementioned Broncos have made all the requisite changes on defense to be a contender but may fall short due to the lack of strength in Manning’s arm. If he can’t deliver this season, I think President of Operations John Elway may be forced to let go of the 5 time NFL MVP. Other teams that could make changes are the Arizona Cardinals, San Francisco 49ers, and Cincinnati Bengals.

 

Another season is about to begin. I know the fans are ready. I hope the NFL is too.

 

 


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