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Russell Wilson quarterback coach Jake Heaps joins Broncos QB in Denver

PARKER, Colo. – On Thursday morning, Jake Heaps spent four hours on the radio airwaves in Seattle, wrapping up his final day as the co-host of a mid-day sports show.
Less than 24 hours later, he found himself walking between fields among roughly 500 campers at Colorado’s Chaparral High School, in the market he’ll be building the next phase of his career and life in.   
Heaps hopped on a plane to get to the greater Denver area for the first of what will be many Russell Wilson Passing Academy camps, having worked with Wilson, the Broncos’ new star quarterback, for the past five years.
Heaps, a Washington native who played quarterback for BYU, Kansas and Miami (Fla.) in college and who spent parts of three offseasons on NFL rosters, will continue to be involved in Wilson’s Passing Academy but also will serve as Wilson’s full-time, private quarterback coach.
“We’ve been doing stuff in the offseason and all that, but with him moving to Denver – for me, my home base was Seattle, so everything was just kind of worked out and it was nice and in sync. But I think to do what we want to accomplish and for Russell, what he wants to accomplish in his career over the next 10 years here in Denver, there’s a lot of things we wanted to do not only for him and his career but for the Denver community from a training aspect and all that,” Heaps told USA TODAY Sports on Friday. “It’s a big change for me personally, but I’m excited to jump two feet in and to work with him super closely and do whatever I can to be at his best.
“That’s what it’s really about.”
More Broncos:Russell Wilson already in touch with Broncos’ future ownership group
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Heaps and Wilson first crossed paths when Heaps spent an offseason on the Seahawks roster and then part of the 2016 campaign on the franchise’s practice squad.
“I was on and off the roster for two years and we really just connected through the work,” Heaps said. “He saw how hard I worked. I tried to beat him to the facility every day and we grew a bond through that. I got a random phone call from (Wilson) asking to fly out and come train him at UCLA and said sure. We’ve been together ever since. It’s been really cool to have that friendship and to have that trust that he has in me and have honest conversations and to evaluate his game and do whatever I can to help him be better. Whether that’s making things that he’s struggled with better or just maintaining what he’s doing.
“He’s one of the best in the world, so it’s not like you’re wholesale trying to change everything every year, it’s just trying to make him 1% better every year and find ways where he can be better and stay sharp and be on top of things.”  
Wilson, of course, is learning a new offense in Denver under first-year head coach Nathaniel Hackett, who has made it clear that the playbook building has been a collaborative effort between the offensive staff and the quarterback.
The system, though, is at least somewhat familiar to Wilson because he played for offensive coordinator Shane Waldron last fall in Seattle after Waldron coached the previous four years with the Los Angeles Rams under head coach Sean McVay. Hackett, meanwhile, spent the past three years with another member of that McVay and Kyle Shanahan coaching tree in Green Bay head coach Matt LaFleur.  
“There’s a lot of mental aspects of what you’ve got to work on and make sure (Wilson’s) sharp on the new plays and new aspects of the playbook, testing him and quizzing him and all those things,” Heaps said. … “There’s familiarity there, but it’s been really cool to watch everybody work together to mesh this thing and make everyone comfortable from the coaching staff to Russell to the guys on the team. It’s been really awesome and, honestly, I’m blown away from where they are at this point in the offseason with the install and where everybody’s at.”
Before the offseason program began, Wilson hosted the Broncos’ wide receivers plus center Lloyd Cushenberry at his home in Southern California to get several days’ worth of work in and build chemistry. The quarterback said recently they’ll be reconvening again next month before Denver’s training camp begins July 27.
“We’ll let guys get away. We’ve been going for 2.5 months now, it feels like, so we’ll let the guys get away, spend family time, do whatever they need to do, travel, whatever it is,” Wilson said. “The last couple weeks we’ll really spend some time before we come back. We’ll spend some quality time down in Southern California.”
Wilson, like a few other top-tier quarterbacks, has built an operation around himself that is designed to help him excel despite all the time spent away from the facility. One week, between a Thursday OTA practice and a Tuesday practice, Wilson and his wife Ciara traveled to the Monaco Grand Prix and back. On another off weekend, he flew to Dartmouth College, the alma mater of his late father and several other family members, to give a commencement address. A couple weeks before that, he was at a Seattle Children’s Hospital event on an off-day. 
Joked teammate Melvin Gordon: “When you’re making $30-some million a year, you can private jet around wherever you want. He’s all about football, though, man. He’s locked in. There’s no other way to put it.”  
Wilson, for his part, described the importance of the people around him. 
“Having an amazing team, my performance team comes with me everywhere I go. My assistant helps with everything,” he said last week. “Everybody’s super organized so there’s never wasted space, and I think that’s the key thing. There’s never wasted space.”
Heaps is a full-time member of that team now. He’ll be in California for the offseason training sessions and then back in Denver to help Wilson get ready for the regular season. Simultaneously, he’ll be part of the group that works to build out the RWPA camps, develop more high-end quarterback training opportunities here and continue to broaden the way Wilson’s presence is felt in Denver.
“He wants to be great. He already is great, but what he wants to accomplish over the second half of his career, he wants it to be special and I think he has the ability to do that in Denver,” Heaps said. “This organization has been fantastic from Day One with him and the guys have been fantastic. Obviously, this is the honeymoon phase and everything is great, everything’s special, but I truly believe that they’ve got what it takes to really make some noise and accomplish the goals that they all have.”

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Do you think rideshare and delivery drivers need better protections?

Rideshare and delivery drivers in Massachusetts are on strike today to protest low wages amid nationwide inflation. Drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft, and Grubhub gathered today at the State House to put pressure on lawmakers to make these corporations provide higher wages and union rights.

“Uber is making record profits by underpaying us. It’s exhausting, especially as we struggle to provide for our families,” said Uber driver and Massachusetts Independent Drivers Guild member Ehab Hilali in a statement. “I sometimes work 60 hours a week just to pay my car insurance, gas, and other work expenses. That’s why we’re calling on our politicians to fix this now. We need the right to form a union so we can finally hold Uber accountable and negotiate higher pay for drivers.”

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Because drivers for these apps are considered independent contractors, many don’t make enough to keep up with the rising cost of living, and benefits are not guaranteed. In 2021, Boston Uber drivers earned a median of about $26.50 an hour, according to Uber.

The company takes 25% in fees for every trip they complete, but some drivers told MassLive that they’ve recently seen service fees of up to 50%. Some are discouraged from continuing the job, which has led to complaints from riders in the past.

During the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns when fewer rideshare drivers were available, Boston.com readers expressed frustration at the long wait times and delayed service.

“Lame public transport, labor laws scaring gig workers…common man suffers,” one reader said.

We want to hear from rideshare and delivery app drivers in Massachusetts about your recent experiences. Do you want to see higher wages and union protections? Are you struggling to make ends meet as everyday prices rise?

Share your thoughts with Boston.com by filling out the survey below or e-mailing us at community@boston.com and we may feature your response in a future article or on our social media channels.

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At Berkeley Law, a debate over Zionism, free speech and campus ideals

On the first day of the fall semester, Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley, learned that a student group created a bylaw that banned supporters of Zionism from speaking at its events.

Chemerinsky said he rarely used profanity but did so in that moment. As a constitutional law scholar and co-author of a book about campus free speech, Chemerinsky said that he knew the group, the Berkeley chapter of Law Students for Justice in Palestine, had the legal right to exclude speakers based on their views.

But he also knew the bylaw, which eight other student groups also adopted, would be polarizing within the law school and used as a cudgel by forces outside of it.

Santos was registered to vote at a modest townhouse in Queens that he does not own, but he moved away before the election. His former landlord, Nancy Pothos, 72, said Santos had been a tenant for two years before moving at the end of August.

Santos’ campaign spokesperson and his lawyer didn’t respond to a list of questions about his company, possible discrepancies in his biography or the criminal case in Brazil.

The controversy, pushed along online by conservative commentators, hits two of the pressure points in campus politics today. The bylaw was adopted as antisemitism is rising across the country. And some critics of academia have cast left-wing students as censors who shout down other viewpoints, all but strangling, they say, honest intellectual debate.

That collision of issues all but guaranteed a tense debate over free speech, even if a broad swath of speech experts say that student groups are allowed to ban speakers whose views they disagree with.

“A student group has the right to choose the speakers they invite on the basis of viewpoint,” said Chemerinsky, who is Jewish and a Zionist. “Jewish law students don’t have to invite a Holocaust denier. Black students don’t have to invite white supremacists. If the women’s law association is putting out a program on abortion rights, they can invite only those who believe in abortion rights.”

Chemerinsky said that excluding speakers based on race, religion, sex or sexual orientation would not be allowed, but he noted that the student groups were excluding speakers based on viewpoint. True, he said, many Jews view Zionism as integral to their identity, but such deep passions do not change the law.

Other legal experts noted that the controversy showed just how mangled the understanding of the First Amendment had become, even at a place like Berkeley, the epicenter of the 1960s free-speech movement. The debate, they said, should focus on whether these bans align with the academic ideal of open, intellectual debate. Even if student groups can prohibit speakers, should they? And should such bans be codified — formally adopted with a bylaw?

“There’s a real confusion about freedom of speech as a cultural value and freedom of speech as a legal concept,” said Will Creeley, the legal director of Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, a free-speech advocacy group.

The issues are not limited to the Justice in Palestine group. Campus groups often invite only those they agree with. Hillel, the Jewish student group with hundreds of chapters on college campuses, also has rules prohibiting speakers who “delegitimize” Israel.

In August, Law Students for Justice in Palestine announced that it, along with the eight other groups, had adopted a provision that it would “not invite speakers that have expressed and continued to hold views or host/sponsor/promote events in support of Zionism, the apartheid state of Israel and the occupation of Palestine.”

The student group said the ban was meant to promote the welfare of Palestinian students and was part of a broader provision aligned with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

Some Jewish students expressed concern and tensions flared within the law school. Noah Cohen, a law student at Berkeley, said the bylaw was an example of how antisemitic rhetoric was being normalized in the United States. Cohen, who described himself as a Jewish supporter of Palestinian rights and statehood, said the bylaw made him and many other Jewish students feel “singled out and targeted.”

In public statements, Law Students for Justice in Palestine rejected the accusation that its bylaw was antisemitic. It says that being Jewish is an identity, while Zionism — the support for a Jewish state — is a political viewpoint. It welcomes and supports Jewish speakers who are not Zionists, the group said.

“Supporting Palestinian liberation does not mean opposition to Jewish people or the Jewish religion,” the group said in a statement to the Berkeley law community. Members of the group did not respond to messages seeking an interview.

After learning about the bylaw, Chemerinsky met with the university’s Hillel rabbi and spoke with several Jewish students, but, aside from concerns within the law school, the reaction was relatively muted, he said.

That changed, he said, after Kenneth L. Marcus, the civil rights chief of the U.S. Education Department during the Trump administration, wrote about the bylaw in September in The Jewish Journal under the explosive headline “Berkeley Develops Jewish Free Zones.”

Marcus wrote that the bylaw was “frightening and unexpected, like a bang on the door in the night,” and said that free speech does not protect discriminatory conduct.

The article went viral.

Chemerinsky said he learned about Marcus’ article, which he described as “inflammatory and distorted,” while he was in Los Angeles for a conference. Chemerinsky said he typed out a response to the article, which was appended to it, and then didn’t think much of it. That afternoon, he was deluged by emails. At an alumni event that night, the law school’s perceived hostility to Jews was “all anyone wanted to talk about.”

In an interview, Marcus, a Berkeley law school alumnus, said he was contacted by law students there who were concerned about the bylaw. He said he spent weeks trying to support them and wrote his article after Berkeley did not “rectify the problem.”

Not allowing Zionist speakers, he said, was a proxy for prohibiting Jews. The provisions, he said, are “aimed at the Jewish community and those who support the Jewish community,” even while acknowledging that the policy could allow Jewish speakers and bar those who are not Jewish.

The article stoked outrage. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and singer Barbra Streisand both tweeted about it. “When does anti-Zionism bleed into broad anti-Semitism?” Streisand wrote.

Politicians called for action. Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., said in a statement that funding to the groups should be conditional on revoking the provision. Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J., said that the Education Department should investigate “whether and how federal taxpayer dollars are used to discriminate against Jewish and pro-Israel students” at the university.

In many ways, Chemerinsky was well suited to navigate the issues. In 1999, he helped found the Progressive Jewish Alliance, a social justice group based in Los Angeles. He is also co-chair of the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California and a co-author of a book on campus speech.

But the past semester has been a challenge. Many students have been doxxed and harassed for their connection to the bylaw, Chemerinsky said. In the weeks after Marcus’ article, he added, a right-wing group that describes itself as a media watchdog drove trucks near campus comparing the students who adopted the bylaw to Hitler, and included the names of the students who were in the organizations that adopted the bylaw, even if they voted against it.

As the semester ended Friday, Chemerinsky was still dealing with the fallout.

The Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department said Dec. 13 that it would open an investigation into whether Berkeley responded appropriately, according to Arsen Ostrovsky, one of two lawyers who filed a complaint on behalf of the International Legal Forum, a group based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Opening an investigation does not imply that the office has determined that the case has merit, according to a letter sent to Ostrovsky by the Office for Civil Rights.

Chemerinsky said the complaint, which calls on Berkeley to “immediately invalidate” the bylaw, includes the same flawed assumptions from previous attacks. He said he was confident that Berkeley was on “strong legal ground.”

“Every dean or school administrator always worries about being accused of discrimination,” he said. “I never imagined I would be accused of discrimination against Jews.”

 

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Hochul urged bolster health care for retired public workers

A bill meant to strengthen health care services for retired public workers once they enroll in the Medicare program is sitting on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk for her consideration.

An organization that represents a half million retired state and local government workers in New York is urging her to sign it.

The measure is meant to ensure retired people in New York who worked for municipal governments or the state do not lose Skilled Nursing Facility care once they enroll in the Medicare program upon turning age 65.

Medicare-eligible retirees under the program are allowed 20 days of coverage with a three-day prior hospital requirement. But for retirees who are enrolled in the Empire Plan, they can access up to 120 days of coverage with no prior hospitalization requirement.

The Retired Public Employees Association calls this an imbalance in health care coverage for people who need it the most as they age. The bill sitting on Hochul’s desk since Monday is meant to address it.

“Public employees work their entire careers under the promise and expectation that when they retire, their existing benefits will not diminish. It’s time for New York to uphold that promise and end inequities in skilled nursing care,” said Edward Farrell, the group’s executive director. “With the stroke of a pen, Gov. Kathy Hochul can end age discrimination by providing 225,000 Medicare-primary retirees in the NYS Health Insurance Program Empire Plan the same access to skilled nursing care that is available to Empire Plan enrollees who are still working.”
Prior attempts to make changes to the program have fallen short in recent years.

 

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