Archive | August, 2016

Freedom of Speech For Some, But Not for Black Athletes

30 Aug

 

 

ColinKaepernick

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick explains to reporters why he refused to stand for the national anthem during last Friday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers.

San Francisco 49ers Quarterback Colin Kaepernick is the latest Black athlete to learn that to certain sports fans, he lost his First Amendment rights when he picked up a football.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem during the Niners preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, he was harshly criticized on social media, especially Twitter, for being unpatriotic.

Even worse, Kaepernick’s Twitter mentions were filled with the kind of invective that always seems to come up when a Black athlete dares to speak out on a social issue involving the African American community such as the N-word,“go back to Africa,” or my personal favorite, “shut up and play”..

Some of the visceral hatred such as the videotaped burning of Kaepernick’s jersey, kind of made his point regarding the racism that still exists in America and why people tend to lose their minds when anyone, especially millionaire athletes like himself speaks out against it.

When African-American athletes dare to show solidarity with groups like Black Lives Matter, they’re often criticized for their participation because it is seen as being ungrateful. You’re making more than I’ll ever see at my factory job by playing a game. How dare you talk about racism, police brutality and inequality?!

Now the fallacy in this line of thinking is that it overlooks the fact that  Kaepernick, like other Black athletes, have friends and relatives who look like Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and know that something could happen to them or their children at the hands of police. They know that doesn’t insulate you from racism.

It’s something that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pointed out in his famous, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail”:

“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

When you go back to listen or read what Kaepernick was saying, it definitely runs counter to the charges of being unpatriotic and unAmerican.  If anything, Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem is in keeping with the principles of freedom and justice outlined in the Constitution.

“I have family, friends who have fought for this country that have gone and fought for this country and they fight for freedom, they fight for the people, they fight for liberty and justice for everyone,” Kaepernick said. “And that’s not happening. People are dying in vain because this country isn’t holding their end of the bargain as far as giving freedom and justice and Liberty to everybody. It’s something that’s not happening.”

What’s un-American about that? Seems like it’s in keeping with the Founding Fathers and how they felt about tyranny and oppression to me.

In fact, the Declaration of Independence says: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.”

Being critical of your government doesn’t make you un-American. The ability to dissent is perhaps the most American thing you can do. Kaepernick, like others before him, wants his country to live up to the promise of justice for all.

The backlash Kaepernick has received from white fans using racial slurs further illustrates the idea that Black athletes in particular and Black men, in general, are to be seen and not heard, especially when they strike at the heart of white privilege.

While White gun rights advocates are seen as patriotic when they brandish their pistols and assault rifles in the name of standing up for the right to bear arms, Black men, especially athletes, are seen as ingrates when they challenge police brutality and the all too American tradition of systemic racism in America.

If nothing else, the hateful messages on Kaepernick’s Twitter feed are proof positive that the phrase “the land of the free and the home of the brave” only applies to certain people.

It appears that Black athletes like Colin Kaepernick aren’t included in that group.

 

 

Social Media Haterade of Athletes during 2016 Olympics was Downright Shameful

21 Aug

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American gymnast Gabby Douglas was criticized on Twitter for not putting her hand on her heart during the national anthem. American shot putters Ryan Crouser and Joe Kovacs did not put their hands on their hearts but was not attacked on social media the way Douglas was during her ceremony.

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Let me start by saying that I’ve enjoyed all the athletic performances at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio. I only wish I were there to cover them.

Whether it’s the dazzling performances of Black women athletes like Simone Biles, Simone Manuel, or Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce or watching Michael Phelps and the American swim team rack up gold medals in the pool or Usain Bolt powering his way into Olympic immortality with his blinding speed, the Olympics have been a true celebration of sport.

But what I haven’t liked about the Olympics has nothing to do with the activities on the field or in the arena.

What’s really bothered me about this year’s games in Rio has been the noise and haterade flowing  from social media.

Instead of just enjoying the performances of the athletes, the noise from social media has been a symphony of disparaging remarks, insults, and accusations without any merit. People have taken to social media, Twitter in particular, turning it into a sounding board for sour grapes when your favorite athlete doesn’t win or critique of how the winner looked.

The recipient of the ugliest, most vicious attacks by social media hacks has been gymnast Gabby Douglas, who was, as she was in 2012, ridiculed because her hair wasn’t perfect in the midst of competition.  Oddly enough, the critique came from Black women that probably have their own issues with hair who felt the need to take to Twitter.

Now my question is, does Douglas’s hair help her stay on the balance beam? Does it help her get more height on her vault?

Would a perfect coif have gotten Gabby Douglas a Gold Medal on the parallel bars?

The answer is no on all counts.

Never mind the fact that Douglas is a three-time gold medalist or that she contributed to the Final Five’s big team gold medal in Rio. Let’s trash this champion in social media because of her hair.

To those people, I say get a life and worry about your own hair issues.

It’s sports people! The object is to work your behind off to win come disheveled hair or fried perm. The last thing an athlete worries about during the heat of competition is whether or not a hair is out of place.  If you want a fashion show, change the channel!

The hair flap wasn’t’ the only reason folks were attacking Douglass.  She also got flak for not putting her hands over heart as the national anthem played during the medal ceremony.

Now if you saw the ceremony, Douglas stood at attention. I’ve been watching the Olympics since 1972 and the way that Douglas was standing was the norm. There’s no rule that says you have to put your hands over your heart. The attack on her was just petty and cowardly, especially since no one attacked Michael Phelps for laughing while the national anthem played during his gold medal ceremony.

There were no snide remarks about American shot put gold-medalist Ryan Crouser and silver medalists Joe Kovacs, who like Douglas, did not put their hands over their heart during the playing of the national anthem.  No one called them spoiled or ungrateful.

But the social media acrimony didn’t stop there.

Fans upset by Bahamas sprinter Shaunae Miller stunning win over American Allyson Felix in the women’s 400-meter dash took to Twitter to protest how she gained the victory.

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Shaunae Miller of the Bahamas held off American Allyson Felix with a controversial dive at the finish line of the 400-Meter dash at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro. Photo by USAToday.com

In a spectacular race that it looked like Felix was going to win, Miller wound up with the gold by diving across the finish line.

Twitter was not amused.Fans cried foul, accusing Miller of cheating.

However, as someone who has not only covered, but has participated in high school track, I can say that Miller didn’t cheat, she just wanted it more.

First of all, there are no rules on the books that forbid diving at the finish line. I’ve seen athletes dive across the line from time-to-time in an attempt to win a close race. Runners aren’t coached to do that, but in the heat of competition, it happens. It’s not advisable because of the possibility of injury, but in a close race instinct and the desire to win takes over.

Miller gave so much effort to hold off a hard-charging Felix that she fell forward just enough to allow her to win the race by a razor-thin margin.  It was a gutsy effort by Miller and you’ve gotta give her props for going all out and hanging on to win a tough race.

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Usain Bolt won three gold medals at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. Photo by the Mail UK.com.

Finally, I came across a Facebook thread accusing Jamaican sprinter extraordinaire Usain Bolt of using performance enhancing drugs after another spectacular win in the 100-meter dash. Never mind the fact that he has never tested positive for any performance-enhancing drugs in any of his gold-medal winning performances, the accusation is out there because let’s face it, a good conspiracy theory is always going to trump the facts.

With the Olympics coming to a close this weekend, I’m hoping that the memory of the great performances we’ve seen will override the memory of social media shenanigans that have gone on over the last two weeks.

Because despite the hairdos, dives and speculation, these performances have been pretty awesome.

A Glimmer of Hope for the Sixers? Brett Brown Excited About Upcoming Season

21 Aug
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Sixers head coach Brett Brown can’t wait for the season to start. Photo courtesy of Philly.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Because he hasn’t had much of a team to work with, Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown hasn’t had a lot of reasons to feel optimistic about an upcoming season.

In fact, the Sixers have been so bad that the only thing they’ve had to look forward to is possibly getting enough ping-pong balls to get the No. 1 draft pick.

But if you bump into Brown these days, there seems to be a little bit of pep in his step.

About two weeks ago, Brown shared his enthusiasm about the Sixers upcoming season with reporters while hanging out at Philadelphia Eagles’ training camp.

And much of that enthusiasm is spelled B-E-N  S-I-M-M-O-N-S

“Just that there’s a real delineated feeling of hope,” Brown said. “I feel that we all ought to look at people and players that we believe can be with this organization and in this city for a long time.  That although they are young and they are still 20-years-old, they’re talented.”

Simmons, the team’s No. 1 draft choice, showed glimpses of his tremendous potential during the games he played in the NBA’s summer league. If you got a chance to watch Simmons play, you saw a kid who made his teammates better by his court vision and passing ability.

When Simmons did score, he proved that he could use his athleticism to take the ball to the bucket, but he still needs to work on his jump shot.

With center Joel Embiid apparently 100 percent after his longtime foot injury and the recent addition of Dario Saric, who shot 40 percent from three-point range, and the team’s big men, including Jahlil Okafor and Nerlins Noel, the Sixers are looking like they have the beginnings of what could be a decent team.

Granted, no one is expecting to see the Sixers in the NBA Finals or even the playoffs, but there are some good young pieces that could really make some noise if a veteran is added through a trade or via free agency or another strong player can be added through next year’s draft.

At the very least, the motor is running for the Sixers, but how fast this car will go is anybody’s guess at this point.

“We’ve got a team that we’re excited about, that we think can put more wins on the board,” Brown said. “We understand that’s become more a part of our blueprint in our judgment day and it should.”

During his impromptu confab with reporters, Brown talked about the potential of Embiid despite not yet taking the floor in an NBA game. The former Kansas star is on pace to play this season even though he did not participate in summer league competition, Brown said.

“(Embiid’s) summer is going to the way we hoped,” Brown said. “We’ve crafted a plan, we’ve scripted a plan from him that he is following religiously. When we start talking about all these different pieces, the city is going to see something very unique in a seven-foot-two that has a skill package that is exceptional.”

Brown’s excitement about the upcoming season is about the potential of Simmons with his size and the playmaking ability of a point guard.  He said how Simmons plays on the court will determine what position he will play with the team.

“(Simmons) is going to have some taste of that for sure. You know he will dictate that himself when he rebounds and leads the break,” Brown said. “The NBA point guard is the hardest position in the NBA. He’s never played a point guard, let alone an NBA point guard. … Initially, we’re going to play him in different positions and (point guard) will be one of them.”

With his 6-10 and 240-pound frame, Simmons can play multiple positions to help the Sixers, Brown said.

The Sixers will need to add some additional pieces and if they win more than 10 games next season, it will be seen as progress, especially considering how badly this team has been for the last few years. Any movement upward for the 76ers should be considered a step in the right direction.

Injuries Give Barner An Opportunity To Display His Skills

5 Aug
Kenjon Barner

Philadelphia Eagles running back Kenjon Barner (34) looks on from the sidelines as he watches the action on the playing field during a preseason NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers on Saturday, August 29, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Eagles defeated they Packers 39-26. (Scott Boehm via AP) Photo courtesy of the Philadephia Sunday Sun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

With Ryan Mathews and rookie Wendell Smallwood on the shelf nursing minor injuries, running back Kenjon Barner has been getting extra reps in practice in their absence.

Barner’s all-around game as a running back has been impressing Eagles coaches since the beginning of minicamp. On a team that’s looking for someone to be the featured back, Barner has been turning the heads of head coach Doug Pederson and offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

“Kenjon [Barner], I think is a really good, all-around back. He can make you miss in the open field,” Reich said. “I like his vision. He’s doing great in protections. I’ve been very impressed with him the whole offseason. Of course, when we got here everyone was in my ear about how good this guy is going to be a player, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Since his days at Oregon, Barner has always had the speed and elusiveness needed to be a good running back. Last season, Barner got some time at running back and had one 19-yard run. During last year’s preseason, he showed flashes of what he can do in the open field with a couple of long punt returns.

When former head coach Chip Kelly brought Barner to Philadelphia in a trade with Carolina, he was seen as another one of the guys who was familiar with Kelly’s offense and some even expected him to be gone once Pederson arrived.

But Barner is definitely on the new regime’s radar and it likes what it sees.

“He’s an explosive guy with the ball in his hands, and he’s pretty good out of the backfield as a receiver,” Pederson said. “I love the fact that anytime you put the ball in his hand, he has the ability to make some big plays for you. He’s shown that here in the first week of camp.”

With Smallwood and Mathews not on the field, Barner is getting valuable time in front of the team video camera so the coaching staff can evaluate his progress.

“I thought he handled it well. His conditioning is good. It’s improving,” Pederson said. “He got a little tired towards the end of practice, but, again, that’s just the nature of the camp practice. Overall, I thought he did a good job. This will be a good film for him to watch: a good practice tape for him to watch to be able to make the necessary corrections. He’s headed in the right direction.”

Prior to training camp, Barner told philadephiaeagles.com that he has spent the offseason doing everything from changing his diet to working on his footwork. He said he wants to do everything he can to put himself in the position to compete with the other running backs.

“It’s about me wanting to be the best me I could be and I knew that in order to the that I had to take the necessary steps,” Barner said back in June. “I lost a lot of body fat, gained muscle mass. It was a lot different than what’ve I done I in the past.”

Barner said he hasn’t had any difficulty learning Pederson’s offense during the course of mini-camp, something that’s coming through in the first week of training camp.
For him, it comes down the basics of being an NFL running back.

“Your job is to run the ball, make the right cuts, catch the ball out of the backfield and block,” he said. “The scheme may be different, but my mindset is the same.”