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

Daily Dose: 1/24/17

It should be an interesting year at the 89th annual Academy Awards

12:30 PMMonday night’s episode of The Bachelor was the best of the season so far. Slowly, but surely, we’re going to get Domonique Foxworth to watch the show. Right now, he’s just got fire takes about who should actually win.

The nominees for the Academy Awards are out. By the way, let’s not forget that the creator of #OscarsSoWhite is April Reign. That said, the Academy is apparently trying to change things on that front, and this year, in the best picture category there are three films that are primarily dealing with black folks: Moonlight, Fences and Hidden Figures. Also, O.J. Made in America made the list for documentaries. There were some rather surprising snubs, mostly in the animated movie realm. Here’s the full list.

The White House has a loose relationship with the truth. Press Secretary Sean Spicer is clearly not a guy who plans on doing anything other than President Donald Trump’s bidding, which while it is his job also affects him personally. If you’re wondering, by the way, it’s not like the chain of command at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. is super stable. Spicer is having trouble understanding why so many people are constantly critical of the administration he’s a part of. He’s also doing a really bad job of explaining why their propaganda game is so ineffective.

Losing games to computers is nothing new. Every night when I play FIFA 17 on my Xbox, I’m likely to lose to the system at least once. But back in the ’80s, chess masters started playing against computers as a way to test their abilities, which is a totally different monster than me sitting on my couch. Now it appears that the machines are coming for the latest televised nonsport game that has taken over the nation: poker. For someone who doesn’t play poker, I can’t imagine this will improve the television product, but as a stunt, it is intriguing.

The Washington Wizards want so bad to be relevant. They’ve managed to pull that off in the past few weeks in the NBA, ascending all the way to fifth in the Eastern Conference. They’ve developed a little thing with the Boston Celtics, which is cute. Regular-season rivalries are always a tad awkward when neither team is particularly good otherwise. Now, the Zardos are saying they plan to wear all black to their game Tuesday night. Cool, guys. Good to see the squad is focused on what matters.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Over the years, MTV has rolled out a variety of shows that changed the course of pop culture. My Super Sweet 16 is one of them. If you don’t recall, it was basically Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous for teenagers looking to celebrate their birthdays. Now, MTV is bringing it back. This is going to be excellent.

Snack Time: It never ceases to impress me which parts of the globe hip-hop stretches to, often as a voice for those who otherwise are silenced. Check out this story about how the Iranian diaspora is now in the game.

Dessert: Post Malone’s new video with Quavo for Congratulations feels like it was a lot of fun to shoot.

Daily Dose: 1/23/17

‘Star Wars’ announces new title

3:30 PMThis week’s show was a good one on The Morning Roast. Mina told a pretty incredible story about meeting the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Antonio Brown when she was at a group dinner and ended up in a pretty awkward sitch.

We’ve got a new name for the next Star Wars film. It’ll be called The Last Jedi, which is apparently super controversial to people who don’t understand that the plural of Jedi is “Jedi Knights.” Seriously, people are going insane over this, which is beyond bizarre to me. It’s just a title, kiddos. That said, it is an intriguing one. The obvious question is: Who is that going to be? It also sets up a clear path in which the universe we know as Star Wars changes fundamentally going forward if Jedi Knights are no longer involved. It’ll be out just before Christmas.

The Women’s March on Washington was a huge deal. Its crowds dwarfed the actual presidential inauguration by a wide margin and was a major success not just in the capital but also across the country, too. People were protesting and supporting as far as Anchorage and Antarctica, which is wild on many levels. Perhaps most importantly though was the response the march received worldwide. The current situation with the commander in chief is one that is of international importance. Here’s why people across the globe decided they wanted to join in.

Donald Trump is off and signing these days. On Monday, he banged out a couple of executive orders, one of which pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and put a hiring freeze on federal workers. There’s something particularly odd about the smug look on his face when signing these papers, as if the act of being able to do it is more important than what the actual piece of paper says. Seriously, what is the point of holding up a piece of paper you just signed? He also has a “I’m writing with a pen” face, which is kind of funny.

If you had to watch the Super Bowl in one city, which would it be? Houston? Because that’s where it’ll be. But I imagine that watching the game in Atlanta will probably be a blast, too. This matchup is also somewhat politically loaded. Everyone knows about the New England Patriots’ relationship with the president and we all remember how Trump decided to diss Rep. John Lewis, whose congressional district spans parts of Atlanta. All that aside, this game is likely to be a major shootout.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you want to get a good idea of how pervasive the concept of race is when it comes to law enforcement, check out this story about two police officers who tasered an official race relations adviser because they thought he looked like a wanted criminal. Unreal.

Snack Time: Don’t ever forget that Joe Biden is a savage in these political streets. My man cold punked Mike Pence to his face and didn’t even break stride. The former vice president’s photo-op game is next level.

Dessert: By the way, if you want to leave a comment for the White House, you must have internet now.

Draymond Green looks to raise racism awareness

The Golden State Warriors forward continues efforts with the R.I.S.E. initiative

6:00 PMIt’s been a pretty typical week in the life of Draymond Green. On Tuesday, he continued his time-honored tradition of finding a reason to flagrantly foul LeBron James, then antagonized folks about it on the way out. Draymond being Draymond, to an extent.

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after making a three-point shot against the Phoenix Suns during an NBA basketball game at ORACLE Arena on December 3, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors celebrates after making a 3-point shot against the Phoenix Suns during an NBA basketball game at Oracle Arena on Dec. 3, 2016, in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

But there’s another side to the physical Golden State Warriors forward. This week, he’s been wearing signature shoes to raise awareness against racial discrimination. The effort is in conjunction with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross’ initiative, R.I.S.E. (Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality), which according to its website is “harnessing the unifying power of sports to improve race relations and drive social progress.”

Green rocked the shoes, which feature the words “sideline racism” on them, during a game against the Phoenix Suns in the first week of December. That was the same week that many NFL players were allowed to wear custom cleats as part of the “My Cause My Cleats” program, which was created in conjunction with The Players’ Tribune. At the time, the Arizona Cardinals’ Tyrann Mathieu wore a pair of gold cleats that also read “sideline racism.”

Green originally wore his shoes in conjunction with MLK Day, but will continue his message Friday night against the Houston Rockets. The game airs at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN.

Sam Moore sings at Donald Trump inaugural concert

After much controversy, the R&B legend opened the musical acts

12:30 PMWhen Donald Trump began his inaugural concert on a gloomy Thursday night in Washington, D.C., a black man welcomed in the proceedings, from a musical standpoint. It was Sam Moore, half of the duo Sam & Dave, famous for their hits Hold On, I’m Comin and Soul Man from 1966 and 1967, respectively. After being introduced by actor Jon Voight, Moore sang America the Beautiful with a choir.

The performance was stirring, particularly for an 81-year-old man. But the real story came from looking at his backup singers, none of whom seemed able to manage a smile during the entire performance. As the camera panned across the stage, while they hit their notes with grace, very few appeared to be enjoying themselves. Overall, the entire vibe of the concert was a far cry from what we saw eight years ago, when Barack Obama was headed to the Oval Office.

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https://twitter.com/talljoy/status/822456820757397505

Moore’s performance was not without controversy as his route to getting on the bill directly involved another performer who backed out. After Jennifer Holliday decided she no longer wanted to be a part of the “Make America Great Again Welcome Celebration” after receiving death threats and other backlash, Moore asked if he could take her place, citing the criticism against her as unfair.

“I am not going to let them, the left side, intimidate me from doing what I feel is the right thing to do for the country and that [presidential] seal,” Moore told The New York Post‘s Page Six this week. ““He’s got a big mouth, like me. Whether you agree with him or not, he’s going to say what’s on his mind.”

Not everyone had a problem with it. Moore is an octogenarian from the Deep South, so it’s not entirely surprising that he would lend his talents to a conservative effort. Public disdain for his efforts was certainly far less visible than that reserved for Chrisette Michele, who was publicly rebuked by filmmaker Spike Lee for trying to defend her goal of performing at the event, on the grounds that she wanted to help unify the nation.

Michele did not end up performing Thursday night, but is reportedly going to be a part of the official inaugural ball Trump is holding Friday night. In a statement on her website, she channeled Martin Luther King Jr. “This country has had great moments. God has shined His light upon us,” she wrote. “Today, I hope that Great Moments begin in peaceful & progressive conversation. I am willing to be a bridge. I don’t mind ‘These Stones,’ if they allow me to be a voice for the voiceless. I am here. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about what matters.’ I am here, representing you, because this is what matters.”

Meanwhile, Kanye West was never asked to perform, because rap isn’t traditionally American enough, apparently. Welcome to 2017.

Daily Dose: 1/20/17

Donald Trump set to be sworn in as the president of the United States

10:00 AMIf you haven’t seen I Am Not Your Negro, it’s worth your time. I’ll have a review next week, but in the meantime, you can check out the official trailer of the Raoul Peck-directed film, that’s due out on Feb. 3.

Today, Donald J. Trump will become president of the United States. Over the past few days, I’ve gotten a lot of personal messages saying things to the effect that people can’t believe it’s actually real. No matter what you think of his politics or behavior, it’s still rather wild to think that someone with exactly zero political experience has been elected to the highest office in the land. There are guaranteed to be quite a few protests, but to give you an idea of where this administration is starting, Trump has asked at least 50 of President Barack Obama’s top appointees to stay.

Let’s not forget, the Women’s March is Saturday. According to most reports, there are far more people in Washington, D.C., for that event than there actually are for the man who’ll be taking up office at the White House. What’s interesting is that this event was created in direct contradiction to Trump. Basically, it’s the large portion of the people who would have been here had Hillary Clinton been elected. It’s made for an interesting mix of people on the ground already. Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s proceedings.

When it comes to the White House, it’s about more than just the president. At some point, it was speculated that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, might actually take up the formal duties of first lady, but it’s going to be his wife, Melania. Judging from her time with the media so far, it doesn’t apparently seem like this is a role she is going to relish, which is a far cry, at least publicly, from Michelle Obama. Take it from someone who wrote a book about the job, the former Slovenian model is going to have to do it, whether she wants to or not.

Expect to see a lot of athletes speaking up about politics today. Now that the line between politics and sports has been blurred again in many parts of the athletic landscape, it’s not a career killer to say how you feel anymore. One such person who’s never held back is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. On Thursday, he wrote a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter, analyzing what he thinks about the man who, at least nominally, is moving in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Check it out.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Supreme’s global dominance continues to advance. Oh, you didn’t think you needed to see another one of their collaborations with an otherwise legacy fashion brand? Because you did. This time, it’s Louis Vuitton, which is hilarious on many levels. Here’s how you can blow your cash on said wears, if you’re into that.

Snack Time: Don’t forget, Aziz Ansari is going to host Saturday Night Live this week and Big Sean will be the musical guest. Ansari is the first South Asian man to ever do it. The latest promo for the show is rather funny.

Dessert: Gorillaz dropped a new track for the first time in years. It’s well apropos to 2017.

Can a ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ remake succeed?

Blake Griffin’s production company looks to take it on

4:00 PMFull disclosure: Legendary sports filmmaker Ron Shelton’s White Men Can’t Jump is my favorite basketball movie of all time, and it’s not even close. When it was released, I had just turned 11 years old. Somehow, I managed to see it in the theater. As a result, it will always be a kid’s movie in my mind.

So, when Variety reported that Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, Carolina Panthers offensive lineman Ryan Kalil and Black-ish creator Kenya Barris planned to remake the buddy sports comedy, needless to say, it was good news. But then one thing occurred to me: This is going to be extremely difficult.

One Sheet movie poster advertises '

One-sheet movie poster advertises ‘White Men Can’t Jump’ (20th Century Fox), a basketball sports comedy starring Wesley Snipes, Woody Harrelson, Tyra Ferrell and Rosie Perez, Los Angeles, 1992. (Photo by John D. Kish/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images)

John D. Kisch/Separate Cinema Archive/Getty Images

When it comes to all the remakes, reboots and faraway sequels that we’ve seen in the past five years, almost none have touched a nearly sacrosanct genre: the 1990s sports kids movie. (Space Jam is the exception that makes that rule, which we’ll get to later.) The list is pretty solid. In baseball flicks alone, you’ve got a handful that are tremendous. The Mighty Ducks franchise was smart enough to immediately triple down. Others just didn’t necessarily lend themselves to further editions, because they were historically anchored: Rudy, A League of Their Own and Cool Runnings, for example. Big Green, Little Giants and Ladybugs didn’t create the merchandising or cultural footprint to garner a second look. Toss in a few straight-to-DVD sequels, and there’s really nothing else.

For White Men Can’t Jump, the bar for a remake is particularly high for two reasons. No. 1, it was rated R. Forget about sports movies, anything that wants to be a blockbuster these days barely gets above the PG-13 rating before its released. And once you move down to that level, you’re stripping away the most relevant cultural contribution the movie made to the world: trash-talking.

Personally, as a middle schooler, seeing the interaction between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson changed my entire world view as to what the fun part of sports was. The idea of everyday brothers just destroying people psychologically with their vocal game wasn’t new to me, I’d just never seen it in such explicit detail on film. More importantly, it was hilarious. From that day on, that was how I played everything. Loudly.

The second reason is obvious: the major premise. It just doesn’t work the same way anymore. The very concept of white guys not being able to dunk just doesn’t hold the same water it once did. Never mind winning NBA Dunk titles, while there’s still a reasonable stigma against white Americans specifically in a lot of basketball circles, at the highest level, getting crammed on by a nonblack person is old hat.

On a basic level, the storyline is just less believable because of basic basketball evolution. We’re not talking once-in-a-lifetime Tom Chambers-type stuff. These days, you can get banged on a by a white dude every night in the league if you’re not paying attention. For lack of a better term, in many ways, the novelty has been lost. But that certainly doesn’t mean that this movie can’t be great.

The question comes in whether this serves as a true remake, or effectively a generational sequel. The latter is probably the better idea, considering. What White Men Can’t Jump also added to the landscape was a plethora of cultural touchstones beyond basketball that were incredible. The flags of Ghana and the Sudan became household images. Caps on the court were suddenly more acceptable. We all should know what a quince is by now. Some of you might be able to hear Jimi Hendrix at this point. In retrospect, basketball was a backdrop for just an otherwise funny movie about what life in Southern California was like in the early ’90s.

But that’s also where it could shine. If Blake Griffin can find a way to maybe draw on his mixed race heritage and create a more modern storyline surrounding what it’s probably like to live in both worlds as a hoopster, then you’ve got a smartly updated plot that likely reflects something more along the lines of what we’re looking at in the world today. Griffin had just turned 3 years old when the original film was released, for what it’s worth. More of this and we’ll be good. 👇👇👇

To be clear, this isn’t some “keep your hands off my childhood memories” manifesto. Not remotely. This particular project has a higher degree of difficulty than most. Snipes and Harrelson weren’t unknowns when they made the original. It was actually the second sports movie they made together (Wildcats). Anyway, the reason why Space Jam works is because it was a movie that came out of the gate as a blockbuster. There were toys, clothes, a soundtrack to die for and everything else that a megamovie is supposed to have. Remaking it was just a matter of time.

“That movie [White Men Can’t Jump] changed [things]. Commercials went from Nike, slo-mo, special effects stuff, to the street,” Shelton said on The Nerdist podcast earlier this month. “From South Africa to Australia, I’ve received letters ever since. It changed the way kids on the street dressed. I’m proud of that.”

Recreating the magic of the OG version should not be the goal here. But using it as a springboard for another hilarious tale won’t be an easy task. Either way, we’re still going to Sizzler after we see it.

‘Ebony’ magazine goes big for February cover

Artist Kadir Nelson channels ‘American Gothic’

10:42 AM

The February issue of Ebony magazine’s cover is enough to make it a collector’s item. It comes courtesy of the hands of Kadir Nelson, the California artist whose given us multiple iconic paintings recently, namely for The New Yorker. It’s an adaptation of Grant Wood’s American Gothic, painted in 1930, one of the most popular works of art in this country’s history. It’s part and parcel of what many consider to be traditional Americana.

By subverting the original image to include a black family, Nelson turns the concept of what we consider traditional values. By harkening back to the farming motif of the 1930 painting, with the big-city skyscrapers deep in the background, it upends the oft-stated assertion that black people are just huddled masses wasting away in the dangerous, chaotic, so-called inner cities of America. Coupled with the headline “Yes, We Still Can,” an obvious nod to President Barack Obama’s original 2008 campaign slogan, it presents an image of unity that isn’t associated with pain.

[‘The New Yorker’: Kadir Nelson’s ‘A Day at the Beach’]

When it comes to visual themes and black families, establishing new standards for normalcy is important. The nod to the non-nuclear construct of this unit, in addition to a very dark-skinned man (with waves, no less!) is also an important touch. This is old hat for Nelson, but during a month in which someone who has openly antagonized quite a few black people in his time will be getting sworn in as president of the United States, it holds particular weight to be publicly displayed in retail locations.

The issue will feature thoughts from nine authors on what the new administration will bring. In an excerpt that Ebony posted online, Kirsten West Savali of The Root expressed concern about how state-sponsored violence, both physical and economic, will affect black communities.

“After eight years of President Barack Obama, the anesthesia of liberalism has worn off, and many Black Americans are experiencing sharp pains in anticipation of what lies ahead,” Savali wrote in a piece titled Revolutionary Black Love Will Keep Us Alive. “Our very existence in this clarifying political moment is evidence that the White settler colonial project known as the United States of America is still functioning exactly as intended. Black people have always been forced to navigate bayous of bigotry with a dexterity that defies belief. We have always been placed in the position of saving a country that hates us in order to negotiate our own survival.”

Jelani Cobb of The New Yorker explained via a brief history lesson regarding how a certain portion of this country’s population has reacted following a series of events that challenge the basic underpinnings of white supremacy that uphold most institutional discrimination and systemic prejudice.

“This is a climate in which a particular kind of reactionary mindset will be empowered,” Cobb wrote. “We’ve already seen the increase in hate crimes. Then there’s the prospect of what will happen to vulnerable poor people when Trump produces an economy that’s even more favorable to a small percentage at the top, which is the group he has represented his entire life.”

The issue is on newsstands now.

Daily Dose: 1/19/17

The first lady bids farewell to the White House

10:28 AMIf you want to get an idea of just how real things are going to be for the inauguration, when it comes to people feeling emboldened, take a look at this photo. It’s very real in the field.

We hate to keep harping on it, but the Obamas really are leaving the White House. It’s important because the lasting effect of having a black family in the most famous residence in the world is particularly palpable when they’re on the way out. We’ve been talking so much about President Barack Obama’s final moments at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., but for Michelle Obama, the person who transformed the way the whole place operated, it’s certainly sad, as well. On Wednesday, she posted a couple of farewell memories on Twitter.

If you don’t believe in climate change, lucky you. But various things around the globe give scientists an indication that temperatures are rising. You know, ice shelves breaking away and the like. Mind you, the U.S. has a president coming in who’s openly called the notion a “hoax.” Don’t forget, being wrong on this has catastrophic effects for us all. Water levels going up is just plainly not a good thing for anyone. Oh, and if you’re wondering, last year was the hottest on record. Just like the two before that.

We’re about a month away from the 2017 Academy Awards. Which means, if you’re looking for your film to win an Oscar, your advertising campaign better be close to getting into full swing. How does one do that? Well, the answer is obvious: with money. Of course, whenever things come down to this factor, it ceases to be about the merit of the films, and about who’s got the cash to put their movie ads in front of the most eyeballs. The question is: Who’s really trying to buy their way into a gold statue?

It’s clear that Barry Bonds has a lot of haters. The best hitter in the history of Major League Baseball somehow did not make it into the Hall of Fame on Wednesday, even though three players who undoubtedly had careers with much controversy regarding drug use of various kinds did get in. Bonds would have been a Hall of Famer long before his steroid allegations began, so to leave him out, at this point, is totally baffling. Anyways, aside from him, let’s take a look at who really won and lost this year when it comes to Cooperstown, New York.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Mike Pence, the incoming vice president, has long been vocal about his stance on supporting the LGBT community. So, some people decided to show up at his house and have a dance party outside to let him know how they feel and the scene was as fabulous as you think it would be.

Snack Time: It’s another sad day in the famous animals department. The grandmother of Harambe, Josephine, has died at the Miami Zoo. She was nearly 50 years old. They euthanized her in a manner they refer to as “humane.”

Dessert: There are some new Nike Air Force 1 models on the market. Would you rock these?