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Hugh Hefner Dies At 91; 97 Percent Of Puerto Rico Now Without Power, Says Governor; Trump Pushes Tax Reform After Series Of Defeats; Trump-Backed Alabama Senate Candidate Loses Primary; Players to Continue Anthem Protests Against Injustice; Iraqi Kurds Seek Independence. Aired 2-3a ET

Aired September 28, 2017 - 02:00   ET


ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello and welcome to our viewers all around the world. I'm Isha Sesay. NEWSROOM LA starts right now.

Hugh Hefner revolutionized American publishing, but just a few hours ago, the founder of Playboy Magazine died at the Playboy Mansion of natural causes. Hefner scandalized America in 1953 when he published nude photos of Hollywood starlet Marilyn Monroe in the first edition of his new magazine.

In the decades that followed, he built an entertainment empire of magazines, night clubs and TV shows. Hef, as he was called, became a symbol of the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Selling to specification with his Playboy philosophy, clad in silk pajamas, smoking a pipe.

He made a skin magazine respectable by celebrating the girl next door who happened to be a centerfold. Hugh Hefner was 91.

With us now to discuss Hefner's life and influences, pop culture expert Segun Oduolowu and on the phone Paul Bond of "The Hollywood Reporter". Thank you to you both for joining us.

Paul, if I could start with you, you wrote a great piece in "The Hollywood Reporter" that told me so much about Hugh Hefner that I had no idea about.

Let's start with the fact - let's start with the fact that he borrowed less than $10,000 in 1953 to start the magazine, Playboy, and somehow, he managed to turn it into a global brand. Tell us how he did it?

PAUL BOND, WRITER, "THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER": Yes. He borrowed about a grand from his parents and the rest of it came from like 40 different investors. It was pretty amazing how little he needed to launch this thing and how many people he got it from.

But he managed to do it. When he printed the first magazine with Marilyn Monroe on the cover, he didn't even date it because he wasn't sure that the thing would be successful. So, he thought he was only going to do one magazine and then he'd be done.

And it turned into a lifelong career and that made him a multimillionaire. And he did exactly what he set out to do. He changed the world in some small and big ways.

SESAY: Yes. He certainly did. Segun, to you, it was said, less than $10,000 he built this empire. He built this magazine that is a global brand. It's an American icon, I mean. But what does it stand for today? We know what it stood for in its heyday, what about now?

SEGUN ODUOLOWU, POP CULTURE EXPERT: I mean, right now, it stands for free speech. It stands for expression. It stands for empowerment. It stands for the American ideal. It stands for greatness.

If you know anything about Hugh Hefner, which I hope people will go and Google him and forget all about the magazine, this guy fought in World War II. Like, he is a veteran.

And as Paul said, he started the magazine with $8,000. At the time of his death, and he lived to be 91, and lived to be a great 91, if we could talk about Hugh Hefner's 91 years, but at the time of his death, Playboy was totaling $1 billion in sales annually.

So, you had models. You had celebrities. Their first interview was with Miles Davis. They had writers like Jack Kerouac and Ian Fleming write for the magazine.

He brought to America something it had never seen before. He gave, if you want to say, pornography - he gave it class. He reshaped the way we thought about sex.

I think every, like, red-blooded American man or man around the world needs to raise their right fist in solidarity that our hero is gone. Hugh Hefner was - I mean, if I die and come back, can I please come back as Hugh Hefner? He lived the greatest life known to man.

SESAY: I don't have the power to grant you that, but I think God hears your prayer. Paul, to you, I mean, you hear Segun talking in such an impassioned way about what Hugh Hefner did and what he means to the world. I mean, give me your sense and your thoughts on the Playboy philosophy and how it has stood the test of time?

BOND: Well, it certainly has done that. I mean, it's changed over the years. But, remember, in the 60s and 70s, it wasn't all as great as people are remembering now.

I mean, there were a lot of women very upset with them. They didn't think that he was empowering them. They thought that he was objectifying them.

So, there was a big debate raging in the 60s and 70s on whether or not he was making a positive impact or a negative impact. And I think those who argue that he was making a positive impact won the day in his later years.

But I've been to the Playboy Mansion four times for four different Hugh Hefner parties and there were always this very eclectic (INAUDIBLE) evenings where they'd have sport stars and Hollywood celebrities and his ex-girlfriends and his ex-wife and bunnies from the 70s and bunnies from the 90s all hanging out with each other. [02:05:19] It was quite the eclectic thing. And I know that Hollywood will really miss him and they'll really miss his impact and they'll really look at him as a guy who really kind of changed pop culture forever and they'll have fond memories of all of those parties at the Playboy Mansion that they were invited too.

SESAY: Well, Paul, as you made it to the Playboy Mansion and attended parties there, most of us I think did not.

ODUOLOWU: Whoa, whoa, whoa! I went too.

SESAY: OK. You hang on a second. I'll come back to you.

ODUOLOWU: (INAUDIBLE). Oh, they were great.

SESAY: Paul, your experiences at the party, let's now get into details, but, I mean, did you get to talk to Hugh? I mean, what was he like as a person or being in the room with him?

BOND: Well, he was always very nice. I was always there as a reporter. So, I was a little bit different than the invited guests, but he always treated us very well and give us tours of the mansion and tours of the ground. And he just let us hang out and party with the rest of the celebrities.

And it was always kind of like a surreal experience because of the eclectic group of people that were there. And you can pool with the one of his ex-wives or you would be playing the Playboy pinball machine with Danny Bonaduce from The Partridge Family, Don Adams from Get Smart.

It was just all these great stars from TV or from the 60s and the 70s that were usually there. And then, peppered throughout the room, there would be your superstar athletes from the 90s.

So, he was always very cool and he was always a gracious host. And everybody always wanted to hang out in the Grotto, with that underground pool with all the caves and it was kind of like a throwback to the 60s.

If you saw the grotto in person, you'd think, this isn't all that great compared to the stuff we have now in Las Vegas. But you can imagine it in the 60s with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin hanging out there and it would have been pretty darn cool.

SESAY: Yes. Segun - Paul, thank you for sharing that. Segun, yes, OK. So, you went?

ODUOLOWU: I did, yes. I did not go as - Paul went as a reporter. I was a guest. I was an invited guest.

SESAY: So, first of all, what was it like? And, I guess, my other question on top of that is, as Paul mentioned, there were always these celebrities there. Like, he even towards the end of his life or in the later part of his life, his social capital, his celebrity capital remained high. ODUOLOWU: Yes. There are few celebrities that had his wattage of power. You would be in that room and, as Paul said, you would see athletes, professional football players, basketball players, you would see Lakers, you would see Dodgers, you would see actors and actresses.

When he entered the room, you knew that everybody kind of stopped, like you could feel his presence. He was the brightest star in a room full of stars.

And for a man who wasn't that big in stature, he just commanded a presence. And there are stories about the Playboy parties, how can you get invited and his playmates and this, but the one thing I will say about going to it is you knew it was history, you knew you kind of had arrived in the Hollywood sense that you had been invited to one of these parties.

And I think that when we remember Hugh Hefner, as Paul said, the fights that he had with the sexual revolution, I think when we go back and look at it, you'll see how much of the pioneering, how he pushed it forward, how he gave people a voice and showed them something different that you could look at a woman's body, and it may be if you wanted to objectify, but you would still see that these women - a lot of his playmates were college graduates


[02:10:41] SESAY: - trying to get the supplies to those who need it. A shipping company says it has 3000 containers sitting at the Port of San Juan, with food, water, medicine, clothes, even cars, but many of the (INAUDIBLE).

Other shippers are having the same problem. Some say their cargo is being held up at the ports of the mainland US.

President Donald Trump meanwhile says food and supplies are being delivered on an hourly basis. He's also thinking about suspending an old, obscure shipping law called the Jones Act, which says all goods ferried between US ports must be carried on ships built, owned and operated by Americans.

Well, while much of that is sitting at the ports, many across Puerto Rico are struggling. More than a week after Hurricane Maria hit, 97 percent of the island is still in the dark.

Almost half of the island has no running water and that are long lines for food and fuel. Gas stations and supermarkets are rationing what they have and banks are running low on cash.

The governor tells our own Rafael Romo, the island remains in emergency mode.


RICARDO ROSSELLO, GOVERNOR OF PUERTO RICO: This has been the biggest catastrophe in the history of Puerto Rico in terms of a natural disaster. We essentially have lost all power. We have lost all telecoms. Roads have been hampered. Human resources have been limited.

And on top of that, we're in an island. So different from this occurring in Florida or Texas, where you can call on your neighboring state and solicit some of that help. Over here, you need to airlift it.


SESAY: Well, our CNN correspondents are covering all aspects of Puerto Rico's humanitarian crisis. CNN's Sanjay Gupta tells us about the hospitals being pushed to their limits after Hurricane Maria.


SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: In the middle of desperation, another potential crisis may be brewing.

DR MARIA RODRIGUEZ, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, CONCILIO DE SALUD INTEGRAL DE LOIZA: This is not a small place. This is a whole island. And problem with the diesel and the gasoline, we're trying to work with this people, we're trying to still providing services to these people.

GUPTA: Dr. Maria Rodriguez has worked at this committee health clinic for 24 years. It's one of 70 such places all across the island which serve as the frontline for preventive healthcare.

Everything from broken bones to counseling to pharmacy services, for many Puerto Ricans. But as fuel dwindles, so will care.

RODRIGUEZ: In a way, if we continue to provide these services in this area, we stop the (AUDIO GAP).

GUPTA: - and at that point, without any help, they'll have to close their doors.

RODRIGUEZ: What else we can do? The only thing we can do is go into the shelter, to the medical evaluation, but we can't provide medications to patients.

GUPTA (on-camera): And that's in part why you're seeing tents like this pop up in places like San Juan because even before Maria a third of the population here was reported to be in poor health, more likely to be older here, more likely to have chronic disease like hypertension and diabetes, and therein lies the concern, what happens to all these patients if they don't get access to care within the next several days.

(voice-over): Getting healthcare services up and running is key, but the only way to do that is to make sure clinics like this are powered with fuel. And right now, that's a big unknown.

Domingo Cruz, director of San Jorge Pediatric Hospital knows just how critical it can be. Just two days ago -

DOMINGO CRUZ, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAN JORGE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: A hospital, it was dark. Then all of a sudden, as you may understand, everybody was very nervous. We started evaluating transfers (INAUDIBLE) transferring to other hospitals.

GUPTA: They were running low on fuel, just two days' worth, and a dozen children on ventilators.

CRUZ: We were ready to evacuate the entire hospital if we didn't get the power somehow early afternoon.

GUPTA: A neighboring hospital brought 1,200 gallons of fuel and then yesterday a US Army tank provided three more days' worth to keep this generator going.

CRUZ: It was a close call and we then got that. It works out.

[02:15:06] GUPTA: It's been trying professionally as well as personal. In the midst of the storm, his mother passed away.

CRUZ: Very hurt the day of the storm. The day after the storm, I showed up. We need to be open. There are people looking for us.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, San Juan, Puerto Rico.


SESAY: Well, if you want to learn how to help hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and around the Caribbean, go to, you can donate to one of the charities we've already vetted for you or you could volunteer your time.

All right. We're going to take a very quick break. And then, after a string of political setbacks, President Trump looks for momentum on tax reform.


SESAY: Hello, everyone. US President Donald Trump is looking to pivot from a series of political losses this week as he launches his tax reform push. Jim Acosta reports.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are strange days for President Trump after backing the losing candidate Luther Strange to hard-right conservative Roy Moore.

LUTHER STRANGE, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ALABAMA: Let's go again and make America great.

ACOSTA: The president, GOP sources say, is embarrassed and outraged, blaming everybody but himself. Now, he's throwing his weight behind Moore.

DONALD J. TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we have a man who is going to be a great senator.

Tweets from the president's Twitter feed supporting Strange were deleted. A GOP advisor to the White House said the president is unhappy with the result in Alabama because losing is bad for his brand.

TRUMP: We have the votes for healthcare.

ACOSTA: That defeat in Alabama came hours after the latest effort by Republicans to repeal and replace Obamacare failed in the Senate. Today, the president insisted the party would fulfill its pledge eventually.

TRUMP: So, we'll have to do it in January or February, but I feel we have the votes. I'm also certain we have the votes.

ACOSTA: Mr. Trump also hinted he may fire Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price over his use of private jets at taxpayers' expense.

TRUMP: I'm looking at that very closely. I'm not happy with it. I will tell you, I'm not happy with it.

ACOSTA: All of that overshadowed what was supposed to be the president's message of the day, a tax reform speech in Indianapolis.

TRUMP: We need Washington to promote American jobs instead of obstructing them.

ACOSTA: The president's plan shrinks individual tax brackets from seven to three lower rates, while eliminating some popular tax breaks and cutting the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

Mr. Trump, said reports, he wanted an even lower corporate rate was simply a negotiating tactic.

TRUMP: I wanted to start at 15 to get there. We really had to start there because of the complexity of the numbers. But 20 is a perfect number.

ACOSTA: The president says his tax reform plan doesn't benefit him, but that's impossible to know because the president has not released his tax returns.

The president also says he has the votes to pass the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill. That's despite the fact that one of the cosponsors Lindsey Graham says he doesn't have the votes.

Jim Acosta, CNN, Indianapolis.


[02:20:09] SESAY: Well, joining us now are CNN political commentators Democratic strategist Dave Jacobson and Republican consultant John Thomas. Gentlemen, welcome. Good to see you again.

Listen, the president out on the trail, if you will, pushing his new tax reform plan in Indianapolis. John, to you first, this was a plan that was - it was big on vision, but kind of skinny, if you will, thin on the actual details of who's going to pick up the tab here after all these massive tax cuts are put in place. There are no answers forthcoming on that.

JOHN THOMAS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Well, Grover Norquist has said that it's going to cause the economy to boom. So, I think that's part of their plan, is that the economy is going to pick up because of lower taxes, people are going to reinvest in the economy and it will start to pay for itself.

I think the federal government just recently collected a record amount of taxes, but we're still on a massive deficit. But I think in order for this thing to pass, which Trump absolutely needs a win here, they are going to have to explain how it's not going to put us in more of a deficit spending situation.

SESAY: I mean, I hear what you're saying about Grover Norquist and his position. But, Dave, as you well know, most other economists don't buy that, that cutting taxes boosts the economy. Most economists say that's voodoo economics.

DAVE JACOBSON, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR AND DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It totally is. It was Bob Corker from Tennessee today who issued a statement basically saying healthcare is going to look like a cakewalk essentially compared to passing this tax plan.

And I think the fact is, like Republicans are going to have to get to the deficit issue. And "The New York Times" came out today saying that this tax plan, as it's written today, this is just an outline, but as it's written today, we could anticipate $2.2 trillion added to the deficit.

Republicans are supposed to be cutting the deficit, not adding to it.

THOMAS: As of now, the Freedom Caucus is saying they support the preliminary outline. But, of course, legislation is messy and we're still a ways away, but they have to get it done quickly. So, that's really the thing here, is they have to get it done, what, before the end of the month.

JACOBSON: Well, here's the other challenge. Donald Trump campaigned on a platform for the underdog, for the little guy, right? This is a big tax cut written by millionaires and billionaires for millionaires and billionaires.

THOMAS: No, that's not true. But there aren't big tax cuts for the rich, which was -

JACOBSON: Thirty-nine percent to thirty-five percent.

THOMAS: No, but that was under Speaker Ryan's plan. It was for the ultrarich. They took that off the table.

SESAY: But you have to admit, on balance, to Dave's point, on balance, this is a good plan for someone who is sitting in a position of wealth?

THOMAS: Sure. Somebody who pays a lot of taxes, any kind of percentage cut, they're going to benefit from that. And that's great because they're going to reinvest that money in the economy.

JACOBSON: But the cold hard reality is this is trickle-down economics and it didn't work in 1980s, it didn't work in the early 2000s, and it's not going to work in 2017.

SESAY: We've got to move on because, God knows, we're going to have many more days to talk about tax.

The president is saying we've got the votes for healthcare, we could do this. But, I mean, if he had the votes, John, they would have put it to the vote.

THOMAS: That's a mistruth.

SESAY: It's a what?

THOMAS: It's a mistruth.

SESAY: What is that?

THOMAS: A falsity. They don't have the votes.

SESAY: You're not going to call it a lie.

THOMAS: I mean, they don't have the votes. Mitch McConnell would have taken it to a vote if they had the votes. They are not there.

SESAY: Dave?

JACOBSON: Donald Trump is living in a fantasy land. He's totally divorced from reality - period.

And that's why, frankly, Quinnipiac put out a poll today that said 60 percent of Americans believe that the president isn't honest and doesn't tell the truth. This is just exacerbated when he says things like that.

SESAY: I'm trying to get John to go from a mistruth to falsity to lie, but he refused.

JACOBSON: Or maybe alternative facts.

SESAY: Alternative facts. But moving on from healthcare to Alabama because I want to get that in and get your read on that.

Obviously, the man the president backed, Luther Strange, did not win and the man backed by Steve Bannon won. Take a listen quickly to what Steve Bannon had to say as they enjoy the taste of victory.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: They're going to see in state after state after state, people that follow the model of Judge Moore that do not need to raise money from the elites, from the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington DC, New York City, Silicon Valley. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SESAY: John, Steve Bannon says there's a revolution coming. And the feeling is that insurgent bids against incumbents are going to basically take a jump now, now that Roy Moore has beaten someone like Luther Strange.

THOMAS: He is absolutely right.

SESAY: So, what does that mean for midterm prospects?

THOMAS: It means that what you're going to see is a lot more retirements on both sides now. Quite frankly, the Democrats base is moving - shifting harder to the left.

What we're seeing on the Republican side is - what's interesting about Alabama is, yes, Trump's pick lost, Trump's pick suffered huge damage in the primary prior to Trump endorsing.

Let's not forget, Trump's at 66 percent of approval in Alabama. He is very well-liked.

SESAY: And he won the state by 28 points.

THOMAS: Yes. The only reason Strange even stood a slight chance early on was because of President Trump. The reason he got tanked is because Mitch McConnell and the establishment's approval, but specifically Mitch McConnell's, approvals are at 16 percent nationwide.

[02:25:11] SESAY: But they poured millions into -

THOMAS: And it won't matter. And to Steve Bannon's point, you're going to see all over the country that these Republican moderates are vulnerable to being primaried by these antiestablishment choices.

And the sad thing for Donald Trump is he did need Luther Strange in the Senate because it may come down again to one vote if he wants to pass his legislative agenda.

SESAY: Dave, for the Democrats, what does this mean? Is this good news that Republicans across the country are going to be primaried by these insurgent types?

JACOBSON: Yes. I mean, it's clear that there is a civil war within the GOP. And I think that's a good thing for Democrats.

The fact that the Democrats are now going to go up against an anti- LGBT birther, extremist radical candidate in Alabama, the seat where Donald Trump won 30 percent, Democrats are excited about this.

It's going to be steep hill for us to flip the seat red to blue. But if you look at the fact that -

SESAY: Do you honestly think you can turn Alabama?

JACOBSON: We see what the fundraising looks like. I think it's going to be a steep hill.

SESAY: But your candidate is struggling in Alabama to raise the money right now?

JACOBSON: Yes. Well, look, I mean, look, we just hit the reset button now with primary going up against Moore.

THOMAS: (INAUDIBLE). It's possible. It's possible.

JACOBSON: Look, the guy, I think - he's a former federal prosecutor. He went and he sort of took on the KKK. I think he's got a legitimate record that he can campaign on.

The question is can he raise the resources and can he put forward a compelling message to peel off some of those Luther Strange votes. And I think it's too early to tell. We'll see what the polling says.

But I think long-term, like the fact he's got like - people like Jeff Flake in Arizona who are being primaried by an extremist, sort of fringe candidate, you're going to see more of that. I think that's a good thing for Democrats, heading into the midterms, particularly in states like Nevada, where you've got Dean Heller, who is a vulnerable Republican.

I think Democrats, obviously, have to protect a number of seats, but there's also a possibility we could pick up one to two seats. And with such a narrow margin, the Democrats need to win back the majority, I think it's a 52 to 48 for Democrats, we only have to pick up a couple of seats to really make significant gains.

SESAY: All right. I could see trumping of the fist. (INAUDIBLE). Gentlemen, thank you. Appreciate it.

All right. Turning away from US politics for a moment, and Japan is gearing up for a snap election after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dissolved the lower house of parliament.

The country was not expected to vote for another year. But Mr. Abe is hoping to take advantage of his popularity for a stronger mandate in running the country, and thanks to his handling of North Korea's nuclear threats.

Time for quick break. "State of America" with Kate Bolduan is coming up next for our viewers in Asia. For everyone else, President Trump steps up his attack on protesting athletes. Why he says the NFL is going to hell if players don't change their ways. And we talk with one former NFL star who says it's wrong to call protesters unpatriotic.

You're watching NEWSROOM LA.


[02:30:16] ISHA SESAY, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay. U.S. President Donald Trump is not letting up on his criticism of

athletes who protest the national anthem. He says, if they want to make a statement, they should find a better place to do it.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The NFL is in a very bad box. You cannot have people disrespecting our national anthem, our flag, our country, and that's what they're doing. In my opinion, the NFL has to change or --


TRUMP: -- you know what will happen, their business is going to go to hell.


SESAY: NFL players talked about the protest during Media Day Wednesday and it's clear many of them think the president hasn't handled the situation well.


UNIDENTIFIED NFL PLAYER: If an American can't air their grievances to the republic for which it stands, then where can they air their grievances. And when you have the president of our country basically saying I don't want to hear you protests, I don't want to hear your grievances, and I think that's where we have the challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED NFL PLAYER: I think what you saw last weekend especially was a direct result of the comments that the president made, President Trump. Unfortunately, I think he put all athletes, all, you know, black athletes, minority athletes, he put them in a corner and forced them to take action.

UNIDENTIFIED NFL PLAYER: To see the type of words and things he's saying about us, it just got to me. It really did. Every week, it's different. We talk about being together as a country, that's same thing with this team, we want to be together.


Jack Brewer is a former NFL player and he's now the spokesman for National Association of Police Athletic/Activities Leagues. He joins me on the phone.

Jack, thank you so much for joining us.

U.S. president is doubling down on his condemnation of athletes who kneel in protest before the national anthem. The president said basically the NFL will go to hell if they don't stamp this out. Why won't the president let this go?

JACK BREWER, FORMER NFL PLAYER & SPOKESMAN, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF POLICE ATHLETIC/ACTIVITIES LEAGUES (via telephone): Because I think, for some reason, he understands he was wrong. This was all ignited by his comments, calling these great men of the National Football League sons of bitches. He disrespected them, disrespected the brotherhood, disrespected freedom in America, free speech in America. It is sad he won't let it go and he hasn't apologized for it. Two weeks ago, six men took the knee. This past Sunday, you saw the entire league join together. They weren't taking a knee or protesting against America. No one was doing that. No one was protesting against the military. They were protesting against a president who called them out and totally disrespected them.

I want to make an important point. Most of these men that were on their knees were praying. They were praying to God. They were putting the situation in front of millions of people. They want to fight for justice and rights and equality for all people and they did nothing but pray. Because that's all they could do.

And as an African-American man, I worked hard throughout my life to be a mentor and a role, model for kids all across this country and world, like many men in the National Football League have. And to be disrespected over and over when we are the first to stand up in the time of crisis, in the time of need we're community leaders,4thers, sons, husbands and to have a president to speak about you in the way he has is absolutely ridiculous and, you know, I just hope this country understands, we're going to keep standing together. Going to stand together in prayer. We'll to continue to get on both knees and pray to God that, hopefully, in America, we can get empathy back

SESAY: Jack, when you hear people say, OK, if athletes want to protest, that's their right. And they're agreeing with what the president said, why don't they take it elsewhere, why don't they take it through Twitter and protest there? When you hear that, what goes through your mind?

[02:34:49] BREWER: Athletes do go to Twitter and social media, but when they are put in a box, like the president put every athlete in box -- he backed them into a corner. No one decided, no one came out and said, hey, I want to protest today. The president called them sons of bitches. And most of these men have never kneeled before during a national anthem. They didn't know what to do. Can you imagine having an entire country looking at you after a president has called you out like that? You have every media outlet and you're standing for humanity, injustice, and rights for all. This is the United States of America. We should be standing up for those who didn't have the right to speak out. This is America. This is free speech. So to have a national uproar against these men -- you haven't heard one single National Football League player speak out against the military or anyone else, the flag. No one has spoken out against this country. This is not about Colin Kaepernick. This last week's protest was not about Colin Kaepernick. It may have been for a few. But the men I talked to, it has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick.

SESAY: So, Jack, I want to ask you, as you bring Colin Kaepernick up -- sorry, we're almost out of time. But you know, when this started with Colin Kaepernick, it began as his protest against police brutalities and society inequalities.

BREWER: Yes, he started a protest in the way that he chose to.


SESAY: No --


SESAY: Agreed. Agreed.


BREWER: And he stood there after calling police officers pigs. And I stand next to police officers. I represent them all across this country. We have 99.9 percent of police officers are good people. We have a percentage that are not.


SESAY: How do we go -- I guess my question is, to the point that he was trying to make or draw attention to, in his own way, how does this go from being a protest about such issues to actually seeing real tangible change that makes things better for everyone? How does that happen, Jack?


BREWER: I can tell you that we're going to go back to prayer and bring the focus back to where it needs to be on. We need to come together as a nation. We take our knees together and bring empathy back in our country so we can see things not just through our own eyes but through the eyes of other people. A lot of those men in the National Football League come from neighborhoods and places where people don't have voices and they're the voices to the voices. We got to respect that.

SESAY: Jack Brewer, we thank you for joining us and giving us your heartfelt opinion. We really appreciate it.

BREWER: Thank you.

SESAY: We really appreciate it. Thank you.

No matter how people view the controversy, most agree there's no easy solution. CNN brought together NFL players, military veterans and civil rights leaders to talk about the issues. Here's film director, Spike Lee, to talk about the issue.


SPIKE LEE, FILM DIRECTOR: Politics and sports have always been intertwined. And you can't live in the United States of America -- race is part of the DNA of this country. This country, the foundation of United States of America was the genocide of Native Americans and slavery. That's the foundation of this country that can't be disputed. And so that's the foundation. Everything else comes from.


SESAY: See the entire "A.C. 360" town hall, "Patriotism, the Players and the President," Thursday, 9:00 p.m. in Hong Kong, and 2:00 p.m. in London, only here on CNN.

Ahead on CNN, the referendum was overwhelming. Now Iraqi Kurds are on a collision court with Baghdad. We'll tell you about their push for independence.


[02:41:01] SESAY: Iraq's prime minister is calling for the Kurdish independence referendum to be annulled. Kurdish officials announced 92 percent of voters back secession for the region. The Kurdistan regional government says the vote is a mandate for independence talks to begin, but Baghdad has ruled that out.

Jomana Karadsheh joins us now from Amman, Jordan.

Jomana, good to have you with us.

The Iraqis have made a number of threats since this Kurdish referendum got under way and the results were known. On Wednesday, the Iraqi parliament called on the prime minister to send troops to the contested oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Do we know what the Prime Minister Haider al Abadi plans to do?

JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Isha, at the same time, you had Kurdish authorities around the same time Wednesday afternoon, you had the Kurdish authorities announcing the results of the referendum, as expected, an overwhelming, yes, more than 92 percent of the eligible voters voting in favor of independence. You had the Iraqi parliament meeting and calling on the prime minister to carry out several measures, punitive measures against the Kurdistan region because they went ahead with this referendum that the Iraqis are describing as unconstitutional. As you mentioned, they're say it should be annulled.

And as you mentioned, one of the measures they have asked the prime minister to do is to send troops to Kirkuk to that disputed oil-rich territory and they want to take control of the oil fields. This was taken by the Kurdish forces in 2014 as ISIS swept through. And they wanted to stop ISIS from taking control of the oil fields so the Kurds took it, and have kept it since. These are disputed territories. So this is a very tense situation. We'll have to see if troops are deployed. That would certainly be a real escalation and a lot of concern about that.

And we're also seeing other measure that are already going into effect that would hurt the Kurds and the economy of the Kurdistan region. Including the Iraqi Aviation Authority telling airlines to suspend their flights to the two main airports in the region because the Iraqis have asked that the Kurdish authorities hand over control of these airports to Baghdad, something that has not happened. So by 6:00 p.m. on Friday, we're hearing from several airlines in the region saying they're suspending their flight. So a very serious situation, a very tense situation, Isha, that seems to be headed only towards more escalation and more tension.

SESAY: Indeed. Doesn't seem to be dialing back.

Jomana Karadsheh, thank you for joining us from Amman, Jordon, with the latest.

And thank you for watching CNN NEWSROOM, live from Los Angeles. I'm Isha Sesay.

"World Sport" is up next.

Then Rosemary Church will join you with another hour of news from around the world.

You're watching CNN.




[03:00:11] ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Three thousand shipping containers are full of supplies but they have no way to --