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

Daily Dose: 12/6/16

Black Santa is what we’re here for

4:22 PMQuick programming note: Domonique Foxworth and I will be hosting NFL Nation on ESPN Radio on Dec. 11 from 7-10 p.m. If you want to hear a couple of mid-30s dudes from the East Coast talk trash, tune in.

Police finally arrested the man who shot and killed former NFL player Joe McKnight. But that’s not even half the story. Earlier today, at a press conference to simply announce the charges in the case (manslaughter, btw) Sheriff Newell D. Normand of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, went completely off the rails and blamed basically everybody other than the shooter, Ronald Gasser, for the death of McKnight. We will have more on this later, but if you want to watch the whole thing, here it is. ABC News has the details of the actual case, which it took a long while for homey to get to.

Did you know that Santa Claus isn’t real? Because he’s not. Like, there is no person who lives on the North Pole, there are no elves, yadda yadda. You know what else? Because that person is not real, he is not, technically, a white person. Just because you see images of said character all over the shop as a white guy with a beard, THAT IS NOT REAL. When, in Minneapolis, they put a black Santa Claus in the mall, people freaked all the way out. VICE’s Desus and Mero are not here for that nonsense.

It’s holiday season, which means it’s time to cozy up in a movie theater. All the big flicks are out, and if you don’t have anything better to do, you will likely find yourself slamming popcorn in a dark room for at least a couple of sessions before the end of the year. But it’s hard to know what’s worth your time and what’s not. Some people are into reviews, others do ratings systems, like say, Rotten Tomatoes. FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey investigates when you should buy into a film or not.

So, Ron Rivera is apparently acting like he didn’t completely play himself. That whole situation with Tiegate, or whatever you want to call it, has the Carolina Panthers reeling from a team standpoint. Not to mention the fact that the squad is four games under .500 and all anyone is talking about is what Cam Newton wears on a team plane. Anyway, for Rivera, it’s a relatively tough spot, because they basically have no real chance to make the playoffs, which is rather disappointing coming off a Super Bowl appearance. ESPN’s David Newton has the story.

Free Food

Coffee Break: The building that burned down in Oakland, California, wasn’t just a warehouse, it was a haven for people who didn’t have anywhere else to go and an artists commune of sorts. Specifically against the backdrop of a gentrifying city, it was an important edifice, overall. Check out what it looked like before it and many lives were lost there.

Snack Time: There will be no love lost anytime soon between Jeremih and PartyNextDoor. The former was acting very reckless on the latter’s tour, including sending stunt doubles out to perform instead of him, which is nuts.

Dessert: I guess we’re supposed to believe that Optimus Prime is a bad guy, now? Sure, OK.

Mistrial declared in case of Walter Scott’s killer

Jury unable to reach unanimous decision to convict Michael Slager in North Charleston

5:15 PMWhen police officer Michael Slager pulls up in his cruiser, Everlast is playing so loud on 98 Rock that the dash cam can pick up every word of his 1998 pop country jam that tells the stories of three down-and-out characters who know what it’s like to have the blues. Now, after a judge declared a mistrial in his murder case, Slager really knows what it’s like to be white.

Monday afternoon in North Charleston, South Carolina, the jury was unable to come to a unanimous decision about on a verdict in the killing of Walter Scott, a black man who was unarmed. This happened in April 2015 and at the time was one of the more clear-cut visuals we’d seen of an officer doing something that most people found atrocious. Because the system is stacked against nearly everyone who ends up on the business end of a police bullet, there was no reasonable expectation of a conviction. White fear trumps black lives, and this has been the case since the dawn of the nation.

But, in this case, enough things had happened that might have led some to believe we’d see more than the usual. No. 1: Slager was actually fired from his job. No. 2: He was charged at all. No. 3: He was actually charged with murder, not some form of a manslaughter charge. Lastly, let’s not forget that the mayor and the police chief both indicated they had problems with Slager’s actions, a borderline stunner considering that most authorities will rarely take a stance on sensitive matters like these. Even within the intellectually fraught world of respectability politics, people felt bad for Scott versus, say, Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

To review, Slager shot Scott in the back while he was running away. He then cuffed Scott. If it wasn’t for a random person filming this, we might have never seen any of this at all. Later, the officer was heard talking rather lightheartedly about the adrenaline that comes with shooting at a suspect, if you’re wondering.

So, in short, one juror basically could not bring himself/herself to putting a white officer in jail for killing an unarmed black person. Literally, could not. Slager pleaded not guilty. He will surely be retried and also faces a federal case in this matter, but it’s an another obvious example of how inherent biases and institutional forces can sway even the minds of those who consider themselves the most righteous.

Art Basel 2016: Our favorite moments

The Miami art festival had no shortage of them

3:30 PMEvery year, tastemakers from across the globe flock to the annual Art Basel show in Miami to check out the latest and greatest from the contemporary world. It’s popularity has boomed to the point that the 305 during the week of the festival becomes a bit of a catch-all celebrity trap, where brands launch items and the pop-up musical performances make headlines.

So, with that in mind, here our some of the things that caught our eye from Wynwood and adjacent.

Sammy Sosa is still about that skin-lightening life

Ever since the legendary Major League Baseball slugger turned up on a red carpet looking like someone had sucked the melanin not just from his soul, but also his skin, sightings of the onetime Chicago Cub have been relatively rare. But here he is turning up with squad, and the look is still in full effect. Then again, this should be no surprise, because back in 2009, he didn’t even try to hide behind the skin condition excuse. Not that he needs to, your skin is your own, but my man is very committed to the cause.

Ti-Rock Moore’s “Flint”

It doesn’t take an art genius to understand what’s going on here. While Flint, Michigan, isn’t segregated by law, it might as well be when it comes to what’s happening with the city’s water crisis. The image of the “colored” sign, paired with the brown (colored) water, evokes an interesting emotion and raises a question that cuts to a larger concern: Is toxic synonymous with people of color in the eyes of authorities and elected officials? This could have been a static installation with just the stains of the dirty water indicating what flowed from the fountain. The fact that it’s moving makes it even more poignant and, well, depressing. Want more Ti-Rock? Check her out here.

Adidas, Pusha T launch #TLKS

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The Virginia gawd has been everywhere recently, but in Miami, he joined Ben Jones and Adwoa Aboah to talk about all sorts of topics from creative motivation to world affairs. Of course, where this series lands next and with whom is up for debate, but with the next four years ahead of us, it’s a good start for a platform of talks that surely will be needed for the culture.

Reefa’s work put on display

Three years ago, Israel “Reefa” Hernandez was killed by police officers, by a Taser, specifically. It was obviously a sad case, but in the last year, his work as a street artist and otherwise has gotten its due. In August, a children’s book based on Hernandez’ life was released, titled Isra & Lito. This year, his work was displayed as part of a series at Blank Canvas Gallery.

Amazon has high hopes for its new shopping service

but it’ll be a long time before we trust this technology

3:00 PM

At a time when reasonably large amounts of people are protesting the fact that a shopping mall has a black Santa Claus, Amazon wants us to believe that walking in and out of a store without having to ever do so much as pull out a wallet to buy things is going to fly.

The online retailer is unveiling a new grocery store that due to various forms of microchip and other technology will allow shoppers to check in, shop as they choose and walk out without having to ever stand in line, deal with a cashier or pull out money. In theory, this is a beautiful system. In practice, most people who’ve grown up under the watchful eye of shopowners their entire lives wouldn’t set foot in this place.

Seriously, think about it. At the Mall of America in Minneapolis, the largest in the country, after 24 years, they’ve finally got a black Santa. His name is Larry Jefferson, by the way. He seems to be a great guy from all accounts. But his blackness alone has people on guard, when he’s playing a character that hands out toys to children. People don’t even want black folks conceptually handing out freebies to their children in fictional form, that’s how serious it is.

So, you just imagine how this will go once someone who doesn’t fit the bill of person with enough disposable income to be able to readily afford to shop at an Amazon Go snack shop walks in. We can barely get in and out of our homes without someone thinking we’re breaking in to sleep in our own beds and eat our own food.


The fact that they call it the “just walk out” technology is doubly fascinating. The ad is particularly interesting because of the type of people they choose to represent shoppers they presume will be using this service. Because we sure as heck don’t see any black men there. Maybe they’re at the mall, waiting in line with their kids for Santa.

Daily Dose: 12/5/16

What does Ben Carson know about housing and urban development?

11:30 AMWhat’s up, gang? Hope your weekends went well. I’m finally recovered from a rough week, healthwise, but we’re good.

When you hear the word “urban,” do you think about black people? Because it appears that’s why Dr. Ben Carson was initially nominated to be the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Now, he’s accepted that position even though he quite literally has no experience in such matters, considering he’s a brain surgeon. It should also be noted that Carson said rather publicly a while back that this wasn’t something he was interested in from a work standpoint. Alas. ABC News has the details.

Protestors scored a huge victory at Standing Rock over the weekend. Basically, the U.S. Army said that no, it won’t be routing the Dakota Pipeline close to the Native American reservation land in North Dakota. This comes after a few weeks of really ugly disputes that did not sit well with many people who believe in basic decency. Police had used power hoses to douse demonstrators with water during subfreezing temperatures, which does not remotely exemplify decency. VICE reports on the latest.

Advice columns are as old as journalism itself. So, when FiveThirtyEight launched its version of the stalwart feature, I was rather interested in what type of topics they’d explore, considering it’s a data-based site. Most people giving out advice are doing it based on gut, not numbers. But there’s a twist to this. They run polls based on questions they’re asked. Check out how people thought someone should handle leaving his or her office Bible study group (who knew that was a thing.) They call it Survey Says.

Joe McKnight’s tragic death has been a very sober reminder of what race means to justice in America. It’s not just police officers who get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to working the system after they’ve done something wrong. The former University of Southern California and New York Jets running back was gunned down in the street in New Orleans in a road rage incident, which nobody seems to be able to really explain, from a motive standpoint. The guy who killed McKnight was released, with no charges, somehow. ESPN explains.

Free Food

Coffee Break: ICYMI, a terrifying situation unfolded over the weekend in Washington, D.C., in which a guy brought an assault rifle into a pizzeria and decided he wanted to investigate a claim he’d heard on the internet. They’re calling it the “Pizzagate” scandal, but it’s actually far more dangerous than that when you hear the details.

Snack Time: I’m not typically huge on random videos of humans interacting with animals, but this one of a guy punching a kangaroo in the face to prevent it from messing with his dog is completely wild.

Dessert: Under Armour’s global dominance continues. The company is taking over Major League Baseball uniforms.

So, who will be the star of Space Jam 2?

We thought it was LeBron James, but there’s also Blake Griffin

4:00 PM

So, do we have a controversy in Space Jam land? Because I’m totally confused.

First, it was surmised that the star of Space Jam 2 or whatever it’s going to be called, the sequel to the 1996 film that grossed over $230 million in the box office and was a cultural touchstone between cartoons and sports that we hadn’t seen since Bugs Bunny was striking out the side on one pitch, would be none other than LeBron James. This, of course, made a ton of sense. Nike guy, international superstar, etc.

But then Michael Jordan said that he wanted Blake Griffin to be the guy. This didn’t make any particular waves because it was just one man’s opinion, albeit the most important person in the original production. He actually told a basketball camp full of people that he preferred Griffin. To be fair, this is not a bad pick. But to sort of publicly take what amounts to an anti-LeBron stance was a tad odd, but that’s it. It’s just a cartoon.

Then this commercial dropped this morning. The new Space Jam 20th anniversary Air Jordans are coming out in a couple of days, so Foot Locker’s got a new ad out. Who does it star? Blake Griffin and Jimmy Butler. This is the closest thing we’ve seen to an official announcement that Griffin will not only be in the movie, but will be playing a significant role. We realize that James was a bit busy with winning an NBA title, but still.

If we’re being honest, it wasn’t until this commercial that it occurred to me this role is way better for Griffin than James. On some level, this is beneath James. But it is very much so in Griffin’s wheelhouse and that’s obvious based on the few seconds he’s on screen in this 90-second clip. The Los Angeles Clippers forward is funny. While James certainly has his comedic chops, I guess maybe there’s just a part of me that wants to see Griffin get this shot. Mainly, we just want to see his brother, Taylor Griffin, find his way into this movie as some sort of long-lost villain from Griffin’s past.

The only real question here anyway is who’s going to be on the soundtrack, because that’s going to be harder to live up to than the first actual movie.

Will there finally be a Marvin Gaye biopic?

Jamie Foxx is the latest to produce a limited series about the artist

1:00 PMWhat’s Going On is the name of Marvin Gaye’s 11th studio album, but also an apt question for the situation regarding a production about the legendary musician’s life. Now, it appears that responsibility has fallen to Jamie Foxx. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it will be a limited-edition series that has yet to find a distribution deal.

In an era in which biopics are all the rage in an attempt to cash in on the nostalgia crowd, a Gaye movie or series would likely be quite popular, never mind a needed story for those who aren’t particularly familiar with his life and career. The tale of his demise is well-documented. Shot and killed by his father in his own home, as tragic as it was, sounds like something out of a movie.

[Justin Tinsley: How Marvin Gaye’s NFL tryout changed his career]

Of course, over the years, quite a few attempts have been made to put this story on the big screen. None have been authorized by the family (see above) until this latest development with Foxx. Typically, Marvin Gaye III has found himself in court over his father’s work. You might recall the situation with the song Blurred Lines and that whole fallout. To the casual observer, it was arguable that his family had become excessively obsessive keepers of a legacy that most people had established in their own minds, anyway.

But, that’s how these things work. We’ve seen what happens when someone dies and whomever’s in charge of the estate, reputation, image or whatever is either too splintered, too distracted or too greedy to responsibly handle what is an image, or a bank account, in perpetuity. James Brown and Martin Luther King Jr. come to mind. It’s really no different from normal families, except it takes place in public.

Which brings us to the most important portion of the news regarding this latest project about Gaye’s life. By tackling this as a series, from a storytelling standpoint, you’re not limited to the same constraints as a movie. It’s not just about Los Angeles and Detroit. He grew up in Washington, D.C., a clearly formative time in his life. Yet, with Berry Gordy also giving his blessing, you feel like something right might finally be happening with this.

Couple that with Foxx’s level of competence, skill, taste and experience and it’s time to look forward to what may be one of the better biopics in a while. No word on Chadwick Bozeman’s involvement, though.

Daily Dose: 12/1/16

More bad news from Charlotte, North Carolina, where the system is in full effect

12:00 PMYour boy officially got into the holiday spirit Wednesday night, by watching Christmas In Rockefeller Center on NBC, in which they called The Roots “an iconic R&B group” in the opening, but whatever.

Another police shooting will go unchecked in America. This time, it’s Keith Lamont Scott’s killer, a man named Brentley Vinson, an officer in Charlotte, North Carolina. For a refresher, this is the scenario where police saw a man with a gun and decided that he was a threat, then after a standoff, shot him to death. The district attorney in Mecklenburg County ruled that the officer acted lawfully, which beyond the decision, is precisely the problem. This is absolutely lawful behavior, which is inherently not OK. ABC News has details.

There’s always one gift that completely takes over a year’s gift cycle. Sometimes it’s something for small children, other times it’s something for people a little too old to be playing with certain types of toys. Last year, that toy was the so-called hoverboard, which had half of America making videos of themselves wiping out on said vehicles, much to everyone else’s enjoyment. Then, all of sudden they started exploding and that was the end of that. FiveThirtyEight’s Ritchie King looks at just how injurious last season’s hot item was.

HIV/AIDS is still a joke to many people. Maybe not the government, but you certainly don’t have to go far to hear someone make a snide remark about “The HIV” or something along those lines. But back in the day, it was not only a source of material for standup artists, it also was openly mocked in the White House. Thankfully, those days are over at this point. But it’s worth remembering just how awful coverage of the virus and disease were, as a result of attitudes from elected officials and the health care industry, Harmon Leon writes for VICE.

Haven’t been following Major League Soccer? Welp, the season’s almost over. But Wednesday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals, we got one of the best playoff games the league has seen in quite some time. With two Canadian squads facing off, Toronto and Montreal, it was an interesting twist to a rivalry that has yet to take off the way many thought it might. Either way, Toronto managed to get the win, so the club will host the MLS Cup, where the Reds will face the Seattle Sounders next Saturday. ESPN’s Doug McIntyre has a game report.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you don’t know who Tomi Lahren is, she’s the blond woman you see on social media all the time making extreme statements about where we are in America. Well, she went on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah on Wednesday night, and let’s just say that it did not go well for her.

Snack Time: Apparently, in the new administration, Donald Trump will have the ability to text every single person in America at once. Somehow, I do not see this ending in a good way for the commander in chief.

Dessert: New Curren$y mixtape is out, if you’re into that. I very much am.