August 02, 2012

By Kenneth Miller

 

LA Watts Times Correspondent

 

 

From the moment she was a pint size three year-old toddler and her sister Arielle taught her how to do a cartwheel, Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Douglas wanted more. So on her own she began doing cartwheels on one hand.

 

Douglas participates in a sport that is not just void of African Americans; it rarely attracts them because from an economic standpoint in many instances it’s not feasible.

 

Gymnastics is one of those elite individual sports that require a lot of time and a whole lot of money, but if you are really good as Douglas has proven to be you can push your way onto the Olympic stage.

 

Douglas, born in Virginia Beach, VA, didn’t just qualify for the London Olympics, but she has taken the Olympics and sport by storm leading the American women team to a team gold medal on Tuesday and qualifying in the all around category.

 

It was only the second time in Olympic history that American women had captured team gold. Douglas is the first African American to share such honors.

 

The U.S. women’s gymnastics team won its first gold medal since 1996

 

Atlanta Games, and thanks in large part to the girl they call ‘Flying Squirrel’ the 2012 team is in the history books again.

 

After reigning world champion Jordyn Weiber of was knocked out of the finals for the all-around title two days earlier by Douglas, Gabby then turned her attention to the team finals and as usual was dynamic and courageous posting an eye popping 15.966.

 

Again she bested Wieber who had set the tone by earning 15.933 points.

 

Douglas qualified at the U.S. Olympic trials on June 28 through July 1 and thus joined the ranks of other African-American Olympic gymnasts, including Dominique Dawes and Betty Okino, who won, along with their U.S. teammates, the Olympic Team Bronze medal in 1992, and Tasha Schwikert, who joined Dawes on the U.S. team in 2000.

 

Now, Douglas aims to win an individual medal in the sport, which would make her the first black woman to do so since Dawes' bronze-medal win in 1996.

 

She will have her opportunity when she competes for the all around title, a competition she nearly won at the USA gymnastics national championships in St. Louis.

 

On the greatest stage of all she is inspired to regain her winning ways at the London Olympics.

 

The road to the Olympics has been a challenging one.

 

This daughter of Timothy Douglas and Natalie Hawkins had to move from her family in 2012 to West Des Moines, Iowa so that she could receive the essential training to be an elite gymnast.

 

It was in Iowa where she trained with 2008 Olympic coach Liang Chow to hone her gifted skills. She lives with a host family, but the separation from home and family has been a difficult adjustment for her.

 

Douglas had demonstrated early on that she would be special, winning the 2004 State Championship title in Virginia.

 

Gabby, as she is affectionately called, burst onto the nation scene in 2012 at the Nastia Liukin SuperGirl Cup in Massachusetts where she finished fourth in the all around.

 

From there it was onto Chicago where she placed third on the balance beam, 6th on the vault and 9th in the all around junior division.

 

She then went on to the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships and captured a silver medal on balance beam, placed fourth all-around and on vault, and tied for eighth on floor exercise.

 

Douglas competed at in the 2010 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico where she won the uneven bars crown, and she also won a share of the U.S. team gold medal.

 

She has competed at the world famous Madison Square Garden and soon will be a household name after her monumental achievements at the London Olympics.

 

Gabby’s accomplishments at the London Olympics might be greater than any African American Olympian, including the highly decorated USA men basketball team.

 

That glowing smile, those elegant and graceful moves in a sport that is placed on a shelf for too many to reach. She didn’t just get there, but is soon to be standing alone with an Olympic medal draped around her neck for the world to see.

 

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July 26, 2012

By NOMAAN MERCHANT, Associated Press

 

The attorney for Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant asked prosecutors Tuesday July 24 not to pursue charges against his client, who was arrested after allegedly attacking his mother during an argument.

“Did a family disagreement occur? Yes,” attorney Royce West said. “Did Dez Bryant commit family violence against his mother? No.”

Police arrested Bryant on July 16, two days after his mother, Angela Bryant, called 911 to complain her son was assaulting her. Authorities said they found her with a swollen wrist and thumb and bruising on her upper arms. Angela Bryant allegedly told authorities Dez Bryant hit her in the face with his ball cap and tore her shirt.

On a 911 tape released by authorities, Angela Bryant is heard saying that she wanted to “put an end to it.”

“I can’t keep letting him do this,” she said on the tape.

Angela Bryant has since submitted an affidavit asking prosecutors not to pursue the case. Family violence is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine.

Bryant sat next to his mother at a press conference that lasted about two minutes. Neither spoke or took questions.

“I would love to make a statement, but I can’t,” Dez Bryant said as he left. “I can’t.”

Instead, West read a statement calling any dispute “a family matter that can be worked out through counseling.”

“They ask that there not be a rush to judgment concerning their family,” West said.

Prosecutors have not announced whether they will pursue charges against Bryant and declined comment Tuesday. The NFL and the Cowboys declined to comment.

The talented Bryant has run into trouble since before he entered the NFL. Drafted by the Cowboys in the first round, Bryant had nearly his entire last year of college at Oklahoma State wiped out by an NCAA suspension for lying about having dinner with Deion Sanders. He ran up hundreds of thousands of dollars in bills on game tickets and jewelry — and was sued by people who said they were creditors.

Last year, he was kicked out of an upscale Dallas mall for wearing sagging pants. In January, he was reportedly involved in a fight with the rapper Lil Wayne at a Miami nightclub.

West has dismissed what he called Bryant’s “youthful indiscretions” and said he was trying to move forward.

Bryant’s Cowboys teammates have expressed support after his arrest. His coach at Oklahoma State, Mike Gundy, said at Big 12 Media Days that Bryant was an “unbelievable talent” and trying to do the right thing.

“But it saddens me to hear negative things come out about Dez, and hopefully he can get it together,” Gundy said. “When he was at Oklahoma State, we were with him all the time every step of the way. We never really had many issues with him.”

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July 26, 2012

Associated Press

 

The Pittsburgh Steelers have ended at least one contract distraction before training camp starts.

The team and coach Mike Tomlin agreed to an extension on Tuesday July 24, that will keep him on the sideline through at least 2016. Financial terms were not disclosed. Tomlin’s previous deal expired at the end of the 2013 season.

The 40-year-old Tomlin, a surprise choice to replace Bill Cowher following the 2006 season, is 55-25 with the Steelers, winning three AFC North titles, two AFC championships and the 2009 Super Bowl.

“Mike is one of the top head coaches in the National Football League and we are thrilled he will continue to lead our team as we pursue another Super Bowl title,” team president Art Rooney said in a statement.

Under Tomlin’s guidance the Steelers have consistently been among the best teams in the league. Pittsburgh has ranked first in defense three times during his tenure and averaged seven Pro Bowl selections a year.

“I am grateful to the Steelers organization for the opportunity I have been given over the past five years to work and live in this great city,” Tomlin said. “I am excited to continue to work to bring another championship to the Steelers and the city of Pittsburgh.”

The Steelers began camp July 25 and will likely do it without wide receiver Mike Wallace, who has yet to sign his one-year tender.

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July 26, 2012

By TIM TALLEY | Associated Press

 

A suspended Okla­homa State basketball player broke down in tears as he was convicted on charges that accused him of sexually assaulting two women, then turned to jurors and yelled “I didn’t do it.”

Darrell Williams was convicted July 23 of two counts of rape by instrumentation and one count of sexual battery, though the jury acquitted him on two other counts of rape by instrumentation. Prosecu­tors accused the 22-year-old of groping the women and reaching inside their pants without their consent at a party in December 2010.

Williams, whose attorneys raised the possibility that he could have been misidentified, cried as the verdicts were read, saying “Oh my Jesus God” as he bent over and banged his hands on the defense table. Several of his teammates left the packed courtroom without commenting, and an inconsolable female relative was helped out as Williams was taken away by sheriff's deputies.

Jurors, who deliberated for about eight hours, recommended that he be sentenced to a year in prison for each of the two rape by instrumentation counts. His formal sentencing is set for Aug. 24.

With little physical evidence to bolster prosecutors’ case, Assistant District Attorney Jill Tontz had to rely on testimony from the two women.

“ ‘No’ means just that: It means ‘no,’ ” Tontz said during closing arguments. “These girls felt dehumanized, embarrassed.”

Both women testified during the trial and said they identified Williams as their attacker after police showed them a photo of the Cowboys basketball team. One woman said Williams held her against her will and dragged her in a yard. She said the attack happened in the basement of the house and that no one came to her aid.

“It made me feel violated and sick to my stomach,” she testified.

After the verdicts, Tontz said the women “waited 16 months to tell a jury what Darrell Williams did to them. This verdict represents justice.”

Defense attorneys had tried to cast doubt that Williams was the perpetrator. Witnesses testified that several players at the party wore similar Oklahoma State warm-up suits, and his attorneys claimed that could have led to a misidentification.

Defense attorney Cheryl Ramsey referred to the case as a “he said, she said situation.” She noted during closing arguments that no one heard anyone scream at the party, saw any struggles or reported anything inappropriate. Neither of the women suffered any cuts or scratches, and no clothing was torn after the alleged incident.

After the verdict, Ramsey said she was “very disappointed” with the outcome. She had asked the judge to release Williams pending his sentencing, but the judge denied the request, noting Williams’ sudden outburst as the verdicts were read.

The outburst prompted Tontz to quickly move to the other side of the prosecutors’ table and cry as she clutched a sheriff’s deputy. The prosecutor later said she felt intimidated.

Williams has long denied the allegations, and did so in a recorded interview with police that attorneys played at the trial last week.

“I don’t know what happened in the basement,” Williams said on the audio recording. “I was probably misidentified.”

Oklahoma State basketball coach Travis Ford testified on Williams' behalf Wednesday July 25, saying he believed the young man was innocent. The coach declined comment after the verdicts Monday.

Williams was suspended from the team in February 2011. Before that, he led the team in rebounding and averaged 7.1 points per game.

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July 26, 2012

Associated Press

 

Former NL batting champion Hanley Ramirez was traded from Miami to the Los Angeles Dodgers on Wednesday July 25, part of what appears to be the third big fire sale in Marlins’ history.

Left-handed reliever Randy Choate also was dealt to the Dodgers. The Marlins received right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and minor league pitcher Scott McGough.

The trade came two days after the Marlins sent pitcher Anibal Sanchez and infielder Omar Infante to the Detroit Tigers for pitching prospect Jacob Turner and two minor leaguers.

“We weren’t winning with the group we had and we want to make changes,” Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said.

As the team prepared to move into its new $634 million retractable-roof ballpark, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria hired Ozzie Guillen as manager and committed $191 million in a five-day span during the offseason to sign All-Stars Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. The team agreed to star in a Showtime reality series, “The Franchise.”

In their colorful new uniforms, the Marlins were 31-23 through June 3, just percentage points out of first place, then lost 17 of their next 20 games. They started Wednesday 45-52, fourth in the NL East and 12½ games out of first place.

“These are tough trades, but when you underachieve at the level this team has underachieved and has not won at the level we expected it to — we have talked about restructuring and this is part of it,” Beinfest said.

Miami might not be done, with pitcher Josh Johnson and Bell also trade possibilities before a July 31 deadline to make swaps without waivers.

“Be careful with what you think, what you say, and how you smile because you might be next (to get traded),” Guillen said. “That’s the way it has to go if you don’t perform. That’s business.”

After winning the 1997 World Series, the Marlins jettisoned high-priced stars Moises Alou, Kevin Brown, Al Leiter, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and Devon White. They won the Series again in 2003, then allowed Ivan Rodriguez, Ugueth Urbina, Derrek Lee, Mark Redman, Braden Looper and Juan Encarnacion to depart.

The 28-year-old Ramirez is hitting .246 with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs, far from his big season in 2009 when he hit a league-leading .342 with 24 homers and 106 RBIs.

“I am sad to go,” Ramirez said. “This will be always be my home, but it will just be a little different.”

A three-time All-Star, he shifted from shortstop to third base this season to make room for Reyes.

“It’s sad to see Hanley go to another team,” Reyes said. “We developed a great relationship. I feel he was one of my real good friends on the team. Anytime someone close to you goes to another team it kind of surprises you a little bit and you get sad a little bit, but still need to go out on the field and play the game.”

He joined several other stars who changed teams in recent weeks, including Ichiro Suzuki, Wandy Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis.

“He meant a lot to this organization, a premium talent, an uber talent in a lot of respects,” Beinfest said.

Los Angeles is 2½ games behind NL West-leading San Francisco. After a 32-15 start, the Dodgers are just 21-30 since.

“You never know what a change of scenery will do for somebody,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “We see him as one of our main guys.”

After filing for bankruptcy in 2011, the Dodgers were bought from Frank McCourt for $2 billion on May 1 in a move that led to Stan Kasten becoming team president.

Ramirez has a $15 million salary this year and is owed $15.5 million next year and $16 million in 2013.

“We’re not going to let money stand in the way of a true baseball deal. And if we can improve the club, the financial piece of it will always be there,” Colletti said. “It’s kind of a liberating thing because we’re able to make a baseball trade. We found a player that we really like, that we think can add to our lineup and at the same time show the guys who have been busting their tail for the last three months that we acknowledge how hard they’ve played and to get them the support that we can. It’s good to not have to worry too much about what it’s going to cost you from a financial standpoint. This (ownership) group is in to win.”

Ramirez will play shortstop for now for the Dodgers. Dee Gordon is on the disabled list with a torn ligament in his right thumb that could sideline him until mid-August and is batting only .229 with 17 RBIs.

“I look at it as he has a clean slate,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Anything that’s happened in his past has nothing to do with me, has nothing to do with the Dodgers. It’s basically moving forward.”

Choate, a 36-year-old lefty, is 0-0 with one save and a 2.49 ERA in 44 games. He began his big league career with the New York Yankees in 2000 and also has pitched for Arizona and Tampa Bay.

Eovaldi, a 22-year-old righty, is 1-6 with a 4.15 ERA. He made his major league debut last season. Eovaldi made his Marlins debut on Saturday in a start against San Diego.

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