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

Daily Dose: 9/30/16

A week from being eligible to return to playing, Josh Gordon is entering rehab

2:00 PMIt’s the last day of September, which means Halloween is right around the corner. I already know who I’ll be dressing up as this year, and I’ll give you a hint. He’s the most famous backup quarterback in the NFL.

America’s most dangerous terrorist has been dead for five years. This is part of the headline of a story I couldn’t help but click on this morning. I thought I knew who the story was about, but I was wrong. Like many of you, I figured the article was about Osama bin Laden, who has, ironically, also been dead for five years. I know that because he was shot and killed during my senior year of high school, which at the time was a major victory for the Obama administration. “America’s most dangerous terrorist,” however, is not bin Laden, but American-born al-Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki. He was killed five years ago today, but his legacy has lived on as he’s inspired many terrorist attacks in the past few years. ABC News’ Lee Ferran reports.

One can only dream to get paid after retiring like Bobby Bonilla does. Every year, on July 1, the former New York Mets player’s name comes up for one reason and one reason only: Though he hasn’t played since 2001, he’s still getting paid — and I mean PAID — by his former team. In 1999, Bonilla signed a deferred contract with the Mets that will earn him a paycheck every year until 2035. This year, he made $1.19 million on July 1. So, how did Bonilla swing (no pun intended) this deal? FiveThirtyEight takes a look at the contract in the first installment of the new Contracts video series, while The Undefeated’s Ryan Cortes explains why Bonilla should be remembered for more.

Some people know more about fun than others. One of those people is Ben Fincham, a professor at the University of Sussex in England and the author of The Sociology of Fun. His job is literally to study and analyze the art of having fun, which is weird to think about, because “fun” is such a subjective concept. There’s no question, however, that some people seem to have more fun than others. When I was in college, the football team had a “Supervisor of Morale,” who I spent a day with for a story. VICE‘s Hannah Ewens spent a day with Fincham, the man she calls the “Professor of Fun.”

Josh Gordon has finally decided to seek help. Three years ago, the Cleveland Browns wide receiver caught 87 passes for 1,600-plus yards and nine touchdowns. For many people, Gordon was destined to be one of the NFL’s next great wideouts. But since that 2013 season, Gordon has proven to fit into the the classic, heartbreaking archetype of a player who has so much talent, but can’t seem to put it all together off the field. He only played five games in 2014 because of a DWI, missed the entire 2015 season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy and was also suspended for the first four games of this season. Gordon was eligible to return to the field next week, but announced Thursday that he’d be entering rehab. As much as we’d all like to see him suit up again, you have to commend him for confronting his problems and getting help. ESPN’s Pat McManamon has the story.

Free Food

Coffee Break: With the start of the NBA season less than a month away, it’s beginning to sink in that the Golden State Warriors, with the addition of Kevin Durant in the offseason, just might shape up to be the best shooting team of all time. Though it’s just practice footage, check out 75 seconds of Durant and Klay Thompson straight splashing jumpers.

Snack Time: Deshaun Watson vs. Lamar Jackson this weekend. Nuff said.

Dessert: Relationship Pettiness 101, taught by Rob Kardashian and Blac Chyna.

Daily Dose: 9/29/16

Dateline, Southern California — the protests continue

11:58 AMIf you’re in New York City on Thursday, you might want to check out this Ad Week panel I’ll be moderating with The Undefeated’s Editor-In-Chief Kevin Merida, actor/activist Jesse Williams and Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad.

You can add “pointing a vape at an officer” to the list of things that will get you killed if you’re black in America these days. That’s what happened in a town outside of San Diego, where a woman called the police because her brother had been acting strange and she needed help. A confrontation ensued, and by the time it was done, Alfred Okwera Olango, 38, ended up dead. Per usual, the video of the aftermath is heartbreaking. She explains that she knew his behavior was a death sentence. It shouldn’t be, though. ABC News reports.

On many levels, the Olympics are a complete boondoggle. The International Olympic Committee has managed to take this racket to some of the most vibrant cities across the globe, leaving a bunch of old equipment and failed housing projects in their wake. Ask Sochi, ask Brazil. Ask Sarajevo, for crying out loud. In this latest cycle, officials in Rome pulled out of the running for the 2024 Games, because they determined it just probably wasn’t a smart move. Meanwhile, Tokyo has already been awarded the 2020 Olympics. Experts say it’ll cost the country (ahem) $30 billion. Yikes.

I fear that one day, my life will consist of me sitting in a room, being entertained only by screens. This is pretty much how I spend my days now, but at least on the other end of those screens are typically actual human beings. These days, though, you never know. Algorithms and bots control quite a few aspects of life, including, unfortunately, your news intake. But what if we used those powers for good, instead of scaring people about imminent robot takeovers? FiveThirtyEight’s Laura Hudson explains.

The Dallas Cowboys have become the real-life version of some team in HBO’s Ballers. After last week’s win against the hapless Chicago Bears, wide receiver Dez Bryant was reported as hurt with a knee injury. So, aside from annoying the heck out of fantasy football players across the country, his coach and team were a tad concerned, since he’s a key part of the team’s offense. One problem, he decided to skip treatment day. He was supposed to get an MRI that day. Um, shady. ESPN’s Todd Archer reports.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you ever wonder why people protest, why it makes sense beyond what you can understand, make sure your eyes are open enough to see everything. Check out this video of a guy in a gorilla mask harassing Black Lives Matter demonstrators on a college campus.

Snack Time: It appears that Jon Favreau will be remaking Lion King. This doesn’t bother me at all, considering that this movie was actually good. The only problem will be trying to recreate the music, which is excellent.

Dessert: Villanova is going to be looking VERY fresh on the court this season.

The Weeknd drops ‘Starboy’ video

and we now know that the old him is never coming back

4:45 PM

The Weeknd’s new personality as a mashup between Michael Jackson and Bruce Wayne is only getting started. On Wednesday, the Toronto native dropped the first video for the title track of his new album Starboy that features Daft Punk. In it, it’s clear that the old him is definitely behind us.

For a song that’s already dripping with symbolism between the lyrics and the cover art, the video takes things to the next level. Director Grant Singer is definitely on one with his latest visual from the XO artist’s arsenal. He also brought you The Hills, I Can’t Feel My Face and Tell Your Friends. But back to the show.

It starts off with a dramatic murder of what is ostensibly the old Abęl Makkonen Tesfaye, dreads and all on one side of the table. On the other, a masked man who eventually binds and suffocates the dreadlocked character. The struggle is real, then off comes the mask. We then see the new sleeker, definitively more active Weeknd, who proceeds to violently destroy the physical awards in the dead man’s house with a shining neon cross. There appears to be nothing particularly allegorical about it. The Weeknd’s old self, and what we did to him as a star in this business, created the new him.

The new him doesn’t give a damn. That’s why he’s driving a superhero-level sports car I’ll never be able to afford that apparently turns kittens into full-blown black panthers. The games are over.

Of all the apparently deeply personal lyrics on this song, the most poignant seems to be “look what you’ve done,” in the chorus. Maybe when he first emerged in 2011 as the eerie crooner whose tales of sex, drugs and deceit, he never thought it could change him. Maybe after he found himself catching flak for dating a young supermodel, then the center of a Super Bowl ad campaign, it became too much.

It seems if you’re a Canadian artist these days, there’s only so many darling compliments you can take before you go full bad boy. But compared to Justin Bieber and Drake, what The Weeknd is doing it for the culture better than the rest. I guess he really does come alive in the falltime.

Chance The Rapper to play at White House Christmas tree lighting

It’s going to be lit, and we’re not talking about the tree

4:00 PM

Last week, Tennessee State University’s band took to the White House’s South Lawn and as part of a medley played Chance The Rapper’s No Problem. It was a rousing rendition that left this reporter speechless, as I never thought I’d hear a band like that, playing a song like that, in a place like that. Now, come holiday time, fans can get the real thing.

Alongside singers Yolanda Williams and Kelly Clarkson, Young Chano will be performing at the White House’s annual National Christmas Tree Lighting on Dec. 1. Of course, it won’t be his first time there. Remember that time he told talk show host Ellen DeGeneres about his time getting drunk there? Yeah, that was fun. The ticket lottery begins Oct. 7.

This event looks fun, but will also likely be the official end of saying “it’s lit” as Lame Twitter is going to beat that meme into the ground once, you know, the actual tree is lit, if you will. I hate that I even have to think about that bit flooding my timeline.

Anyways, if we get a Chance Christmas album out of this, we’ll all be better off.

Daily Dose: 9/28/16

Would you follow this man all the way to Mars?

11:59 AMTalked on TV on Tuesday, a bit with Lindsay Czarniak about Serena Williams’ powerful Facebook post in which she detailed a situation riding in the car with her nephew. Probably will again today, too.

Even Fox News was willing to admit that Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in the debate. But we don’t know if poll numbers will indicate that the GOP presidential candidate suffered from his rambling, condescending performance at Hofstra University. Judging from the amount of people who showed up to a rally outside of Orlando, Florida, the next day — on a tarmac, no less — Florida Republicans apparently aren’t that concerned. FiveThirtyEight’s politics team chats about whether or not the polls may be missing certain factors.

Let’s be clear: Whether more people are getting shot by police is not the point. The fact is that more of these encounters are being recorded, which sheds light on an increasing number of encounters that otherwise people would be forced to trust the word of authorities on. In Washington, D.C., the Metropolitan Police Department just released a heartbreaking body-cam video of Terrence Sterling’s final moments. Now, in California, there’s more footage of a man shot and killed by officers after he pulled an item from his pocket and pointed it at police.

Elon Musk legitimately wants to send people to Mars. How this is even a thing still boggles my mind, but apparently people are up for it. Legit, there are relatively long lines of folks who would be willing to get on a spacecraft to a planet that they might not get to return from. The idea is that if something goes catastrophically wrong on Earth, we might have something that could be of interest to you on the red planet. I wonder how many black people have signed up. On Tuesday, SpaceX revealed the details of its plan. ABC News reports.

LeBron James is no spring chicken anymore. The man came into the league 13 years ago, and has played in the playoffs in all but three of those seasons, going to the NBA Finals nearly half of those times, never mind a couple of Olympic tournaments, as well. Point being, now that Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett are out of the league, King James is likely looking at the final stretch of what’s been an incredible career in the league. It’s not over yet, but with training camp coming up, he’s certainly thinking about it. ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports.

Free Food

Coffee Break: We’ve got some news on the movie front. First, the film adaptation of Fences, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis finally has a trailer, which is tremendous. Also, Jessica Williams has got things poppin’ now that she’s left The Daily Show. She’s got a new film in development, which we can’t wait for.

Snack Time: The music world is mourning the loss of Kashif, the singer and producer whose work with Whitney Houston is what he’s probably most famous for, though he also helped shape the sound of R&B for a generation. He was 56.

Dessert: Desus & Mero finally has a start date. This show is going to be completely off the chain.

Serena Williams breaks her silence

In powerful Facebook post, Williams addresses police brutality

6:00 PMFor her whole career, Serena Williams’ excellent existence in tennis has been an exercise in activism. Her entire approach to not just her appearance, but her physical game is a demonstration of blackness that turned the tennis world on its head and completely reshaped how America viewed not just black athletes, but black women in general. She has never been shy on speaking her mind or boycotting tournaments, and Tuesday she took to Facebook to address a matter very personal to her.

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As protests about the treatment of people of color by police officers spread from the NFL all the way down to the middle school level across the country, Williams’ voice is the most powerful. San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has handled the spark he created masterfully, but is still ultimately a backup quarterback. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, when asked about the state of America, took a similar tact to Williams’ — calling his own family into the discussion.

“It’s a scary thought right now to think if my son gets pulled over, and you tell your kids if you just [comply], and you just listen to the police that they will be respectful and things will work itself out,” James said. “And you see these videos that continue to come out. It’s a scary-ass situation that if my son calls me and said he’s been pulled over, that I’m not that confident that things are going to go well and that my son is going to return home.”

While the NBA is a global league from a culture standpoint and the NFL is the biggest sport in the United States, Williams’ situation is in a different echelon. Her platform, because of the sport she plays and her popularity in general, enters a sphere that few active players in team sports can reach. We’re talking about a woman who crip-walked at the All England Club after winning an Olympic gold medal.

“I am a total believer that not ‘everyone’ is bad. It is just the ones that are ignorant, afraid, uneducated and insensitive that is affecting millions and millions of lives,” she wrote. “But I realized we must stride on — for it’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go. I than wondered than have I spoken up? I had to take a look at me. What about my nephews? What if I have a son and what about my daughters? As Dr. Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.’ ”

Monday was her 35th birthday. The feeling and personal reflection in that post is palpable and poignant. There are people who believe that perhaps her tennis career is winding down. But she’s still got the behemoth that is Nike on her side and a human side that her fans adore and others are forced to respect. When she talks, people listen. No matter the language. If Williams sets her sights on taking her activism to the next level, both on the court and off, the movement gets a signal boost that no one else can provide.

Daily Dose: 9/27/16

Lester Holt gets his close-up at the presidential debate

1:00 PMI’ll be in New York City for most of the week, so for your purposes, imagine that I’m writing this from a lovely abode in Queens, not the Starbucks that I’m currently sitting in with a guy clipping his nails next to me.

So, that happened. On Monday night, the first presidential debate went down on Long Island and let’s just say that there were a lot of interruptions. Dressed in all red, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton laid a trap on national television for Republican nominee Donald Trump to walk right into. Not only did he do that, but he did so with boisterous gusto, effectively claiming that he knows traps because his people have the best traps. Alas, that’s not how traps work. Trump didn’t get any help from moderator Lester Holt, either. The vice president candidates disagreed on the outcome, but here’s the analysis.

Speaking of Lester Holt, there’s the whole matter of moderating. The NBC News anchor lost control relatively early, and had trouble regaining it by the time things really got hairy. He let Trump slide on one too many outbursts, so by the time he was really on the ropes, the desperation was so palpable that he was going to talk over any moderator on earth. But, then again, the job is not easy, because you don’t want to make it seem like it’s all about you. VICE‘s Harry Cheadle explores what the job is like.

We haven’t forgotten about you, Charlotte, North Carolina. While the police there are busy deleting tweets and not turning on body cameras, Monday night at a city council meeting, things came to a head. Residents showed up en masse to discuss the recent shooting of Keith Lamont Scott. It’s worth noting that there’s a law that will be taking effect Oct. 1 that will force a court order to get police videos released. At first, some thought authorities were going to stall until that could take effect, but people are still unhappy with what they did divulge. ABC News reports.

The NBA season is coming up and Monday was media day. People around the league were asked what they thought about the situation regarding San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich thinks that, overall, our ability to have conversations in this country is at an all-time low. Of course, Cleveland Cavalier LeBron James addressed the matter, as well, but didn’t necessarily go as far as some thought he might. He says he plans to continue to stand for the national anthem once the season starts, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin reports.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Gucci Mane and Harmony Korine have a pretty good bond. The two worked together on the 2013 film Spring Breakers and now are teaming up again. In a recent interview with GQ, the recently released from jail rapper from Atlanta revealed that he’ll be in a new film called The Trap. Obviously.

Snack Time: There are few things Lupita Nyong’o can’t do. Aside from her on-screen talents, she’s just an awesome person who seems like she’d be a really good friend. Also, she can rap a little bit, which always comes in handy.

Dessert: When they make a movie about this guy, it’s going to be awesome.

‘Please Forgive Me’ is not worth your time

unless you’re really into Drake’s action-hero, savior complex

6:32 PMDrake’s acting range keeps staying the same, but his short films keep getting longer. His latest foray into the “Aubrey saves woman from a band of goons” genre is a 20-plus minute oeuvre directed and written by Anthony Mandler titled Please Forgive Me. It’s shot beautifully, but the story is weak, the dialogue is even worse and ultimately you feel like the 6 God is trying to angle his way into a role in Bad Boys For Life.

This started back in 2010, when the Find Your Love video dropped. Also directed by Mandler, it featured a storyline that had the artist pursuing a girl dating a gang leader. The premise didn’t exactly make everyone in Jamaica (where it was shot) happy. Officials thought it portrayed their country in an overly negative light. People took it with a grain of salt and made a bunch of jokes about how “Wheelchair Jimmy,” his character for so many years on Degrassi, had finally grown up.

In 2013, it was Hold On, We’re Going Home that kept up this character of Drake being the sensitive lover who has no choice but to dabble in the thug world to meet the good girl — more on that later — he must save. That time it was set in 1980s-era Miami. It was a lengthier departure from the previous storyline although the theme was similar. There were cameos galore and we got to see Drake talking on a rotary phone. On the “did we need this scale,” it clocked in at unnecessary.

Now that it’s 2016, we’ve evolved to not only Apple Music, where it was released, but also a multisong soundtrack. There’s even a performance at one point. The plot is somewhere between Indecent Proposal and Belly, with a random photo shoot in the middle for Belgian model Fanny Neguesha. It’s sexy and serious and all the other things that a good vanity project needs to be.

It’s just not very good. There are long pregnant pauses in the acting, a bunch of lengthy panning shots of the star. Then we’re back to the squad in all-black, and this time Drake’s gun game is a little stronger. But again, what is with this persona? Back before he fully went nuts on the rap game and was just a kid on a show in Toronto living with his mom, he rapped this:

I been a mess since every girl I left went
and a got a new man but I’m the new version of Fresh Prince
and the beds got bunked for real, I switch wifeys every season like Uncle Phil

If he genuinely wants to reignite his acting career and take a career path along the lines of Will Smith, it’s probably time to get himself a part in a real flick — not just play parts in his own videos that emulate fantasies he’s had since that old basement apartment. He’s better than this.

FIFA disbands anti-racism task force

under the assertion that the group’s work is done

4:17 PMRacism is no longer a problem in soccer. At least, that’s according to FIFA, which made a decision to disband its anti-racism task force, established in 2013 by then-president Sepp Blatter. In a hilarious twist that only FIFA could manage, the association handed out its first-ever diversity award Monday to an Indian nongovernmental organization named Slum Soccer. You can’t make this stuff up.

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FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura claims that the program had its goals, met those goals and now is implementing them. Her hiring alone was an indicator of FIFA’s progress in matters related to diversity (she’s the first African to hold the position), but let’s be real. Fighting for diversity and continuing practices on inclusion are not issues that exist in a static vacuum. It’s an ongoing institutional function that touches more than just heads of federations, but trickles down to the crowd experience and even youth level academies.

Russia, the nation scheduled to host the 2022 men’s World Cup, was nearly kicked out of Euro 2016 because its fans were so out of control, with racist insults at players among the many reasons. One club is playing in an empty stadium in the Champions League as a result of racism, as well. To disband the very committee ostensibly formed to address these types of issues on a global scale — all while handing out an inaugural award highlighting your own efforts in diversity — is laughable. And no one is buying it.

“Never has the need to combat racism and racial discrimination been more evident than it is in the world we live in today … it is not something that any governing body with any semblance of responsibility can downplay or deny,” Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, who has run for president of FIFA twice, said of the matter. He also called the decision “shameful.”

Even people on the committee were surprised. “I wish I could say that I am shocked by the decision, but unfortunately I am not,” Osasu Obayiuwana, a task force member said to The Associated Press. “The problem of racism in football remains a burning, very serious and topical one, which needs continuous attention.”

Just when you thought they were making headway by trying to get rid of the bad apples who created the corruptness within the system in which they work, this crops up, reminding all footy fans across the globe that it’s going to take a lot more than just levying fines and trying to throw a couple of people in jail to untangle the web of foolishness that FIFA has created.

Daily Dose: 9/26/16

The big night is finally here

1:40 PMOn Friday, I had the pleasure of going to The White House for the first time in my life. As it turned out, it was quite the day to be there, between the band and the guest list. What a weekend it was.

Monday night’s the night. We’ll finally get to see Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump face off in a debate, and it promises to be wild. They’ll be at Hofstra University, sort of home turf for both candidates, who’ve spent quite a bit of time in New York, obviously. Personally, I think this could be a royal disaster for Trump, who doesn’t necessarily do well with facts and respectful exchanges of ideas. NBC’s Lester Holt will moderate. Here are five things to watch for Monday at 9 p.m.

Speaking of presidents, there’s still the one in office. For all of the criticism President Barack Obama has received, there are certain things that he has actually accomplished, aside from just reelection and being the coolest resident of the White House, ever. As it turns out, he’s been decently effective at ending one of this country’s largest and most difficult problems: income inequality. FiveThirtyEight’s Ben Casselman explains.

When Jon Stewart left The Daily Show, it left a huge hole in the late-night television world. Comedy Central took the opportunity to hire a comedian of color, specifically South African Trevor Noah. He was never going to fill Stewart’s shoes in a day, a month, or even a year, but the way the program has evolved is interesting. Of course, Larry Wilmore’s Nightly Show was canceled, but Noah’s bringing all the blackness. VICE profiled the late-night star.

Paul Pierce is going to play one more season in the NBA. Here’s the thing about Pierce: Ever since he got into the NBA, he was a confident player who knew what he could do. It took him a while to really get the respect he deserved among fans, but when people realized, it was on. It’s tough to see him announce his retirement tour, because he’s not a guy who’s going to be getting a ton of minutes, anyway. It’ll be his 19th season and his last.

Free Food

Coffee Break: No. 1, I had no idea that Pharrell was married. No. 2, I had no clue that he had children. No. 3, I have also learned that his kid’s name is Rocket, which is perfectly tremendous. Now, the family is expecting a new addition. Please get them a reality show.

Snack Time: Police in Danville, Virginia, are getting rather brazen with how they choose to do their jobs. Check out these photos of squad cars putting their hoods up to block dashcams.

Dessert: If you’ve got $300,000 lying around, you might want to bid on this insane vinyl collection.