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

Shani Davis qualifies for fifth straight Winter Olympics

Speedskater was first African-American to win an individual gold medal at Winter Games

9:28 PMSpeedskater Shani Davis, the first African-American to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics, qualified for Team USA on Wednesday, marking his fifth straight appearance at the Winter Games.

Davis finished second (1:09.23) in the 1,000-meter race at the Olympic trials in Milwaukee, solidifying his spot on the team ahead of February’s games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Joey Mantia, a 2014 Olympian, came in first (1:09.15), and two-time Olympian Mitch Whitmore rounded out the top three (1:09.31).

A Chicago native, Davis began roller skating at 2 years old, eventually leading to his making the U.S. junior national team in 1999 at age 16. In 2002, he made his first Olympics as an alternate for the short track team. Four years later, he placed first in the men’s 1,000 meters, becoming the first black athlete from any country to win an individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics, and second in the men’s 1,500 meters. In 2010, he won another gold (1,000-meter) and silver (1,500-meter) medal, and Davis is a seven-time world champion in both events.

Davis is one of the best-known black Winter Olympians, joined by bobsledder Vonetta Flowers, the first black Olympian to win a gold medal (in a team event), and figure skater Debi Thomas, the first African-American to medal at the Winter Olympics.

Other black athletes joining Davis in Pyeongchang will be hockey player Jordan Greenway, the first African-American to play for Team USA; the Nigerian women’s bobsled team, the first team from an African nation to qualify in the event; and fellow American speedskater Maame Biney, 17, who in December became the first black woman to qualify for a U.S. speedskating team.

Davis, who turned 35 in August, recently told the Team USA website that he plans to continue racing until he can no longer skate.

“I just don’t recover the same,” he said. “But I still love the sport of speedskating and I always find a challenge in competing and trying to be the best I can be. So as long as I have that in me, age doesn’t mean a thing.”

Hue Jackson is spared, Jim Caldwell is not, now Jackson needs to win some games

Browns plan to bring back coach after 0-16 mark; Lions fire coach after winning season

9:09 AMOne has to look hard to find anything positive in the winless Cleveland Browns’ season, which mercifully ended Sunday after a 28-24 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Cleveland joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only NFL teams to finish 0-16.

The Browns were a complete mess from start to finish. Former general manager Sashi Brown, who was fired Dec. 7, paid the price for this season’s ineptitude. But front-office makeovers are nothing new for this franchise.

What is surprising, however, is that the Browns don’t plan to make a coaching change. Head coach Hue Jackson, who’s African-American, will return next season, the team says. During two seasons with the Browns, Jackson is 1-31. His only victory came in Week 16 last season against the then-San Diego Chargers.

Compare that to the Detroit Lions, who on Monday fired Jim Caldwell, who is also African-American. Caldwell was let go despite posting a winning record in three of his four seasons with the Lions. Detroit made the playoffs twice under Caldwell, going 0-2, and missed the postseason this year at 9-7.

Considering the dearth of head coaches of color in the league – the number fell to seven with Caldwell’s firing – it’s good that the Browns appear to be giving Jackson every opportunity to prove he’s the right man for the job. And Jackson still has a lot to prove.

Sure, the Browns’ player personnel department has made some colossal errors. Remember: Cleveland passed on star quarterback Carson Wentz. Still, it’s hard to go winless during a 16-game schedule, as evidenced by the fact it has only happened twice.

It’s fair to say that Jackson needs to show a whole lot next season. He has to win some games.

Gettleman hiring keeps diversity numbers for NFL general managers the same

Give the Giants credit for interviewing two black candidates

8:07 AMOn Thursday, the New York Giants announced the hiring of Dave Gettleman as the team’s new general manager.

Gettleman, who was fired from the same position with the Carolina Panthers in July, replaces Jerry Reese, who was relieved of his duties along with Giants head coach Ben McAdoo on Dec. 4.

The hiring keeps the number of black general managers in the 32-team league at four — Rick Smith (Houston Texans), Ozzie Newsome (Baltimore Ravens), Reggie McKenzie (Oakland Raiders) and Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins) — after the Cleveland Browns fired Sashi Brown on Dec. 7.

Although the Giants didn’t end up replacing Reese, who is African-American, with another black GM, they did take the league’s diversity hiring initiative, the Rooney Rule, more seriously than most other front offices have. The rule requires teams to interview at least one candidate of color for every head-coaching or senior football operations position, although some teams hold what are essentially “token” interviews with black or brown candidates to check off a box.

The Giants, on the other hand, interviewed two black men for the position: Marc Ross, the team’s current vice president of player evaluation, and Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst and former player, pro scout and director of pro personnel.

Kevin Abrams, the Giants’ interim general manager, also interviewed. Gettleman returns to the Giants after having spent 15 seasons with the team, mostly as director of pro personnel. In Gettleman’s four-year tenure with the Panthers, the team made the playoffs three seasons in a row from 2013-15, including a 15-1 record and Super Bowl appearance in 2015. He was not a favorite of some of the franchise’s best players.

Wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., running back DeAngelo Williams and cornerback Josh Norman sent parting shots at Gettleman when the Panthers announced his firing.

Recy Taylor, subject of new documentary about the rape of black women during Jim Crow, has died

97-year-old was at a nursing home in the same Alabama town where she had been attacked

2:10 PMRecy Taylor, the subject of the new documentary The Rape of Recy Taylor, died Thursday morning at a nursing home in Abbeville, Alabama. She was 97.

Her brother Robert Lee Corbitt, 81, confirmed her death.

‘The Rape of Recy Taylor’ explores the little-known terror campaign against black women

Taylor was one of countless black women who were raped by white men during Jim Crow. In 1944, when she was walking home from church one evening, she was kidnapped, blindfolded and assaulted by six white men. Rosa Parks, working as a local NAACP official, came to Abbeville to agitate for the prosecution of Taylor’s attackers. None of them was ever indicted.

In addition to being the subject of the Nancy Buirski documentary, which debuted this year at the New York Film Festival, Taylor was a central figure in a book by historian Danielle McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance — A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. McGuire’s book traces how anti-rape activism in the South helped fuel the civil rights movement.

After the attack, Taylor spent most of her adult years in Winter Haven, Florida. Her family moved her back to Abbeville when she was 93 because she began to suffer from dementia.

“She was a Christian all of her life,” Corbitt said by phone Thursday afternoon. “She kept us in church all that time. I live about 500 feet from the church where she was going that night, and I’m also a deacon of that church.”

The church, which in 1944 was called Abbeville Holiness Church, is now called Abbeville Memorial Church of God in Christ.

Taylor raised Corbitt and five other brothers and sisters after their mother died when Corbitt was an infant. She is survived by Corbitt and her two remaining sisters, Mary Murry, 90, and Lillie Kinsey, 94, one granddaughter and several great-grandchildren. Her only daughter, Joyce Lee Taylor, died in a car crash in 1967.

Taylor, Corbitt said, “had a very good life,” but she never recovered emotionally from the attack that took place when she was just 24 years old.

After he retired from working as a building maintenance official in New York, Corbitt said he moved back to Alabama to research what happened to his sister and attempt to obtain some measure of justice for her. Corbitt is one of the primary sources for Buirski’s film. Though she was alive during its filming, Taylor only appears near the end, when Corbitt, whom she called “Baby,” went to visit her in her nursing home.

“She would only talk to me,” Corbitt said. “That’s why I dug at it so hard. After I retired, I devoted myself to getting something done about it. We did get an apology from the state of Alabama.”