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Cancer-free, Steelers’ James Conner isn’t worried about playing amid pandemic

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PITTSBURGH – People with compromised immune systems are at greater risk for inflection and complications from COVID-19, but Pittsburgh Steelers running back and cancer survivor James Conner isn’t worried about the coronavirus when he eventually returns to the field.

“I’m 100 percent,” Conner said. “I had a weak immune system four years ago. It’s not weak anymore, thank God. I’m OK. I’m young and healthy. I went through what I went through.

“I’m not concerned, me personally. We’re going to play it safe, of course. I’m not going to ignore it or anything like that. But as far as me being scared or anything like that or trying to take extra, extra precautions because of my health history, that was four years ago. My body’s healed. I think when we follow our health protocol and guidelines, I’ll be just fine.”

Conner was diagnosed with stage 2 Hodgkins lymphoma in 2015 and was declared cancer free in May 2016 following a six-month chemotherapy regimen.

But NFLPA medical director Dr. Thom Mayer said he thinks there could be extra recommendations for players with pre-existing conditions, such as wearing different helmets and masks, maintaining social distancing off the field and utilizing single-use hydration.

“Anybody who’s got a risk, I would advise them to be zealous, religious and frankly almost manically committed to minimizing the chance spreading of the virus,” Mayer told Adam Schefter on his May 18 podcast.

Because he’s so far removed from his fight with cancer, Conner told Schefter on the same podcast episode that he isn’t too worried.

“I don’t want to downplay it and have people think I don’t think it’s an issue or anything like that,” Conner said. “I just believe that we’re just going to be doing what we’re doing and our bodies are meant to go through things and overcome it and get immune to things such as that. I hope everybody stays safe, but I’m not too concerned.”

Also in Tuesday’s conference call, Conner addressed how he’s using his platform as a prominent professional athlete in the wake of the protests spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis while in police custody last week.

“What’s going on is very wrong, but for me, I’m going to promote togetherness and unity,” he said. “We need change, but it starts with, as cliche as it sounds, it starts with hope. The younger generation coming up, it’s on us and young parents to teach their kids about unity and togetherness and how we’re stronger together.”

The Steelers haven’t released any public statements since Floyd’s death or the protests, but Conner said the team has had discussions about it.

“We definitely talked about it,” Conner said. “And I don’t feel it’s my place to talk for the whole organization. We definitely know and feel what’s going on. We’re impacted by it. I can just speak for myself, I know a lot of the guys feel the same way. Change needs to be done and it needs to be done quick. We definitely talked about things, and we’re hopeful that things will get better as well.”

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Bengals’ Joe Burrow partners with food pantry for hunger relief fund

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Cincinnati Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow has partnered with local organizations in Southeast Ohio to create a hunger relief fund named in his honor.

On Thursday, the Athens County Food Pantry and Foundation for Appalachian Ohio announced the creation of the Joe Burrow Hunger Relief Fund that will serve the region. Between the pantry’s donation and a dollar-for-dollar match from the FAO, the fund held $700,000 as of Thursday afternoon.

“I’m so grateful for the outpouring of support from people across the country around the food insecurity issues faced by those in my region,” Burrow said in a release. “The initial funds that were raised have had an immediate impact for people throughout Athens County, and I am honored to lend my support and voice to this new initiative that will ensure that impact lasts long into the future.”

The Bengals’ rookie quarterback has been vocal about the topic long before he led LSU to the College Football Playoff championship in January and was the top overall pick in this April’s NFL draft.

When Burrow won the Heisman Trophy in December 2019, he mentioned the issue of hunger in Athens County, where he spent the majority of his childhood. A fundraiser sparked by Burrow’s comments elicited roughly $650,000 in donations.

Karin Bright, president of the Athens County Food Pantry, said that once donations started to pour in, the organization wanted to not only address immediate needs but also look at any long-term impact that could be made. That sparked the idea for the endowment that was announced Thursday.

“It sends a very clear message that as a food pantry, we really are looking at things in a long-term way and we are looking at supporting this region,” Bright said.

According to a report released by the Ohio Development Services Agency in January 2019, Athens County had a poverty rate of 30.2%, which was the highest of any county in Ohio and doubled the statewide average. Per the Athens County Food Pantry, an estimated 12,900 people in the county — nearly one in five people — were food insecure before the spread of COVID-19.

In establishing the relief fund named after Burrow, Bright said there was a significant amount of discussion with Burrow’s parents, Jimmy and Robin, throughout the process that culminated with Thursday’s announcement.

Cara Dingus Brook, the president of the FAO, said the fund named after Burrow will help provide the level of support required to creating lasting change when it comes to food insecurity in the region. Brook said naming the fund after Burrow was “a fitting thing to do” because of the impact Burrow has made throughout the community.

“It has been a shot in the arm for everybody here,” Brook said. “So often in an area that has suffered from persistent poverty, with it can come a culture of diminished expectations.

“And so to see this success and this success to say to everybody else, ‘You can do it, too,’ it just totally embodies everything we as a foundation believe is going to lead our region forward and help solve some of these really generational issues, whether it’s economic issues or food insecurity.”

The new fund named after Burrow will be operated by the FAO and help the Athens County Food Pantry continue its efforts throughout Southeast Ohio.

“Being able to create this endowment is just another incredible way we’re going to be able to continue our work and support our region,” Bright said.

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Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s documentary film company finishes ‘The Meaning of Hitler’

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Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie’s documentary film company, Play/Action Pictures, on Thursday announced the completion of its inaugural project, which has been in the works for three years: “The Meaning of Hitler.”

Lurie is an executive producer for the film. The threat of white supremacy is a topic that has been important to him for some time, and this is an example of his commitment to addressing social issues.

The announcement comes as Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson has received widespread condemnation for his social media posts, including an anti-Semitic message that he attributed to Adolf Hitler.

Jackson spoke with Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman — both of whom are Jewish — on Tuesday, a source told ESPN’s Tim McManus, with Lurie expressing deep disappointment about the social media posts. Jackson expressed a desire to educate himself and to work directly with the Jewish community, and his camp contacted the rabbi at Chabad Young Philly a short time later to discuss ways for Jackson to donate to and work with the organization.

The documentary, which uses the 1978 best-selling book of the same title as a guide, was filmed in nine countries over three years.

“We couldn’t be prouder that ‘The Meaning of Hitler’ is the first completed film made by our new documentary production company, Play/Action Pictures,” Lurie said in a statement. “I envisioned Play/Action to be a leading creative force for films that engage with the most crucial and challenging issues of our time. The rise of white supremacy and neo-fascism in the United States and the world over are among the most important and serious threats we face today.”

Lurie and his former wife, Christina, won an Academy Award in 2011 as executive producers of “Inside Job,” a documentary that examined corruption on Wall Street.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter contributed to this report.

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No more jersey swaps? NFL players mock new game-day protocols

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As the NFL plans for how to play through the coronavirus pandemic, the league distributed new game-day protocols to teams on Wednesday. As word spread, some of the rules — such as a ban on postgame jersey swaps — drew the ire of current and former players on social media, even though the NFL Players Association has signed off on the policy.

Here’s a roundup of what players are saying about the new rules that will take effect for 2020 preseason and regular-season games.



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