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NEW DAY

Large Dam In Puerto Rico In Danger Of Failing; Puerto Rico Governor: Power Could Be Out For Months; Tropical Storm Watch Issued For North Carolina Coast; Trump: Criticism Of NFL Has "Nothing" To Do With Race; NFL Owners Take On Trump Over Anthem Protests; Entertainers Take A Knee Against Trump; National Anthem Protests Grow In Rebuke Of Trump. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 25, 2017 - 06:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[06:33:53]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The misery continues in Puerto Rico. The entire island is still without power and the governor is warning that a large dam is beginning to fail, forcing thousands to evacuate.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has been live for us in San Juan for days with all the latest. What's happening today -- Leyla.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alyson, that dam is the concern and a priority for the government there. I got to tell you we actually flew over that area yesterday. We could see the dam. We could see the amount of water.

The governor himself saying it's a concern because it is releasing water. Erosion is starting to take a toll and it could break. They are evacuating or attempting to evacuate more than 70,000 residents.

We were able to land right near the dam to talk to some of those residents. Many of them have no communication, weren't even aware that they were supposed to be evacuated, and very stressed out about the situation.

They had water, but they don't have power. They haven't been able to communicate with loved ones around the island. We actually were able to get to several remote areas yesterday as we traveled.

[06:35:04] Because remember, the government has said they haven't been able to reach many of the places on the island, and every single place we stopped, many had said we were one of the first people to arrive. The government aid has not arrived. Help has not arrived.

Neighbors themselves have had to clear off roads because people haven't been able to get to them. The good news is, everyone seemed to be in good spirits. Thankful they're alive, but really wondering when they will get some sort of hurricane relief -- John.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Leyla Santiago in Puerto Rico for us following what's going on there. It is so important. Meanwhile, Hurricane Maria is still going in the Atlantic threatening the North Carolina coastline.

CNN meteorologist, Allison Chinchar, for the latest forecast track -- Allison.

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: That's right. We take a look at what the hurricane is doing right now. Still a Category 1 with 80- mile-per-hour winds. We have been noticing that weakening trend.

That is fantastic news for folks along the North Carolina coast, who are now under either tropical storm watches, the yellow color, or warnings which is the blue color extending basically from Kill Devil Hills, down through Nags Head and Hatteras.

Here's the thing, though, the track of this storm is awfully tricky because it's going to go north, take a little bit of a dip to the west almost like it is going towards North Carolina, and then veer back out very quickly off to the north and east.

Basically, meaning that for those folks along the North Carolina coast, you're going to get some impacts but not likely a direct landfall. Storm surge of 2 feet to 4 feet is likely. Coastal erosion and flooding are going to be some of the big concerns, especially rip currents. We already saw over 25 rescues from rip currents alone over the weekend.

CAMEROTA: Allison, thank you very much. We'll check back with you.

So, President Trump's call to fire athletes who kneel during the national anthem rejected by NFL owners and players. Many of them kneeling or locking arms on Sunday in a show of solidarity. So, what happens now?

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[06:40:50]

CAMEROTA: The president's criticism of NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem was met with a show of solidarity by teams on Sunday, but the issue still dividing many fans. Look at this.

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CAMEROTA: These are Philadelphia Eagles fans. They clashed with protesters. This is just one of the examples of heated exchanges taking place across the country in light of all of this.

So, joining us now is sports editor for "The Nation" magazine, Dave Zinn, and former defensive end for the New York Giants and former president of the NFL Players Association, George Martin. Gentlemen, great to have you here. George, how do you see what happened this weekend?

GEORGE MARTIN, FORMER PRESIDENT, NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: First of all, Alisyn, I have to address the racial overtones of this president. Number one, you know, when things happened in Charlottesville, a young lady died, unfortunately, and yet still there was no overt criticism of that.

Secondly, you see a pardon of Joe Arpaio who broke the law and took his lawlessness and disregarded a lot of things that he should not have. And ultimately, you know, you see what's happened in Russia. Still there is no overt criticism to what they have done to our election.

CAMEROTA: So, you see criticizing players as an inconsistency with other things that you think should have been (inaudible).

MARTIN: It is a massive inconsistency because none of those guys -- the actions that I just spoke rose to the level of being son of a bitches. Please excuse me his French not mine, and that's one thing that I have gross exception with.

And a lot of my former teammates and a lot of my -- people from the African-American community are grossly upset over this.

CAMEROTA: You know, the president obviously says it is not about being black. It is about the respect of the flag.

MARTIN: Well, first of all, the way he characterized it, I have a problem with also. He said this is an assault on our flag and our country as if, though, we are some outside transient indigents coming through.

This is our country as well and we have every right, which is guaranteed under the Constitution. The protests under those circumstances are peaceful protests. So, I take exception for that as well.

CAMEROTA: Dave, where are you on all of this?

DAVE ZINN, SPORTS EDITOR, "THE NATION" MAGAZINE: First of all, it is an honor to be on the show with George Martin, an absolute legend who I grew up watching in New York City. So straight up, I'm humbled just to be here.

MARTIN: Thank you.

ZINN: Second of all, what I think Donald Trump did was he overplayed his hand dramatically. I think Donald Trump was in front of his base in Huntsville, Alabama and that lizard brain that knows how to speak to the worst impulses of his audience I think thought to itself spontaneously I am to go after black dissenters in the National Football League and they will love it.

I will isolate them and I will be on the side of my base. It is red meat that they will chew up and love. What he did not expect, what he did not understand, maybe because he never played the game of football is that there is a brotherhood that exists in the locker room.

Maybe it was only a small minority of NFL players who were willing to take a knee with Colin Kaepernick to protest in equities in the criminal justice system and police violence, but there is a majority of NFL players, who will stand together against the idea that they don't have freedom of speech.

Against the idea that the president of the United States should somehow call for their jobs and call for them fired, one of the most grossly inappropriate things I have ever seen.

And then there's that thing that George mentioned, which is so important that use of the language to speak about players' mothers. You've got to understand that the mother in the NFL locker room holds an esteemed place. It is like a team mother.

When you go after people's mothers it will be like what Josh Norman of Washington football team said last night. He said Donald Trump is not my president, and what it felt like to me is was like he came up to my house and he used different language, but he said it was like someone urinating on my house.

At some point, you have to stand up for yourself and say stop doing that. If you let someone do that, then you are something less than a human being. So, I think yesterday was about players standing up for their humanity and it was a day that I think that will go down in sports history.

CAMEROTA: George, there is something so poignant about seeing all of the players locking arms, even if they didn't take a knee, with their owners, and just, people who -- like this shot right here. There's something that just is sort of powerful about all of this.

[06:45:00] And, you know, even owners that are friends of Donald Trump's. I am thinking of Bob Kraft, you know, spoke out against him. Let me read you what Roger Goodell just told "Sports Illustrated." He is obviously the NFL commissioner.

He said I think we have to be focused on what the NFL is doing, staying true to our values, unifying people, continuing an effort to understand and help improve our communities. People love coming together around football. We saw nothing but exciting football today. I think the public loves our game and recognizes the efforts we are making with it.

Do you think the public will be forgiving of these displays of defying the president?

MARTIN: Absolutely. I think the unintended consequence of the president's actions is that he did something that hasn't been done in a long time. He's galvanized the entire National Football League, the owners, the league itself, as well as the Players Association.

They've come together on this one solid issue. There is no dissent among them, and it is crossing other sports boundaries which is something that's also very important and galvanizing that entire --

CAMEROTA: Meaning the Steph Curry stuff?

MARTIN: The Steph Curry and the NBA, and also, you know, when you look at the fact that he disinvited the members of the college championship as well. So, it is taking on a life of its own that he did not expect.

CAMEROTA: But Dave, what about that fan reaction? I mean, obviously, Philadelphia Eagles fans, I don't know if they represent, you know, most Americans. But still what about the fact that the manifestation of this is divisiveness among the fans?

ZINN: First, a quick shout out also to the WNBA and their finals last night. Both teams exercised their rights to protest. The WNBA has been standing up for racial justice and black and white players for over a year right now. So, let's not forget them.

Second of all, about the fans, what I thought was one of the things that was astounding yesterday when you think about who goes to an NFL game in 2017, the tickets are very expensive. The fans are overwhelmingly, I would argue, white and middle aged.

I mean, this is a demographic that you would think being very pro- Trump just looking at election returns. But I was struck yesterday by the paucity of booing, the absence of booing. Yes, it happened in certain stadiums, but it wasn't the sort of thing where it was this widespread condemnation from fans.

I mean, in Tennessee, when this brave young woman actually took a knee for the last note of the anthem or in Detroit when that young man did the same and raised his fist. I mean, the crowd overwhelmingly saw it for what it was, which was a statement of actually exercising your values that are protected in this country.

And we have a president in the face of that who is clearly trying to curb those values, calling on a private company to fire and discipline players for their speech. And so of course, this is going to be a divisive issue because the president has thoroughly divided this country.

But the difference, though, right now is that NFL players are actually showcasing an alternative kind of unity, not just lining up in the state of division.

CAMEROTA: Dave, thank you for all of your thoughts. George, great to have you here in the studio. Great to talk to you -- John.

BERMAN: Right. Pro athletes not the only ones getting political. Some of the nation's top entertainers now taking a knee during their own performances. Can the president win the culture war that he is fueling? We'll discuss next.

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[06:51:26]

BERMAN: All right. NFL players not the only one taking a knee against President Trump. (Inaudible) Williams, he got on his knees during a concert for Charlottesville, and had a strong message for the commander in chief.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm in Virginia right now. I'm home. Can't nobody tell me what to do. If I want to get on my knees right now -- if you want to get on my knees right now for the people in my city, for the people in my state, that's what that flag is for.

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BERMAN: Stevie Wonder also did the same during the Global Citizen Festival, Eddie Vedder during a concert in Nashville.

Joining us to discuss now, CNN senior media correspondent, host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter. Brian, these are the culture wars, popular culture. At least right now seems to be taking a side against the president.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Certainly, sort of the idea that Hollywood, celebrities lean to the left is not new. What is new is this is more pronounced than ever. We are seeing more and more of these political statements than we did, for example, even during the Bush years.

I think the line between what we saw this weekend with these athletes or CEOs quitting business counsels or celebrities speaking out against Trump, all of these A-listers in various fields, industries, kept having to make these choices about whether to be associated with President Trump or not.

And increasingly, many of them are choosing, try to stay as far away as possible. Whether putting out Twitter statements by CEOs or whether it's by not showing up to the White House. We are seeing these people take stands.

And also, the Kennedy Center Honors later this year. You know, normally the president goes to the Kennedy Center Honors. Some of the America's best known cultural icons receive awards. Well, some of those stars like Normal Leer were wary of showing up if Trump there, Trump decided not to even go. That is not until December, but it's another example of these choices people are making.

CAMEROTA: I mean, look, we're used to Hollywood elites, you know, defying the president or speaking out against him, but the NFL feels different. What about what President Trump said about what he will pay for this. Bad ratings!

Do you think this will have some erosion in ratings? The fact that people just want an escape when they watch football. They don't have to be mired in politics.

STELTER: We saw some of the best games of several years yesterday. I was going to say this season, but this season is new. We saw some incredible games in the 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. hours yesterday. That is what is most important for the NFL.

I know the front office was thrilled. They wanted the focus to be about. Will the ratings suffer? There has been some fraying around the edges and there's been a debate in the sports world -- CAMEROTA: Because of this or in general?

STELTER: Well, for the past year there's been a debate in the TV industry about -- are the ratings down a little bit for the NFL because of the anthem protest or is it because of some politics, because of cable news or other factors.

I would argue it is probably a little bit of all of those. You can't pick one cause. When the president said they're way down, that is not accurate. If anything, we will see the numbers go up from yesterday, go up for Monday night football because there is so much interest in these protests but --

BERMAN: And then you know what the president will do?

STELTER: What's that?

BERMAN: He will claim credit for it. He'll claim for the increase in ratings because he drew attention to it. And of course, this is a president that likes talking about these things, likes talking about entertainment and culture instead of talking about North Korea.

He could be talking about North Korea, the health care bill. He could be talking about Puerto Rico. There is an entire island without power right now. You would think that you could talk about that over the weekend instead of talking about the NFL.

STELTER: Yes. This is the change the subject presidency. We have seen this playbook time and time again where the president hones in on culture war issues. This is just the latest one.

[06:55:14] I think it's worth all of us being really transparent about that and recognize it when it's happening --

CAMEROTA: So was he (inaudible) in Alabama? I mean, that's what is confusing. Was this a determined distraction?

STELTER: This is the debate of the year, right? Is it strategic or impulsive? I usually side with the idea that it is impulsive. He's in Alabama. He's supporting a candidate that may well lose tomorrow. He is up there kind of admitting that he recognized that while on stage.

He is suffering bad headlines due to the GOP's latest attempt to get health care through. We see the health care bill on life support. There were a lot of reasons on Friday night by the president would want to talk anything but these bad news stories for him, right.

And then, of course, the Russian investigation looms over everything. That's the most important story of all. That is the one he tried to avoid. He called it a hoax again on Friday night. So, I think there are many reasons why he tries to change the subject.

But I'm grateful for these moments, guys, because the real Trump comes out in these moments. We learn more about our president when he speaks out in this case against black athletes. CAMEROTA: It's also just amazing to see everybody locking arms and taking a stand for what they say is free speech. Brian, thank you.

Republican leaders tweaking their latest health care plan trying to give skeptical senators a reason to vote yes. Will this third attempt fail or pass? We have much more ahead on NEW DAY.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I supported Donald Trump, but it's appalling.

PRESIDENT TRUMP: Would you love to see one of these NFL owners when somebody disrespects our flag, to say get that son of a (inaudible) off the field.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For him to try to use is platform and divide us even more (inaudible) stand for.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now they don't have my vote. I want to get there.

CAMEROTA: GOP leaders hope to win over holdouts with the new version of the health care bill.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Republicans have campaigned on repeal and replace.