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

Hue Jackson is spared, Jim Caldwell is not, now Jackson needs to win some games

Browns plan to bring back coach after 0-16 mark; Lions fire coach after winning season

9:09 AMOne has to look hard to find anything positive in the winless Cleveland Browns’ season, which mercifully ended Sunday after a 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to finish 0-16.

The Browns were a complete mess from start to finish. Former general manager Sashi Brown, who was fired Dec. 7, paid the price for this season’s ineptitude. But front-office makeovers are nothing new for this franchise.

What is surprising, however, is that the Browns don’t plan to make a coaching change. Head coach Hue Jackson, who’s African-American, will return next season, the team says. During two seasons with the Browns, Jackson is 1-31. His only victory came in Week 16 last season against the then-San Diego Chargers.

Compare that to the Detroit Lions, who on Monday fired Jim Caldwell, who is also African-American. Caldwell was let go despite posting a winning record in three of his four seasons with the Lions. Detroit made the playoffs twice under Caldwell, going 0-2, and missed the postseason this year at 9-7.

Considering the dearth of head coaches of color in the league – the number fell to seven with Caldwell’s firing – it’s good that the Browns appear to be giving Jackson every opportunity to prove he’s the right man for the job. And Jackson still has a lot to prove.

Sure, the Browns’ player personnel department has made some colossal errors. Remember: Cleveland passed on star quarterback Carson Wentz. Still, it’s hard to go winless during a 16-game schedule, as evidenced by the fact it has only happened twice.

It’s fair to say that Jackson needs to show a whole lot next season. He has to win some games.

Gettleman hiring keeps diversity numbers for NFL general managers the same

Give the Giants credit for interviewing two black candidates

8:07 AMOn Thursday, the New York Giants announced the hiring of Dave Gettleman as the team’s new general manager.

Gettleman, who was fired from the same position with the Carolina Panthers in July, replaces Jerry Reese, who was relieved of his duties along with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.

The hiring keeps the number of black general managers in the 32-team league at four — Rick Smith (Houston Texans), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) and Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins) — after the Cleveland Browns fired Sashi Brown on Dec. 7.

Although the Giants didn’t end up replacing Reese, who is African-American, with another black GM, they did take the league’s diversity hiring initiative, the Rooney Rule, more seriously than most other front offices have. The rule requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for every head-coaching or senior football operations position, although some teams hold what are essentially “token” interviews with black or brown candidates to check off a box.

The Giants, on the other hand, interviewed two black men for the position: Marc Ross, the team’s current vice president of player evaluation, and Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst and former player, pro scout and director of pro personnel.

Kevin Abrams, the Giants’ interim general manager, also interviewed. Gettleman returns to the Giants after having spent 15 seasons with the team, mostly as director of pro personnel. In Gettleman’s four-year tenure with the Panthers, the team made the playoffs three seasons in a row from 2013-15, including a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015. He was not a favorite of some of the franchise’s best players.

Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., running back DeAngelo Williams and cornerback Josh Norman sent parting shots at Gettleman when the Panthers announced his firing.

Recy Taylor, subject of new documentary about the rape of black women during Jim Crow, has died

97-year-old was at a nursing home in the same Alabama town where she had been attacked

2:10 PMRecy Taylor, the subject of the new documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor, died Thursday morning at a nursing home in Abbeville, Alabama. She was 97.

Her brother Robert Lee Corbitt, 81, confirmed her death.

‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’ explores the little-known terror campaign against black women

Taylor was one of countless black women who were raped by white men during Jim Crow. In 1944, when she was walking home from church one evening, she was kidnapped, blindfolded and assaulted by six white men. Rosa Parks, working as a local NAACP official, came to Abbeville to agitate for the prosecution of Taylor’s attackers. None of them was ever indicted.

In addition to being the subject of the Nancy Buirski documentary, which debuted this year at the New York Film Festival, Taylor was a central figure in a book by historian Danielle McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. McGuire’s book traces how anti-rape activism in the South helped fuel the civil rights movement.

After the attack, Taylor spent most of her adult years in Winter Haven, Florida. Her family moved her back to Abbeville when she was 93 because she began to suffer from dementia.

“She was a Christian all of her life,” Corbitt said by phone Thursday afternoon. “She kept us in church all that time. I live about 500 feet from the church where she was going that night, and I’m also a deacon of that church.”

The church, which in 1944 was called Abbeville Holiness Church, is now called Abbeville Memorial Church of God in Christ.

Taylor raised Corbitt and five other brothers and sisters after their mother died when Corbitt was an infant. She is survived by Corbitt and her two remaining sisters, Mary Murry, 90, and Lillie Kinsey, 94, one granddaughter and several great-grandchildren. Her only daughter, Joyce Lee Taylor, died in a car crash in 1967.

Taylor, Corbitt said, “had a very good life,” but she never recovered emotionally from the attack that took place when she was just 24 years old.

After he retired from working as a building maintenance official in New York, Corbitt said he moved back to Alabama to research what happened to his sister and attempt to obtain some measure of justice for her. Corbitt is one of the primary sources for Buirski’s film. Though she was alive during its filming, Taylor only appears near the end, when Corbitt, whom she called “Baby,” went to visit her in her nursing home.

“She would only talk to me,” Corbitt said. “That’s why I dug at it so hard. After I retired, I devoted myself to getting something done about it. We did get an apology from the state of Alabama.”

James Harden’s new Meek Mill-themed shoes

NBA players continue to bring the jailed rapper’s plight to light

3:15 PMAs the leading scorer in the NBA, one of the many faces of adidas and en route to perhaps his first MVP trophy, Houston Rockets superstar James Harden is used to having all eyes on him. Come Thursday, though, special attention will be paid to his feet as Harden will be rocking custom-made “Free Meek” shoes. The message, of course, is a homage to rapper Meek Mill who currently sits in the State Correctional Institution in Chester, Pa., following a probation violation from a 2008 gun and drug case. Last month, the Philadelphia MC was sentenced to two-to-four years for after popping wheelies on his dirt bike and an altercation at a St. Louis airport early this year.

The decision immediately sparked outrage not only for Meek’s continuous battles with his own legal entanglement, but the disparities in the criminal justice system as a whole. Hip-hop, through names like Jay Z, Diddy, Nipsey Hussle, Rick Ross and even friend-turned-foe Drake, have come to Meek’s defense expressing their support. But it’s Meek’s draw in the sports world that has been intriguing to watch unfold. Exiled quarterback Colin Kaepernick—whose protest have become the defining sports story of his generation—spoke with Meek days before Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, the NBA has made no secret of its affinity towards the 30 year old rapper.

Harden visited Meek in prison on Tuesday, confirming his “spirits were high” and that he hoped the MC would be home by February. If, in fact, Meek is released in time for All Star Weekend in Los Angeles (Feb. 16-18, 2018), he could thank the league personally. Throughout his career, Meek has recorded with ball players. He played an involuntary supporting role in the odd melodrama between LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. And he’s name dropped countless superstars in his music from James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant and Allen Iverson—the latter of whom he saw as a role model growing up in Philly. “A.I. had the style, he had the charisma, the braids, everything,” he told Complex earlier this year. “He was doing what he wanted on the court. That’s what we live by in Philly: do whatcha want, never let the game change you to the point where you’re not even yourself.”

Harden’s showing of support is only the latest in the NBA’s very vocal support of the imprisoned MC. His hometown Philadelphia 76ers have led the charge. Sixers icon Julius Erving was one of many athletes who attended a rally in the rapper’s name last month. The team’s two superstars-in-training Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons recently posted up at Jay Z’s 4:44 tour stop in Philadelphia donning “Stand With Meek Mill” t-shirts. The move wasn’t just a photo opp either. Simmons frequently makes Meek’s music part of his daily routine through his Instagram Stories. Embiid visited Meek Mill in prison—an experience he succinctly summed up as “scary”—with 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin. Yet, it’s Rubin’s relationship with Meek that is the most documented. They’re a pop culture “odd couple.”

Rubin and Meek met a few years back when both were sitting courtside at an NBA game. The billionaire owner was seated next to his daughter and Meek was with ex-girlfriend Nicki Minaj. “Once he figured out I was one of the owners of the Sixers and some other pretty big, internet companies he started asking me 1,000 business questions,” Rubin said of how their friendship sprouted. “I liked him. I would’ve had the stereotypical view, this guy is a hardcore rapper … I didn’t know who he was or what he did. But once he started telling me about his career I thought he would have an interesting business.”

Since his sentencing, Rubin has made frequent visits to visit Meek in prison. The two have largely talked legal strategy. For Rubin, Meek’s situation is personal. He considers the “Dreams & Nightmares” rapper one of his “closest 10-20 guy friends…someone I really care about.” He hoped Meek would be home for Christmas so he could spend the holiday with his family, but now the hope is that Meek can spend the bulk of 2018 in a recording booth as opposed to a jail cell.

A new Morehouse man surprises his mom and aunt

High school senior announces his college admission with Christmas gifts of personalized T-shirts

2:32 PMOn Christmas Day, Barrington Lincoln surprised his mother and aunt with personalized T-shirts from Morehouse College.

“You know what this means,” he says in a video of the moment. “I got in.”

The two most influential women in his life were now the mother and aunt of a Morehouse College student. His mom, Lisa McDonald, falls back onto the couch in joyful hysterics.

“You been holdin’ out on us?!” exclaims his aunt, Shirley Gray, as Lincoln lets out a belly laugh.

This is a story of a kid who grew up in the same town outside of St. Louis where a white policeman shot and killed a black teenager in 2014; where the street demonstrations of Black Lives Matter first gained national resonance; where Lincoln’s brother, a Walmart employee at the time, risked life and limb the night the store was looted and ransacked.

Ferguson, Missouri — the home of the tragedy of Michael Brown.

And now the home of the triumph of Barrington Lincoln.

“It’s where I’m from, what I know,” Lincoln, Lutheran High School North’s 2018 class president, told The Undefeated on Wednesday morning. “The most depressing thing was seeing the cameras leave after all the demonstrations and coverage. Because the moment that happened, everyone else left and Ferguson went back to what it was. I want to change that. I want to show people from this area you don’t have to be [NBA players] Jayson Tatum or Bradley Beal to find a way out.”

When his mother was pregnant with him, he had been diagnosed with a genetic disorder that would lead to severe growth delays and major intellectual disabilities. He got his name when his parents heard the news and drove through the tony St. Louis suburb of Barrington Downs.

“I wish we could live in a neighborhood like this,” she said. His father replied, “If you can wish for that, wish for our baby to be healthy and normal and able to live a good, prosperous life.”

But the diagnosis was wrong, and Barrington (which means destiny, prosperity and wealth) came into the world without any physical or mental challenges. “Before I was born, society tried to define who I would become,” he writes in his personal “mission statement.”

When he was 15, Barrington’s father, James Lincoln, was diagnosed with leukemia. Barrington donated his bone marrow to his father in March 2015. By August, James had died at 51. “At least I got a couple of more months with him,” he said.

Now? “My goal is to reach back into the community and show the younger generation that they can be successful without relying on the talents of playing anything ending in the suffix ‘-ball.’ ”

“I will go on to attend a world-renowned four-year university.

“I will continue further and graduate from a top-10 business school in the country.

“I will fulfill my destiny to ultimately become the commissioner of the National Basketball Association.”

Like a blue-chip guard confidently telling Steph Curry he will one day break his records, Barrington Lincoln, the pride of Ferguson, Missouri, just put Adam Silver on notice.

Flight attendant makes a blanket statement about G League players

Memphis Hustle players booted from plane after theft accusation, ensuing argument

8:10 AMTwo G League basketball players had a Christmas Eve they will never forget after being kicked off a plane over a blanket.

The incident took place after Memphis Hustle guard Marquis Teague and forward Trahson Burrell boarded American Airlines Flight 3756 operated by Envoy from Dallas to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Sunday. Two first-class passengers gave Teague, a former NBA player, and Burrell their blankets as a kind gesture as they headed to their seats. When Teague and Burrell arrived in coach, a flight attendant accused them of stealing the blankets, a source said, which led to an argument.

The flight attendant said he wouldn’t fly unless Teague and Burrell were off the plane after Burrell offered some threatening words. To keep the flight from being delayed, Teague and Burrell were asked to get off the plane. American Airlines ended up putting Teague, Burrell and a Hustle assistant coach on a later flight to Sioux Falls (first class), but they missed a team holiday dinner.

An American Airlines spokesman said an official apologized to the players after the incident and the company plans to apologize again. The team and the airline also plan to investigate the incident further.

“We apologize for what occurred on this flight,” American Airlines spokesman Joshua Freed told The Undefeated. “We take pride in bringing people together, and we know that on this flight we let some of our customers down. Our team at American, along with Envoy Air, is reviewing what happened and will be reaching out to [the two players and the assistant coach].”

Hustle head coach Glynn Cyprien and assistant coach Darnell Lazare expressed their frustration on Twitter. Lazare tweeted that the players were African-American. The flight attendant also appeared to be African-American, the source said.

“American Airlines needs sensitivity training [for] attendants on flights dealing with humans and blankets,” Cyprien wrote.

Lazare wrote: “It’s 2017 and a flight attendant sees two young black athletes with blankets from first class. His first comments is ‘did you steal them.’ How about you teach people the facts first before jumping to conclusions. #beingblackinamerican.”

The Hustle beat Sioux Falls, 131-115, on Monday to end a three-game losing streak.

“We are obviously disappointed the incident occurred and the way American Airlines chose to handle the situation,” Cyprien said. “Today our focus is on the players affected and our Christmas Day game. I am honored to stand by my players and compete on this special day.”