SEVERAL HOUSTON TEXANS PLAYERS KNEEL AFTER COMMENTS FROM OWNER

After controversial comments made by owner Bob McNair, several Houston Texans players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem prior to Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks.

Lindsey Wisniewski of USA Today captured an image featuring Texans players kneeling on the sideline:

Per Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, approximately 10 Texans stood during the anthem with their hand over their heart.

On Friday, ESPN The Magazine‘s Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr. reported McNair said, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” during the NFL owners’ meetings on Oct. 18 in response to player protests during the national anthem.

After McNair’s comments were made public, ESPN.com’s Sarah Barshop reported wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins and running back D’Onta Foreman missed Friday’s practice and other players left the team facilities before returning to practice.

NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported McNair met with the team Saturday and “expressed regret for his comments.”

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported early Sunday the Texans were planning a group protest before the start of their game against the Seahawks, with their methods ranging from kneeling, peeling the team logo off their helmets, raising their fists and staying in the locker room during the anthem.

HOUSTON ASTROS ONE WIN AWAY FROM WINNING FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP IN FRANCHISE HISTORY

The Houston Astros are one win away from clinching their first championship in franchise history after defeating the Los Angeles Dodgers, 13-12, in a wild 10-inning Game 5 of the 2017 World Series on Sunday night.

Alex Bregman, who homered off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth inning Saturday, ended the game with a walk-off RBI single against the All-Star reliever that scored pinch-runner Derek Fisher from second base.

After missing an opportunity to take a commanding 3-1 series lead Saturday night, the Astros got back on track 24 hours later. They will end the 2017 postseason with an 8-1 record at Minute Maid Park, but it will take one more victory at Dodger Stadium to win the biggest prize in Major League Baseball.

Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times had the best description of this game that still manages to undersell the ridiculousness of it:

An even more appropriate tweet to describe this game is this 2015 gem from Justin Klugh of The Good Phight:

There’s almost no story that can fully capture the wildness of a matchup that took five hours and 17 minutes, featured 25 runs scored and began with two former Cy Young winners starting the game.

This marked the second time in the series that Clayton Kershaw and Dallas Keuchel were the starters, but ESPN’s Marly Rivera noted this one had a far different pace than Game 1:

With Kershaw on the mound, the Dodgers gave their ace a three-run cushion before he ever threw a pitch. Logan Forsythe hit a two-run single off Keuchel, followed by Enrique Hernandez scoring on a throwing error by Yuli Gurriel.

Heading into the game, this seemed like it was going to be a tense pitching showdown because of the starting hurlers. Kershaw and Keuchel had an outstanding duel in Game 1 that the Dodgers won, 3-1.

Instead, it turned into a wild back-and-forth slugfest that featured four ties, five lead changes and seven home runs.

Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Gurriel did most of the damage for Houston. That trio went a combined 8-for-15 with three of Houston’s five home runs, 10 RBI and six runs scored.

Keuchel had been lights-out this postseason with a 3.00 ERA, 28 strikeouts and six walks in 24 innings over four starts coming into Game 5.

Richard Justice of MLB.com noted Keuchel has been masterful at Minute Maid Park throughout the 2017 season:

The 2015 American League Cy Young winner didn’t have his best stuff or pinpoint control Sunday, needing 32 pitches to get out of the first inning and lasting just 3.2 innings before Astros manager A.J. Hinch went to his bullpen.

After Austin Barnes extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0 with an RBI single in the top of the fourth, MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince noted Kershaw has been virtually unbeatable in this situation throughout his career:

However, Houston’s offense came to life against Kershaw in the bottom half of the fourth inning to bail out Keuchel.

Gurriel tied the score at four with a monster home run off Kershaw after Correa got Houston on the board with an RBI double:

That blast from Gurriel also put Kershaw in the MLB postseason record books, though not for a reason he would prefer:

The Astros were still in a vulnerable position, having to rely on their bullpen for 19 outs. That group has struggled with a 5.21 ERA this postseason and allowed five runs in the decisive ninth inning of Game 4.

Ken Giles, who has given up at least one run in six of his seven appearances this postseason, was told by Hinch before Game 5 he likely wouldn’t be used in the closer’s role.

“He’s a big reason why we’re here,” Hinch said (via MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart). “Right now, those words probably fall on deaf ears because of the struggles that he’s had. He doesn’t have to wear the burden of anything. He’s doing his best to be prepared and come in and make pitches, and he’s getting burned a couple of different times.”

Hinch turned to Chris Devenski to get the final four outs for Houston, but he turned out to be just as ineffective as Giles. Yasiel Puig cut the deficit to 12-11 with a two-run homer, and then Chris Taylor tied the score with a two-out, two-strike RBI single in the top of the ninth.

From innings seven through nine, there were five consecutive half-innings in which at least one run was scored. Jansen ended that streak with a scoreless ninth inning that sent the game into extra innings before Bregman got to him again.

Collin McHugh, who hasn’t pitched since Game 3 of the ALCS against the New York Yankees, started the fifth inning for Houston and gave the Dodgers life. Corey Seager and Justin Turner walked to open the frame, and Cody Bellinger picked up where he left off from Saturday with a three-run homer:

In case you wondered how quickly a playoff narrative can turn, Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle sent this after Bellinger struck out against Charlie Morton in the top of the fifth inning in Game 4:

In five at-bats after that punchout, Bellinger hit two doubles, one home run and drove in four runs.

Unfortunately, Kershaw couldn’t bounce back after getting the lead back. He was pulled with two on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, setting up Altuve to tie the score against Kenta Maeda with a three-run shot of his own.

The homer was Altuve’s seventh of the postseason. Katie Sharp of River Avenue Blues noted he’s closing in on exclusive company:

Even though the Astros have their own bullpen concerns, the Dodgers haven’t gotten much relief from their crew in this World Series. Jansen blew the first playoff save of his career in Game 2, though that looks like nothing compared to what happened Sunday.

Six Dodgers relievers combined to allow seven runs in five innings. Ross Stripling (0.2 innings) and Tony Watson (0.2 innings) were the only members of that group who didn’t give up runs in their outings.

After a quiet sixth inning, George Springer gave the Dodgers new life when he tried to make a spectacular play on a sinking line drive by Bellinger that hit the ground and went all the way to the wall, allowing Hernandez to score.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts turned to his shutdown relievers with an 8-7 lead, starting with Brandon Morrow in the seventh inning. It didn’t take long for the plan to fall apart when Springer greeted him with a leadoff homer to tie the score.

After Bregman followed with a single, Altuve struck again with an RBI double over the head of Joc Pederson in left field to put the Astros on top for the first time. Correa’s two-run homer appeared to put the nail in Los Angeles’ coffin on this night before the ninth inning.

Despite Devenski’s slip-up in the ninth, the Astros didn’t waver until they were finally able to prevail.

This game is the story of Houston’s 2017 season. It’s a team led by a high-powered offense, which scored an MLB-best 896 runs during the regular season.

In Game 4 of the ALDS against the Boston Red Sox, the Astros scored three runs off Chris Sale and Craig Kimbrel to close out the series. They outscored the New York Yankees 11-1 in the last two games of the ALCS to earn a trip to the World Series.

On Sunday, the Astros knocked Kershaw around and got Jansen to give up a run for the third straight time he’s pitched in the series.

The Astros will have Justin Verlander on the mound for Game 6 on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium looking to close out the series. The Dodgers will attempt to rid themselves of the bad taste in their mouth from this game when they start Rich Hill to save their season.

LITTLE ROCK CHIEF OF POLICE STILL WORRIED ABOUT HIP-HOP CONCERTS AFTER MASS SHOOTING

The Little Rock, Arkansas Police Department is still worried about hip-hop music, after a mass shooting in the city over the summer.

In July, a rapper by the name of Finese2Tymes aka Ricky Hampton, was involved in a shootout that left 27 people wounded at the Power Ultra Lounge.

His bodyguard and another man were eventually charged in the shooting but it has left the city’s local nightclubs and the police department on edge when it comes to rap music.

Local Police Chief Kenton Buckner has fired off a letter to local officials, expressing his concern over an upcoming meet and greet featuring Cash Money rapper Jacquees.

Chief Buckner cited past violence at Jacquees’ shows in other states, although he did not expressly call for the cancellation of the event.

But Chief Buckner’s words carry weight in the local community after the shooting.

Earlier this month, a concert featuring Moneybagg Yo was canceled, after Chief Buckner sent out a similar letter expressing concern over past violence at his shows.

Jacquees’ meet and greet and concert are planned to go on a scheduled today (October 29).

YO GOTTI INKS DEAL WITH PUMA

Rapper Yo Gotti has been named a brand ambassador for Puma.

The “Down in the DM” hitmaker follows in the footsteps of previously announced ambassadors, including The Weeknd, his girlfriend Selena Gomez, and his fellow Roc Nation labelmates Rihanna and Big Sean.

“Puma has been an iconic name in the fashion world for decades,” the rapper says. “Their ability to remain at the top of the game in not only sportswear but in culture and fashion, is inspirational. I’m honored to be a part of that legacy.”

Yo Gotti will collaborate with designers on several products and programs involving the fashion brand.

“Yo Gotti’s creative talent, drive and genuine passion for his fans is the perfect match for Puma,” Allison Giorgio, vice president of marketing for Puma North America, says. “He is confident and isn’t afraid to take risks and we are so pleased to welcome him to Puma and can’t wait for his fans to see what he has in store for them through our collaboration.”

In addition to his new partnership, the 36-year-old released his ninth studio album, I Still Am today (October 27).

A documentary of the same name will debut exclusively on streaming service Tidal on the same day as the album release.

REPUBLICAN SEN. JEFF FLAKE WILL NOT RUN FOR RE-ELECTION

Republican Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has sparred frequently with President Donald Trump, will not run for re-election, he said Tuesday in a blistering floor speech bemoaning the changing tenor of politics in the United States.

“If I have been critical, it’s not because I relish criticizing the behavior of the President of the United States,” Flake said. “If I have been critical, it is because I believe that it is my obligation to do so, as a matter of duty and conscience.”
He continued, “The notion that one should stay silent as the norms and values that keep America strong are undermined and as the alliances and agreements that ensure the stability of the entire world are routinely threatened by the level of thought that goes into 140 characters — the notion that one should say and do nothing in the face of such mercurial behavior is ahistoric and, I believe, profoundly misguided.”
His decision means Flake joins retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker as an outspoken critic of Trump with nothing to lose in the year before 2018’s midterm elections.
The White House suggested it was time for Flake to retire.
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“Based on the lack of support he has from the people of Arizona, it’s probably a good move,” press secretary Sarah Sanders said during the daily press briefing.
In his first interview since speaking on the Senate floor, Flake refused to weigh in on Sanders’ comments but outlined his issues with the President to CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“It’s difficult to move forward in a Republican primary if you have been critical of any of the behavior that’s gone on,” Flake said on CNN’s “The Lead.” “We Republicans certainly can’t countenance that kind of behavior. We ought to stand up and say ‘This is not right. This is not us. This is not conservative.'”
Flake’s political fortunes suffered as a result of his long-running feud with Trump — including an anti-Trump tome Flake published over the summer. Private polls conducted by Republican and Democratic groups in Arizona, sources with those groups said, showed him on track to lose badly in next August’s Republican primary to challenger Kelli Ward.
His retirement is a double-edged sword for Trump’s White House: It opens the door for Flake to be replaced with a more supportive Republican. But his seat is also a prime Democratic pick-up opportunity.
And it turns Arizona — once a Republican stronghold but increasingly competitive in recent elections — into perhaps the most important state in the 2018 midterms, with Flake’s seat now open and questions looming about Sen. John McCain’s long-term prognosis as he is treated for brain cancer.
McCain and Corker were both in attendance of Flake’s Senate floor speech Tuesday and gave him a standing ovation at conclusion of his remarks — as did Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso.
“One of the greatest people I’ve served with,” Corker said after the speech, describing Flake and adding later, “He’s what I would call a real conservative.”
Corker said Flake told him about his decision after the lunch among Republican senators earlier Tuesday.
When asked what it said about the Senate that Flake said he couldn’t fit into the current Republican party, Barrasso said that is up to every senator to decide.
“Every senator speaks for themselves. I continue to be very privileged to represent the people of Wyoming and hope to continue to do that in the future,” Barrasso said.
Sen. John Cornyn, the second ranking Republican in the chamber, said it is “a very sad day” and GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who recently decided to skip a run for governor and stay in the chamber, called Flake’s decision “incredibly disappointed.”
Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia left the floor in tears following Flake’s speech, calling it “depressing.”
“When someone as good and decent a person as Jeff Flake does not think he can continue in the body, it’s a very tragic day for the institution,” Kaine said.

The fight with Trump

Flake’s congressional career came full circle. He began in the House in 2001 as an outsider raging against earmarks. By the time he launched his Senate campaign in 2012, he was a favorite of conservative groups like the Club for Growth, which had grown in power and influence on Capitol Hill. Now, Flake is again on the outs, with Trump’s populist policies taking hold with Republican voters.
In politics and personality, Trump and Flake have little in common.
Flake, a Mormon from the tiny town of Snowflake, Arizona, is polite and introspective. He journals regularly and, while in the House, regularly emailed his thoughts on travel and policy to a small, private list of family and friends.
He’s long expressed major policy differences with Trump — particularly on trade. In August he called Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a big mistake which will haunt us for a long time.” He has also defended the North American Free Trade Agreement, warning that its cancellation would badly damage the economies of border states like Arizona.
Flake refused to endorse Trump in the general election, and then three months ago published a book sharply critical of Trump titled “Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.”
In the book, Flake worries about “the strange specter of an American president’s seeming affection for strongmen and authoritarians.” He also called now “one of the more reckless periods of politics in our history.” And he questioned whether Republicans having won the House, Senate and White House in 2016 was worth the cost of putting “at risk our institutions and our values.”
“We shouldn’t hesitate to speak out if the President ‘plays to the base’ in ways that damage the Republican Party’s ability to grow and speak to a larger audience,” Flake wrote.
Trump, meanwhile, had long plotted to oust Flake.
He told supportive Republicans in Arizona prior to the 2016 election that he would spend $10 million of his own money to see that Flake is unseated in the primary.
His White House has been in regular contact with State Treasurer Jeff DeWit, former state party chairman Robert Graham and other Republicans about the race. Former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon backed Ward even while working in the White House, and Robert Mercer, the GOP mega-donor and close Bannon ally, has given $300,000 to a pro-Ward super PAC.
At an August campaign rally in Phoenix, Trump huddled backstage with DeWit, Graham and Rep. Trent Franks. Two sources familiar with the meeting told CNN it was focused on ousting Flake — who Trump calls “the flake.”

The fight in Arizona

Flake’s decision opens the door for Ward, a conservative former state senator who many Arizona Republicans see as a controversial and problematic general election candidate. But now that the seat is open, Republicans will try to recruit another candidate into the race.
As Republicans look for another candidate to enter the primary, all eyes are now on DeWit, who was the Trump campaign’s chief operating officer, one Arizona Republican operative said.
“The deal is, DeWit has two days to grab the ring. It’s his if he wants it, but he’s got to move quick. If he wants it, everyone steps out the way. If he doesn’t, chaos ensues,” the operative, who asked for anonymity to frankly discuss the state of play, said.
DeWit “definitely has the President’s support” whereas others would have to earn it, the operative said. If DeWit doesn’t run, the operative said, potential candidates include Reps. Paul Gosar and David Schweikert, as well as Christine Jones, a 2016 congressional candidate and former GoDaddy executive. Republicans have also eyed Rep. Martha McSally, and Rep. Trent Franks has been involved in conversations about ousting Flake.
The winner is likely to face Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

BIG K.R.I.T NEW ALBUM WILL INCLUDE SOME HEAVY HITTERS

Big K.R.I.T. drafted some heavy hitters for his 4EVA Is A Mighty Long Time double album. The 22-track LP will host guest appearances by T.I., Lloyd, UGK, CeeLo Green, Jill Scott, Bilal, Robert Glasper Jr., and more.

“I’m talking more about love, being excited about life, understanding depression, vices and how we medicate ourselves for what’s going on,” explains K.R.I.T. “And then I got the aspect of finally finding yourself and being happy.”

4EVA Is A Mighty Long Time is K.R.I.T.’s first independent album since parting ways with Def Jam. Listeners can expect to hear the Mississippi emcee/producer cover his personal tumult as well as political topics such as police brutality and social unrest.

“This thing that we’re going through now isn’t new under the sun, and it’s probably not going to be the last time there’s so much inequality, so much hatred, so much violence,” says K.R.I.T.

10 YEAR OLD BOY TESTIFIES AGAINST NICKI MINAJ’S BROTHER IN RAPE TRIAL

Nicki Minaj’s brother Jelani Maraj insists the rape accusations against him are the result of an extortion attempt by his ex-wife. In contrast, a 10-year-old boy testified during the ongoing Nassau County rape trial that he witnessed Maraj engaged in inappropriate behavior with an underage girl.

Maraj is accused of having sex with his then 11-year-old stepdaughter. The 10-year-old boy is the brother of the alleged victim in the case.

“I saw [Maraj’s] underwear close to his knees,” said the boy about what he noticed in a basement bedroom in 2015. “I thought it wasn’t right. It looked weird to me so I ran upstairs.”

The boy, who was 8 at the time of the supposed incident, later testified that Maraj hit him in the face about 10 times after he admitted to seeing the alleged sexual acts. Maraj was also accused of threatening the child in order to prevent him from speaking about what he saw.

“Jelani said I wouldn’t see [my mother] again if I told on him,” said the boy. “His face was kind of mad.”

The boy also testified to hearing his sister’s bed creaking at night. In addition, prosecutors say Maraj’s DNA was found on the girl’s pajama pants, and they believe the pre-teen was raped by Jelani as often as four times a week.

Maraj’s defense attorneys argue Jacqueline Robinson, the defendant’s former wife and the alleged victim’s mother, concocted the rape assertions as a plot to extort $25 million from Nicki Minaj. The superstar rapper is expected to testify on her brother’s behalf.

LIL WAYNE LOOKS TO DISSOLVE YOUNG MONEY RECORDS

Lil Wayne is upping the ante with his legal war with Cash Money Records.

According to TheBlast.com , Lil Wayne is seeking to dissolve his own Young Money Entertainment operation, which includes Drake and Nicki Minaj as artists on the roster.

The legal request comes amidst at $51 million contractual battle Cash Money has been locked in with Lil Wayne since January of 2015.

The legal battle has held up the release of Lil Wayne’s as he claims he is owed tens of millions in back royalties and another $8 million in advances in addition to blowing $70 million of their money.

Birdman’s lawyers have already responded to Lil Wayne’s legal request in protest, saying the rapper cannot shut down his own label as the court battle continues.

JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE WILL HEADLINE SUPER BOWL LII HALFTIME SHOW

Global superstar Justin Timberlake will headline the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show on NBC at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2018, it was confirmed tonight.

A multi-talented actor and musician, Timberlake has won ten Grammys and numerous other awards. Born in Memphis, Tennessee, he rapidly became a highly respected musician, winning two Grammys for his debut solo album, “Justified.” He’s been recognized for a range of performances, including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Dance Recording and Best Music Video. Timberlake was most recently nominated for an Academy Award® for the song “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” from the film Trolls for which he won his 10th Grammy.

A gifted actor, Timberlake has appeared in diverse films including: Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan, Shrek The Third and The Social Network. He has also won four Emmys for his appearances on “Saturday Night Live.’ Timberlake is a co-star of the upcoming film Wonder Wheel, which opens later this year.

This will be Timberlake’s third time performing on the Super Bowl Halftime stage, giving him the distinction of having the most appearances by an individual entertainer. He previously performed at Super Bowls XXXV and XXXVIII.

Justin Timberlake performs at the Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, in Franklin, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

The Super Bowl halftime show

Justin Timberlake will make his third appearance at a Super Bowl Halftime. Take a look back at the best performances.

This announcement is just the beginning. Leading up to Super Bowl LII, fans may visit Pepsi.com for behind-the-scenes looks into Timberlake’s journey to the Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show, as well as other surprises along the way.

Timberlake joins an esteemed list of recent halftime acts including Lady Gaga, Coldplay, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Madonna, The Who, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Prince, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, U2 and more.

The Pepsi Super Bowl Halftime Show is the most-watched musical event of the year. Last year’s show was the most-watched musical event of all-time across all platforms and the most-watched Super BowlHalftime performance in history through broadcast and digital channels, reaching more than 150 million unique people, garnering more than 80 million views and totaling 260 million minutes watched. Super Bowl LII and Halftime Show will be broadcast by NBC from U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.

Super Bowl LII marks Pepsi’s sixth year as title sponsor of the Super Bowl Halftime Show and 16th year as an NFL partner. Pepsi and the NFL have teamed again to provide fans with a halftime experience worthy of pop-culture’s biggest stage.

The Pepsi Super Bowl LII Halftime Show is an NFL Network Production and will be executive produced by Ricky Kirshner and directed by Hamish Hamilton.

Visit Pepsi.com leading up to Super Bowl LII to see what this historic Halftime Show has in store for fans. For more information about Super Bowl LII, visit SuperBowl.com.