March 21, 2013

LAWT News Service

 

Over 500 Compton Unified School District (CUSD) Dominguez High School students listened as professional football player Richard Sherman shared his journey from their school’s football field to college, and finally the NFL, Wednesday, March 6.

The Dominguez High School alumnus, who graduated in 2006, visited his alma mater as part of a special assembly sponsored by Students with a Goal (SWAG), a nonprofit dedicated to presenting motivational speeches by professional athletes. Sponsors also included Fritz Management, Educa­tion Inc., and Revolution Prep K-12. Moderator Romal Tume, founder of SWAG, provided students with the opportunity to ask Sherman questions about his experiences as a Dominguez student, his college years, and his NFL career. The assembly was also filmed by the NFL Network’s E60 program.

While attending Dominguez, Sherman, who plays cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, maintained a 4.2 GPA and scored 1,400 on the SATs, but he acknowledged that his path to success was not an easy one. “It always feels good to come back to Compton. It’s gotten a little less violent, everything’s a little more cleaned up, but making things better starts with you guys.

Wherever you want to be, wherever you want to go, understand that the future is right here. It is what you make of it,” he said.

Sherman, a graduate of Stanford University, also cautioned students about the dangers of making the wrong kinds of friends. “In high school gangs might seem cool because those guys, some of them are your friends and maybe they support you, but down the line they’ll be the same dudes from jail, and the same dudes back on the streets,” he said. “But you’ll be saying, ‘Man, I could’ve been a doctor. Man, I could’ve been somebody.’ Those same people you follow, where are you following them to? You can be somebody right now. You can make those decisions right now. It all depends on what direction you want to go.” Sherman praised Dominguez’s teachers for their support during his high school years and reminded students to value them. “You have great teachers, you have great staff. It may seem like they hold you down or are messing with you all the time, or your coaches are too tough on you, but they really just want to see you be successful,” he noted. “It’s tough out there. It’s tough in the Hub City, but once you make it outside the city, nobody can stop you. If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”

SWAG’s Founder Romal Tume said he hopes each event he brings to schools awakens students to tap into their potential and excel in whatever they’re passionate about. “It’s our mission to work with schools by having athletes share their personal stories. We want them to show young people they can achieve their dreams and overcome challenges,” he said. “We want them to know that yes, it is difficult, but if they stay focused, they can make it happen.” Tume added that because Sherman grew up in Compton and attended Dominguez High his life story resonates with students. “Richard is here saying he’s been through what they’ve been through, but that they can still succeed.”

For Assistant Principal Bobby Walker, the SWAG assembly was a great opportunity to open the eyes of Dominguez students. “It was wonderful of him to come out and share his experiences with our children. I hope they walk out knowing there are positive role models coming out of our community, and our school,” he said. “Having Richard here today is a reminder that our kids don’t always have to believe the bad things people say about our city.”

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March 21, 2013

By BARRY WILNER

AP Pro Football Writer

 

If it was good enough for football's greatest running back, NFL owners figure, it should work in the 21st century.

Team owners passed a player safety rule Wednesday barring ball carriers from using the crown of their helmets to make forcible contact with a defender in the open field. Pittsburgh Steelers President Art Rooney put the change succinctly.

''Jim Brown never lowered his head,'' he said with a smile. ''It can be done.''

And according to the rules, it must be done beginning this season.

The second significant player safety rule passed this week to help protect defensive players came with much debate. Several coaches and team executives expressed concern about officiating the new rule, but Commissioner Roger Goodell championed it and it passed 31-1. Cincinnati voted no.

On Tuesday, the league took the peel-back block out of the game.

The changes were the latest involving safety, and head injuries in particular, with the issue receiving heightened attention amid hundreds of lawsuits filed by former players claiming that the NFL did not do enough to prevent concussions in years past. League officials have defended the NFL's record and did so again on Wednesday.

''I have always thought that player safety has been at the forefront of our discussion for a long, long time,'' said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that recommends rule changes. ''The game has gotten safer over time. Where we have really focused is on the big hits, the open field hits and hits where players truly can't defend themselves. In this step that we are taking we are trying to protect the player from himself with respect to this rule.''

The tuck rule, one of the most criticized in pro football, was eliminated. Now, if a quarterback loses control of the ball before he has fully protected it after opting not to throw, it is a fumble.

The Steelers were the only team to vote against getting rid of the tuck rule. New England and Washington abstained.

Peel-back blocks had been legal inside the tackle box, but now players can't turn back toward their goal line and block an opponent low from behind anywhere on the field.

Video review now will be allowed when a coach challenges a play that he is not allowed to. But the coach will be penalized or lose a timeout, depending on when he threw the challenge flag.

That change stems from Houston's Thanksgiving victory over Detroit in which Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged a touchdown run by the Texans' Justin Forsett. Although officials clearly missed Forsett being down by contact before breaking free on the 81-yard run, when Schwartz threw the red flag on a scoring play that automatically is reviewed, the referee could not go to replay.

That loophole has been eliminated.

Goodell was eager to get approved the competition committee's proposal to outlaw use of the crown of the helmet by ball carriers, and there was talk the vote would be tabled until May if the rule change didn't have enough support.

But after watching videos of the play that clearly showed the differences in legal and illegal moves by ball carriers, the owners voted yes - and then applauded the decision, something Rams coach Jeff Fisher said is ''rare.''

''We had discussions with the players association and the players themselves, the coaches' subcommittee,'' said Fisher, co-chairman of the competition committee. ''A lot of people talked to us about this rule and how to roll it out in our game.''

The penalty will be 15 yards from the spot of the foul, and if the offensive and defensive players both lower their heads and use the crown of the helmet to make contact, each will be penalized.

''It'll certainly make our runners aware of what we expect relative to use of the helmet,'' Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. ''One of the questions I ask a lot is who gains from this, offense or defense? And it's a toss-up as to which side of the ball has the advantage on this rule, if any. The main thing is it's pro-health and safety, and that's the big thing.''

The owners discussed simply using fines on ball carriers to eliminate the tactic, but instead voted to make the rule change.

Goodell announced that the Pro Bowl will be held in Honolulu on Jan. 26, the Sunday before the Super Bowl. The commissioner has considered scrapping the all-star game, but was satisfied with the level of performance in this year's matchup, won 62-25 by the NFC.

He added that the system for choosing the players won't change, but some consideration has been given to having team captains select their rosters, rather than an AFC vs. NFC format.

The Rooney Rule that requires every team to interview at least one minority candidate when there is a coaching or general manager opening was discussed at length. This year, with eight coaching vacancies and seven for GMs, no minority candidates was hired.

Goodell said he was disappointed in those results and would like to see more flexibility when teams ask to interview candidates whose clubs still are playing.

''One of the major focuses we've had was that we are going to reinstate the symposium program that we've had in the past,'' Goodell said. ''That was primarily focused on coaches but we are likely to have some potential GM candidates also attend with the coaches.''

The owners also approved tight ends and H-backs wearing numbers between 40 and 49. Previously, they were supposed to have numbers in the 80s.

 

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March 14, 2013

By Brandon I. Brooks

Managing Editor

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Isiah Lord Thomas III, popularly known as Isiah Thomas or “Zeke”, made a name for himself and honed his legend as a basketball player for the Detroit Pistons. 

However, before he launched his brilliant NBA career, Thomas burst onto the national scene winning the NCAA championship for Indiana University in 1981 while also earning the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award. 

A member of NBA’s Hall of Fame, after starring for 13 years with the ‘Bad Boy’ Detroit Pistons, Thomas led the team to back-to-back championships in 1989 and ’90. 

He was an All-Star player 12 times and captured two All-Star game Most Valuable Player awards and also added the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player in 1990 to his lofty resume. 

Named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and also served as part owner, executive and coach in the NBA, Thomas now serves as an analyst for NBA TV and works as a columnist for NBA.com. 

When I discovered I had the opportunity to interview Thomas, I have to admit I didn’t know what to expect.  I was excited because I have always wanted to meet the guy named “Zeke” being that I grew up watching him play, but still I was hesitant.  All I had to go off of was his career in the NBA and the chronicled “Bad Boy” image casted over him by White media as a member of the “Bad Boy” Pistons in the late 1980s early 90s. 

If not for the public projection of the established press, which detailed Thomas the basketball player, I didn’t know much about him. 

After meeting him I found him to be as humble a celebrity as there is in the world of sports, and that’s hard to come by.  

After researching Thomas’ life I was astounded to find out about his work as an activist over the years and his recent involvement with youth sports in America. Thomas recently received the Life Time Humanitarian Award from Children United Nations in Los Angeles during Oscar weekend.

“The award is for just doing good work in the community with at-risk kids and foster kids,” said Thomas. 

“It really is just about giving back and being present, showing-up. So many times you can write the check and you never know who that check is helping.  Well I was the beneficiary of one of those checks that a person never saw.  That person who wrote the check didn’t see me, I probably never met him or her but that contribution on that day stopped me from going to jail because what it probably did was help me get something to eat or the coach was able to buy a uniform or the coach was able to rent a van and drive us to the game.  Those little things mattered.  So what I’ve tried to do is continue to give, continue to be part of the community I am from and just try and shine the light on good people.  You can’t arrest poverty.   Just because we are living in poverty and just because we aren’t as fortunate as some doesn’t necessarily mean we are criminals and gangbangers or what have you. So the labeling theory that goes around poverty, I try to speak to that also.”

Thomas spends a great deal of time using his foundation, Mary’s Court founded in in his mother's name to educate our youth and speak out on the violence occurring in inner cities across the nation.  He specifically speaks to the need to educate our children.  He firmly believes, education is a way out of poverty. 

“I am only regurgitating what I was taught,” said Thomas.  “Again that generation before us, that’s what they stoutly believed and it has proved to be true an accurate.”

He is working closely with clergy, educators, community and elected leaders in Chicago, Miami and other cities around the country to help address the urgent need to stop the violence.  He is creatively using sports and entertainment as a way to redirect our kids into more positive activities.  In fact, he is the founder of the first ever Basketball PEACE TOURAMENT that was held in Chicago. 

As a former youth growing up on the west side of Chicago, Thomas has partnered with the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel to expand his well-received "Windy City Hoops" basketball league, which would extend weekend tournaments to 10 more Chicago parks and recreation centers.

“It’s a program basically to attract kids and youth in the community from ages 13 – 17 bring them into the park district and introduce them to the game of basketball and team sports,” said Thomas.

“What we found is that in introducing kids or youth into sport and play they really get to know each other, they get to bond they get to connect.  But so many times when we think about basketball we only think about the score of the game, but the things that come around basketball, the coaches you get to meet the mentors that you have, the educational resources that come along with that, the tutoring aspect that comes around that basketball game and just the wisdom that comes from people who come to the game watching you play.  So that whole type of interaction when we talk about it takes a village to raise a child, well that type of communication that comes from being around the sport is what we were attracted to.

“By taking sports and play out of our communities, by closing the park districts, by taking sport and play out of school, only athletes now get a chance and the opportunity to have that type of dialogue with those coaches, with those mentors.  What we want to do is open it up and give it back to everybody so we want the community to come back, we want the neighborhoods to come back and by putting sports and play back in the community putting it back into the neighborhood kids will get to know each other and once they get to know each other we think it will be hard to kill each other.”

Read Part II of Isiah Thomas’ story, his relationship with his mother, how he met his wife of 32 years and how he views his legacy in next week’s L.A. Watts Times.

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March 14, 2013

By Antonio R. Harvey

Special to the NNPA from the Sacramento Observer

 

Ending weeks of widespread speculation and rumors, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson told The OBSERVER that billionaire Ron Burkle and Mark Mastrov, the founder of 24-Hour Fitness, are the majority equity partners who will make a bid for the Sacramento Kings.

“Yes, they are,” Johnson told The OBSERVER when asked if Burkle and Mastrov are in fact the deep-pocket “whale” investors interested in purchasing the Kings. Mayor Johnson has helped to orchestrate the group’s counter-proposal to a reportedly $525 million agreement the Kings’ owners made with a group to move the team to Seattle.

Johnson will publicly announce Burkle’s and Mastrov’s involvement at the annual “State of the City” address at Sacramento’s Memorial Auditorium Thursday evening. Johnson is also expected to reveal the details of a new sports and entertainment arena, another major factor in keeping the Kings in Sacramento — the place the NBA franchise has called home since 1985.

The Maloofs agreed to sell the Kings to an investment group that includes billionaire Chris Hansen. However, NBA commissioner David Stern agreed to let Mayor Johnson, a former NBA All-Star point guard, submit a purchase proposal that includes a new arena plan to the league by March 1. Stern also agreed to let Johnson state the city’s case in front of the NBA’s Board of Governors in April to prevent the Maloofs from selling the team to the Seattle-based investors.

The Board of Governors — the NBA team owners — will vote whether the sale to the Seattle investor-group is acceptable. Mayor Johnson said the city of Sacramento can make a convincing argument that it is a strong NBA market and the leadership is in place to make a major deal like this work.

Sacramento already cleared the way earlier this week for Burkle and Mastrove when the City Council voted 7-2 to push forward with an effort to keep the bidding process alive.

“I feel confident about our chances (to keep the Kings in Sacramento),” Mayor Johnson said. 

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March 07, 2013

By ANDREW MIGA Associated Press

 

WASHINGTON (AP) —Lawmakers seeking a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the world’s first Black heavyweight boxing champion imprisoned a century ago for his romantic relationships with white women, renewed their efforts on Tuesday.

Sens. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and John McCain, R-Ariz., joined Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and William “Mo” Cowan, D-Mass., to reintroduce a resolution urging President Barack Obama to pardon Johnson because he was wronged by a racially motivated conviction.

“Jack Johnson was a legendary competitor who defined an era of American boxing and raised the bar for all American athletics,” said Reid. “Johnson’s memory was unjustly tarnished by a racially motivated criminal conviction, and it is now time to recast his legacy.”

A similar resolution passed both houses of Congress in 2009, but Obama did not act on it. The Justice Department has told the bill’s backers its general policy is not to process posthumous pardon requests. The White House declined to comment Tuesday on the measure.

Johnson, a native of Galveston, Texas, was convicted of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.

He was hated by many White Americans, especially after retaining his title by defeating White boxer Jim Jeffries in the 1910 “Fight of the Century.” Johnson’s victory infuriated Whites, sparking deadly race riots across the country.

Three years later, Johnson was convicted of violating the Mann Act.

Authorities first targeted his relationship with Lucille Cameron, who later became his wife. She refused to cooperate. They then turned to Johnson’s former mistress, a prostitute named Belle Schreiber, to testify that Johnson had paid her train fare from Pittsburgh to Chicago, for immoral purposes. An all-white jury convicted Johnson in 1913, and he skipped bail and fled the country. But in 1920 Johnson agreed to return and serve his sentence.

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