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

Trump ball-fakes America with Muhammad Ali pardon proposal

Blacks suffer from mass incarceration revival while the president focuses on a chosen few

1:24 PMPresident Donald Trump is talking about pardoning Muhammad Ali. This comes after he recently pardoned Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight boxing champion, and commuted the life sentence of a black woman convicted of a nonviolent drug offense.

We already know that exonerating individual African-Americans doesn’t square with the Justice Department reviving criminal charging policies that are biased at best and racist at worst. And Ali’s conviction was overturned more than 30 years ago. Legally, there’s nothing to pardon. So it must be said: Trump’s pardons of black people obscure the fact that he is trying to bring back mass incarceration.

This tactic is starting to look intentional. Especially given Trump’s ongoing cage match with NFL players.

Players who kneeled during the national anthem were protesting a criminal justice system that treats black people unfairly. From initial police contact on the street to who gets freed on bail to charges and plea bargains and the length of prison sentencesat every step, the worst treatment is inflicted on African-Americans. This is what the scholar Michelle Alexander identified as “The New Jim Crow,” which she calls a deliberate (and bipartisan) effort to deprive black men of basic freedoms.

Trump made his Ali comment while speaking to reporters at the White House before departing for the Group of Seven summit. “I’m thinking about that very seriously and some others,” Trump said. “And some folks that have sentences that aren’t fair.” He then told reporters he’d like to meet with NFL players who kneel during the national anthem and get their recommendations for pardons: “I’m going to ask them to recommend to me people who were unfairly treated.”

This is a ball fake. Start with the fact that when Ali refused to serve in Vietnam because of his faith and American racism, he was stripped of his athletic career the same way pro football has been taken from Colin Kaepernick. Also, Trump has consistently vilified protesting NFL players, who are mostly black. The players, meanwhile, have consistently said they are seeking changes to a racially biased criminal justice system.

Asking players who should be pardoned is like asking LeBron James which Cavaliers aren’t performing well in the playoffs. There are too many to choose from. And it sidesteps the fact that NFL players are protesting exactly what Trump’s Justice Department, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, is doing.

One year ago, Sessions overturned Obama-era reforms and instructed federal prosecutors to pursue the most aggressive charges possible against certain defendants. This decision was criticized by conservatives ranging from the Koch brothers to Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “Mandatory minimum sentences have unfairly and disproportionately incarcerated too many minorities for too long,” Paul said. “Attorney General Sessions’ new policy will accentuate that injustice.” Trump also said during his campaign that his solution for distressed black communities was based on “tough on crime” policies, like New York City’s “stop and frisk” approach, even though such tactics have been discredited across the political spectrum.

Basically, Trump is reviving policies that were responsible for imprisoning Alice Marie Johnson, the same woman whom Trump freed earlier this week.

Compared with the impact of mass incarceration, issuing pardons to a few black people with celebrity connections feels like tokenism. And both of Trump’s high-profile black pardons have come at the behest of white celebrities: Sylvester Stallone brought Jack Johnson to the president’s attention, and Kim Kardashian West secured Johnson’s release.

If Trump wanted to apologize for the government’s unfair treatment of Ali, that might be meaningful. But to pardon a second dead boxing celebrity while so many unknown black people remain incarcerated seems like an injustice of its own.

“A pardon is unnecessary,” said Ali’s attorney, Ron Tweet. “There is no conviction from which a pardon is needed.”

What’s needed is criminal justice reform — justice for hundreds of thousands of human beings without white celebrity friends. That’s what the kneeling NFL players have been asking for all along.

Sam Jackson and friends wow at ‘Incredibles 2’ premiere

Judging by the response of an early audience, sequel is worth the super long wait

7:52 AMLOS ANGELES — The Incredibles 2 premiere was a magical place. In addition to guests Wiz Khalifa, Jason George and black-ish star Marcus Scribner, stars of the film — which features Samuel L. Jackson, Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter — were positioned in the carnival-like atmosphere, where they posed with fans who’ve been waiting a decade and a half for a sequel.

In keeping with the spirit of the much-anticipated animated sequel, the party happened before the world premiere of the film, in a tented area near Hollywood’s El Capitan Theatre where jugglers juggled, acrobats balanced larger-than-life balls and performers on stilts entertained guests. All this as revelers feasted on deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chicken corn dogs, chocolate-dipped Rice Krispies treats, candied apples, flavored snow cones and the requisite open bar.

And a few hours later, as the crowd leapt to its feet at the conclusion of the premiere, the wait felt more than worth it. Unlike other recent premieres (perhaps because this is an animated film?) there wasn’t the usual pomp and circumstance. No director opened with a speech, and no cast members were called onstage to be introduced to the audience. The studio let the film speak for itself, and judging by the rousing round of applause (and early responses), it was the exact right move. The film is in theaters June 15.

Southern University is first HBCU to get into medical marijuana

It’s agricultural research center gets $7 million in grants

9:43 AMSomebody had to be first.

Southern University and A&M College owns the distinction as the first historically black college or university (HBCU) to launch a medical marijuana program.

The Baton Rouge, Louisiana-based HBCU, known for its nationally acclaimed Fabulous Dancing Dolls, launched the program after a contract with Advanced Biomedics, a Louisiana-based company specializing in pharmaceutical-grade marijuana products, was approved on May 25, Baton Rouge news source WAFB reported.

What does this mean, you ask? Depends on whom you ask.

“This is a momentous event,” said Bobby R. Phills, chancellor of the Southern University Ag Center and dean of the College of Agricultural, Family and Consumer Sciences. “We are extremely excited to be able to provide quality medicine for the citizens of Louisiana. This groundbreaking research opportunity will also provide revenue for the University and economic development in North Baton Rouge.”

The Southern University Agricultural Center is currently awaiting the completion of background checks from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry as part of the completion process, and the university plans to construct a facility on a 176-acre plot of land in Baker, Louisiana.

Southern University now joins Louisiana State University in the cannabis ranks, with both public schools set to cultivate and research marijuana in campus facilities in the state, which legalized the substance in 2016 but prohibited recreational use.

The school, which focuses on livestock, farming research and community education, will oversee the program, according to the report provided. The contract with Advanced Biomedics is set to automatically renew its agreement with the school for two consecutive five-year periods, leading to the assumption that this is a long-term partnership.

Southern University’s product will be ready for distribution at Louisiana dispensaries in early 2019, and the university is set to make a healthy amount from the marijuana facilities.

The Agricultural Research Center will receive $6 million, and Southern will get a $1 million signing bonus with each contract renewal.

Clearly it pays to be first.

The Audemars Piguet watch LeBron James wore for Game 1 worth at least $40,000, expert says

According to the luxury brand’s website, only 1,500 of the model were made

2:27 PMOAKLAND, California — Remember when LeBron James broke out a short suit outfit, valued $46,964.95, for Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals? Well, the ensemble is actually worth much more. Just take a look at the Cleveland Cavaliers star’s wrist.

According to watch connoisseur FakeWatchBusta, a social media sensation known for exposing celebrities for wearing inauthentic timepieces, James donned a super-rare Audemars Piguet, called the Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph during pregame and postgame of the Cavs’ 124-114 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The watch’s features include:

  • Self-winding chronograph with date display and small seconds at 12 o’clock
  • Ceramic case, bezel and crown.
  • 18-carat pink gold pushpieces
  • Titanium caseback with medallion.
  • Black ceramic case, black dial, anthracite strap.

According to the Swiss luxury brand’s website, only 1,500 were made, and the watch is currently “not for sale.”

“It retailed in shops for right over $40,000,” FakeWatchBusta told The Undefeated via email. The watch can be found on websites, such as swissluxury.com, for a resale value of as much as $46,495. But there’s certainly a chance James’ version of the Royal Oak Offshore Schwarzenegger could be worth more.

“Since he is endorsed by Audemars Piguet,” FakeWatchBusta wrote, “it could also be something special made, of course.”

The Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore Arnold Schwarzenegger The Legacy Chronograph, worn by LeBron James pregame and postgame of Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.

James has a longstanding partnership with Audemars Piguet that led to the limited release of his own signature watch, the Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Offshore LeBron James, in 2013. At a retail price of $51,500, only 600 pieces dropped worldwide. And in early 2018, the watchmaker tapped James for an ad campaign directed by fashion photographer Rankin in celebration of the 25th anniversary of the iconic Royal Oak Offshore.

Come Game 1 of his eighth-straight Finals appearance, James’ choice of watch was surely a no-brainer. The Royal Oak is fit for a king and apparently worth every penny. The accessory brings the minimum total of this Game 1 outfit to nearly $87,000 — not even including his custom jewelry. Guess that’s just the luxury of getting paid more than $33 million a year to play in the NBA.