Category Archives: Race Matters

Does the NBA Need a Rooney Rule?

US Presswire Sports ArchiveSo far this season, four NBA coaches have been fired or “mutually agreed” to be fired–Mike Brown (Lakers), Avery Johnson (Nets), Scott Skiles (Bucks) and Alvin Gentry (Suns). Three of the four are African-American. They’ve been replaced by Mike D’Antoni, PJ Carlisimo, Jim Boylan and Lindsey Hunter (above), respectively.

Three of the four are white.

When the NFL enacted its Rooney Rule a decade ago (it requires team to interview at least one “minority” candidate for head coach and senior football operations openings), no one suggested the NBA enact a similar edict. That’s because the league had a long and positive history of hiring African-Americans as coaches and senior front office personnel.

Still does. In its most recent “Race and Gender Report Card,” the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida gave the NBA an A+ in the area of minority hiring.

But what’s happened so far this season is a bit troubling. Coaches get fired, not doubt. And among the other 26 NBA teams, 11 are led by an African-Ameerican head coach. That’s not bad, but the trend has worth watching.

In the NFL, solid former coaches with winning records–such as Lovie Smith and Jim Caldwell–were overlooked by ownership, which in most cases decided to go with unproven coaches. (Seven of the eight new NFL coaches have never been head coaches in the league.) And a plethora of talented coordinators was overlooked as well.

The Suns promotion of Hunter, a former player with 17 years of experience and two championship rings, to interim coach at least shows that the NBA is still ahead of its brutish brethren. But not by as much as the league thinks.

Twitter Takes Out First Olympic Competitor

Did you hear the one about Voula Papachristou, the Greek triple jumper? No? And you won’t either because she’s no joke. She’s also no longer an Olympian.

Kudos to the Greek Olympic committee for bouncing her off the team and out of London for her ignorant (and many are saying racist) tweets about Africans.

Athens is being infested Nile-virus-carrying mosquitoes, which has been widely reported. On Sunday, the very blonde Papachristou tweeted: ”With so many Africans in Greece, the West Nile mosquitoes will be getting home food!!!”.

Ha! Ha!

Bye! Bye!

The tweet inspired thousands of negative responses (thankfully!), and one very clear response today from theĀ Hellenic Olympic Committee: “[Papachristou is]” placed outside the Olympic team for statements contrary to the values and ideas of the Olympic movement.”

After trying to awkwardly dismiss the tweets earlier, Papachristuo today struck a very different tone on Twitter and Facebook: ”I would like to express my heartfelt apologies for the unfortunate and tasteless joke I published on my personal Twitter account. I am very sorry and ashamed for the negative responses I triggered, since I never wanted to offend anyone, or to encroach human rights.

”My dream is connected to the Olympic Games and I could not possibly participate if I did not respect their values. Therefore, I could never believe in discrimination between human beings and races. I would like to apologize to all my friends and fellow athletes, who I may have insulted or shamed, the National Team, as well as the people and companies who support my athletic career. Finally, I would like to apologize to my coach and my family.”

Hey, Oil Can: Jackie Didn’t Kill the Negro Leagues, “Integration” Did–Along with Much of Black America

Dennis (Oil Can) Boyd always had balls. Even when he wasn’t on crack. The former Boston Red Sox pitcher was one of the game’s most “colorful” figures–and that was before he revealed in his new book that he smoked cocaine before games and once ran “right down the street to the crack house” upon hearing that he would not be starting in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.

Today, Boyd is sober but still throwing ’em high and hard. His latest brushback, revealed today in the Boston Globe, is aimed at American icon Jackie Robinson. Boyd essentially blames Robinson for the demise of the Negro Leagues, which Boyd laments.

Asked by ESPN’s Buster Olney what he might say to Jackie Robinson if he were to meet him in the afterlife, Boyd kicked high and let it fly. “I’m not real thankful to Jackie at all because I’m me – my style of baseball, the way I played it in the major league transpired from the Negro leagues,” he said. “So that’s why people found that I was a hot dog or I was flamboyant.”

Interesting thought. And in truth, this is not the first time I heard it expressed–although others don’t single out Jackie. Many owners and players and others led to the “demise” of the Negro Leagues, which ultimately fell as Major League Baseball, which had barred black players, began signing the most talented Negro players, one-by-one, team-by-team.

Negro America cheered the most. Finally!, we roared (or our parents, did.) Indeed the Brooklyn (soon to be Los Angeles) Dodgers, which signed Robinson, became Negro America’s team. My folks almost disowned me when I chose the St. Louis Cardinals as my team of choice–in large part because of its three Negro stars, Curt Flood, Lou Brock and Bob Gibson.

The real, hard truth is the Negro Leagues befell the same fate as many other black institutions from America’s era of segregation–from major insurance corporations to local black-owned grocery stores, restaurants and movie theaters. Many slowly disappeared as integration began to unfold, as barriers fell in schools, on buses, in restaurants, in department stores.

My hometown, Tulsa, Okla., is known as the place where “Black Wall Street” thrived throughout much of the 20th Century. It was a bastion of Negro commerce (we even owned the bus system) with nearly 200 Negro-owned businesses, including by dad’s store, Kyle’s Sundry.

It was created because whites in the area when the railroad was being built erroneously believed land hard by the tracks wouldn’t be very valuable, so they forced blacks to stay “on the other side” of the tracks. Greenwood Avenue, the 125th Street of “Black Wall Street,” ended to the south at the tracks and was the primary thoroughfare for the myriad Negro enterprises that sprang forth.

When I was a young child, Negros were not allowed to cross the tracks without good reason. Yeah, they could shop at some of the major department stores, but I distinctly remember my mother being forced to put tissues in a hat before trying it on–something white shoppers did not have to do.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the culmination of an effort to end segregation nationwide, led by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, essentially spelled the death knell for “Black Wall Street” and other Negro institutions.

Instead of going to Betty’s Chat & Chew for Sunday dinner, we went to the Piccadilly cafeteria downtown.

Instead of going to a movie at the Rex Theater, we went to theater that had once been “whites only.”

And we cheered for Negro players across baseball’s major leagues.

Jackie Robinson didn’t kill the Negro Leagues any more than Martin Luther King, Jr. killed “Black Wall Street.”

But still, it’s sad that they are gone.

One Man’s Negro is Another Man’s ——?

Suarez and Evra during their not-so-"friendly" encounter.

I’m not well versed enough in European soccer to tell you much of anything about Patrice Evra, a talented Frenchman who plays fullback for Manchester United, or Liverpool’s Luis Suarez of Uruguay, the team’s most dangerous forwards.

Both men represented their countries in last year’s World Cup. They even faced off in a friendly that resulted in a 0-0 tie. (Evra captained the French squad until he was stripped of it after leading a controversial player revolt that became the hallmark of the team’s much-chronicled meltdown.)

On October 15, the two men crossed shins once again at a Premier League friendly and this time it wasn’t very, well, friendly at all.

Suarez was recently suspended for eight games for, in part, using the term “negro” (or the Spanish equivalent) during an on-the-field confrontation during that game.

That was revealed in a 155-page report conducted by an independent commission that detailed the whos, hows and, most important, the whys regarding what led to the suspension.

Suffice it to say that it came down to how the word was used rather than the use of the word itself.

Suarez contented that the term was not a disparaging one in Uruguay, and that may be true.

But Evra contended that Suarez used the term to punctuate sentences in which he said he would kick Evra and that he “doesn’t talk to” black players.

I’m in no position to say whether authorities over-reacted to the incident. But I applaud them for addressing it in a way that acknowledges the brewing trend of racists taunts that have come to characterize European soccer in recent months.

The penalty was almost certainly, in part, a reaction to the growing sense that European soccer, while still where the game is played better than anywhere else in the world, had become soft on racism.

There’s not only no place for that in sports (on any continent) but as the game continues to try and establish a foothold in the U.S., and as a global marketing power, many corporations will be reluctant to associate themselves with a sport won’t embrace all cultures.

Hottest Seat in the NFL? Hey, Jim Caldwell, Take a Load Off…

Most of the participants–peripheral or not–are pretty clear about their desires.

If you’re a fan of the Indianapolis Colts, you want the Colts to lose on New Year’s Day to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That way you’ll lock up what many feel is the next great once-in-a-generation QB, Stanford’s Andrew Luck.

If you’re a Colts player, you want to win. Period. That was never more clear than last night when the Colts came back to defeat the bound-for-the-playoffs Houston Texans 19-16 for their second win of the season. To players, Luck has nothing to do with it. These guys are playing for their suppers.

And then there’s Jim Caldwell, the Colts head coach.

Like any coach, he’d like nothing better than to coach a team with a great (or at least potentially great) quarterback. And Luck’s that guy. Lose and you ensure yourself of going from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck, with just a little bit of Dan Orlovsky.

Win?

Beating the Jags would put Luck in play, with the Minnesota Vikings and St. Louis Rams also in the running for the top pick.

And should the Colts lose Luck to one of those team, well, that New Year’s Day win in Jacksonville might go down in infamy in Colts lore.

That said, a Colts win might also allow Caldwell to keep his job.

Might being the operative word.

Had the Colts run the table–or more appropriately, had the table run over them–Caldwell would have almost certainly been fired. Though his record was a sterling 24-8 coming into this season, the stink of 0-16 (along with the still-bitter memory of the Colts failing to “go for” undefeated in 2009, Caldwell’s first season; and losing to the Saints in Super Bowl XLIV, where the general consensus was that he was outcoached) would have been too much to survive.

That said, owner Jim Irsay doesn’t seem to be the type who over-reacts to short-term aberrations. After all, he paid Manning his full $26 million for this season, even though he didn’t play a down. And he looks to be willing to pay the 35-year-old Future Hall of Famer his $28 million option in March (which would) engage the final four years of his current five-year, $90 million-contract), even though he’s coming off a neck injury that would make his comeback a damn-near a miracle.

It wouldn’t have surprised me if Irsay had retained Caldwell, even if the Colts had gone oh-for’11. Especially since the team would be selecting Luck, giving the coach the kind of gem he should have the chance to coach after enduring this kind of hell.

It also wouldn’t have surprised me if Caldwell had been canned. In fact, he reportedly expected to be fired if the Colts had gone 0-16. It’s the nature of the business–win or go to the television studio.

But the Colts won’t go winless. In fact, they’re one of the hottest teams in the NFL. Okay, not really but after all they’ve been through the deserve to stick their chests out a bit.

But right now I’m not sure if Caldwell feels he’s done enough to save his job. More important, does Irsay believe his head coach deserves at least another year on the sideline?

A victory on New Year’s Day might be enough to help Caldwell retain his headset–but it also might cost him and the franchise dearly.

To paraphrase Dirty Harry: How Lucky you feelin’, Jim?

The Feds’ $6 Million (Didn’t Get Their) Man

Barry Bonds was grounded today–sort of.

That’s essentially the penalty handed down today by U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in the seemingly never-ending perjury case against baseball’s home run king.

Bonds was the last man standing in drama that unfolded in 2003 when a grand jury was called to build a case against the Bay Area Laboratory Co-operative, the place that was the ultimate drive-through for many elite athletes seeking PEDs–including, allegedly (wink), Bonds.

During his testimony, Bonds said he didn’t “knowingly” take any ‘roids. Yet he hemmed and hawed about it so much that a) the Feds thought he was lying but b) they couldn’t prove it.

Ultimately, he was convicted of obstruction of justice in that he gave “misleading” testimony to the grand jury.

Six million dollars later (according to Sports Illustrated) Bonds was sentenced to 30 house arrest in his stupid-palacial 15,000-sq-foot home (above).

He was also sentenced to two years probation and 250 hours of “community service.”

And even that was put on hold while Bonds appeals his conviction, which will take years.

I am not happy.

Like many people, I thought what began as a justifiable effort to ferret out drugs from the elite level of sports disintegrated into a witch-hunt after Bonds.

What cost them most was that their most critical witness–Bonds’ former trainer, Greg Anderson– refused to testify. Flat out, said no. In fact, Anderson (the ultimate BFF) went to jail four times on contempt charges rather than be a government witness.

Without him, the Feds had nothing.

And they’ve had nothing for years–at least about $5 million ago.

Can we all sue for restitution?

Tiger Woods > Rory McIlroy

Rory is special, but he has a long way to go before he becomes golf's Tiger

Sorry folks, Rory McIlroy is no Tiger Woods. I love the kid. Was rooting for him as he treated Congressional like it was a weak muni course.
But he’s no Tiger Woods.
And not just because he’s not American (though that’s part of it).
He’s no Tiger because, well, he’s simply no Tiger. By the time Woods won his first major–the ’97 Masters, at the age of 21–he was already a national phenomenon. Even a global one.
We’d known him since he was a tyke appearing on the Mike Douglas Show. We watched him make us care about the national amateurs (name someone who’s won it since).
Then we watched him. And watched him. We watched him live up to the hype at every level. We watched him chase a bar set so high (Jacks’s 18 majors) it seemed ludicrous–except it was Tiger. So we got on board. We bought into the ludicrous and thought it possible.
We watched him become the next Michael Jordan–a straight-up global icon who attracted fans, TV ratings and corporate dollars as if they were lollipops at the reception desk.
We watched him hit shots we still remember. We watched him become the first jacked golfer.
We watched him change the game.
Of course, we also watched him fall. Perhaps the most precipitous fall we’ve ever seen among sports icons.
That’s why so many have been so quick to anoint Rory as the next…
I get it. The sport needs him. Badly.
Since Woods’ fall, golf has become, well, just golf again. Not even part of the discussion when it comes to games that capture those who care little about the game itself, but are captivated by the likes of Woods and…maybe Rory.
And maybe even soon.
But not yet.

Barkley: “You want to be The Man.”

Add Charles Barkley to the chorus of “old-school” NBA icons who say the the LeBron James-Dwyane Wade-Chris Bosh all-galaxy triumvirate never would have happened back in the day: “No,” he said to me in an email. “As a player u think you are the best, or u should. U want to be the man whether its ego or pride. Ask kobe what its like to win as the man; he would tell u its different. I have to live with the fact I did not win a championship as the man.”
I shared Charles’ comments on Twitter last night, and a couple of my followers went ballistic:
@dcolli Barkley is a fool. He forced his way out of Philly to team up with another all-star in Phoenix.
NVisionMarketin Barkley is lying! He tried to do the same thing by teaming with Clyde Drexler & Scottie Pippen in Houston
Two of Charles’s peers – MJ and Magic – have weighed in with sentiments similar to his, saying they (along with Larry Bird) never would have plotted to play with each other, essentially because they were so busy trying to beat each others.
Critics of their comments have charged that each of those great players exerted pressure on management, when necessary, to either obtain more talent or get them the heck out of dodge in pursuit of a ring.
All true. I covered the league during those years and those players – as well as Isiah Thomas in Detroit – were de facto Asst GMs, working with management to ensure they were able to put the best team possible on the floor each season.
And yes, after eight ring-less seasons in Philadelphia, Barkley abandoned Brotherly Love for Phoenix to join all-stars Kevin Johnson, Dan Majerle and aging Tom Chambers and a team that had gone to the Western Conference semis the year before and was a legit threat to win the 1992-93 title.
Yet in four years there, Charles only came to jewelry once – that first season when the Suns beat the Lakers, Spurs and Sonics to reach the NBA Finals. Awaiting there? MJ and the Bulls, who defeated the Bulls 4 games to 2.
Barkley never got out of the West again. After four seasons in Phoenix, he made one final ring-chasing move: At the age of 33 (probably closer to 50 in Barkley years), he joined two other aging stars – Hakeem Olajuwon, also 33; and Clyde Drexler, 34 – in pursuit of a title. (Hakeem won titles in ’93-’94 and ’94-’95)
Though none of the them had seen their prime for years, the Olajuwon-Barkley-Drexler triumvirate reached the Western Conference finals during their first year together. But that was their peak.
So yes, Bakrley did chase a ring, and in so doing often aligned himself with other all-stars. But the point critics of him, MJ, Magic, etc are missing is this: There were two classes of “star’ in that age.
One comprised the array of top players on numerous teams, perennial all-stars and guys who were clearly among the elite.
And then there was the elite among the elite – MJ, Bird, Magic, Charles and Isiah. 9Even toss Patrick Ewing in the bunch)
Those were the guys who were not only trying to win rings but to beat each other trying.
Magic had to beat Larry.
And vice versa.
Isiah had to beat Larry.
Isiah had to beat Magic.
MJ had to beat Isiah
MJ had to beat Magic.
It was all great theater. But more than that, it was real.
They were all The Man. And at no time during their prime could you have seen any of those stars playing together.
Their feelings for each other were just too much to overcome.
Play with my friend in…? Please.
Of course they did overcome their feelings to perform together on Dream Team I.
But by then the attitudes of their youth had given sway to their growing respect for each other.
And it was a very long way to give.

How Good Are the Heat?

Now that we're together ....

Way too early to tell. Right now, they’d pretty much be playing three-on-five. Almost.
Moses Malone once famously said he “and four guys from St. Petersburg” (his hometown) could beat the Celtics. (I miss that kind of bravado today!) Pat Riley clearly believes Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, Chris Bosh and a bunch of guys from South Beach can win an NBA title because that’s just about what the roster will look like once it’s filled out under the salary cap restrictions.
Still, the Heat will be among the favs next season. Should they be?
I’ll give Riley some credit. If he persuaded the South Beach Trois to take less $ for the chance to play as teammates, sure he’ll be able to cobble together some guys who’d like to have the best seats in the house as the Trois take on history.
But let’s be clear: Teams will not roll over for the Heat. They’ll present a formidable challenge, especially in a seven-game series. But there are a few very solid teams who are already lacing up for their change to knock them back.
The Heat, suddenly, are every Eastern team’s rival.
Today, based on current rosters, the best teams in the league are (in Roy’s order):
1) Lakers
2) Celtics
3) Thunder
4) Heat
5) Magic
6) Hawks
7) Mavericks
8 ) Spurs
9) Suns
10) Bulls

All of this is subject to change, of course, after there’s no free agent left unsigned (except for Allen Iverson) and every sign-and-trade has been depleted. But for now, that’s my list.
Yours?

Tiger’s Next Swing Should Be On the First Tee.

This may sound strange coming from a journalist, but I hope the next sound I hear coming from Tiger Woods is the thwack of his driver against a Nike golf ball on the first tee of a PGA Tour tournament.
I don’t want to hear any more apologies.
No more sorrys.
No Oprah, Costas or anyone. If Mark Steinberg called me and said Tiger wanted to talk to me tomorrow, I’d say, “No!” (Okay, no I wouldn’t, but you get my point.)
Like many others I criticized Tiger et al for refusing to answer questions last Friday. But his near 19-minute statement, I, frankly, don’t want to know anything else except when he’s going to tee it up again.
I don’t care why he did what he did. I don’t need to hear his dissect his soul.
I don’t even care anymore what happened that night inside the house.
And I believe most reasonable people don’t care either.
This was not a crime (Vick, etc.), nor did Tiger compromise or insult his sport (A-Rod, McGwire, etc.) What happened then and now, and what happens tomorrow, is between the Woods.
None of my business.
And none of yours.
So complete your rehab, Tiger, get back in the gym, hit the practice range, tee it up and smack it right down the fairway.
That’s all I want to see.

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