Monthly Archives: August 2016

Colin Kaepernick and the new age of athletic activism

 

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) stands on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 22, 2015. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Much has been made lately of San Francisco Forty Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his recent refusal to stand during the playing of the national anthem before the game.  He explained it by saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”  Very rare to hear that from any prominent pro athlete these days.  Of course the condemnation was swift and inevitable, everything from police union spokesmen with hurt feelings demanding an apology to offended right wingers referring to Kaepernick as a terrorist, a reverse racist and other terms that can’t be repeated here.  My take?  Kaepernick has every right to express his opinion, he is not required by law or by the NFL to stand for the national anthem and he’s not doing anything wrong.  What’s really refreshing is to see someone in his position taking a stand which could be costly for him in public appeal, endorsements and the overall future of his career.  So far he doesn’t seem to be fazed by it.

Kaepernick represents what many felt had gone the way of the station wagon, the 8 track tape and leaded gasoline, the activist athlete.  Up until the early 1960s, any athlete fortunate to make it to the pro level was very careful not to engage in social issues.  Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball was activist enough and that was just to play the game.  As the Civil Rights movement gained steam, however, more and more felt compelled to speak out.  NBA legend Bill Russell, before the 1961-62 season, was refused service in a Kentucky restaurant before an exhibition game and in response he and other black teammates flew home.  Because he realized that many of the same white fans who cheered him on the court called him and other blacks the N word behind his back, he once stated “You owe the public the same it owes you, nothing! I refuse to smile and be nice to the kiddies.”  He referred to Boston, where he helped the Celtics to win numerous championships during the 1960s as a “flea market of racism.”  Everyone knows about the popular heavyweight great Cassius Clay converting to Islam and changing his name to Muhammed Ali which alienated many white Americans.  Even the most mortified among white Americans, however, were not prepared for Ali’s refusal to submit to the draft or his declarations that “I aint got no quarrel with them Vietcongs.” and “No Vietcong ever called me n—-r.”  Before the 1968 Summer Olympics, many black athletes talked about boycotting the games to protest racism in America.  Among those was UCLA center Lew Alcindor, who we now know as Kareem Abdul Jabbar.  The boycott never materialized, however, and it was decided to leave any decision to protest, or not protest, up to the individual athletes.  Two of those were sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who finished 1-3 in the 200 meters, with Australian Peter Norman finishing second.  During the playing of the Star Spangled banner, Smith raised his right black gloved fist while Carlos raised his left black gloved fist in a “black power” salute.  Norman, who remained friends with Smith and Carlos until the day he died, wore a button in support.  Smith and Carlos were sent home and were vilified by the press and the public but are now regarded as heroes.  Norman was barred from future competition in Australia but never apologized for supporting his black American friends.  Abdul-Jabbar, who refused to play on that year’s Olympic team, to this day speaks out against things he finds wrong in society.

Compare the before mentioned individuals to who we have seen over the last three decades and where is the comparison?  Society has changed for the better but many would argue that there has still been much left to improve.  Michael Jordan, considered to be the greatest basketball player of all time, was notorious for shying away from social issues.  When asked about endorsing former Charlotte NC mayor Harvey Gantt in his 1990 campaign against Jesse Helms for senator he reportedly said (and later denied) “Republican buy sneakers too.”  During the 1992 Olympics, the first year the pro athletes were officially allowed to play, as part of the “Dream Team,” Jordan threatened to not take part in the victory ceremony due to the warm up suits being manufactured by Reebok while he was under contract with Nike.  In 1972, the U.S. men’s basketball team refused to accept the silver medal in protest of what was perceived as them being cheated out of the gold medal game in favor of the Soviet Union.  Compare that to millionaire athletes standing up for the grand cause of representing a shoe manufacturer 20 years later.  Draw your own conclusion.

One notable exception is former Denver Nuggets guard Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf who in March of 1996 was suspended one game by the NBA for refusing to stand for the Star Spangled Banner.  Abdul-Rauf claimed that the U.S. flag was a symbol of oppression and tyranny.  He worked out a compromise with the NBA where he would stand and pray  during the playing of the anthem.  Many compare Kaepernick’s more recent stance to Abdul-Rauf’s.

Let me be the first to say that no individual, celebrity or not, should be compelled to be an activist.  People should be free to do what they feel is right and it isn’t up to me or anyone else to make that decision for them.  I myself have defended Jordan and others against charges that they don’t get active enough in social issues or do enough for the black community.  My issue with Jordan has been that while he has the right to keep his political views to himself, he has shown himself to be quick to stand up for the grand cause of Nike and anything that affects his financial bottom line and that represents what many feel to be the problem with today’s athlete, more about making money than about what’s going on the world outside of sports.

What we have seen in recent years, however, is more and more athletes speaking out on issues that matter to their community as a whole.  In December of 2014, five members of the St. Louis Rams protested the shooting death of Michael Brown by Ferguson MO police officer Darren Wilson by entering the stadium with their hands up.  Cleveland Cavalier superstar LeBron James, along with teammate Kyrie Irving and other players wore shirts with the slogan “I can’t breathe.”in protest of the death of Eric Garner due to a police choke hold.  That would have been unheard of a decade ago.  Even Jordan contributed to President Obama’s campaign in 2008 and about a month ago spoke out against police brutality and the murder of police officers in retaliation.  I have not heard any news reports yet of Hell freezing over.

I have no idea where Kaepernick’s career goes from here but I predict that as far as his protest goes, history will be kind to him as it now is to Russell, Ali, Smith, Carlos and Abdul-Jabbar.  In the meantime, the boos will be rained down on him, the calls for him to be cut (which may happen anyway due to his performance) will intensify and he will surely receive a threat or two.  I have a feeling though that like the before mentioned, he will end up not regretting a single moment of it.

See, even sweet little Gabby isn’t immune to the vilification

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Anyone care to tell us what’s wrong with the above picture?

 

Nothing, right?  Okay, tell us what’s wrong with this one?

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Still nothing, right?

 

What do the individuals in these photos have in common?  Both show USA athletes on the victory stand while the Star Spangled Banner is being played.  The former pic is Gabby Douglas receiving her gold medal as part of the winning women gymnastics team.  The former is of men’s shot put winner Ryan Crouser and American silver medalist Joe Kovacs.  There is one big difference that stands out though.  Yes Douglas is a black woman and Crouser and Kovac are white men.  But which one received condemnation, hate and vitriol from many in the social media universe for not having her hand over her heart during the playing of the national anthem?  I’ll give you three guesses.

For those of you who don’t know, Gabby became the first black women to win an individual Olympic gold medal in gymnastics in 2012 by winning the women’s all around.  She won another gold medal in the team competition, making her the first American woman, black or white, to win both.  I have observed, as well as many others, that whenever a black person breaks through in an area in which our very presence, let alone success, is rare, there are some whites who are, at best, uncomfortable with it and, at worst, threatened by it.  We saw it with the hatred thrown at tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, speed skater Shani Davis and, most recently, Cam Newton.  The Williams sisters have been accused of having bad attitudes and have had nasty comments about their femininity thrown at them for years.  Davis was accused of being unpatriotic and of having a bad attitude during the 2006 Winter Olympics when he refused to take part in the men’s team pursuit at the last minute so he could concentrate on his individual events.  When he came back to win another gold medal in the 1000 meter event in 2010, some reporters talked more about his attitude and demeanor in 2006 than they did about him repeating as champion in his best event.  Cam Newton is arguably the most dominant quarterback in the NFL right now and last year he had an outstanding season leading the Carolina Panthers to a regular season record of 15-1 and eventually to the Super Bowl.  He received much attention for “dabbing” in the end zone after a touchdown (not to mention handing the ball to children in the stands) and other expressions of joy.  For that he has been called a thug, a bad influence and everything else but a child of God.  Of course there are many who still believe that the quarterback p0sition should be the exclusive domain of white men who, in their minds, are more intelligent and have greater leadership skills to lead an NFL football team.  Go figure.

Of course only a miniscule number of white bigots are going to publicly admit to having an issue with black people breaking through in areas in which white dominate.  The days of umpires yelling “Get those n—–s off the field!” ended well over 60 years ago.  Instead we get manufactured crises, claims of bad attitudes and not being a team player.  Gabby, who already had to deal with criticism about her hair mostly from a handful of shallow black women, had to deal with criticism about her not smiling enough and seeming to bitter and upset about not having the opportunity to repeat as all around champion.  I don’t know of anyone, even those well conditioned enough to be Olympic athletes, who have enough in them to keep a smile on their face 24-7 just to avoid having their emotions analyzed, but l guess Gabby is supposed to be special.  That was before her egregious act of treason on the medal stand.  Among her critics was Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke who devoted a whole article toward the incident.  Gabby issued a tweet in which she apologized, explaning that she didn’t mean any disrespect and that she was overwhelmed at what the team had accomplished which Plaschke responded to with “If Douglas was truly overcome with emotion as she claimed, that would have been visible, yet her expression was black and distant.”  Excuse me?  The most prolific mind reader and body language expert in Southern California, knowing that it would be pointed out that very few athletes at sporting events put their hands over their hearts explained the lack of criticism there with “Except those players aren’t representing an entire country as it’s flag is being raised to the world.  The next time Gabby Douglas stands on a podium for the national anthem, she can forget the words, disagree with them, protest them.  But there’s hoping she never again ignores the weight of their meaning.”  My head is still spinning from that.

Let me note that we still haven’t gotten Plaschke’s body language and mind reading analysis on Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs.  It’s doubtful that we ever will.

To be fair, I do not believe that the criticism and hostility directed toward Gabby Douglas and the others mentioned earlier comes from a majority of whites.  Gabby was considered by many to be America’s sweetheart in 2012 and her beaming smile and personality delighted many just as much as her electrifying performances.  The Williams Sisters, especially Serena, are acknowledged as being two of the greatest female tennis players of all time and if you took a popularity polls of NFL players, Cam Newton would probably be near or at the top.  The negativity, however, still shows how long we still have to go.  Just like President Barack Obama’s election in 2008, and reelection in 2012, show how far the U.S. has progressed in terms or accepting black people in previously white only clubs, the disrespect, hate and vitriol thrown at him show that old habits die hard.  No one is suggesting that black athletes or other prominent individuals should be free from criticism but what is that criticism based on?  What white speed skater would have had his patriotism and commitment to his team questioned for wanting to concentrate on his individual events rather than a team pursuit he was asked to join at the last minute?  What other tennis player would have been accused of disrespecting her opponent after a loss simply for saying “I didn’t play my best.” as opposed to showering her opponent with praise or be criticized, for, God forbid, having interests outside of tennis such as fashion design?  Black people in certain positions are often made to feel like they have to almost walk on water in order to avoid criticism and they usually have two choices, walk on eggshells on a constant basis with the hopes of maybe not rubbing anyone the wrong way or develop a “To hell with it” attitude which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t.  I doubt that Gabby takes that approach but I hope she realizes also that you can’t please everybody and it’s not worth the stress to even try.  If she is as smart as she is talented, and I believe she is, she’ll take the right approach for her.

Ms. Douglas, who according to her mother was driven to tears by all the social media negativity, will continue to be one of America’s most popular athletes and will get past all this even stronger, just like Venus and Serena Williams, just like Shani Davis and just like President Obama.  Right now she is getting a hard lesson in how a certain segment of our population will never see her as anything other than a n—-r gal who doesn’t know her place.  As for her multiracial, multicultural support base, which I am proud to be a part of, the only place she belongs is the top of the victory podium, hand on heart or not.

Lochtegate & Privilege

#Lochtegate When I first heard the news, I was sadly surprised; followed by more surprise when the IOC denied it. I mentioned that their story was probably a coverup for some foolishness they caused.

And apparently that’s what they did. I know they already earned their medals but there should be some type of sanction for their behavior. Yet here is what the IOC had to say: “I do not regret having apologized. No apologies from him or other athletes are needed. We have to understand that these kids came here to have fun. Let’s give these kids a break. Sometimes you make decisions that you later regret. They had fun, they made a mistake, life goes on.”

Ummm…duuuuude, seriously?!?!?
I thought you were considered an adult at 18; Lochte is 32. And if there are no consequences at all, when they do this again, do you shrug your shoulders even more?

In discussion w #myvips and I said “Man, I wonder what would happen if you guys made it to the Olympics and we saved our money to go support plus vacation in that country, only to hear that your lives were in danger, only to find out that you made it all up.”

Youngest #vip says, “It wouldn’t be good for me, not at all.” You better KNOW IT!

Rio has enough real issues without them adding fuel to the fire with this fake ish, lack of remorse, and excused behavior.

Shameful!

More Thoughts on Nate Parker

So, in my post yesterday, I am pretty sure I gave the impression that I felt Nate and his roommate Jean were guilty, even though one was acquitted and the other had charges dropped (after conviction and appeal, because the victim refused to testify again).  I struggle with that because who am I?  I wasn’t there.  I didn’t participate in the trial.  I’m forming an opinion based on articles and portions of transcripts and my “feelings”.  These two guys could very well be innocent of the charges, and God help me and forgive me if they are.  Because I just don’t think so.

However, Nate Parker wants you to think so.  He penned this on his Facebook account on Aug. 16, 2016:

These are my words. Written from my heart and not filtered through a third party gaze. Please read these separate from any platform I may have, but from me as a fellow human being.
I write to you all devastated…
Over the last several days, a part of my past – my arrest, trial and acquittal on charges of sexual assault – has become a focal point for media coverage, social media speculation and industry conversation. I understand why so many are concerned and rightfully have questions. These issues of a women’s right to be safe and of men and women engaging in healthy relationships are extremely important to talk about, however difficult. And more personally, as a father, a husband, a brother and man of deep faith, I understand how much confusion and pain this incident has had on so many, most importantly the young woman who was involved.
I myself just learned that the young woman ended her own life several years ago and I am filled with profound sorrow…I can’t tell you how hard it is to hear this news. I can’t help but think of all the implications this has for her family.
I cannot- nor do I want to ignore the pain she endured during and following our trial. While I maintain my innocence that the encounter was unambiguously consensual, there are things more important than the law. There is morality; no one who calls himself a man of faith should even be in that situation. As a 36-year-old father of daughters and person of faith, I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom.
I look back on that time, my indignant attitude and my heartfelt mission to prove my innocence with eyes that are more wise with time. I see now that I may not have shown enough empathy even as I fought to clear my name. Empathy for the young woman and empathy for the seriousness of the situation I put myself and others in.
I cannot change what has happened. I cannot bring this young woman who was someone else’s daughter, someone’s sister and someone’s mother back to life…
I have changed so much since nineteen. I’ve grown and matured in so many ways and still have more learning and growth to do. I have tried to conduct myself in a way that honors my entire community – and will continue to do this to the best of my ability.
All of this said, I also know there are wounds that neither time nor words can heal.
I have never run from this period in my life and I never ever will. Please don’t take this as an attempt to solve this with a statement. I urge you only to take accept this letter as my response to the moment.
Nate

While I can appreciate him giving this statement “in his own words”, my feelings are the same.  He appears empathetic, now, and remorseful, now; yet somehow the words ring hollow to me.  It was a heinous act then.  He was involved.  He and his roommate were involved.  Neither one admit culpability – then or now.  Neither one suffered any consequence.  And apparently, neither one gave another thought about the victim; Nate claimed that he wasn’t aware of her suicide which happened four years ago.

Look, we all have skeletons in our past – lies, bad behavior, levels of coverup, levels of escandalo that we don’t want to be made public knowledge.  Even if it happened years ago; even if we have moved on from our past and become different people.  I think what bothers me the most is the lack of true ownership and accountability.  People who really make the changes put in the work and don’t flinch from what they did in the past.  They own it and demonstrate ways in which they made changes.  I think that’s what I find missing in this narrative, the ownership and accountability.

Again, by all accounts, Birth of a Nation is an important fill that was well written, acted and produced.  It tells the story of one of our Black heroes, which often goes unstated and unsung.  So it’s definitely been a film on my “must see” list.  Given this new information, I am conflicted about supporting someone who is still struggling to accept and account for his own actions, no matter how long ago it happened.  I’ve lost respect for Nate Parker and I don’t know how I can support someone that I don’t respect.

At the same time, I know that people come into their own in their own way and at their own time.  Lord knows that I had to learn some lessons many times over by repeating them again and again via different situations.  I know that written words don’t necessarily express tone, gestures, posture, and other indicators of body language.  I know that I’m not done making mistakes and asking for forgiveness from those mistakes.  I pray that I continue to evolve where I will always stand for truth and integrity, no matter what; and I guess that’s my ultimate prayer for this situation.  I pray that truth comes to light and integrity is displayed, no matter how hard it may be.

Thoughts about Nate Parker

For the past few days, I have read reports about Nate Parker, actor-director-co-writer of Birth of a Nation, to be released Oct. 2016.  It’s the story of Nat Turner, who led a major rebellion in 1831 against slave owners and their ilk, reportedly triggered by the brutal treatment of his wife Cherry, among other things.

Nate Parker was accused of rape 17 years ago by a college student with whom he previously engaged in consensual sex.  On the night in question, she states that several people met for numerous drinks, then they went to Nate’s apartment.  At some point, she passed out but awoke to being violated by Nate’s roommate, Jean Celestin.  Another person served as a partial eyewitness.  Tamerlane Kangas says he witnessed Nate having sex with the young lady and passed on his (Nate’s) invitation to join them.  Supposedly Jean didn’t pass on the invitation, and Kangas left the apartment.

Demetria Lucas D’Oyley wrote about it here: http://demetrialucasdoyley.com/writingwork/we-need-to-talk-about-nate-parkers-creepy-interview-about-his-past-rape-charge-yall

I agree with her.  I am conflicted.  This happened 17 years ago, and Nate was acquitted, while Jean’s charges were eventually dropped (initially convicted, he appealed and the victim refused to testify again, so charged were dropped) – but does that mean this should go away?

What about the victim, who testified that she attempted to commit suicide twice, left school and struggled to find her way.  Her brother confirms that she drifted from job to job, suffered from depression and PTSD, sinking into a drug addiction that led to multiple stints in rehab.  While she had moments of happiness with a boyfriend and the birth of her child, she became a shell of herself, according to the brother.  Her last rehab stay was in 2012, where staff member found her Boyd one day after she committed suicide by overdosing on pills. In them meantime, Nate Parker became popular for his roles in films such as The Great Debaters, The Secret Life of Bees, pride, and Beyond the Lights.

Birth of a Nation was supposed to be his breakout, A-list film, one that would be in Oscar contention for 2017.  Based on reports from Sundance and elsewhere, it’s an important, well-made film.  It depicts the decision made by black people during their time of the greatest oppression, that enoug was enough, and they sacrificed their lives to show that they would not continue to accept lowly inhuman treatment.  Celebs such as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski keep working and keep getting awarded and rewarded for their work, while their naysayers are often the minority  voices.  Should we reward those whose personal lives demonstrate callous disregard for humans?  Not only did Nate apparently  commit this heinous act and get acquitted on a technicality (see the transcripts which are public record), he still doesn’t seem to display the sense of remorse that he has truly “become a different person 17 years later” as he says.  He talks about his circumstances “I was poor, I lost my father”, and how the thinks he has overcome, “I was exonerated, it’s 17 years later, I have five daughters and a lovely wife, I brought my mother here with me, I have four sisters, I get it.”  Does he really get it? He makes a passing reference to everyone be affected by the events of that night.  Other than that, no mention of the victim or her circumstances.

Again, I am conflicted.  Technically he was acquitted.  Birth of a Nation seems like a must see film.  It WAS 17 years ago.  But if it had happened to me  or you, would any of that matter to you right now, if you felt that no one really paid for this crime?  Let’s not become apologists for what is obvious.  See the movie, or don’t.  Just don’t excuse he behavior then…or his comments now.

 

About That Dive, Olympics 2016

Allyson Felix is a track goddess.  She competes in the 100M, 200M, and 400M and dominates in each one.  She has been in 4 Olympics (including 2016) , winning Gold and Silver medals in individual and relay events.  For Rio 2016 Olympics, she qualified only for the 400M individual event.  If she won, she would be defending her title from London 2012.  Just getting a medal, any medal, would make her the most decorated US Women’s track athlete, surpassing the great Jackie Joyner-Kersee. (Fun fact – Allyson Felix is coached by Bobby Kersee, Jackie’s husband and coach while she was competing.)

You may already know I love the Olympics.  Gymnastics, Track and Field, and Swimming are the marquee sports, and they’re my three favorite to watch.  So I was ready to watch Allyson make history with her event.  Enter Shaunae Miller from the Bahamas, and what is now known as “the dive”.

If you somehow missed the race PLUS the news about it last night and all morning, Shaunae Miller was leading the race up until the last few steps.  Allyson was gaining on her and kept digging in; she looked like she was going to actually pass her right at the finish line.  Shaunae either tripped and stumbled or purposely made a quick decision – either way it resulted in her flinging herself across the finish line at the last second.  She dove across like she was trying to plug in her phone when it was at 1% and she finally found an outlet.

I can see both sides of the situation. Allyson Felix did an amazing job. She ran all the way and just about caught Shaunae at the end. She probably would have won, and I can see why people think she should have won.

However, my former track star source says ‘the dive’ is not illegal. That’s my darling hubby, by the way.  The expert commentators (former track stars Ato Bolton and Sanya Richards-Ross) also stated that this type of finish was perfectly legal.  Shaunae saw what ‘Lightning Bolt’ did to Justin Gatlin the night before. She was ahead the whole race. Two or three more steps and Felix would have had her. She probably said to herself “Wait, I am winning, you’re not gonna ‘Bolt’ past me. Swan dive, belly dive, base stealing dive, cartwheel or somersault, I’m getting this gold. Time to ‘SuperGirl’ it and cross that line!”

Sombeody updated Shaunae’s Wilkipedia account to show that she is a diver, instead of a track star.  You wascally contributors!

Dat girl watched Usain Bolt take it from Justin Gatlin on Sunday night in the Men’s 100M final.  She said to herself, “I will not get ‘Bolted'”.

View image on Twitter

Maan, listen. I can’t get any rest for laughing at these memes that were already created about Shaunae Miller and ‘the dive’. How do they created so ding-dang quickly???  The jokes just kept on coming:

Charlotte Wilder, @thewilderthings tweeted “Trying meet a deadline like”

@9GAG “Me trying to save the semester every time”

The dive is not an illegal move.  And the US did the same thing to the Bahamas back in 2008 at the Olympics in Beijing; David Neville medaled in the Men’s 400M by diving across the finish line to take the Bronze medal.  As I told my  cousins in our group chat, “these Olympics are not paying us, so..”

In the meantime, my favorite meme:

The Rio Olympics, Starring the Simones

The Simones. Biles and Manuel. They exhibited #BlackGirlMagic to the nth degree, winning the Women’s All-Around Gymnastics and the Women’s 100M Freestyle respectively.

There was a lot of expectation for Simone Biles, who has been the reigning Women’s National Champion in gymnastics for the past four years. Yes, there was Dominique Dawes and Gabby Douglas before her, who shined spectacularly during their Olympic moments. Yet their names were not well known prior to their competing in the Olympics. They were not expected to win, certainly not gold. Simone, by virtue of being the 4-time champion, was expected to win and to win big. That’s a lot of pressure. Yet she rose to the occasion in a mighty big way.

Not only did she perform all of her routines – vault, balance beam, uneven bars, and floor exercise – with the same vim and vigor and JOY as usual, she left everyone else in her dust. Her Black Girl Magic dust. And when comparisons were made, as they always are, between her achievements in other sports, she responded in the best possible way. “I am not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I am the first Simone Biles.” You TELL them! Way to stand in your own truth and power!

And if that wasn’t enough, we heard from the “lesser known” Simone, the one whose last name is Manuel. The one who everyone now knows, as the first Black or African American to win gold at the Olympics for swimming. Dispelling the stereotype that Black people don’t swim, shattering the myth that Black swimmers aren’t good enough, staring “less than” titles in the face, Simone Manuel did what no one expected.

So little did we know about her, and so little was thought of her, that NBC didn’t even do one of those packaged bios about her. You know the one: where you find out about her home life, siblings, initial foray into the sport, practice routines, hopes and dreams, etc etc etc. We didn’t get that about Simone Manuel. Instead they shared about the Australian sisters, who ended up finishing 4th and 6th in the race. And all Simone did was break and Olympic record, and tie for gold with a Canadian swimmer, Penelope (Penny) Oleksiak. So she won, the tied for first, and she broke a record; no big deal, right? OF COURSE this was huge! I was screaming in delight. Black Girl Magic, again!

One of the first things she said after the race was “To God be the glory”. Indeed, lady – give praise where praise is due. When she was interviewed, she singled out Maritza Correira, Lia Neal, and Cullen Jones – all Black swimmers who have won gold, silver or bronze in recent Olympics. But no Black woman has won individual gold in swimming. And Simone Manuel, during her post-race interview, gave praise to her contemporaries. ”This medal is not just for me,” she said. ”It’s for some of the African-Americans that have came before me and have been inspirations and mentors to me. I hope that I can be an inspiration for others.” Yes, you are Simone Manuel.

Simone Biles and Simone Manuel have become two of the “faces” of the Rio Olympics, and more importantly, inspiration to so many others. Way to go ladies…way to go!

Olympic Women, Winning! Are You Doing the Same?

I am part of a natural hair group on Facebook because I have 10Z hair (and I LOVE it) and can use all the helpful tips I can get. More often than not the posts are not hair related. You know I just joined social media a couple of years ago, so they may all be talked out about hair related stuff.
So two days ago, as I am scrolling FB during commercials – times of enjoying yet another great night of Olympic viewing, cheering on the Flying Fish that is Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky (who needs her own awesome nickname to match her awesome feats), and the team that’s now known as the Final Five – I saw the following post:

“Why is Gabby Douglas’ hair so unkempt?  She needs some edge control to lay those edges.”

For real?  AGAIN?  What in the ever blinking heck is WRONG with people?  You are in the group for NATURAL HAIR and you have this question? Are you for serious?  A couple of people thought she was trolling but then she posted another comment about seriously wanting to know since Gabby was on TV and representing the USA.

Lemme tell you something Ms. Thing.  How do you represent your family name, your company, your worth each and every day?  Is your natural hair always snatched, your face always beat, and your healthy body always banging in the flyest of flywear?

Are you tumbling, flipping, twirling, vaulting, running, jumping, doing ballet, gymnastics, and a choreographed dance routine all at the same time, for hours a day?  Are you a two-time Olympian?multi-medalist in your field?  Oh no?  Well, whatever your career choice, can you gay-ruhn-tee that you look 100% all day err day?

If you don’t occupy all the seats in Natural Hair Seatsville.  Go straight to some Bantu knots.  Do not stop at a blow-dryer.  No edge control for you.  Check back with me in just 4-6 hours and lemme know how that’s working for you.

And for my fellow naturalistas, who dragged this poster for filth, thanks for holding Gabby down. We spend far too much time being critical for no good reason.  Let’s spend more time giving encouragement, support, and sharing positive thoughts.  I know, I know; this post wasn’t exactly encouraging, supportive or positive towards that OP (Original Poster), but you gotta call a spade a spade, and this lady was out of order.  Seriously folks, be concerned about your life and let these Olympians be great.  Let them live!

 

Olympic memories, the good, the bad and the ugly

The 2016 Olympics are under way in Rio De Janeiro Brazil and so far the performances have been entertaining.  I am reminded so much of what I remember about the Olympics from when I was a child and how much has changed, some for the better, some for the worse, over the years.  The very first Olympian I remember was Bruce (now Caitlyn) Jenner in 1976 who became a phenomenon after winning the decathlon.  Much was made of the fact that he lived as a pauper during the previous four years he spent training for the grueling competition.  The money that many track athletes make now on endorsements and appearance fees provide a good living while, in the days of strict amateurism, atheltes worked full time jobs and spent whatever free time they had training instead of watching TV and playing Candy Crush.  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  Depends on who you ask.  If you enjoy the fact that the performances continue to get better and better and that  we truly get too see the world’s best athletes, regardless of income, go at it, it’s a good thing.  If you feel that commercialism has killed the spirit of competition for the love of sport itself and that today’s Olympic athletes simply aren’t in it for the right reasons, it’s not so good.  Personally I’ve wavered between both schools of thought but choose to believe that the Olympic Games are still the world’s greatest sporting event.  My biggest memories are as follows:

1980 Moscow:

The bad and the ugly-  The U.S. boycott of the games.  President Jimmy Carter, a man I have great respect for, had the U.S. boycott the Summer Games in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.  Many American allies boycotted as well.  Great Britain notably decried that actions of the USSR but left the decision to boycott up to the athletes.  While the USSR’s actions were deplorable, it was wrong to use athletes as political pawns.  I simply do not believe in mixing sports with politics.  Some may cite Tommie Smith and Jon Carlos’ black power salute in Mexico City, which I admire them for, as an example of mixing sports and politics but that was a conscious decision made by the athletes themselves and not by their government and they paid a heavy price for it.  The boycott of the games resulted in the dreams of many athletes being crushed and while some did participate in future Olympic competitions, they simply weren’t the same.

1984 Los Angeles:

The Bad And The ugly-  The USSR boycott of the games.  The Soviet Union, along with most of their Eastern Bloc allies, announced shortly before the games that they would boycott due to security and safety concerns.  Everybody knows, however, that it was simply in retaliation for the U.S. boycotting their Olympics four years prior.  Just like before, the athletes were the ones hurt by their actions.

Mary Decker (later Slaney) and Zola Budd, both expected to contend for the gold medal, collided in the women’s 3000 meter run, and it was a disaster.  The image of sobbing Decker’s face twisted in agony and anger still burns in my mind.  Budd tried to continue amid a chorus of boos but the hostility plus the personal guilt were too much to bear and she faded to seventh place.  The event was won by Romania’s Maricica Puica.

Rick Carey winning the men’s 200 meter backstroke and instead of being happy was upset that he didn’t break his own world record and his frustration showed on the victory stand.  He did apologize and tried to look happy after winning the 100 meter backstroke which also fell short of the world record.  Carey really didn’t own anybody anything but his honest feelings but, damn man, be happy that you got the gold medal, record or no record!

The good-  Carl Lewis won four gold medals in track and field, the first American male to do so since Jesse Owens did so in the 1936 Berlin Games.  Lewis duplicated Owens’ wins in the 100 meters, the 200 meters, the long jump and 4 x 100 meter relay.

Valerie Brisco Hooks becoming the first American female to win three gold medals in track since Wilma Rudolph in Rome in the 19630 Olympics.  Brisco-Hooks won the 200 meters, the 400 meters and was on the winning 4 x 400 meter relay team.  After winning the 400 in American record time her teammate Chandra Cheeseborough, who finished second made a statement that would have made Yogi Berra proud, “Losing the American record is kind of bad but I’m glad I lost it to an American.”  Like who else would you lose the American record to?

1988 Seoul:

The Bad And The Ugly-  Ben Johnson testing positive for steroids.  One minute you’re the fastest man who ever lived, the next you’re a cheater, a disgrace to your sport and the nation you represent and the poster child for a problem that would prove over the next two decades to be terribly widespread.  Johnson won the 100 meter dash in world record time, beating his hated rival Carl Lewis decisively.  He already made an ass of himself by taunting Lewis and didn’t seem to the least bit happy about simply winning the event.  Days later it was revealed that he tested positive for steroids, had his gold medal stripped and was sent home.  Lewis was declared the winner with Britain’s Linford Christie moved up to second place and American Calvin Smith named third place finisher.  Given the fact, as we would learn years later, that Smith and Brazil’s Robson DaSilva were the only two finalists who had never failed a drug test, perhaps they’re the only two who should have been awarded anything.

Roy Jones Jr. being cheated out of the gold medal in the 119 lb weight division in boxing.  Although he put a beating on his opponent, Park Si-Hun, for three rounds, the judges awarded the gold medal to Park.  Park himself apologized to Jones and the referee said he couldn’t believe it.  The judges were all suspended after a subsequent investigation and Jones went on to have a distinguished professional career.

The good-  No boycotts!  This would be the boycott free Olympics since 1972 (a series of black African nation boycotted the 1976 Montreal Olympics in protest of New Zealand’s participation after a rugby team toured South Africa) therefore no one could question the level of competition and it would be politics free.  This would be the last year the USSR competed as a team as the Soviet Union later broke up.  For the next two Olympics, atheltes from the former Soviet Union competed as the Unified Team.

Florence Griffith Joyner’s scoring a phenomenal triple.  “Flo Jo” won the women’s 100 and 200 meters in world record times and ran a leg on the 4 x 100 meter relay team to win three gold medals and making her one of the world’s top female athletes.  She won silver in the 200 during the 1984 Los Angeles games but no one saw her performances in 1988 coming, except maybe her coach Bob Kersee and husband Al Joyner.

Jackie Joyner Kersee’s heptathlon victory.  Joyner-Kersee was the favorite to win the tough seven event competition in 1984 but a hamstring injury caused her to fall short in her best event, the long jump, and she lost by five points to Australian Glynis Nunn.  there would be no close calls in 1988 as she set a world record point total.

1992 Barcelona:

The Bad And The Ugly-  Morocco’s Khallid Skah over Kenya’s Richard Chelimo in the 10,000 meter run.  Skah and Chelimo were battling for the lead in the final laps of the 10,000 when Skah’s fellow Moroccan Hummar Boutayeb, who was a lap down, deliberately impeded Chelimo instead of moving over as he should have.  Chelimo was unable to make up ground after that and Skah crossed the line amid a chorus of boos.  Skah was initially stripped of the gold medal but protested and won.  Skah was booed on the victory stand while Chelimo was cheered and when Skah tried to pull Chelimo and Ethiopian bronze medalist Addis Abebe up to the top of the podium with him, perhaps as a friendly gesture, both refused.

The good-  Derek Redmond finishing the 400 meter semifinal on an injured leg.  Redmond tore his hamstring early in the race and instead of leaving the track continued to limp on determined to finish it.  His father came to his aid with about 150 meters left and he was given a standing ovation as he crossed the finish line.  To this day that moment is seen as one of the best of the Olympics, a display of heart and courage and a refusal to give up.

1996 Atlanta:

The Bad And The Ugly- The bombing at Centennial Park.  One night as a crowd gathered at Centennial Olympic Park, a homemade bomb exploded killing one person while another suffered a heart attack and died funning from the scene.  That cowardly and despicable act, committed by a right wing anti-abortion (far from pro-life) extremist known as Eric Rudolph, was reminiscent of the kidnapping and murder of 11 Isreali athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Olympics in Munich Germany.

The good-  Muhammed Ali shakily lighting the Olympic flame was a proud moment for everyone who admired him as a legendary boxer and as a man.  Though suffering from Parkinson’s disease his spirit was uncompromised.

Michael Johnson becoming the first male to double in the 200 and 400 meters in track.  Johnson smashed the world record in the 200 in a time that, to those familiar with track, was as phemomenal as Bob Beamon’s near superhuman 29 foot long jump at the 1968 Mexico City games.

Gymnast Kerri Strug securing the win for her team in the women’s all around.  Suffering from an ankle sprain, Strug knew that she had to the landing and in spite of great pain, she did just that.  The image of her lifting her ailing leg up after the landing is iconic to this that and is a symbol of great heart and courage.

Carl Lewis winning the men’s long jump for an unprecedented fourth straight time.  The last athlete to do so was Al Oerter who won the men’s discus throw in 1956, 1960, 1964 and 1968.

Dan O’Brien becoming the first American to win the decathlon since Bruce Jenner in Montreal in 1976.  O’Brien was considered the favorite in 1992 but missed making the team due to a no-height in the pole vault.  O’Brien more than made up for that in convincing fashion, bringing the title of the “World’s Greatest Athlete” back to the US.

Canada’s Donovan Bailey winning the men’s 100 meters.  Canada spent several years after 1988 living down the embarrassment caused by Ben Johnson’s disqualification due to steroids and Bailey brought the pride back.  Anchoring the winning 4 x 100 meter relay was icing on the cake.

 

2004: Athens:

The bad and the ugly-  Paul Hamm of the US winning the gold medal in the man’s all around in gymnastics due to a scoring error.  Although the judges involved were suspended, the standings were not changed since the mistake was acknowledged during the competition and not after.  Hamm, who of course was not at fault, was asked to return his gold medal which he refused to do.

2008 Beijing:

The good-  The 2008 Olympics gave us two modern day legends, American swimmer Michael Phelps and Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.  Phelps broke the record of seven gold medals in swimming set by American Mark Spitz during the 1972 Munich Olympics.  Phelps won the 100 and 200 meter freestyle events, the 100 and 200 meter butterfly events, the 200 meter individual medley and was on the 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 freestyle teams and the 4 x 100 meter medley relay team.  Bolt won the men’s 100 and 200 meter sprints in world record shattering times and introduced the world to his famous “lightning bolt” pose.  Bolt added another gold in the 4 x 100 meter relay.

2012 London:

The good- Bolt repeated his performances from 2012 by winning the 100, 200 and 4 x 100 meter relay and Phelps added even more hardward to his medal collection, winning five golds and a silver, making both undoubtedly  the greatest of all time in their sports.

American Gabby Douglas became the first black person to win an individual gold medal in gymnastics by winning the all around and her gold medal in the team competition made her the first American, black or white, to win both.  The “Flying Squirrel” joined Nadia Comaneci and Mary Lou Retton as gymnasts little girls wanted to grow up to be like.

19 year old Kirani James of Grenada winning his country’s first ever Olympic medal by winning the men’s 400 meter dash in track, making him an instant national hero.

 

As the 2016 Rio games go one surely we will see many good, bad and ugly moments as the competition goes on.  I will certainly be enjoying the ride.

Reflections of an Olympic Volunteer

The 2016 Olympics, Rio edition, start tomorrow. The Opening Ceremony is probably my favorite part, followed by gymnastics, swimming, and some track events. I love the Olympics and as Atlanta celebrates 20 years since we hosted the 1996 Summer Games, I remember what it was like to volunteer during that time.

I signed up through my job, at the time a big, internationally known corporation, which was one of the many sponsors. I don’t know how many people signed up but I heard that about 100 were selected. It felt great to be one of the chosen few.

I remember the orientation and what it covered: how to greet athletes and visitors, attire that we were supposed to wear, the actual attire itself featuring that straw cowboy hat with the blue band. We had rules about tickets to the events, rules about representing the city of Atlanta, and the Olympic Committeee, and protocol about dignitaries. What they didn’t share was whether we could bring cameras and I didn’t think to ask nor to bring mine – so I have no pictures of those memories. YIKES! We got tickets to actual events, which were ‘randomly’ dispersed and we got to see the practice ceremony for the Opening Ceremony. I remember the flack about Izzy, the mascot. That thing, Izzy, truly was an unfortunate choice to represent Atlanta.

Two events that stand out the most involve larger than life men. The first is one that most know about, Muhammad Ali lighting the torch at the Opening Ceremony. When volunteers attended the practice, we had no clue who would light the torch. Perhaps it was whispered among those who had positions of prestige and power, but most of us had no idea. I was marveling at the stadium itself; the Atlanta Braves were going to use it for their home games and it was a far sight better than the old stadium. I enjoyed the practice and remember that when we watched he actual ceremony, I took pride in pointing out certain things to my then-fiancée. There were slight differences but pretty much the Opening ran just like the practice. Until the very end. When Janet Evans, Olympic swimmer, climbed those steps and passed the torch, I heard Patrick yell, “Is that Muhammad Ali? Oh wow, it IS him!” I was in tears watching a living legend, sports icon, unashamed and as Shirley Chisolm says, unbossed and unbought, Black MAN doing the honors. What a treat, probably for him, but absolutely so for us.

My other encounter with bold, iconic figures happened during my actual volunteer time a week prior to the start of the games. I was at the airport for the registration/checking of athletes. I don’t recall the athletes or their countries but I do remember this event. Izzy showed up to shake hands, and then I heard his voice before I saw him. He had not been in office for a number of years but he made his presence known in the community at all times. Maynard Jackson was one of the most popular ,a yours of Atlanta, and still enjoyed influence and privilege out of office. After Izzy breeze though, you heard “the voice” as Mr. Jackson walked through taking pictures, shaking hands and slapping people on the shoulder or back. He was loud, he was funny, he was gregarious in his posturing – yet still we wanted more. We barely noticed the actual mayor at the time who was with him, Bill Campbell. Maynard had such a presence, and he knew it too. It was like a whirlwind force was in front of you and you couldn’t help but get sucked in. People passed around, wanting him to adds the crowd, and he did. He said a few words Bout being proud of Atlanta, happy that the games were about to start, and that’s king volunteers for their service. We all felt as if he spoke to us personally.

There have been four other Olympics since then, and soon a fifth will start. None will have the personalities that I experienced up close. Both Muhammad and Maynard are gone now, but oh the memories! They will live on forever.