PolitiFact roundup: Football protests, border catapults and Kasim Reed

PolitiFact last week looked at claims by President Donald Trump about NFL ratings and catapults along the Mexican border, and Atlanta mayoral candidate John Eaves’ criticism that outgoing Mayor Kasim Reed hasn’t taken much of a part in addressing regional concerns. Full versions can be found at www.politifact.com.

“NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country.”

— President Donald Trump on Sunday, Sept. 24, 2017 in a tweet

Trump seems to be overstating rating declines, and we found little evidence of a political motivation for them.

The numbers for 2017 so far are inconclusive. Average attendance for 2017 is also down by 5 percent, while gross attendance is off 8 percent from 2016. Trump might be referring to 2016, a year when the NFL saw a significant drop in viewership, although average game attendance increased by 3 percent from 2015 to 2016.

Our ruling

Ratings were down 8 percent in 2016, but experts said the drop was modest and in line with general ratings for the sports industry. Ratings in 2017 so far suggest a similar year-on-year drop, but experts say it’s too early to tell.

As for political motivation, there’s little evidence to suggest people are boycotting the NFL. Most professional sports franchises are experiencing declines in popularity.

We rate this claim Mostly False.

“So now they take drugs, literally, and they throw it, a hundred pounds of drugs. They throw it over the wall, they have catapults, but they throw it over the wall, and it lands and it hits somebody on the head.”

— Donald Trump on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017 in a rally

Trump was accurate about drugs being catapulted. Immigration officials have seized marijuana launched across the border, and in some cases, found catapults. Whether people have been hit on the head by these sacks is uncertain.

Reports from U.S. Customs and Border Protection about catapults date back at least to 2011.

Just last month, Border Patrol agents in Arizona operating remote video surveillance saw an object launched over the border. Other agents went to the area and found a large cylindrical bundle of marijuana weighing more than 96 pounds and worth $48,000.

Our ruling

Trump is accurate that, from time to time, catapults have been used at the border by traffickers. Packages of marijuana thrown over the border range from less than 50 pounds to more than 100 pounds. But we found no reports of people on the U.S. side of the border hit by the falling bundles.

We rate Trump’s statement Mostly True.

“The current city mayor (Kasim Reed) has been virtually absent in terms of regional cooperation the last eight years.”

— John Eaves on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017 in an Atlanta mayoral candidate forum

A 2013 blog post faulted Reed for failing to attend many meetings of the Atlanta Regional Commission. Between 2010 and August 2013, he missed 24 meetings out of 36. Only one member of the commission board had a worse attendance record. That is one yardstick, but there are others to measure Reed’s presence in regional issues.

One of Reed’s top priorities has been deepening the Port of Savannah, about 250 miles from the city, which provides jobs across the state. Reed is credited for working with Republican lawmakers and the Republican governor to push the project. Reed has also promoted expansion of Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, an anchor for economic development in the region. Reed struck an agreement with Delta Airlines to keep the company in Atlanta for the next two decades.

In the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the Atlanta region led among the nation’s 12 largest metropolitan areas in the rate of job growth and ranked third overall for the number of jobs added in the past year.

Our ruling

There is some evidence that Reed failed to faithfully attend meetings of Atlanta’s Regional Commission. However, in terms of promoting major development activity that boosted jobs across the region, Reed was deeply involved and can take credit for playing a key role.

There’s a sliver of truth in Eaves’ charge. We rate this claim Mostly False.

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