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

Daily Dose: 12/5/17

Willie Taggart heads to FSU

6:06 PMWhat up, gang? Tuesday was a TV day again, so do check out Around The Horn at 5 p.m. on ESPN.

Rep. John Conyers is going to retire. The Democratic congressman from Michigan, who is facing multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, said his exit is effective immediately, but he is endorsing his son to fill his seat. It sort of feels like there should be rules against that kind of thing, but, alas, that’s what’s happening. Elsewhere in politics, the GOP is now back to supporting Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who is accused of having relationships with underage girls over the years. Guess that presidential endorsement was worth something.

If you smoke weed and live in New Jersey, good news! The Garden State is planning on legalizing recreational marijuana, thanks to huge wins by the Dems across the ballot last month. The state is no stranger to tourism, so this could end up being a huge boon for a place that’s suffered all kinds of issues over the years after natural disasters. It’s not going to be easy to get off the ground, but when it does, you can bet this is going to be an extremely popular thing to do.

LaVar Ball continues to be a legend. Look, whether you agree with his decision to pull his son LiAngelo out of UCLA, his public appearances continue to be epic. This morning, he appeared on CNN with Chris Cuomo again, this time with a roaring fireplace behind him at 6 in the morning, looking like he was about to belt out a holiday tune, which he then kind of did. Anyway, Ball wants his son to at least be able to develop as a ballplayer, which UCLA wasn’t letting Gelo do because of his indefinite suspension.

Looks like Florida State is going to have a black head coach. After Jimbo Fisher took off for Texas A&M, leaving that program in a bit of a lurch, they found a guy who’d once coached in Florida before. His name is Willie Taggart, and he’s coming from Oregon. Thing is, so many guys have changed jobs over the past month that who knows what’s a good gig anymore in college football? Basically, everyone is chasing Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban, and it doesn’t appear that anyone else is really in the running.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Have you seen the latest viral online challenge? Most of these are pretty ridiculously boring, but the invisible box challenge is excellent. You know you’ve got a good one when the failures are as good as the people who do it right.

Snack Time: When I was a kid, Mega Man was a great game. But there hasn’t been a version of the Capcom game to come out in eight years. Now they’ve got a new one on deck, and it looks AWESOME.

Dessert: If I’m still breaking it down like this when I’m this old, I’ll have done something right.

Daily Dose: 12/4/17

Lakers institute LaVar Ball rule

3:15 PMWhat up, gang? Hope your weekend went well. I’m talking to a group of schoolchildren about journalism Monday afternoon, which always makes me happy. It’s fun to give back.

https://twitter.com/JemiSHaaaZzz/status/937475953940484096

It’s clear that President Donald Trump and his people don’t think the rules apply to him. Literally. After Trump tweeted about Michael Flynn, who admitted that he lied to the FBI, many felt he was unintentionally admitting that he obstructed justice. Basically, he said he fired Flynn because he lied, which is not really how that’s supposed to work. Then, Trump’s lawyer told the media that it’s not possible for the president to obstruct justice, which is absolutely not how any of this works, at all.

For many school districts across America, parents make tough choices. There are private schools, which are costly and come with their own set of issues that provide families with difficult decisions but typically a higher level of education. Then there are public schools, which in quite a few cases are simply the default — and not always the best environment for learning. There are also charter schools, which provide somewhat of an in-between, but some come with a huge downfall: They are often operated in a fundamentally racist manner.

The fallout from Matt Lauer’s firing at NBC continues. Because he was such a big personality at the Today show, the story basically can’t go away. He also was a major part of their Christmas tree lighting ceremony in New York, which is always one of the biggest productions of the year for the network. They tried to re-edit that show as to not include him in the final on-air product, which is not easy. Now, they’re also basically deleting his entire existence from the history of the building, which is drastic but necessary.

LaVar Ball continues to rack up haters. His behavior in the media and at the Staples Center, where the Los Angeles Lakers play, has motivated the team to act. After he basically ripped the entire organization for how they coach the team, they’ve decided to institute a rule that says media members can’t talk to friends and family of players after games. Why they think this somehow is going to silence one of the loudest mouths in America, I don’t know.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Whatever happens to Rob Gronkowski probably won’t be enough. His hit Sunday in Buffalo, New York, on a Bills player after the whistle was one of the dirtiest things I’ve ever seen. He should be suspended for the rest of the regular season and the playoffs. He’ll probably get one game.

Snack Time: The Army-Navy game is coming up Saturday, and both teams will have extremely fire unis on. Check out Army. And here’s Navy.

Dessert: If you’re not worried about net neutrality, you should be.

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.