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

Tulsa officer acquitted in shooting death of unarmed black man

Betty Shelby beats charges for killing Terence Crutcher in 2016

6:15 PMAnother day, another police officer walks free after killing an unarmed black person.

You might remember the case of Terence Crutcher. Last year in Tulsa, he was killed by Officer Betty Shelby after a situation that unfolded outside of his car that was caught by police dash cameras as well as helicopter footage. It shows Crutcher, walking toward his car with police trailing him, guns pointed. Then, Crutcher’s arms come down and shots ring out, leaving him to lie there and die on the side of the road in Oklahoma. She was acquitted on Wednesday.

Where to begin. We’ll start with the trail, as the video shows you the details of the interaction. From there, let’s fast-forward to Shelby’s testimony, in which she states very plainly what the specific threat of police privilege and white supremacy means. Her fear was more important than her victim’s life. Beyond that admission, which was honest, she made an even more important statement about why, following her fear, she chose to shoot: That’s police policy.

“She articulated all of the reasons why she believed he was armed and why she took the action that she did that was in accordance with her training. In times of heavy stress and fear and uncomfortability, we revert to our training, and that’s what you want an officer to do. And you want them to handle situations the way they’re trained to handle them,” Jerad Lindsey, chairman of the Tulsa FOP, said earlier this week about Shelby’s testimony. “It takes tenths of seconds for someone to already make the mental decision to pull a weapon and shoot you.”

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The last sentence is the most important. What it basically says is the very same logic that police use to justify their decision-making in firing rounds is exactly what’s used against you when you haven’t even done anything. You can talk about the inherent danger of police work and what it takes to protect a community, but the problem with the “blue lives matter” logic is two-fold. One, no one is born a police officer. Secondarily, because it is a job, there are certain risks that simply have to be a part of the accountability scale in order for the entire system to work, if you’re even going to consider fairness a part of the equation. If every encounter is going to be considered life or death, then the logic should apply both ways. Meaning, Crutcher might have thought they were going to try to kill him, too. Otherwise, what you’re openly admitting is: This isn’t fair and doesn’t have to be.

By leaving the judgment to human nature and throwing one’s hands up after that, you’re completely eliminating acknowledgment of the most obvious of factors here: race. Inherent bias, never mind outright racist attitudes and methods, are well-studied and documented components of law enforcement, but they are clearly the defining factor in many cases. To be noted, the window was up.

This man’s blackness obviously made her feel like he was more likely to kill her or her colleagues. And if you don’t believe that’s real, just listen to the officers on the audio of the footage of the shooting. “Time for Taser, I think,” one officer says in the lead-up to the gunshots. “That looks like a bad dude, too. Could be on something.” Seconds later, Crutcher is on the ground, his white T-shirt soaked in his blood.

The autopsy revealed that Crutcher did have PCP in his system. That in itself is not a reason for someone to die, of course. Not to mention that the casual observation of a random black man being a “bad dude” is a clear indicator about the kind of snap judgments people make based on appearance that have zero grounding in fact. Crutcher had previously served time for dealing cocaine and, according to his sister, had a drug problem as a user. Again, none of that should equal a death sentence, but even if you think so, how they figured all that out in those few minutes is beyond me.

Not to mention something else, perhaps the most critical element to the backdrop of everything. This is Tulsa. Not just the Tulsa where white residents burned down as many black businesses and neighborhoods as they could in the 1920s during a riot. (They’re making a movie about it.) It’s the same Tulsa where, in 2015, a guy working law enforcement literally for fun, who was a friend of the sheriff’s, shot and killed a guy because he mistook his handgun for his Taser. We’re not talking about ancient history. Never mind the fact that the guy is still bitter, saying that he’s mad he ever decided to give back to the community — not that, you know, he actually took someone’s life.

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Mind you, the fallout from that was a reform program for that whole operation, but that’s not going to matter to Crutcher’s family. The point here is that the violence that takes the lives of so many unarmed black people isn’t just accidental or incidental, it’s state-sponsored.

Baltimore kid stunts on chess tournament in Nike slides

Cahree Myrick is a gawd for this

2:25 PM

When I grow up, I want to be like Cahree Myrick.

I didn’t know who he was until this morning when this crossed my desk. I have no context for this photo other than what’s tweeted. Alec Ross, by the way, is running for governor in Maryland. But his political career aside, let’s talk about the sport.

Chess, for years, was the purview of dudes on park benches and European dudes who took things extremely seriously. Over the past decade, it’s grown quite a bit in the black community, with after-school programs being the primary vehicle. Here’s a story about one in Ferguson, Missouri, for example. As a concept though, the effect of teaching black kids to play chess is such a marvel that it’s been the subject of pretty serious academic study, too. You might be familiar with Maurice Ashley, the first black chess grandmaster, who’s been at the forefront of this movement.

But let’s talk about this kid. I have a kid brother in middle school. He dresses exactly like this every day possible. When I was his age, I dressed exactly like this, every day possible. It was my outfit for walking to the gas station to get snacks, maybe hitting the mall with a friend or lounging at my cousin’s house. This young man decided to rock it to a chess championship. And he won.

I have no clue what any of his competitors wore, but I like to imagine that they wore the kind of stuff your parents forced you to wear to Sunday school — you know, just in case someone took a picture. My man Cahree rolled up in some slides, banged a couple of checkmates and walked away with a trophy.

This is black boy joy.

New Beats By Dre ad features 4 NBA stars

Pro athletes head to arena in latest ad

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If I only watched the commercials, I’d assume that Beats By Dre was worn only by professional athletes warming up for games or trying to ignore the public. The company, started by rap mogul Dr. Dre, became popular with players a while back, but the company does not seem to have branched out from that marketing tactic since it took hold.

Back in 2014, as part of the “Hear What You Want” campaign, we got ads with LeBron James, Kevin Garnett and Colin Kaepernick doing just that. In the latest commercial, we get more of the same, to an extent. This time, to the tune of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” we get focused dudes headed to the arena, ready to show their support. But you’ll notice, they’re not actually wearing the headphones while driving — but they are when the power walk starts.

Good to see that Beats is promoting safety first, as distracted driving is a real threat. Ask Gregg Popovich.

Daily Dose: 5/16/17

Dave Chappelle regrets his kind words for Donald Trump

12:21 PMI don’t know how you feel about avocados. On Monday, they became a very intense topic of conversation when some rich guy decided that they and millennials were to blame for everyone’s housing problems. So, I had to write about it.

So, let’s review how things went down when Russian officials came to the White House. Openly mocking the media because the head of the FBI had been fired the day before, President Donald Trump then decided to let Russian media into the Oval Office unfettered while he didn’t allow American media in at the same time. Then he rolled out Henry Kissinger, of all people, for U.S. media, a troll job of epic proportions. Now, in a major bombshell, it turns out that Trump actually shared intelligence with those officials. Wowzers.

Speaking of the president, remember when Dave Chappelle defended him? It was a strange moment in pop culture when a guy who spent a reasonable amount of time mocking other commanders in chief suddenly decided that the guy he wanted people to remain open-minded about was, of all people, Donald J. Trump. On Saturday Night Live, no less. At the time I was seriously shocked but thought, when you’re that rich, you can be lenient with people. Well, how’d that turn out? Now, Dave is saying he regrets making those comments.

There are a few shows that are watchable no matter when or where you see them. These days, programming fits such specific spaces in our lives that not many programs are easy to just flip on and enjoy. But one show that definitely fits that mold is Shark Tank, for my money one of the best things we’ve got going in this medium. I love it. A few people I know have been on it, with a modicum of success, which is part of what makes it so cool. It feels pretty accessible, in general. Anywhom, guess who’s joining as a judge next season? Alex Rodriguez.

Is James Harden a goon? I don’t mean that in a jokey way that folks use now for people who operate in a shady manner and uphold an otherwise good standing in the community. I’m talking about an actual goon who’s willing to hurt someone physically for embarrassing him in public. Moses Malone Jr. is accusing Harden of having some associates jump him after he posted on Facebook about how the Rockets star was charging a lot of money for his basketball camp. If this is true, not a good look for the bearded one.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you know me, you know that I love to collect vinyl. Whenever I go on a road trip, I make sure to seek out a record store to at least look, if not certainly to buy something. It’s a fun way to explore places and build my collection. Here’s a TED talk about the culture of record digging. Great idea.

Snack Time: When Travis Scott drops new music, people pay attention. Here are three new tracks from the guy who was recently arrested for inciting a riot at an Arkansas concert.

Dessert: We’ll just leave you with this.

In defense of avocado toast

Is it a fruit? A berry? Does anyone really care?

3:42 PMA hilarious convo erupted on the internet Monday afternoon surrounding an interesting food item: avocado toast. It was all sparked by a Time magazine story with the headline “Millionaire to Millennials: Stop Buying Avocado Toast If You Want to Buy a Home.” In short: lol.

The basic premise here is that stupid, shortsighted and pound-foolish millennials are too busy eating quasi-luxury items like avocado toast instead of giving their money to old white men on Wall Street who might decide that they either want to steal it or gamble it away in a Ponzi scheme. Because that’s what we’ve always done, and what with the ChapSnats and the Venmobook ruining The Way We Used To Do Things, the economy is all upside down and everyone is renting microapartments and Ubering to work in the gig economy instead of living like the Jetsons.

To which I say: Whatever.

The more important conversation here is about avocado toast as a luxury item, and where it stands in the food hierarchy. Once one of those things that was best enjoyed as a breakfast life hack in one’s own home for quasi-creatives in the kitchen, it has now moved onto restaurant menus to be enjoyed by brunch monkeys across the nation. Back when I was into this bit, a great life hack if a place had avocado on the menu was to just describe how to make it and ask for it. That typically landed you with a fun, creative dish from a chef who got to branch out without too much effort.

But a $22 avocado toast? That’s insane. For a couple of different reasons. No. 1, avocados just aren’t that good. Cut one open, throw on some sea salt, perhaps, and a dash of hot sauce? Delish. Maybe mix in some bread, a runny egg yolk and, if you want to get crazy ambitious, some … wait for it … sesame oil (just a dash). You’ve got yourself an A+ snack. But by no means is avocado toast supposed to be the centerpiece of anything. Ever. We’re not talking guacamole, here, which is a whole other discussion.

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I don’t know what happened to avocado. It was like the friend in middle school who had cool sleepovers, actually called you during the summer to hang out and didn’t act like he didn’t know you once everyone got to high school. Avocado was cool, and you were glad you knew Avocado. Then, something happened.

Avocado, which now just goes by Cado, did a semester abroad in Prague and suddenly has an English accent for whatever reason. Cado is talking about popping bottles at the club when you’re trying to figure out how to get a free 30-pack out of the guy who works at the beer store. Cado, whom you and your other friends now actually call Avo, has people you don’t even know obsessing about him online, and it’s weird.

But Avocado is still the friend who let you crash at his house when you were too wasted to go home, and his parents didn’t rat you out. Avocado might have let you drive his car when you didn’t have a license. And when Avocado’s date had a friend, you got invited. You couldn’t turn your back on Avocado.

So, fast-forward 15 years and avocado is an argument among people who think it was a luxury item all along. No. Avocado was messy, not for novices and, frankly, kind of bland unless you knew how to dress it up properly. That’s right, it was YOU who taught avocado how to buy clothes when he was still shopping at the Gap in ninth grade. Anyways, it’s all very confusing now.

Then, avocado got married to the mainstream. Places like Chipotle existed solely off its existence, you thought. It was in Subway now, and there was no turning back. Next thing you know, you look up and someone is scolding you about your old friend because you live in an apartment with a roommate instead of a two-story house with a garage. But in the end, you can never really blame avocado.

Why? Because if you were avocado, you would have done the same thing.

Dejounte Murray has the best tattoo in the NBA

and the simplistic line drawing is perfection

12:03 PM

Dejounte Murray is a 20-year-old kid from Seattle who plays for the San Antonio Spurs. Don’t kick yourself if you didn’t know who he was until Sunday, when his team faced off against the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. He’s averaged less than 10 minutes per game in his NBA career, and he played only one year in college at the University of Washington before becoming a late first-round draft pick. He’s done multiple stints in the D-League.

But he’s got an amazing tattoo.

In the NBA these days, it’s not uncommon to see fully sleeved guys or even, in extreme cases, neck tats going up to one’s face. I’m not sure when we’ll have our first face tat player in the league, but that’s a discussion for another day. The typical NBA tattoo guy looks more like LeBron James or J.R. Smith: most of the upper torso done, including arms. Not Murray, however. In a sea of flourishing fades and extensive line work, he is a trailblazer, an outlier in said world.

He’s got a singular image on his right shoulder that looks like something he drew on his arm in art class in fifth grade that never came off. And it’s glorious. Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t about me disliking the way Isaiah Thomas’ arms look. I am completely here for one’s entire skin being covered in ink, as a general matter, if that’s one’s choice. But in the case of the league, it’s pretty much old hat.

Murray’s got just one. It’s kind of cute, to be honest. Like a kid riding a big wheel alongside a caravan of Harley-Davidsons, he’s doing just fine pedaling on the sidewalk. Also, it appeals grandly to my childhood. It looks like a Madball.

Like so many toys from the 1980s and ’90s, I knew what this was but had forgotten the name until reminded of it. But that imagery of a baseball designed to look like monsters never left me. As a kid obsessed with baseball and cartoons at the time, this product was so directly in my wheelhouse it wasn’t even funny. I LOVED Madballs. And in typical form for the time, it was far more than just a toy line — it was an entire brand, complete with an animated series, comic books and a video game.

I had no idea how well-imprinted Madballs were on my brain until Twitter exploded over Murray’s adorable ink. Of course, at his age, there’s no way that his connection to that image is really about his childhood, unless his parents had the older hand-me-down toys of all time. But who cares, HE HAS A TATTOO THAT LOOKS LIKE MADBALLS.

The kid had a solid game to close out the series against the Rockets, and for his age he is having a solid playoff run. If you know me, you know that I irrationally hate the Spurs because they’re like your perfect cousin as a kid, whom your parents point to as the example you should be but know you never will be. Don’t get crazy, though. Murray is not about to suddenly make the Spurs likable to me; however, I don’t mind rooting for him, personally.

Of course, Twitter is going to let these jokes fly. If you don’t know, it’s not his only tat. He just has them spread out in a far more willy-nilly fashion than the usual star in the league. And for that, we salute him.

Please, Dejounte, never change.

Daily Dose: 5/15/17

New Miss USA Kara McCullough shares thoughts on health care and feminism

11:17 AMThe Morning Roast was down a member Sunday, but Domonique Foxworth and I carried on anyway, and if you were listening live you got to hear a story about me wearing a T-shirt on my head. Which, apparently, is crazy.

https://twitter.com/CWDaven/status/863587686455676930?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.buzzfeed.com%2Fjuliareinstein%2Fcharlottesville

Charlottesville, Virginia, is the home of UVA. You know, the University of Virginia, that esteemed institution that was started by noted slave owner and founding father Thomas Jefferson. So when a group of white supremacists turned out to protest the removal of a Confederate statue with torches in tow, we can’t say we were particularly surprised. What isn’t helping their cause is that self-proclaimed neo-Nazi Richard Spencer was among them. The mayor of the town called the act horrific, but now you know why these monuments have to go.

The Miss USA Pageant had some highs and lows Sunday night. The high point was four women of color making the top five finalists. Then, when Miss District of Columbia won, she got on stage and decided to make some rather interesting comments. She expressed her views that health care should be a privilege in this country, which is wild because she’s a scientist working for the government. She also said that too many people are overplaying what feminism should be. All righty then. Kara McCullough joined Good Morning America to discuss her win.

Uber Pool can be quite the experience. Personally, I run just a little too hot to be dealing with people I don’t know in such a private space when I ride. I’d rather ride the bus or the train. And a recent situation in Washington shows exactly how things can get VERY awkward. Let’s be clear. If we’re in the back seat of a car and a white person starts dropping N-bombs while singing a song, one of us is getting out. And it’s not going to be me. That’s exactly what happened in one case, and it was the driver who put the offending parties out. Good for him.

We’re finally to that point where NBA jerseys are going to have more than just team logos on them. I don’t particularly mind this, but in American sporting culture it is not the norm, so the first few teams who get on board with this are probably going to deal with a fair amount of backlash. That team will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. They’ll be sporting the Goodyear tires logo somewhere on their tops, which is cool because the company was started in Akron, Ohio, the hometown of LeBron James, the greatest basketball player of all time. The history is cool too.

Free Food

Coffee Break: When it was first announced that Ta-Nehisi Coates would be penning a Black Panther comic book series, many black comic fans rejoiced. Coates’ touch on a famous brand felt like a perfect mix that was a long time coming. Alas, it’s now coming to an end, apparently because of poor sales figures. Bummer.

Snack Time: If you don’t want to get caught up in the nonsense that is marriage to another person, why bother? You can have your ceremony and eat it too, with a little something called “sologamy.” Don’t invite me, though.

Dessert: I’ll be hosting #TheRightTime for Bomani Jones on Monday from 4-7 p.m. EST. Make sure to tune in!

Michelle Obama claps back over school lunches

saying Trump administration is not looking out for children’s health

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“Why don’t you want our kids to have good food at school? What is wrong with you?”

Those were the words of Michelle Obama speaking at the Partnership for a Healthier America 2017 Healthier Future Summit in Washington on Friday. The former first lady was addressing the recent actions of new Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, who has decided that basically the rules that the Obamas implemented to create healthier food choices in schools shouldn’t all be required, ostensibly for the purposes of not hamstringing the food service providers.

Ever since Donald Trump decided to run for office, he promised to roll back various measures that President Barack Obama had put in place over the previous eight years. In those cases, one could reasonably argue that political differences were a decent reason for said actions. People disagree on what should and should not be regulated all the time. But food for kids? It doesn’t take a policy wonk to know that the health of the next generation is vital to, well, the survival of the nation. This isn’t difficult.

“Think about why someone is OK with your kids eating crap,” Obama continued. “If somebody is doing that, they don’t care about your kid.”

Which, as an aside, is what made her efforts while in the White House so smart. First ladies are often saddled with the often unfair burden of representing a “cause” just for the sake of keeping up appearances. Lady Bird Johnson wanted to make the nation’s capital look better. Nancy Reagan took a different route, lending her face to the Just Say No movement, arguably the most asinine, ineffective and ultimately harmful marketing campaign in American public health history. As the outward-facing image of the highly problematic war on drugs, Reagan was a star in her own right.

So when Obama decided to put a vegetable garden on the White House lawn and use it as a way to teach visiting schoolkids the importance of healthy eating, it was unimpugnable. On top of that, her Let’s Move campaign, an effort to curb childhood obesity, dovetailed nicely with the overall message that healthy living is better for everyone from a basic human standpoint.

Which is why she brought it up today. Do we know why these rollbacks are happening across the board when it comes to The Donald vs. Barack? Of course we do. But now, we also know that if a corporation or company can benefit from something at the cost of your kids’ future, this administration is willing to allow that.

Are we willing to sacrifice a generation to spite the Obamas? Some people in our country have already said yes to that. The question is whether we’re willing to admit why.

Kendrick Lamar narrates farewell to Paul Pierce

L.A. Clippers release video tribute for NBA legend

2:07 PM

Paul Pierce’s farewell tour didn’t end with a trophy, but it did have a few nice moments. One of those moments came Thursday when his hometown Los Angeles Clippers released a tribute video to him narrated by the hottest rapper on earth right now and an Angeleno himself: Kendrick Lamar.

The video takes you back to Inglewood High School, where he was a McDonald’s All-American and California’s Mr. Basketball in 1995. Overall, it’s a quick, fun tribute to a guy who was always well-liked by other players in the league, never mind fans of the teams he played on. Doesn’t hurt to have King Kenny lend his voice to the effort either.

In case you forgot, his nickname is The Truth and his resume is too: Finals MVP, 10-time NBA All-Star, among many other accolades. And he just seems like a cool dude. “Life is not all about the wins and losses,” Lamar says. “It’s also about how you affect people. Paul Pierce, you are the truth.”

Daily Dose: 5/12/17

L.A. Reid moves on from Epic Records

12:36 PMI’m going to see Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals Friday night between the Washington Wizards and the Boston Celtics. I really, really, hope that this isn’t the last NBA basketball game in D.C. this season.

If you listen to music in this country, you should know who L.A. Reid is. One half of the original team that started LaFace Records, Babyface being the other, he’s been a dominant force in the industry for a generation. He’s the kind of guy who’s always making various people’s power lists, and in an era in which the concept of the record company mogul is kind of a dying breed, he’s still around. But now, he’s out at Epic Records. It’s not exactly clear why, either, because it’s not like he wasn’t enjoying plenty of success. Where he lands will be fascinating.

President Donald Trump is letting the tweets fly, again. After apparently nearly incriminating himself during an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, he decided it was a good idea to get up and start tweeting even more things that could eventually end his administration — which for my money, is exactly what he wants to do. No. 1, he admitted that he fired FBI director James Comey because of his investigation into Trump’s Russia ties, which in most leagues is a foul, to borrow a sports phrase. Then, he basically threatened a congressional witness.

The man in charge of Rikers Island is stepping down. Joseph Ponte is his name, and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio put him in charge of the Big Apple’s correctional facilities three years ago. Let’s just say that he’s not exactly leaving without a cloud over his head. De Blasio talked long and loud about how he was going to close Rikers, but that still hasn’t happened, and Ponte’s own proclivity for being extremely shady is as much of a reason to point to as anything else. In short, conditions for inmates are not getting better in NYC anytime soon.

LaVar Ball’s had a decent week. He’s managed to stay in the news cycle without being completely destructive and sell a few shoes in the interim. Also, if you want to hear the clearest example of why most people have no issue with Lonzo Ball’s father, but actually like him, look no further than rapper The Game, who broke it down in pretty simple terms. He also managed to get into a bit of a row with Kobe Bryant, but in the end, NBA execs say this will not affect his son’s draft status. Which, for Lonzo, is all that should matter.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I’m not going to lie. I don’t want to read or watch content about Tupac and Biggie for the rest of my life. I just don’t. I know that some people do, and that’s fine, but personally, with each successive project about their lives and deaths, I feel ickier as a fan of hip-hop. USA Network has greenlit a series called Unsolved.

Snack Time: Missy Elliot has always been a style icon, and that ain’t changing anytime soon, so to see her on the cover of Elle magazine is a big win for her and the culture in general.

Dessert: Need a good gift for mom? How about a Nike outsole iPhone case! For real, though, they’re dope.