Cuomo: ‘Nonsense’ Discussion About Football Overshadowing ‘Life And Death’ Needs In Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the controversy over the NFL national anthem protests is distracting from the Hurricane Maria relief efforts.

The NFL found itself thrust into politics this weekend after President Donald Trump called on owners to fire players who refused to stand during the national anthem.

Players at every professional game participated in some sort of protest during the national anthem Sunday.

“It was more than a distraction, I’ve been watching the TV news and you look at the newspapers and it’s all about this football, take a knee, Colin Kaepernick and the president of the United States tweeting about this stuff,” Cuomo told 1010 WINS. “We have people in Puerto Rico where it is a matter of life and death. We have people in the Virgin Islands where it’s a matter of life and death. And these are American citizens, and we’re not talking about it, the federal government isn’t acting.”

“I’m disgusted,” Cuomo also told WCBS 880. “Here we’re talking about a controversy between the president and football players and the nation is obsessed with it.”

“We’re not talking about North Korea, we’re not talking about health care, we’re not talking about this pattern of extreme weather… none of those issues are on the radar screen, none of those are in the political dialogue and instead we’re talking about Colin Kaepernick and Donald Trump and their Twitter war,” Cuomo told 880. “We’re better than this, the political dialogue and discourse are better than this, our leaders are better than this and the American people are better than this.”

Cuomo said the federal government isn’t doing enough to help Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

“How can we have a federal government talking about all of this, frankly, nonsense compared to the life and death that we’re dealing with in these places?” Cuomo said on 1010 WINS. “They need to pass a financial aid package for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It’s about funding the effort. I was there, I know what they’re doing and I know the need and I can tell you that there’s nothing that the federal government is doing that is anywhere close to approaching the need.”

READ: How You Can Help

“We have not put the muscle of the U.S. government behind this effort and we should,” Cuomo added. “It was really disturbing to be in Puerto Rico and know that we’re not doing what we should be doing.”

Congressman Adriano Espaillat is pushing for Congress to approve immediate aid for the hurricane-ravaged island.

“$11 billion we figure is the amount of funding needed for Puerto Rico to get back on its feet,” Espaillat said. “The entire island is without energy. It is expected that it will take months before anything is back up.”

The congressman says he voted “yes” for aid following Harvey and he hopes for swift action for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, and no delays like what happened after Sandy smacked the Tri-State area. “They’re U.S. citizens and should get our help,” Espaillat said.

In a tweet Monday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said, “Congress is working with the administration to ensure necessary resources get to our fellow citizens in #PuertoRico.”

Cuomo has launched a statewide collection and contribution effort for Puerto Rico.

“They’re desperate for assistance and that’s why New York is stepping up to the plate,” Cuomo said. “We’re going to do everything that we can. What we’re doing is going to make a difference.”

To find out what and where to donate or how you can help, visit NY.Gov/PuertoRico.

The items that are collected will be flown to Puerto Rico by Jet Blue, which is donating $1 million in services to the effort.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy said initial damage assessments and power restoration efforts have begun on Puerto Rico, and restoration efforts to some critical facilities are already underway.

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