Live from Sundance: Tonya Lewis Lee on why she created a ‘Monster’
The producer — and wife of the iconic Spike Lee — has the hottest film at the nation’s largest film festival
6:34 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Tomorrow is a big day for Tonya Lewis Lee and her team: The Jan. 22 premiere of Monster happens at the Sundance Film Festival, and it’s one of the most anticipated films in Park City. That makes her nervous — “It’s like [people] haven’t seen the movie yet! How do [they] know?!” — but it most certainly also makes her feel good.
Monster is a film that she’s been hoping to get made for a dozen years. There have been a bunch of starts and stops, and finally, here we are. The cast is stellar: Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson, A$AP Rocky, Nas and Kelvin Harrison Jr. are all part of the film, and it’s helmed by Anthony Mandler in his directorial debut. Mandler is best known for his frequent video collaborations with Rihanna, and he has also collaborated on video projects with Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Usher and Lana Del Rey, among many others. The script is based on the novel of the same name by Walter Dean Myers and was written for the screen by Hampton University’s own Colen C. Wiley and award-winning playwright Janece Shaffer.
And the film’s concept feels very ripped from today’s headlines.
“It’s about a 17-year-old black boy who makes one bad decision and is looking at, potentially, his life being thrown away forever,” Lewis Lee says while sitting in a Park City gallery, one of the many spaces that brands have taken over for the duration of the festival. “For me, I have children and I have a boy, and when I read the book I was so moved. It’s so creatively written … I fell in love with it. This was a chance to tell a story that we don’t often see on film.
“Monster is an opportunity to contribute a dramatic story about a brown boy coming of age that could impact not only the way people look at brown boys but potentially our criminal justice system,” says Lee. “Maybe we can change the way kids are locked up. Maybe we can change the over-sentencing of juveniles. We had to stay with it and make it happen.”
This project — her Tonik Productions teamed with John Legend’s Get Lifted Film Co. and Bron Studios to produce this drama — is in line with the mission-driven work she adores. “And I’m unapologetic about that,” Lewis Lee says. “I am blessed to be in a position to create content and media. I feel a real responsibility to create something that moves the human condition forward in a positive way. I hope in the work that I do it’s entertaining, but that we’re getting messages out there to impact our world and make it better.”
Toward the back of the gallery space is a makeshift photo studio, and people like director Anthony Hemingway are coming in for portraits. This year, the festival has a record 39 projects that either feature black people as the first, second or third lead, or has a black director, black producers or black writers. This is a moment, and everyone here is buzzing about it.
Lewis Lee, who is married to iconic director Spike Lee, is happy that there’s much to celebrate in Black Hollywood these days. But, she cautions, there’s still so much more work to do. “When Spike started making movies, there weren’t that many people out there doing it. To his credit, he was like if I’m getting through the door, I’m bringing a whole lot of people with me,” she says. “And he’s done that. And those people have brought people. So here we are now in a moment where young people can look to my husband and his colleagues and say, Oh My God! If they can do that, I can do that.” She says that people are seeing now that there is a path.
“I look at people like Issa Rae. … Going back to Spike, Issa will tell you the ’90s formed who she is … to how she can be here. I look at Justin Simien (creator of Dear White People) — that’s a direct line. In terms of women and black people, we have come a long way. We have a long way to go, but it’s exciting to get our voices out there and tell our stories.”
And the stories are robust. Many of the black projects being shown at Sundance this season tap into racism, however nuanced or overt, and the current political climate. “I think we’re trying to grapple with the issues of our time,” says Lewis Lee, who next is working on a film about the Fisk Jubilee Singers. “John Legend said, ‘Preparation meets opportunity.’ And we are prepared. And we’re getting a chance to talk about the issues of our time in a really wonderful way.”
Sundance previews ‘Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G.’
Will it have the same vibe as FX’s award-winning ‘People v. O.J. Simpson’?
8:15 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — Before the start of the panel about Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G., a limited series coming to USA Networks on Feb. 27, a DJ blasted tracks that made both of the legendary rappers household names. More than 20 years after the genre-lifting rappers were killed, people are still celebrating, dancing and rapping along to the music that soundtracked much of the 1990s. “We get to see what we’ve rarely gotten to see, which is the friendship between Biggie and Tupac,” said director and executive producer Anthony Hemingway, who shared Emmy victories for The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. Also on the panel was showrunner Kyle Long, co-producer/music supervisor Lyah Leflore, Josh Duhamel (L.A. to Vegas, Call of Duty WWII) Marcc Rose (Tupac) and Wavyy Jonez (Big).
Before the start of the conversation, guests viewed an amazing never-before-seen trailer. “We get to see them from a young age,” said Hemingway. “We deal with Biggie before he was a celebrity. We get to learn who they were as artists and get to see their pain.”
Actor Duhamel said his series is done very much in the vein of People v. OJ. While in college, he rushed home daily to watch the real-life courtroom drama, and because of that he thought he knew everything about O.J. — but was blown away by the FX because he realized how much he didn’t know. “Even those who grew up on the rappers’ music,” said Duhamel, “and were around during the times of their deaths will be astounded at all that they discover [in this series].”
John Legend at Sundance: ‘We need to humanize the young people’
‘Even when they make mistakes,’ he says of the new film, ‘Monster,’ ‘they’re worthy of our grace.’
6:35 PMPARK CITY, UTAH — At a Saturday afternoon panel discussion, Blackhouse Foundation leader Brickson Diamond touted the record 39 black projects being featured at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Behind him, John Legend, Tonya Lewis Lee and moderator Jason George (Grey’s Anatomy; chair of SAG-AFTRA’s Diversity Advisory Committee) applauded along with the standing-room-only crowd — which included black-ish creator and Girls Trip co-writer Kenya Barris. This was a moment. Never have so many black projects been a part of the film festival.
This specific panel was set to discuss the hotly anticipated film Monster. Based on Walter Dean Myers’ award-winning novel of the same name, the film is about a creatively gifted black teen who is accused of a crime he says he did not commit — and who endures an unrelenting criminal justice system. Lewis Lee and Nikki Silver produced. “We were looking for partners who were invested in social justice issues. … [That] led us to John Legend,” Lewis Lee said of the Grammy-, Tony- and Oscar-winning Legend.
Legend, an executive producer of Monster, said from the stage that the project is in line with a mission close to his heart. “Once I read the script, I was on the edge of my seat,” he said. “I was super into what was happening on the page. I spend a lot of time thinking about mass incarceration, and how we end mass incarceration, in America. We’re the only country in the world that puts our kids in solitary confinement. … We need to humanize the young people. We need to … even when they make mistakes, they’re worthy of our grace, our consideration and our love. We failed to protect them from trauma. This film is about … is a kid allowed to make mistakes? Is a kid allowed to be a kid?”
Monster’s ensemble cast includes Kelvin Harrison Jr. (The Birth of A Nation), Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls), John David Washington (Ballers), Jeffrey Wright (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Jennifer Ehle (Zero Dark Thirty), A$AP Rocky (Dope), Nas (The Get Down) and Tim Blake Nelson (Fantastic Four). Other panelists included director Anthony Mandler, writer Cole Wiley, Silver, Mike Jackson, Aaron L. Gilbert and Kelvin Harrison Jr., the film’s star.
Paul George debuts his second signature sneaker — the Nike PG2
The OKC Thunder star broke them out on Saturday vs. the Cavs
3:29 PMNike just delivered a PG-13 sequel.
Nearly a year after presenting Paul George with his first signature sneaker — the PG1, which he donned on the court for the first time on Jan. 12, 2017 — the brand is back with the Nike PG2. On Saturday, George, the Oklahoma City Thunder’s 27-year-old star swingman, unveiled his new kicks in a matchup against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The thing I can do is go after the best players in our league and shut them down in the shoes. That’s the goal. That’s going to be the best way to highlight the PG2 and show all what they can do performance-wise,” George says in a Nike press release. “I got my hands full, but I got the right shoes for the job.”
Nike’s Tony Hardman, the designer behind the PG1, returned to craft the second installment of George’s shoe. Together, they came up with five rules to ensure that the PG2 influenced both basketball and sneaker culture:
- Take it Beyond Basketball
- Give it an Edge
- Fine Tune, Then Fine Tune Again
- Design for the Next Generation
- Let Performance Do The Talking
The PG2 features an improved overall fit through a more traditional tongue construction than what was used on the PG1, as well as new technology developed by Hardman in the form of “dynamic wings” on the shoe’s forefront. The launch color highlights George’s persona as an avid video gamer, with specific design elements nodding to Playstation, his favorite console, reflected throughout the shoe, including a light-up tongue.
“We worked directly with the PlayStation team on every aspect of this shoe,” says Hardman. “One thing that they provided, which was really cool, was the starry graphic from the dynamic theme that will be available for your PlayStation 4 with a code from the shoe. It’s a beautiful graphic, so we made it the sock liner.”
The limited-edition PlayStation colorway of the Nike PG2 will be available at retail on Feb. 10.
With new songs, Drake says his ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ is all in ‘God’s Plan’
Drake’s sabbatical appears to be officially over
2010 was when I lost my halo/ 2017, I lost a J-Lo / A-Rod a damn trip, had me on front page though/ I had to lay low.
Drake, “Diplomatic Immunity”
Call Drake a man of his word. The final lyrics on 2017’s More Life set the stage for this very moment. Maybe getting back to my regular life will humble me, Drake rhymes on “Do Not Disturb.” I’ll be back 2018 to give you the summary … More Life.
And that’s exactly what happened. With the pre-midnight drop of two new songs, “God’s Plan” and “Diplomatic Immunity,” Drake’s musical sabbatical is coming to a close. The two-song project is dubbed Scary Hours, and the records are, in fact, his first official solo releases since last year’s Life. The lone exception is “Signs,” which even then was a record created specifically for Louis Vuitton’s Spring-Summer ’18 collection.
What these records signify, only Drake and the OVO conglomerate truly know. But in the near decade since his third mixtape, So Far Gone, made him a household name, one reality has always remained steady: The guy does nothing without a purpose. And with the Grammys set for next weekend in New York City, best believe the timing isn’t a coincidence. Drake’s been musically quiet for a while now — it could be that he wants his spot back.
Allen Greene to serve as Auburn’s first black athletic director
The former Buffalo AD will be the third black AD in SEC history
3:31 PMAuburn on Friday introduced Allen Greene as the university’s 15th athletic director, making him the first African-American AD in school history and the third ever in the Southeastern Conference.
Greene, 40, served in the same role at the University at Buffalo since 2015 and worked in the athletic department at Ole Miss from 2009-12. He joins Vanderbilt’s David Williams II and former Georgia athletic director Damon Evans as the only black ADs in SEC history.
This hiring brings the number of black athletic directors in the Power 5 conferences (ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC) to 12, including 11 men and one woman:
- Boston College: Martin Jarmond
- Florida State: Stan Wilcox
- Virginia: Carla Williams (the lone black woman)
- Maryland: Damon Evans (interim)
- Michigan: Warde Manuel
- Ohio State: Gene Smith
- Arizona State: Ray Anderson
- California: H. Michael Williams
- USC: Lynn Swann
- Stanford: Bernard Muir
- Auburn: Allen Greene
- Vanderbilt: David Williams II
Outside of the Big 12, which has zero, each Power 5 conference has at least two black athletic directors. These 12 men and women represent 18.4 percent of the 65 athletic director jobs in the Power 5.
The numbers are not set in stone. California’s H. Michael Williams plans to step down from his position in May. Evans, serving on an interim basis at Maryland since October, may replace an outgoing black athletic director (Kevin Anderson), much like Carla Williams did at Virginia (Craig Littlepage).
Auburn president Steven Leath said Greene had “the right combination of leadership, enthusiasm, experience and management to lead Auburn Athletics to success well into the future.”
N.C. A&T football team didn’t get White House invitation
so there’s nothing to decline, according to the school
11:33 AMContrary to what the internet said in a Thursday night Instagram post, the North Carolina A&T football team didn’t turn down an invitation to visit the White House.
The school and the team never got an invitation to turn down in the first place.
“I am not aware of an official invite from the White House to the football team,” according to N.C. A&T sports information director Brian Holloway.
Just-retired football coach Rod Broadway also told The Undefeated that he knows nothing of an invitation and has nothing further to say on the matter.
S0me folks might have thought an invitation was issued after the undefeated Aggies’ 12-0 season and Celebration Bowl win over Grambling State in December.
In November, 18 different NCAA championship teams visited the White House. Both the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball champions, the North Carolina men’s team and South Carolina’s women’s squad, declined.
Ready for a ‘Swaecation’? Rae Sremmurd star Swae Lee confirms solo debut
Fresh off the duo’s gig narrating the NFL Playoffs, Swae preps a spring soundtrack
This will be Swaecation Vol 1 as well as some on melodies on SremmLife 3 know I won’t leave you guys hanging 💪🏽 https://t.co/codMLn2egb
— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@goSwaeLee) January 18, 2018
Definitely in like less than a month confirmed
— Swae Lee Lee Swae (@goSwaeLee) January 18, 2018
Swae Lee’s announcement winds up a very productive 2017 for both him and his partner-in-rhyme, Slim Jxmmi. They are currently the official narrators of the NFL playoffs, with 12 different ads airing nationally on TV and the web. Swae continues to reap the benefits of well-placed musical drops too. His standout appearance on Jhene Aiko’s “Sativa” only whet fans’ appetites for more. His definitive moment came with a feature on French Montana’s international hit “Unforgettable“—undeniably one of last year’s best songs, with over half a billion YouTube views.
With a catalog that includes his own hit records and songs he’s written for other artists — like Beyoncé’s “Formation,” for example — this is a hugely anticipated project. But Swaecation doesn’t spell the end of Rae Sremmurd. SremmLife3 is in production, as Swae confirms. He’s releasing his album just ahead of festival season, though, and with Migos’ Culture II on the way, fests, day parties, cookouts and kickbacks are already heating up.
‘Grown-ish’ gets early renewal for expanded second season of 20 episodes
Yara Shahidi got the news Thursday night in Los Angeles
6:35 AMIt’s back-to-school time already. After only four episodes, the Grown-ish cast and crew finds out that next semester, so to speak, is a done deal. Grown-ish creator Kenya Barris surprised Yara Shahidi with the news at the Freeform Summit in Los Angeles. And the second season? Twenty episodes, up from its freshman 13. Per The Hollywood Reporter, “the show’s Jan. 3 … premiere ranked as the younger-skewing cable network’s best comedy launch in five and a half years.”
NBA All-Stars will have plenty in reserve
We project how the rosters will fill out
There are seven reserve roster spots each in the Western and Eastern Conference, which include three frontcourt players, two guards and two wild cards. The NBA head coaches will vote for the reserves in their respective conferences next week.
The reserves will be announced on Jan. 23 to applause and criticism. It’s inevitable, especially in the deep-in-talent West, that some deserving players won’t make the cut.
For the first time in NBA All-Star Game history, the leading fan vote-getters from each conference (Cleveland’s LeBron James in the East and Golden State’s Stephen Curry in the West) will serve as captains and draft players for their teams, regardless of conference. Each captain’s first four selections must come from the pool of remaining starters. As the top overall finisher in fan voting, James will make the first pick, then Curry. The All-Star Game takes place Feb. 18 at Staples Center.
The West starters announced Thursday: Curry and his Golden State teammate Kevin Durant, Houston’s James Harden, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.
The East starters: James, Boston’s Kyrie Irving, Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan, Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.
This is how we project the coaches, who have a history of leaning toward winning teams, will fill out the reserves:
Forward: DrayMOND GREEN, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
Stats: 11.1 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.3 blocks
Comment: The 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year is still playing at a top level. Green does much more than score for the team with the NBA’s best record.
Forward: Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 20.4 points per game, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists
Comment: George’s scoring numbers have taken a dip playing alongside feared scorers Carmelo Anthony and Russell Westbrook. But P.G. is widely regarded as one of the NBA’s top players, so he’ll make it.
Forward: Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota Timberwolves
Stats: 20.1 points per game, 12.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks
Comment: Towns lands the first All-Star selection of his career in his third season. The 7-footer’s versatile game is too much to deny now.
GUARD: Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder
Stats: 24.8 points per game, 9.7 rebounds, 9.9 assists
Comment: A little surprising that the 2017 NBA Most Valuable Player doesn’t get voted in as a starter. Perhaps it’s market. Here’s to hoping that Westbrook and his former teammate Kevin Durant play against each other under the new All-Star format.
Guard: Jimmy Butler, Minnesota TimberwolveS
Stats: 21.6 points per game, 5.4 rebounds, 5.1 assists
Comment: Butler has played on an MVP level in his first season with the Wolves. Kudos to Butler for landing a hard-to-get West All-Star guard spot in his first season in the conference.
Wild card: Klay Thompson, Golden State Warriors, guard
Stats: 20.9 points per game, 4.1 rebounds, 2.5 assists
Comment: Thompson may be quiet, but he also is the most feared shooter in the game behind his teammate Stephen Curry. The Warriors get four All-Stars for the second straight year.
Wild card: LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs, forward
Stats: 22.7 points per game, 8.5 rebounds, 1.1 blocks
Comment: Aldridge is the main reason why the Spurs had one of the NBA’s top records in the first half of the season with star Kawhi Leonard primarily sidelined.
Snubs include Damian Lillard, DeAndre Jordan, Lou Williams, Chris Paul, Devin Booker, Blake Griffin, C.J. McCollum and Marc Gasol.
FORWARD: Kristaps Porzingis, New York KnickS
Stats: 23.6 points per game, 6.9 rebounds, 2.4 blocks
Comment: Porzingis gets the first All-Star nod of his young career and gives the New York market a representative. The Latvian is the lone European in the All-Star Game.
FORWARD: Al horford, Boston Celtics
Stats: 13.4 points per game, 7.9 rebounds, 1.0 blocks
Comment: Horford beats out Cleveland forward Kevin Love based on Boston’s record. This would be Gordon Hayward’s spot if he were healthy.
Forward: Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons
Stats: 14.0 points per game, 15 rebounds, 1.2 blocks
Comment: Drummond lands his second All-Star nod after being snubbed last year. It would be fun to see East center rivals Drummond and Embiid playing against each other.
Guard: John Wall, Washington Wizards
Stats: 19.6 points per game, 3.6 rebounds, 9.3 assists
Comment: Wall’s biggest challenge appears to be staying healthy. While the Wizards are disappointing, he is a top-15 NBA player.
Guard: Victor Oladipo, Indiana Pacers
Stats: 24.3 points per game, 5.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists
Comment: Oladipo has been singing well off the court and on it. This will be his first All-Star nod.
Wild card: Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors, guard
Stats: 16.2 points per game, 6.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists
Comment: Lowry’s statistics aren’t gaudy, but they’re respectable and the Raptors are winning. He will make his fourth All-Star appearance.
Wild card: Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards, guard
Stats: 23.7 points per game, 4.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists
Comment: Beal lands his first All-Star nod with the last East spot, but does disappointing Washington deserve two?
Snubs include Dwight Howard, Ben Simmons, Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, Jaylen Brown, Goran Dragic and Kemba Walker.
Broccoli City Festival 2018 to feature the Migos, Cardi B, Miguel, Daniel Caesar, H.E.R., Nipsey Hussle
Start looking for Airbnbs and plane tickets now
12:18 PMMaking this as clear, and as concise, as possible. The Undefeated will be there. We hope you will too.
A Storm is coming — in Ava DuVernay’s ‘Wrinkle in Time’
‘Essence’ cover features the director and her superstar cast
11:37 AMSoon, we’ll all get to see 13-year-old Storm Reid in Ava DuVernay’s upcoming A Wrinkle In Time. And she’ll be glorious — word to the icon that is Oprah Winfrey. Reid, Winfrey and DuVernay all cover Essence’s February issue, where they talk about the power of imagination.
One big dream DuVernay dared to imagine when she was first taking meetings about directing the film? Seeing a brown girl as the protagonist in this epic, fanciful story, which hits theaters March 9. “Sometimes I’d be watching her on set and would really tear up at her performance because she will become for this generation what Judy Garland’s Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was for previous generations,” Winfrey shares in the Essence story. “She gets to be that. This little Stormy, our little Stormy, gets to carry that on for generations to come. She gets to be that light for girls like herself …”
Damian Lillard ends strict vegan diet
Trail Blazers guard says he was losing too much weight
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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard is no longer on a strict vegan diet after it became counterproductive.
Lillard, a guest on the ESPN Hoop Collective’s RUN A.M.C. podcast recorded Wednesday, said his five-month run as a vegan has ended because he was losing too much weight. Lillard announced on his Instagram account on Sept. 5 that he had become a vegan with hopes of “getting my life right.” The two-time NBA All-Star reached his goal of getting back to his rookie weight of 190 pounds, but Lillard ended his vegan diet about a month ago because he lost 17 pounds.
“I did it, but I started to lose a little bit too much weight with all the games and practices and all that,” Lillard said on the podcast. “I had to balance it out, so now I’ve been mixing it up a little bit more, having vegan meals, still mixing it up with other stuff.”
Lillard told OregonLive Sports on Sept. 25 that he had been vegan for a month and it allowed him to eat cleaner, create better habits, take more weight off his feet and feel much better. Portland-based newspaper/website Willamette Week also tweeted on Sept. 25 that Lillard loved vegan sloppy Joes and missed eating at Wendy’s fast food restaurants. After the 27-year-old struggled with his shooting the first six games this season, he dismissed a question from Comcast Sports Northwest in late October about whether his vegan diet was affecting his play.
The 2013 NBA Rookie of the Year said he has added beef and chicken back into his diet. Lillard said he has stayed away from Wendy’s and he still eats vegan meals regularly. Other NBA players who have professed being vegan include Kyrie Irving, Enes Kanter, JaVale McGee, Wilson Chandler and Jahlil Okafor.
“I did it to lose some weight and be easier on my feet, knees and ankles,” said Lillard, who is averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists and 5.8 rebounds this season. “I had a few injuries, so I was trying to get lighter and trying to get healthier and put better stuff in my body. It helped a lot as far as my energy and how I felt.”
National Association of Black Journalists receives huge grant for jobs, mission
EBay founder Pierre Omidyar’s bipartisan Democracy Fund donates $200,000
6:21 PMOn the day Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said, “We cannot allow this regimen of fake news, and alternative facts … to diminish our commitment to the basic constitutional protection of freedom of the press … it is essential to the future of our democracy,” the Democracy Fund awarded $200,000 to the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). The two-year restricted grant is to be utilized for staffing, and it allows NABJ to continue the execution of its mission to support journalists of color. The association’s priorities include jobs for journalists of color, professional development, social justice and advocacy. NABJ’s current strategic plan can be seen here.
“It’s a true honor to be partnering with the Democracy Fund,” NABJ president Sarah Glover said Wednesday. “The media industry faces threats, [and] organizations like NABJ are needed to give a voice to black journalists and minority communities too often overlooked. This … grant … helps NABJ meet challenges head-on, empowers our work, and strengthens our organizational capacity and trajectory for growth.”
The Democracy Fund is a bipartisan foundation created by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar. It exists to “invest in organizations working to ensure that our political system is able to withstand new challenges and deliver on its promise to the American people.”
The Plug, ‘Fight Night: Francis Ngannou’ (Episode 6): The UFC star opens up
UFC’s No. 1 Contender talks all things Stipe Miocic, Trump and the love for his people
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How do you prepare for a fight with a man who broke the world record for the hardest punch ever thrown just last month? Thankfully, The Plug doesn’t have to find out first hand from Francis Ngannou. That’s for his opponent—UFC champion Stipe Miocic. The two square off in the highly anticipated UFC 220 this weekend in Boston.
Ngannou is one of the fastest rising names in mixed martial arts and a win over Miocic would make him the first Cameroonian and African to lift the UFC title. But he’s far more than just a guy with one helluva punch. Ngannou opens up to The Plug about his journey to present day fame and President Donald Trump’s recent comments about “sh*thole countries.” From leaving his native Cameroon to pursue a life he knew was possible—a huge risk given the way of life and lines of thought there—to being homeless in Paris and how fighting became not only his life story, but now his life’s work, no stone is left unturned.
From there, the Squad discuss last weekend’s “Minnesota Miracle,” the future of Saints rookie Marcus Williams who missed the tackle, the NBA on MLK Day, and more. Tell everyone you know to subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app!
Colin Kaepernick to donate $100,000 over next 10 days
The former NFL quarterback will give away $10,000 a day to social justice organizations
3:12 PMFormer NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick announced on Jan. 17 that over the following 10 days he will donate the final $100,000 of his initial $1 million pledge to 10 organizations that are working to combat racial and social injustice across the country.
Dubbed the “Million Dollar Pledge” in October 2016, Kaepernick has donated $900,000 of his own funds over the past year to 31 organizations “working in oppressed communities” and will end his financial commitment next week by giving away $10,000 a day to the remaining 10 groups. Some famous friends will match his daily donations.
On Jan. 29, the ninth day of the pledge, Kaepernick and rapper Meek Mill donated a combined $20,000 to Youth Service Inc., a Philadelphia-based organization dedicated to offering “accessible, quality services to at-risk children and families” and “strengthening the family unit, helping at-risk teens and promoting child safety.” In November, Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native, was sentenced to two to four years in prison for violating the terms of his probation. The judge in that case, Genece Brinkley, is currently under FBI investigation for partial treatment of the rapper.
The Undefeated will keep a running list of the final organizations to which Kaepernick decides to donate to complete his Million Dollar Pledge.
Organization: Silicon Valley De-Bug
Celebrity: Kevin Durant, Golden State Warriors forward
For the last round of my #MillionDollarPledge I'm going #10for10! My brother @KDTrey5 is joining & chose DeBug in the Bay Area! I’m donating $10k, KD's donating $10k! Thank you brother for all the hard work! See it on https://t.co/xr8M9wiOiq & check tomorrow to see who's joining! pic.twitter.com/G4Ltvcv4rb
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 17, 2018
Organization: Advancement Project
Celebrity: Jesse Williams, actor
Thank you @ijessewilliams for choosing Advancement Project to be part of my #MillionDollarPledge & matching my $10k donation to them! They will receive $20k to work on national programs focused on tackling inequity with innovative strategies & strong community alliance. #10for10 pic.twitter.com/JVc8t23qdM
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 18, 2018
Organization: United Playaz
Celebrity: Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors guard
Day 3 of the last round of my #MillionDollarPledge and I’m going #10for10 with @StephenCurry30 !He chose United Playaz in San Francisco and we’re donating $20k to them to continue fighting 4 social justice.Thank you,Steph for making a difference.See it on https://t.co/moh0r6SvDZ pic.twitter.com/8p1KDIwDqE
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 19, 2018
Organization: Mothers Against Police Brutality
Celebrity: Snoop Dogg, rapper
✊🏾#10for10 @snoopdogg donated MORE MONEY 2 my #MillionDollarPledge!He loves the work Mothers Against Police Brutality is doing so much,he donated another $15k.Now they're getting a total of $35k!Thank you Snoop 4 recognizing the good work they do!Go to https://t.co/xr8M9wiOiq! pic.twitter.com/XFUEN8F8lC
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 22, 2018
Organization: Imagine LA
Celebrity: Serena Williams, tennis player
The Queen, my sister @serenawilliams asked that I donate to Imagine LA,an org mobilizing the community to end the cycle of family homelessness & poverty.Serena is going #10for10 to match my $10k donation w/$10k as well!See how our donations will be used on https://t.co/aK6dKa5Boa pic.twitter.com/ptDPZLLXaG
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 23, 2018
Organization: Angel by Nature
Celebrity: T.I., rapper
Day 6 of my #10for10! Thank you @troubleman31 for choosing @traeabn's organization Angel by Nature to be part of the #MillionDollarPledge! I donated $10k & you matched it with your own $10k! THANK YOU! See where the funds go on https://t.co/xr8M9wiOiq! $960k donated, $40k to go! pic.twitter.com/ou5njLtGiy
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 24, 2018
Organization: School on Wheels
Celebrity: Jhene Aiko, singer; Chris Brown, singer
Day 7 of my #10for10! Thank you @chrisbrown for adding your own $10k to School on Wheels in LA! Now we can donate $30k to them to continue to help the over 2.5 million homeless children in the US! See where the funds go on https://t.co/xr8M9wiOiq! $970k donated, $30k to go! pic.twitter.com/iJ0l1MuRfF
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 25, 2018
Organization: Communities United for Police Reform
Celebrity: Nick Cannon, entertainer; Joey Badass, rapper
My Brother @joeybadass, I appreciate you going #10for10 on my #MillionDollarPledge with me hittin’ me up all the way from Asia! The $40k from me, you and @nickcannon will help @changethenypd w/ NYPD reform and accountability in our communities. $980k down, $20k to go! pic.twitter.com/M7ryGXvsrJ
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 27, 2018
Organization: Youth Service Inc.
Celebrity: Meek Mill, rapper
Day 9 of my #10for10! Thank you @meekmill for choosing Youth Services Inc to be part of the #MillionDollarPledge! We’re donating $10k each to them for a total of $20k! See where the funds go on https://t.co/xr8M9w1cTQ! And stay strong brother! $990k donated, $10k to go!!!! pic.twitter.com/lMPRQa7UBL
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 29, 2018
Celebrity: Usher, singer
Day 10 of my #10for10! Thank you @usher for choosing H.O.M.E. for the #MillionDollarPledge! We’re donating $10k each to them for a total of $20k! It’s been an honor to work for the people and donate $1 mil to orgs fighting for social justice! See it all on https://t.co/xr8M9w1cTQ pic.twitter.com/ypNQOUOkIT
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) January 31, 2018
Locker room feuds: When athletes try to run up on other athletes
Ten instances when professional locker rooms were under the threat of being breached
4:41 PMAfter the Los Angeles Clippers’ 113-102 home win over the Houston Rockets on Monday, a game in which many a technical foul was called or missed, Rockets guard Chris Paul led a Suicide Squad bunch of teammates to their opponent’s locker room to, in theory, engage in fisticuffs.
As is always the case, barring Kobe Bryant-Chris Childs and Serge Ibaka-James Johnson, the players had no intention of actually fighting (a witness told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that the fight was “classic NBA” and that “none of these guys were going to fight”).
In any event, the Ocean’s Eleven-style mission got us to thinking of other times professional athletes have attempted to run up on their opponent while in the sanctity of the room in which they shower. Here are 10 instances when professional locker rooms were under the threat of being breached.
1922: Babe Ruth vs. Johnny Rawlings
During the 1922 World Series between Babe Ruth’s New York Yankees and Johnny Rawlings’ New York Giants, the “Sultan of Swat” grew tired of Rawlings’ bench jockeying, so he and teammate Bob Meusel “invaded” the Giants’ locker room hoping to scrap. No hands were thrown, but the Giants technically won the non-fight, as they won the series 4-0-1 and held Ruth to just two hits and zero home runs.
2012: Zach Randolph vs. Kendrick Perkins
Zach Randolph and Kendrick Perkins were ejected in the fourth quarter of the Memphis Grizzlies’ 107-97 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder for arguing with each other (Randolph apparently yelled, “I’ll beat your a–” at Perkins), but the drama didn’t end there. The two reportedly tried to continue the altercation in the back hallways, with Randolph crossing over to the Thunder’s side of the building, earning him a $25,000 fine from the NBA. All’s well that ends well, as the two immediately squashed the beef.
2012: Lance Stephenson vs. Miami Heat players
Lance Stephenson, then in his first stint with the Indiana Pacers, had become a thorn in the side of the Miami Heat long before he blew into the ear of LeBron James during the 2014 playoffs. Stephenson and Heat center Juwan Howard, much like the respective teams they played for, had been feuding all season, and after an on-court confrontation during the second round of the 2012 playoffs, Howard, full of old-man strength, walked over to the Pacers’ locker room to try to find Stephenson. He failed in his search, but the Heat won the series in six games and eliminated the Pacers from the playoffs the next two seasons as well.
2013: Drake vs. Miami Heat security
Longtime Heat (and Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors and Kentucky and Texas A&M) fan Drake, after the Heat’s Finals victory over the San Antonio Spurs in 2013, attempted to sneak into Miami’s locker room with credentialed media to celebrate with LeBron & Co. While not an act of an athlete attempting to barge into a locker room, the most famous musician in the world’s failure to even make it through the doors merits a spot on this list.
2013: Carmelo Anthony vs. Kevin Garnett
It was reported at the time of this incident that Kevin Garnett, who has lost all benefit of the doubt for the things he’s said over the years, said Carmelo Anthony’s wife, La La, tasted like “Honey Nut Cheerios” (La La Anthony has since denied it.) Well, Anthony did not take too kindly to another man saying his spouse tasted like a nutritional breakfast, so he headed straight to the Boston Celtics’ locker room area (and team bus) to have a “one-on-one conversation” with Garnett. Anthony was suspended by the NBA for one game.
2014: John Tortorella vs. Calgary Flames
Vancouver Canucks coach John Tortorella, best known outside of the world of hockey for threatening to bench Team USA players if they sat for the national anthem, attempted to enter the Calgary Flames’ locker room to confront his counterpart, Bob Hartley, in response to the two teams brawling at the start of the game. In essence, Tortorella wanted to fight the other team because his players fought the other team. Hartley was fined $25,000 by the NHL.
2014: Stephen Curry vs. Los Angeles Clippers
A year before his first of back-to-back NBA MVP awards, Stephen Curry was in the midst of just his third career playoff series when he and fellow guard Steve Blake rolled up on some Los Angeles Clippers ball boys for a comment that a Clippers assistant coach made after Los Angeles eliminated the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. That led to players from both teams convening in the hallway between the two locker rooms, and, according to former Clippers guard Jared Dudley, Curry barging into the Clippers’ training room.
— Jared Dudley (@JaredDudley619) January 16, 2018
The Los Angeles Police Department and Staples Center security were dispatched, but the incident calmed down from there.
2016: Houston Rockets vs. Dallas Mavericks
It appears this wasn’t the Rockets’ first — pardon the pun — rodeo. Just 13 months before Monday’s kerfuffle, a contingent of Houston players, led by habitual line-steppers Trevor Ariza and James Harden, waited outside the Dallas Mavericks’ locker room for center Salah Mejri, who allegedly insulted Ariza’s family (Mejri denied this.) Ariza, supposedly the “first one through the door” during the Clippers incident, was accompanied to the Mavs’ locker room by two security guards like he was Bill Goldberg, but the altercation ended in neither blows nor fines/suspensions.
2017: Jalen Ramsey vs. A.J. Green
What started as an on-field “fight” — if you can call one man (Jalen Ramsey) being German suplexed by the other (A.J. Green) a “fight” — transitioned to the bowels of EverBank Field, as Ramsey, the loudmouthed Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback, had to be restrained from entering the Cincinnati Bengals’ locker room after both players had been ejected. He never made it inside, but Ramsey later told the media that Green is both “weak” and “soft.”
2017: DeMarcus Cousins vs. Kevin Durant
As appears to be the trend in these almost scuffles, New Orleans Pelicans power forward DeMarcus Cousins went after Kevin Durant after both players were ejected from the Golden State Warriors’ 125-115 win at the Smoothie King Center. An amazing photo by a New York Times photographer captures the exact moment Cousins was ready to scrap. Per Times reporter Scott Cacciola: “Cousins was storming down the hallway in search of Durant, who was making his way off the court after his ejection and toward the locker room. Security officers, aware that trouble was brewing, quickly diverted Durant to a small corridor as several others slowed Cousins’ progress.” Surprisingly, Cousins wasn’t fined or suspended for this incident.
Apparently after Demarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant were ejected after barking at each other during the GSW/NOP game Boogie stormed down the hallway near the locker rooms in search of KD and had to be restrained.
h/t: @ScottCacciola pic.twitter.com/sQz9297HC2
— Warriors Talk (@JaeAzizi) December 8, 2017
Will Kanye’s new daughter influence his future art?
Kanye and Kim expand the Kardashian family empire — and welcome a baby girl
3:44 PMWell, it’s official. The West-Kardashian clan has its own starting five. Kim Kardashian West announced the news on her website in early hours of Jan. 15. Kardashian and her husband, superstar Kanye West, welcomed their third child, a healthy 7-pound, 6-ounce baby girl. “We are incredibly grateful to our surrogate who made our dreams come true with the greatest gift one could give, and to our wonderful doctors and nurses for their special care,” Kardashian West said. “North and Saint are especially thrilled to welcome their baby sister.”
West and Kardashian West are two of the most famous people in the world, as a couple and individually. But the image of them as parents appears to be very private — as much as one can be in a Kardashian world. And, whether by design or destiny, West’s been unusually silent for nearly a year. Of course, with West, cameras are always around, but the “Famous” producer, designer and rapper hasn’t made many headlines since his brief moment with then-new President Donald Trump and an onstage rant that became fodder for Jay-Z’s Grammy-nominated 4:44. Maybe West needed to fall back for a minute?
He is listed as an executive producer on Damon Dash’s new film Honor Up (set for select theaters and OnDemand Feb. 16). But musically, even if West has been privately active, he’s been publicly dormant, a strategic move that may play in his favor if, in fact, he’s been in a creative musical cave. And it’ll be interesting to see whether the birth of his third child influences his music in the ways North and Saint did. But: Until concrete evidence is provided, talk of a new Kanye project will remain just that — talk. Then again, he’s got more important duties to take care of at the moment. New babies are everything.
Lakers legend Elgin Baylor will get his very own statue at L.A.’s Staples Center
The Hall of Famer’s unveiling ceremony will take place in April
3:40 PMThirty-five years after his No. 22 jersey was retired, Los Angeles Lakers great Elgin Baylor is being honored with his very own statue for his contributions to the team.
The Hall of Famer’s statue will join the likes of former Lakers players Shaquille O’Neal, Jerry West, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson and Lakers broadcaster Francis “Chick” Hearn in Star Plaza at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. An outdoor unveiling ceremony will be held April 6 shortly before the Lakers’ tipoff against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“It’s something people have been talking to me about for some time,” Baylor told the Southern California News Group. “I don’t know how I’m going to react or anything once I see it because nothing like that has ever happened before. But I’m sure that I will enjoy it.”
Baylor entered the NBA after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Minneapolis Lakers in 1958, and he averaged 27.4 points, 13.5 rebounds and 4.3 assists in 846 games during the course of his 14-year career. He earned his spot as a first-team All-NBA player 10 times and appeared in 11 All-Star games.
Baylor was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1977, six years after announcing his retirement, and was the Los Angeles Clippers’ general manager for 22 years.
After being present for the unveiling ceremonies of O’Neal, West, Abdul-Jabbar and Hearn, Baylor being honored with his own statue is only right.
“I am thrilled that 60 years after the Minneapolis Lakers drafted Elgin, we are able to celebrate and honor him with a statue,” said Lakers CEO and controlling owner Jeanie Buss. “Not only is Elgin a part of the Lakers family, his contributions to the game of basketball earned him a place in the Hall of Fame. His list of accomplishments are unparalleled, and I can’t wait to see his statue at Star Plaza alongside the other Lakers legends.”
Memphis Grizzlies players and coaches share sentiments about playing on MLK Day
An event-filled weekend and win over Lakers gives team an edge going into MLK50
10:58 AMWhen NBA players live and work in a city where Martin Luther King Jr. made such an impact, they find themselves faced with a duty to defend their home court. The Memphis Grizzlies maneuvered their way to a 123-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday at the FedEx Forum in the 16th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Celebration.
The day consisted of many festivities including the honoring of WNBA and NBA players during the 13th Annual National Civil Rights Museum Sports Legacy Award. This year’s recipients were Penny Hardaway, Sam Perkins, James Worthy and WNBA All-Star Swin Cash. The award recognizes dedicated contributions to civil and human rights and laying foundations for future leaders through their career in sports in the spirit of King.
The weekend was filled with events that included a discussion at the National Civil Rights Museum (“MLK50: Where Do We Go From Here”) with Cash, Grizzlies guard Mike Conley and Lakers center Brook Lopez. Before tipoff on Monday, the honorees participated in the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium.
Sports teams often visit the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, which houses the location where King was shot. Check out what players had to say about playing in Memphis on MLK Day while the city prepares for MLK50, the 50th year commemorating King’s death.
“When you have this opportunity to pay that respect, you do this job with the best of your ability. You give everything that you’ve got in honor of those who had to fight those fights for you and the sacrifices that they made for you. … Understanding how the organization, the city, and the community fought to get the game back on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was an eye-opening thing. It was an awareness of just how important this game is and how much it means to be played today.” – Grizzlies interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff
“This is my second time that I remember being part of MLK Day. It’s a special game, special moment for a person that did a lot for not only African-Americans but for us as a society. It’s always good to come out here and celebrate him.” – Grizzlies guard Mario Chalmers
“It means a lot [to play in Memphis]. It brings a lot of my passion out and makes me want to play harder for the organization and for the Memphis fans. It’s my first MLK Day playing. It felt great. I’ve visited [the National Civil Rights Museum] twice. I learned so much about history. Coming from Canada, you don’t really know a lot because it’s very multicultural. I figured out a lot of things, like how to appreciate my culture more.” – Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks
“Coming out here every night and playing for Memphis means so much to me because the fans are great. I’ve got a lot of fan base from when I was in school. I can put up two jerseys: one for college and one for the NBA. Martin Luther King gave us a chance to chase our dreams, so I’m happy to play on this day.” – Grizzlies guard Tyreke Evans
“It’s an absolute honor to play on this holiday, I think. For where we are as a world and where we’re trying to go, Martin Luther King Jr. stood up for what was right. But what really separates him is he really emphasized doing it through a peaceful manner, and all he wanted is what everyone should want and that’s equality. To be able to play on this day, especially with a sport where you get so many people from different backgrounds and different places across the world, it’s an honor.” – Lakers head coach Luke Walton