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

Daily Dose: 12/1/17

The World Cup 2018 groups are set

1:59 PMIt’s finally Friday, and this week has felt like it was 17 years long, personally. But we’re getting down into the official Christmas season, so spread a little holiday cheer and make your friends and family feel better.

So, the defecation has hit the ventilation for the White House. Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, which is very plainly always a bad idea. Flynn has admitted to as much and plans to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia. In short, this has suddenly gotten VERY messy. Basically, with his cooperation, you’ve got to assume that he’s going to directly implicate Trump and perhaps the vice president as well in colluding with Russia. Yikes.

We all remember Philando Castile. The man who was shot by police in front of his girlfriend and her daughter while sitting in his car in Minnesota is remembered as a loving soul who worked at an elementary school. His legacy has led to thousands of kids getting their lunches paid for through a fund, and recently his girlfriend was awarded an $800,000 settlement as a result of his death. Then, a local council member tweeted that she would blow the cash in six months on crack cocaine. Seriously.

Office life can be stressful. It’s certainly not the rigor of, say, working in a mine, but it comes with its own issues. Folks stealing your food, general malaise and required meetings can cause problems for the most sane person, but, alas, it’s a life we deal with. Different people then choose to blow off steam in different ways. I like to throw a tennis ball around the office. Some people exercise. But the new bit apparently is bringing in an entire petting zoo to help boost office morale. I guess this is a perk? Petting zoos don’t smell great.

The World Cup groups are set. FIFA placed the 32 teams that will be participating in next summer’s tournament in Russia and there were no real surprises, nor is there an obvious Group Of Death. Basically, the home nation’s got a pretty easy path, shocker. Argentina and Nigeria will be in the same group again, while Panama is in the tournament for the first time. Of course, a few major soccer nations are out, so that changes a few things. And of course, the ceremony was spectacularly absurd, per usual. Here’s the schedule.

Free Food

Coffee Break: The holidays are very stressful. Partially because they’re all jammed together, which has pros and cons. Pros: Once they’re done, you’re rid of them for the rest of the year. Cons: The bunching creates an environment so loaded and stressful that few people can deal. Maybe we should move Christmas?

Snack Time: If you’re looking for a way to pass some time over the next few days, check out this series of Latino short films that PBS made available to stream.

Dessert: These kicks are flat-out dope. Happy weekend, y’all.

Daily Dose: 11/30/17

Russell Simmons steps down from companies because of sexual misconduct allegations

4:58 PMHey, y’all, it’s another TV day, so please do tune in to Around The Horn at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Also, I wrote a column about Kevin Durant and his epiphany about his blackness that he revealed to the world in the San Jose Mercury News.

Russell Simmons is the latest on the list. The hip-hop mogul who began Def Jam and over the years has become one of the most recognizable faces in the game is stepping down from various companies after allegations that he assaulted writer Jenny Lumet in 1991. It’s another example of a man with a lot of power who decided to use it to manipulate a woman and violate her. Mind you, this was not the first accusation against him this month, and the other one involved Brett Ratner, whose history is well-known as well.

It’s been 35 years since Thriller dropped. That album basically changed the entire globe in terms of how we all viewed Michael Jackson and his talent. In many circles, folks will still contend that Off The Wall, the previous album, was better, me being one. But the impact of how Thriller affected the music business, pop culture and everything else is impossible to ignore. It had seven top 10 singles, each of which many people will tell you is the best song ever.

NASCAR has never been a big problem for me. I get it, I enjoy it, but I don’t attend it. Of course, it brings a certain type of crowd to the track, namely one from the South that very much appreciates their Southern heritage. And as a result, that means a whole lot of Confederate flags. That’s part of the reason that I stay away from these bad boys, personally. But one dude does go, and guess what he does? He burns those flags in public. Homeboy calls it an educational effort, which is hilariously awesome.

Everyone’s getting tossed from games these days, it appears. Not only did LeBron James get thrown out earlier this week for the first time in his career, justifiably if I may say so, but Wednesday night, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis was ejected from a game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the second quarter. Getting ejected before halftime sucks. You go into the locker room, then they come in, then they leave, but you stay. Yikes. All that aside, it is a tad annoying to see stars getting run.

Free Food

Coffee Food: The details of this Matt Lauer situation are only getting worse as things move along. Apparently, his old Today show co-host Meredith Vieira once came across some things in his office that, let’s just say were inappropriate to have there. Yikes.

Snack Time: Sometimes the joke is just too easy. “White House maintenance requests show building infested with cockroaches and vermin.”

Dessert: Watch this video. We’ll talk about it later.

Kevin Durant finds the blackness beyond his own skin

His epiphany is one that many are forced to come to in adulthood

12:35 PM“I love my blackness. And yours.”

Those are the words that DeRay McKesson, the educator turned activist turned media personality, tweets regularly, a statement of self-affirmation that is as much an exercise of self-love as it is rebellion. Wednesday night at Staples Center, Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors beat the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that could field a full starting five of biracial players if they so chose.

Two weeks before that, KD told the San Jose Mercury News‘ Logan Murdock that he had an epiphany. It had finally occurred to him what it meant to be black. It took moving to Oakland, California, to play for the Golden State Warriors, but he finally figured it out.

“If I find something that’s empowering to people that look like me, I just try to send a subtle message that I got your back and I hear you and I try to inspire you as much as I can from just being in this world as a black man coming up, even though I was looked at and viewed a little differently for it,” Durant told Murdock. “But I’m still a black man. I understand where you’re coming from.”

When Durant came into this world, the city he was born in was still three years away from becoming the murder capital of the U.S. The drug kingpin known as Rayful Edmond III was a little more than six months from being put in prison for being largely responsible for much of the drug culture that ravaged Washington, D.C., and Mayor Marion Barry was just over two years away from video of him smoking crack on an FBI video going viral. Those were in Durant’s distant surroundings.

“Because the streets is a short stop,” the Notorious B.I.G. rhymed on the 1993 classic “Things Done Changed,” on Bad Boy Records. “Either you’re slingin’ crack rock or you got a wicked jump shot.” Durant had the latter. But his immediate surroundings were different, although not necessarily a different world from the glaringly awful headlines of his youth in his hometown.

To most people, that’s what blackness is.

The question of when one wakes up is always fascinating. For some players, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Jabari Parker, whom I met at The Undefeated’s Chicago summit, activism through voice came naturally. As a millennial from the South Side of Chicago, the notion of “speaking up” was never one that required an awakening. It’s not the same for everyone, though.

Some players use their blackness as their primary swag in their quest for success. And God bless them for it. For others, it’s a by-product of their existence, at least until they get into a world in which they are forced to confront it. Point being, it’s certainly not the same for every single black athlete. It varies from background to background, upbringing to upbringing, sport to sport, no matter how often fans and others try to lump them all into the same mindset or understanding.

Yet, still, that question — what is your blackness? — remains a fascinating one for both athletes and the rest of us alike.

Jay-Z, the rap mogul who once was a part of the ownership group of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and, in many minds, a large part of the reason that they moved to Brooklyn, had an eye-opening experience at the highest level of sports. Sure, his Negro status mattered, but so did his star status.

“When I was doing the Nets, I was definitely the only black guy in the room,” he said, speaking to New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet in a must-see, wide-ranging interview about being a black man in President Donald Trump’s America. “It was um, it’s strange, but at the same time I think that … I think that in that room, my celebrity allowed me a voice that probably would have been awkward for someone [else] in my position being the only black person in the room to break through.”

Meghan Markle, the American actress who recently got engaged to British royal Prince Harry, has the media falling all over themselves to make sure we know she’s mixed-race. Her Wikipedia page has an extended portion about her ancestry. You could say that she learned just how black she was not while growing up in Los Angeles or attending Northwestern University but when she decided to join the most exclusive white club in the world.

For comedian Elon James White, creator of the web platform “This Week in Blackness,” he found exactly how black he was when his then-girlfriend, now-wife (who is white) went to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner without him, because he wasn’t invited, for two years in a row. After telling the world about how he leaned on black women during these times of sorrow, he got quickly canceled by Twitter for what some felt was duplicitous nonsense.

April Ryan, the White House correspondent whose relationship with White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is icy at best, was reminded of just how black she is when she wasn’t invited to the White House Christmas party. Petty knows no color.

Personally, I get reminded every single time I appear on television and another black person is telling me to brush my hair. I politely remind them that I do it for the kids out there who need to believe that succumbing to European standards of beauty isn’t the only way to live your dreams and work in public spaces. I love my nappiness. And yours.

Point is, we all have our reminders.

For Kevin Durant, the Bay Area, Colin Kaepernick, Tupac and Rick James are his reminders. He’s got tattoos of the latter two. In talking to Murdock, author of the piece in which KD revealed his realization, he noted how ready the reigning NBA Finals MVP was to talk about his identity. ” ‘Hell, yeah,’ he said. Just like that,” Murdock noted, regarding when he asked Durant’s team about getting the exclusive interview.

Maybe all we’re really seeing is a return to form from Durant. After all, he was born in the blackest major city in America.

Daily Dose: 11/29/17

Timbaland battled opioid addiction

5:37 PMWhat up, gang? Wednesday’s a TV day, so tune in to Around The Horn at 5 p.m. on ESPN. Also, if you missed #TheRightTime on Tuesday, you can check out the program here.

Matt Lauer is officially out the paint at NBC. The longtime Today anchor, who was reportedly being paid $28M a year, along with access to his own personal helicopter to fly from his home in the Hamptons to New York City, was let go after accusations of sexual misconduct were raised with his parent company. In addition, Minnesota Public Radio personality Garrison Keillor was also fired for similar reasons. You might know him from A Prairie Home Companion. Not to be forgotten, the accusers are adding up for Democratic congressman John Conyers of Michigan.

Now that we’ve decided sexual misconduct is an offense worthy of losing one’s job, there are other questions. Namely, how will this affect not only celebrities and politicians but also people who apparently make the apps we want to love yet haven’t come into fame or notoriety? Mainly, how will this affect upcoming elections in 2020 for both sides of the aisle? FiveThirtyEight has a chat.

Timbaland is a hip-hop legend. The Virginia producer and rapper who rose to fame alongside Missy Elliot has been around the music game for years, crafting hits for stars in different genres over the years. He hasn’t exactly been on the scene recently, and for good reason: He’s had a drug problem. And not like a “he’s been smoking too much fire weed” problem — an opioid addiction that was making his friends tell him to get out of the public eye. This new profile in Rolling Stone is quite revealing.

The NFL looks like it finally wants to engage in social justice. Mind you, this is the same league that went nearly haywire when Colin Kaepernick didn’t stand for the national anthem. It legitimately almost brought down the entire sanctity of the operation. Now they’ve offered a proposal to put $100M toward efforts in conjunction with players, but not everyone is feeling it. A few prominent players have said they’re not supporting this cause, as altruistic as it may seem on the surface.

Free Food

Coffee Break: You know what is one of the hardest parts about being a manager on any job? Managing people’s schedules. It many cases, it can be the most difficult task if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just ask American Airlines, which is now scrambling after a computer glitch basically let all their pilots take the holidays off.

Snack Time: Want a full sit-down with Jay-Z talking about life? The New York Times has you covered. He’s really looking to nail these Grammys.

Dessert: Click and listen. Thank me later.

Daily Dose: 11/28/17

The 2018 Grammy nominations are out

1:11 PMAll right, kiddos, Tuesday’s another radio day. I’ll be filling in for Bomani Jones on #TheRightTime on ESPN Radio from 4-7 p.m. EST. You can tune in here.

The Grammys are going back to New York. They’ll be hosted by James Corden again, which at this point feels like a job he’s just going to be doing for the rest of time. The controversy over nominees is always a big one, but there’s really only one thing that matters to me at this point. Cardi B is a Grammy-nominated artist. For me, it doesn’t even particularly matter if she wins at this point. What matters is that she’ll be there and I hope she’ll perform, and it’ll be a huge bonus if she wins. I am so actively excited about this.

Are you familiar with Cyntoia Brown? The hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown has been circulating on the internet quite a bit lately in an effort to call attention to her case. She’s been serving a life sentence since she was 16 years old for killing a man who had paid to have sex with her. She’d been trafficked as a child after running away from home and was put in prison because lawyers argued that her motive was robbery in the killing. Obviously, that’s foul. Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and other celebrities have come to her side, so we’ll see what comes of it.

Our level for the “wow” bar keeps getting higher. Just when you think the president can’t surprise us anymore, he manages to find a way. Monday was no different. At an event honoring Navajo code talkers, President Donald Trump couldn’t help but to make a very bigoted remark about Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. He called her “Pocahontas,” a term that is absolutely an insult at best and definitely a racial slur at worst. The White House doesn’t seem to think so on that front. Unreal.

A year ago, the soccer world experienced an unthinkable tragedy. On their way to one of the biggest matches of their lives, the Brazilian soccer team Chapecoense’s plane crashed, killing all but six of the 77 people on board. Nearly the entire team died. The team was eventually awarded the trophy for the 2016 Copa Sudamericana final at the request of its opponent. But that community, never mind the franchise itself, is clearly still recovering from the devastation. This story is from earlier this year but has been resurfaced for this day.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you missed the 2017 Miss Universe pageant, then you missed Miss Jamaica. While pageants, as a matter of course, aren’t exactly the most progressive of events, it doesn’t mean they can’t have culturally noteworthy moments. Davina Bennett’s rocking an Afro on that stage was definitely one of them.

View this post on Instagram

I did not win but I got what I was seeking. I won the hearts of many, I got to highlight Deaf awareness, I stand as the first afro queen to have made it thus far, I represented my little island and I received allll the love one could possibly wish for…. THANK YOU!!! I came, I conquered and if you know me, then you know that's just another story and you will be seeing a lot more from me💃😉👑 To all the queens that represented, congrats and to our new Miss Universe @demileighnp go conquer the world you are indeed a gem!😍😙 @thedavinabennettfoundation it's time to lift you up! P.S. Back on Jamaican soil early and bright a mawning!!!💃💃💃💃♥💛💚 #davinabennett #missuniverse #majoraccomplishment #yourjamaicanqueen #theywillrememberme

A post shared by DAVINA BENNETT (@davinabennett) on

Snack Time: I’ve never been to Japan, but I hope to make it soon. There are a decent number of black folks there, and not just those from the United States. Check out this short documentary on what it’s like to be black in Tokyo.

Dessert: I enjoy Christmas music, so here are some new offerings from D.R.A.M. and, wait for it, Dru Hill. I know.

Daily Dose: 11/27/2017

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle get engaged

4:18 PMLook, Monday is a tough day in my world. It’s the 10th anniversary of Sean Taylor’s death. He was my favorite football player of all time, and his death was a shock to so many people. It still hurts. I’ll have more on this later.

The royal family just got a lot blacker in England. Prince Harry has officially gotten engaged to Meghan Markle, whose identity has been the subject of much scrutiny over the years. Whatever. It doesn’t really matter, but the way that people talk about colorism these days makes this a matter of concern for some people, which is unfortunate. You’ll probably hear about how Buckingham Palace is about to look a whole lot more like the rest of the country, which is pretty trite. We’re happy for them.

President Donald Trump must think we’re stupid. For whatever reason, his latest bit is that the Access Hollywood audio with Billy Bush that we all heard, saw, digested and processed was somehow fake because his face wasn’t actually on camera when the most offensive of his words (if you even want to dignify that notion) were spoken. This is clearly a massive insult to our collective intelligence, but Trump has been trafficking in conspiracy theories for years, most notably the birther one about his predecessor in the White House.

Online dating is not something I’ve ever done. I’m just one of those people who was never really about that action, but it’s certainly a great way to meet people and a popular method. I’ve heard so many horror stories over the years that I can’t even imagine having to do it personally, but then again, those tales aren’t any worse than people who meet folks any other way. That said, Tinder did sort of disrupt the market in terms of immediacy, but not everyone uses it like that. One woman asked her old dates why they didn’t work out.

LeBron James is hilarious. The Akron, Ohio-born megastar is outwardly a Dallas Cowboys fan, something that over the years has offended many. I mean, who can blame him? If you were a guy his age, why on earth would you have ever rooted for the Cleveland Browns? They’ve been god-awful his whole life. That said, someone asked him Sunday about the NFL, and he said that his favorite player is Carson Wentz. That’s Wentz, of the Philadelphia Eagles, who are certainly not the Cowboys and most definitely not the Browns. Do you, Bron.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Now that Mase is back to beefin’ with Cam’ron, we’ve all gotten to revisit exactly how much we liked the former when he was really at his peak. Putting Biggie aside, Mase was basically the perfect Bad Boy Records artist in terms of his whole appeal. Check out this list of the best Bad Boy songs of all time.

Snack Time: Speaking of LeBron, he’s going to be in a new kids movie this summer. The premise of it is hilarious: There’s one Yeti in the whole world who’s actually seen a human being.

Dessert: How anyone thought they would get away with this is beyond me.