Why Is Brett Favre Back From 'Retirement'?

Host Michel Martin talks with freelance journalist Jimi Izrael who writes for The Root.com, Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist who's frequently featured on CNN.com, Pablo Torre, a reporter for Sports Illustrated, and civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar who is the founder of the MuslimGuy.com. The Barbershop guys talk about bringing guns to President Obama's town hall meetings on health care, quarterback Brett Favre's coming out of retirement to play football – again, and Michael Vick's first interview since being conditionally reinstated by the NFL.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

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 freelance writer Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and Sports Illustrated reporter Pablo Torre. I may jump in here or there, but for now, take it away, Jimi.

JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, how we doing? Welcome to the shop. What's new?

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Hey.

PABLO TORRE: Hey, man.

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Yo.

IZRAEL: Oh, my God, man. Well, check this out. Gun owners have been bearing arms at town hall meetings on health care in both New Hampshire and Arizona, and shocked awe. It's got people talking, right? You know, and it came out that that one guy, William Costic(ph), he wore his sidearm in plain view at one of President Obama's town hall meetings in New Hampshire. And A-Train, you're the JD in the house. You're the lawyer, right? And it was interesting to me. The 48 states have some kind of license to carry - concealed-weapons laws. And some of these states even have open-carry laws.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

IZRAEL: Break some of that down for us, bro.

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, in shorthand terminology, the concept of open carry is understood to be openly carrying a firearm in public. And the United States is essentially broken down into four categories of open-carry states. So we have permissive open-carry states, licensed open-carry states, anomalous open-carry states and non-permissive open- carry states.

Now, in very simple terms, a permissive open-carry state, you can openly carry your firearm freely, like Arizona, where one of these cases happened with the AR-15 rifle, which is a civilian version of the M-16.

Then you have licensed ones, where some states allow you to open carry, but just, you need a license. Some are anomalous, where the state legislature right now and the current state law are currently at odds, and so it's kind of hazy in terms of that. And then there are the non- permissive states, which say that you may not openly carry a firearm.

And so, you know, this gets back to the whole gun debate in terms of, you know, you're seeing people carrying AR-15s to public rallies. You know, are you going to see, you know, a guy with a rocket-launcher at a Chuck E. Cheese, you know, next Wednesday? Or, you know, with an Uzi at an IKEA. Or, you know, imagine a Glock 9 at a parent-teacher conference.

IZRAEL: Well, Ruben, help me out here. Even more than that, you know, of course, you know, it's an intimidation tactic, of course. But more than that, it also feeds into this fear that a lot of people, especially people of color, had early on that Obama, if elected, would not be safe in this country. You know, that...

MARTIN: Can I just - I just want to add - I'm sorry, forgive me, Jimi. I just want to add one thing, though, that I totally see your point. I want to hear what Ruben has to say. But there was one image that was widely played earlier this week of an African-American man named Chris - didn't give his last name to the reporter - with an AR-15 who was outside of President Obama's town hall meeting in Phoenix on Monday. And, you know, I'm not saying he's representative of anybody but himself, but I do think it's fair to hear what he has to say. So if you don't mind, I'd like to play a short clip.

CHRIS: A lot of people think we live in a democracy so that we can just - we can vote how the minority is going to live. And if we want health care, as long as we get enough people, we'll just take money from you, and we'll buy whatever we want, pay for whatever we want. And I just think that in America, people have the ability to fight back and to resist, and that's, you know, that's another reason why I'm here.

MARTIN: The only reason I'm mentioning the race piece is that, you know, you will note that some of the conservative blogs kept saying, well, what about this guy? What about this guy? So, okay, what about this guy, and you hear what he has to say. What this has to do with health care, I'm not really sure, and why people feel the need to openly display weapons, that's - I'm interested in what you all have to say about it.

IZRAEL: Well, Michel, you know, CNN reported that a lot of these meatball - I mean, gun owners - were sent to these town hall meetings by supporters of Ron Paul. So I don't even know how many of these gun owners are even legit, you know.

MARTIN: Well, if you're registered, they're legit, but - go ahead, Ruben.

NAVARRETTE: Jimi, this is Ruben. A couple things here. I'm glad that the African-American guy with the AR-15 had a say because this is progress. This is about, you know, like the move with feminism. You have the freedom to think, the freedom to choose different sides of a debate. You wouldn't have had this conversation 20, 30 years ago. So that's a good thing. The other thing...

MARTIN: Yeah, because of all the racist laws keeping guns out of the hands of black people. So I'll just point that out. (unintelligible)

NAVARRETTE: He's not a caricature. He's not sort of like this racist white guy that wants to kill Obama.

MARTIN: But that doesn't mean that the former doesn't exist because the latter also exists. I mean, I think those two realities can exist in the same world, is my point.

NAVARRETTE: It just means that complexity is important, nuance is important. Sometimes, the media misses the nuance. But beyond that, this whole discussion about carrying guns is a distraction. The reason the president's in incredible difficulty with health care is not because of gun-toting opponents at town hall meetings. It's because he cannot corral his own Democratic Party.

Forget the Republicans. The Republicans are irrelevant in this debate. They don't have the votes to make a difference one way or another. It's all about trying to herd these cats together, all these Democrats together. That's the real story. The Democratic Party is a mess.

MARTIN: I think that's a...

TORRE: It's the story of dogs and cats, ladies and gentlemen.

MARTIN: If I could say one thing, though, because I'm sure I want to hear what Pablo would have to say about this. But let me just say this about that. A lot of times when you raise an issue about the kind of climate of public discourse, people say, well, that's a distraction.

Well, the climate of public discourse matters to me. It matters to me because I feel that when you create a hostile environment, it's - you're basically you're saying the loudest voice wins.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

MARTIN: Now I understand that these men, because they seem to mainly be men are acting out of constitutional right, and they are acting within the confines of the law, and that's fine. But what bothers me is the lack of courtesy involved. And I guess I feel - and I totally understand your point about the substance of it, Ruben. But I also don't understand why issues like courtesy and civility are not important.

TORRE: Right. And...

NAVARRETTE: And this is really discourteous in this debate is...

IZRAEL: Pablo. Pablo? Okay.

NAVARRETTE: ...labor unions - let me just quickly. When it is really sort of courteous in this debate, labor unions have put out a threat basically against Democrats. The AFL-CIO has put out a threat against Democrats to say that if you guys waiver on a public option to please the Blue Dog Democrats, labor unions have threatened the Democrats, saying we're going to work against you and defeat you.

MARTIN: Oh, those are different things. Excuse me, that is what politics is.

NAVARRETTE: How is that courteous?

MARTIN: Politics is what we have in place of war. Okay? So the idea that, the idea that...

NAVARRETTE: But courteous is not just taking guns to meetings. I mean...

MARTIN: Really, it's okay but see this is what I feel trivializes the point. What we have is the ballot box in place of the gun. That is what civilization is supposed to be about. So for you to say that people saying I'm going to use my franchise, my vote, and my ability to organize - and that is on par with people displaying weapons in public?

NAVARRETTE: That's a threat.

MARTIN: I'm sorry.

NAVARRETTE: It's a threat.

MARTIN: But it's not a threat. It's called politics as opposed to - okay. All right, if you think that those are equivalent, then I think we should just agree to disagree and move on.

IZRAEL: Here's what I think. I don't think that you can expect to have civil conversation with anybody, a real debate with anybody that's got a gun. Pablo, break it down.

TORRE: Right. And this is really one of those classic, you know friction lines between common sense and civil liberties. But ultimately, I think you do need to allow these people to carry those guns. I mean, as much as I'd love to see them as a personal preference not be there, the bottom line is we sort of deem - as a society, obviously - to air on the side of civil liberties because we feel the slope is slipperier if we start to curtail them. I'm in favor of common sense, and that's the whole deal with free speech. That's the whole deal with this.

But it really is one of those things where we just need to accept that it's happening and hope for the best, almost, and hope that the Secret Service teams out there know what they're doing. And they've said they do. Obviously, they're posturing to some degree. But hopefully, you just sort of trust that they're ready to jump in.

MARTIN: If you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. I'm speaking with Jimi Izrael, Arsalan Iftikhar, Ruben Navarrette and Pablo Torre in the Barbershop.

Back to you, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Brett Favre, back again, this time passing the ball for the Minnesota Vikings. Now, you know what? Pablo, I'm looking at this guy and I don't know what it is about the ego of older men. I'm looking...

IFTIKHAR: You're older than he is.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Hold up, hold up. Hear me out. I'm looking 40 right in eye, and I'm telling you, my back's cracking, my neck, my back. You know, I'm having all kinds of problems. And Brett Favre, homeboy is running on, as I've said before, he's only running on ego and Gatorade. Pablo, what is it about sports figures in general - and Favre particularly - that to make them stay in the game past their prime?

TORRE: Well, it really is something that's, you know, not - I'm not going to say unique or exclusive to sports, but certainly heightened and amplified. You have a guy who does not want to let his past go.

It's a matter of somebody who was the best player in the NFL, somebody who did have a street named after him in Green Bay, who had a restaurant named after him, was a local and almost national hero for so long. Personally, if I'm Brett Favre, I don't know if I'd want to let go, either.

IZRAEL: Well, let's hear from the horse's mouth. Michel, we got tape, right?

MARTIN: We do.

IZRAEL: All right.

MARTIN: This is Brett Favre from his press conference on Tuesday. Here it is.

BRETT FAVRE: You can't take away the 16 years I had in Green Bay. It was unbelievable. It was great. And that will be forever cherished by me and the guys I played with. And, you know, they've moved on. I've moved on. I think it's great for football. I can't see how you wouldn't think it would be.

MARTIN: Well, see, because he - I'm sorry. I don't understand. What is so terrible?

IZRAEL: How many painkillers is he on, I wonder?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: What's so terrible?

NAVARRETTE: Leave him a lone. Leave him alone.

MARTIN: What is it? That's what I'm saying. (unintelligible)

IZRAEL: Ruben, how many painkillers? I mean, he doesn't sound like he's on painkillers to you? I mean, he's...(makes noise).

NAVARRETTE: Hey, that's his - you know, this is his prerogative. I mean, the funny thing is it's like working for a corporation where the corporation has no loyalty to you. They lay you off, but you're supposed to have loyalty to them.

IZRAEL: Mm-hmm.

NAVARRETTE: Is he supposed to have loyalty to the Green Bay Packers? They threw him out. You know, they put him out to pasture.

IFTIKHAR: Right. Right.

NAVARRETTE: A lot of other people made a different choice. They would've gone a different way and said, you know, they're going to back away from the game. But I don't see that this is anybody's decision but his own.

MARTIN: I don't understand - I guess I don't understand this kind of idea that you shouldn't play because you'll taint to our memory.

NAVARRETTE: Right. Don't hate the...

IZRAEL: Michel? Michel? (unintelligible)

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: It's like you shouldn't be seen in public once you're not an ingenue. You should just stay home.

IZRAEL: Michel. Michel, here's my...

MARTIN: Excuse me.

NAVARRETTE: Don't hate the player. Hate the game.

IFTIKHAR: Right on.

IZRAEL: Michel, I really think there's some dignity in going out on top and just letting your legacy marinate.

MARTIN: Why? Why?

IZRAEL: You know what, but to your...

TORRE: Yeah, but the magic...

MARTIN: That's your job. That's what you do. That's your job.

IZRAEL: But you know what? To your point Michel, you know what?

MARTIN: I mean if you, when you...

IZRAEL: Go ahead.

MARTIN: ...get long in the tooth and write your 10th book...

IZRAEL: Longer. Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Right. Longer in the tooth and write your 10th book, the test of whether you still have it is whether we buy the book. If the book is good, fine. Why should we say, oh, once you get your Pulitzer, you should just stop writing? Who said?

TORRE: Well, I think it's - and this is Pablo. I think it's also because - I mean, I'm not sure that's the truest test, because fans will pay to watch a track wreck.

IZRAEL: Right.

TORRE: I think fans feel - I mean, fans, for better and for worse, feel like they're stakeholders - not just in the teams they kind of pay tickets to, but in the images of their favorite players. And it's a very selfish thing, and it's ultimately a horribly irrational thing. But they want to preserve their athletes and their heroes the way they want them, to be the way they remember them.

IFTIKHAR: Don't hate the player.

MARTIN: Why not? That's what I'm saying.

IFTIKHAR: Don't hate the player.

IZRAEL: Okay. Well, speaking of hating the player, Michael Vick...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Ouch. Ouch.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Michael Vick...

NAVARRETTE: Good segue.

IZRAEL: Michael Vick has finally found a job. No, not at Wal-Mart. He's playing football for the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, you know, he finally broke his silence this past weekend on "60 Minutes." And Michel, we got some tape, right?

MARTIN: Yes, we do. And, of course, I have to give my disclosure. I will not be discussing this because my husband was one of Michael Vick's attorneys. So yes, this is a clip from an interview that he did on "60 Minutes." Here it is.

MICHAEL VICK: It's wrong, man. I don't know how many times I gotta say it. I mean, it was wrong, and I feel, you know, I feel a tremendous hurt behind what happened. And, you know, I should've took the initiative to stop it all, you know, and I didn't. And I feel so bad about that now. And I know, you know, that I didn't I didn't step up. I wasn't a leader.

IZRAEL: Oh, this great revelation, yeah, that he had you know while laying on his back in the joint. Thanks for that, Michel. You know respect to Billy Martin. What's up, dude?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: It's like this here...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: It's like this here...

MARTIN: It's coming.

IZRAEL: I'm just going to break it down. I wrote this on TheRoot.com that, you know, I had a real problem with Vick getting up there with a, you know, the cosigner, Tony Dungy - you know, nice guy, first black coach to win a Super Bowl, right.

But it's like if you're really sorry about something, you stand on your own two feet and you take that heat. You know you don't need a Bible-thumping cosigner by your side to make you look that much better. But, you know, what's really interesting is that Dick's Sporting Goods - you know that sporting goods chain? They will not be selling any Vick jerseys until they, quote/unquote, "evaluate the reactions of the fans." So Pablo...

NAVARRETTE: Come on, man.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: Come on, man.

IZRAEL: Pablo, help me out. Help me out, Pablo. Help me out.

TORRE: Yeah, and that's clearly a PR move. People, I think, ultimately people are going to buy Vick jerseys whether it's ironically, or whether it's because they're genuine Philadelphia Eagles fans. So Dick's there is trying to get out on moral high ground and sort of say we're distancing ourselves from Michael Vick.

But as far as people buying them, I mean, people are going to buy them for the simple reason that fans also don't care about you steroids and all these other things that happen off the field. I mean fans, sports in this country are so strong and the allegiances are so strong that you need to do some really, really, really bad in order to get banished from someone's closet or (unintelligible).

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: That is true, I mean, because brothers rocked the OJ...

TORRE: Exactly.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

IZRAEL: I mean, they rocked the OJ jersey. So...

TORRE: You can go down the list of criminals and alleged criminals who have done certain things, whether it's drunk driving and vehicular manslaughter, to OJ Simpson and so forth. You need to do something really bad. And oftentimes, you know, that bad thing is something that happens on the field...

NAVARRETTE: Exactly. (Unintelligible).

TORRE: ...throwing an interception, as opposed to killing somebody with you car.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: Listen, man, I got to give Dick's Sporting Goods...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: ...both the ridunkulous and the come on, man award of the week.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: I mean, seriously what...

MARTIN: I never heard the come on, man award.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVERLAPPING VOICES)

MARTIN: Is it (unintelligible)?

IFTIKHAR: I've done it a few times.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: I've done it a few times. Seriously, like, he got signed by a professional team. He's number seven on the Philadelphia Eagles. Now, granted, for months, I had predicted that he would probably end up in the black and silver of an Oakland Raiders jersey, which I think would've had more a street value.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: But...

TORRE: And now he comes to his senses.

NAVARRETTE: That's right.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: It's the truth. The slogan of my beloved Oakland Raiders is hey, man, it's only a misdemeanor.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: I'll tell you what. The reason...

IZRAEL: Go ahead.

NAVARRETTE: ...the sporting goods store...

IZRAEL: Let's wrap this up.

NAVARRETTE: ...the reason - I know my boys. I got nothing but love for the Oakland Raiders. I'll tell you what. The reason the sport goods store is thinking that way is because people feel differently about crimes against dogs. I mean, I'm...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: I don't understand this, but if you look at the outrage when the Vick story first broke - this is not just going to go away. They're a lot of folks our there who think that it's one thing to go off and shoot up a nightclub or something and or even, you know the steroid, you're hurting yourself. But to go out there an inflict pain on these animals, you know, and then...

IZRAEL: Isn't that so, bro? Yeah.

NAVARRETTE: ...to come back later on "60 Minutes" in this kind of...

IFTIKHAR: Right.

NAVARRETTE: ...kind of farcical interview and say it wrong. It was wrong. I mean most understand that's just PR packaging. I want to go play football again. So mark my words, this is not going away for him.

IFTIKHAR: But Ruben...

TORRE: I agree.

IZRAEL: But hold on, hold on, hold on. Ruben. Ruben. Ruben, I have to tell you what it is about the nature of the offense. This is real talk. There are some crimes against women, children and animals that are crimes of the soul, my friend.

NAVARRETTE: Mm-hmm. Right on. Right on.

IZRAEL: Crimes of the soul.

NAVARRETTE: Right on.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

IZRAEL: You know what I mean?

NAVARRETTE: That's true. That's true.

IZRAEL: And you know, if you're a believer, you know, God gave you dominion over animals, and this is what you choose to do?

IFTIKHAR: Jimi that's...

IZRAEL: Seriously. No, no, bro. I'm sorry.

IFTIKHAR: Jimi, then that's...

IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.

IFTIKHAR: That's a very good point that you make. And my only question is why is it okay for, you know Sarah Palin to be sitting with moose carcasses?

NAVARRETTE: Oh, Sarah Palin again.

IFTIKHAR: You know and...

NAVARRETTE: Oh.

IFTIKHAR: No seriously, and...

IZRAEL: I want to pay her a...

IFTIKHAR: Why is that seen as sort of like a trophy, prize picture of her shooting down moose, but with Michael Vick and dogs, a man who's served 23 years in - 23 months, sorry. Me bad.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Oakland what? Really?

IFTIKHAR: (unintelligible) feel like years.

TORRE: It just felt so long.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, 23 months in prison and actually serve kind of - you know there is still a double standard, you know, I think with Marley...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: As long you can still eat moose but not a dog, you're good.

MARTIN: Well, one is legal. One is legal and one is not.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, one is legal.

IFTIKHAR: No, no, no I understand that. But I'm there's something like, you know, we do live a very dog-centric society today.

IZRAEL: Like I said man, there are crime against men. There are crimes of the soul, B. It's just like that.

But gentlemen, you know what? I think that's a wrap. I'm going to have to go long and throw the ball to the lady of the house, Michel Martin.

MARTIN: Why am I under the suspicion you keep bringing this topic up just because you know I can't talk about it?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IFTIKHAR: That's a good point.

MARTIN: Jimi? Hmm.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MARTIN: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist who writes for TheRoot.com. He's also a presidential fellow at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. He joined us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist, and he's frequently featured on CNN.com, and he joined us from member station KOGO in San Diego.

Pablo Torre is a reporter for Sports Illustrated. He joined us from our studios in New York. And Arsalan Iftikhar is the founder of themuslimguy.com and a civil rights attorney, and he joined us here in our Washington, D.C. studio.

Gentlemen, thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

TORRE: Thank you.

IZRAEL: Yup. Yup.

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