Mabel Fairbanks: The first African-American in the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame
She made her mark as a coach
10:32 AMMabel Fairbanks was the first African-American inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Born: Nov. 14, 1915
Died: Sept. 29, 2001
Her story: Fairbanks, of African-American and Seminole descent, was born in the Florida Everglades. She was orphaned at age 8 and moved to New York City with her brother. Her sister-in-law did not accept her, so she ended up sleeping on a park bench. A woman gave her a job baby-sitting at her apartment above Central Park, and that’s when everything changed for her. Fairbanks watched the skaters in Central Park and became interested in the sport. She bought an oversize pair of skates, stuffed them to make them fit and began skating in the park. When she tried to get into a local ice rink, she was denied because of her race. Nevertheless, she persisted, and a manager finally let her inside. Professional skaters gave her free lessons. She moved to California in the 1940s and performed in nightclub skating shows. She traveled with the Ice Capades and performed with the Ice Follies. She was not allowed into the U.S. Olympic trials or any competitive figure skating events. She later became a coach and worked with skaters such as Atoy Wilson, the first black skater to win a U.S. title, and pairs champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. She pushed the Culver City Skating Club in Los Angeles to admit its first black member in 1965. She made the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1977 and was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in the coach category after her death.
Fast fact: Part of what fueled Fairbanks’ passion for skating was watching a Sonja Henie movie in the 1930s. Henie would later bar Fairbanks from competing in an ice show.
Quotable: “If I had gone to the Olympics and become a star, I would not be who I am today,” Fairbanks told the Los Angeles Times.
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Maurice Robinson heads Grambling’s recruiting class
Three-star recruit is a big get for the Tigers
9:09 PMLSU recruited him to play quarterback, while the reigning national champions at Alabama had visions of him roaming their defensive secondary.
But with major FBS programs knocking at his door, Maurice Robinson opted to play football next season at a historically black institution: Grambling.
After verbally committing to the Tigers two weeks ago, Robinson made it official during Wednesday’s national signing day.
Robinson will play in the defensive backfield at Grambling despite the fact that he threw for 1,686 yards and 18 touchdowns last season at Murphy High School in Mobile, Alabama. The three-star recruit is a big get for Grambling, which looks to improve from last year’s 11-2 record, which included a trip to the Celebration Bowl (where the Tigers lost to North Carolina A&T).
Some of the other commitments to Grambling that were made official Wednesday:
Sundiata Anderson, 6-4, defensive end, Atlanta, Georgia: A three-sport athlete at North Clayton High School, Anderson was a first-team all-county player and earned a spot on the All-Region 4-AAAA team.
T.J. Hawthorne, 6-2, defensive back, Springhill, Louisiana: Hawthorne will play safety at Grambling after a career at North Webster High School where he earned all-district honors while playing running back, wide receiver and defensive back.
Matthew Cormier, 6-3, linebacker, Lake Charles, Louisiana: Another recruit staying close to home, Cormier is a hard-hitting linebacker who was a first team all-district selection.
Keilon Elder, 5-9, running back, Duncanville, Texas: Elder rushed for 1,300 yards and scored 17 touchdowns in his final season at Duncanville High School. He’ll be a legacy student at Grambling, where his father, Ray Elder, played tailback from 1989-93.
NORTH CAROLINA A&T
North Carolina A&T University, the Celebration Bowl champions, appear to have added enough firepower to keep them in the mix in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) next season.
Darius Graves, 5-8, running back, Greensboro, North Carolina: Graves was expected to be a contributor at the University of North Carolina last year after the walk-on led all rushers in the spring game. But he didn’t suit up last season in Chapel Hill and now resurfaces with the Aggies.
Wiz Vaughn, 5-10, wide receiver, Wilmington, North Carolina: Definitely an early pick for the all-name team, Vaughn was a dual threat on offense at New Hanover High School, as he caught 97 passes for 1,487 yards and 12 touchdowns and rushed 87 times for 737 yards and 17 touchdowns. He helped lead New Hanover to the Class 3-A state championship game.
Chris Williams, 6-1, linebacker, Laurinburg, North Carolina: A standout defensive player at Scotland County High School, Williams — along with Georgia-bound running back Zamir White, a five-star recruit — helped lead his team to a 12-2 record and a spot in the 4A state championship game. Williams was named the team’s defensive MVP.
Tim Williams, 6-3, offensive lineman, Laurinburg, North Carolina: Yes, Tim and Chris Williams are brothers. Twin brothers. Tim Williams, who weighs 300 pounds, opened up many of the holes that White, the nation’s top running back recruit, ran through.
Coach Mike London has added a few pieces that should complement quarterback Caylin Newton, who led the Bison to a second-place finish in the MEAC.
Jalen Smith, 6-1, defensive back/wide receiver, Virginia Beach, Virginia: Depending on where he plays, Smith might emerge as a new target for Newton. A star at Ocean Lakes High School, Smith is rated as the No. 14 player in the state. Smith had verbally committed to Navy in the fall before announcing that he’s attending Howard.
Jayde Pierre, 6-2, defensive/offensive line, Sterling, Virginia: Pierre was an early commit to Temple and had interest from Arizona and Boston College. But the 310-pound Pierre decided to stay close to his home in the Washington, D.C., suburbs, where he played at Dominion High School. 247Sports.com had Pierre ranked No. 33 in Virginia.
Here’s how some of the African-American head coaches in Division I have fared on national signing day:
David Shaw, Stanford: Shaw was able to sign Tanner McKee, one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, who chose Stanford over Alabama and Texas. But he won’t get the 6-6 McKee immediately, as the devout Mormon will take a two-year mission before attending Stanford in 2020.
James Franklin, Penn State: A program nearly destroyed by the Jerry Sandusky scandal in 2011 has finished in the top 10 the past two years and just came through with one of the top five recruiting classes. Signees include linebacker Micah Parsons (considered the top recruit in Pennsylvania, and a top-10 national recruit from Harrisburg High School), Justin Shorter (the nation’s top-ranked wide receiver, from South Brunswick High School in New Jersey) and Ricky Slade (a five-star all-purpose back from Hylton High School in Virginia).
‘The Plug’ podcast: ‘Black Panther’ details — plus ‘GLOW’s’ Sydelle Noel (Episode 9)
The Philadelphia Eagles make history — and Kevin Hart lives the dream
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The pleasure is all ours as we welcome a very, very special guest in the ever-so-talented Sydelle Noel. You may have heard about this film she’s in that hits theaters next week — Black Panther? Noel gives us the inside scoop on the movie, including her experiences with members of the star-studded cast.
From there, the squad and I pay homage to the Philadelphia Eagles, who of course just captured their first Super Bowl in franchise history. This includes us saluting comedian Kevin Hart living any fan’s dream — even if that included him trying to get on stage to hoist the Lombardi trophy. We also chat about the latest NBA narratives, including the free fall of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app! We’ll be back next week to celebrate all things Panther and NBA All-Star Weekend in the City of Angels!
Andre Horton: the first black men’s skier on the U.S. Alpine team
His mother introduced him to the sport at age 5
2:42 PMAndre Horton became the first black men’s skier to make the U.S. Alpine ski team in 2001.
Born: Oct. 4, 1979
His story: Andre Horton was born in Anchorage, Alaska, to a white mother and a black father. His mother, Elsena, moved to Alaska from Idaho, where she was an avid skier. She introduced Andre to the sport when he was 5 years old, and his younger sister Suki took up skiing at age 3. Horton started as a Nordic skier, which includes cross-country skiing, before switching to Alpine (downhill). He skied with Mount Bachelor Ski Educational Foundation before earning a spot on the U.S. ski team’s development team. By 2002, he and Suki were the top-ranked African-American ski racers in the country. Horton retired in 2004, citing new opportunities as well as the financial strain of the sport. He finished fourth in the super G and sixth in the downhill in his final U.S. Alpine Championships that same year.
Fast fact: Horton once worked part time at the Anchorage Daily News as a photographer.
Quotable: “I’ve made some black people cry because they couldn’t believe I was racing down a course at a world-class level,” Horton told Ski Racing Journal. “Because they could never do it when they were growing up. That’s my quiet smile, as I call it.”
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Kendrick Lamar, TDE continue to remain top dawgs of music videos with ‘All The Stars’
The visual is the lead single off the highly anticipated ‘Black Panther’ soundtrack
There’s a slight comparison to be made between the decline in the quality of music videos and the decline of the back-to-the-basket game for big men in the NBA. Back in the day, non-Michael Jordan-led teams needed a dominant center to be competitive. And back in the day, MTV, BET, VH1 and The Box were the one-stop shop for all things music videos. And while videos can be shot oftentimes with nothing more than a camera phone these days — yielding both fruitful and not-so-fruitful results — the allure of the music video has taken on a new look in part because there are so many to sift from and through.
Yet, make no mistake about this reality. No one’s doing videos better than Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) right now — at the very least in a dead heat with Jay Z’s 4:44 videos. About the only slip-up is SZA’s Solange-directed “The Weekend” visual, which left a huge opportunity on the table for not following the song’s storyline. Kendrick Lamar’s batting 1,000 right now though. Look no further than the visuals for his Grammy-winning album DAMN., a la “LOYALTY.” with Rihanna, “LOVE.” with Zacari, “ELEMENT.” and “DNA.” Many of those were fueled by Dave Meyers and the little homies, the directorial minds behind TDE’s newest video for “All The Stars.” The record is the lead single from the Black Panther-inspired soundtrack set to drop Friday. The video itself, however, is a wicked elixir of next-level graphic designs, transitions and, most importantly, overt homages to the images, inspirations, history, power and pigment that make Black Panther one of the most anticipated movies of this century, if not of all time.
Already a hit song currently being spun on radio stations nationwide, “All the Stars'” video provides added depth that wasn’t there before. And with TDE paying such close attention to detail with how they present themselves visually, it leaves but one question. Could they really be on the verge of bringing back the long-since extinct concept of the movie soundtrack too?
Baseball great and HBCU alumnus Andre Dawson gets tournament named after him
The Dawson Classic in New Orleans pays homage to this FAMU graduate and Hall of Famer
4:06 PMBeginning this year, the MLB Urban Invitational, originally created to highlight baseball programs at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), will be called the Andre Dawson Classic.
Dawson, who spent most of his 21-year major league career with the Chicago Cubs and the now-defunct Montreal Expos, is a graduate of Florida A&M University. Even with 12 knee surgeries, Dawson ended his career with a .279 batting average, 438 home runs, 1,591 RBIs and 314 stolen bases. His induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2010 makes Dawson one of only two HBCU alumni who have been enshrined.
“It is with the utmost appreciation that I take this opportunity to thank MLB for this honor,” Dawson said in a statement. “I am a product of an HBCU program that provided me an opportunity to pursue a college education while chasing a childhood dream. I am both honored and humbled to play a role in empowering students to be leaders in their communities and strive to improve and impact the lives of others.”
Since the invitational began 11 years ago, more than 25 HBCU players who have participated in the tournament have been selected in the MLB draft. This year’s classic will feature six HBCU teams, which is the highest number of participants since its inception in 2007. Participating schools include Alabama State, Alcorn State, Grambling State, Prairie View A&M, Southern and Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The Classic, which runs from Feb. 16 to 18, will be split between the New Orleans MLB Youth Academy and the University of New Orleans’ Maestri Field. Two of the games on Feb. 17 will air live on MLB Network and MLB.com at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. EST.
Jermaine Dupri makes history: He’s set to be inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame
The creative who has collaborated with Jay-Z, Usher, Mariah, Xscape and more gets his due
3:09 PMJermaine Dupri, the genius musical creative who soundtracked much of the 1990s and early 2000s, will be feted at this year’s Songwriters Hall of Fame. The producer, songwriter and MC becomes only the second rapper to be inducted into this prestigious group — Jay-Z, honored last year, was the first. Some of Dupri’s most indelible songs as songwriter/co-writer/producer/executive producer: Xscape’s “Just Kickin’ It,” Nelly’s “Grillz,” he and Jay-Z’s “Money Ain’t a Thang,” he and Mariah Carey’s “Sweetheart,” Jagged Edge’s “Where The Party At (Remix),” Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna” — and there are so many more. Dupri will join John Mellencamp, Alan Jackson and Kool & the Gang at the early-summer event.
Dupri is best known for igniting the Atlanta hip-hop and rhythm and blues scene — Kris Kross, Bow Wow, Jagged Edge and Xscape were all on his So So Def label. He dubbed the Def sound “The New Motown,” which was on point, considering that his artists were (and to a large degree still are) ubiquitous at barbecues, homecomings and urban and pop radio stations. The Songwriters Hall of Fame 49th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner will be held at the Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 14 in New York.
Angela James: the first black woman in the Hockey Hall of Fame
The Canadian star followed NHL legend Grant Fuhr into Hall
7:28 AMAngela James is the second black player to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, joining NHL goaltender Grant Fuhr. James was one of the first two women and the first openly gay player to enter the Hall in 2010, seven years after Fuhr’s induction.
Born: Dec. 22, 1964.
Her story: James was born in Toronto to a white Canadian mother and a black American father who moved to Canada from racially segregated Mississippi. James got her start in hockey in a boys house league. She played in a senior women’s league before moving on to Seneca College in Toronto, where she also starred in softball. She led the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association in scoring for three straight years despite transitioning to defense, and was dubbed “The Wayne Gretzky of Women’s Hockey” after scoring 50 goals and 73 points in a season. She went on to become an international star for Canada, winning four gold medals in four Women’s World Championships. James, however, was a controversial cut from the first women’s Olympic team in 1998. She played with the Central Ontario Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Hockey League from 1993 until her retirement from competitive hockey in 2000. Along with the Hockey Hall of Fame, James also was inducted into the International Ice Hockey Federation Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.
Fast fact: The highest-scoring player in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League has been awarded the Angela James Bowl since 2008.
Quotable: “Being a trailblazer is remarkable,” James told the Windy City Times. And hopefully I can help the hopes and dreams of other young girls in the game.”
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Eldridge Dickey: the first black quarterback drafted in the first round
The Tennessee State star never played his position in the pros
2:23 PMEldridge Dickey became the first black quarterback selected in the first round of the AFL or NFL drafts when the Oakland Raiders drafted the Tennessee State product 25th overall in 1968.
Born: Dec. 24, 1945
Died: May 22, 2000
His story: Dickey quarterbacked Tennessee State to the National Black College Football Championship during an undefeated season in 1966. He was a three-time HBCU All-American. Despite Dickey’s high draft selection, he never played a game at quarterback in pros. The Raiders, who drafted Alabama’s Ken Stabler that same year in the second round, moved Dickey to wide receiver to start the season. He never got over the switch. He caught just one pass in 1968 and played on special teams in 11 games. He didn’t catch another pass until 1971, the same year the Raiders cut him for dropping a possible touchdown. He finished his career with five catches for 112 yards and a touchdown. Dickey signed with the USFL’s Denver Gold in 1984 but never played in a game. He battled substance abuse before later becoming a minister. He died from a stroke at age 54.
Fast fact: African-Americans were often denied the chance to play quarterback because teams thought they lacked the intelligence needed to play the position. Eldridge never took a snap under center in the pros despite a high IQ in the 130s.
Quotable: “If someday I become a star, I’d like to know I had to do it just the way I did – so when they write the book they’ll say, ‘He came in an All-American quarterback and they switched him and he had to earn it,'” Dickey told the Oakland Tribune.
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
On Super Bowl Sunday, The Fugees’ Pras Michel introduces Blacture
The Grammy winner is set to launch a haven for innovative minds
2:08 PMOn Super Bowl Sunday, Pras Michel’s message was simple: Be celebrated. Not tolerated. In a somewhat mysterious ad directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), the Grammy-winning artist introduced his new media platform, Blacture. The aim appears to be for Blacture to be “the epicenter for everything that is black — black excellence.” Michel wants the platform to be a safe space and creative haven for filmmakers, journalists and innovative minds. For now, a Facebook page is in place. An official launch date is set for next month.
The Super Bowl parties were very hot in ice-cold Minneapolis
J-Lo, Cardi B, Jamie Foxx and Shaq were among the guests and performers
9:56 AMMINNEAPOLIS — Despite freezing weather, football fans crisscrossed the Twin Cities for some spectacular nightlife. There were some dynamic and exclusive events, parties and concerts before what ended up being the Philadelphia Eagles upsetting the New England Patriots 41-33. If you were in the right places, you could catch Jamie Foxx playing waiter and Shaquille O’Neal doing his DJ thing. Justin Timberlake ended up drawing mixed reviews for his official halftime show, but Minneapolis, on the nights before the big game? Jennifer Lopez and Pink lit up the same venue, albeit it on different nights. And new superstar Cardi B graced the Super Bowl festivities. So much to do. Not enough time to do it all. I have no idea how my colleague and friend Kelley L. Carter maintains this pace. A quick look at some of what went down in these parts.
Leigh Steinberg’s 31st annual Super Bowl party – The longtime NFL agent who served as the model for Tom Cruise’s fictional character in Jerry Maguire was at it again, delivering one of the week’s best parties. Steinberg uses his platform to honor NFL professionals for their charitable work, as well as to introduce his upcoming draft class, which includes University of Southern California running back Ronald Jones II. The elusive runner could be a high pick. Rookie Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was in attendance. With the trade of veteran quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City to the Washington Redskins last week, Mahomes will begin his second NFL season as Kansas City’s first-string passer. NFL Hall of Famer Eric Dickerson was in the packed house as well.
EA Sports Bowl – The most interactive event of the week. Guests waited turns in front of massive screens to play the hottest games. It was a great way to get pumped before Imagine Dragons took the stage.
The 2018 Maxim party – Is there any performer on the planet hotter than Belcalis Almanzar? Just hearing that Cardi B is scheduled to perform is enough to get most people to jump into an Uber. Shoot, it was enough for me.
Pink – The lady is a trouper. Although battling the flu, Pink put on a good show earlier in the week and delivered a strong, efficient rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before kickoff. Props.
J. Lo – Lopez always has high-energy shows. Last week was no exception.
Bootsy Bellows Big Game Pop Up — Presented by American Airlines and Casper, the daylong festivities began with a luncheon and Q&A session about, among other topics, life in the sports media game. Hosted by ESPN’s Mike Greenberg and Samantha Ponder, the session also included Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis, Ray Lewis (a member of the 2018 Hall of Fame class) and Minnesota Vikings star wide receiver Adam Thielen. Much later, after a dinner, Foxx jumped onstage and went to work. The Academy Award and Grammy winner handed out late-night snacks and drinks. Then O’Neal, the 15-time NBA All-Star and four-time NBA champion, showed off his DJing skills.
Tiki Barber and Drew Rosenhaus – Barber, the former New York Giants Pro Bowl running back, teamed with Rosenhaus, among the NFL’s most successful agents, to throw a well-attended bash. Hall of Famer Jonathan Ogden, Kansas City Chiefs star wideout Tyreek Hill and former NFL passer Charlie Batch were among those who joined in the fun.
Sneak peek: Enjoy some Super Bowl commercials that aired a bit early
Steven Tyler discovers his youth and Cardi B transforms into Alexa in some of Super Bowl LII’s top commercials
10:31 AMThe time has come.
As the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots gear up for Super Bowl LII, companies are vying equally as hard for a chance to be featured in one of the year’s most important (and expensive) ad slots.
This year, 30-second ads slots are going for an estimated $5 million — about the same as last year, but a slight increase from 2016’s $4.8 million price.
Commercials aren’t only effective advertising, but offer a distraction if your team is on the losing end. Social media have also taken advantage of the discussions surrounding Super Bowl ads by creating polls and hashtags for favorite commercials. If you aren’t a fan of either team playing in this year’s game, you can always peruse some of the advertisements below and anticipate the fun, serious, shocking and downright creative commercials in between the action.
“Alexa Loses Her Voice”
In this hilarious commercial, Amazon’s favorite intelligent personal assistant has lost her voice. Before panic sets in, users are ensured that there are some suitable replacements, including Gordon Ramsay, Cardi B, Rebel Wilson and Anthony Hopkins. The world isn’t ready.
Toyota conveys the message that no matter what race, color, or religious creed, we’re all in this thing called life together … and, of course, united by football.
As a sponsor of the Olympics and Paralympics, Toyota’s second commercial features Paralympic athlete Lauren Woolstencroft, and the odds of winning a gold medal. Woolstencroft was born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow. The odds continue to flash as Woolstencroft grows, and become even slimmer as an adult. Despite the odds being stacked against her, Woolstencroft has medaled 10 times in the Paralympics — eight of them gold — as an alpine skier.
“Rhett & Link”
Wix.com is back this year to show you how simple it is to create a website using its company. The strategic use of internet comedy stars Rhett & Link, the two handsome guys showing us the tutorial, is just a bonus.
When artificial intelligence meets human brain power, which one wins? Sprint has found a way to use robots to help us see the light.
“This is the Pepsi”
This year’s commercial features Pepsi throwing it back through the generations. It features some of our favorite from the past: singers Michael Jackson and Britney Spears, retired NASCAR star Jeff Gordon and current basketball star Kyrie Irving as his character “Uncle Drew.” The slot also features model Cindy Crawford, who re-creates her Pepsi from her iconic 1992 commercial.
In this campaign, Bud Light brings viewers into a medieval fight to the death — which looks like an awful scene from Game of Thrones. One fighter realizes his side is losing and awaits the arrival of “Bud Knight” to come and save them. He arrives. He’s a “Bud Knight” in shining armor who conveniently finds a store in the middle of nowhere and saves the day with a case of Bud Light. If only we could stop wars around the world with beer.
“The Wonder of Us”
Much like Toyota’s commercial, Coca-Cola reminds the world that although we may look think and act differently, we’re all the same. Oh, and of course there’s a Coke for everything, so enjoy the ice-cold beverage as we celebrate our differences and similarities.
“Feel Something Again”
This nostalgic ad features Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler all suited up for … a race? But he’s the only one on the track. He approaches a new Kia Stinger, and with freshly painted nails, puts the car in reverse and floors it. Tyler is going so fast around the track that time begins to move backward. By the time Tyler completes a lap around the track, he has rediscovered his youth. Even random fans appear out of nowhere to greet the star at the finish line.
“I Like Beer”
Michelob Ultra gets straight to the point. There are several activities displayed from cycling to yoga. But what unites everyone in this sing-along? You guessed it: beer.
Looking for more ads? Check out the rest here.