‘The Plug’ podcast: The Eagles are here, Stephen A. Smith is too (Episode 10)
We’re closing out the NFL season while ready to turn up with the NBA
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It’s All-Star Weekend … Week. It’s Black Panther Week. In other words, it’s a big week in The Undefeated’s neighborhood, so we had to bring in the big guests. The Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles are in the building and they’re still on cloud nine. And by the sound of things, don’t expect them to come down either. We also have the one and only Stephen A. Smith on board talking all things NBA. Stay long enough too, and he’ll dish out some Valentine’s Day advice for all the lovers out there.
We’re off to Los Angeles this weekend, so be ready to pull up on us next week for all of the All-Star Weekend juice. It should be common knowledge by now, but for those new to the party — subscribe to The Plug on the ESPN app!
Previously: ‘The Plug’ podcast: ‘Black Panther’ details — plus ‘GLOW’s’ Sydelle Noel (Episode 9)
Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald are the first black artists to paint first black presidential portraits
Black-on-black art: Former first couple humbled by their stunning new portraits
1:20 PMAs if Barack and Michelle Obama weren’t already immortal in so many ways, the world’s most famous couple is now forever embedded within the fabric of the nation’s capital with the unveiling of their official portraits. The special unveiling was held at the National Portrait Gallery on Monday morning.
Distinguished guests — Steven Spielberg, former vice president Joe Biden, Gayle King, former attorney general Eric Holder and Michelle Obama’s brother, Craig Robinson, to name a few — and media packed the gallery for the event. The Obamas are obviously the first black presidential couple to have their portraits painted. But the moment was also special because of the minds behind the brushes. Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley painted Michelle Obama’s and Barack Obama’s portraits, respectively. The duo became the first black artists to paint official presidential portraits. That moment wasn’t lost on anyone in attendance.
Both Obamas talked about the process of deciding on Sherald and Wiley. The final step involved face-to-face meetings with both artists at the Oval Office. After the decision, Michelle Obama and Sherald established what the first lady described as a “sista-girl” bond. Sherald echoed Michelle Obama’s sentiments, saying, “The experience of painting Michelle will stay with me forever. … The portrait is a … defining milestone in my life’s work.” Ever the comedian, Barack Obama joked that the only portrait he’s had done before this one was for his high school yearbook. He and Wiley bonded over his suggestions — less gray hair, smaller ears — that Wiley ultimately ignored.
“What Barack Obama wanted was [to be portrayed as] a man of the people, that sense of access,” Wiley told reporters after the ceremony. “The unbuttoned collar. The relaxed pose. In the end, what I think we got was a grand sense of celebration.”
Perhaps the morning’s most cruel yet comforting moment came when Barack Obama approached the podium. “We miss you guys,” he said. The crowd moaned. A collective sigh swept through the makeshift auditorium. Faint cries of “We miss you too” and “Please come back” fluttered.
For a faint moment, for many in attendance, having Barack and Michelle Obama back in the capital was a needed flashback. The only solace: Now, regardless of circumstance, everyone can always see them in Washington, D.C.
Celtics’ Jaylen Brown to host ‘Tech Hustle’ during All-Star Weekend
Private event will include people from sports, business and entertainment
1:08 PMBoston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown wants to help his fellow NBA players off the court during NBA All-Star Weekend.
Brown told The Undefeated that he is hosting “Tech Hustle,” a technology and networking lunch, with the Base Ventures and the National Basketball Players Association on Saturday in Los Angeles. The private event during All-Star Weekend will include people from the sports, business and entertainment worlds who will be speaking about their experiences and offering words of wisdom. Attendees are expected to include NBA players, entertainers, venture capitalists and startups.
“My thought process is to just educate athletes and people around you about what is really going on, especially basketball players,” Brown said. “A lot of people wait until the end of their careers to really get things going. I thought it would be more beneficial to start early, put your foot in the door and start educating yourself, because technology investments are where the real money is at.”
Brown is only in his second year in the NBA, but the outside-the-box thinker also hosted a mentoring and fellowship event during the Vegas Summer League last July. Speakers at “Tech Hustle” are expected to include Brown’s mentor and former NBA star Isiah Thomas, former NBA star Dominique Wilkins, Uber’s Bozoma St. John, Beyond Meat’s Ethan Brown, Google Ventures’ David Krause, Empire Distribution’s Ghazi Shami, Spotify’s Troy Carter, rapper Too $hort, Blavity’s Morgan DeBaun and Base Ventures’ Erik Moore. Brown will also be playing for Team USA in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday.
“A lot of people are real excited about ‘Tech Hustle,’ ” Brown said. “I already have 150 to 200 RSVPs. It’s just something to educate. I thought it would be dope to put together an event like that so not only I can network, but put myself, other athletes and whoever finds it interesting in an avenue to network. I have a Rolodex for it. Whoever shows up, it will be great for them.
“I can’t wait. I’m super excited not only to be hustling in sports but besides sports as well. The theme is education through technology, but also hustle.”
Bowie State QB Amir Hall named Black College Football Player of the Year
He was honored as part of the Black College Hall of Fame induction ceremonies
11:22 AMSophomore year will go down as one to remember for Bowie State quarterback Amir Hall. Actually, make that sophomore and junior years. Hall, the Bowie, Maryland, native who was selected as the 2017 recipient of the Black College Football Player of the Year, is basking in the glow and already thinking about a three-peat, adding more memories to a college career that’s on quite the trajectory.
“You’re gonna see a lot of that senior swag this year,” Hall told HBCU Gameday on Feb. 10 in Atlanta moments before receiving the Deacon Jones Award, named after the football legend and inaugural Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee.
Hall, who played quarterback at Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, but didn’t have the gaudy numbers to garner interest from the nation’s top Division I schools, told The Undefeated in November that he learned to be patient, even while frustrations grew as the phone didn’t ring.
The nation’s loss became Bowie State’s gain, as the 6-foot-4 quarterback accounted for 45 touchdowns and a 9-1 record as sophomore. He outdid himself as a junior with a 9-2 regular-season record and a Division II playoff appearance, throwing for 3,519 yards and 41 touchdown passes in 11 games. Hall threw for at least 300 yards in a game seven times and surpassed 400 yards twice.
“Shoutout to everyone back in Bowie for believing in me,” added Hall, who was also named the 2017 SBN Doug Williams Offensive Player of the Year. “This trophy is for them and my family.”
Hall beat out an impressive field of finalists, including running back Trenton Cannon (Virginia State), quarterback DeVante Kincade (Grambling State) and quarterback Lamar Raynard (North Carolina A&T State).
“This was an outstanding group of finalists this year,” said James “Shack” Harris, who himself had a stellar career at Grambling, which he led to three Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in the late 1960s, and is among the Black College Football Hall of Fame trustees who also include Mel Blount, Art Shell and Doug Williams. “Amir had one of the most prolific seasons for a quarterback in CIAA history, and we congratulate him on winning this prestigious award.”
Never missing an opportunity to tout her league, CIAA commissioner Jacqie McWilliams congratulated Hall, lifting him up as exemplary. “Amir exemplifies all that Bowie State, Division II and the CIAA stands for as a student-athlete,” said McWilliams, who is counting down to the CIAA tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina, Feb. 27 to March 3. “He is part of a unique and honorable class that represents significant history and leadership, and we are blessed to have him in the CIAA family.”
While grateful for the accolades, Hall knows the grind never stops — particularly since he’s looking to make his senior year epic.
“I’m working on getting in the weight room,” he said, “trying to eat a lot more and doing what I’ve been doing, and getting in the film room.”
We’ll be watching.
Wake up! It’s the 30th anniversary of Spike Lee’s ‘School Daze’
In this #BlackLivesMatter era, the ’80s film is still very relevant
9:53 AMIt was late summer of 1986. Jasmine Guy was standing on the streets of New York City, fresh out of a dance class at The Ailey School, when she heard a word unfamiliar to her: Wannabe.
She’d just run into director and eventual cultural purveyor Spike Lee. She first met him back in 1979, when she was a high school senior and he was a senior at Morehouse College who was directing the coronation at the school where she danced. Back then, he was telling folks that he planned to go to film school and had aspirations of being a director — although, at the time, Guy wasn’t entirely sure what that meant.
Spike had some news for her. “I just finished my first movie, you’ve got to see it,” she remembers Lee telling her. He was talking about 1986’s She’s Gotta Have It, which is now of course a lauded Netflix series of the same name. She saw the movie and was mesmerized by the very contemporary piece that was in black and white and dealt with sex, relationships and intimacy. She’d never seen anything like it before. With black people. And she was impressed.
She ran into him again on those New York streets, and this was the time that he added a new word to her lexicon. “I’m doing another movie, and you’re going to be in it, so send me your headshot. You’re going to be a wannabe.” She was confused. “You know how you all are,” she remembers Lee saying. She had no idea what he was talking about. Wannabe.
But she soon learned. As did everyone else who would consume Lee’s epic portrayal of a fictional historically black college in School Daze, a movie that altered how we publicly talked about blackness and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). For the uninitiated, the idea of a “wannabe” was a caricature of (for the most part) a high-yellow, lighter-skinned woman with long hair whose physical attributes look more European than African. “Wannabe” was also an attitude: Wannabe better than me.
School Daze. It’s been three decades to the day since theaters were lit up with a historically black campus waking up — this was when Nelson Mandela was still locked up, and students called for divestment from South Africa. Three decades since Lee brought us a story of conflict, of when students pledging fictional Greek fraternities were pitted against those who desired global and local social change. The Gamma dogs. The Gamma Rays. The Fellas. The Wannabes. The Jiggaboos — oh, yes, the Jiggaboos. School Daze was about the tensions between light-skinned black folks and dark-skinned black folks.
Everything was right there on a 50-foot screen. No escaping it. We had to consume it. And address it. “It was like, ‘Wow, this guy’s really going to go there,’ ” said renowned director Kasi Lemmons, whose first film role was in School Daze. “He’s really going to explore these issues. It occurred to me, when I saw it, how important it was because it explored so many things that you just hadn’t seen.”
In so many ways, School Daze was an extension of what was happening on campuses. It tapped into activations that were happening in the mid-1980s, and after it was released, it inspired and engaged other students, amplifying the work that was already taking place.
Darryl Bell — who was one of the “big brothers” in School Daze, his first role — was quite active as a real-life student at Syracuse University. He attended rallies where black and Latino students were mobilizing, much in the same way that Laurence Fishburne’s Dap did on Lee’s fictional campus of Mission College. In real life, Bell pledged Alpha Phi Alpha.
“I wanted to know more about these Alpha fellas,” said Bell. He remembers seeing them at rallies. “The idea that Alpha men were involved in, and on the forefront of talking about, issues that mattered — the divesting of South Africa — it encouraged me to be part of student government. All of these things … my experience at Syracuse, you saw in the film. … We were engaged in voter registration. We put on a fashion show to raise money to give scholarships to high school students. … That was the life I was living. That’s why I was so desperate to be in the movie. … ‘This is all about me and what I’m living every day.’ It was an extraordinary example of art imitating life.”
The film was more than entertainment; even before A Different World, it really illuminated HBCU campus life. It shed a light on colorism, one of the most uncomfortable and unspoken issues among black folks — something we’d been battling for generations and, in a lot of ways, still are.
“There was … division between the men and women,” said Joie Lee, who portrayed Lizzie Life in the film, “in terms of what constitutes beauty. I wasn’t ‘fine.’ I wasn’t considered that. I did not fit that standard of beauty, perhaps because I was brown-skinned. Perhaps because my hair was nappy, and natural. The women that are considered fine … were light-skinned or had ‘good hair’ — I’m using that term loosely. Those were some of the issues that [we were] grappling with.”
Thirty years later, the film still holds up. Replace School Daze’s international concerns with the Black Lives Matter movement and the activism, especially in this current political climate, most certainly feels familiar. “It does have a relevance to what’s going on today,” said Kirk Taylor, who portrayed one of the Gammas. “In terms of the look, in terms of the content, in terms of the final message about waking up … we need to wake up as much now as we did then — and stay awake. It’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security, or false peace, and not be aware that things still need to be addressed. Things still need to be changed.”
Stay woke, indeed.
Three takeaways from Serena Williams’ return
She’s still the top draw in women’s tennis
9:18 AMASHEVILLE, North Carolina — What’s happened in the world of Serena Williams since she won the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant:
- She gave birth to a daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., in September.
- She battled postpregnancy complications, including life-threatening blood clots.
- She got married last November to Alexis Ohanian, a tech entrepreneur and co-founder of Reddit.
Williams made her return to tennis over the weekend, playing doubles in the Fed Cup opener against the Netherlands at the U.S. Cellular Center. The United States won the opening-round series, 3-1, on the strength of two wins by Venus Williams, who clinched the trip to the Fed Cup semifinals with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Richèl Hogenkamp.
While Venus Williams was the star, Serena was the attraction despite the fact that she’s clearly not ready to compete in competitive singles.
Here are three takeaways from Serena Williams’ weekend in Asheville:
- She is still the top draw in women’s tennis: The event sold out within days of the announcement that the Williams sisters would play. Tickets initially went on sale in November.
You might say the sisters drew the crowd. Yes, the two are tennis legends.
But here’s the difference: Venus attracts crowds. Serena can sell out an arena.
That’s no disrespect to Venus Williams, who ranks as one of the great players in the history of women’s tennis. But just like the reason people came out to see Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls, it’s clear who the main attraction is when Williams comes to town.
- Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr. is adorable: Did you see the 5-month-old sporting a blue-and-white striped USA shirt and a red-and-white striped headband? Alexis took in the action while being held by her father.
She’s already Instagram famous with 264,000 followers, the same number as her dad.
Don’t expect Williams to compete for a Grand Slam anytime soon: There were reports at the end of last year that Williams would be in Melbourne, Australia, to defend her Australian Open title, but she pulled out of the event in early January.
On the eve of the Fed Cup, Williams couldn’t even commit to playing in the remaining Grand Slam tournaments this year. “Right now, I’m focused on this weekend,” she said Feb. 9. “After that I’ll figure out what it might be.”
Based on what Williams showed over the weekend, it might not be anytime soon. She’s still getting back into playing shape, and her agility and ability to hit precision shots is off. And she didn’t appear to be completely sure of herself, and watching her freeze on occasion during the match was a sign that she had lost her muscle memory.
Williams said she has yet to learn to adequately manage her time and new responsibilities. “It’s an incredible learning experience,” she said. “I’m going to try to do better.”
At times Williams looked to be facing the dilemma that many 50-something basketball players face: Her mind was relaying a message that her body had no clue how to comprehend.
But unlike a 50-something Saturday morning hooper, the 36-year-old Williams has age and time on her side. At some point she’s going to get more comfortable leaving her daughter with a sitter or a nanny, freeing herself up to get more hours on the court to refine her game. At that point, the aura of Serena Williams will return.
When will that happen? The French Open will be upon us quickly (May 27), so perhaps next year.
But it will happen. Reaching No. 25, the all-time record for Grand Slam titles, is too important to Williams.
Right now she stands at 23, just one behind Margaret Court.
Williams, through hard work and determination, is determined to get there.
“I always want to improve on everything,” Williams said. “If I walk out there with low expectations, then I need to stop doing what I do.
“So that’s never going to happen for me. I’m always going to have the best and highest expectations for myself.”
What offseason? Jo Adell goes back to school
Outfielder wants to work in media after he’s done playing
7:23 AMWhen we last visited Jordon “Jo” Adell, the recent high school graduate was training just outside of Miami on the eve of the 2017 MLB draft. Adell eventually was selected by the Los Angeles Angels with the 10th pick, received a signing bonus worth $4.3 million and had a successful first year of professional baseball, batting a combined .325 as an outfielder in the Arizona and Pioneer leagues.
Adell could have coasted during his offseason, which comes to an end as players begin reporting to spring training this week. Instead Adell, who last year graduated from Ballard High School in Louisville, Kentucky, decided to go back to school.
When his baseball career is over, Adell wants to transition into a career along the path of Shaquille O’Neal, Jalen Rose and Michael Strahan: former athletes who are successful in the media. So he took an Introduction to Communications class at the University of Louisville, one of the many schools that recruited him out of high school.
“Everyone in my family is college-educated: My dad went to North Carolina State, my mom went to North Carolina and my sister at Louisville,” Adell said. “Education for me is important. I wanted to be as well-rounded as possible.”
Adell took the class online, learning about the basics of the discipline. He plans to use some of his downtime each year to take more classes (paid for by MLB) that he hopes will prepare him for his career after baseball.
“I want to have a television show one day, or be in a position where I’m doing postgame interviews for a network,” he said. “Athletes play professional sports for as long as they can, and we all have to hang up our cleats one day. To have a plan beyond baseball is motivation for me.”
Adell’s father had a piece of advice before his son took the class: Don’t overdo it. “He really didn’t want me to be in a position where school was first and baseball was secondary,” Adell said. “I’m just trying to take a load each year that I can handle.”
And he’s gotten a lot of support, especially from his mother, who has been a school principal in Louisville for the past 10 years. “Everyone’s been really supportive,” Adell said. “It’s really been a group effort to help me, and it’s been great.”
Now it’s back to baseball. Pitchers and catchers report to Angels spring training in Tempe, Arizona, on Feb. 13, while position players will be in camp on Feb. 19.
“I’m excited about this season,” Adell said. “This is such a great organization, and I just want to continue to grow so I can reach my full potential.”
Richard Ewell: the first black skater to win a national title in singles and pairs
Famed coach Mabel Fairbanks helped launch another career
1:23 PMRichard Ewell, a student of famed skating coach Mabel Fairbanks, is the first African-American to win a national title in singles and pairs figure skating.
Born: 1951 or 1952
His story: Ewell grew up in Los Angeles and began skating in 1963. He trained with Fairbanks in Culver City, California. He first qualified for the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in 1969 in the junior division and took home the national title in 1970. Ewell also was training in pair skating, teaming with fellow African-American Michelle McCladdie in 1968. They earned a bronze medal at nationals in 1971 before winning the junior pairs crown in 1972. They turned pro after winning nationals and toured with the Ice Capades.
Fast fact: Ewell’s doubles partner, McCladdie, was a fair-skinned black woman with blond hair and green eyes. “My looks contradict my origins,” she told Ebony magazine in 1972. “But then, black comes in many different shades and I’m proud of it. Maybe it’ll bury a few stereotypes.”
Quotable: Ewell told Ebony Jr.! magazine in 1977 that he would like to help get more blacks interested in ice skating. “I’d really love to see at least one black get into Winter Olympic competition.”
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Atoy Wilson: the first black skater to win a national title
His first coach was Mabel Fairbanks
8:48 AMAtoy Wilson is the first African-American to win a national title in figure skating.
Born: 1951 or 1952
His story: Wilson, who started in gymnastics, turned to figure skating after seeing the Ice Follies when he was 8 years old. His first coach was Mabel Fairbanks, who helped him become the first black member of the Los Angeles Skating Club. In 1965, a 13-year-old Wilson became the first black skater to compete in the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, placing second in the novice men’s division. He returned to the competition the following year, and this time he won the men’s novice division to become the first black skater to earn a national championship. Wilson turned pro after he finished high school, touring with Holiday on Ice and the same Ice Follies that fueled his interest in the sport.
Fast fact: Wilson worked in production accounting in the television industry after retiring as a performer.
Quotable: “Mabel was the one that fought in the back rooms, getting this little, black, talented kid skater out there,” Wilson told icenetwork.com. “I was impervious to it because I was skating. I had to learn the jumps — the Lutz, the flips, the double Salchows and the Axels — and I had to learn the figures. My mind was wrapped around that.”
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Doug Williams among HBCU legends in NFL Network documentary Friday night
‘Breaking Ground: A Story of HBCU Football and the NFL’ takes in-depth look at the legacy of 4 great players
4:55 PMDoug Williams knows that when February rolls around, he’s got to keep his phone charged — ’cause e’rybody and their momma will be calling to get his thoughts on all things black, and definitely all things historically black colleges and universities (HBCU).
“I think it’s a little old, especially for guys like myself,” said Williams, the Grambling State legend and Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee. “The older you get, you realize that it’s not about one month — it’s about 365 days a year. It’s not like we go into a cocoon after February is over with. We’re still around — still doing what we do. I get a lot of calls during [the month of February], and you hate to say, ‘No — I’m not gon’ do it,’ but my things is, I’m black in December too.”
This isn’t to say Williams, who just celebrated the 30th anniversary of Washington’s Super Bowl XXII victory over the Denver Broncos, feels burdened with carrying the torch for African-Americans during Black History Month or that he bemoans being every reporter’s go-to source when the topic is HBCUs. He understands that one month can never tell the full story.
“The reality is I can be gone every day in February — doing any number of Black History Month things,” said Williams, who was on his way to Atlanta for the Black College Football Hall of Fame induction festivities Saturday when he spoke to The Undefeated. “But February is also a big month for what I do in my day job – with the all-star games and getting ready for the draft and the combine. I just can’t pick up and go everywhere people want me to go,” continued Williams, a senior vice president of player personnel for the Redskins.
When Williams’ phone did ring toward the tail end of last season, and he was told he’d be interviewed for a one-hour documentary about NFL legends and groundbreakers who attended HBCUs, he was all too happy to participate. The process of getting the narrative right hasn’t always been easy, Williams noted.
“Every article in America was written about ‘The First Black quarterback,’ ‘Washington’s Black Quarterback,’ ‘The Way of the Black Quarterback,’ ” Williams told Raiders.com. “I didn’t go to the Super Bowl as a black quarterback. I went to the Super Bowl as the Redskins’ quarterback, who just happened to be black,” said Williams, the first African-American quarterback to start in a Super Bowl. “At the same time, I understood the pride, the dignity and the history of what was about to happen.”
Through interviews and profiles of four notable NFL HBCU alums — Williams, Jerry Rice, Mel Blount and Marquette King — Breaking Ground: A Story of HBCU Football and the NFL takes an in-depth look at the legacy of HBCUs within the league, airing Friday at 8 p.m. EST on NFL Network.
Breaking Ground centers on Blount’s trip back to Southern University, where he reflects on his time there with his son Akil and former teammates. The special also remembers Rice, a legend at Mississippi Valley State, Williams and the NFL’s only current black punter, Marquette King of the Oakland Raiders, who graduated from Fort Valley State and spoke about changing the way people view his position.
The documentary is narrated by Howard University alum and Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman.
Williams understands the importance of getting the story right, which is why he will continue to answer the phone.
“I understand this is our month,” Williams said with a chuckle before turning serious. “The sad part is knowing that the one month that they dedicate to people who’ve done so much for this country, a lot of schools don’t even want to teach that.”
Arizona safety Antoine Bethea is Black College Football Hall of Fame’s pro player of the year
He’ll pick up the award at the Hall’s induction of seven greats this weekend
10:32 AMThe Black College Football Hall of Fame has chosen Arizona Cardinals safety Antoine Bethea as the inaugural recipient of the Pro Player of the Year Award. It will be awarded annually to the most outstanding professional football player from a historically black college or university (HBCU).
Bethea attended Howard University and has played in the NFL for 12 seasons after being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts in 2006.
He spent his first eight years in Indianapolis, then three in San Francisco, before signing a three-year contract with Arizona in 2017. In his first year with the Cardinals, Bethea had a career-high five interceptions to go along with 57 tackles.
He’ll receive the award Saturday at the Black College Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Atlanta at the College Football Hall of Fame. Seven former HBCU greats will be inducted into the Hall this weekend, including former players Raymond Chester, Harold Carmichael, Leon Lewis, Greg Lloyd, Everson Walls, Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson and coach Bill Hayes.
“This award was established to help showcase the immense talent of our current Black College Football players at the highest level,” said James “Shack” Harris, Hall co-founder and 2012 inductee.
“On behalf of the Black College Football Hall of Fame trustees and selection committee, we congratulate Antoine on this historic accomplishment,” said Doug Williams, Hall co-founder and 2011 inductee. “Antoine is a great role model and inspiration for our youth across the country.”
Mabel Fairbanks: The first African-American in the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame
She made her mark as a coach
10:32 AMMabel Fairbanks was the first African-American inducted into the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame.
Born: Nov. 14, 1915
Died: Sept. 29, 2001
Her story: Fairbanks, of African-American and Seminole descent, was born in the Florida Everglades. She was orphaned at age 8 and moved to New York City with her brother. Her sister-in-law did not accept her, so she ended up sleeping on a park bench. A woman gave her a job baby-sitting at her apartment above Central Park, and that’s when everything changed for her. Fairbanks watched the skaters in Central Park and became interested in the sport. She bought an oversize pair of skates, stuffed them to make them fit and began skating in the park. When she tried to get into a local ice rink, she was denied because of her race. Nevertheless, she persisted, and a manager finally let her inside. Professional skaters gave her free lessons. She moved to California in the 1940s and performed in nightclub skating shows. She traveled with the Ice Capades and performed with the Ice Follies. She was not allowed into the U.S. Olympic trials or any competitive figure skating events. She later became a coach and worked with skaters such as Atoy Wilson, the first black skater to win a U.S. title, and pairs champions Tai Babilonia and Randy Gardner. She pushed the Culver City Skating Club in Los Angeles to admit its first black member in 1965. She made the U.S. Figure Skating Hall of Fame in 1977 and was inducted into the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame in the coach category after her death.
Fast fact: Part of what fueled Fairbanks’ passion for skating was watching a Sonja Henie movie in the 1930s. Henie would later bar Fairbanks from competing in an ice show.
Quotable: “If I had gone to the Olympics and become a star, I would not be who I am today,” Fairbanks told the Los Angeles Times.
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
How the Wades won the NBA trade deadline
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union are going home to Miami — perhaps for good
9:34 AMAs the dust settles from one of the wildest NBA trade deadlines in recent history, the appropriate questions are: Who won? And who lost? Maybe it’s the Detroit Pistons, who are 5-0 since Blake Griffin’s arrival. Perhaps it’s Magic Johnson, who cleared cap space for two max players. Or maybe it’s a guy who didn’t move at all: As Drake says, Like I’m Lou Will, I just got the new deal. Lou Williams did in fact just sign a three-year, $24 million contract extension with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lou always wins.
Yet, the real winner(s) of the NBA trade deadline are power couple Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union. They’re going home.
Union wins for many reasons, not the least of which is that she is a survivor. Union is known for her patented grin-and-dimples combo, but her real life has been anything but all smiles. Rather than keep her pain bottled inside, Union speaks regularly about sexual assault, racism and gender equality. She is also shooting both a two-hour film finale of BET’s Being Mary Jane and an NBC pilot for a spinoff of the Bad Boys movie franchise. And Union’s 2017 memoir, We’re Going To Need More Wine, is a New York Times best-seller.
Not for nothing, too, Union moved from Miami to Chicago to Cleveland with her husband in a short span of time. So when the news broke on Feb. 8 that the family would be moving back to Miami (where they were married in 2014), there was an unbridled sense of joy and relief that radiated from Union’s tweet (she has close to 4 million followers).
🌞🌞🌞🔥🔥🔥🌴🌴🌴 305 HOME!!!! Let's goooooooo HEAT!!!! Can't. Wait.
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 8, 2018
Which brings us to her husband, Dwyane Tyrone Wade Jr. It’s unclear how much longer the 36-year-old, whom Union mercilessly teases about his age, will play professional basketball. But if this move is indeed Wade’s near end of the playing road, he, by nearly every metric, has won big time. Wade is largely accepted as the third-greatest shooting guard to ever live, behind only Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. The fifth overall pick in the 2003 NBA draft is the best shot-blocking guard of all time. He’s a three-time champion and a Finals MVP. And when it comes down to it, Wade, along with Pat Riley, staged the greatest coup in NBA free-agent history when he helped bring Chris Bosh and LeBron James to Miami in the summer of 2010. They went to four straight Finals, winning two, and the team will go down as the most provocative and culture-changing team since the Showtime Lakers.
Hold on. Not done yet. Wade also was able to play in his hometown of Chicago and got a crazy amount to do so, despite being out of his prime. Wade is watching his oldest son, Zaire, blossom into a promising young hooper. He also secured a buyout from those same Bulls, only to reunite in Cleveland with his best friend — the Laverne to his Shirley, the Daniel Kaluuya to his Lil Rel Howery, the Martin Lawrence to his Eddie Murphy, the Snoop Dogg to his Dr. Dre — in James. James had even provided a foreshadowing to the Wades’ return to the 305 area code: He posted a picture of himself, Wade and Heat lifer Udonis Haslem on Feb. 1.
With Thursday’s purge, Wade will presumably finish his career in Miami with absolutely no pressure on him — with the Bulls still paying him. And he’s doing so as an unquestioned first-ballot Hall of Famer. About the only thing left to do is re-win Papi Le Batard’s love. Gangstas don’t die, Jadakiss once said, they get chubby and move to Miami. That option is back on the table for Dwyane and Gabby. And likely minus the weight gain.
Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl parade a dream come true after nightmarish 58-year championship drought
We kept tabs on all things Eagles parade on social media
4:59 PMSeveral million Philadelphia Eagles fans turned out on Thursday to witness and enjoy the Eagles’ very first Super Bowl parade.
The team won the NFL Championship in 1960, but for 58 years, the City of Brotherly Love was denied a Lombardi trophy, going 0 for 2 in its only Super Bowl appearances.
Fast-forward to Sunday, where the Eagles redeemed their 2005 loss to the New England Patriots with a 41-33 victory over the Pats in Minneapolis in Super Bowl LII.
Eagles fans came from far and wide – on 4 a.m. trains and with family members’ ashes on planes – to take part in Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl parade.
Think you missed something? No worries! Here’s the chatter from social media.
A quick #tbt before we get on the parade buses. https://t.co/1Yn4vVvG3s
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) February 8, 2018
"Every team that makes the playoffs in the NFC has a better shot of making the Super Bowl than your #1 seed Philadelphia Eagles." — @getnickwright pic.twitter.com/lObC5SA6ub
— First Things First (@FTFonFS1) December 27, 2017
Doug Pederson's one-handed beer catch is almost as good as Nick Foles' TD catch 😂
🎥: @TimmyLederman pic.twitter.com/5IQ813CG4c
— SB Nation (@SBNation) February 8, 2018
The Philadelphia Eagles Love Story, a three act play @suuderr pic.twitter.com/mxfaKXbY4o
— playoff shamus (@shamus_clancy) February 8, 2018
Jason Kelce is enjoying himself at the Eagles' Super Bowl parade. pic.twitter.com/CaREx3qSve
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) February 8, 2018
there's a nude guy at the Eagles parade who has covered his body in cream cheese. "we covered the spread so now the spread's covered me!"
— DL (@davelozo) February 8, 2018
Update: It is now TWO hours before the Philadelphia Eagles victory parade. https://t.co/aMZAeGremc pic.twitter.com/nN0RCeW8dK
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2018
doesn't get realer than scattering your grandfather's ashes at the Eagles Super Bowl parade.
said they flew up from Tampa. pic.twitter.com/HPygzJahmD
— maurice (@tallmaurice) February 8, 2018
Pumped up Eagles fans sing #flyeaglesfly at the top of their lungs on a 4:30 am train ahead of the team's victory parade today. https://t.co/9u0CUlLdmz pic.twitter.com/Hxkr6KcCYT
— ABC News (@ABC) February 8, 2018
I just heard my first Eagles chant 15 minutes ago ! Parade day
— Brian Westbrook (@36westbrook) February 8, 2018
There are 850 Port-A-Pottys along the Eagles parade route in Philly today. If three million people show up, that's one for every 3,529 people. pic.twitter.com/8Ro5OzqHZV
— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) February 8, 2018
#EaglesParade scanner traffic:
8:41 a.m.: You said Broad and Ritner on top of the church, there’s 15 people?
8:42 a.m.: That’s the church. That’s the minister from the church.
8:44 a.m. Tell that minister to get them off that roof there.
— Tricia L. Nadolny (@TriciaNadolny) February 8, 2018
#EaglesParade is real. pic.twitter.com/CTL3t15FJw
— Tim Jimenez (@TimJRadio) February 8, 2018
On a train from DC en route to the Eagles parade. Here’s what I can report:
– The train is packed
– It’s mostly Eagles fans
– Beer sales are higher than normal for before 9 a.m. on a Thursday
– When the conductor announced that Boston was the final destination, people booed
— Ryan J. Reilly (@ryanjreilly) February 8, 2018
Parade ready pic.twitter.com/tuCQbTkOrY
— Chris Long (@JOEL9ONE) February 8, 2018
Howard’s legendary athletic trainer Milton Miles dies
Former Bison coach Lincoln Phillips describes him as ‘the glue’ for the NCAA title team
4:09 PMLincoln Phillips can chuckle at the thought today, but the task of wrangling the diverse personalities on his star-studded 1970s Howard University soccer teams was no laughing matter at the time. “You’re talking about trying to get Jamaicans and Trinidadians and Africans on the same page at the same time,” recalled Phillips, who coached at Howard from 1970-1980 and led the Bison to its first – and still only – NCAA Division I national championship in 1974.
Phillips’ Bison teams featured players from countries such as Bermuda, Guyana, Ghana, Nigeria, Eritrea, Trinidad and Tobago, Ethiopia and Jamaica. While blessed with talent and a flair never before seen in America, it was Phillips, who was only a few years older than some of his players, who was tasked with bringing them together.
“That was no easy feat, and for a young coach at the time, you had to find creative and sometimes unconventional ways to get them to agree to come together,” said Phillips, who was 29 when he became head coach in ’70. “I couldn’t have been successful without the help and support from some wonderful people.”
Count Milton Miles Jr. among them; Miles, who was African-American, was Howard’s longtime athletic trainer and played a massive role in helping the Bison reach two NCAA Division I championships. He died this week at 87 after a long battle with bladder cancer, having served as Howard’s athletic trainer from 1970 until his in retirement in 2002.
“He was the athletic trainer for all of Howard’s teams,” said Marilyn Miles, his wife of 54 years. “But soccer was his favorite.”
Phillips, a former army sergeant in his native Trinidad and Tobago, was hardly short on discipline, but he soon learned that he needed more than that to create harmony – on and off the pitch.
“Milt helped me to understand and deal with potential chaos situations within our multitalented teams, because the players all loved and confided in ‘Uncle Milty,’ ” the coach recalled.
Ian Bain, who captained Phillips’ all-star 1974 team, agrees: “We spent so much time with him, in the tape room, in the world pool, on road trips – that in many ways he became was our gate-keeper. That made him really important to our existence. His consistence and constancy made him really important to us.”
Howard’s soccer exploits were told in the Spike Lee-executive produced documentary Redemption Song, which recalled the fast-paced and gripping tale of the 1971 and 1974 national championship-winning Bison teams that had to overcome issues – often racial – bigger than themselves to achieve greatness.
“Milt’s uncanny ability to analyze these tense and potentially explosive situations was a great asset to me as a coach,” continued Phillips, who compiled a 116-19 record as Howard’s coach and was enshrined in the Howard Athletic Hall of Fame, along with both teams, in September 2014. “He was the glue in all the Howard soccer teams – the comforter to all the players when they were down. He healed them physically and emotionally. He was a dear and close friend to me and the players and most of all, a consummate gentleman.”
Miles’ death is the third in recent years from that glorified era. Kenneth “Kendo” Ilodigwe, who scored the lone goal in the 1974 quadruple overtime thriller versus soccer power Saint Louis University, died last March. Keith “Bronco” Aqui, Howard’s goal-scoring forward and star on Phillips’ 1971 team, died in late 2016.
Miles is survived by his wife Marilyn; two children, Jenifer and Milton Miles III; and one grandson, Justin.
The Cavs blew up their squad — and Twitter
Cleveland traded six players and a draft pick before the NBA trade deadline
3:29 PMFor the foreseeable future, Feb. 8, 2018, will be remembered as Judgment Day in Cleveland. In a matter of 61 minutes in the lead-up to Thursday’s annual NBA trade deadline, the Cavaliers dealt six players and one draft pick to three teams in return for four players and a draft pick as part of a complete roster rebuild less than a week before the start of the All-Star break. As Cleveland blew up its entire squad, Twitter fingers percolated and popcorn was ready.
The swift moves executed by Cavs general manager Koby Altman began at 12:05 p.m. EST, when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski first reported that the Los Angeles Lakers were sending point guard Jordan Clarkson and power forward Larry Nance Jr. to Cleveland for power forward Channing Frye, point guard Isaiah Thomas (whom the Cavs received from the Boston Celtics in the blockbuster Kyrie Irving trade last summer) and a 2018 first-round draft pick. Thomas’ career in The Land lasted only 15 games, after he sat out the first few months of the season with a hip injury.
*Isaiah Thomas' phone rings* pic.twitter.com/1h0N068U4H
— Aaron Dodson (@aardodson) February 8, 2018
At 1 p.m., the Cavs sent point guard Derrick Rose and forward Jae Crowder to the Utah Jazz, and guard Iman Shumpert to the Sacramento Kings, in a three-team deal that landed forward Rodney Hood and point guard George Hill in Cleveland.
Cavs traded 5 players in about 30 minutes.
— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) February 8, 2018
Six minutes later, Cleveland traded future Hall of Fame shooting guard Dwyane Wade to the Miami Heat for a second-round draft pick.
Wade: “It was never like this in Miami right Bron?”
Bron: “You miss Miami huh?” pic.twitter.com/P2ysqPZmkf
— Lip Gallagher (@tonestradamus) February 8, 2018
The 36-year-old Wade, who was drafted by the Heat in 2003, will presumably finish his career in Miami, and his wife, Gabrielle Union, couldn’t be happier.
🌞🌞🌞🔥🔥🔥🌴🌴🌴 305 HOME!!!! Let's goooooooo HEAT!!!! Can't. Wait.
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) February 8, 2018
.@itsgabrielleu on her way back to Miami like… pic.twitter.com/HRf5rVd776
— Jasmyn Lawson (@JasmynBeKnowing) February 8, 2018
Neither could Wade’s now former teammate (again) LeBron James, whom he played with in Miami from 2010 to 2014.
Now, only four players from Cleveland’s 2016 NBA championship-winning squad — James, J.R. Smith, Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson — are left on the team. So what does this all really mean for the Cavs? Perhaps the franchise is preparing for a future without James, who could opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer. Or maybe Cleveland is just reloading its tainted roster with a crop of younger, more athletic and more defensive-minded players who will be needed if the team plans to make a run to the NBA Finals for the fourth straight year.
Regardless, Thursday left us all feeling like Earl Smith (aka J.R.) …
"Aye LeBron, who is all these new dudes on the Cavs?" pic.twitter.com/2G5knF9pla
— Josiah Johnson (@KingJosiah54) February 8, 2018
Few remember the Orangeburg Massacre, which happened 50 years ago on Feb. 8, 1968
It was one of the first deadly confrontations on a college campus
2:30 PMFifty years ago Thursday, three students died on the campus of South Carolina State University in the Orangeburg Massacre. Yet, years later, few people know about it.
On Thursday, the university and others honored their legacy and its role in the protest that led up to the massacre in a commemoration, Remembering History, Inspiring Hope and Embracing Healing. With students, faculty, community leaders, law enforcement and residents, they hope to remember “one of the saddest days in the history of South Carolina” with a renewed commitment to optimism, inspiration and understanding.
On the night of Feb. 8, 1968, hundreds of students had gathered on campus for a third night of protests after a long series of clashes with local law enforcement and politicians. They were facing dozens of South Carolina highway troopers and National Guard troops, with military vehicles and a heavy law enforcement presence.
The protests started because of racial segregation at a local bowling alley.
The troopers, saying they heard sniper fire, started shooting at the students. Amid the running and screaming in the ensuing chaos, S.C. State students Samuel Hammond and Henry Smith died along with Delano Middleton, and 27 others were injured.
The Smith-Hammond-Middleton Memorial Center, South Carolina State’s on-campus arena, was renamed in honor of the three victims. It was opened the same year as the massacre.
It was one of the first deadly confrontations between college students and law enforcement in the United States, and it happened two years before the Kent State University shootings and two months before the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Orangeburg, located between Columbia and Charleston, is the home of S.C. State University and Claflin College, both historically black colleges and universities. Students from both schools were involved in the protests.
‘Teyana & Iman’ bring their vision of black love to VH1
The new reality show debuts Feb. 19
2:07 PMIt’s like Black History Month and Valentine’s Day all rolled into one: Teyana & Iman, a new VH1 series following the lives of Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert, will debut Feb. 19 at 10 p.m.
Taylor is the dancer who made such a memorable splash in the Kanye West video for “Fade” in fall 2016, which cemented her status as #bodygoals for pretty much anyone with eyes.
Her husband, Shumpert, is a guard who the Cleveland Cavaliers just traded to the Sacramento Kings. The eight episodes will offer a closer look at the couple and their baby, Junie. Among the stops? New York Fashion Week.
“When I look at reality, it don’t look like reality to me,” Shumpert says into the camera for a promo of the series. He’s seated on a white couch wearing nothing but gray sweatpants and a black and brown striped fur coat, next to Taylor, who’s kitted out in a red fur and matching slides.
What? You don’t have a fur coat that you just wear when you’re kicking it around the house?
Seba Johnson: the first black woman to ski at the Olympics
She competed at age 14 to become the youngest Alpine racer in Olympic history
12:05 PMSeba Johnson became the first black woman and youngest Alpine racer to ski at the Olympics when she competed for the U.S. Virgin Islands at age 14 in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta.
Born: May 1, 1973.
Her story: Johnson was born in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Her family moved around, living in New Hampshire, Maine and Nevada. She began skiing at age 7. By age 14, she had competed in the giant slalom at her first Olympics. She became the first black skier to place in the top 30 in international competition at age 15 in the World Alpine Ski Championships. She returned to the Olympics in Albertville, France, in 1992, competing in the slalom and giant slalom. She retired that same year to work toward a degree in fine arts at Howard University. She has worked as an actor and a model.
Fast fact: Johnson is a longtime vegan and animal rights activist.
Quotable: “The first time I was on skis, I loved it and wanted to become a ski racer,” Johnson told United Press International.
The Undefeated will profile an athlete each day during Black History Month.
Kobe Bryant wasn’t originally on board with retro’ing his classic Nike Zoom Kobe 1
The Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Proto is set for Feb. 17 — Michael Jordan’s birthday
Kobe Bryant’s career revival in the mid-2000s, at least partially, can be traced back to the arrival of his signature Nike Zoom Kobe 1s. The sneakers made their illustrious debut on Christmas 2005. The ’05-’06 season was quite the roller coaster for Bryant. Although the year would be his final of the controversial yet incredibly successful No. 8 era, and the season would end on an ugly note in Phoenix, Bryant rewrote the record books that season, averaging 35.4 points. The Zoom Kobe 1s first graced the stage only five days after Kobe’s electric 62 points in three quarters versus Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks. And, yes, they were on his feet when his iconic 81-point onslaught took place a month later against the Toronto Raptors.
Now they’re back. Kobe teased the prospect of an upcoming retro line on Instagram last week. Toronto Raptors All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan donned the shoes recently in a big-time win over their divisional and conference rivals the Boston Celtics. The Compton native and self-admitted Bryant fanatic will don the sneakers again tonight when the Raptors host the now Kristaps Porzingis-less New York Knicks. While retro-ing classic sneakers seems like a foregone conclusion for most iconic lines (i.e. Jordan’s, LeBron’s), Bryant initially opposed the idea. “It just didn’t fit right with everything I stood for, with the Mamba Brand,” he said.
Needless to say, cooler heads prevailed and Kobe was won over with the Nike Zoom Kobe 1 Proto, in essence the shoe in which Kobe terrorized defenders over a decade ago but with updated technology. The shoes hit nike.com and select retailers on Feb. 17 — more popularly known in the sports world as Michael Jordan’s 55th birthday. Even in retirement, Kobe Bean Bryant remains a (strategic) savage.