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Monday, November 30, 2015

Part 2: HBCU vs PWI - What If...

It seems like every time I walk or drive through University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) these days there is literally a new building being constructed. If you take a look at the campus in the year 2000, right before the football team won an ACC Championship and the basketball team went to two straight Final Fours and won a National Championship, and you look at the campus today, there is a very distinct difference. As a matter of fact, if you look at the freshman incoming class in 2000 and the class in 2014, not many similarities there either. For the Fall 2015 freshmen class, UMCP received 28,000 applications for a class of 3,975. Students admitted during this same semester had a median SAT score from 1260 to 1420 based on 1600 and a 4.22 high school GPA. The average GPA in fall 2001 was 3.72 and in 1990 it was 3.0. SAT scores in fall 2001 was 1180 to 1330, up from 980 to 1150 in 1990. How did UMCP successfully manage increasing the academic standards and accomplishments of its freshman class annually?

I can tell you that it was not the nationally ranked Economics department or the Top 5 ranked Criminology or Health and Human Performance departments; nor was it the Smith Business School or the Clark Engineering Program. Academics would love to take credit for the success UMCP has been experiencing for the last 15 years but the truth is they cannot.

Like most schools who enjoy success in football and basketball, two of the most profitable sports in collegiate athletics, UMCP took advantage of both their football and basketball teams success, at the same time, and went straight to the bank! In 2001, the home of the Terrapins won the ACC Championship and in 2002, won the NCAA Final Four National Basketball Tournament. According to the Baltimore Sun and following the basketball team's 2001 Final Four appearance, early applications for the 2002 Freshman class were up 25% which included a 30% increase in out-of-state applicants. From 2003-2004, UMCP experienced the greatest increase in tuition, 20%.

Studies have shown that a mere appearance in the annual NCAA tournament can significantly increase applications resulting in a smarter student body; the university may not increase student enrollment but they can be much more choosy in the type of students they admit. According to ESPN, "a 2009 study by brothers and economics professors Jaren and Devin Pope showed that just making it into the men’s NCAA tournament produces a 1 percent increase in applications the following year. Each round a team advances increases the percentage: 3 percent for Sweet 16 teams, 4 to 5 percent for Final Four teams and 7 to 8 percent for the winner."

This is an impressive formula: take an increase in applications, especially out of state and multiply it by your tuition, which has been increased and is, on average, double for out-of-state applicants. Typically, to get significantly increased enrollments, schools have to increase financial aid and/or decrease tuition but go to the Final Four and you don't have to do either which results in a boatload of new money.

Let's change course for a minute. The roster for the 2002 UMCP National Championship team had 12 players, 10 of them Black:

  1. Byron Mouton, Rayne, Louisiana
  2. Juan Dixon, Baltimore, Maryland
  3. Earl Badu, Baltimore, Maryland
  4. Calvin McCall, Orlando, Florida
  5. Andre Collins, Crisfield, Maryland
  6. Drew Nicholas, Hempstead, New York
  7. Ryan Randle, Duncanville, Texas
  8. Lonny Baxter, Silver Spring, Maryland
  9. Tahj Holden, Red Bank, New Jersey
  10. Chris Wilcox, Whiteville, North Carolina
What if Byron Mouton went to Southern University or Grambling? What if Juan, Earl, Andre, and Lonny all went to Bowie State? What about Chris Wilcox to North Carolina Central or North Carolina A&T?

The Fab Five of the University of Michigan (Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, Juan Howard, Jimmy King, and Ray Jackson) took merchandise sales from $1.5 million a year to $10 million a year and has remained in the Top 5 annually. The Fab Five played over 20 years ago!!!  What if they had played at an HBCU?

Victor Oladipo, Tywon Lawson, Roger Mason, Jeff Green, Rudy Gay, Roy Hibbert, Dante Cunningham, Keith Bogans, Sam Young, and Kevin Durant all have two things in common: they are all or were in the NBA and they are all from the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area. What if they all ended up playing collegiate basketball at an HBCU?  Approximately 78% of the NBA is made up of Black players and what if they all went to HBCUs before they were drafted into the league? 

Imagine this type of talent attending Howard or Southern or Morehouse and taking these schools to the NCAA tournament. Tywon Lawson and Kevin Durant on the same team could take on any team in the country including the likes of Duke, UNC, UCLA and Kentucky. Regardless if they would win or not, ESPN would want to televise games with Lawson and Durant because of their amazing talent and their ability to make any team competitive at the highest levels. Now, an HBCU can enjoy the spoils of TV revenue, extra ticket sales (because every game would be sold out), tournament revenue, merchandise sales and the possibility of increased applications. 

Michael Beasley, a first-round NBA draft pick as well as a Prince George's County, Maryland native, attended Kansas State University for one year. In that one year he broke over 15 Kansas State and NCAA Division 1 records while putting Kansas State on national landscape. Kansas State went to the 2008 NCAA tournament and enjoyed an immediate increase in applications for the Fall 2010 while increasing its tuition almost 15%, one of the highest increases in its institutional history. Again, Michael was only there for a year but Kansas State University is still enjoying the fruits of his labor years later.

Some would say HBCUs do not have the resources or facilities to attract talent equivalent to Kevin Durant or Lebron James. In that same argument, a point can be made that no university had the right resources or facilities to attract top tier talent until top tier talent arrived. They all had to start somewhere. 

Why not start at your local Historically Black University?








Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Part 1: HBCU vs PWI - Does It Really Matter?


A few weeks back I had a choice to attend the homecoming of my alma mater, University of Maryland College Park (UMCP) or my father's alma mater and a place I have been visiting since I was a boy, Norfolk State University (NSU). I chose the Historically Black College/University (HBCU) Norfolk State University, home of the Spartans! Arriving on campus, I just felt at home, like I was attending a huge family reunion and everyone there is my cousin, aunt or uncle. You can walk up to anyone having a cookout and they will offer their food and drink because you are family. There is this overwhelming sense of pride and love and everyone is just having a good time.

While in Norfolk, my friends and I were sad to hear that NSU is facing accreditation issues which has led to a drastic decrease in applications and shrinking the incoming freshman class of 1000 students each year from 2005 to 2012 to just a class of 400 in this year's class. My first year Microeconomics class at UMCP had that many students! Nonetheless, I, along with green and gold spartan alumni, had a wonderful weekend supporting, socially and financially, the survival of a university founded and created to educate Black students. Some may ask what is so special about an HBCU? Do you get more than just an education from an HBCU? It really depends on the student and your past experience. In my humble opinion, it really comes down to the type of student you are; if you can exist on a campus with thousands of other students and still find your way academically and socially, a bigger school is for you. If you need that one-on-one attention from your professor, if you need that structure, HBCU may be for you. In addition, if you grew up and went to school with all Blacks, it may benefit you more to go to a PWI and vice versa.

NSU is not alone; HBCUs are struggling with poor leadership, unequal government funding, and declining enrollment based on factors that cannot be controlled. The financial recession did nothing to help all colleges and universities because they tend to spend less during a recession. I do not want to give the wrong impression that every HBCU is having problems. Hampton University is a great example of an HBCU that has consistent enrollment numbers as well as good leadership. On the other hand, there are some HBCUs that are having fundraising issues and/or making sure their students graduate. And then there are some schools that are in dire straights or have already closed. 

There are about 15 or so HBCUs that are in serious trouble and they include South Carolina State, Wilberforce University (the oldest private HBCU in the nation), Howard University, and Elizabeth City State University. 

South Carolina State University (SCSU) was officially shut down by South Carolina House officials as of July 1, 2015 because its total debt exceeded $83 million. The university's trustees fired the president, faculty and staff, and ironically, the South Carolina House and Senate officials approved proposals to dismiss all trustees. Good news is that SCSU will be able to start fresh and resume operations during the 2016-2017 academic year.

Elizabeth City State University (ECSU), located in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, was nearly shut down in May 2014 when lawmakers amended a bill that would have looked into the consolidation or closure of the university.

Wilberforce University, located in Ohio, is suffering from a decade of financial hemorrhage and declining enrollment 158 years after its founding. Wilberforce had until December 2014 to prove to the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association that it deserves to remain accredited. In order to keep its accreditation, Wilberforce must address deteriorating buildings, poor leadership, ballooning debts, and its inability to meet and maintain academic standards.

Howard University (HU), located in Washington DC, a university trustee wrote a devastating letter in 2013 about  HU's fiscal and management issues and warned the university would be closed  in 3 years if something was not done. The trustee stated, "the combination of fewer students who can arrange for financial aid, coupled with high school counselors who are steering students to less expensive state and junior colleges, has resulted in lower enrollment and this trend is expected to continue."

The government has indirectly assisted in the decline of African-American enrollment. In the fall of 2011, the criteria for PLUS loans were tightened and communication to applicants informing them of these changes was poor. PLUS loans are direct federal loans to the families of students once the student has maxed out their federal financial aid options. Once the changes kicked in, the results were staggering; many families were unexpectedly rejected from the program thus reducing the number of students with the ability to attend school. From 2011 to 2013, the US News and World Report stated there were 45% FEWER PLUS loan recipients at HBCUs. In a 2-year period, 1 in 2 students were unable to return to school!

Morehouse College, the all-men's premier HBCU located in Atlanta, Georgia, spiraled into dire financial straits in 2012 after the PLUS credit changes. Incoming freshmen could not afford Morehouse which caused a forced faculty and staff furlough.

Another little-known tidbit when it comes to government funding at both the federal and state level, it has been inequitable between public HBCUs and PWIs. For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill receives $15,700 in state funding per student while HBCU North Carolina A&T University receives $7,800 in state funding per student. 

The narrative in the mainstream media will have you believe that Black enrollment in colleges and universities has skyrocketed. This is true, but not entirely. At top-tier research institutions, like UMCP, the share of Black students has dropped every year since 1994. In addition to UMCP, this list includes large public universities like UCLA, Florida State, Michigan as well as Ivy League and selective private colleges. Why?

Researchers say one of the reasons is "ever-more-selective" admission rates, that include standardized test scores, which leave high school counselors in predominantly Black schools under-prepared to respond. These same counselors, as a result of tighter admissions, steer Black students toward schools that are less selective.

Just this past weekend, I was back on campus at UMCP, a university founded by Charles Calvert, a former slave owner, and was happy to find out that a statue was being erected on campus of Frederick Douglass. This seemed like an act of embracing my community but at the same time, first-year Black student enrollment has decreased significantly over the last 10 years. At one point, UMCP was 4th in awarding undergraduate degrees to Black students, which included HBCUs; today, UMCP has dropped to 25th overall. 

If you have a reduction of Black students attending and receiving degrees from PWIs and HBCUs either closing (Morris Brown, St. Paul and others by clicking here), losing accreditation, or simply unable to recruit and retain Black students to their respective universities, where are all the Black students going to go for higher education? HBCUs enroll 11% of African-American students despite the fact that HBCUs represent 3% of all colleges and universities; HBCUs graduate 1 in 5 African-Americans earning an undergraduate degree. Research would suggest they are not going anywhere. 

If getting our Black students to college is critical, why should we care if Black students attend HBCUs over PWIs?  

From the article, "Do Historically Black Colleges Provide the Safe Spaces Students Are After?":

"In the post-Brown v. Board of Education educational landscape, HBCUs have struggled to quiet the critics questioning their relevance. At a time in which young black people are constantly attempting to have their voices heard, the ability to prioritize race as a meaningful marker in their college experience by attending HBCUs might factor into college choices more than it once had. Pushing for an inclusive university means pushing for a place that doesn't place on minority students the same type of burdens—discrimination, racism—that they’re bound to face once they graduate. HBCU students have the advantage that concern for their mental, emotional, and psychological well-being as young black adults is, traditionally at least, ingrained into the fabric of their institutions. That is what a safe space looks like for colleges today—a place that insulates students from the American racial injustices, not one that magnifies it."

US News and World Report ranks colleges and universities on an annual basis and I have yet to see an HBCU rank in the top 250. Your top graduate programs in business, law, and engineering rarely, if ever, have an HBCU on their lists. So what is the advantage of attending an HBCU? 


HBCUs seem to provide support systems that are deeply entrenched throughout all aspects of the university. HBCUs offer cultural centers tailored for minority students that offer communities-from students to the faculty to the way of life-that are culturally relevant and relatable in all kinds of ways. 

What can we do to increase enrollment at HBCUs?

  • Support and give to organizations like the Tom Joyner Foundation and the United Negro College Fund. The Tom Joyner Foundation supports HBCUs with scholarships, endowments, and capacity building enhancements. The United Negro College Fund (UNCF) raises money for and helps students receive college degrees at member institutions and with UNCF scholarships. 
  • Promote and push more of our high-performing high school athletes to our HBCUs. (This will be expounded in Part 2.)
Shani O. Hilton, editor at Buzzfeed, said, "There's something about when you strip away the oppressive bullshit of white supremacy from your life in terms of everyday making moments-from walking down the street, crossing the quad, getting in line to get a meal, sitting in class-that toll of, 'Did that person do that because I'm Black?' is gone. It just opens up your mind and gives you an elevation to your step to your way of moving around the world that I think is hard to replicate in other environments."

I think this says it all...

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Louisville Basketball: A Cardinal Sin?

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) is a non-profit organization that is the governing body for all U.S. colleges in the area of athletics. In 2014, this non-profit had revenues of $989 million in which they paid zero dollars to Uncle Sam. If the NCAA was a corporation, they would be in the Forbes top 250 in the category of profits!

The University of Louisville, located in Louisville, Kentucky, is a city-owned, public university which has:

  • Total of 22,300 students
  • Endowment of $877M
  • School budget of $1.2B
  • In 2013 UL Athletics had $96M in revenue but spent $92M
  • Head Basketball Coach Rick Pitino's yearly salary is $5M for the next 10 years
A self-described former madam and escort, Katina Powell, rocked the collegiate basketball world with her new book, "Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen," that describes up to two dozen stripper and sex parties from 2010 to 2014 in a dorm room on campus for recruits and current players to engage in paid sexual acts. Who paid Katina Powell and her "colleagues"? Andre McGee, Louisville's former graduate assistant coach, paid the "dancer" who would then go ahead and have sex with former players, recruits, and their guardians who accompanied them on visits. All of this under the leadership and direction of the $5M a year Head Coach Rick Pitino, who claims he was unaware any of this was happening. You can read the full story here

Where should we begin? The NCAA, University of Louisville, the coaching staff, or Katina Powell? There are numerous perspectives, a lot of responsibility, and plenty of blame to go around. Wait, what about the collegiate recruiting process?

Katina Powell, who actually employed her two daughters, Lindsay and Rod Ni, as part of the sex parties, decided to write a book because "I knew that this day would come, and I knew that one day they would say, 'She's lying.'" Ms. Powell kept phone records, texts, and detailed journals of the events because she did not want to be called a liar one day! At no point did Ms. Powell know that the NCAA tournament is only second to the NFL in postseason ad revenue in which the NCAA brings in billions over a span of six weeks. Also, Ms. Powell did not know that any sort of sex scandal involving high school basketball recruits and collegiate basketball players published in a tell-all book would be the first of its kind and could potentially be worth millions which makes exposing her own children worth it!

For those without kids or if you have children that do not play a sport, you maybe unaware of the recruiting process. Most, if not all, collegiate sports recruit players from high school to attend and play at their respective schools. Recruiting for football and basketball has greater stakes than say volleyball because the arena, Papa John's Stadium, the Louisville Cardinals football team plays in, holds 55,000 spectators; the arena, KFC Yum! Center, the arena the basketball team plays in, holds 22,000 spectators. These two stadiums gross over a million dollars in revenue per game but spectators are only going to buy tickets if the teams are worth watching. Well, how do coaches at the college level put together a team that is worth the price of admission? They have to recruit good players!

This is where it becomes very complicated and competitive. The price tag of a college education is at astronomical levels to the point you have to be Donald Trump to afford a 4-year institution for one child! If you do not have the financial means, you are relying on scholarships, academic or athletic, to get your child into school. The most visible athletic scholarships are for football and basketball. Parents are now pushing, almost shoving, their child into these sports and doing whatever they can to make sure their child is recruited. Side note, this has given rise to power of AAU but that is for another blog.

So now you have competitive parents doing whatever they can to get their child recruited to play a sport at the next level while obtaining their education for free, coupled with the coaches of these collegiate teams looking for the best talent. A collision course that has resulted in what has happened at Louisville.

Let's pretend you are the mother of Lebron James, a senior in high school, #1 in his class and the most sought after recruit by every university in the United States. Lebron is being visited by every college basketball coach and is being invited to visit their schools over a weekend in what is referred to as an official recruiting visit. The NCAA stipulates that a recruitable high school student can only make five official visits, therefore, Lebron has to officially announce his top five schools. Let's just say those five schools are Ohio State, Duke, UNC, UCLA, and Kentucky. Lebron has to pick 5 different weekends to visit these five schools. On these visits, the coaching staffs for each school has to somehow sell Lebron on why he should attend their respective school. How can these coaches accomplish this hard sell? What will differentiate each school from each other? The NCAA has created rules for what can be done on these visits but the NCAA also lacks the manpower and resources to monitor each and every collegiate recruiting visit by the thousands of recruitable students that do this year in and year out.

At this point, the coach and his staff will do whatever possible to sell Lebron and his guardian (whether a parent or otherwise) on why he should attend said school. Ohio State may give Lebron a bag of money, or a "bag" as it is commonly referred to. It has been rumored that schools have given over $100K for a recruit, maybe more. Duke may elect to buy Lebron a car, UNC may elect to buy his mother a house, UCLA may elect to give his mother a new job and Kentucky may do all of the above and supply sex! How is a guy like Lebron to choose? Here in lies the rub!

How did we get to this point? The coaching staff, in particular the head coach, is under tremendous amount of pressure to win and get to the NCAA tournament. Every team that goes to the tournament can receive, at minimum, $1.6 million. If the coach does not win, game revenue decreases and alumni support waivers. If the alumni stop writing checks, the athletic director is now under pressure because the president of the university is now breathing down his neck because the university endowment is shrinking, applications are down, research money has been reduced, and now the university has to start firing people because of shrunken budgets. The domino effect here is tremendous and it all starts with the recruitment of a kid named Lebron. The future employment of pretty much everyone at the university depends on the recruitment of great players that can lead to the football and basketball teams winning. Talking about pressure!

Jalen Rose, member of the famed Fab Five, who went thru the recruiting process over 25 years ago said, "If I'm not getting laid, I'm not coming". You can read more about his story here. Is it inconceivable to believe the young men today who are being recruited today are not saying the same thing? Do we actually believe that college coaches are not doing whatever they have to in order to appease the best recruits and get them to sign on the dotted line? And are we too naive to realize that everybody in the power structure, including college presidents and the NCAA, do not know this is going on but turn the other cheek until a Katina Powell comes along?

If you were in Lebron's shoes, hypothetically, and you are 17 years old, would you turn down sex? Money? A new job for your mother? A new car? A new career for mom? On a college campus, outside of attending class, having sex is something just about every collegiate student is doing. But now we are taking the oldest profession, prostitution, and using it to attract great athletes to institutions of higher learning.

This problem is bigger than Katina Powell, who, in my opinion, is merely taking financial advantage of an industry that operates around money. The problem cannot be the recruitable athlete and his parents because all they want to do is play basketball and go to college and would not be able to otherwise because of the high costs of a college education. Do we blame the head coach, the man whose career is in the hands of 18 to 22 year olds and their ability to win games and bring in revenue for the university? How about the athletic directors and collegiate presidents who are in the business of bringing in money and have figured out the biggest money makers lie in collegiate sports, in particular, football and basketball? If we cannot blame any of those people, the NCAA is the one without a seat when the music stops.

A billion dollar a year operation, that does not pay taxes, could potentially put a stop to all of this but they run the risk of not meeting their billion dollar profit quota. Here is what is going to happen:

1. Andre McGee, the man who actually conducted these sex parties, will be forced out of NCAA coaching and essentially black-balled from coaching ever again at the collegiate level.

2. Head Coach Rick Pitino, who just signed a contract extension, vowed to not resign and he will not be fired. He will claim he knew nothing and there will not be any proof that will prove otherwise. He will continue to coach and recruit at a high level with the potential to take Louisville back to the Big Dance, aka, the NCAA Tournament.

3. The athletic director and president will issue statements supporting Head Coach Rick Pitino because there is not a reason not to but they maybe willing to sanction themselves before the NCAA does.

4. The NCAA will continue to make billions but will sanction Louisville but I am guessing it will be a slap on the wrist.

At the end, this story will pass, Katina Powell will make her money and have her 15 minutes of fame but the institution of bribery, prostitution, deceit, lies, and extortion will continue through what we refer to as the recruiting process.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Gray Baltimore...

“The organizing principle of any society is for war. The basic authority of the modern state over its people resides in its war powers. Today its oil, tomorrow water. Its what we like to call the God business; Guns, Oil, and Drugs. But there is a problem, our way of life, its over. Its unsustainable and in rapid decline, that’s why we implement demand destruction. We continue to make money as the world burns. But for this to work the people have to remain ignorant of the problem until its too late. That is why we have triggers in place, 9-11, 7-7 , WMDs. A population in a permanent state of fear does not ask questions. Our desire for war becomes its desire for war. A willing sacrifice. You see fear is justification, fear is control, fear is money.”

History

The American Revolution, which took place between 1765-1783, was described as "political upheaval" by the Thirteen American Colonies against their British rulers in which they overthrew the authority of Great Britain and established the United States of America. The climax of this revolution was the Boston Tea Party of 1773 in which American Patriots, led by Samuel Adams, tossed over $1M (today's worth), 45 tons of tea into the Boston Harbor. 

The organizing principle of any society is for war...

Today

The Twitter account of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund posted every unarmed person of color killed by police since 1999 starting with the death of Amadou Diallo. With the latest unarmed killing of another man of color, Freddie Gray, we are well over 80 victims.

Technology has reached new heights since 1999 where the popular form during that time was a beeper; nowadays, we have "smart" phones with cameras that can produce small feature films. A lot of the killings are caught on a camera phone and replayed back to the world to witness. Never before in history has the "revolution" been televised...

"Baltimore has paid $5.7 million since January 2011 for settlements and court judgments in lawsuits accusing city police officers of false arrests, false imprisonment and excessive force. Virtually all of the people who won large awards were cleared from criminal charges." More on this, click here.

Personal

I am by far anyone's boy scout so I am comfortable with describing my run-ins with law enforcement, as they are almost too many to count! During my senior year in high school, I was captain of the basketball team and voted All-District, A/B student as well as the local NBC news 1 of 12 citizens voted as "One to Look Up To". I was bestowed this honor in the middle of my Senior year and for two days I had cameras following me around school because a full expose was going to be re-played on the 6'o clock news. Did I mention I was the only high school student chosen, the other 11 were clergymen, businessmen, community activists, lawyers, doctors, and educators. 

Everything seemed good if you were to take a look at my life from an outside perspective. The truth, I was constantly harassed by Henrico's finest. During the same star-studded senior year, I was pulled over 40-45 times for reasons that varied from "broken taillight" to literally "driving while Black". Yes, I was told that I was pulled over because I was a "n*gger" in the wrong neighborhood and they wanted to know what I was doing there. Suffice it to say that I have the pullover routine down to a science; I know exactly what to do, what to say, as well as what not to say to immediately keep a possible heated situation to a minimum. 

Did this change my attitude towards police? Absolutely. Am I bitter? To a certain extent. Do I believe all police officers are bad or racist? I DO NOT! Can I empathize with the people of Baltimore? At any point during my younger years when I had my run-ins with the cops, I could have easily become a "hashtag" (even though social media had not been invented yet), my Mother could have lost a son, my brother could have lost a brother and for what? You become angry, frustrated, and most importantly, powerless because you feel and, most often, it is proven that there is nothing you can do about it. It becomes something you just live with, you deal with it and you do not complain about it. It becomes a punchline to our favorite comedian's joke, a mere head nod between Black men because we already know that one or both of us has experienced some level of police brutality and it is just another page in another chapter of our lives. 

Questions

While I sit back in the luxury of my DC home and watch the Baltimore riots on TV and read the commentary on Facebook, I keep hearing words like "thug", "shame", "ignorant" and other names I would rather not even spell out. The first thing I think about is if I, and the thousand of other students, were called thugs when we were rioting during our victorious University of Maryland win over Duke back in the early 2000s? I mean come on, we walked, not ran, but walked through the middle of campus to the football field, tore down the goal post (still have no idea why we tore up the football field over a basketball game), walked the goal post back down the same street through the middle of campus, crossed Route 1, arguably one of the busiest thoroughfares on the East Coast, placed it in the middle of Frat Row and set it afire! Oh, it gets better, we proceeded to burn up over $250K worth of Comcast cable lines, broke the windows to the bike shop (as well as stole a few bikes), looted the pizza shop and just basically ran College Park a muck until county police officers arrived with rubber bullets and sent us all home. Yea, do not remember being called a thug then! 

Then I fast forward to a month ago when the Kentucky Wildcats lost in the Final Four, which ruined their perfect Cinderella season, and watched on tv how the Kentucky students rioted. Were they called thugs, ignorant, shameless? Oh wait, property was destroyed...more on this hypocrisy can be seen here.

If you have ever been to Baltimore, and I mean experienced it in person and not through an episode of The Wire, it isn't exactly Shangri-La. It is a very blue-collar city where the people can be described as "subjugated, underprivileged, undervalued, underrepresented, marginalized, victimized, enslaved, and terrorized" and probably the most important, fearful. Freddie Gray was 25 when he was "injured" while being arrested by Baltimore's Finest. Mr. Gray has become a name on a long list of unarmed men killed by the very people charged with the responsibility to protect and serve. 

I am going to try my best not to make this about color, race, creed, sexuality, etc but what this is about is death. A person is dead for no reason, no excuse and there is a distinct possibility that the person(s) responsible may not be brought to justice. History has proven that there is a good chance the death of a person at the hands of a police officer may go unpunished. As a human being, you mean to tell me you do not find this frustrating? 

So let me place myself in the shoes of a Baltimore citizen that is subjugated, underprivileged, undervalued, well you get the picture, and try to understand how I would feel with death of Mr. Gray. Who is to say that I won't be next? What is the difference between Mr. Gray and I? I now have an overwhelming feeling of fear because what is there to protect me, to protect my family? The system set up to protect us is the same system killing us without any recourse. What do I do, what should I do? Do I wait for my turn or do I fight back?

Now imagine a whole community of people, an entire city of people, feeling the same way, asking the same questions. Now imagine an entire city of people arriving at the same answer! If you push somebody to a corner, they are either going to fold and die or they are going to fight back, viciously. Furthermore, they are going to fight back with the same visceral they are being attacked with meaning, an eye for an eye. You get a bat, I will fight with a bat, you get a gun, I am getting a gun.

Is this right? I keep hearing people ask this question as if this situation has come down to what is right and what is wrong. It is a little deeper than that. Is this about color? An argument could be made but it goes even deeper than that. Human lives are being taken and nothing seems to be happening to prevent it. As a man, I am going to protect my own and not wait around to be exterminated, I am going to take the fight to them. Just like Samuel Adams and the rest of the patriots did not want to be under the authority of the British, the citizens of Baltimore no longer want to sit by and let another Black man die at the hands of the police. This is not right or wrong, about Black or white, it is about self-preservation and wanting to fight for the basic right to live. In this spirit, I support and pray for Baltimore.

Let me be clear about what I do not agree with; if you are a rioting in the streets because you feel you can obtain some free items or doing something other than supporting the actual cause, which is the right to live, then you can stay home. Do I agree with taking lives, burning up businesses, attacking the police, etc.? No I do not BUT I am only one man that believes that there could be another way. I DO NOT CONDEMN OR PASS JUDGEMENT on those who are doing those things because at the end of the day, I have no idea what exactly that person is going through. Emotions are running high, anger is rampant, frustration is visible and people are going to release these emotions the only way they know how and that could come in various forms: speeches, fighting, looting, marching, etc. What I do know is that a city of people feel like they have had enough and they are expressing it right now.

Solutions

As of 2014, did you know that 1 in 2 women in the US married to a cop are victims of domestic violence? That is correct, law enforcement officers beat their significant other at nearly double the national average. I will come back to this...

I listen to The Breakfast Club interviews all the time and today I listened to their interview with Montel Williams, from the Montel Williams Show. No idea why they were even interviewing him, I thought his relevancy ran out years ago. Well, I listened anyway and it turned out to be one of the more interesting interviews they have had. It just so happens that Montel is a native of Baltimore and of course, during the interview, they start talking about the riots. 

As I have tried my best to come up with solutions for this problem over the last couple of years, it just so happens that Montel came to my rescue. First point, the military, has noticed an extreme uptick in the number of soldiers coming home and committing suicide and/or suffering from PTSD. So now, the military is limiting the number of tours a soldier can do in the battle zone. The military finally figured out that keeping soldiers in the battlefield, in a constant, prolonged state of stress, exposure to hard conditions and hard fighting would result in soldiers just snapping and going on a rampage.

Let's think about police departments across America, the institutionalized organizations that have been "nepotistic, closed societies" for 20, 30, even 40 years. And you have officers that have been working at these departments for 20, 30, even 40 years. Heck, for 5, 6 years, constantly in the battle zone without ever taking a break. Think about it, we have officers that are working a heightened, on-edge, day-to-day role for years on end. This is not an excuse, and I want to stress this, this is not an excuse, but when you have a person whose mind is living in a constant battle zone, how do you expect them to react in any situation? And this person carries a gun and interacts with regular citizens, daily. 

Now I will circle back and take a step further; the aforementioned statistic about 1 in 2 women married to a cop being victims of domestic violence. Take that same cop who just smacked his wife is now on the streets, with a gun, a "battle zone" mentality, sent to diffuse situations. This man just smacked his WIFE, you think he is going to think twice about laying hands on you???? 

Solution #1, maybe police departments across America should take a note from the military and start rotating officers from the streets to the desk. Let's train the officers, and then re-train them, on how to cut off the "battle zone" mentality. Let's help the officers research, find, learn, and understand different ways to diffuse a situation, conflict resolution. It could be 3 months in the streets, 1 month on a desk or 2 and 2, whatever but we need to find a way to help re-program and retrain officers on their approach to situations that may occur on duty.

Solution #2, mea culpa. I know loyalty runs deep within police departments and a police officer will never condemn or "snitch" on another officer. Those are the rules and they are understandable but at some point you have to call a spade a spade. It would go a long way if an officer, or officers, would step up to the mic and condemn the actions of their fellow officer. It would be nice to hear, and could go a long way, actual police officers admitting that the action of their colleague was wrong. The perception is that if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. If you cannot admit to your partner doing wrong, then you are part of the problem. I could be wrong but I have not heard an officer condemn the actions of their colleague.

Solution #3, we are going to have to take a good look at our judicial system and figure out why very few of these cases end with an officer being convicted and going to jail. I am not sure of the actual percentage but of all the cases, I can go out on a limb and say less than 20% have led to an actual prosecution. The interesting part about it is the fact that most of the cases, the killing is actually on video. In a trial scenario, the burden of proof is on the prosecution to determine guilt. I am pretty sure a video of the actual murder is proof enough but I could be wrong! Besides, there have been cases where people have been sent to jail with less.

Solution #4, in concert with the aforementioned, the President and the Department of Justice will have to get involved and take a detailed look at the federal, as well as, the state laws surrounding murders by law enforcement. It is happening often enough that it deserves some Federal attention. What exactly, I am not sure, I do not have all the answers!!!

Solution #5, examine how and why a community of people feel disenfranchised? How did it get to the point to where they were "subjugated, underprivileged, undervalued, underrepresented, marginalized, victimized, enslaved, and terrorized?" This is more of a conversation, research, and an examination in economics, law, and finance. 

The organizing principle of any society is for war. Baltimore is having their own Tea Party but they are not tossing tea off of boats because of unfair taxes, they are rebelling against unfair, unpunished police tactics that is costing lives. Baltimore is only a culmination of what has been happening since 1999. I leave with two quotes from Samuel Adams:

"The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution, are worth defending against all hazards: And it is our duty to defend them against all attacks"

"Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can"

#prayforBaltimore

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Brown vs. Black - A Story Started Way Before Ferguson

This situation is starting to become very redundant:

Black kid walking/running down the street...

Cop or some wanna-be alleged authority approaches said Black kid...

Some form of harassment occurs...

Black kid ends up dead!

Let's switch trains, something I will do throughout this post, for a few ticks. I have a love-hate for Hollywood because there is so much dysfunction there but they somehow seem to sneak a lot of truth into those movies. Denzel Washington, one of the greats, had a scene in The Great Debaters I would like to reference: The Great Debaters Clip

"Take the meanest...most restless nigger, strip him of his clothes in front of   the remaining male niggers, female niggers, and nigger infants. Tar and feather him. Tie each leg to a horse facing an opposite direction, set him on fire, and beat both horses until they tear him apart in front of the male,female,and nigger infants. Bullwhip and beat the remaining nigger males within an inch of their life. Do not kill them, but put the fear of God in them,for they can be useful for future breeding. Anybody know who Willie Lynch was? Anybody? Raise your hand. No one? He was a vicious slave owner in the West Indies. The slave-masters in the colony of Virginia were having trouble controlling their slaves, so they sent for Mr. Lynch to teach them his methods. The word ''lynching'' came from his last name. His methods were very simple,but they were diabolical. Keep the slave physically strong but psychologically weak and dependent on the slave master. Keep the body, take the mind."

The scary part about Michael Brown's murder is that after he was killed, his body lay in the street for hours uncovered for all to see. Denzel said it, "strip him of his clothes in front of the remaining male niggers, female niggers, and nigger infants....tar and feather him..." They killed that Black boy in front of all those people and left his body, putting the fear of God. 


Since 2011, a little over 7,500 people have been shot with 1442 murdered in the Chicago, mostly Southside. Since 2001, the War in Afghanistan has resulted in the deaths of 2,238 soldiers. In Washington DC, there have been 72 murders, all but 2 are Black or Hispanic deaths. Less than 5 miles outside of DC in Landover, Maryland, a 3-year old girl was shot, accidentally, by an 18-year old Black male. The killer, Davon Wallace, 25, became upset over a shirt and decided to shoot up the entire house, killing the baby girl. You can read the details here. Just so we are clear, Davon became upset over another man wearing his shirt so he pulls out an automatic weapon and shoots up an entire house.

Following the Rodney King incident in 1991, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 occurred after all the officers were acquitted. The riots tore apart the homes and businesses in the Black community even though it was White officers who beat up Rodney King. Twenty-two years later, Michael Brown is murdered and Blacks riot in the neighborhood where the shooting happened...their neighborhood. They do not riot in the neighborhood of the officer who pulled the trigger. Why?

"Keep the body, take the mind." Credibility and consistency are things, that quite honestly, the Black community lacks and it shows through our actions. There is a war going on, literally, in Southside Chicago where more people, on average, have been murdered than the War in Afghanistan. As a culture, what have we done significantly to stop this? Yes, there are individuals who have taken the initiative to do something about this genocide but what are we doing as a people? 

A baby, a 3-year old child is killed right outside the nation's capitol over a damn shirt and not a peep, not a soul said a thing. As of today, Davon Wallace has been apprehended for the murder of this child but no one seems to be "rioting" over this tragic and senseless death! Why?

Why do we (Black people) not get upset over Black-on-Black crime versus when a crime is committed against us by a White person? Why do we riot and destroy our own neighborhoods and businesses when a crime is committed against us by a White person?

BECAUSE WE DO NOT SEE THE VALUE IN OURSELVES! We do not see value because our culture has been diabolically and psychologically torn down so that we are weak and constantly dependent on the master? Who is the master? Giver you a hint, throw you a lifeline....

How are other cultures supposed to value our lives if we do not? If I am White and I am taking an objective perspective, I see Black people kill themselves without conscience and consequence but if someone else does it, it is a problem. Let's be clear, I am no way condoning murder in any way, shape, form or fashion but if we are going to riot, if we are going to demand change, let's do it with credibility and consistency. You cannot demand change in Ferguson if you do not take a stand in Chicago. You cannot demand the Stand-Your-Ground law be changed in Florida if you are not willing to do something about the bogus No Snitching "rule" that exists in our culture, in our neighborhoods. 

If a man walked up to you and called you a "nigger", would you punch yourself in the face? Well why would you destroy your own neighborhoods and burn down your own businesses when someone is killed? That makes absolutely no sense. I do not condone rioting and the destruction of anything, but if you are going to do it, let's not destroy our own but of those who trespass against us!

What is the solution? Where do we start? Our culture is psychologically weak, un-educated, and mentally under the control of others. What has to happen is a massive deprogramming that will start from the grassroots, it has to be intentional, and it has to be organized. I am talking about a major shift in the way we think, what we do, what we say, how we present ourselves, how we make and spend money, etc. 

Education - this does not just mean finishing high school, going to college, etc. We have to place an emphasis on the education of our culture and what we have done that has contributed to the success of the United States. We have to tell Nat Turner and Toussiant Louverture (Haiti) stories and how these men liberated Blacks and Haitians respectively, regular heroes. 

Presentation - grasping the concept of how we present ourselves to the world. First, PULL YOUR DAMN PANTS UP! Second, understand how you dress, how you look, how you present yourself to the world has a direct effect on how you are treated by others in the world. Is that fair, absolutely not. Is it reality, you are absolutely right! 

Media - understand how the media plays a strong role in how are culture is presented to others and how we can control what the media says about us. A great article on how the media treats White suspects and killers versus Black victims can be read here. Another example of how the media manipulates how we present ourselves can be seen here. The media manipulated the words of a four-year old! The point is, we have to understand that the media is as strong as any chain used to handcuff your wrists but, instead, they handcuff the mind. 

There are a number of areas that need to be addressed as part of the "deprogramming" process which will take years to complete. Michael Brown is one of many young men whose lives have been cut short for no reason. Why? How do we stop it? I am for one tired of all the speeches, marches, riots and articles that will continue until the next tragedy occurs. When will we attack the issue head-on and start re-building our culture so we can be consistent in our actions and methods while maintaining credibility in the eyes of others. We have to give the same attention to Southside Chicago as we do Michael Brown; we have to be as upset over the 3-year old girl in Landover as we were over Trayvon Martin. Our actions have to be, again, consistent and our message unified. 

We have to take back our minds and keep our bodies strong!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

United States "Sterling" Silver

"Sometimes I dream, that he is me, like Mike, I wanna be like Mike. I wanna be, I wanna be, I wanna be like Mike!!!" I use to dream as a kid of being like Michael Jordan and then that famous Gatorade commercial came out and all you heard on the playground was, "I wanna be like Mike!" Do not really remember any fellow basketball dreamer ever yelling, "I wanna be like Donald Sterling" or "I wanna be like Jerry Buss!" Kids do not know the owners of the sports team they love, heck, sometimes the players that play on these professional sports teams do not even know who the owner is!!!

Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, for like the 20th time, is in the papers, AGAIN, for being a bigot but this time he got caught on tape by his, by now, Mexican and Black Ex-girlfriend. I mean this guy...I cannot even explain it, you have to listen for yourself here. Just in case you need to be convinced he is a repeat offender:

  • 2006: U.S. Dept. of Justice sued Sterling for housing discrimination. Allegedly, he said, “Black tenants smell and attract vermin.”
  • 2009: He reportedly paid $2.73 million in a Justice Dept. suit alleging he discriminated against blacks, Hispanics, and families with children in his rentals. (He also had to pay an additional nearly $5 million in attorneys fees and costs due to his counsel’s “sometimes outrageous conduct.”)
  • 2009: Clippers executive (and one of the greatest NBA players in history) sued for employment discrimination based on age and race.

Needless to say, Black folks are very, very upset. The day the tape was released, the Clippers had a playoff game against the Golden State Warriors in Oakland. Sterling was instructed by the NBA Commissioner, Adam Silver, not to attend the game. The players decided to play the game but in protest, they decided to not wear their warm-ups with the Clippers name on the front and wear black socks. Other teams followed suit in solidarity during their playoff match ups; both the Miami Heat and Chicago Bulls rocked black socks and headbands in support of their Clipper Brothers!

Tons of opinions have been flying and there has not been five minutes where something does not pop up on the Internet about this shameless debacle. I have had very spirited conversations about this topic with very good friends of mine and needless to say, we all have differing views and opinions on what should be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done.

The biggest opinion I have heard thus far involves the players not playing; a lot of people feel that Chris Paul and his teammates should have sat out that playoff game Saturday. The Clippers had a team meeting along with Head Coach Doc Rivers and they decided they were going to play. They were not playing for Sterling, they were playing for themselves, their coaches, their fans, for the city of L.A. Because they took the court, the players have been compared and likened to slaves on the plantation playing for the old white slave master.

There are some issues with this comparison and some questions that need to be asked and addressed. First, the concept of slavery does not exist today and it is a slap in the face to our ancestors to even dare say that multi-million dollar basketball players are slaves. The slaves, from what I understand, were beaten, never paid for their work, and were considered property that was bought and sold by slave masters. Now in defense of the comparison, the mentality of the slave master still exist. The institutional manifestation of slavery still takes form not just in professional sports but in all arenas. But to call professional athletes slaves is taking it a step too far.

Next, I love my Black people and the raw emotion and passion we exhibit especially during times like this. It makes me proud to know that people still do care and are willing to fight for what is right. It is very important to know and understand that it is okay to be emotional and to have an opinion; your opinion is not about being right or wrong, it is just important to have one. A good friend of mine passionately gave me his opinion yesterday morning on why they should have sat out Saturday. He used examples like Muhammad Ali and Jim Brown to show that today's professional athletes have no backbone and do not stand for anything. Is that a fair comparison? Are today's athletes as strong-minded, Pro-Black, and opinionated as the athletes from the 60s and 70s?

The average age of an NBA player is around 26 which means they were born in 1988. Anybody remember what it was like in 1988 and all through the 90s? For most of these kids, the most they had to worry about was the speed of their computer and how much bandwidth they could get to watch videos on their cellphones! None of these kids had to deal with real struggle like our grandparents did or have to know what it was like to play in arenas where you had "objects" thrown at you by the fans while they spit and screamed at you calling you the N-word. I would not be surprised if there were some athletes in any professional sport that have never been called the N-word! How can we compare an NBA player today to the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's of yesterday; two different times, two different NBAs, two different struggles. I would not expect Chris Paul to know or to understand how to think in a situation like this because he probably has never bee in a situation like this! But I do give these young men kudos for keeping their cool and being composed. 

Which takes me to my next point, why is it that every time a white man says or does something to Black folks, we go off and want to hurt ourselves? Let's take a look at the Rodney King case back in 1991 (by the way, there are some NBA players who were not even born when this happened) when LAPD were caught on tape beating a helpless Rodney King. After the police officers caught on tape beating Rodney were acquitted, Black folks rioted and tore up their own neighborhood. They did not take to the streets of Beverly Hills and loot the very people that actually committed the beating, no, they looted their own people? Was this suppose to stop police officers from beating Black folks in the future? No, because it still seems to happen!

I look at it like someone coming to me, looking me straight in the eyes and calling me a "nigger" and then I proceed to punch myself in the face!!! That's exactly what we do; sometimes, someone does something to us, ala Rodney King, and then we go and beat up each other? Does this make any sense? Why should the players sit out a game they love for a man who, in the grand scheme of things, cuts the checks? I understand that would show solidarity, it would show unity, it would show, maybe, that this generation stands for something. But, again, I do not think I want them to punish themselves for the ignorant words and thoughts of another man. FYI, if they did sit out, they would also not get paid their hard-earned playoff money (click here). In addition, according to the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), a player is docked 1/110th of their salary for missing an Exhibition, Regular Season, or Playoff Game. No, it is not about the money, but again, why should I hurt my pockets for what another man has said? That just does not make any sense. 

So what should be done, what can be done? First, we have to establish what the goal is, what do we want to see as the end result? A lot of times we react off of emotion and do things that do not make any sense and do not change the behavior or thoughts of the people who actually sparked the controversy in the first place. My goal is to not punish the players, but to punish Donald Sterling? How do we go about punishing a billionaire? 

You hit them where it hurts? In the pockets! You take away what they love which is the game of basketball; you take away the Los Angeles Clippers.
Suggestion #1 (a personal favorite)

Head Coach Mark Jackson of the Golden State Warriors suggested that the fans should boycott game 5 at the Staples Center. He then went on to say, "I have an idea that's even better...If I was a white person in LA holding a ticket to game 5, I would find any and every black person I could find and sell my ticket to...Fill every seat in the arena with African Americans while Sterling sits in the front row and they all stare at him. Homies for days in the arena!!!" I love this suggestion by Coach Jackson. If the fans boycott the games, this cuts off ticket revenue. An arena full of Black people would just be CLASSIC!

Suggestion #2

Donald Sterling is removed as an owner. Now this is a very, very slippery slope and if you have been following the comments of Dallas Mavs owner, Mark Cuban, he makes some great points. The NBA Constitution is confidential and not available to the public but some who have access to it have leaked and commented on what the NBA Commish, Adam Silver, and the rest of the league owners can do. Article 35 allegedly gives Adam Silver the power to levy a sanction that would require Donald Sterling to sell the team. Other lawyers are arguing that the "broad powers" of Article 35 do not apply to Sterling's situation. Here is Article 35, you be the judge. 

Michael McCann of SI.com reports that "The NBA's constitution reportedly contains language permitting owners to authorize the league to sell a team without an owner's consent. The language only covers very limited circumstances and these circumstances concern league finances--namely, when an owner can't pay his bills. There is reportedly no language authorizing the NBA to sell a team because of an owner's hurtful remarks or embarrassing behavior. Even if conditional language could be construed to authorize a forced sale of the Clippers, NBA owners would likely be reluctant to do so given the precedent it would set."

I am sure you are asking why would ANY NBA owner be reluctant to push another owner out like Donald Sterling? This is the slippery slope I am referring to; at the very core of this whole controversy, we have a woman who secretly recorded a conversation that went viral. Did we not just go nuts over the NSA and how they were spying on American citizens illegally? What is the difference between what the girlfriend did and what the NSA did? At least the NSA can say they were doing it to protect Americans, the girlfriend just wants money! If the NBA team owners all got together and removed another owner, their brother (because it is a fraternity), for essentially voicing his own thoughts that he did not know were being recorded, we are tinkering on privacy rights while stomping on major parts of the United States Constitution. Regardless of what he said, Donald Sterling has every right to be a bigot, it is not a crime to be racist in America. But we do have laws that protect the privacy of every citizen. As an owner, they have to think about how this could be turned and use on them one day. 

Suggestion #3

There is a way the owners can be taken off the hook for the removal of Donald Sterling. It would require all the players of the NBA to get together and demand their respective owners to vote to get rid of Sterling and if they don't, they will not play next year. That would mean that there would not be an NBA next season and that would affect the pockets of all the NBA owners. Right now, just about every NBA owner has come out and voiced their position and all have said they do not support the Sterling in any way, shape, or form. If that is the case, the players should make the owners put their money where their mouth is; they should go on strike for the 2014-2015 NBA season until Donald Sterling is forced to sell the team. You can take it a step further and demand that the NBA sell to a Black man, preferably Magic Johnson. Not one NBA team is owned by a Black man and maybe it is about time, well, the perfect time, for that to change.

Sometimes I dream...sometimes I do dream that one day we will use the power that we do have and use it in a manner that does not hurt ourselves but hurts those that trespass against us!!!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bullying in Incog - Kneegrow

First I would like to give a special shout out to all the veterans and wish you all a Happy Veteran's Day. Thank you for all you do!

Over the last couple of weeks the biggest sports story is the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito "bullying" case.  Opinions have been flying while parts of the story still continue to come out. If you are unfamiliar with the case, Martin and Incognito are both Offensive Lineman for the Miami Dolphins and apparently they are not playing well together.  Martin is accusing Incognito of "bullying" him via rookie hazing; Incognito has apparently pulled pranks and left very nasty voicemail messages on Martin's phone.  Incognito has come out with his side of the story. You can Google any one of these names and more than a dozen stories will come up if you want a more detailed account of the situation.

After trying to read all the facts, gathering as much information as I can, and listening to all the talking heads there appears to be plenty of blame and a lot of important lessons to be learned. It took me a while to figure out how I felt about this debacle and it has caused an even more difficult time trying to write about it.  Then I went to church...

I attend Reid Temple in Maryland as often as I can and this week guest Pastor Tobias did his sermon on 1 Kings 18: 40-46; God is about to reign in your life.  It was Pastor Tobias' eloquent (and I use this term loosely) delivery of this sermon that helped me get over the hump and decide where I stood with all of this. I will come back to this...

Let's take a look at some different perspectives (Question/Answer):

Question: One might ask how does a 6'5'', 312-pound offensive lineman get bullied in the NFL considering he is probably one of the biggest players on the team?

Answer: Very easily! Anyone is susceptible to bullying because it has nothing to do with how big you are, it has everything to do with how mentally tough you are.  Bullies are weak people who prey on other weak individuals.  Bullies stop bullying when the person being bullied stands up for themselves and punches the bully in the mouth or does something that shows that the bullying will stop.  It does not have to be something physical that stops the bullying but oftentimes this is the best remedy!

Question: Why didn't Jonathan Martin stick up for himself and do something to stop the bullying from Richie Incognito?

Answer: Jonathan did do something; he broke down in the cafeteria (where the last prank by Incognito was conducted), pretty much threw a tantrum, took a leave of absence from the team only to tell very few that he was leaving because of the constant "harassment", "abuse", and "bullying" from his teammate.  Martin finally told the Head Coach that he mentally could not perform because of Incognito so he was not going to play until further notice.  A lot of people feel as though that Jonathan took the right course of action; he did not take matters into his own hands by "fighting" Incognito but he decided to tell his coach and leave the team.

Question: What is wrong with Jonathan's approach to the situation? He took the high-road and decided to go to the authorities put into place, express his feelings and frustrations, and remove himself from the situation.

Answer: There are a number of problems with Mr. Martin's approach and I will try my best to present all of them to you:

1. A man has to have rules, a code, for himself that he lives by and these rules, if broken, have consequences. Jonathan Martin was being bullied by a teammate and according to all accounts, he never approached him like a man and said, "Hey Incognito, enough is enough. I know I am the young guy in the locker room but I think I have taken enough abuse.  Please stop." As a man, when you make a statement like such, you have pretty much drawn the line in the sand and basically have told all that I am done taking abuse and if it continues, I will be forced to "thrash" you.  A man will respect that sentiment and leave you alone; a bully will ignore you and keep bullying thus forcing you to do something you don't want to do but HAS to be done...a punch in the mouth (the consequence).

According to Incognito, this is what he was trying to do to Martin. Martin was left a vm by Incognito and it contained many references to the N-word.  Also, somewhere it was said that Martin was required to pay for a dinner tab that amounted to $15,000 (some reports have said $30,000).  Remember those rules I mentioned earlier that every man should have...well...Martin's "rules" must not have included being pimped for money and being a called a racial epithet.  At any point should anyone do anything that they are uncomfortable with in any situation, in particularly the locker room, they should not do it.  Sterling Sharpe said it way better than I could.

2. The locker room is a sanctuary, a place for a team to bond, socialize, build, and most of all, trust.  The locker room is a place for athletes to air out problems that exist within the team (e.g. player's only meetings), to celebrate, to cry, and oftentimes fool around because boys will be boys.  All locker rooms are different and have their own rules.  Most, if not all, have rookie "hazing" traditions that can date back years.  Some veterans make the rookies carry their bags on road trips, some rookies are required to buy breakfast and/or coffee and donuts for some of the vets while other rookies are required to sing the team fight song in front of the entire team.  Activities like these provide humility to the rookies and it allows them the ability to become part of the culture of the team.  As a rookie, you want to be part of the team, you do not want that guy who thinks he is better than everyone else or is not liked by his own teammates because in sports like football and basketball, no one individual can win the game, it is a team sport thus it takes the TEAM to win.  Rookie hazing activities help to drive this point.

3. If Martin could not approach a teammate or the team captain about Incognito, shame on his teammates. Shame on the leadership of the Miami Dolphins for not stepping in and taking care of one of their own.  This media circus surrounding this issue should not have occurred.  The sanctity of the Miami Dolphin locker room has been broken and what gives a team its mystique, what makes a team special is now broken and been exposed for the world to see.  This should have been handled in-house.  If you have a system to "break-in" rookies then you should have a system that protects them also.  There is always one or two teammates that take the hazing a step too far and it is up to leadership to keep those guys in check.  This did not happen and Martin's teammates are the blame.

4.  I mentioned the sermon delivered to me by Pastor Tobias this past Sunday. The lessons to be learned that day:

  • If you are God-Fearing man, you will have problems, you will have struggles
  • Be willing to climb that mountain; basically, DEAL WITH IT!
  • If someone tries to stand in your way, throw up your gang sign (make your arms into a Cross)!!!!
Ironically, Pastor Tobias is a native Washingtonian that attended Coolidge HS and played football.  And he talked about how they would always get their butts kicked by Cardozo HS every year. But, during his Senior year, Pastor Tobias and his teammates decided one glorious day that they would triumph over their arch rival! And sure enough, they did!  

Jonathan Martin is a professional football player which means he has played the game and dedicated his life to it.  Not only is Martin in a profession he loves but he is getting paid to do it!! Despite these facts, he let one man come and take it all away from him. Martin allowed Incognito to force him to walk away from the sport he loves and has dedicated his life too. We all have struggles, we all have mountains to climb, and we all have that one person or persons that will try to prevent us from what is rightfully ours and that is the person you throw your gang sign up to! That is the person you stand up to...

I remember getting my butt molly-whopped as a kid in my neighborhood.  A lot of times I would avoid fighting by running back into the house until one day my Father got sick of it and made me go and fight the bully.  I was not allowed back in the house until I fought. Well, I got my butt kicked again! I had no choice, I wanted to go home at some point...lol. But I learned some valuable lessons:
  • I fought, lost, and got back up. I fought another day...
  • I met my mountain head on and climbed it..I got over the fear of losing, being humiliated
  • I stuck up for myself.  I did not know what I was sticking up for but I was fighting. 
Jonathan Martin was supposed to fight for what he loved.  Jonathan Martin was supposed to prove that he could fall down and get back up because that's what men do, fall and get back up. Jonathan Martin was supposed to stick up for himself and what he believed to be a wrong being done to him. Jonathan Martin was supposed to throw up his gang sign! Jonathan Martin was supposed to be a man....