TONY COX, Host:

I'm Tony Cox, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. Michel Martin is away. Now 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 their chairs for a shape-up this week are author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney and editor Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, and Dave Zirin, sports editor at the magazine The Nation.

Jimi, take it away.

RUBEN NAVARRETTE: I guess I'll take it away.

COX: I guess Jimi's not going to take it away. Well, you know, we'll just have to keep going until we...

JIMI IZRAEL: I'm here. Can anybody hear me?

COX: OK. There you are.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: We were worried, brother. I hear you.

COX: I was, like, are you doing this to me because I'm sitting in for Michel? That's a bad joke, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Right, right, right. Well, how's everybody doing? Welcome to the shop. How we doing?

NAVARRETTE: Doing better now that you're here.

COX: There you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Right, right. All right. Well, let's get things started with a cowboy from Texas. Governor Rick Perry threw his Stetson into the presidential race on Saturday.

Ruben, you wrote two columns about Governor Perry this week. What's your take on the Lone Star candidate? Now, me personally, I don't know. I mean, he makes - he kind of makes Ron Paul look like Carl Sagan. What's your take?

NAVARRETTE: Other people - yeah, exactly. Other people have said that Rick Perry makes George Bush look like, you know, Einstein.

I think that people should worry about Rick Perry, particularly Mitt Romney. I think this is great for the field because Mitt Romney, as you could tell from the first couple of debates, was getting way too smug. He would just sit there above the fray. He was waiting to be anointed. Now he really has to go out and earn it, and I think that's good. Competition is good, and I think that Mitt Romney shouldn't gotten a pass, and he's already started to sort of hit back at Perry because Perry's the real deal.

Basically, where I was coming from in my pieces this week was to say that, one, you underestimate Rick Perry at your peril. Two, he's not the caricature that the media is quick to draw out. They think that anybody with a Southern drawl is automatically a racist and intolerant.

I think this is a guy who, in fact, has been called out by the right wing for being too moderate, not being conservative enough, disappointing them on immigration and other issues.

And so, in that regard, I think the guy is much more of an enigma. I think he's much more complicated than people say. And I say that from seeing him firsthand. I was in Dallas, living there for five years. Obviously, I covered him as a columnist for the Dallas Morning News.

I know him personally. We've interacted. I don't agree with him on everything. There are times where he disappoints me, and I say so and I pound at him in columns. But I do not think that is wise for Mitt Romney or, for that matter, Barack Obama, to take Rick Perry lightly.

COX: You know, it's an interesting thing. Hold on for a second, because you bring up some interesting points about him. One of the ones I'd like to get you to respond to is this: It seems that if Perry wants to court the Latino vote, and in trying to do so, he told a joke - well, sort of. He spoke at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials in San Antonio, and he told the Latino youth to think big.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

RICK PERRY: Young Hispanics in Texas can aspire to be the next Rolando Pablos, the chairman of the Texas Racing Commission, maybe the next Roberto Dehoyos, who heads our economic development shop, and one of my favorites, the head of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, Jose Cuervo. That is the right job for that man.

COX: Of course, that joke is supposed to be related to the fact that the head of the Alcoholic Beverage Commission has a name that sounds like Jose Cuevas, the well-known tequila brand.

So my question for you, Ruben, is: Is this an example of the press picking on him, or is this something that he should be more careful of?

NAVARRETTE: Oh, I don't know. I think it's an example of them picking on him, but I also think you're going to see a lot more of it. Rick Perry says some really dumb things, and everybody says that in public life.

Joe Biden, we could do a whole show just from the mistakes he's made over the time, and certainly the same thing's true with Barack Obama recently, you know, calling attention to a soldier who wasn't - who was dead, but it turns out he wasn't really dead. He was alive.

I think these things happen, and we understand that they happen. But it doesn't take away from the fact that he is very authentic to a lot of folks. He comes across, you know, very straight and sort of this is what I think. This is what I believe. I'm not going to filter it out.

And I think that may carry him well against somebody like Romney, who, let's face it, just really feels prefabricated. He really feels very plastic to a lot of people, including a lot of Republican voters.

And so, again, I think it's great to watch. It's going to be a - I never have a problem with Republicans beating on each other, and I never have a problem with Democrats beating on each other. We ought to see more of that.

COX: Arsalan?

ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Tony.

COX: What do you say?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, what's interesting to me is, you know, just how the media picks up, you know, Michele Bachmann wins the Ames, you know, straw poll with Ron Paul coming in a close second. Everybody is talking about Rick Perry. You know, when Tim Pawlenty first got into the race, it was all about Tim Pawlenty who hadn't won anything yet. I mean it's going to be interesting once we actually start to see a lot of these primaries and how they actually turn out, especially with Romney and Perry going head-to-head. You know, it's going to be interesting how the media narrative is going to shift on this as the primary season moves forward.

COX: So Jimi?

IZRAEL: Yes.

COX: Oh, OK. I just wanted to make sure you were still there, you hadn't left us. Could we...

IZRAEL: I'm still here, man. No, I haven't run out for beer yet.

COX: All right, we didn't give...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Did you (unintelligible) me?

COX: We didn't hear from Dave yet. Dave, you want to jump in on this?

IZRAEL: Yeah. Dave, check in on this, bro.

DAVE ZIRIN: Please, I want to check in on this because Rick Perry sent to the death chamber a demonstrably innocent person, Cameron Todd Willingham.

NAVARRETTE: True.

ZIRIN: I mean isn't that a disqualifier for wanting to be president of the United States, and then altered the commission that was the looking into whether or not he killed an innocent person? I mean states are actually executing less people over the last decade, yet Texas has gone completely the other direction as that.

NAVARRETTE: Well...

ZIRIN: That's not very presidential to me.

NAVARRETTE: Well, I disagree. This is Ruben chiming in. I think the last time we saw a case like this it was a gentleman who was from the state of Arkansas who was running for president. He was deemed too conservative for his party. He executed a mentally challenged man, an African-American, I recall.

ZIRIN: Ricky Ray Rector.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

ZIRIN: Bill Clinton. Ricky Ray Rector.

NAVARRETTE: Yeah, Bill Clinton. All Bill Clinton did was go on to win two...

IZRAEL: Yeah. I knew that was coming. I heard that coming.

NAVARRETTE: ...presidential elections, OK. All he did was go off and win to presidential elections handily against Republican opponents. So we've got to play the game by one set of rules. And sometimes we have Republicans out there who go too far in one direction, and we have Democrats who go too far in one direction. The difference is sometimes I think Democrats get a pass.

COX: Jimi, before you take us to the next topic, let me reset the table for people who are just joining us.

IZRAEL: Sure, man.

COX: This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. You're listening to our weekly Barbershop segment. I'm Tony Cox sitting in for Michel Martin. We are joined today by author Jimi Izrael, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette and sports editor Dave Zirin. All right, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Thanks. Well, you know, since Rick Perry seems to have an opinion about everything, I wonder what his advice might be for curbing teen flash mobs. Now it seems from Philadelphia to Chicago to Montgomery County, Maryland to even Cleveland Heights, Ohio, flash mobs are causing some city officials to push for youth curfews. Guys, it's a good thing this is happening now rather than later when I was a kid because back in the day there well, there was no way I was home before dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: And I was kind of a, I was kind of a rowdy kid anyway. I used to throw eggs at cars, so flash mobs are...

COX: I believe...

IZRAEL: But flash mobs are kind of tame from where I used to come from.

COX: I believe that about you, Jimi. You know, but what's...

IFTIKHAR: I think he still throws eggs at cars.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COX: What causing these curfews in some pretty serious stuff, though.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah.

COX: Street assault.

NAVARRETTE: Sure.

COX: Mass deaths in some areas.

IFTIKHAR: Right.

COX: Still some critics a curfews aren't really effective and actually target minority youths. Now earlier this week I spoke with Ike Leggett, who is the county executive in Montgomery County, Maryland. He is pushing for curfews in his county. Here's what he said.

IKE LEGGETT: Well, let me make certainly clear for the record that I am an African-American. I heard a moment ago that there was something designed in some places to basically discriminate toward African-Americans. For me this is a public safety issue and we're looking at it precisely that way.

COX: So, Jimi, I'm assuming - and you can ask the guys about this - that maybe you saw the pictures of the girls who did a flash mob in a store here in the Washington, D.C. area this week. This is getting out of hand.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, it is.

IZRAEL: Well, you know what? Here's my take on it. Since, and I'm just that dude, right? But since Cain killed Abel, more kids do bad things. I don't care what it is. Flash mobs, they were done in the '90s when the hipsters were doing it. The fact that this new wave of flash mobstery mostly involves black, sometimes poor and sometimes criminally intent kids doesn't help anything. But these curfews certainly don't help anything either. So that kind of gives rise to what I call the pants hanging law, that if you're out past, you know, a certain time with your pants hanging low then the police have a license to knock you upside your head and see your papers, you know, and I don't want to live in that America. Dave?

No, A-Train, what do you think?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, it's interesting. I mean, you know, being from Chicago, you know, we had this, you know, flash mobs before we started seeing the trend in Philly. You know, there were a spate of cases in Chicago on the North Side by beaches, you know, a lot of tourists who were going to the North Shore beaches in Chicago were getting attacked by, you know, young, you know, groups of teenagers. And so, you know, it's interesting, you know, how are we going to - if we don't go to a curfew setting how are we going to, you know, give a sense of law and order? You know, how do people feel safe in their own cities and neighborhoods?

I mean I was in Philadelphia a few weeks ago when that night there was a flash mob with over 200 kids who had just left a music concert and were just attacking people at restaurants, you know, we're sitting outside having dinner. And so it's a - I think it is, you know, with the advent of, you know, cell phone videos and viral, you know, campaigns I think it is an issue that we're going to have to deal with.

COX: Let's keep our eye on it. Move on to another topic, Jimi. We have some other stuff that's pretty hot to talk about too, don't you?

IZRAEL: Yeah. I thought you wanted to talk about the Georgetown Hoyas. You know, they're...

COX: Oh, yes.

IZRAEL: You know, the...

IFTIKHAR: Another flash mob.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: Right. Right. Right.

COX: Oh, you know, actually you're right. I was thinking about Miami football. There's a lot of stuff gone wrong. So let's deal with Georgetown basketball first, as you mentioned. It was a goodwill game gone bad, the Georgetown Hoyas visiting China to promote diplomacy through sports. But on Thursday, with 10 minutes left on the clock and a 64-point tie, a fight erupted on the court between the Hoyas and their Chinese opponents, the Bayi Rockets, who by the way are a military team. These guys are the Chinese army.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah they are.

COX: So, Gene Wang, a Washington Post reporter saw the game in Beijing. He described what happened on NPR's MORNING EDITION.

GENE WANG: There were chairs flying. One of the Georgetown players, Henry Sims, had a chair thrown at him, as a matter of fact. And it got worse thereafter even more when the Georgetown coach John Thompson III eventually decided to pull his team off the court. As they were walking off the court into the locker room fans from above started to throw full water bottles. The bottles missed the players and the coaches and actually hit some of the spectators who were watching in the stands behind the Georgetown bench.

COX: So Dave, did you see the video of this?

ZIRIN: Oh yeah, certainly, commented on it extensively. This is an international incident. This is not just a basketball game gone wrong, a brawl. I mean this is Joe Biden was there the previous day talking to the Georgetown players. And this wasn't just...

IZRAEL: That's what got them going.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

ZIRIN: Yeah. But it wasn't just...

IZRAEL: Maybe that's what caused the fight.

ZIRIN: See, it's not just a political incident though, this also has economic repercussions, because it wasn't just a goodwill tour; it was the Nike goodwill tour.

IZRAEL: D'oh.

ZIRIN: Nike is the largest American investor - American company investor in China, over $2 billion a year. I wonder if Phil Knight's on a plane right now going over there. Because if Georgetown leaves and doesn't finish their tour - and that's really the question now, does Georgetown stay or go? It actually has real economic and political repercussions.

COX: What would you do, Arsalan?

IFTIKHAR: Well, you know, when I first heard about the China-Georgetown melee I thought oh, you know, that poor Chinese team. And then I watched the video and I was like man...

NAVARRETTE: Yeah.

IFTIKHAR: ...that poor Georgetown Hoya team. I mean they just got...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COX: They got jacked.

IZRAEL: Man, yeah.

NAVARRETTE: (Unintelligible) Chinese army.

COX: Straight-up jacked.

IFTIKHAR: I mean it was straight-up thuggery.

COX: Yes it was.

IFTIKHAR: I mean you had guys were even wearing jerseys who were out there first just kicking...

NAVARRETTE: Stomping.

IFTIKHAR: ...the Hoyas and man, I don't, I mean it was, it was devastating. I mean to watch that happen on, you know, it was something that, you know, I think that it's it was just, it was thuggery. It was nothing less.

COX: Well, you know, one thing Ruben, about this.

NAVARRETTE: Yo.

COX: This team has been fighting other nations.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, they have. Right.

COX: They fought Brazil.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COX: So you kind of - if you did your research, if you had us scouting us going to Beijing...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NAVARRETTE: Right.

COX: You should've had some idea of what may - you may have been in for, shouldn't you?

NAVARRETTE: Yeah. I guess, you know, something like this it just happens in the heat of a game. You can't predict it, I guess. You know, it doesn't hurt to do your research for sure. But I'm with Arsalan. This is a very serious deal. Actually the Hoyas asked for police protection to get back to their hotel and didn't get it, apparently.

COX: Right.

NAVARRETTE: You know, this was something that I - the good news I think I heard out of this was that some of the Chinese players did go back and see them off at the airport and say, you know, I'm sorry about this and, you know, trying to make amends. But it was just a - what am I going to say? Boys being boys and getting out of hand on both sides, an international incident. Should never have happened. It's an ugly case of something that shouldn't have happened. And I don't think that when Nike sponsored this tour they thought they were going to end up with hey, you want to have a brawl? Just do it. I don't think that was it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

COX: Yeah, it was really nasty. We got time for one more, Jimi.

IZRAEL: Well, on the topic of bad behavior in sports, pretty serious allegations are flying at the University of Miami football team for breaking NCAA rules. Now a former booster says he supplied athletes with cash, parties on his job, prostitutes and even an abortion for a player's female companion. Holy mackerel. Mm. Mm. Mm.

COX: And you know what's really interesting about this one is that the guy making the charges is making them from, you know, behind bars.

IZRAEL: The joint.

IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

IZRAEL: Yeah.

COX: It's like it's crazy. And he did make these allegations, what, a year ago or so Arsalan, I think.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah, I mean this is just, you know, again the NCAA run amok. I mean, you know, we hear schools having these pandemic issues. I know Dave, you know, probably knows more about this than I do. It's just it's Miami being Miami. What do you think, Dave?

ZIRIN: Wow. Well, I think this is going to be a case of the NCAA trying to cover its behind and quarantine Miami and look like the disciplinarian.

COX: Mm-hmm.

ZIRIN: That's probably going to get that school the death penalty. And I don't think the NCAA has the moral authority of Rick Perry to give the death penalty. And that's part of the problem. It's like sending in Tony Soprano to beat up the corner drug dealer. The problem is that the NCAA is the root of the problem. They supplied this gutter economy in amateur sports that's completely outdated, it has no basis in the current reality, and you see this in this particular case. Women were basically traded for the purposes of players hitting other players hard on the field by this guy Niven Shapiro, and all with the knowledge of the highest levels of the university establishment.

COX: You know, it makes you wonder whether or not are we, yeah, USC, Auburn...

IFTIKHAR: Mm-hmm.

COX: ...Oregon, Miami.

NAVARRETTE: Right.

IFTIKHAR: It's a pandemic.

COX: ...Ohio State. The list goes on and on and on. Are we seeing a sea change, do you think Dave, really quickly, as far as how college football is going to be run in the future?

ZIRIN: Oh I think so. I think we have reached a tipping point on this question. And I don't know how they're going to change it, but I'll tell you this, the NCAA with its president, Mark Emmert, who has a seven-figure salary, 14 vice presidents who make at least 400 grand a year, that's not the sort of the solution, that's for sure.

COX: You know, I wish we had more time. We had another topic, you guys, that I really wanted to get because there was an article in GQ magazine about women athletes and the fact that there weren't any - well, the top athletes of all time...

ZIRIN: Right, the 25 coolest athletes, coolest athletes.

(SOUNDBITE OF CROSSTALK)

COX: And there were no women.

IFTIKHAR: Yeah. Wow.

COX: So I've got just a few seconds. Give me a name, a woman that you would like. Arsalan.

IFTIKHAR: Cheryl Miller dropped 105 points in one game, in the 19 - in a game she played.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHISTLE)

COX: She should have been on that list.

IFTIKHAR: Absolutely.

IZRAEL: Hmm.

COX: Dave Zirin, give me a name.

ZIRIN: Serena Williams, cat suit.

COX: I like that. Jimi, give me a name.

IZRAEL: Well, my wife has her moments but...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

IZRAEL: I'm going to rock with Billie Jean.

ZIRIN: Newlywed. Newlywed.

COX: Ruben.

IZRAEL: I'm going to rock with Billie Jean King. She went on the court. She handled her business...

COX: She was great.

IZRAEL: ...and did what she did well.

COX: Ruben.

NAVARRETTE: That's it. I'm going to second that.

COX: Give me a name, Ruben.

NAVARRETTE: Billie Jean King.

COX: Billie Jean?

NAVARRETTE: Billie Jean King. That's funny. We had the same thought.

COX: For me the Flo Jo. I mean, come on, Flo Jo.

NAVARRETTE: Flo Jo

ZIRIN: A moment of silence.

COX: Do I need to say more?

IZRAEL: No you don't.

COX: Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle," joining us from member station WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette, a syndicated columnist who writes for the Washington Post Writers Group, Latino magazine and Pajamas Media. He was with us from San Diego. Dave Zirin, sports editor for The Nation magazine. Also host of Sirius XM radio's Edge of Sports Radio, joining us from their studios here in Washington. And Arsalan Iftikhar, a civil rights attorney, founder of themuslimguy.com and managing editor of the Crescent Post. Arsalan, joining me here in our studios at NPR in D.C. Guys, thank you.

IFTIKHAR: Peace.

ZIRIN: Thank you.

COX: Thank you

NAVARRETTE: Thank you.

COX: And that's our program...

IZRAEL: Yup-yup.

COX: That's our program for today. I'm Tony Cox. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Michel Martin will talk more with you on Monday.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.