(CNN)Several NFL players took a knee, raised fists or did not take to the field while the National Anthem was played Thursday night before preseason games.
So we have more evidence that a master of the dog whistle occupies the White House and that black athletes are a favorite target.
The president, Donald J. Trump, took out after LeBron James on Friday in a way that felt instinctive, as the hound dog pursues the hare. The N.B.A. star had criticized Trump, in measured tones, in an interview with CNN last week. When the anchor Don Lemon asked James what he would say if he were sitting across from Trump, James offered a thin smile.
“I would never sit across from him,” he said.
At 11:37 Friday night, after the interview had been rebroadcast, Trump replied with one of those tweets that offer an X-ray of his ego, psyche and soul. “LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
There was a breathtaking quality to this attack, and not just because white men demeaning the intelligence of black people is one of the oldest and ugliest tropes in American history.
James had appeared on CNN not to criticize this thin-skinned and choleric president but to talk of growing up poor with a single mom and of trying to pay back those who helped him by underwriting a public, noncharter school for at-risk youth in his hometown, Akron, Ohio. His foundation also committed tens of millions of dollars to help provide college scholarships for Akron public school graduates.
James will give every child in this school a bike and a helmet. He is a biking enthusiast for reasons that extend beyond cardiovascular benefit: From James’s earliest childhood days, when he lived in a tiny apartment just up an embankment from Cuyahoga Valley railroad tracks, the bike stood as a symbol of freedom. It allowed him to pedal out of his down-at-the-heels neighborhood and explore a larger world.
The bike and sport gave him freedom, he told Lemon, and allowed him to meet and befriend white kids and to see a world laden with possibility. “I got an opportunity to see them and learn about them,” he said of white kids, “and they got an opportunity to learn about me, and we became very good friends.”
You wonder how Trump could listen to James saying all of this and take away nothing but offense and pique. Then again, it’s difficult to know where the line between genuine annoyance and political calculation stands for a man who so willfully stirs the coals of class and racial resentment.
It seems EA Sports made a controversial edit to YG’s “Big Bank” single.According to Pro Football Talk, the track will appear in the upcoming Madden NFL 19 video game with some noticeable omissions. EA Sports has reportedly censored the record’s profanity, racial slurs, drug references, as well as Colin Kaepernick’s name. No, really.
The former 49ers quarterback is given a shout-out in Big Sean’s original verse: “Feed me to the wolves, now I lead the pack and shit. You boys all cap, I’m more Colin Kaepernick;” however, a Twitter user has pointed out that the athlete’s name has been scrubbed from the Madden 19 soundtrack.
YG was apparently blindsided by the edit: “On my daughter. They ain’t run that by me,” he commented on Instagram. “That’s kold.”Big Sean was also apparently blindsided by the removal, tweeting that “nobody from my team approved any of this.”
EA Sports has not publicly addressed the censored line, but it’s hard to believe that the edit was a mistake. Pro Football Talk questioned why “Big Bank”—featuring Sean, 2 Chainz, and Nicki Minaj—was even used in the first place, considering the ongoing legal battle between Kaepernick and the NFL.
As many of you know, the 30-year-old free agent has accused the league, coaches, and owners of colluding against him, following his on-field protest against police brutality. Kaepernick claims various team owners have refused to sign him strictly because of his demonstrations. He remains unemployed.According to Pro Football Talk, Kaepernick was also edited out of the Madden 18 soundtrack. His name was also taken out of Mike Will Made-It’s “Bars of Soap” featuring Swae Lee.
Former NBA star Matt Barnes sits down for a one-on-one conversation with his friend, one of the NFL’s most notorious & fearless stars Marshawn Lynch for a raw, unfiltered conversation about where they come from and some of the most memorable moments in Marshawn’s career. Stay connected with UNINTERRUPTED at: https://instagram.com/uninterrupted https://twitter.com/uninterrupted https://facebook.com/uninterrupted https://www.snapchat.com/add/uninterr… Subscribe to the UNINTERRUPTED newsletter here: http://uninterrupted.com/signup http://www.youtube.com/uninterrupted
The trade of Kawhi Leonard for DeMar DeRozan reveals something about the gap between image and reality in the NBA.
There is a pervasive stereotype that the NFL, with its 100 percent injury rate, non-guaranteed contracts, naked collusion against signing political athletes, and constant acrimony between players and management, is cutthroat to its very core. On the other hand, the media narrative around the NBA suggests it’s a “players league” that’s all happy, happy, joy, joy; a Shangri-La for the athlete who is looking to control their own destiny. That narrative was dunked in the trash this week with a trade that has “both primary players involved…furious with the move” The trade in question was Toronto Raptors All-Star forward DeMar DeRozan’s being sent from his beloved team to the San Antonio Spurs, in exchange for another All-Star player more highly regarded but coming off an injury, Kawhi Leonard.
The Spurs felt like they needed to make this move. Leonard was entering the last year of his contract and had already made clear that he had no interest in re-signing with San Antonio. His dream landing spot, according to all reports was the Los Angeles Lakers, his hometown team, where he could play alongside LeBron James. Yet the Spurs had no interest in fulfilling that dream, let alone trading Leonard inside the Western Conference. The Spurs coach, future Hall of Famer Gregg Popovich does not want to helm a rebuilding team at this point in his career, so this trade for DeRozan who still has three years left on his contract, is a very good one for them as they aim to compete with the Golden State Warriors and Houston Rockets this coming season. No rebuilding for Pop.
But, for DeRozan, this move was deeply embittering. He signed a long-term deal in a Canadian market that historically has had a very difficult time keeping star players under contract. But DeRozan was more than just a player happy to be in Canada. He was an ambassador for the city and the team.As NBA reporter David Aldridge tweeted, “Teams have to do what’s in their interest. It’s a business. Having said that, DeMar DeRozan repped Toronto for nine years, selling the virtues of the city…never even took a visit elsewhere when a free agent and was a major part of building that franchise to where it is today.”
For Toronto, the move also makes coldhearted sense. If they are unable to convince Leonard to stay and he leaves the Raptors after one season for the shiny shores of Los Angeles, then at least they have these contracts off their books and can start fresh with a rebuild in 2019. But that does not change the fact that DeRozan is someone who gave all to the team and the city and now feels that he was lied to by Raptors management, who insisted that he was in their future plans. In comments posted on his Instagram page Wednesday morning, DeRozan wrote, “Be told one thing & the outcome another. Can’t trust em. Ain’t no loyalty in this game. Sell you out quick for a little bit of nothing… Soon you’ll understand… Don’t disturb…”
Leonard isn’t thrilled either, with Toronto about as far away from Los Angeles as one can get in NBA circles. “How many trades can you recall where both of primary players involved are furious with the move? Kawhi Leonard asked to go home. Not out of the country. DeMar DeRozan has never wanted to leave Toronto.”
All of this speaks to the original point. The NBA is a ruthless multibillion-dollar operation that will always put the individual needs of players last, if the players themselves fail to seize their own destiny. When players manipulate free agency to create their own “super teams,” the naysayers should bite their tongues. As this DeRozan and Leonard trade shows, if you don’t put your destiny in your own hands—insisting on no-trade clauses or signing short-term deals that allow you to access free agency—then teams will take your destiny and sell it to the highest bidder.
A new day, a new chapter in the everlasting drama between Tinashe, her ex-boyfriend Ben Simmons, and his new girlfriend Kendall Jenner (who he might have gotten together with while he was still with Tinashe). Kendall, for one, is apparently “annoyed” by the whole thing.
TMZ caught up with Tinashe outside a club in Los Angeles and asked her what she thinks of Ben’s plan to hire more security because he thinks she’s stalking him, and she reacted simply by laughing in the reporter’s face. Tinashe didn’t do much other than laugh during this interview with TMZ, which, to be fair, seems like a pretty chill response for someone accused of stalking. Tinashe has said previously that she is “done” dating basketball players after this whole mess with Ben, but if reports are true, she did appear to enjoy at least part of the drama surrounding his new relationship with Kendall. The three found themselves at the same club earlier this month, and TMZ caught TInashe just as she was leaving. The reporter asked how she felt seeing him, and she replied by saying he had been texting her the whole time he’d been in there with Kendall. That was big news for gossip lovers online for a few hours, but soon Ben’s camp denied the rumors, with TMZ reporting that Tinashe admitted she lied about the texts. It was this texting ordeal that triggered reports about Ben’s wish to beef up his own security.
Whatever happens next—and judging by the amount of news generated by these three so far, something will definitely happen—one thing is for sure: TMZ will be right there filming it.
Michele Roberts has heard the complaints about the N.B.A.’s best team, the Golden State Warriors, signing an All-Star. She has heard the whining about the league’s best player, LeBron James, moving westward in the first week of free agency. She has seen fans and pundits proclaim the league isn’t competitive enough, and has watched the blame for that land on the doorstep of the National Basketball Players Association and its decision three years ago to reject a league proposal to prevent the limit on player salaries from rising faster than ever before.
After keeping quiet for a week, Roberts, executive director of the players’ union, fired back over the weekend. In a series of emails, she rejected the idea of blaming the players’ decision on the issue known as cap smoothing as nonsense. General managers and coaches may want to blame the players for their teams not being good enough to contend for a championship, she said, but they have no one to blame but themselves.
“Frankly, I have been amused by the chatter suggesting that smoothing — or more accurately the failure to smooth — has now become some folks’ boogeyman de jure,” Roberts said in an email. “While we haven’t yet blamed it for the assassination of MLK, some are now suggesting that it is responsible for all that is presumably wrong with today’s NBA.”
“Needless to say, I beg to differ.”
First, for those not fluent in the N.B.A.’s collective bargaining agreement, a bit of background is in order.
In October 2014, the N.B.A. signed a new television agreement that nearly tripled the amount the league received annually for its national television rights, to $2.66 billion from $930 million, beginning in 2016. The salary cap, which limits the amount each team can spend on players, is tied directly to league revenue. So, in 2016, the first year under the new agreement, the salary cap increased by $24 million, to $94 million, about the same amount it had risen the previous 11 years combined.
The N.B.A. knew this was going to happen, and executives believed a gradual increase of the salary cap was preferable. So the league in 2014 proposed artificially depressing the salary cap for the 2016-17 season. Instead of a sudden rise in the cap, the league offered to provide the players with a lump-sum check that they could divide themselves. That way, teams would not end up signing players to inflated contracts merely because those players had the good fortune of becoming free agents in the summer of 2016.
“Under the concept we discussed, the total salaries paid to players in the aggregate each season would not have changed, but smoothing would have allowed for steadier, incremental Cap increases, instead of a one-year spike,” an N.B.A. spokesman, Mike Bass, wrote in an email.
In February 2015, union representatives from each team unanimously rejected the N.B.A.’s proposal. Roberts said two economists retained by the union concluded players would be worse off under the plan. It has long been accepted wisdom among sports unions that getting every player the highest possible salary is very good for all players.
So, in the summer of 2016, unspectacular players such as Joakim Noah, Luol Deng, Ian Mahinmi and Timofey Mozgov all signed contracts worth tens of millions of dollars. Those deals have proven to be poor investments for their teams. With two years left on their contracts, Noah and Deng are all but out of the league, and Mahinmi and Mozgov are little-used substitutes receiving starter money.
During that same summer, the Golden State Warriors — just off a Game 7 upset loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the N.B.A. finals — had enough salary cap space to sign free agent Kevin Durant, and enough space the summer after to retain Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston. Without the salary cap spike, that would have been impossible unless all three took significant salary cuts.
Flash forward to last week, when the Warriors, fresh off their third championship in four seasons, signed the All-Star DeMarcus Cousins, and James decided to join the Los Angeles Lakers. With the smoothing issue once again at the center of the debate over how the N.B.A. became so lopsided, Roberts decided she had heard enough.
Agreeing to artificially lower the salary cap “offends our core,” Roberts wrote. “It would be quite counterintuitive for the union to ever agree to artificially lower, as opposed to raise, the salary cap. If we ever were to do so, there would have to be a damn good reason, inarguable and uncontroverted. There was no such assurance in place at that time.”
She called the concept fundamentally unfair to players. Many of them had been preparing for the expected spike well before the television deal was signed by agreeing to contracts that allowed them to become free agents in 2016.
Also, Roberts explained, instead of artificially depressing the salary cap, the league could have proposed advancing television money into 2015 and increasing spending. But it didn’t want to “in part because teams weren’t expecting an early Cap increase,” Roberts wrote.
“Just the same way that they shouldn’t be faulted for seeking to meet teams’ expectations,” she added, “folks should recognize how important we felt it was to meet the reciprocal expectations felt by the players.”
She dismissed the idea that the 2016 spike had caused a soft market this year. “We opened free agency with 9 teams that had significant Cap room, in excess of $10 million each,” she wrote. “Frankly, before the spike, that’s about as healthy of a start as we’ve ever had.”
Roberts believes the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Oklahoma City Thunder, and the Lakers will all challenge the Warriors, and the young Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Milwaukee Bucks and Denver Nuggets, as well as “a host of other teams are not conceding a damn thing this season.” There have always been dominant teams in the N.B.A. — as there have been in baseball, she pointed out, wh
cap — and they come in cycles.
“We exist to enhance the lives of the players — to provide them with freedom, opportunity, job security and economic wealth,” she wrote. “We actually believe we can provide it all — all these things, plus competition. The fact that one of the 30 teams, at this moment in time, is having its own moment, doesn’t trouble us or make us question the merits of our system.”
Roberts knows that since 2016 whispers have percolated through the league that she rejected cap smoothing because it was the first major decision of her tenure, which began in 2014, and she wanted to avoid the perception that the league could strong-arm the new union director.
Citing her long and bruising legal career as a trial lawyer for some of the country’s most prestigious law firms, she said she would have embraced smoothing if the union’s independent experts had recommended it.
“I stopped making decisions (especially potentially bad ones) to ‘make a statement’ or ‘prove something’ well before I passed the bar,” she wrote.
With rising television ratings and revenues suggesting the N.B.A. is stronger than ever, Roberts is fairly certain who should shoulder the blame for any team that struggles because they signed bad deals.
“I get that there are folks who believe that some of the contracts executed post the smoothing rejection were too large,” she wrote. “I vehemently disagree as I am sure do the players that negotiated those contracts. However, if that’s the beef folks have, take it up with the GMs that negotiated them. The argument that we gave teams too much money to play with is preposterous.”