What Had Happened Was Trending stories on the intersections of race, sports & culture

Bernie Custis: the first black pro quarterback to start in the modern era

Syracuse standout found success in Canada

12:54 PMBernie Custis is widely considered to be the first black quarterback to start in the pros in the modern era. He started for Canada’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1951.

Born: Sept. 23, 1928

Died: Feb. 23, 2017

His story: Custis, who grew up in Philadelphia, played quarterback for Syracuse University from 1948-50. The Cleveland Browns drafted Custis sixth overall in 1951. Because Custis was black, and also because Cleveland had Otto Graham at quarterback, the Browns told Custis they would move him to safety. Custis did not want to change positions, so the Browns released him on the condition he not sign with another NFL team. He went to Canada to play for the Tiger-Cats, starting every game in 1951 while leading the team to 7-5 record and a playoff berth. He was named an All-Star at quarterback. Still, Custis switched to running back for the 1952 season. He was a member of Hamilton’s Grey Cup championship team in 1953. He played two seasons at running back for the Ottawa Rough Riders before retiring after the 1956 season. He remained in Canada and became a teacher and football coach.

Fast fact: Custis’ roommate at Syracuse was future Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis.

Quotable: “Trailblazers are rightly remembered for being the first,” Canadian Football League commissioner Jeffrey Orridge said after Custis’ death. “The first black professional quarterback in the modern era starting with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in 1951, should be revered as well for being one of our best. A world-class athlete, he excelled both as a quarterback and a running back. A tremendous leader, he was a successful coach who had a positive impact on countless young lives. A true gentleman, he brought honour to our game and our league, and provided us with a role model to emulate.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

NBA

Lauryn Hill is still dropping knowledge

‘Poverty isn’t something that should exist in this world at this point’

11:59 AMHOLLYWOOD, California – There were a lot of stars who offered knowledge at the first “Tech Hustle” from the sports, entertainment, business and tech world. But none was bigger than Lauryn Hill.

“I’ve been away for a while and incubating ideas,” said Hill, who’s kept herself out of the public eye in recent years.

Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown hosted the technology and networking lunch with Base Ventures and the National Basketball Players Association during NBA All-Star Weekend. The speaker who caused the most buzz was Hill. The 42-year-old singer, songwriter, rapper, record producer and actress has dropped out of the public eye except for her concerts.

“The world is filled with way too many bright people for us to still have the problems that we have in the world,” Hill said. “It’s going to be our shame if we don’t sit together and create thought in people who invest with consideration to care to solve the world’s problems. If we can do all these things we can, digitally, technologically, economically, we can feed people. We can educate people through poverty.

“We can solve the problems of poverty. Poverty isn’t something that should exist in this world at this point because we have wealth, we have intellect. We have the ability to develop, design and create whatever we want to. The question is, do we want to.”

Hear more of what Hill had to say in the video.

Alice Coachman: the first black woman to win an Olympic gold medal

She took the high jump at the 1948 Olympics in London

3:31 AMAlice Coachman was the first black woman to earn an Olympic gold medal, winning the high jump at the 1948 Olympics.

Born: Nov. 9, 1923

Died: July 14, 2014

Alice Coachman of Albany, Georgia, clears the bar at five feet to win the running high jump in women’s national track meet in Grand Rapids July 6, 1948.

AP Photo

Her story: Coachman was born in Albany, Georgia, and faced two barriers in training to become an athlete: She was black and she was a woman. She ran shoeless on dirt roads and used makeshift equipment to work on her jumping. She joined the high school track team before moving on to Tuskegee. She also competed in the Amateur Athletic Union, and by 1946 she was the national champion in the 50- and 100-meter dashes, 400-meter relay and high jump. She also enrolled at Albany State College in 1946 after graduating from Tuskegee with a degree in dressmaking. After World War II wiped out the 1940 and 1944 Olympics, Coachman finally got her chance to compete in 1948, high jumping an Olympic-record 5 feet, 6 1/8 inches to win the gold in London. She is in nine Halls of Fame, including the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame.

Fast fact: Coachman became the first African-American woman with an endorsement deal when the Coca-Cola Company signed her as a spokesperson in 1952.

Quotable: “I made a difference among the blacks, being one of the leaders,” Coachman told The New York Times in 1996. “If I had gone to the games and failed, there wouldn’t be anyone to follow in my footsteps.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Charlie Sifford: the first black member of the PGA Tour

He joined in 1961 after the tour removed its ‘Caucasian-only’ clause

11:23 AMCharlie Sifford became the first African-American to join the PGA Tour in 1961.

Born: June 2, 1922

Died: Feb. 3, 2015

His story: Charlie Sifford was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, and started working as a golf caddie when he was 13. Four years later he moved to Philadelphia and played against black golfers. He made his professional debut in 1948. He earned six United Golf Association National Negro Open championships, including five straight from 1952-56. He also tried to qualify for PGA Tour events during that stretch, his first attempt at the 1952 Phoenix Open after getting an invite from Joe Louis. He won the 1957 Long Beach Open, a PGA co-sponsored event. He tied for 32nd in the 1959 U.S. Open. Sifford faced threats at tournaments because he was black. He joined the PGA Tour in 1961 after the end of the “Caucasian-only” membership clause. He won two money events during his career, the Greater Hartford Open in 1967 and the Los Angeles Open in 1969. His best finish in a major was 21st place at the 1972 U.S. Open. He won two senior tour championships, including the 1975 Senior PGA Championship. He became the first black golfer inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2004.

Fast fact: Sifford, at age 92, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2014.

Quotable: “Golf was not a game for ghettos. Neither did it leave any time for carrying picket signs, joining demonstrations or running for office. Charlie birdied, not talked, his way through society prejudice. He broke barriers by breaking par. His weapon was a nine-iron, not a microphone,” Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray wrote before Sifford won the 1969 Los Angeles Open.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Marshall ‘Major’ Taylor: world champion cyclist

He was the second black world champion

7:28 PMMarshall “Major” Taylor was an African-American cyclist who raced in the late 1800s and early 1900s, establishing several world records.

Born: Nov. 26, 1878

Died: June 21, 1932

His story: Taylor was born in Indianapolis, where his father worked as a carriage driver for a white family. Taylor grew close to the family and ended up moving in with them. He received a bicycle as a gift and went on to perform tricks outside of a bike shop. Taylor would sometimes wear a military uniform, thus his nickname “Major.” He started competing professionally at age 18. His first pro event was a six-day ride at Madison Square Garden in which he finished eighth. Within two years, Taylor held seven world records. He became a national and international champion in 1899, joining boxer George Dixon as the only black athletes to win a world championship at that time. Taylor raced all over the globe, including Australia, but in the United States he could not race in the South because he was black. He faced racism not only from his fellow riders but from also crowds who often threw things at him. He retired at age 32.

Fast fact: Taylor was estranged from his wife and daughter when he died. He was buried in an unmarked grave. In 1948, a bicycle group had his body moved to a cemetery with a plaque to mark his final resting place.

Quotable: “I felt I had my day, and a wonderful day it was too,” Taylor wrote in his autobiography, The Fastest Bicycle Rider in the World.

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs win silver for USA women’s bobsled

Meyers Taylor medals in third straight Olympics

7:28 PMSince the two-woman bobsled was first added to the Winter Olympics in 2002, the United States has medaled each year of the games. That tradition continued with Elana Meyers Taylor and Lauren Gibbs winning the silver medal on Wednesday night and becoming the fifth team to medal in the event.

Meyers Taylor, who won bronze in Vancouver (2010) and silver in Sochi (2014), now has her third medal, which makes her the lone female bobsledder in history to medal three times. She is also the second U.S. bobsledder to achieve that feat behind Patrick Martin, who medaled three times in the two- and four-man events during the 1948 and 1952 Winter Games.

Germany won gold in the two-woman event with Mariama Jamanka, who is Afro-German, and Lisa Buckwitz.

Some notes:

‘The Plug’ podcast: NBA All-Star recap + Chris Tucker on ‘Rush Hour 4’ (Episode 11)

One last time for the craziness of NBA All-Star Weekend 2018

1:24 PM

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A whirlwind weekend in Los Angeles is officially in the rearview mirror. But before moving on for good, we had to have the recap. Between the five of us, we relive the parties, pop-ups, concerts, games and, unfortunately for Tes, a stolen laptop. Comedy legend Chris Tucker drops by too. The famed funnyman talks about the role comedy has played in his life, from his Eddie Murphy inspirations to the many opportunities as well as his friendships with Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson. Tucker also lets an exclusive cat out of the bag by revealing that he and Jackie Chan are already at work on Rush Hour 4. “It’s happening,” he said.

Previously: ‘The Plug’ podcast: The Eagles are here; Stephen A. Smith is too (Episode 10)

As she says goodbye to Olivia Pope, Kerry Washington opens up 

The style icon is honored at the 20th Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards

11:21 AMBEVERLY HILLS, California — The hooting and hollering from the photo bay picked up when Kerry Washington breezed onto the carpet at the Costume Designers Guild Awards on Tuesday night. The star — in her last season of the game-changing Scandal — was the last to grace the carpet, and outside of the legendary Lily Tomlin, Star Wars’ Mark Hamill, and Eva Longoria, Washington was easily the most famous person in the event at the Beverly Hills Hilton. The event is in its 20th year, and bestowed upon Washington the Spotlight Award, which was presented by Longoria.

This night is one of the award season’s keystones, and by far one of the more chill events, as it honors the women and men who create the television and film looks we all fawn over. As the big show — the Academy Awards — draws closer, other such events will take place, and Washington is always a notable face. This year, her husband Nnamdi Asomugha — a former NFL star — is up for a prestigious best supporting actor Indie Spirit Award for his excellent turn in last year’s Crown Heights. So this night of award season celebrating certainly won’t be the last time we see Washington grace camera-filled carpets.

Washington took the stage in a body-hugging Dolce & Gabbana floor-length sparkler, and was — perhaps — at her most candid. The notoriously private star rarely refers to her husband and children, preferring instead to talk about her work as an actor and activist. But this night, she chose to relay some insight about the season on Scandal when she was pregnant with her first child — and the show’s attempts to hide it. And she talked about saying goodbye to Olivia Pope.

“It’s crazy for me to be saying goodbye to Olivia Pope because I’ve been Olivia Pope longer than I’ve been anybody’s wife or mother.”

“When I grow up, I want to be Kerry Washington,” Longoria said. “But there’s a big problem because she’s just too much. She’s lovely and warm and kind and thoughtful and genuine. She’s the one of the most genuine people you’ll find in this business. But she’s also at the same time one of the most kick-a– women that you will ever meet. All the while being a devoted wife and mother to two beautiful kids.”

Longoria talked about Washington’s seven-year reign as Olivia Pope — she called Washington a TV icon. Importantly, Longoria recalled the headlines Washington grabbed as the first black woman to lead a network drama in more than 30 years. “After all, why shouldn’t a black woman be the boss in politics or anywhere else?” Longoria said. “She owned it … she normalized it. Her success paved the way — not just for women of color — but for our society as a whole.”

The show’s costume designer Lyn Paolo cried as she called Washington “stunningly graceful … Your love of costume design and storytelling … all of that is self-evident in your whole body of work.” As Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s “You’re All I Need To Get By” played — a musical moment that felt directly plucked from Scandal — Washington made her way to the stage. She recalled a hilarious story about being a scholarship student at George Washington University and failing miserably at pressing a dress in the school’s costume shop.

“That is how much I knew about costumes … By the time I left college, I not only knew how to iron, but I was able to say to people that I don’t really know who a character is until I know what shoes she wears,” she said. “Because the shoes tell you how I walk. They tell me how I stand. They tell me who I am. I have relied on the wisdom and genius of costume designers every step along the way.” Washington also revealed how she took ownership of Olivia Pope. She wasn’t just the face of the series, she wanted to make sure she had a stake in the brand itself.

“When we heard that the network was going to create a clothing line inspired by Olivia Pope, Lyn and I said together, ‘not without us!’ Women wanted to dress like her not only because of what [series creator] Shonda [Rhimes] wrote … but it was because of those extra 15 minutes in a fitting,” she said. “We wanted to go past OK, into right. We wanted to go past OK into telling a story and informing the audience of a deeper truth because we know that a pair of shoes can do that!” Soon, Washington will hang up her white hat and Olivia Pope will go away. This is the show’s final season, and it’s been an emotional ride.

“It’s crazy for me to be saying goodbye to Olivia Pope because I’ve been Olivia Pope longer than I’ve been anybody’s wife or mother. Those things are new to me because of her,” Washington said. “When I told Shonda I was pregnant and Shonda told me that Olivia Pope was not going to be pregnant, I panicked. How in the world am I going to hide this bump? And I could do it because of Lyn. There were no maternity clothes out there. But she took those beautiful couture Armani pants, cut out the front and replaced it with growing material that held my daughter. I waddled — but I waddled well-dressed.”

Nicole Lyons: the first black woman in NHRA’s Top Sportsman Division

She also is an engine-building expert

10:10 AMNicole Lyons is the first African-American female driver to race in the National Hot Rod Association’s Top Sportsman Division.

Her story: Lyons, who followed in her father’s footsteps as a race car driver and engine builder, started in the NHRA Super Street class in 2005, then moved on to Super Gas and Super Comp the next season. She the first black woman to compete in the NHRA Top Sportsman and American Drag Racing League Top Sportsman classes. She also made her mark in Outlaw Pro Mod, winning several events. In 2013, she started racing in the NASCAR Whelen Series, a points championship for short track racing. Not only is she the first black woman to finish a Whelen race, she is the first woman to compete in NASCAR and NHRA in the same season. Lyons is the owner of Cole Muscle Cars, a restoration shop. She was featured as an engine specialist in the former reality TV series Car Warriors.

Fast fact: Lyons’ late father, Jack Davis, was a street racer in the Los Angeles area.

Quotable: “I think my father would be proud,” Lyons told Dragzine. “He taught me what I know today about racing. He taught me that you can’t be just the driver that gets in the car and drives. You need to know what the car is doing. You need to know the engine setup. My advantage is that by knowing my car, I can make good decisions out there on the track, where it counts.”

The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.

The making of Kendrick Lamar’s Nike Cortez Kenny II

The new sneaker is inspired by the artist’s childhood, his music, and his respect for women

6:42 AMLOS ANGELES — Back in the ’90s, a kid named Kendrick Duckworth fell in love with the Nike Cortez. After getting his first pair at a local swap meet, he’d often rock the kicks as a complement to his trademark swag of tall socks and khaki shorts while frolicking in the streets of his hometown of Compton, California.

About two decades later, that youngster is now known around the world as the Grammy Award-winning Kendrick Lamar. Via a partnership with Nike, Lamar has his own version of the iconic Cortez. During 2018 NBA All-Star Weekend the Cortez Kenny II was presented — the second installment of his own line of the shoe he grew up donning.

“They just classic — something I’ve been wearing since day one,” said Lamar at Nike’s Makers Headquarters, the brand’s creative pop-up space for the. The MC discussed the new shoe in a sit-down conversation with Emily Oberg, the fashion influencer turned creative lead of designer Ronnie Fieg’s New York City-based sneaker and apparel boutique, KITH. “They just always felt comfortable, felt good. It’s a vibe.”

In late January, in the lead-up to the 60th annual Grammys, at which Lamar took home the award for best rap album for his double-platinum masterpiece DAMN., Nike debuted the Cortez Kenny I, a predominantly white shoe that’s highlighted by the outsole of the upper, where the title of the album — DAMN. — is printed.

The new Kenny II, also referred to as the “Kung Fu Kenny,” is red with white and black accent, featuring a lace holder that reads “DON’T TRIP” and the word “Damn” written in Chinese script on the toe box.” ‘Don’t Trip’ — it’s a classic L.A. feel. It’s open context for anything,” Lamar quipped.

Nike, at Kendrick’s request, also threw it back to old days of lacing up shoes with shortened strings. “I just like all my laces to be short like that,” he said. “That’s how we rocked them coming up, when we was in grade school, high school, or just in the city.” In terms of creativity, Lamar compared the process of designing a shoe to the way he approaches crafting an album. And when it came using the Cortez as his canvas — especially while drawing upon his youth in Los Angeles — he didn’t have to search far for inspiration.

“These kids right here …, ” said Lamar, pointing to a group of local children who sat before him on the basketball court at Makers, “that’s inspiration … I was once in a place where I had a lot of dreams and aspirations. Looking at them, and going where they want to go, I can see that vibe. I can see they have a lot of energy … That’s something I can respect.”

Before the official release, Nike and Lamar made sure that women were the first to experience the shoe via seeding — getting product in the hands of influencers early to allow for grassroots promotion. So perhaps the most important aspect of the Cortez Kenny II came through the shoe’s calculated rollout, which sought to quell the myth that in the male-dominated world of footwear women aren’t sneakerheads, too.

“I always felt like women are the original curators of the world as far as creativity. Simple as that,” Lamar said. Hours after the chat with Oberg, he headlined an exclusive show at Makers with an opening lineup of women artists, including Kamaiyah, Sabrina Claudio and H.E.R. “We can go back to creating a life … to some of the greatest ideas of man … all behind a woman. I wanted women to experience [the Cortez Kenny II] the same way I felt it from the beginning when we created it.”