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

WWE wrestlers react to Hulk Hogan’s Hall of Fame reinstatement

Kofi Kingston says Hogan must make ‘genuine effort to change’

5:42 PMOn July 15, WWE announced that wrestling legend Hulk Hogan (real name Terry Bollea) had been reinstated to the company’s Hall of Fame after a three-year ban for racist comments Hogan made on a sex tape in 2007. In the video, Hogan used the N-word multiple times in reference to an African-American man who was dating Hogan’s daughter, Brooke.

Hours before the video leaked online, WWE terminated Hogan’s contract, removed him from its reality television show and scrubbed his name from the WWE website. The news was met with mixed reaction from wrestling fans, falling mostly along racial and ideological lines. Most African-Americans and liberal-leaning individuals appeared to oppose Hogan’s reinstatement, while some conservative white Americans seemed to believe either Hogan had paid the price for his comments or the entire episode was overblown.

The voices missing from the debate, though, were the WWE employees, specifically the black ones, who had to essentially welcome Hogan back into the fold. After three days of relative radio silence, the wrestlers have begun to use Twitter to publicize their feelings on Hogan’s return to professional wrestling. Below are a collection of tweets, starting with WWE’s most high-profile black wrestlers, The New Day:


Kofi Kingston, one-third of The New Day, released a statement on July 18 that while there is “no argument on whether or not Hogan should have his place” in the WWE Hall of Fame, the group, which also includes Xavier Woods and Big E, has no plans to associate with Hogan until he makes a “genuine effort to change.”

Woods added to Kingston’s original message, while Big E — alongside fellow black wrestlers Apollo Crews and Cedric Alexander as well as white wrestler Seth Rollins, who has lent his voice to issues about African-Americans in the past — retweeted the message to his followers:

Tag team The Usos, made up of Samoan twins Jimmy and Jey Uso, tweeted a message that read, “RESPECT,” which came hours after Kingston’s tweet:

Rumors surfaced earlier in the week that when Hogan arrived backstage at the Extreme Rules pay-per-view event on Sunday, wrestler Titus O’Neil refused to shake his hand and stormed out of the arena. After supporting The New Day’s statement, O’Neil provided his own later the same day, calling the original reports “false and inaccurate” and adding that Hogan’s apology lacked “contrition, remorse and a desire to change”:

Women’s wrestler Sasha Banks, who is black and German, responded to O’Neil’s statement with a heart emoji:

WWE Hall of Famer Mark Henry, who has been employed by the company since 1996, was one of the first wrestlers to comment on Hogan’s return, telling TMZ on July 16 there was a “50-50” split among black wrestlers over Hogan’s re-induction:

Alexander, who was hired in 2016, had tweeted a celebratory message in response to Hogan’s return within minutes of the announcement:

After some social media backlash from Hogan detractors, Alexander clarified that while he might not “like someone personally” it doesn’t mean he won’t “respect them professionally”:

After it initially appeared that only black wrestlers would make public comments, current and former WWE employees who are white, including Finn Balor, Lance Storm, Curt Hawkins and Hurricane Helms, issued support of O’Neil’s and Kingston’s statements:

Bryce Harper keeps the good times rolling for D.C. fans

Nationals outfielder wins Home Run Derby in home stadium a month after Capitals win Stanley Cup

8:24 AMNew championship, who dis? This is the energy Washington, D.C., after 26 years without a championship from one of its big four teams, has brought the past month and into Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby on Monday night.

The nation’s capital has suddenly gone from cursed to winning the Stanley Cup for the first time in the city’s history to Bryce Harper becoming the first player in franchise history (Washington Nationals or Montreal Expos) to take home the crown.

Say what you want, but just a short while ago, D.C. sports fans wouldn’t allow themselves to get their hopes up that Harper, down nine home runs with a minute to go, would be able to make a comeback on the Chicago Cubs’ Kyle Schwarber. But that is exactly what the Nationals outfielder did after hitting nine home runs in 26 swings during his first three minutes in the final round.

In the final minute, nine of Harper’s 10 hits went yard, and he barely needed the extra 30 seconds he earned to end the affair, hitting the Derby winner on only his second swing. Harper held his bat over his head with both hands and flipped it forward before being mobbed by his National League teammates.

Don’t worry, the pitcher — Harper’s father, Ron — didn’t take offense at his bat flip and gave his son a huge bear hug. When Harper was presented with the trophy, he immediately handed it over to his dad. Social media lit up seeing Ron Harper’s jacked arms, because clearly the man doesn’t miss arm day at the gym.

Frankly, this moment should come as no surprise, considering Harper was winning competitions called “King of Swat” 14 years ago in Cooperstown, New York.

And Harper winning the Home Run Derby may actually turn out to be amazing foreshadowing for the Nationals.

Morehouse’s Tyrius Walker gets his chance at summer league and balls out

From the start, he was making things happen: 16 points, 5 boards, 6 assists, 5 steals

2:01 PMToward the end of the NBA summer league, teams like to sit their lottery picks, giving the other guys a chance to shine.

Thank God for Tyrius Walker’s love for the spotlight.

Walker turned heads after leading the New York Knicks to a 103-92 route of the New Orleans Pelicans.

It was on from the beginning. The game’s first points came courtesy of Walker’s lob to the high-flying Mitchell Robinson.

The former Morehouse guard ended the game by channeling his inner Antonio Brown, snatching a pass in transition. Talk about savage.

Walker finished with 16 points, 5 boards, 6 dimes and 5 steals. His play even impressed Knicks reporter Ian Begley.

The Morehouse community, on the other hand, had been hip. After Walker played just six minutes in the Knicks’ first four games, they were just waiting for his moment.

Walker has already drawn interest overseas. Per his agent Darrell Comer, they will continue to explore “development opportunities” in the association.

Your move, NBA.

This year’s Emmy nominations are blackish

Record-setting 36 people of color were nominated in acting categories

8:00 AMI had one thought and one thought only after viewing this year’s Emmy nominations:

via GIPHY

The 70th Annual Emmy Awards nominations were announced Thursday, and it seems like the television industry has finally started to get the hint. A record-setting 36 people of color, including 28 of African descent, were nominated across all acting categories. While names such as Donald Glover, Issa Rae and Sterling Brown were expected, others such as Letitia Wright, Tiffany Haddish and Brian Tyree Henry came as welcome surprises.

By far the most surprising nomination was Katt Williams for his role as Willy on Glover’s Atlanta. Talk about a comeback. This man went from getting choked out by a teenager to one of the most memorable roles in television history. The crazy thing was that Glover knew this role would resurrect Williams’ career.

Besides Haddish, Henry, Wright and Williams all earning their first Emmy nominations, most notably Kenan Thompson received his first nod after more than 15 years on Saturday Night Live.

Hollywood’s issues with diversity have been well-documented. Although the film industry has been reluctant to give up old habits, it seems that television is well-aware of America’s shifting demographics. By 2045, minorities are predicted to become the majority group in the United States.

It has taken some time to reverse the damage done by more than a century’s worth of typecasting based on malignant racial stereotypes. While there’s obviously more work to do, shows such as Atlanta and Insecure have done excellent work in showing the diversity of the black experience.

Take actor Tituss Burgess, for example, who received his fourth consecutive Emmy nomination for his supporting role on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Burgess plays Titus Andromedon, the eccentric yet hysterically lazy gay best friend to the show’s namesake. A decade ago this role was nonexistent because of falsely constructed narratives of black masculinity.

Or take the women on Rae’s HBO comedy Insecure. The show in and of itself seeks to provide an unprecedented, uninhibited look at black womanhood. Even better, it does so with a vulgarity usually reserved for men.

Are these characters perfect portrayals of the archetypes they intend to convey? Far from it. They do, however, add another layer to the complexity of the black experience.

After years of crying for recognition, the convergence of changing demographics with the flux of quality programming has resulted in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences finally taking notice. And it’s about time.