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

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.

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.

Daily Dose: 11/30/16

Childish Gambino gave us a present

3:30 PMShoutout to Donald Glover one time. On Wednesday at 2:14 a.m., he tweeted this out.


Just a link no explanation. Check it out. I promise you will not be disappointed.

More details on the Ohio State attack are arriving. After the horrifying events that happened Monday in Columbus, there are more details coming to light on the incident. On Tuesday, the Islamic State group claimed that the perpetrator, Abdul Razak Ali Artan, was one of its “soldiers.” ABC News has been gathering more details on the situation.

Parents are arranging for the kidnapping of their child so there is a consumer demand for people to come into their homes and then have them take their child away. These people are essentially “escorting” these kids to places where they then fix their lives and steer them down the right path. Think of the show Beyond Scared Straight, but outside of jail. I hope that explains it. VICE describes more about the world of legal kidnapping.

Is college basketball broken? In this week’s Hot Takedown podcast, FiveThirtyEight sat down with basketball guru Ken Pomeroy. To me, the only way that basketball can be broken is when someone dunks and breaks the rim. I’m not an expert, though. The crew talks about the stats and insights from kenpom.com and tells us about the fate of the sport.

Lamar Jackson not No. 1?! In the early happenings of the season, the Louisville quarterback had such a huge lead in the Heisman race. His stats were unreal and had people trying to give him the trophy before the season ended. With his last couple of performances, it seems like Jackson has driven over a couple of Mario Kart banana peels and red shells in the Heisman race. With all the recent developments, is he still the best player in college football?. Some writers over at ESPN mull this over.

Free Food

Coffee Break: For all those times that you just wanted to watch your show on the Metro. For all those times that your data plan didn’t want to let you be great. For all those times that you didn’t want to pay for airplane Wi-Fi to watch your shows. Netflix has decided to bless us.

Snack Time: Remember Alpha 5 from the Power Rangers? This is him now … feel old yet?

Dessert: Do you like dogs in Christmas sweaters? (Yes. The answer is yes.)

J. Crew’s latest cover is adorable

and a reporter is reminded of black love

1:30 PM

Let’s just take a second to take in the newest J. Crew catalog. What a beautiful cover.

When it comes to what major marketers view as so-called wholesome holiday images, people of color are often not a part of the original canon. Just take a look at any movie based on this time of year, and unless it’s made specifically for us, very rarely is it about us or does it include us in any significant way. But aside from moving pictures, static adverts can have an equally if not more formative impact on views about our identities, depending on where they’re shown. Why? Because when it comes to America’s concept of family, we still haven’t accepted the basic presentation of diversity.

For J. Crew (the one-time apple of Michelle Obama’s eye), the brand that represents the WASP-iest of WASPs, every time a nonwhite person shows up in one of their pages it feels like news, even though they’ve been way better than many over the past few years. Not necessarily screaming headlines — but like, oh, that’s nice, they invited a black person to dinner this year — kind of way. Remember Armando Cabral? We like him. Liya Kebede is a favorite, too.

More specifically, though, this latest catalog feels like another addition to a collection of modern mainstream brands/publications that have taken a lens to people of color as, for lack of a better term, normal.


The first one that comes to mind is the 2012 campaign from The Gap, featuring rapper Nas and his father Olu Dara. Of course, their respective careers have made them extremely famous and well-regarded in music and the arts, but at the end of the day, they are still father and son. Those images of a black man bonding with his black father were nothing short of profoundly impactful. Everyone noticed. The message in this particular frame didn’t hurt, either.



Last summer, Los Angeles artist Kadir Nelson made waves with his cover of The New Yorker magazine that featured a black father with his three children, titled “A Day At The Beach.” At the time, Nelson pointed out that his work was not a specific response to the plague of black people being shot and killed by police officers in the U.S. It wasn’t just an attempt to humanize, it reminded him of his own childhood.

“The two were unrelated. It was not a response to what’s going on in the news,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It was really just a celebration of fatherhood and particularly my experience as a father. When I was a kid, I really loved going to the beach with my family. Particularly my father was a really big swimmer. We grew up in Atlantic City, so the beach was really a big part of my upbringing. My family moved from Atlantic City to San Diego when I was a kid, about 10 years old. But the cover provides counterpoint to a lot of what’s going on in the country right now that we’re being bombarded with — these very unnecessary and tragic, heartbreaking experiences. I’m at a loss for words. These young men are losing their lives unnecessarily.”

Anyway, the December 2016 issue of J. Crew is a nice little reminder that black love and family celebration are real, and not just when we’re being hurt or otherwise discriminated against. I think I need to go see Almost Christmas now.

Daily Dose: 11/29/16

Ohio State University searches for answers

11:00 AMOur thoughts go out to Brazil’s Chapecoense soccer club, whose team was on a plane that went down on its way to a match in Colombia. There are only five survivors as of Tuesday morning. This image is heartbreaking.

A scary scene played out Monday on Ohio State University’s campus. What started off as an active shooter report, with social media posts showing students barricading themselves in classrooms and checking in safely on Facebook, turned out to be a very different story. An assailant drove a car into several people, striking them, then got out and started stabbing people. What’s crazy is that there’s a sense of relief that this person chose not to use a gun. ABC News has the details on what quickly became what’s known as a “run, hide, fight” situation.

Beauty pageants typically aren’t a place to find progressiveness. Between the very nature of the events, the types of people who choose to be in them, the folks who populate the surrounding industry and those who enjoy watching them, they’re not a place where you normally stop and think, ‘This is new and exciting.’ But in Minneapolis, one woman is changing that. Her name is Halima Aden, and she participated in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant. She’s Muslim, and she found a way to make it work.

If you write for a living on the internet, you have thoughts about commenters. There are two main schools: the “never read them” side and the “reader engagement” side. Both have merits and both can be important, be it for maintaining your job or sanity, two things which often are not working in conjunction with each other, alas, in this business. Anyway, there’s also the matter of the commenters themselves. Why do you choose to do this? FiveThirtyEight asked 8,500 commenters this question.

College basketball is full of surprises. From time to time you get to see something so bizarre that you’re not really sure what you just watched, particularly when you move below the level of teams that have a chance to make it to the Final Four. So, Monday night, when a clip of Bryant vs. Brown crossed my desk, I assumed it was going to be some wild buzzer beater that involved a bunch of kids looking like they were still in high school going buckwild over a game nobody otherwise would know about. Alas, not the case. It was far more unfortunate.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Old heads love to tell you about why hip-hop back in the day was so much better than it is now. Be it because of the “realness” of the genre then vs. now, or the priority of lyrics over production or whatever. Listen to Questlove explain why that still needs to be a stance that matters.

Snack Time: Are you tired of looking at other people’s babies on social media? Well, people have been doing it for years, back before computers were even a concept anyone could fathom. Behold: the baby show.

Dessert: Were you looking for an extended interview with The Weeknd? You’re in luck.