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

WATCH: City of Memphis gets rid of two Confederate statues

Monuments to Klansman Nathan Bedford Forrest and Confederate President Jefferson Davis come down after campaign

2:32 PMTwo Confederate statues were removed from former public parks in the city of Memphis, Tennessee, after the properties were sold to the nonprofit agency Memphis Greenspace. It all went down Wednesday at 9:01 p.m. in the city, which coincidentally has the area code 901.

The decision to proceed with the removal came to fruition Wednesday after the city council voted to sell the parks where the statues were located.

During the summer, educator and city activist Tami Sawyer started the #TakeEmDown901 campaign, which was followed by protests that ended in arrests and sparked the initiative that prompted the removals. The campaign even got support of athletes and coaches including the then-Memphis Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale.

According to The New Tri-State Defender, the parks were sold for $1,000 each, which legally gave the agency authority to remove the statues.

Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, a slave trader, was the first grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Jefferson Davis was president of the Confederate States of America from 1861 to 1865 and lived in Memphis.

Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland posted a statement on Facebook that it was important to see the statues removed ahead of the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death in 2018.

“The statues no longer represent who we are as a modern, diverse city with momentum,” he wrote.

Basketball

LaVar Ball’s basketball league is a bad idea

For all but a handful of future pros, college is smarter than short money

5:47 PMLaVar Ball’s proposed pro basketball league for high school graduates is like those shoes that are supposed to increase your vertical: Looks good, but a bad idea for almost everyone. Instead, let’s fix college basketball so it provides a real education for athletes. That would be worth much more, long term, than what Ball is offering to pay these kids.

Sure, I understand why the idea is attractive on the surface. Just ask all those geniuses on Twitter: College ballplayers already get fake educations, so dispense with the sham off the rip. One-and-done players such as Ben Simmons or Derrick Rose are only there for a few months, so give them a paying alternative. The NCAA and colleges are making billions off these kids, so why not fight the power, support a black-owned business and let players get that paper?

This is short-term thinking. It relies on the misplaced belief that Ball’s proposed salary of $3,000 to $10,000 per month would do more good for a player than a real college education. And it succumbs to the problems of NCAA sports rather than confronting them.

Here’s my biggest problem, though, as a black man who loves basketball and my people: Ball’s proposal would have an especially negative effect on the black community — which already places a disproportionate emphasis on sports over education.

To truly gauge the impact of this proposal, let’s remove the one-and-dones from the equation. Those dozen players will be fine. They’ve basically been pros since middle school anyway, getting free everything (and often cold cash) from AAU coaches. Although I do think they would benefit from the opportunity to mature, study, grow and learn in college, I can’t argue with their decisions to get those NBA millions.

But a league for high school graduates would discourage education for thousands of other kids. There are more than 500,000 boys playing high school basketball right now. About 499,999 of them want to play Division I hoops. Only 1 percent of them will make it. Only 4 percent will play college ball on any level. Despite these long odds, and despite the fact that there are more college opportunities for kids with high grades than high verticals, thousands of families pour most of their time, focus and energy into basketball, chasing a scholarship that will never come. Especially black families. If a semipro league for high school graduates is an option, even more kids will place even less emphasis on education.

Let’s say a kid does secure one of the 80 roster spots in Ball’s league. A few will reach the NBA — but they would have made it there anyway under the current system. Anybody with NBA potential can grab a college scholarship somewhere, grades or nah. For those who play for Ball and don’t make the league, then what? Will they have saved the $100,000 to $300,000 to pay for the college education they could have gotten for free? Let’s say they played overseas — and that bag ain’t all it’s cracked up to be — will these grown men want to attend classes with kids? Not likely. Which makes a postbasketball career, and the skills needed for that career to flourish, harder to obtain.

Most importantly, though, I’m troubled by my community’s disproportionate focus on sports over education. It’s borderline unhealthy and long-term foolish. Walk through any ’hood and ask 10 kids what they plan to be when they grow up. About eight will say an NBA or NFL player. I’ve seen dads working out 10-year-olds at 10 on school nights. A Philly high school principal friend of mine recently asked one of his students what he planned to do for college. Play football, the kid said. Problem was, he wasn’t on his high school team. The reasons for these unrealistic hopes should be obvious.

The saving grace of our obsession is that it points us toward college. That’s problematic in itself because big-money NCAA sports are broken, and too many athletes don’t get real educations. I’ve long argued that we should improve education for athletes, instead of thinking money, like Ball’s chump change, is the solution.

Nobody loves basketball more than me. (I can use bad grammar on purpose because I have my college degree.) I understand the allure of giving the finger to an exploitative NCAA system and rocking with the brash brother from Compton, California. But don’t let the flash and cash fool you. For all but a handful of sure-shot stars, the long-term benefits of college basketball are far greater than LaVar Ball’s short money.

Remembering Mamie ‘Peanut’ Johnson

The first woman to pitch in the Negro Leagues dies at 82

5:18 PMHank Bayliss must have thought he was doing something. The Kansas City Monarchs third baseman was having himself a day running his mouth as he stood opposite of 5-foot-3, 115-pound Mamie Johnson.

He exclaimed that the right-handed pitcher was “no bigger than a peanut.” And he was no better at hitting after talking all that trash. Johnson, a Ridgeway, South Carolina, native, struck him out and turned the jab into her nickname.

She took all of the slights in stride, including when the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, an all-white league, turned Johnson away. She decided to play three seasons with the Indianapolis Clowns in the Negro Leagues from 1953-55.

“They didn’t let us try out,” Johnson said in a 2003 interview with NPR. “They just looked at us like we were crazy, as if to say, ‘What do you want?’ ”

Johnson, the first woman to pitch in the Negro Leagues and a mentee of Negro Leagues baseball legend and Baseball Hall of Famer Satchel Paige, died on Dec. 19. She was 82. Bob Kendrick, the president of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, announced her death. She was the last of the three women who played in the Negro Leagues to die. Toni Stone and Connie Morgan died in 1996.

“It’s a sad day for all of us,” Kendrick said Tuesday. “We lost a member of our family. She was truly a pioneer.

“It’s representative of the inclusive nature of the Negro Leagues, that it created an opportunity for women to do things that they weren’t allowed to do in the rest of the country.”

The Clowns, Hank Aaron’s team before he joined Major League Baseball, recruited Johnson to play on the team. Johnson compiled a 33-8 record in her three seasons with a .270 batting average.

Johnson credited Paige for her unhittable curveball.

“Tell you the truth, I didn’t know of his greatness that much. He was just another ballplayer to me at that particular time,” Johnson told The State (Columbia, South Carolina). “Later on, I found out exactly who he was.

“I got to meet and be with some of the best baseball players that ever picked up a bat, so I’m very proud about that,” Johnson said in an NPR interview.

It took many years for people to see Johnson, who was born in 1935, as a trailblazer. But when she finally started to get her due, it came in droves.

When she was out of season, Johnson attended New York University and eventually received a nursing degree from North Carolina A&T State University. At the conclusion of her career, Johnson focused on raising her son, Charles, and practiced as a nurse for three decades.

The 2002 book A Strong Right Arm, by Michelle Y. Green, is based on Johnson’s story. The White House hosted Johnson in 1999, and that same year, Columbia, South Carolina, Mayor Bob Coble presented Johnson with a proclamation. A decade later, the Library of Congress welcomed her as a guest lecturer for a symposium.

A year before her Library of Congress lecture in 2008, Johnson and other living alumni from the Negro Leagues era were drafted by major league franchises. The Washington Nationals drafted Johnson, as she spent most of her adult life in the nation’s capital. The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, has Johnson in two exhibits: one dedicated to members of the Negro Leagues and another for women who have pioneered in the sport.

Ridgeway presented Johnson with a key to her hometown and named a street in her honor. In 2012, Mo’ne Davis, the phenom pitcher for the Little League World Series’ Anderson Monarchs, was introduced to Johnson.

As a child, Johnson had such a passion for pitching that she would forgo her work with the crops to play baseball. Her uncle, Leo “Bones” Belton, taught her how to throw by tossing stones at crows that sat perched on her grandparents’ fence.

“It’s what people do in the country,” Johnson told The State in 2010. “You use what you had.”

Said Kendrick: “We lost a voice with her passing, but her legacy plays on at the Negro Leagues Museum. Hers is a story of hope, a story of perseverance and an example of how to overcome adversity and achieve your dreams.”

Reggie ‘Combat Jack’ Ossé dies at 48

The hip-hop podcaster and attorney succumbs to colon cancer

3:12 PMWhen Reggie Ossé, immortalized in hip-hop culture as “Combat Jack,” announced via Twitter a week before Halloween that he had colon cancer, I knew. I think we all did.

Jack’s soliloquy ultimately was one of his final intimate moments with a culture now so different without his physical presence. It was his way of fighting while simultaneously coming to grips with what we’ll all encounter one day — our own mortality.

My uncle had colon cancer. He died Jan. 2, 1999. His death, in so many ways, is why my winter holidays can never again be truly festive. His last conversation with me, when I was 12, was in a Richmond, Virginia, hospital. “Treat people with respect and watch the universe pay you back in ways you could never imagine. I’m not scared. I’ve passed that point. I’ve lived my purpose.” I can only imagine Ossé having similar feelings.

Jack, I’d imagine, wasn’t scared in his final hours — the product of being a Brooklyn, New York, native. His thoughts were more than likely with his family, his children in particular. Above anything he meant to the culture, nothing mattered more to him than being a father. Jack being gone at 48 has yet to totally sink in. The wound is fresh and still bleeding. These days, to hear people claim they’re “doing it for the culture” is banal. But with Jack, it was authentic. An attorney who in the mid-’90s represented Jay-Z, Dame Dash, Capone-N-Noreaga and others, he also served as the managing editor of The Source. To many, though, especially within the past decade, he’s been the man who helped revolutionize podcasts and hip-hop’s role within them.

The linchpin of the Ossé’s Loud Speakers Network, and co-hosted by the likes of Dallas Penn, Premium Pete and Just Blaze, The Combat Jack Show podcast was more life lessons than mere interviews. They were glimpses into the minds of culture-shifters, narrated by the culture-shifters themselves. With his beautifully produced Mogul: The Life & Death of Chris Lighty, Ossé brought narrative storytelling to podcast culture. It’s fair to say, too, part of The Combat Jack Show’s DNA resides in many of today’s most successful podcasts and radio shows such as Rap Radar, N.O.R.E.’s Drink Champs and The Breakfast Club. The same can be said of many young journalists/content producers as well — myself included.

The culture that Ossé helped shift, curate and elevate grieves for him. Liquor meets pavement. Smoke fades to air. Tears are shed. Laughs are had. And stories are swapped on social media, on air and in person. All in homage to a man none of us can ever truly repay. You don’t necessarily quantify “influence” by dollars stacked but rather respect given, and shown. Combat Jack was a rich, rich man.

What Had Happened Was: 12/20/17

Our blogs are joining together

3:12 PMIn the beginning, there was the All Day blog and What Had Happened Was. With the morning sun, readers could catch up with all they may have missed the previous day, thanks to WHHW, and could turn to AD to keep up with events as the day went on.

The two existed in perfect harmony for the last year and a half, and now they’ve finally decided to tie the knot. Just kidding, but we here at The Undefeated have decided to combine the two blog formats in an effort to be a voice as news breaks or we see something that is of interest to our readership.

One of the best parts of AD and WHHW was the snack-size recounts of what was going on in the world, so you, our readers, knew what was up, and if you wanted further information, we were only a click away.

Now, we combine the tidbit news items with up-to-the-minute reporting, so y’all always know what the tea is.

As we say on WHHW: Oh, you didn’t know? We got you.

Daily Dose: 12/19/17

Kendrick Lamar is about to rock the college football world

4:52 PMAll right, kiddos. All good things must come to an end. This is the last day of Daily Dose. I’ll be switching gears to a different role involving some new things. It’s been a fun ride, y’all. See you on the radio.

Look at that, the House Republicans got something done. What did they do, you ask? Well, they passed a massive tax reform bill that’s going to benefit businesses and rich people. They’re referring to it as a legislative victory, which, depending on what side of Uncle Sam you reside, could be construed as a mischaracterization. It’s the largest overhaul of the tax code in 30 years, which I guess on some level is an accomplishment in itself? The devil, of course, is in the details.

So, I have a lot of feelings about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. For various reasons. One, I’m an uber fan, so there’s that. Secondly, I write about these sort of things for a living now, so I take it extremely seriously. Monday, I went on a very long tweet rant about the latest flick, so if you don’t want spoilers, don’t read that. But if you’ve seen the film and are looking for some more analysis of the latest episode, VICE has you covered. To be clear, this person did not like the film at all.

Tavis Smiley is officially wilding out. The longtime PBS talk show host is not only vehemently defending his position in light of multiple sexual misconduct allegations, he’s actively spouting his reasoning for said defense in an awful way. His rationale is basically “my game is tight.” He clearly has zero understanding of the relationship between power and coercion, never mind how that can affect an environment like a newsroom. He did an interview with Tucker Carlson of all people Monday night, and it did not go well.

Y’all aren’t really ready for Kendrick Lamar. King Kenny is continuing his amazing run at the College Football Playoff National Championship game in Atlanta, where he’ll be performing the halftime show. This is dope not just because it’s K. Dot but also because it’s the first time this has happened for this event. It’s going to be a free show in Olympic Park, which promises to be a banger, no questions asked. There’s an argument that it might end up being more popular than the game itself.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you don’t know who Dapper Dan is, you should. His groundbreaking work dating to the ’80s is a pillar in the hip-hop fashion community. His roll was slowed when major fashion houses shut him down based on copyright laws, but now he’s back. And in full force.

Snack Time: For the second time in a month, a plane has been grounded so the passengers can use the bathroom after a malfunction; 2018 can’t get here fast enough.

Dessert: It’s been fun y’all. I’m reupping this Black Thought heater because it’s just a great note to end on.

 

Daily Dose: 12/18/17

Diddy wants to buy the ‘North’ Carolina Panthers

6:33 PMWell, what a day. Our president, John Skipper, stepped down, noting his own substance abuse issues as the reason. The Undefeated does not exist without Skipper, which is a plain fact. Going to miss that guy.

Tavis Smiley is fighting back. The longtime PBS host, who has built a career being one of the most prominent black faces in media, was suspended for allegations of sexual misconduct, which we’ve obviously seen a lot of in recent months. Now he’s attempting to defend himself in the public eye, but it appears he doesn’t fundamentally understand the nature of the problem. To claim that you have cards and letters that prove your relationships over the years were consensual, well, that’s not really the point here.

Prayers go out to Seattle. Earlier today, an Amtrak train derailed, killing multiple people. Perhaps as important, though, the optics of a train dangling off a bridge in a relatively big city in America, with seemingly no relief in sight, is really disheartening. How we feel about American infrastructure efforts is very much regulated by what we can see, and this is not good. The stories of what happened to the people actually on the train are extremely harrowing and worth a read.

George Zimmerman is back on his bull#!@. Now that Jay-Z is making a docuseries about the night that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, an incident that sparked a revival in the attention on the deaths of unarmed black people, particularly at the hands of people in positions of authority. Reminder: Zimmerman was a self-appointed neighborhood watch person. Not some officially appointed guy. Now he’s throwing shade at Jay, like he wants to get in a confrontation with him too. Yeah, that’s gross.

The situation with the Carolina Panthers is bad news. Owner Jerry Richardson has been accused of a whole lot of really foul things, including openly telling women to turn around so he could look at their behinds and allegedly requesting that a black employee apply suntan lotion to his face. Now, in an attempt to get away from it, he’s selling the team. Tina Becker is now running the team, and Diddy has said he wants to buy the squad, but he doesn’t know their name (he called them the “North Carolina Panthers” in a video) and he has no idea who the quarterback is.

Free Food

Coffee Break: There’s a new novel from Zora Neale Hurston coming out, and I could not possibly be happier about this. The legendary writer has long since left us, so the notion of new work coming from one of the best minds in human history is really exciting.

Snack Time: If you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, what are you doing with yourself? In all seriousness, though, check out this story of Kelly Marie Tran, who is the breakout star from the film.

Dessert: If you need something to zap your productivity, here you go.