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

Meek Mill to headline NFL’s kickoff concert in Chicago

League and Roc Nation also announce apparel line to benefit reform efforts

10:03 AMAlthough the NFL’s regular season hasn’t kicked off yet, the league is already benefiting from its partnership with entertainment mogul Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter.

Star rapper Meek Mill will headline a free concert Sept. 5 at the NFL Kickoff Experience in Chicago’s Grant Park, the league and Carter’s company, Roc Nation, announced Friday. Mill, who co-founded a nonprofit criminal justice advocacy group with Carter, will be joined at the event by rapper Rapsody and Meghan Trainor. Mill’s own long-running criminal case, which had kept him on probation for most of his adult life, was resolved earlier this week.

Given that many A-list entertainers declined to perform at the Super Bowl last season in support of unsigned quarterback Colin Kaepernick, it’s unlikely Mill would have agreed to open the NFL’s season-long celebration of its centennial season without the involvement of Carter. Roc Nation will produce this season’s Super Bowl halftime show.

The NFL and Roc Nation also announced the launch of an apparel line linked to the league’s Inspire Change initiative, which is run by the league and its players and focuses on education, economic advancement, improving police-community relations and criminal justice reform. Artists will design the apparel, which will be available for purchase later this season. Proceeds will fund Inspire Change programs, the league stated in a news release.

As part of the NFL-Roc Nation deal, musicians will create new music throughout the season that will be available on digital streaming platforms. Proceeds from that will also help fund Inspire Change, according to the league.

Kaepernick, Kobe sightings at the US Open

The Nike athletes were cheering on Naomi Osaka from her box in her second-round match

5:14 PMIf the suddenly quarterback-challenged Indianapolis Colts wanted to find another quarterback before the season starts, they could have scouted him out at the US Open on Thursday.

That’s where Colin Kaepernick spent his afternoon at Louis Armstrong Stadium, behind Kobe Bryant, to watch top-seeded Naomi Osaka in her second-round match against Magda Linette of Poland on Day 4 of the Grand Slam tournament.

Both Kaepernick and Bryant sat in Osaka’s box on the sunny side of Armstrong Stadium, loudly cheering on their fellow Nike athlete. When an image of Kaepernick, rocking a new, free-flowing hairstyle, was shown on the screen during the first set, he was met with mostly cheers from the crowd, with a few scattered boos.

While all three rep the same shoe company, Osaka said Thursday was the first time she had met Kaepernick, who attended the US Open with Eric Reid last year to watch a match between Venus and Serena Williams.

Osaka, who has known Bryant for some time, said she wanted “to play well” in front of her star-studded box.

“Last year compared to this year, there is no way Kobe would sit in my box,” Osaka said, smiling. “Kaepernick, too. It’s just funny who you run into in life.”

Former NBA player Kobe Bryant watches a Women’s Singles second round match between Naomi Osaka of Japan Magda Linette of Poland on day four of the 2019 US Open. Bryant has been promoting his new tennis-themed fantasy novel, ‘Legacy and the Queen.’

Al Bello/Getty Images

That’s what happens when you become a two-time Grand Slam champion, which Osaka accomplished by following her US Open win in New York last year with the Australian Open title in January.

Bryant, who is expected to appear in the ESPN booth on Thursday night during the Coco Gauff match, was in New York for an appearance earlier in the day for Net Generation.

“Everybody knows Kobe gives me real-life advice,” Osaka said. “He’s someone I look up to as an athlete and also as a person. I’m really grateful that I even have the opportunity to talk to him.”

Osaka, with her win on Thursday, will play the winner of the Thursday evening match between Gauff and Timea Babos.

Can Black Girl Magic still shine at this year’s US Open?

The 2017 US Open semifinals featured Stephens, Keys and Williams, as the most African American women to advance that far in the tournament

9:55 PMNEW YORK — Two years ago, the semifinals of the 2017 US Open featuring Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys and Venus Williams was historic, marking the first time that three African American women had advanced that deep in the tournament.

There’s still a chance that history, and Black Girl Magic, can be duplicated this year. But only Keys from that trio of two years ago has a chance to be a part of it.

Keys, the runner-up to Stephens in 2017, hit her stride after a slow start in Wednesday’s second-round match against Lin Zhu of China for an easy straight-sets win (6-4, 6-1) to advance to the third round on Friday.

Williams was competitive against the tournament’s fifth seed, Elina Svitolina, but wound up losing in straight sets (6-4, 6-4). Williams, who had played in the semifinals of two Slams in 2017 (making the final of the Australian Open and the semifinals here), hasn’t reached the second week of a major since losing in that historic 2017 semifinal against Stephens.

And Stephens was stunned in her late-night first-round match on Tuesday against Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya (6-3, 6-4). Stephens has lost in the first round of two Slams she has played since winning here in 2017 and hasn’t won a tournament in more than a year.

Stephens, ranked 10th in the world, was hoping that reuniting with the coach who helped her win that 2017 US Open title, Kamau Murray, would help her get back to championship form. She never had a chance late Tuesday, getting outplayed by a player who had never cracked the top 100 (currently ranked 127th) in her four-year career. It was Kalinskaya’s first win in a Grand Slam match.

“It’s disappointing, but just keep going,” Stephens said. “There’s a couple of more tournaments left. I’m just going to try to do my best there, finish out the year decently.”

If you only watched Williams lumber around the court at times during breaks in her match against Svitolina, you might have wondered how many more years the 39-year-old has left. But once the ball was in play, Williams, who played her best match of the year in the first round, was extremely competitive and fought off five match points while down 5-3 in the second set.

Williams has won seven Slams in her career, including two here in New York. Despite having not won here since 2001, and not winning a Slam since the 2008 Wimbledon, Williams said she still has a strong desire to continue playing.

“There’s a lot to build on,” Williams said. “I’m excited to get to my next matches and sad it had to end early here.”

Keys gets to play on in a field that still includes Serena Williams, Coco Gauff, Taylor Townsend and Naomi Osaka as the women of color still alive in singles. For Keys, playing the US Open is sentimental: It’s the site of her first Grand Slam match win and her first Grand Slam final.

“I love playing here,” Keys said. “The crowd is always amazing; there’s been matches where I’ve been pretty much down and out, and the crowd has stayed behind me.”

Stephen Curry balled out at the Oakland Block Party

‘He told me he was coming, but it’s nothing like him actually being here with his wife and no security’

9:28 AMOAKLAND, Calif. — While the Golden State Warriors are moving to San Francisco, their star Stephen Curry still has his heart in Oakland.

Curry’s latest show of affection for the Warriors’ former home took place on Sunday when he and his wife, Ayesha, caused a stir by attending the Oakland Block Party hosted by rapper Mistah F.A.B., whose real name is Stanley Cox, at his urban clothing store, Dope Era. Cox said the Currys attended the event at Linden Park in North Oakland for “a couple hours” without security. The six-time All-Star also made a cameo appearance in one of the basketball games on the outdoor blacktop court, joining a team with Cox.

“Man, he is the greatest,” Cox told The Undefeated. “He told me he was coming, but it’s nothing like him actually being here with his wife and no security. They trusted me and knew that I’d never let as much as a fingernail chip come off his hand.”

The Warriors will be moving to the new Chase Center in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood next season and will play their first preseason game on Oct. 5 against the Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State had called Oracle Arena in Oakland home for the previous 47 seasons; Curry won three championships while starring for the Warriors at Oracle.

Curry’s show of support for Oakland was always front and center: The two-time league MVP celebrated his 10 years playing for the Warriors in “The Town” with a special Under Armour sneaker that read “Thank You Oakland” on the soles with a black and yellow Oakland colorway. Curry hosted a hip-hop concert at Oakland’s Fox Theater in December. Stephen and Ayesha Curry also unveiled a new family nonprofit foundation called Eat. Learn. Play. at Oakland’s Lake Merritt in July to address nutrition, education and recreation with youths.

Cox said it would be an “easy call” for the city of Oakland to build a statue in honor of Curry for everything he has done here on and off the court.

“Man, the kids couldn’t believe he was there. He means as much if not more to Oakland than what Michael Jordan meant to Chicago,” Cox said.