During the recent Gopher-Purdue football game I was surprised to see that a panel stating "end racism" was placed over players' names on the back of their jerseys (Sports, Nov. 21). It got me thinking about teaching moments. This teaching moment should be about the difference between good intentions and appropriateness.

Our athletic uniforms shouldn't be billboards for social issues — it's highly inappropriate. It's fine for athletes and coaches to talk about their views on things, just not when they're on the job. It should be the role of the administration to provide appropriate guidance.

Charles Wanous, Minneapolis

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I'm sure taxpayers, season-ticket holders, donors and people who buy Gopher apparel were thrilled with the new Gopher uniforms. People want to watch football, not the political opinion of 19- and 20-year-olds who get free rides to college. Those uniforms worn during the Gopher-Purdue game were an embarrassment. Interest in the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL has diminished because of political issues. This will also trickle down to college sports. The stands are empty now, because of COVID, but this kind of stunt will keep them empty in the future.

Ron Deming, Franklin, Minn.


Some further questions to see just what we all know by heart

I'd like to follow-up to the Nov. 22 letter about the Trump administration making the citizenship test harder. The question in the headline ("How many natural-born citizens would pass this?") was spot-on.

As someone who has taught students to prepare for the citizenship test, I can state unequivocally that even the previous test was very difficult. There is an extraordinary amount of material covered, including American history, geography, our system of government, rights and responsibilities of citizens, principles of democracy, symbols and holidays.

How would the average natural-born American perform in this course? Here's a sampling of material covered. How many U.S. territories can you name? Do you know who was president during World War I? During the Great Depression? What year the Constitution was written? (Hint: Not 1776.) Who wrote the Federalist Papers? For what purpose? How did the Statue of Liberty become a symbol of the U.S.? How many amendments are there to the Constitution? What was our chief concern during the Cold War?

Making the test harder is another parting shot by the Trump administration against immigrants, even those here legally.

Louis Asher, Vadnais Heights


Letter one: Here's how it works. Letter two: Here's what we lose.

A Nov. 22 article in the column "Curious Minnesota" mentions the National Popular Vote (NPV) compact that would guarantee the election to the presidential candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It overcomes the negative consequences of the Electoral College that elected a president who lost the popular vote in 2016, which is the case for two of our last five presidential elections.

The NPV will go into effect when enacted by states with a majority of the presidential electors — that is, 270 of 538. All the presidential electors from all the enacting states will be awarded to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and D.C. That candidate will thereby win a majority of the presidential electors in the Electoral College (at least 270) and become president.

Contrary to a statement quoted in the article, the NPV compact is not "legally fraught," because the Constitution grants the choice of electors completely to each state. The same quote incorrectly implies that only New York and California will decide the presidential election and would "give voters in smaller states and regions less relevance." The percentage of voters in the 100 largest cities is 19%, equal to the 19% of voters living in the rural U.S. This leaves over 60% of the voters living in suburbs, small cities and towns.

A possible concern that the NPV favors one party over the other is dismissed by the fact that in the 20 presidential elections between 1932 and 2008 the popular vote has been virtually tied — a grand total of 746,260,766 votes for the Democrats and 745,502,654 for the Republicans.

Why not insist that the total of all the votes directly elects our president?

Phil Morton, Eden Prairie

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I don't think Brian Burnstein, quoted in the Nov. 22 article, understands the Electoral College. Here's the explanation that "Ask Marilyn" provides in her column in Parade Magazine:

"We are the United States of America, and our states — starting with the original 13 colonies — are separate entities. It is understandably unacceptable to states with smaller populations to have their affairs decided by other states simply because more people live there. Suppose there were a United Countries of Earth. Would we like the idea of China (population 1.43 billion) and India (1.38 billion) running the show? (The U.S. has 331 million people.) Or would we want a leveling factor?

Jean Corbett, Forest Lake


Say 'use tax' instead

The term "sin tax" propagates the idea that substance use and gambling are a moral failing. It would be better to use the term "use tax." In Minnesota, most adults (61%) use alcohol at some level. More than 1 in 7 use tobacco. National data suggest that 60-70% of adults gamble each year. In our community, these behaviors, though not healthy, are normative, not sinful.

We know that these behaviors — drinking, smoking, gambling — cost our communities money. In 2010, the cost per drink to Minnesotans was $1.77 — costs coming from lost workplace productivity, health care, law enforcement and criminal justice expenses, and motor vehicle crashes. Health care costs and losses in productivity due to smoking totaled more than $4 billion in 2018. When we tax these behaviors, we recognize that they have a cost to the community. We also decrease use — across all levels of use, from low to high risk, individuals choose to use less when it costs more.

As noted in a Nov. 21 article, use of alcohol and tobacco has increased significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began. With this increased use, we see an increase in health problems related to use. Describing these behaviors as sins causes people to hide them. Stigma and shame lead to delayed treatment of use disorders (historically called addictions), and with delay, increased disability and death.

Amelia Burgess and Emily Brunner, Eagan

The writers are physicians.


Were animals sacrificed?

Now that pharmaceutical companies have developed COVID-19 vaccinations and distribution will start next month, in the spirits of thanksgiving and full disclosure, will the Star Tribune please report on which and how many nonhumans, if any, have been involved in the development of the vaccine? Which animals? Mice? Rats? Dogs? Cats? Green monkeys? Chimpanzees? What, exactly, have been the experiments? Did the animals volunteer or were they forced into duty? Did they suffer? Please shed light on our nonhuman relatives that have given up their lives so that humans might return to pre-COVID living. I want to know to whom I should direct my deep thanks.

Nadja Reubenova, Minneapolis