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8-year-old football players kneel during national anthem in protest

Every player from an 8-and-under football team in Belleville, Illinois, took a knee in protest during the national anthem before their game on Saturday, according to KTVI.

>> Watch the news report here

“One of the kids asked me if I saw (people) protesting and rioting in St. Louis. I said yes; I said, ‘Do you know why they are doing it?'” said Coach Orlando Gooden during a phone interview with the news station on Tuesday.

>> See a photo of the protest here

Gooden told the news station that one of the players responded, “Because black people are getting killed and nobody’s going to jail.”

Gooden, a former football player at the University of Missouri, said his players were aware of the recent Jason Stockley decision, which saw an ex-St. Louis officer acquitted in a fatal shooting of a black driver and led to numerous protests.

>> Elderly woman knocked to ground by police during St. Louis protest

“I felt like it was a good teaching moment for me to circle the team and have a meeting,” he said.

Gooden said he spoke with his team about that and other situations that have taken place recently in the United States and explained why free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others have knelt during the anthem in protest.

>> Read more trending news

“One of the kids asked, ‘Can we do that?’ I said, ‘As long as we know why we’re doing it, I don’t have a problem with any of it,'” he said.

According to the coach, the third-graders immediately took a knee as the anthem began, with their backs — unintentionally — away from the flag.

“What I teach my kids is love, integrity, honesty, fairness, respect and boundaries,” he said.

The players’ parents reportedly supported the coach’s decision to allow the team to take a knee; however, a Facebook post from his wife reveals that there has been some backlash from other residents in the area.

“As long as I have support of my parents and team, I’m perfectly fine, and I’m covered under the First Amendment to peacefully protest and assemble,” Gooden said.

Football players under 12 at high risk of brain injury, study finds

A new Boston University study published Tuesday found a single season of youth football can change a child's brain.

>> Watch the news report here

The findings focused on children 12 and under and, according to the study, those first 12 years of a child's life are critical to brain development.

That’s why any damage – no matter how small – could mean health concerns years later.

Youth football is a family tradition for many, but this new study out of BU has found the longer a child waits to play football, the better it is for their brain.

“There's really something specific about hitting your head over and over again at a young age and it is disrupting normal brain development,” the study’s lead author, Dr. Michael Alosco, said. 

>> On One youth football game results in five concussions

Researchers examined 214 amateur and professional football players and found those who started playing football before they were 12 years old were at higher risk for behavioral and cognitive problems.

“That's a critical period of brain development, especially in males,” said Alosco. 

According to the study, the risks for behavioral problems doubled and the risk for elevated depression tripled.

>> Read more trending news

Alosco told WFXT that their findings revealed any injury to a child's brain could result in permanent damage.

“We're talking about those tiny hits to the head, over and over repeatedly that don't necessarily result in symptoms, but we think are enough to cause injury to the brain,” he explained. 

Just earlier this summer, WFXT investigated the growing trend of youth flag football as many are families opting out of regular football because of health concerns.

“I just think it's a little too dangerous at their young age. They're so fragile,” parent Jeanine Hetzel said. 

>> On Despite new helmets, doctors warn of concussion risk for football players

WFXT asked Alosco whether he would recommend parents not let their child play youth football. He said more research needs to be done, but he did say one thing. 

“You just have to ask yourself: Do you really want your young kid to go out there and start hitting their head at such a young age – not even just football – in anything?” said Alosco. 

Local Wrestling Star: Bobby Heenan was the greatest manager ever, but an even greater friend

Before Bobby Heenan was ‘The Brain,’ or was considered the greatest pro wrestling manager and commentator ever, he was starting out at the bottom of a promotion in Indianpolis, where he became friends with local wrestling legend Les Thatcher.

Thatcher was a star wrestler out of Cincinnati who promoted shows out of Dayton for years. Thatcher worked the various wrestling territories and became a top announcer and commentator in the 1970s. After Ric Flair recovered from a plane crash in the middle of the decade, it was Thatcher among others behind the camera as a , helping Flair develop his ‘Nature Boy’ persona along with dozens of others.

Thatcher, who worked as a trainer for WCW and WWE during the late 1990s wrestling boom, and still hosts training seminars for eager young wrestlers, repeated others in saying Heenan was the greatest manager and commentator in pro wrestling, but said he was also one of his greatest friends.

“If he was your friend, he was your friend for life,” Thatcher said. 

Heenan died Sunday at the age of 73 after battling complications from throat cancer for over a decade. 

Heenan and Thatcher met in the WWA, a promotion owned by old school wrestler “Dick the Bruiser,” and based out of Heenan’s hometown of Indianapolis. Heenan started in 1963 by getting jackets from wrestlers at ringside and taking them to the back. He was wrestling matches himself by 1965.

“I would tease him later,” Thatcher said. “I told him I’d remember when he worked at a Ford dealership, but now he owned it.”

Heenan played the villain nearly his entire career, but to the people he knew he was devoutly loyal.

When Vince McMahon’s World Wrestling Federation began raiding other promotions for talent, Heenan couldn’t get the American Wrestling Association to match their offer, but he refused to leave Verne Gagne’s AWA until his contract was up. In a documentary about the AWA’s war with the WWF, Gagne’s son Greg said Heenan was the only person out of dozens who honored their contract before jumping to McMahon’s company. 

“When he was in WCW, (WCW VP) Eric Bischoff would knock (WWE’s) Vince McMahon and Bobby just wouldn’t do it,” Thatcher said. “He said he was treated right when he worked there, and he wasn’t going to say anything negative about them. It was just his personality. He was a good person.”

McMahon noticed Heenan’s talent when he immediately came to the company. The WWF started the “Bobby Heenan Show” which aired as part of the company’s prime time show wrestling hour on USA Network. A parody of late night talk shows, only four segments aired but has had a devout cult following for 30 years. 

While the WWF in the 1980s was filled with heroes like Hulk Hogan, the Ultimate Warrior and others, almost all its villains were managed by Heenan. Some pay-per-views he would manage nearly every match. He’s the only manager in the history of the wrestling business to earn a six-figure paycheck for one show.

After leaving the WWF, he went to WCW to replace the disgruntled Jesse Ventura. He had a natural chemistry with WCW announcer Tony Schiavone when calling matches in the early years, mainly commentating straight before he would return to his bad guy personality soon after.

He left WCW in 2000, unhappy with the company and feeling uninspired. He had issues with his former broadcast partner Tony Schiavone over what Heenan felt was a lack of loyalty. WCW was out of business less than a year later. Two years later he had throat cancer, which cost him his famous voice. During this period he wrote two memoirs in two years.

To put Heenan’s status into perspective, pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer was asked during his radio show if he ever felt fear being in the presence of wrestlers or at a wrestling event. 

He said only once, when he was booked for the same radio show as Heenan when the pro wrestling business was much more secretive. Heenan and Meltzer were in the same room waiting to go on the air with Heenan, who wasn’t humored. It only took one look from Heenan before Meltzer asked that he not be on the air as the same time as “The Brain,” and have to possibly go against him live on the air. 

“He had what Jim Cornette or Jerry Lawler had - it’s something you can’t teach, it’s just there. Just things coming off the top of your head and out your mouth. he was a genius at it.

“He was so talented,” Thatcher said. “He didn’t have to try to be funny, and that’s a problem for a lot of guys these days, they try to be funny but they don’t have it.”

Heenan was a lifelong Cincinnati Reds fans and often made trips to Southwest Ohio as a youngster and as an adult. During an early 2000s appearance on the Dayton-baseed “The Wrestling Guys” radio show, Heenan spoke of Indianapolis being a farm team for the Reds, and how he many members of the Big Red Machine before they became major leaguers. He sais trips to Ohio were often major memories of his childhood. 

His health issues continued to deterioriate after his initial diagnosis, he eventually had surgery to remove parts of his jaw. In the last years of his life he was hurt after multiple falls at his home. He also wore a neck brace, similar to Roger Ebert, and was nearly unrecognizable, and could only speak a few words before becoming exhausted.

This didn’t stop Heenan from going out in public or attending autograph signings or wrestling events.

“The amazing thing was, after everything that happened to him, he had the same spirit and personality.”

Thatcher last saw Heenan in 2013 at a convention the weekend of Wrestlemania in New Jersey at Giants Stadium. 

“The event was so huge, you couldn’t see everyone. Then someone asked if I saw Bobby Heenan. I said I didn’t feel right leaving without doing that. I was able to give him a hug and tell him I loved him.

“The amazing thing was, after everything that happened to him, he had the same spirit.”

More hopeful future: Cincinnati Reds or Bengals?

Things have taken quite a turn for the worse when it comes to major pro sports in the Queen City lately. 

Earlier this decade, the Reds and Bengals were both postseason participants in the same year multiple times, although neither of them have advanced in the playoffs in more than two decades. 

The Reds are in the midst of a rebuild that started at least one year too late while the Bengals could find themselves in the same boat by the end of this season if they don’t fix some of the stuff that led to an 0-2 start. 

But who deserves the most faith going forward? 

This was a question posed by Cincinnati radio host James Rapien, and it got me thinking. 

To me, the answer is obvious. 

It’s the Reds. 

They still have a big piece of the puzzle to put in place — pitching — but recently there have been signs that could be happening with players already in the organization. 

The offense and defense have already been strong this year, and top prospect Nick Senzel is still on the way. 2017 Dayton Dragons stars Jose Siri and Taylor Trammell have exciting futures, as does recent top draft pick Hunter Greene. 

As James points out, the Bengals have a few elite players to build around, guys who have already proven what they can do in the league. 

I picked the Bengals to win 10 games this season, but that was in no small part because of a soft schedule. They’ve already lost two very winnable games. 

RELATED: Looking beyond Bengals’ 0-2 start | Who wants to be a QB anyway? 

Given the state of their offensive line — the hardest thing to rebuild — and questions surrounding their quarterback and head coach, the Bengals seem as likely to turn it around quickly as completely collapse. 

If they make the postseason, will they make any noise? Even before I saw them play a real game, I didn’t think the Bengals would be able to beat the top teams in the AFC (New England, Pittsburgh and now Kansas City). 

If they make a coaching change in the offseason, the roster will probably be overhauled and take a step back in the short term. 

But that’s just how I see it.

I want to hear what you think, so please vote in the poll below and  feel free to hit me up on FacebookTwitter or via email to let me know! 

Kevin Durant tweet calls out former coach, teammates, prompting theories of fake account

Kevin Durant is probably the most active NBA superstar on Twitter, and he regularly interacts with fans (and haters) on social media. But it appears as if being an avid tweeter might have backfired on him.

>> On Kevin Durant responds to former ESPN reporter after White House criticism on Twitter

Someone tweeted at Durant and asked him to give a legitimate reason for leaving the Oklahoma City Thunder outside of winning a championship. Durant's official account responded, but many social media users believe that he intended to respond from another account to defend himself and not his own. His tweet called out his former teammates, organization and coach Billy Donovan.

>> Read more trending news

Fans theorized that Durant has multiple accounts, and he forgot to switch them before responding, which led to this encounter via @harrisonmc15:

>> Check it out here

“He didn’t like the organization or playing for Billy Donovan,” read Durant's tweets, which have since been deleted. “His roster wasn’t that good, it was just him and Russ.

“Imagine taking Russ off that team, see how bad they were. KD can’t win a championship with those cats.”

Other fans also weighed in

Read more here.

(h/t CBS Sports)

McCarron throws support behind Dalton

You can add backup AJ McCarron to the list of people who think Andy Dalton should remain the starting quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.

“I wish people in this city would back him and go with it,” McCarron said,. “Listen, I think I’m a great quarterback, and I think he’s an unbelievable quarterback. I love him to death. He’s our quarterback. Stop making it into something else. It’s not into something else. Ride with him. Trust the team. Trust the process. And trust what we are trying to do.”

›› Dalton on PFT report: “Anybody can create a headline”

McCarron said he was aware of the ProFootballTalk report that some Bengals players think McCarron should be starting and the team should sign Colin Kaepernick, but McCarron said Dalton doesn’t have to worry about any dissension from him.

“Andy knows our relationship,” McCarron said. “I don’t think Andy has to ever worry. We don’t let those things get between me and him. There is always somebody wanting this guy to play.

“He’s our quarterback,” McCarron continued. “It sucks to see — for me personally, with my relationship with him — people booing him. It’s like, do you think he wants to have tipped balls that turn into interceptions? Has he worked his whole life for that, his whole week for that? No.”

›› From 0-2 to the playoffs? Bengals facing crazy long odds

Pro wrestling commentator Bobby ‘The Brain’ dead at 73

He called himself “The Brain” and his enemies called him “The Weasel.” Regardless of the name attached to him, Bobby Heenan was a force in professional wrestling as a manager and commentator.

>> Read more trending news 

Heenan died Sunday at the age of 73, according to a tweet from wrestling announcer Jim Ross.

Former wrestling broadcaster "Mean" Gene Okerlund posted on Facebook that Heenan's daughter, Jess, had confirmed his death.

Heenan was renowned for his talking ability -- and talking agility -- on the microphone as a manager and announcer, The Sporting News reported.

He managed dozens of wrestlers over a career that spanned more than four decades, including Andre the Giant, Nick Bockwinkel, “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Harley Race, Curt “Mr. Perfect” Hennig, Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, King Kong Bundy and others.

Heenan had been battling throat cancer since the early 2000s, Metro US reported. He went through several surgeries to repair his jaw, but he eventually had difficulty speaking due to tongue cancer treatments and the jaw was removed, according to Bleacher Report.

Heenan was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2004.

Heenan was known as one of the greatest “heel” managers in pro wrestling, bending the rules to help his wrestler and eliciting “heat” from the crowd with his microphone tirades. He began his career in the 1960s and was managed in the AWA before moving to the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE) during the 1980s. 

Heenan’s star appeal transcended wrestling. He partnered with Andre the Giant in WrestleMania III, but he also traveled on the talk show circuit and even had a memorable appearance on Nickelodeon’s “Double Dare,” losing to his longtime commentating partner and television foil, Gorilla Monsoon.

Monsoon “fired” Heenan during the Dec. 6, 1993, edition of “Raw,” according to Bleacher Report. He worked as a color commentator with the WCW from January 1994 until November 2000, according to Bleacher Report.

Raymond Louis Heenan was born Nov. 1, 1943, in Chicago. His first break in pro wrestling came in 1965, when he worked as a manager and wrestler known as “Pretty Boy” Bobby Heenan. He competed in the World Wrestling Association until 1974, and then spent a decade with the American Wrestling Association. He joined the WWF in 1984 and made his biggest impact with his bombastic commentary and acerbic wit.

Several wrestlers and writers paid tribute to Heenan on Twitter:

Nevada boxing official defends judge’s controversial scorecard

The executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission defended the controversial scoring of a judge that resulted in split draw between Gennady Golovkin and Canelo Alvarez, ESPN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Bob Bennett said judge Adalaide Byrd had “a bad day.”

In a closely fought contest in Las Vegas, Byrd scored the fight 118-110 in Alvarez's favor, awarding WBA, WBC and IBF middleweight champion Golovkin just two rounds.

Bennett conceded that Byrd got the fight wrong — judge Dave Moretti had the fight 115-113 for Golovkin and judge Don Trella scored 114-114 — but played down the significance of the error.

>> Alvarez-Golovkin fight ends in controversial draw

"Adalaide, in my estimation, is an outstanding judge,” Bennett told ESPN. “She's done over 115 title fights and/or elimination bouts. She does a great deal of our training. Takes a lot of our judges under her wing. I think being a judge is a very challenging position.

"Unfortunately, Adalaide was a little wide. I'm not making any excuses. I think she's an outstanding judge, and in any business, sometimes you have a bad day. She saw the fight differently. It happens." 

The huge margin of victory Byrd gave to Alvarez caused outrage among boxing fans, according to Bleacher Report.

Booted twice: Texas Lutheran kicker converts FG after attempt was blocked

It was definitely the strangest field goal ever made in college football, and while it might not be legal, it counted Saturday during Texas Lutheran’s 37-0 victory.

>> Read more trending news 

Texas Lutheran was attempting an 18-yard field goal late in the first half against Belhaven (Miss.) when it was blocked. The ball bounced back toward freshman Tyler Hopkins, who kicked it a second time. The ball sailed through the uprights, and after some discussion among the referees, the field goal attempt was declared good. It overshadowed the first shutout victory for Texas Lutheran since 2008 as the Bulldogs intercepted three passes.

But was the kick legal?

The NCAA’s football rulebook says “a player shall not kick a loose ball,” and doing so is a 10-yard penalty that carries a loss of down, SBNation reported.

“A scrimmage kick that fails to cross the neutral zone continues in play. All players may catch or recover the ball behind the neutral zone and advance it,” SBNation reported, citing the NCAA rulebook.

And here is an end zone view:

Texas Lutheran improved to 1-1 overall in its American Southwest Conference opener. Belhaven fell to 1-1 overall and 1-1 in conference play.

Hulk Hogan calls Hurricane Irma victims complaining about no power, water 'crybabies'

In two since-deleted tweets, Hulk Hogan called Hurricane Irma survivors who are complaining about the loss of water and power “crybabies."

>> Hurricane Irma damage: What to do during, after a power outage

On Thursday, the professional wrestling star wrote: “No water, no power, crybabies, everyone’s complaining, these people have no clue how bad it could be. Praying for those that got hit hard, lost homes, lives, businesses, lost everything, thank you God for helping those with divine highly blessings, God speed only love.”

>> On Getting to know Hulk Hogan

Hogan rode out the storm at his home in Clearwater, Florida — a city on the west coast of the state. His tweets sparked a firestorm on social media, with many criticizing Hogan. While still a larger-than-life celebrity in the professional wrestling circuit, the star returned to fame a few years ago when he effectively put gossip and news website Gawker out of business.

>> More Irma coverage from WFTVAction News Jax and the Palm Beach Post

The tweets have been taken down but were captured by The Washington Post before they were deleted. Hogan has not returned requests for comment on the statements.

>> Read more trending news

Hogan also noted on Twitter that he spent Friday with linemen restoring power to Orlando, which was ravaged by Irma.

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