Evaluating Officiating in Black & White

I’ll get to the point:

Sports officiating is one of the most fulfilling activities I’ve ever participated in.  It’s fun, exciting and challenging.  The fun and exciting part is because of my love for sports and the even deeper love I have for the mostly young people who play in the contest.  Outside of men’s league basketball, 99% of the 4 sports I officiate are middle or high school age.  Young people are special in my eyes.  I respect those who participate as well as the coaches who spend time molding them into better people through organized sports.  Facilitating a contest so that the rules and spirit of fair play are enforced is vital to the games.  While there are rules, there is also game administration.  In other words it’s not just about calling violations, it’s also understanding what not to call.  There is a certain feel to the game officials have to understand.  Show me an official who administers 100% by the book, and I’ll show you an official that no coach, player or fan wants.  And this is  the focus of this blog… coaches and fans.  Namely my coaches and fans of African descent.

In officiating, conflict among players and coaches is something that goes with the job.  We expect it.  Where there is competition, there is often intensity as a group of individuals collectively fight for pieces of real estate on the floor or field of play.  Resolving conflict and fostering an environment where communication is open and respectful is one of the responsibilities officials have which have nothing to do with the rules.  It’s a give and take.  When lines are crossed, its up to officials to be the arbiter of what is no longer acceptable.

I’ve noticed over the years that there is a general difference in the kind of flack I get from White folks vs. Black when it comes to youth sports.   Again generally, if a white person doesn’t like my calls, he/she criticizes my performance, my aptitude, my judgement.  They may say something like, “That was a horrible call!  What are you looking at?”  Or one of my favorites, “Hey! There’s a game going on out there.  You may want to try watching it!”  These are par for the course.  Any official worth his whistle won’t take these things to heart unless things go overboard.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some white coaches that I know going into a game are going to be jerks for the sake of being a jerk.  For me, the tone is much more important than the words.

But then there are my brothers and sisters.  African-Americans; Black folk.  When things aren’t going their way, the phrase that far too many of us go to without nuance or consideration is, “YA”LL CHEATING!”


Listen, to a certain degree, I get it.  Black folk are marginalized in society.  The history and legacy of White supremacy is a prevailing reality that affects most every area of our lives.  When it comes sports, its one of the few areas modern day where we have been able to successfully and compete with the masses consistently.  Many African-American parents see sports as one of their child’s avenues to gain success where there is no subtle or flagrant bias; understanding the bias most black people will face as they get older.  Then there is the passion that just goes along with being a fan.  Fan is short for ‘fanatic.”  Therefore, by definition there is a certain expectation of a lack of logic when it comes to observing athletic competition.  I can be as hyped as anybody yelling at my television when the Lakers or Steelers are on.  Sometimes that includes yelling at the referees.  So again, I get it.  Unfortunately there are those among us who take the ‘cheating,’ accusation (a premise that is often flawed) to a disgraceful level.

I officiated a football game a while back.  The teams consisted of a mostly black populated school vs a majority white populated school.  In my position as back judge,  I threw penalty flags on 3 long touchdown scoring plays back against the mostly white team as a result of ‘holding’.  That team’s White coach wasn’t too happy with me.  He yelled a few things at my direction as football coaches do.  The fans were also disappointed and expressed their displeasure in the forms of “Ohhhh” and “Arrrrrrggghhhhs”  Later on, I called the same type of holding penalty against the mostly black team.  Not only did the fans and assistant go ballistic, the fans started accusing me and our crew of cheating.  I don’t mean ‘cheating’ as hyperbole.  They were actually serious!  All of a sudden every move I made was heavily scrutinized.  When I explained my call to the coach, they mocked and scorned my words to the coach if I were addressing them.  As for the rest of the game, every subsequent penalty against their team was in some way an attempt to take something away from them.  As a matter of fact, even as their team won the game, instead of celebrating the victory of the players, they taunted the officials that we were not able to ‘cheat’ them out of victory.

This isn’t the only time.  I’ve been in basketball games, where it was an all white team playing an all black team; the white teams are winning, and the black coaches and fans are screaming at two black officials accusing of of cheating.  How ridiculous is that?  Often the reality is that the other team is shooting, passing, rebounding, and defending better than the other.  Sometimes the black kids are imitating  Lebron James and Kobe Bryant with their moves, but haven’t put in the work and developed the skill-set to succeed like their hoop heros.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the coaching is suspect.  Regardless of the sport, I can normally tell within the first few minutes how good a team is, whether they are well coached, and their level of potential competitive success in a given situation.  I can say for sure, that the officiating generally has so little to do with an outcome of a game, you’d have to be Tim Donaghy to notice discrepancies.

That being said, there are crappy officials.   I know more than a few who do it just for the money.  I hate working with them.  There are also officials who have biases.  There are even situations where black teams from certain communities have a harder time succeeding in other communities when they compete.  Equally true, is that no player or team has calls that they will always agree with. Officials, like players and coaches make mistakes.  We miss the mark.  Still, the vast majority of us really care about doing a great service to the game and the young people who play them.  We attend training camps, study, test, watch film, critique ourselves and one another every day.  When I am with some of my good friends who are officials we openly discuss our blunders.  We use these our mistakes to help one another better.  We seldom ever talk about ‘that great game’ we called the other night.  That’s the truth!

So to my people, you know who you are, please stop!  We aren’t out here trying to take nothing away from your kid.  Accusing us of cheating, especially within ear shot of the youth who are playing, gives them a false sense of victim-hood that is in no way true, nor will it prepare them to differentiate and navigate the real bias they face now or will face later.  Winning games are about talent, strategy and execution.  In most cases, these decide the outcomes of games even if the officiating is suspect.  The cream always rises to the top.  I don’t give a damn about who wins or loses a game; unless you are the Lakers or the Steelers.  And honestly if I officiate those teams, because I care about my craft so much, I wouldn’t give Kobe or Big Ben a damn thing they didn’t earn. So stop thinking its my job to compensate for your child’s lack of athletic achievement?

By all means continue to critique us on performance if you see fit.  Engaged and KNOWLEDGEABLE fans keep officials on our toes.  In my profession, we are expected to be perfect and we strive for perfection. Unfortunately, most of you don’t understand the rules like you think you do and couldn’t referee yourselves out of a paper bag if it came down to it.   Screaming obscenities and accusing us of cheating makes YOU look bad.  And sometimes YA’LL embarrass me!  I’m throwing a proverbial flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and feeding black youth misinformation.  STOP IT!







The Great Stadium Caper… What Brady Haters and St. Louisans Have In Common

I’ll just start with this meme I saw on social media after Judge Berman slammed Roger Goodell’s pathetic case presented to the federal court in Manhattan.

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This was posted by one of my social media connections, who happens to be a St. Louisan.  Now we Mid Westerners have had beef with New England since 2002.  The Rams lost to the Patriots 20-17 in the Super Bowl.  The world found out later that the Patriots were secretly taping the Rams practices.  (Spygate) Personally, I will never believe that was the determining factor of the game.  Mike Martz’s refusal to give the ball to Marshall Faulk cost the Rams a second Super Bowl.  Martz bought into his ‘genius’ accolades, and had Kurt Warner throwing the ball 44 times leading to 2 interceptions  (Brady only threw 27 times for a conservative 145 yards, 1TD, 0 Int)  Look, Antowain Smith carried the balls more times (18) than Faulk (17).  But giving the ball to the 3 time MVP and 2001 Offensive Player of the Year would have taken the shine off of coach’s ego.

This doesn’t mean the Patriots didn’t cheat.  They cheated so bad the league destroyed the evidence before anyone else could see it.  The Patriots got off with a slap on the hand.  With that reputation St. Louisian’s weren’t the only ones to remember how the league favored The Golden Boy (Brady) and influential owner Bob Kraft.  I say favored because when other issues such as Bountygate came up, The New Orleans Saints were basically given the NFL’s version of the death penalty.  The league suspended the head coach, (1Year) the GM, (8 Games) an assistant coach (6 Games) and gave an indefinite suspension to another assistant coach.  The NFL is an anything but precarious industry.  It’s America’s favorite sport to watch, analyze, and gamble on.  Fantasy football is as fundamental to Americans as Christmas.  For 49 years the league had enjoyed tax-exempt status as a not for profit organization.  It’s 32 owners are billionaires in an exclusive club that money alone can’t buy into.  Their salary for Commissioner Goodell was $45 million last year.  This atmosphere creates a breeding ground for arrogance.  Being a billionaire doesn’t exclude one from being petty.  This is why the other owners we so hell bent on getting Tom Brady to sit for 4 games.  They have grown tired of seeing Kraft, the Taylor Swift of owners, enjoy so much team success, even through sometimes dubious circumstances.

But often pettiness breeds sloppiness.  The league has bungled and lost their last 5 court battles with player discipline because of a total lack of jurisprudence discipline of their own.  This latest debacle with  Deflategate was no different, if not worst.

Was Brady in charge of having balls deflated?  Of course!  No NFL quarterback, especially one of Brady’s caliber not have say about the state of his money maker.  Brady and Peyton Manning led a charge years ago to have more control of ball conditions including ball pressure.  The Patriots said the team did nothing wrong, but fired the equipment managers in charge of balls.  Brady himself refused to turn over cell phone text to Special Investigator Ted Wells relating to communication with said equipment managers. He eventually destroyed said telephone before showing up to federal court.  Initially he said he cooperated fully with the Wells investigation.  In court, not only did he admit that he lied and didn’t fully cooperate, he was willing to take a suspension for not fully cooperating.  And finally, you wonder why the equipment managers, McNally and Yastremski haven’t been on CNN or Good Morning America?  I mean they’re fired, right?  They aren’t under legal obligation to keep silent.  It’s because they are not worried about bills and their next meal.  Think about it.

But no.  That was not good enough for the league.  In spite of the circumstantial evidence of a massive Patriots cover-up, Goodell’s Kangaroo Court didn’t have the smoking deflate needle it needed to secure total victory.  Instead, they orchestrated a system in which defense could not cross examine key league witnesses against Brady, including the man interpreting the official Wells report. Instead of settling for a compromise on the failure to cooperate, and letting public opinion decide whether Brady by definition had reason to not cooperate, namely guilt, they forged ahead into Judge Richard Berman’s dance floor and got served.  And rightfully so. You know why? Because PROCESS MATTERS!  This means we can’t adjudicate issues and decide fates merely on charges, whether true or not, with insufficient evidence.  Berman never said the footballs were not being deflated.  He dismissed the NFL’s PROCESS.  Those of us who believe in the ideas of process understand, even if we believe fully that Brady cheated.  Those of us who are not, care little about the process, only getting what they want out of it.  This describes the meme above.  It’s so illogical and simple minded as often memes are.  First of all, Rose never cheated, he gambled.  Second, he didn’t admit to cheating till over a decade after he was found out.  Third, Brady won because the NFL’s process was wrong, not merely because he denied it.  I liken it to the OJ Simpson trial.  Most Americans believe he’s a murderer.  But we are not supposed to put people in jail because of something we believe.  The LAPD bungled the evidence, lied on the stand, and the DA got beasted by some of the best defense attorney’s in the world.

This brings me to the publicly funded stadium being proposed in St. Louis.  Rams owner Stan Kroenke, wants the citizens of St. Louis to build him a stadium for his team to the tune of half a billion publicly funded dollars.  He claims that unless we build it for him, he will move team to Los Angeles and build his own stadium with his own money.  *Imagine that.  We’ve been here before. We built a domed stadium downtown with the hopes of getting an NFL team after Bill Bidwell moved the Cardinals to Phoenix in 1987.  It was sold as a jobs program and a key to revitalize a decaying downtown.  It worked.  We convinced Georgia Frontiere to bring her team here with a promise of a windfall for personal seat licences, season ticket profits and a sweetheart deal of a lease.  She also gave Kroenke 40% of the team.  Now the majority owner, Kroenke wants to cash in on St. Louis once again.  It’s par for the course and personally I don’t have a problem with it. He’s doing what billionaires do; looking to expand his wealth and power as much as he can he can and using other people’s money to do it.  What is disappointing however, is the many locals who want to give him the desires of his greedy heart without so much as a whimper, critique, or push-back.


In 2002 the City of St. Louis enacted an ordinance that mandated a public vote for any new stadium funding projects.  The motivation was in large part because of the continuous cost the city is burdened with from the aforementioned dome.  This didn’t mean that residents would not approve new stadium funding.  It merely put the burden on an NFL owner and marketing department to sell it to us; convince us that it makes fiscal sense.  Further, the state law that allows for public funding for stadiums says that the structure has to be adjacent to a convention center.  But instead of having to having to sell this idea, Kroenke is holding a gun to the city’s head threatening to move the club if his demands aren’t met.  Public officials have helped him in his crusade by circumventing the voting process.  They got a judge to defy the voting ordinance, and give an entire new definition the word adjacent.  In other words, though I live 35 miles west of the downtown convention center, a new stadium could be built in my neighborhood and still be considered ‘adjacent.’  Sounds like something Goodell would make up doesn’t it?

Unfortunately many STL football don’t give a damn about the process.  They just want an NFL team in the area regardless of the cost.  It’s a classic buy now, pay later/devil may care attitude.  I expect this from local sports writers and broadcasters.  Having an NFL team equates to job security and supporting the stadium means team favor and access.  But for the general fan, (short for fanatic) to think so little of the process, being willing to bend over for the sake of having NFL status is mystifying.  Their excuses are equally as lame.  They range from downtown revitalization, tax revenue and jobs.  Well, we’ve had the Rams for 20 years.  They got a new stadium initially and if downtown wasn’t revitalized then how will it be by building a new structure?  The tax revenue while good, will not pay for the tax spending on the building itself, just as it hasn’t for the Dome the Rams are playing in now.  The jobs are mostly minimum wage, and seasonal at that.  Truth be told, most Rams season ticket holders, like the baseball Cardinals season ticket holders don’t hang out downtown anyway.  They come to the game and afterwards jam Highway 40 to West County.

I’ve had this debate with several of the Kroenke sycophants.  After these points are made, it all comes down to the fact that they just want a team.  They talk echo Joe Buck’s ridiculous assertions about Cincinnati and Indianapolis passing St. Louis as some sort of Midwest powerhouse.  This is both a sad and pathetic argument.  For one, every city has it’s strengths and weaknesses.  Indy has a football and an NBA franchise, but no baseball team.  St. Louis has the premier baseball franchise in Major League Baseball.  I’ve been to Cincinnati a few times.  No shade, but that city isn’t something to brag about.  It’s actually St. Louis East to me.  Their downtown have similar political, crime and racial issues.  Besides this, what great city makes it’s mark by comparing itself to another?  While I give Buck credit for taking Kroenke to task, he’s still willing to bypass the process and give the Rams cart blanch tax payer welfare.  So what difference does it make? Stan Kroenke is a business man.  He doesn’t owe St. Louis anything.

Lastly, if there is a new stadium, what is supposed to fill the Dome that we are still paying for?  The sycophants talk of  ‘conventions,’ but seriously, there aren’t that many damn conventions and events in the dome now.  It’s huge and expensive.  There just aren’t that many organizations in need of a 50,000 plus seat stadium. Explaining this to the Kroenke sycophants doesn’t register however.  It’s not that they disagree in theory.  It’s just that their ravenous desire to have the Rams here renders them unable to think past the moment.  It’s a mentality that says in effect, “Just give me the pu##y.  Protection?  Naw.  Pregnancy, HIV, hell we’ll deal with that later.  It’s as illogical and inaccurate as the meme above.  Truth be told, I believe the Rams are leaving regardless.  I also believe local and state government know it too.  They want to build the stadium regardless.  The Rams threats is a way to sway the public and get it done.

Middle class Americans can be just as arrogant as billionaire owners.  We claim to be a nation of ideas and democracy.  We brag about it to other countries.  That is unless it serves our own purpose to be oligarchs.

It’s just a damn shame that Judge Berman doesn’t hold court in St. Louis.


Message to Black Lives Matters Critics … who happen to be Black

Black folk are not monolithic.   I know that there are some in America who believe we are.  But we didn’t all agree in Africa before we were sold into slavery.  We didn’t all agree while in the state of slavery.  We didn’t all agree upon emancipation.  We didn’t all agree during Jim Crow, during the civil rights movement, even about having civil rights.  Like any other group of humans, our views differ from liberal, conservative, ambivalent, apathetic.  We are engaged, passionate and absent.  And just as we don’t agree about who is the best MC, the best basketball player of all time, or whether peanut butter is better than chocolate, we don’t all view the Black Lives Matter movement as it relates to police brutality, systematic racism and so called Black on Black crime within our neighborhoods.

Locally speaking, since Michael Brown, many of my friends have been on the forefront of protest, civil disobedience or spreading the word via social media regarding police brutality as it relates to the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  They have fought hard through the midst of resistance from many of their White counterparts, White police unions, and administrations resistant to give up the power of their privilege.  Equally true is that St. Louis is enduring a sickening amount of shootings and murders this year.  There are many reasoning and debates for the escalations of violent crimes, from lack of policing in certain North Side areas, to a mindset among Black youth that they just don’t give a damn about taking a life.  As mentioned in the first sentence, we don’t share all of the same views, therefore we don’t share the same passions.  But unfortunately, instead of respecting one another’s passions for a common goal of bettering the community as best as we can, some of us are at odds in direct conflict against the other.  Specifically, some who are righteously frustrated with the crime being committed against one another, are upset at protesters of police brutality and Black Lives Matter.  The video below from Ferguson resident Peggy Hubbard is an example.

Hubbard isn’t the only one who has expressed these sentiments.  Many of my African-American friends on social media have asked after a murder, “Where are all the protesters now? Why aren’t they protesting or holding a rally for this?”  These are similar to some of my White counterparts who refuse to acknowledge or even justify their lack of interest and subsequent support of police brutality because there are Black criminals; as if there aren’t criminals within their own group.  The difference is that White folk generally aren’t shot, chocked, tased, or mysteriously found dead while in police custody.  I’ve had those conversations with my White friends.  I’ve explained to them, that there are differences in community concern about criminal behavior vs state sponsored oppression and brutality.  My neighbor is a citizen, my police, prosecutors and judges are compensated with tax dollars that I participate in contributing towards.  These have taken an oath to protect and serve righteously for all of it’s citizens.  Contrary to popular belief, we can actually care about both equally.  Not to mention if there is a murder or a robbery in my neighborhood, more times than not we are looking to those same police to solve those crimes and remove those criminals from among us.  Some of us believe these crimes aren’t as vigorously investigated in our neighborhoods as they would in a White neighborhood; thus the cycle continues.

What is missed however, is that there are and have been activities standing up for victims of violent crimes.  They may not be as prevalent or publicly covered as those against police brutality.   But they are there.




Thus my message isn’t to my White counterparts who are anti-Black Lives Matter or anti-police brutality against people of color; though they can get some too if they like.  But specifically to those who like Ms. Hubbard, single mother with a son who is incarcerated, to my Black friends who poo poo the folk fighting the system of government oppression because they think these protesters should protest all things Black struggle, is get off your asses and do it yourself!  If there aren’t enough black protest and rallies against crime in your view, then dammit start one.  Gather like minded individuals, organize and get your asses out in these streets.  Why  be in conflict with your brothers and sisters who are fighting for your right to be equally valued lawfully in the system in which we all rely to a certain extent.  If I am in danger and I can’t solve the issue, I’m calling the police.  I have police who are good friends of mine.  But that prevent me from having a passion against police who are out to kill me.  There is no conflict for me to love my police friends while jamming Fuck The Police in my ride simultaneously.  It seems to me that the folk who DO have the problem are sitting at their computers or making videos or posting empty challenges to folk who are doing something, because they aren’t doing a damn thing.

I have given three examples of people who are making a difference in partaking in efforts that are related to our community, though not the same exact focus.  Hell I’ll throw in a fourth just for good measure.



The point is, even if you are not a good organizer, there are some people doing some things in the area of crime in Black neighborhoods.  Join them.  It’s just plain ignorant and unproductive to ask those who are focused on police brutality to do your damn passion too.  Get off the sidelines, and do something and make us all stronger.  If not, then by all means stay in your lane and STFU!

NBA Defenders and Pretenders, or the Saga of DeAndre Jordan

So DJ has changed his mind about leaving the Clippers, and the players are acting like The Church of Scientology refusing to leave his house till he can sign… Mark Cuban is the Biggest Loser.

This is such a fascinating story! DJ should have never had to even contemplate leaving LA. NEVER! Fact is, Doc Rivers’ lack of leadership in controlling the CP3 narrative wasting time trading for Lance Stephenson and bringing back 150 year old Paul Pierce shows his lack of competence as GM. Doc should have squashed this a long time ago. He let’s CP3 do whatever the hell he wants in spite of the fact that the dude has never made it past the second round of the playoffs.

So, DJ is courted by Cuban, Paul is on a banana boat with two cats who have rings and another that don’t, while his defensive player of the year/shot blocking/rim protector extraordinaire rides on horseback down the Rio Grande. Meanwhile, every hoop fan in America clearly understands that the underachieving Clippers are about to be the Indiana Pacers of the West; and it takes the only sane person in the organization, JJ Reddick to call Doc out saying that his off season performance as GM was an F- to get their attentions?

Perhaps Steve Ballmer had one of his aneurysms and Doc saw his rep flashing before his eyes. Lose DJ, ain’t nobody buying the Doc hype no more. Hell Blake will be out after a couple years and the Clips will be the 76ers tanking up looking for the next Danny Manning… and being the Lakers’ bitches just like the Sterling years.


Now why in the hell do I know this and I’m just a dude on the keyboard?

I feel kinda bad for DJ. The man just needed a little love and he deserved it. If Paul were the leader he acts like he is, he would have balanced some of that bitchery with some tenderness knowing that DJ bust his ass every night and makes Paul’s life easier than it ever was in New Orleans. But naw instead of tending to his team’s business he out there riding Lebron’s jock. – Like ya’ll equals or something. Hell Lebron got his thing together in Cleveland. He got Kevin Love before he bolted. He got Tristian Thompson about to get paid! He got Mo Williams… he can ride the damn boat!

THIS is why the Clippers still won’t beat the Warriors or the Spurs. They are merely delaying the inevitable.

It Takes Two To Make A Thing Go Right, or Selective Outrage is Impotent

Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe. – Frederick Douglass

Just a few thoughts regarding the latest in protest and violence in America post what strongly appears to be unchecked police brutality.

I’ve had conversations with friends, African-American friends in particular who voice either in word, social media and otherwise their frustrations and disdain for looters and folk who are burning buildings in Baltimore.  They’ve praised the mother who went Ronda Rousey on her son for participating in the riots.  They say, “I hate what I’m seeing on TV!  This is NOT the answer!”

What occurred to me was the history of the world, the history of this country.  Change from those in power to benefit those with less has rarely happened without violence and physical struggle.  I think of the Arab Springs in Syria, Egypt and Morocco to name a few over the last several years.  People had decided that they had enough of their oppressive and corrupt governments.  I think of the history of the civil rights movement during segregation and Jim Crow.  Hell, I think of the Boston Tea Party!  That struggle is glorified in history books.  My response to my friends has simply been to ask them, “Well what IS the answer?  What should they do?  Call the police?  (The same police who have one of THE worst documented reports of police brutality?) Write the police commissioner? What should they do to make the difference? None could give me any answers.  I sure as hell don’t have any either.

I saw President Obama this morning demonizing the looters.  But he can ‘miss me’ with that until he also demonizes the police who crushed a man’s spine and voice box while in their custody for simply running away from them.  Freddie Gray wasn’t wanted for any crime.  The knife he had in his pocket was of legal.  His downfall seems to be that he didn’t possess NFL first round wide receiver speed to escape his killers.  The President isn’t the only using all of his vitriol against those in rebellion.  Mass media and the direction or misdirection of narrative shaping is solely focused on the fallout from Gray’s death instead of the original sin of Gray’s death.  The truth of the matter is, I am not willing to listen to anyone who is not nuanced enough to have a real discussion regarding the cause and effect of what’s going on in Baltimore, what happened in New York, Ferguson and Oakland to facilitate community unrest.  I mean, how many times does this have to happen before there is a recognition of human nature; that if you keep putting a boot on people’s necks they are going to rise up?   It’s easy to tell people, “Keep on taking this ass whooping and burying your friends and kin to police brutality.  Organize and wait for the next election.  Have a church services, pray and forgive corrupt cops and the institutions that protect them.”  Historically that is not going to be a unified or sustained response.  Again, just check the history of anywhere in the world!  It ain’t gonna happen!



Furthermore, I am past the point of apologizing for the looters. Looting is something I have never done nor would I.  I was in Ferguson and it never crossed my mind.  It’s not my thing.  But why should I have to own the onus of those that do when my counterparts don’t own the burden of unarmed black boys and men being murdered by police?  Am I the only one (as an activist) that needs to make concessions here and take ownership?  If they want to isolate and tell me that all the facts aren’t in, then I will say the same thing.  Dammit we don’t know who burned down the buildings.  You got a name?  Have all the facts been gathered yet?  Has there been an investigation of who exactly started the fires?  What accelerant was used? At what point in each building was the fatal match thrown? …and by WHOM exactly?  Sound ridiculous?  I don’t know… Cause sure as hell we had Eric Garner’s death from start to finish on VIDEO and we saw how THAT turned out!  Mr. Scarface said it best, “Black men are being hunted!”

I have always been an ambassador of sorts.  I bridge gaps and intermediate many potentially explosive situations.  I’ve done it all my life.  It’s natural for me.  I love peace.  Thus I am a fan of Dr. King’s non-violent work.  Yet I have always understood the need for an armed movement like The Black Panthers too.  I don’t own a gun.  I don’t desire to own one.  But I do recognize that with non-violence it’s easy for the one oppressing you to get a little too comfortable believing no retribution is possible.  Having the thought that in the back of one’s mind that he can catch some hurt if he stepped to the wrong person or set of people is just smart negotiating.  In other words, Rosa Parks is going to sit on that bus, but Nat Turner may take a shovel to your dome!

Is that not how our own government deal with other countries?  It goes like this: “If you don’t act right, we may use economic sanctions. Or we may bomb the shit outta you!”

Finally let me bring this point home.  If something goes down at my house where I need help, I’m calling the police.  I have several friends who are police officers.  One is a high ranking member.  If I see one of those guys driving behind me, it wouldn’t phase me a bit.  As a matter of fact, I may try to flag them down and start a conversation.  Equally true, is that because of my own experiences with bad police, I am scared as hell when one gets behind me who I don’t know.  *Especially if he is white*  I’m on the road almost every day going to someone’s basketball gym, football field or baseball diamond.  Sometimes I am some very remote areas where there are rarely is any folk who look like me.  And the reality is this; On any given day I could be the next Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Eric Garner or Oscar Grant.  That ain’t hyperbole.  That’s real!  Look, I was on a field last week working a baseball game.  I saw two cops approach and started watching the game. I hadn’t done anything wrong, yet I was scared.  I wondered if they were there for me.  At the time there was a baseball game and a track meet going on right next to the diamond.  I didn’t see any faces of color anywhere.  My tensions didn’t subside till the police vacated the property.  And it’s not as if I am afraid of any man in isolation. But I expect danger and conflict from police who I know mostly operate with impunity.  But this is my life.  And the fact of the matter is, if it IS me, if I am the next to be murdered by police many detractors will believe that I somehow provoked it or deserved it.  Yes some of my white friends will say, “Well, he is a fiery guy!  You ever see his Facebook page?  He must have went off or took a swing at them…went for his gun.”  And this is how they will live with the lie that they tell themselves in NOT getting involved or using their own voices to promote an end to this bullshit!   If I’m lucky, others will rally for me as I have rallied for them.  I shouldn’t have to live with this conflict of having a cognitive dissidence of respecting police and their duties and yet fearing the one in the badge that is supposed to represent service and protection from REAL criminals.


So no I don’t pretend to know what black folk should do in reaction every time this happens to us.  But I do know that when white folk decide that enough is enough, things will change , and change in a hurry.  Folk like Baltimore Oriole’s COO John Angelos who said;

Brett, speaking only for myself, I agree with your point that the principle of peaceful, non-violent protest and the observance of the rule of law is of utmost importance in any society. MLK, Gandhi, Mandela and all great opposition leaders throughout history have always preached this precept. Further, it is critical that in any democracy, investigation must be completed and due process must be honored before any government or police members are judged responsible.

That said, my greater source of personal concern, outrage and sympathy beyond this particular case is focused neither upon one night’s property damage nor upon the acts, but is focused rather upon the past four-decade period during which an American political elite have shipped middle class and working class jobs away from Baltimore and cities and towns around the U.S. to third-world dictatorships like China and others, plunged tens of millions of good, hard-working Americans into economic devastation, and then followed that action around the nation by diminishing every American’s civil rights protections in order to control an unfairly impoverished population living under an ever-declining standard of living and suffering at the butt end of an ever-more militarized and aggressive surveillance state.

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards. We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S., and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights, and this makes inconvenience at a ballgame irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.

Jeering at protesters is low hanging fruit.  Going after bad police, digging into the policies of oppression, mass incarceration and the roots of class warfare and suffering is HONEST!  OWN THAT and then we can talk.  Otherwise… See you after the next police led murder and cover up in a city near you.





In Defense of Empire, Black Images and Nuance

Image matters!  I agree!  Race matters!  Absolutely! African-Americans don’t have much power in Hollywood. Check.

The images of black folk in television and film has been both marginalized and groundbreaking.  From Bert Williams, Bill Robinson, George Walker, Hattie McDaniel,  Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, to Ron O’Neal, Billy Dee Williams, James Earl Jones, Diahanne Carroll, Richard Roundtree, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, our images have fit most every possible dynamic.  I am conscious of the image game.  I care about how black folk are portrayed.  If you can’t read any of the dozens of books available on the subject, Spike Lee’s somewhat satirical film, “Bamboozled,” covers the darker history and current struggles in how black images are portrayed.  It’s important to know this history. It is with this in mind that I approach the subject of critics like Dr. Boyce Watkins.  He’s been going in hard via social media and news shows like CNN to criticize Fox’s smash drama, Empire.  Watkins went as far as describing the performances of stars Terrance Howard and Taraji P Henson as ‘coonery.’  I can’t think of a harsher criticism for an African-American to receive from another.  As a social critic and an avid watcher of Empire,  I find his choice of words reprehensibly irresponsible.

I admit that initially when I first saw previews of Empire before it premiered, I was skeptical.  The heavy rotation of promos weeks ahead focused on the glitz and glamour of the music industry, the debonair persona of Luscious Lyon, (Howard) and the powerful hurricane that is Cookie Lyon, (Henson).  My skepticism had everything to do with the history of the so called, “black drama” on network television and the recent phenomenon of other shows appearing on networks like BET.  I worried that Empire would be Fox”s version of a pseudo Kardashian-like program that focuses on the most simple minded of viewers.  It was the reputations of both Howard and Henson that convinced me to at least view the show before writing it off.  My respect for Henson in particular convinced me that she would not participate in a show that didn’t have substance just for a paycheck.  After a full season culminating in a special 2 hour finale, my gut reasoning was on point.

Surrounded by Henson and Howard, the cast is set around mostly unknown actors and actresses.  Astute viewers noticed how these newcomers’ performances improved as the season progressed under the direction of Lee Daniels.  While it’s premature to project the future for Bryshere Gray, (Hakeem Lyon)  Jussie Smollett (Jamal Lyon) and Trai Byers (Andre Lyon) they’ve blended into a believably legitimate family to surround a television drama.  Adding veterans like Malik Yoba and later Derek Luke added more star power to balance the new talent.  Daniels was careful not to let veteran actors like Luke, outshine the rookies, which is genius.

It’s hard to comment on a man’s agenda, or where his heart is on a matter.  Watkins, the self described ‘people’s scholar‘ has been a cultural critic for years.  He seems to spend half his time attacking racism in mainstream America, and the other time criticizing other black folk and or black culture that he feels falls into dangerous stereotypes.  His visceral zeal against Empire seems to be more personal.  In an article he wrote for allhiphop.com, Watkins rants about Daniels’ homosexuality and Jamal’s homosexual character.

I also have a few things to say about Lee Daniels and his admitting that he’d like to use the show to “blow the lid off of homophobia in the black community.” I’m not sure why black people are always the target of this kind of propaganda, especially when there are millions of white conservatives who have their own issues with homosexuality as well.  Not to say that any of us should be forced into a position on gay rights or that we can even agree on what it means to be homophobic, but black people do not have a monopoly on homophobia, however it is defined.

But wait, there’s more…

Basically, “Empire” wasn’t created to entertain black people (although I’m sure it has black viewers).  It is instead selling an image of blackness to a predominantly white audience that has been long fed stereotypical messages about what blackness represents.  These thug-gangster-hoodrat images are the ones that are deeply embedded in the minds of police officers who shoot black men and potential employers who refuse to give black people jobs.  Just like animals in the zoo, the world loves to observe black people at our most ratchet, because ignorant negroes are simply fun to watch.


I don’t know how to describe this throw up of hyperbole beyond ridiculous.  Perhaps Watkins believes every television show or movie with black people in them should be like NBC’s Cosby show. *Imagine the irony of THAT!  He talks about being fans of Howard’s and Henson’s work previously.  I’m trying to figure out whether he’s referring to when Howard played DJay, a Memphis pimp and aspiring rap star in Hustle and Flow, or Henson’s as one of his whores?  Perhaps it was when she played Yvette, a single mother with a convicted felon for an ex boyfriend in Baby Boy.  Both performances were some of their best work.

Chances are black people we will never have control of Hollywood.  Chris Rock detailed who has the power to ‘green light’ a show.  Still, each show should be judged based it’s content can bear the brunt of it’s own praise or criticism.  Judging a show with a lack of nuance as Watkins does is not only unintelligent, it’s dangerous.  Art, even black art’s purpose is not meant to change social thought and carry cultural burdens to save a people.  Second, police are not shooting unarmed black boys and men because of a television show.  If Paul Robeson and Sidney Poitier – two of the most positive and powerful actors in the history of film couldn’t stop lynchings, then how in the hell are Howard and Henson supposed to protect Michael Brown or Eric Garner by not starring in Empire?  Is Watkins that naive?  Or he just an old bitter black man?  Art is being able to enjoy Denzel Washington portraying Silas Tripp in Glory as well as Alonzo Harris in Training Day.

White folks can be as honorable or as ‘ratchet’ as they want to be on television.  They play cops, doctors, gangsters, idiots, bigots, whores and so forth.  No show is indicative of the entire Caucasian, Italian, or Chinese population.  Shows like The Sopranos and Breaking Bad aren’t apologizing about a damn thing; Nor should they. Equally true, black folk like myself, are nuanced enough to watch both Eyes On The Prize and Empire without expecting one to be the other.

There are shows, movies, and music that deserve our critique because of negativity, or more importantly lack of creativity.  Empire is not one of them.  It’s well written and wildly entertaining.  It doesn’t try to be what it’s not.  Watkins wouldn’t know that as he claims he doesn’t watch the show.  What kind of of ‘scholar’ comments so feverishly on a subject matter he has little knowledge of?

Perhaps the repressed and uptight scholar should eat some “Cookies” so he can smile and lighten up a bit.  Regardless, I can’t wait till next season!





Of Baseball, Boundaries, and Bitches *Lessons from Jackie Robinson West*

Let me be clear.  This is a subject matter I am very passionate about.  Baseball is a sport I grew up loving.  It was by far my favorite sport to play.  I’m old enough to remember when there was only a couple games on television per week.  There was Monday Night Baseball on ABC.  Then then there was the Game of the Week on NBC.  As an African-American male, I’m old enough to remember when boys like me wanted to be like Dave (Winfied), instead of Mike (Jordan). Dave Winfield is the only player to ever be drafted in four different major sports: The NBA, ABA, NFL and MLB.   Winfield chose baseball, and was inducted into both the college and MLB Halls of Fame.

Since I becoming a baseball umpire several years ago, I don’t see many black boys playing baseball.  I penned my initial thoughts a few years ago on this very subject.  When I do see it, the players tend to fall into a couple of categories.  Either there are one or two good players on mostly white little league teams, or it’s a predominately African-American school whose players participate because they don’t possess the tools to chase the basketball or football dream.  When I work a game, and I see a kid who looks like me when I was young, and has talent, my eyes get a twinkle.  When I see a team of boys who can pitch, field, catch and execute proper baseball strategies I am ecstatic!  Baseball is a beautiful game and I believe we can be great at it again, though MLB doesn’t seem to think so, shunning us for the more docile/thankful Latin born ballplayer.  *That’s another discussion.

I was stoked like much of the country this past August to see the likes of Mo’ne Davis pitch her way into America’s heart.  And I watched proudly as Jackie Robinson West (JRW) took on all comers with success till they ran into the buzz-saw that was team South Korea in the Little League World Series.  Though they lost the championship game 8-4, JRW’s journey was celebrated and the kids were touted around the nation.  They made numerous appearances, including national news shows and a presidential visit at the White House.  During the summer of 2014 Chicago made other headlines too.  Some black neighborhoods were experiencing a level of gun violence only comparable to Fallujah.  The JRW story gave us much needed relief and gave us an example of hope in the youth growing up in the third largest city in the nation.


Now that ‘Boundary-Gate’ has caused The Little League International to revoke the United States title from JRW, their ‘all American’ narrative of inspiration, teamwork and overcoming the odds has been blemished.  People are choosing sides regarding the crime, the investigative process, the motives of the whistle-blower and the subsequent punishment. I understand defending the boys. They competed and achieved between the lines. Their on the field accomplishments, as well as their attitudes and sportsmanship are something all of us can be proud of. Unfortunately many of my African-American contemporaries are not viewing this situation with an eye towards nuance.

Being heavily involved in youth sports, some of the best people I know are coaches, managers and other volunteers to give kids a positive experience.  They use youth sports not only to teach competition, but to give life lessons regarding unselfishness, sacrifice and teamwork.  I also know of the adults who turn something that is supposed to be fun, innocent and pure into a very petty and muddy pile of manure. Rules are skirted all the time to gain advantages. Not just in baseball, but also in football and most notably in basketball.  There is so much corruption in youth sports including high school sports, it’s impossible to catch it all. I wouldn’t want the job of trying.  Most age or area restrictive tournaments have processes to eliminate as much of the shenanigans as possible. And yet most of it isn’t caught. In this case, JRW got caught and is suffering the consequences and shame.

Chris Janes, coach of Evergreen Park who was pulverized by JRW 44-5 went “Edward Snowden”, forcing a campaign of shade-throwing on Chicago’s boys of summer.

*I ran and played on an adult basketball team years ago that were defending champions. That following season we developed a rivalry with a new team. We met them in the playoffs.  Instead of using the men on their official roster, the one they used all season long, they brought in three additional athletic beast 6’6 and over.  We protested before the game but they refs didn’t act.  We lost to that team on a last second shot. My only protest was in not shaking their hands as I had lost respect for them as men. My team decided to play and we went for their throats.  I did not complain to the league after we lost to change the result.  

Was Chris Janes bitter?  Probably. Was race a matter? Rarely is race not a factor in this country. Was it a bitch move?  Absolutely, per my example above!

Neither of these is the larger point. Or are they? As a black male close to the age of 50, I know that in any given public situation, I am judged by a different standard than my white counterparts. I’ve never been employed in a corporate environment where I could get away with what white men are able to get away with and remain employed. The United States is fraught with examples of unequal justice and protection under the law. This is why Darold Butler should have known better. Did he not know success would bring envious eyes to JRW?  He did something that many teams do. He played fast and loose with residency boundaries and it eventually backfired.  As the kids’ accomplishments are being dismissed, Butler is silent and cowering in obscurity. This is where the blame should be placed. He, and any other coaches who knew the rules- and went forward in spite of them- have cost the JRW organization public humiliation.

Look, no one is more ‘fight the power’ than I am. There are times for protest, civil disobedience, and campaigns to address or change unjust laws and rules. Picking and choosing our battles carefully is important. In light of the current situation, I would rather the focus be on the JRW program’s ability to come back and make the best of the situation. The coaches should take responsibility and apologize to the players for putting them in this position. They should commit to better leadership and accountability in the future. They should remove the burden off the backs of the players, and give them recourse in preparing for the upcoming season. JRW was allowed to keep the monies they’ve raised. They can invest in the community and develop more ballplayers. The sport deserves it. The kids deserve it.  What I don’t need is for the kids to be twisted into carrying the martyred stained banner of being ‘moral’ Little League champions. Nor should they be exploited by apologists on television while wearing their uniforms forced to defend themselves.