'Shop Talk': Monday Night Football Needs New Song

Civil rights hero Rev. Fred Shuttlesworth, Harvard Law School's first black tenured professor Derrick Bell, and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs died this week. And as ESPN decided to drop Hank Williams Junior and his song from Monday Night Football, Tell Me More media fans submitted 2000 suggestions for a new song. Weighing in on their song picks — and more news — are the Barbershop guys: author Jimi Izrael, attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, sports writer Kevin Blackistone and news writer Mario Loyola.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds.

Sitting in the chairs for a shape-up this week are author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and author Arsalan Iftikhar, sportswriter and journalism professor Kevin Blackistone, and Mario Loyola, who writes for the National Review and works with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. That's the conservative think tank. Take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellows, welcome to the shop. How we doing?

MARIO LOYOLA: Hey.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Doing great.

KEVIN BLACKISTONE: Buenos dias.

IZRAEL: Hey, what's up, man? How you living?

IFTIKHAR: Doing good, doing good. Just in D.C. here for a couple of days, in from Austin, Texas, where I belong.

IZRAEL: All right.

MARTIN: He's cold showing up here. He's clinging bitterly to his guns and religion. That's right.

BLACKISTONE: Clinging bitterly to Jesus and mass murder, stuff like that.

MARTIN: Okay. All of that. All right.

IZRAEL: Sadly, we're going to start on a somber note today. Three American icons passed away this week. Now, that was Steve Jobs. He died on Wednesday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. We also lost civil rights icon the Reverend Frank Shuttlesworth, a crusader for equality.

MARTIN: Fred Shuttlesworth. I'm sorry, Jimi. Fred Shuttlesworth.

IZRAEL: What'd I say?

MARTIN: Frank.

IZRAEL: Sorry. And he was fighting for equality in Birmingham, Alabama. And also Derrick Bell passed away, a lawyer who became the very first black tenured law professor of Harvard University.

Let's start off by talking about the life and legacy of these men. A-train.

IFTIKHAR: Yes, sir. Professor...

IZRAEL: You're a civil rights lawyer, so...

IFTIKHAR: I am.

IZRAEL: Yeah. So tell us a little bit about Derrick Bell.

IFTIKHAR: I got to represent Professor Bell. Derrick Bell, first tenured African-American professor at Harvard Law School. He came up - you know, he was big in race theory, but he came up with this interesting thing called the interest convergence theory, which basically said that African-American people in the United States would not be able to advance their causes until white people felt that their interests were going to be best served by that as well. And so that was always talked about in the legal profession.

What Professor Bell was most known about was probably for resigning from as many law schools as he was teaching and deaning at. So he resigned from Harvard Law School for their failure to hire African-American women to tenured track positions. Then after he resigned from there, he went to become dean at the University of Oregon Law School, where he resigned from there because they wouldn't hire an Asian-American woman.

In 1991, there was a rally outside Harvard Law School where the editor of the Law Review, you know, called Professor Bell the Rosa Parks of the legal profession, and that Law Review editor was President Barack Obama.

IZRAEL: Wow.

MARTIN: Interesting. And he's also a very nice person, if I could just add this. A very generous colleague. You know, it's interesting that many people have this kind of firebrand reputation, and people see them being very sort of prickly, but he a very nice, very generous colleague (unintelligible) and also a very generous mentor to many of the students who sought his time and counsel.

And Kevin, I understand that you have some words about Reverend Shuttlesworth.

BLACKISTONE: You know, when I saw that flash on my phone, the first thought was to call my mother and let her know. My mother is 89 years old. Fred Shuttlesworth died at 89, and I told my mother and she hadn't heard the news as instantly as I had and her first reaction was, wow, they're almost all gone. And she was referring to all the civil rights leaders. And when I think about Shuttlesworth and I thought about the first thing that crossed my mind then was that, you know, at least Fred Shuttlesworth got to die on his own terms.

Here was a man who was nearly beaten to death. Here was a man whose home was bombed. Place of worship bombed. And yet he was able to survive it all. He stood up to the worst that the civil rights movement had to stand up to. He never cowered. He was as courageous and as brave a figure as I think ever there was in the civil rights movement.

And when I think about him, I never think about him so much in the pulpit with his robe on. I always see that grainy picture of him in his overalls, you know, among the people, standing at the pulpit, telling them not to be afraid, telling them that they were going to go on. And also, when he confronted Bull Connor nose-to-nose on the street, refusing to move. He was such a giant in the civil rights movement and I hope that he gets even more attention. Some of the attention that he was deserving in life, hopefully he will get now that he's passed on.

MARTIN: Hmm. Mario, I understand you have some words about Steve Jobs.

LOYOLA: Yeah. I, you know, Steve Jobs is - this was the passing of a really great man who changed the world. I mean it's not job Apple. If it wasn't for Steve Jobs we might not even have Windows. I mean Microsoft would be different than it is.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm.

LOYOLA: And it's, you know, it's a really inspiring thing. I was a late convert to Apple. I only got my first iMac in – or MacBook in 2006. And my father, who had never been, you know, he's not much for this kind of artsy stuff, and he said, do you like this better than a PC? And I said oh, it's much better. And he said well, why? And I said well, you know, three words: it's so simple, so elegant and so powerful. And that simplicity and I've thought about this a lot. You know, that simplicity and elegance is the real success. Besides how versatile it is and how powerful its functionality, it's the simplicity and elegance of these products that is really what has made them so successful.

And in that sense, you know, Steve Jobs has really demonstrated that the advance of this technology and technological culture that we live in is not just a high-tech thing. It's also an artistic thing. It's also the art of – the art of a civilization in its golden age, really. And it was that artistic sensibility on top of the functionality that allowed Steve Jobs to know what people wanted before they even knew that they wanted it, just like people in Botticelli's time didn't imagine how much they were going to like da Vinci, but that desire for something perfect and simple and elegant was there.

MARTIN: Well, that's so well said. Well, thank you all. If you're just joining us, this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. We're having our weekly visit to the Barbershop. We're visiting with Mario Loyola, writer for the National Review, sports writer Kevin Blackistone, Arsalan Iftikhar, civil rights lawyer and author, Jimi Izrael.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: I say that you've infected me with your virus of misspeaking, Jimi so you take it back.

IZRAEL: You're about to make my mom really, really happy.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Really happy. That's right.

IZRAEL: Thanks for that. Right.

MARTIN: Called cheap grace. I gave you one of those over the air degrees. Anyway, sorry. Go ahead, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thank you for that, Michel. And thank you for those beautiful tributes, gentlemen. Now...

MARTIN: That was very lovely. Mm-hmm.

IZRAEL: Now a look at politics. There's been a bit of controversy brewing in Florida this week. At least five GOP presidential candidates are boycotting a proposed Univision debate. Now that's after accusations of an unethical journalism practice were made against the Spanish language network. The Miami Herald reported that Univision attempted to push Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio into appearing on one of its programs by threatening to run a story on his brother's 24-year-old drug arrest. Wow, that's dirty, Michel.

MARTIN: What do people think about this? I mean it just sounds so far-fetched. But I don't know. Mario, what do you make of it?

LOYOLA: Well, I mean I don't, as somebody who is familiar with, you know, business practices in Latin America, it's not that far-fetched, really. But, and it's important to note too that this - I think this is terribly embarrassing for Univision, really embarrassing. Univision, has always – as Senator Rubio said, has always been in my mind very professional, very reliable news source.

I'll tell you, frankly in Austin, Texas, that Univision, the local Univision station is much better than any of the English-language stations. I never watch English-language local TV in Austin. I only watch Univision. But this is really embarrassing for them. And it was actually Univision reporters who broke the story. Senator Rubio wasn't going to talk about this at all. Obviously has little interest in this being the topic that people talk about when they think of him.

MARTIN: Mm-hmm. It's actually Rubio's brother-in-law who was the target of this.

LOYOLA: Oh, right. Right.

MARTIN: And I do feel that it's fair to say Univision denies this.

LOYOLA: Right.

MARTIN: They say that they never made this threat. That's what they say.

LOYOLA: They're lying.

MARTIN: Okay.

LOYOLA: I mean they're lying. And...

MARTIN: How do you know?

LOYOLA: Because the people who talked to them and were in that conversation, Todd Harris and especially Alex Rubio is a very good friend of mine, it's laughably ridiculous to think that they would invent something like this. They were shocked. The story was broken by Univision reporters. It was Univision reporters who talked to the Miami Herald first. And only when the Miami Herald was going to run a story on this based on Univision's sources did the Rubio people decide to come out and talk about it.

MARTIN: Hmm. It's interesting because, you know, first we had this whole business with News Corp overseas in the UK, you know, tapping people's phones or hacking into people's cell phones. You know, to get information about what and about what? I mean people apparently one of the people was a good Samaritan who gave aid to a woman after the tube bombing. And you'd think why would you, what's wrong with just knocking on the door and saying, would you like to talk to me? I don't know. It's a new era out here. It's a new era out here.

IZRAEL: I think...

MARTIN: Go ahead, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Yeah, I agree. I think the macro is certainly that there's this all this kind of misbehavior in the media world. But on the micro level, I wonder could these GOP candidates really be hurting their chances to reach the Latino voters. A-Train, what do you think about that?

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, you know, I think there's two parts to this story in. You know, I agree that, you know, this story – this purported story about a 24-year-old drug bust against Marco Rubio's brother-in-law I think is ridiculous. I don't think that it should have ever seen the light of day.

IZRAEL: What's interest on the political side of that is now how essentially the Republican presidential candidates have colluded to sort of boycott Univision. And I think that is obviously to get the blessing of Marco Rubio at some point and get the endorsement of him. And so...

LOYOLA: Now notice that Senator Rubio is not boycotting Univision.

IFTIKHAR: Right. And, but he doesn't need to. And I think, you know, he is taking a higher ground here. I think it is one of those sort of politically muddled - it's journalism and politics muddled together.

MARTIN: But you know what's disturbing to me is, I don't know any of the facts of it, but the fact - except other than what we've read – and but it's just, I know a lot of very decent people who work for Univision and it's just disturbing to - very decent, very professional people, and it's disturbing to have their work tainted by this conduct...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: ...if indeed it's true. That's the part that is just, you know, they're doing a real public service with a lot of the work they're doing reaching people who don't have access to other media outlets so I'm sorry.

LOYOLA: Oh, right. Absolutely. And there's a lot of news that we wouldn't - there's very important news in Latin America that we would never find out - I would never find out about if it wasn't for Univision. This was just one, you know, investigative unit at Univision that descended into National Enquirer type stuff and that's the trouble they've gotten so...

IZRAEL: You know...

MARTIN: Jimi, just – listen, we really got to talk about Occupy Wall Street...

IZRAEL: Sure. Go ahead.

MARTIN: ...because the time that we have left. And these protests are in their third week in New York City. Jimi, what's your – well, I just have to play this because, you know, Herman Cain gave his take. We talked about this earlier. We talked about this throughout the week actually, and actually spoke with one of the people who was involved in the protest.

Herman Cain, you know, the former CEO of Godfather Pizza, really coming up in the polls, African-American, had an interview with the Wall Street Journal's Alan Murray where he gave his take on these protests. I'll just have to play a short clip. Here it is.

HERMAN CAIN: I don't have facts to back this up. But I happen to believe that these demonstrations are planned and orchestrated to distract from the failed policies of the Obama administration. Don't blame Wall Street. Don't blame the big banks. If you don't have a job and you're not rich, blame yourself.

ALAN MURRAY: You don't think the banks have anything to do with the crisis that we went into in 2008?

CAIN: They did have something to do with the crisis that we went into in 2008. But we are not in 2008, we are in 2011.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CAIN: Okay?

MARTIN: Kevin, okay?

IZRAEL: Wow. Yeah.

BLACKISTONE: It sounds like to me what people who used to run the White citizens councils used to say in the South during the civil rights movement, that it was outside agitators who were coming in and stirring up black folks down there. How disingenuous it is of a CEO of a company or anybody to make a suggestion that it is the unemployed's fault that they are unemployed at a time when corporate America is breaking the record profits in 2011, is flushed with cash in terms of its coffers, and unemployed people are over 14 million. Absolutely disingenuous.

MARTIN: So you're really put off by this. Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, when somebody starts their statement by saying I don't have facts to back this up, so you probably don't want to listen to him.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: Now he also recently went...

MARTIN: There is that.

IFTIKHAR: He also recently went on "The View" and told Joy Behar that being gay is a choice. And I wonder if being left-handed is a choice or being gay is a choice. I mean this is a man essentially - I mean Elizabeth Warren, you know, recently said that there is no person in America who got rich on his or her own. Nobody ate Herman Cain's first slice of pizza and been like mm, this is some good pizza. Let's make this man a millionaire. I mean he hustled. And, you know, because he's successful he's disparaging people, you know, the 99 percent. There's not been this income inequality since 1929 where the top one percent make the top 25 percent of wealth in America today.

MARTIN: Mario, thought? Quick thought on this?

LOYOLA: Yeah. I mean Herman Cain's basic point, you know, look, the reason why we're not creating jobs in this country right now, even though people, the companies are sitting on top of a pile of cash, is that there's too much regulatory uncertainty and there's too much of a tax burden. Herman Cain is clearly correct about that.

You know, income inequality, look, if you look at how the income level of the lower, you know, third of income earners has risen, obviously the rich have gotten a lot richer in the era of lower taxes. But the wealth has benefited the whole society. You know, the simple fact of income inequality is meaningless in and of itself unless you look at the fact that the poor have also gotten a lot richer.

MARTIN: Okay. But in terms of the regulatory burden, some of the locations that are generating the most jobs are also some of the states that have the highest regulatory burden. So there's really not a clear - it's just that it clear through-line on that, Mario. I think you would have to acknowledge that, right?

LOYOLA: Well, most of the jobs - more than half the jobs have been in the last couple of years have been created in Texas, which has a very low regulatory burden in the high regulatory...

MARTIN: And also generated by government spending. They've been generated by government spending. You do with knowledge that, right? Right, Mr. Policy?

LOYOLA: Well, we can get into the details but, you know, but there's it's, but so look, you know...

MARTIN: That's a big detail, right?

LOYOLA: ...in the high regulatory states you also have extremely well-educated labor forces that are very well suited to the workforce needs that we have and so...

MARTIN: Well, it's an important topic and it's a topic we'll talk about again, as this campaign goes on. Herman Cain is obviously a very interesting candidate to watch so will be talking about him. But we can't let...

IZRAEL: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...can't let you all go - I know you all are secret DJs. So, as you all may have heard, the country music singer Hank Williams made some controversial comments earlier this week. Well, it's controversy. Why do we use that word? It's a catchall word. It's just that he compared President Obama to Adolf Hitler. As we know, that's not generally appreciated in public discourse. But, you know, most people accept comparing somebody to Adolph Hitler. So ESPN dropped Williams and his song from "Monday Night Football." So we won't be hearing that song again. But we need to know what song you think that they should replace it with.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: And I think that, you know, Kevin, I think you all have an opinion about that. Kevin, you want to hit it?

BLACKISTONE: Yeah. I mean, you know, I never understood why the NFL really embraced country-Western tunes for a sport that is urban and industrial anyway and predominated by black men. I mean so why not go hip-hop? Why not go to one of the most popular songs right now in any sports arena, and that would be the Rick Ross, Ludacris thing "All I Want Is To Win," "All I Do Is Win."

MARTIN: Okay.

BLACKISTONE: I mean that's been playing everywhere.

MARTIN: Okay.

BLACKISTONE: Tune – yeah, fire that up.

MARTIN: Mario, who do you like?

LOYOLA: I couldn't disagree more. I think this is the Green Bay Packers' year and clearly we should give some consideration to polka music.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Awesome. Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: No, I agree with KB. You know, with 70 percent African-Americans playing in the sport, I would actually choose "Run This Town" by Jay-Z.

IZRAEL: Okay. Okay. I like that.

MARTIN: "Run This Town." I like it. I like it. I did mention that we put a shout out on Facebook. People suggested AC/DC's "Are You Ready?" Love it.

BLACKISTONE: Okay.

MARTIN: Some classic NFL Films music. But also this lovely tune. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AVE MARIA")

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Singing) Ave Maria.

MARTIN: Jimi, you're an "Ave Maria" fan, right?

IZRAEL: I am, actually.

MARTIN: Are you. Okay. All right.

IZRAEL: But not for football. It's a beautiful aria, but not for football. I mean I'm pulling for...

MARTIN: Okay. We were kidding I was kidding.

IZRAEL: I'm pulling for Roger Troutman's and Zapp, so "More Bounce To The Ounce."

MARTIN: Okay. All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: That's what I'm pulling for.

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of "The Denzel Principle." He was with us fm WCPN in Cleveland. Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney and the founder of themuslimguy.com. Mario Loyola writes for the National Review and works for the Texas Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank. And Kevin Blackistone is a sports columnist and a professor of journalism at the University of Maryland. They were all here in our Washington, D.C. studios. Thank you so much.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

BLACKISTONE: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

LOYOLA: Good-bye.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MARTIN: And that's our program for today. I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more on Monday.

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