Real Patriotism Stands and Kneels in Solidarity with Malcolm Jenkins and Colin Kaepernick

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(From right to left) Steven Means, Malcolm Jenkins and Ron Brooks raise their fists during the national anthem in protest of unarmed killings of Black people by the Police prior to Monday’s game against the Chicago Bears.

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

This was supposed to be a column on Monday night’s Philadelphia Eagles/Chicago Bears game.

I was going to talk about how the Eagles’ defense shut down a Bears offense that has a whole host of problems. I was going to talk about how well rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had done against another below average team.

I had planned on making this column totally and completely about football.

But, I saw the video of Terrence Crutcher getting shot in cold blood for the crime of asking for help when his car broke down by a Tulsa, Oklahoma police officer as he stood, hands raised.

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Colin Kaepernick and teammate Eric Reid (left) take a kneel during the national anthem to protest the unarmed killings of Black people by the police.

I saw residents of Charlotte, North Carolina take to the streets in protest due to the murder of Keith Lamont Scott by police as he sat in his car, mistaken for the subject of a fugitive warrant.

So, while it is important to note that the Eagles defeated the Bears on Monday night, giving the team a 2-0 record, I’m going to devote this column to something more important than football.

I’m going to write about how it might be time for everyone who’s tired of seeing more and more of the nation’s athletes join San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in National Anthem protests to stop complaining about how “disrespectful” you think these protests are, and start listening to the message they send because whether you like it or not, they’re not going away.

In fact, I hope they grow.

On Monday night, safety Malcolm Jenkins, corner back Ron Brooks, and defensive end Steven Means raised their gloved fists during the National Anthem. Aggrieved fans in serious need of a visit to the National Constitution Center on 5th and Market took to social media to complain about the protest and accused the trio of attention seeking.

If that was the message you got from the trio’s raised fists, you’ve missed the point, Jenkins said.

“We’re not doing this made-up thing to get attention,” Jenkins said. “Real lives are being lost. Real communities are being affected. The negativity comes from people’s unwillingness to digest the hard truth.”

What he said.

As a 50-something Black man who occasionally finds himself walking down the street, changing a tire on my car, or any of the myriad of things that seem to get Black men killed by police these days, I agree with Jenkins, Kaepernick and all of the other athletes who are protesting because, quite frankly, this persistent pattern of state-sanctioned violence against unarmed Black men has to stop.  Not only does it have to stop, the perpetrators in uniform and hiding behind their badges need to be punished for their crimes.

And despite what The Clash may have told you in the song “Know Your Rights”, murder is a crime, even if it’s done by a policeman or an aristocrat.

But until that happens, athletes in all sports and people of good conscience shouldn’t stand for the National Anthem.

And all of the people who want to get mad about that to the point of questioning people’s pattrriotism need to instead understand why so many African-Americans might feel that their life could in danger because of a routine traffic stop or because your vehicle stalls on some lonely highway.

I applaud Brooks, Jenkins and Means for raising their fists during the national anthem because they play in a city where African-American athletes are expected to just shut up and play. If they raise their fists during this Sunday’s game at Lincoln Financial field, they are going to hear a crescendo of boos and U-S-A chants.

That’s not how a true patriot would react. True patriots would recognize that we have a Constitutional amendment that governs freedom of speech.

True patriots would empathize with their fellow Americans who are having their rights violated through police brutality.

True American patriotism means that you embody the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  It also requires that you understand that the flag and the National Anthem might mean something different to those battling oppression than it does to you.

Whether it’s the right to bear arms or voicing displeasure at the police shooting unarmed African-Americans, it seems sometimes like the Constitution doesn’t necessarily apply to people of color in the minds of some of you.  It’s really easy to tell an athlete with a fat contract to “shut up and play!” when they want to protest police brutality, but it also negates the fact that being an athlete probably hasn’t been spared the indignity of being pulled over by police for Driving While Black.

But they’re not supposed to talk about that. They’re “the entertainment”.

Here’s the thing, if you truly consider yourself a “patriot” and you truly believe in principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, you’d do more for your community if you put on a Black glove, stretched out your arm, and raised your fist at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday in solidarity with Brooks, Jenkins, and Means because, in the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King,  “Injustice Anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Today, the injustice of police brutality is being visited upon African Americans, Latinos and other people of color.

Tomorrow, it could be you.

Think about that.

Holder Holds Court at DNC: Praises Black Lives Matter, Urges African-Americans to Support Clinton

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Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Addresses a public meeting held by the Congressional Black Caucus at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. Photo by Chris Murray.

At the Wednesday meeting of the Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder talked police reform, Hillary Clinton, and how the only thing that matters as much as Black Lives are Black Votes.

 

 

By Chris Murray

PHILADELPHIA-When Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder came to speak to the members of the Democratic Party’s Black Caucus as part of Wednesday’s Democratic National Convention activities, he pulled no punches.

There’s a lot at stake for the Black Community in this election, and making sure your electoral voice is heard is going to be important.

In a rousing 19-minute speech in front of 300 people at the Philadelphia Convention Center, Holder urged African-Americans to cast their votes for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton and to support the Black Lives Matter movement in its efforts to stop police brutality.

“There are huge things at stake here and a protest vote for somebody other than Hillary Clinton is a vote for [Republican Presidential nominee] Donald Trump,” Holder said in a speech that brought the crowd to its feet several times. “[Black Lives Matter] is in the best tradition of the Civil Rights movement. They’re trying to move this country to a place where it ought to be and so you all defend Black Lives Matter and you defend the use of that term.”

Holder reflected on his time working with the Justice Department and also talked about what he feels is unfinished business in areas such as gun safety, restoring the Voting Rights Act, and repairing the relationship between African-Americans and the police.

A feisty Holder didn’t hold back his criticism of Trump, Congressional Republicans and the National Rifle Association.  He said in the midst of the Newtown massacre, there was an opportunity to pass gun safety regulation, but the legislators, afraid of the anger of the National Rifle Association, voted against it.

“In spite of the fact that people 90 percent of the people wanted gun safety regulations put in place, but the gun lobby convinced people in Congress not to vote that way. It’s time for us to say, we’ve had enough,” Holder said.  “We’ve simply had enough and we demand that reasonable gun legislation is put in place.”

Holder said too many Americans, especially the African-American community have felt the harsh impact of gun violence and it is time to with legislation to regulate the access to guns.

“The fact that too many people have access to guns they should not have had access to,” He said. “You think about the carnage that has happened in the nation in general and the African-American community in particular, that for me is a defining issue.”

Holder was also critical of the Supreme Court decision in Shelby vs. Alabama, calling it the worst decision in the history of the court. The decision in Shelby gutted an important provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and said that Congress exceeded its power in enforcing the Constitution’s 14th and 15th Amendments.

“Five members of the Supreme Court, including Clarence Thomas, took it upon themselves to say the Voting Rights act as constituted was unconstitutional and that has to change,” Holder said.

Holder said it’s important for African-Americans to vote for Clinton because a Supreme Court with Trump as president would be disastrous.

“The guy who ran ‘The Apprentice’ is going to pick people for the Supreme Court,” he said as the crowd roared in laughter.

In addition to his criticism of Trump, Holder took some shots at the Republican-controlled Congress for not confirming Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court after the death of Antonin Scalia. He said it was all more the reason that African-Americans should cast their vote for Clinton.

“We have a very qualified guy in Merrick Garland … who, if the Senate would do their damned jobs would be on the Supreme Court right now,” Holder said. “The delay that he’s had to endure is unprecedented and the notion that a President with one year to go in his term can’t pick a Supreme Court justice, tells you all you need to know about the Republican Party.”

Holder said there has to be mutual respect between the police and the African-American community. He said the African-American community needs the police, but law enforcement needs to deal with the community with fairness and dignity.

Finally, Holder ended his speech by praising the Black Lives Matter movement and the role they have played in educating the public on the issue of police brutality.

“For too long in our history, Black lives didn’t matter and now we’re saying in 2016 that Black lives do matter,” he said to a standing ovation.

His Own Man: Muhammad Ali Versus the Suppression of the Black Athlete

Muhammad Ali: 1942-2016

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Muhammad Ali faced harsh criticism with his membership in the Nation of Islam and his friendship with  Malcolm X.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”-Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali meant a lot to me as a young, Black man growing up and trying to find himself.

Ali will always be the athlete that I measure all other athletes by both on and off the field because he was willing to risk his career as an athlete by not only joining the Nation of Islam, but also by refusing to be drafted into the military and fighting the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs.

When Ali died June 3 due to complication from a staph infection, he was lionized, which is easier to do now that it’s safe.

But when Ali was in his heyday, it wasn’t as acceptable to be a fan of his because of he spoke his mind about racism in America and never wavered in his beliefs at a time when it was harshly frowned upon for a Black man to be so outspoken.

Ali’s legacy was about defying the suppression of Black athletes who dare to be their own men and be outspoken about race. His willingness to stand up for his beliefs was part of a historical pattern that has defined the African American experience in sports.

There has always been an outright hatred for Black athletes, male or female, who are outspoken and refuse to define themselves and not through the eyes of white supremacy.

When Ali took on Joe Frazier in 1971 in the fight billed as the Fight of the Century, he was seen as the villain in the eyes of white America because of this outspokenness, while many boxing fans hoped that Frazier, who was less outspoken on racial matters and seen as a good “Christian”, would put Ali in his “place” as the more “American” of the two boxers.

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Ali keeps it real about Vietnam and the treatment of African-American Athletes.

As veteran sports writer Terence Moore pointed out on MSNBC recently, it wasn’t until Ali became stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and was rendered unable to speak, that White Americans opposed to the Ali of the 1960s and the principled stands that he took felt comfortable enough to embrace him.

This attitude on the part of White Americans toward Black athletes goes back to Jack Johnson’s reign as the first Black heavyweight champion of the world. Not only did Johnson destroy the physical notion of white supremacy, his brashness inside and outside the ring offended white American sports fans and frightened some African-Americans who feared reprisals from white people.

Johnson not only beat his white opponents in the ring, he taunted them.  At a time when a Black man could be lynched at the mere accusation of looking at a white woman, Johnson married two and flaunted his relationships in public.

In the book, Bad Nigger: The National Impact of Jack Johnson, Al-Tony Gilmore quoted a white boxer who fought in the early 20th century who said: “Why, if that scoundrel would beat that white boy the niggers would never stop gloating over it and as it is we have enough trouble with them.”

While Johnson didn’t see himself as a race man or an activist, the mere fact that he was his own man and refused to bow down to the harsh restrictions of racial segregation in the early 20th century or to defer white people.

After Johnson lost the title in 1915, it would be another 18 years before a Black fighter would get a shot at the title.  And it had to be someone that was seen as more palatable to them.

For a Joe Louis to get a shot at the title, he was not allowed to raise his hands above a defeated white opponent or even smile after a win. And because of Johnson, Louis was prohibited from publicly being pictured with white women.

Because of Louis’s quiet, unassuming nature he was beloved by whites in a way that Ali or Johnson was not. White fans seemed to be more comfortable when an African-American athlete is quiet or willing to suffer fools gladly.

In Jackie Robinson’s first two years breaking baseball’s color line when he endured all the racist taunts from fans by not fighting back he was seen by the mainstream media as a sympathetic figure. When Robinson was allowed fight back on the field and stand up for himself and Black athletes off the field, the same White media that cheered him as a sympathetic figure vilified him for standing up for himself.

You can make the argument that this hasn’t changed much in America because Black athletes who speak out on social issues face racist hostility and calls for punishment and sanctions, such as in the case of the St. Louis Rams players holding up their hands in solidarity with Michael Brown, an unarmed Black shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Being accepted on your own terms as a Black athlete is the legacy that Muhammad Ali leaves behind.

Maybe now that he’s no longer with us, America will, at long last, get used to it.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali Transcended Boxing

Muhammad Ali:1942-2016

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Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. He held the heavyweight title three times.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Boxing fans around the world are mourning the death of three-time heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali.

Even in the city of Brotherly Love, the hometown of Joe Frazier, his fiercest rival, people are paying tribute to a fighter who transcended sports.

“Muhammad Ali was an exceptional and extraordinary individual,” said Rudy Battle, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. “He was a superlative victor and exemplified the true meaning of the “People’s Champion”. He always took time to recognize his fans.”

Ali was a force to be reckoned with both inside and outside the ring.  As a boxer, Ali had a stinging left jab along with the hand speed and lateral movement with his feet of a welterweight and a middleweight. Some boxing experts described him as a Sugar Ray Robinson at the heavyweight level.

Charlie “Mickey” Thomas was one of Ali’s sparring partners and had been friends with the champ since the two of them were teammates on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team. Thomas gave Ali credit  for revitalizing a sport ravaged by it’s control by organized crime.

“When (Ali) was boxing, boxing sucked,” Thomas said. “It was a terrible time, It was run by the mob … and Ali put the sport back in boxing. Look at what he did for the sport.”

“None of the heavyweights fighting now have Ali’s quickness,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. “He was like the Fred Astaire of boxing.”

Outside the ring, Ali became a polarizing figure with his membership in the Nation of Islam and by refusing induction into the United States Army based on his religious beliefs and the idea that African-Americans were mistreated at home.

“I can talk all day about what Ali did inside the ring,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, “but what he did outside the ring was even more profound. Thirty and 40 years from now we’re still going to be talking about Muhammad Ali.”

Hopkins said it took tremendous courage for Ali to stand up for his principles at a time when African-Americans were getting murdered for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations across the country. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were eventually assassinated, Ali faced the real danger of someone shooting him down.

“He sacrificed a lot because there was bullet out there with his name on it,” Hopkins said.

Thomas, who is white and served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, said he agreed with Ali refusing induction into the military because of his religious beliefs and felt he was being true to himself.

“Muhammad Ali was the only truly conscientious objector I knew,” Thomas said. “He believed in what he was doing. I don’t find a lot of Baptists or Catholics who do that.”

When it comes to the legacy of Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues like LeBron James wearing a hoodie as a protest against the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Hopkins said the media shuts down Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues.

“You can get the media to assassinate them now and kill them that way,” Hopkins said.

In addition to standing up for his rights with respect to his religion and for African-Americans, Ali also stood up against the exploitation of fighters by unscrupulous managers and promoters, Battle said. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2000, is designed to protect fighters from unfair business practices by promoters.

“He fought for the equality of boxers and established the Muhammad Ali Law,’ which prevents an individual from both promoting and managing a boxer simultaneously, thereby, eliminating total control of a boxer,” Battle said.

Thomas said Ali had a big heart and his best memories of him were of his willingness to give of himself, especially when the media wasn’t present.

“It was kindness to people without the knowledge of the media. He did a lot for people and he gave a lot of money away and he helped many, many people,” Thomas said.

As someone who grew up in North Philly, Ali had a profound influence on young boxers who tried to emulate the way he fought, his trash talking and his self-confidence.  Ali was as much a hero to young people in Philadelphia as Frazier, Hopkins said.

“Part of my demeanor and attitude in the ring came from wanting to be like Muhammad Ali,” Hopkins said. “You had a lot of young North Philly talking trash against each other, doing the Ali Shuffle. He was our hero.”

 

The Contract That Broke The Color Line

Jackie Robinson’s history making contract with the Brooklyn Dodgers is on display at the National Constitution Center until June 5.

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Jackie Robinson’s Contract on display at the National Constitution Center. Photo by Chris Murray

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When the Founding Fathers signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, they did so without taking the rights and freedoms of African-Americans into consideration.

The tumultuous journey of African-Americans from slavery to the Civil Rights Movement to the current cries of Black Lives Matter has been about making America live up to the lofty ideals of freedom and equality those documents imply.

When Jackie Robinson signed a contract to play Major League Baseball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, that contract became an influential document not only for sports fans, but also for the nation as a whole.

Even the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King took notice. In a conversation he had with Hall of Famer Don Newcomb, King expressed his appreciation for Robinson’s willingness to lead the charge.

“You’ll never know how easy you and Jackie and (Larry) Doby and Campy (Roy Campanella) made it for me to do my job by what you did on the baseball field,” King said.

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Robinson’s signature on this contract changed the face of sports and American back in 1947. Photo by Chris Murray.

From now until June 5, you can see the original contract that Robinson signed with the Brooklyn Dodgers at the National Constitution Center.

While there are a lot of important documents on display at the Constitution Center, the Robinson contract is equally as compelling as all the others. Robinson’s contract symbolized the first major confrontation with a segregated America and was part of the ongoing battle to make the country live up to it’s ideas of equality and justice.

Robinson’s entry into major league baseball was met with violent hostility both on and off the field. He was spiked by his opponents and jeered by hostile white fans who were offended by the mere presence of African-Americans in what was supposed to be the American game.

In his first two years with the Dodgers, Robinson had to take affronts to his personal dignity for a cause that went beyond the box score. Eight years later, ordinary African-Americans from students to janitors were peacefully sitting in at lunch counters, boycotting segregated public transportation and education facilities.

When you think about it, Robinson striking down baseball’s color barrier preceded President Harry S. Truman’s executive order to integrate the military, Brown versus Board of Education, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, lunch counter sit-ins, Birmingham movement, the March from Selma to Montgomery and the March on Washington. Dr. King described what Robinson went through:

“A pilgrim that walked in the lonesome byways toward the high road of Freedom. He was a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.”

It’s actually kind of fitting that Robinson’s contract is hanging out here in the City of Brotherly Love. Philadelphia didn’t live up to that name when it came to him. Robinson had to deal with racism and hatred, he couldn’t stay in the same hotels as his teammates, and that’s on top of having to deal with a hostile Phillies squad led by manager Ben Chapman.

Black folks didn’t forget that hostility. An entire generation of African-American baseball fans refused to root for the Phillies even when they started signing Black players to the team and Black players, including free agency pioneer Curt Flood, didn’t want to play here either.

Recently, the Philadelphia City Council issued a resolution apologizing to Robinson and his family for the harsh treatment he received here as a baseball player.

So like the Constitution, Robinson’s contract is a piece of paper that symbolizes how far we’ve come and how far we’ve got to go in race relations in America.

The National Constitution Center is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students and youngsters 13-18, and $8 for children aged 4-12.

Black Voters Must Demand Accountability Beyond Election Day

African-American Voters Need to  Hold Clinton’s Feet to the Fire and Make Sure Delivers on her Promises 

By Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun 

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Black leaders like Congressman John Lewis, D-Ga, (left) have endorsed Democratic Presidential candidate Hilary Clinton, but will she deliver on her promises to African Americans? Photo by ajc.com.

Now that the barrage of debates and campaign stump speeches of the 2016 President Election primary season is almost over, we all kind of know that the general election is going to come down to the Republican Party’s presumptive nominee, businessman Donald Trump, and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who appears to be the eventual Democratic nominee.

As it stands right now, Clinton has 2,205 of the 2,383 she needs to secure the Democratic nomination. Her opponent Sen. Bernie Sanders has just 1,362 delegates and doesn’t have a mathematical shot to win.

Despite the rumblings of the “Bernie or Bust” crowd, a group of Sanders supporters who have said that they’ll either write Sanders in, vote for Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate, or in some extreme cases, vote for Trump in hopes of fomenting a “revolution” that would sweep Sanders to power, Sanders and his supporters will most likely unite behind Clinton at some point.

One of the main reasons that Clinton nearly has the Democratic nomination in her grasp is because of the Black vote. Whether we’re talking South Carolina, Pennsylvania or Maryland, Clinton seems to resonate with Black voters in a way that Sanders hasn’t been able to despite having prominent Blacks like rapper Killer Mike, Cornel West, Spike Lee and Harry Belafonte in his corner.

According to Jonathan Capehart, a political columnist for the Washington Post, Clinton has won the heart of Black voters by tying herself to the legacy of President Barack Obama, talking about the way that income inequality is impacted by race and how that hurts the Black community, and putting some of the onus on Whites for healing the country’s racial divide.

Clinton has also been on Black radio stations, attended social events, played dominoes with the brothers and has even admitted to carrying a bottle of hot sauce in her bag, something that we’ve all done from time to time whether or not we want to admit it.

But while some in the Black community are happy to give Clinton their votes because she’s hobnobbed with them, the brothas and sistuhs need to make sure that she remembers us if she wins the presidency. The Black voters who cast their lot with Clinton need to hold her feet to the fire and insist that she keeps her promises to them.

It’s something we haven’t been all that good at of late. Despite having the power to elect mayors, congressmen, state representatives governors and even a President, the Black community hasn’t figured out how to hold those politicians we got elected accountable to carry out the promises they made at our local church or community fish fry. Unemployment among Blacks is still high, inner city schools are underfunded and our communities are beset by violence in the form of both crime and police brutality.

We’ll be at the polls to pull down the lever or press the button on Election Day. But what happens after that?  From my own perspective, we look at our politicians, especially those who look like us, as if they were some kind of Messiah who will take away all of our problems with one stroke of the pen or a magic wand.

Even worse is that once the folks we elect are sworn in, we stop paying attention until we see them again during the next election.

The next great movement for Blacks is to become more engaged in the political process. We have to be more informed citizens, starting with something as a basic as being active in local community organizations, using social media for something other than posting fight videos, bombarding your local councilman’s office with email on a particular topic, or showing up at his or her headquarters with protesters to demand change.

But no matter what method we choose to engage with, the Black community has got to make politicians accountable to our issues. That old Frederick Douglass adage about power conceding nothing without demand is in play here and it’s time for Blacks to make that demand of all of our public officials, no matter what race or party affiliation.

We’ve done it before.

In 1960, the Black vote swept John F. Kennedy into the Oval Office after he visited the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther Jr. in jail and subsequently helped him get released. On the campaign trail, Kennedy promised to end discrimination in public housing with an executive order, but once he got into office, he dragged his feet.

Blacks forced President Kennedy to pay attention and do as he promised by taking to the streets, conducting sit-ins, and boycotting. The end result was Civil Rights legislation.

That’s what we have to do now.

We have to be vigilant about this even when we lose a few battles along the way. When I hear Black Sanders supporters say they’re not going to vote in the general election, I shake my head because they don’t realize that they can fight for their issues even if it their candidate is not on the ballot.

The tactics will probably be different from those that were used during the Civil Rights movement, but we have to sit down and figure out a way to make it work for us. Saying that the game is rigged or we shouldn’t participate in voting is a cop out.

The most important that Dr. King left us is the realization that we have to vigilant in our fight to make those in power accountable to us.

“We have to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” King said, “We’ve got to see it through.”

And seeing it through begins at the Ballot Box, but it doesn’t end there.

 

 

 

 

Cam Newton Proves His Draft Day Critics Wrong

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Cam Newton flexing his Superman pose after scoring a touchdown against Tampa Bay. Newton led the Panthers to Super Bowl 50.

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

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton will be coming into Super Bowl 50 with a myriad of accolades thanks to the NFL and a target placed on his back by the Denver Broncos defense.

Newton was voted the NFL’s Most Valuable Player by the Associated Press and the Pro Football Writer’s of America. He’ll be taking on future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning when the Super Bowl is played on Feb. 7 at Levis Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

When you look at his stats this season, it reminds me of something one would see in a John Madden football video game. Newton passed for 3,837 yards and threw 35 touchdown passes. He also ran for 636 yards and scored 10 rushing touchdowns.

In total, Newton accounted for 4,473 yards and 45 touchdowns. At 6-5, 245 pounds, Newton is bigger than some linebackers and defensive ends and is a punishing runner.

During the 2015 season, Newton made himself into one of the league’s elite players and arguably elite quarterbacks. He was voted the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Year.

But what makes all of the praise he’s getting now so ironic is that many of the people lauding him were pouring haterade by the gallon on Newton in the days leading up to his being taken as the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Coming out of college, draft experts and NFL pundits alike trashed Newton by throwing out every racist stereotype of Black quarterbacks that had ever existed.

Never mind that he had won a national championship at Auburn, a junior college championship the previous year and was the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner, all the so-called experts questioned his intelligence and his leadership.

Most of the criticism centered on a perceived inability to read NFL defenses and how that inability would all but ensure he wouldn’t make it in the NFL. These “experts” also said he was arrogant because he told Sports Illustrated’s Peter King that he planned on being an icon and an entertainer.

Some so-called experts including Hall of Famer and Fox Sports football analyst Terry Bradshaw, said that former University of Missouri star Blaine Gabbert and University of Washington quarterback Jake Locker were better than Newton.

ESPN’s Skip Bayless said Newton didn’t have accuracy of a Tim Tebow, who is now a college football analyst on the Worldwide Leader In Sports.

One columnist of a popular sports website said Newton was going to be a bust along the lines of quarterbacks Ryan Leaf, Matt Leinart and Vince Young.

Of course, Newton did get kicked off the football team at Florida for stealing a laptop, a crime in which all of the charges were dropped due to a pre-trial intervention program in Florida. There were also reports of academic misconduct as well.

And then there’s the charge that Newton father, Cecil, was trying to peddle his son’s services to Mississippi State for $180,000. That allegation was never proven and Auburn was not sanctioned by the NCAA because of it.

Meanwhile, as the investigation into those alleged NCAA violations was reported on all the major sports networks, Newton never wavered in his focus in leading the Tigers to a national championship. One of those games include Newton leading Auburn back from a 24-0 deficit on the road against a Nick Saban-coached University of Alabama squad that was coming off a national championship the year before.

And yet, Newton’s critics said that the recent Auburn University graduate didn’t have the IQ or leadership ability to be an NFL quarterback, which was completely absurd because you don’t win a national championship without being a team leader and having the mental toughness to stay focused in the face of all of the hoopla around the possibility of NCAA sanctions.

But despite struggling to adjust to the pro game, something all young quarterbacks do, and despite doing some sulking on the sidelines his second year in the league, something that you’d also expect from a 23-year-old and that veterans such as Steve Smith Sr. quickly got him out of, Newton has led the Panthers to three straight playoff appearances including this year’s Super Bowl run.

This year, Newton showed that he could make other around him better, something he did at Auburn. When Carolina’s best receiver Kelvin Benjamin went down with a season-ending injury, Newton utilized his tight end, Greg Olsen as a deep receiver and he’s made Devin Funchess, Ted Ginn Jr. and Jerricho Cotchery into better receivers.

Whether Newton leads Carolina to a Super Bowl victory or not on Feb. 7 , he can say to his Draft Day critics that old Kool Moe Dee lyric, “How ya like me now?”

23 /23 Hype-sight: Comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan Has Become a Tired Conversation

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

NBA fans enjoy comparing LeBron James to Michael Jordan.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As the 2015 NBA Finals between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Golden State Warriors continues this weekend, conversations at a sports bars, man caves and your local sports talk station will undoubtedly turn to the subject of LeBron James, his place among the NBA’s greats, and whether or not a series loss from the Cavaliers changes things.

But there’s one name that I’m tired of hearing as a part of that discussion.

Michael Jordan.

Jordan vs. LeBron is one of those discussions that I try to avoid because it’s one that really makes no sense. It often disintegrates into a bizarre intergenerational fight between two cults of personality that has nothing to do with basketball.

Because James was seen as the “NBA’s Golden Child, “The Chosen One, the ”Messiah” or the “Son of Basketball” and a bunch of other goofy names when he came to the NBA, Jordan partisans show James no love despite his numerous accomplishments. To suggest that James’s name should be spoken in the same breath with their basketball immortal is heresy to them.

For example, Jordan partisans are always quick to point out that because James has only two rings to Jordan’s six, he will never be as great. Of course, Jordan didn’t play all five positions on the court to get those rings, but that logic always seems to get lost in these discussions.

(Now I could point out that if greatness is measured by NBA Championship rings, Jordan needs to bow down at the feet of Hall-of-Famer Bill Russell. Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 NBA titles, something that neither James nor Jordan could ever accomplish. But did I mention that most of the folks having this particular argument have any knowledge of basketball history, and thus have never heard of Bill Russell?)

I was just on Facebook and someone posted a stat that compared Jordan and James scoring averages after the first 141 playoff games in their careers. Jordan had the better scoring average which reassured his followers.

Then someone posted Jordan’s and James record in the NBA Finals—which was …you guessed it advantage Jordan. Of course, everything I’m saying I’ve seen LBJ parishioners do the same thing with their man coming out on top.

To be honest, I don’t care either way. But the comparisons between the two are totally and utterly ridiculous, especially considering that they play different positions and have their own unique qualities that make them great players.

Jordan was a great clutch scorer who made his teammates better and played defense. James is a versatile player who can score, rebound and share the ball. He’s taken three different teams to the NBA Finals and has made other guys around him even better by his leadership and will to win.

Both James and Jordan were the best of their time.

So do me a favor okay?

Let’s keep this in perspective. We got to enjoy the ups and downs of Michael Jordan’s career and the championship years, not-so-championship years and everything in between.

How about letting the LeBron James Era unfold the same way?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Baltimore Riots Symbolize Politicians Neglect of the Poor and Disenfranchised

Civil unrest in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray's death at the hands of the police. Photo courtesy of Salon.com

Civil unrest in Baltimore in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death at the hands of the police. Photo courtesy of Salon.com

The CVS Pharmacy at Pennsylvania and North Avenue in Baltimore after was burned down Monday night by rioters.  Photo courtesy of Newsweek.com

The CVS Pharmacy at Pennsylvania and North Avenue in Baltimore after was burned down Monday night by rioters. Photo courtesy of Newsweek.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Few things are worse than watching as your home burns to the ground, knowing that you’re powerless to do anything about it and that the people who could have prevented this have decided that it wasn’t in their best interest to do it.

It’s a feeling that I’ve been experiencing most of this week as I’ve watched hours and hours of news coverage of the riots in Baltimore that have followed the protests of the death of Freddie Gray at the hands of the city’s police.

You see, for me Baltimore is home. It’s where I was born and raised. I went to the city’s schools. I graduated from Morgan State University. I used to sell beer and hot dogs at the old Memorial Stadium.

So seeing my home burn to the ground, and watching the coverage on television and social media, has saddened me.

It’s also pissed me off.

But my anger isn’t necessarily directed at the young people who are burning police cars and looting stores. It’s not even really directed at news outlets like Fox and CNN that didn’t think the peaceful protests that were also going on was all that important because there wasn’t sufficient Black dysfunction to hold their interest.

My issue was with the respectability politics that seemed to rise with the fires, providing its own foul stench. Baltimore’s politicians and regular citizens, almost all of whom are Black, seemed to care more about the destruction of property and appearances that they seemed to forget the reason why these kids were so mad in the first place.

Freddie Gray is dead. And while insurance will cover the costs of rebuilding the CVS, no amount of insurance is going to bring him back.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t condone the rioting that often destroys Black communities and does nothing to solve the problem. But I also don’t condone the fact that people would rather not acknowledge that this unrest from our youth is a cry for help from a community of poor, Black, human beings who have been long neglected by the politicians and other adults who were supposed to look out for them.

Oddly enough, someone you wouldn’t have expected to have noticed this pointed it out. Although his team was forced to cancel two games due to the unrest, John Angelos, the chief operating officer of the Baltimore Orioles, still managed to keep what was happening in the city in perspective.

He tweeted the following:

“We need to keep in mind people are suffering and dying around the U.S. and while we are thankful no one was injured at Camden Yards, there is a far bigger picture for poor Americans in Baltimore and everywhere who don’t have jobs and are losing economic civil and legal rights and this makes inconvenience at a ball game irrelevant in light of the needless suffering government is inflicting upon ordinary Americans.”

Or, in other words, the riots in my hometown are the result of long-time neglect of problems associated with poverty, lack of education funding and the criminalization of poverty.

If that sounds familiar, it should. It’s the recipe for every bout of civil unrest that’s taken place over the last few years.

For example, in the West Baltimore neighborhood of Sandtown where Gray’s funeral was held, the unemployment rate is at 52 percent.

And the death of Gray, who had his spinal cord crushed, was the tipping point of a problem that has been festering for a long time. According to an investigation by the Baltimore Sun, the city has had to pay out more than $5.7 million in awards and settlements in 100 cases of police brutality since 2011.

It’s funny that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake failed to call the cops “thugs” like she did the kids who were rioting and looting. If severing someone’s neck isn’t part of the definition of “thuggery”, you need to tell me what is.

Part of the reason why I’ve always felt at home in Philadelphia is because of how similar it is to my hometown of Baltimore.

Because of that, I find myself asking the same questions of the elected officials in my hometown, most of whom are Black, that I’m asking in my new home as the May Primary approaches.

What have you done, Mayor Blake and your fellow Black office holders, to provide jobs, fix a broken education system, stop institutional racism or improve the overall quality of life for your constituents? My guess is, not much.

So it’s time to bring up the “A” word: accountability.

It’s about time that we, and when I say “we” I mean the politicians in both my ancestral home and my new home, to hold all our politicians accountable without regard to race or party affiliation. It’s time to fervently push them to solve the issues of our cities.

Because if we don’t, we’ll be having the conversation that President Barack Obama talked about when he addressed the riots in the Rose Garden on Tuesday.

“If we really want to solve the problem, if our society really wanted to solve the problem, we could,” he said. “It’s just that it would require everybody saying this is important, this is significant and that we don’t just pay attention to these communities when a CVS burns and we don’t just pay attention when a young man gets shot or has his spine snapped. We’re paying attention because we consider those kids our kids and we think they’re important and they shouldn’t be living in poverty and violence.”

The CVS Pharmacy on Pennsylvania and North will be fine thanks to insurance and the largess of a multi-billion dollar corporation, but there will always be a void in the Gray family and for that matter in the Black community in my hometown.

But if what’s going on in Baltimore causes us to pay more attention to what’s going on in cities like it across the country, another city might be able to avoid The Fire Next Time.

Dawn Staley Carves Her Own Basketball Legacy Coaching in Her First Final Four

Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career.

South Carolina Dawn Staley has been a winner throughout her basketball career. She will be making her first appearance as a coach in the 2015 Final Four when her Gamecocks take on Notre Dame in Sunday’s national semifinal contest in Tampa.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

When we think of iconic figures in Philadelphia basketball, we almost always point to male basketball players like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving and Allen Iverson, three guys that would be atop a roundball Mount Rushmore if it existed here.

But, there’s one more person you need to add to that list of Philadelphia basketball royalty and her name is Dawn Staley.

Staley, who will be taking her University of South Carolina women’s basketball squad to the Women’s Final Four in Tampa, Florida, has done just about everything in basketball and is just as worthy as her legendary male counterparts.

When Staley’s South Carolina women’s squad takes the floor against Notre Dame in Tampa, it’ll be her first trip to the national semifinals as a head coach and her first visit since her collegiate days when she was leading the Virginia Cavaliers to three straight Final Four appearances.

Transforming a once dormant Gamecocks women’s basketball program into a national powerhouse is a testament to her North Philly roots and a rock-hard determination to succeed in the face of enormous odds, something she reflected on during a conference call with Final Four coaches earlier this week.

“I’m most proud of being able to cut the bottom of a milk crate out, nail it to a piece of wood, and put it on that electrical pole,” said Staley, a three-time Olympic Gold Medalist. “And I used to really‑‑ I perfected a bank shot off of a wooden basket in a crate.

“So I know I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my life and my basketball career, but that’s truly hard.  I won a lot of horse games on the streets of Philly learning how to perfect the bank shot under those circumstances.”

It was that competitive fire that helped her turn a struggling Temple’s women’s basketball program into a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic-10. From 2000 to 2008, Staley’s teams won 172 games and captured four A-10 titles and made six NCAA Tournament appearances.

Quite a few of her players from those Owls teams have gone to play well at the professional level in this country and internationally. Most notably, Candice Dupree who helped lead the Phoenix Mercury to a WNBA title.

Coming to South Carolina and coaching in a tough Southeastern Conference that includes perennial powerhouse Tennessee, winners of seven national championships, was an even tougher task for Staley than reviving Temple’s program.

In her first year, Staley’s squad won just 10 games. Four years later, the Gamecocks went to the Sweet 16.

But Staley said it wasn’t easy. She needed to get talent good enough to make South Carolina into a national powerhouse. Some of that talent is homegrown from the state of South Carolina.

One of those best players is junior guard Tiffany Mitchell, a two-time SEC Player-of-the-Year who is averaging 14 points per game and she landed a Parade national high school player of the year in 6-foot-5-inch freshman A’ja Wilson, who is averaging 13 points per game.

“It takes talent.  It takes great people, and it takes a commitment, a commitment of discipline,” Staley said.  “So once we got those things in place, our program started to move in the right direction.  We didn’t always have that.  Seven years ago, we didn’t have that.”

For all the times Staley has been a part of winning traditions as both a player and a coach at the collegiate level, she has yet to win a national championship. As a player, she came close in 1991 when her Virginia squad he experienced a heartbreaking overtime loss to Tennessee.

Staley said if South Carolina wins the women’s national championship this weekend, the trophy is not just for her, but for all the people who shaped her playing and coaching career along the way including former Temple head coach John Chaney.

“So I take all of those people who helped me along the way and who also experienced that awful feeling of not‑‑ you know, that void of not winning a National Championship,” Staley said. “Hopefully, the cards are in our favor this year, and hopefully I’ll be able for all of those people who played an integral role in my life.”