October 31, 2013

By Edward Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

At the age of 20, Darrell Wallace Jr. has only been licensed to drive in his home state of North Carolina for four years. However, he’s been racing cars since he was nine years old. Like most adolescents, Wallace put pedal to the metal long before he ever set foot in a DMV, since technically racing doesn’t require a driver’s license. Now, with more than ten years of racing experience under his belt, Wallace could easily be mistaken for pro and ironically this young driver has barely scratched the surface of his greatness.

This past weekend, Wallace hinted at his greatness and simultaneously launched himself into the history books with a win at NASCAR’s Kroger 200 Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) race at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia. His victory made him the second African-American driver to win a NASCAR national series race since Wendell Scott accomplished the feat 50 years prior in 1963. And according to the 2011 NASCAR Rookie of the Year, he had some heavenly assistance from Wendell. “He (Wendell Scott) was watching over me this race. It all goes to him,” exclaimed Wallace on Saturday. “It will take me to tomorrow to think about everything that is set in place, but to be the first since him—it’s outstanding.”

Last Saturday’s win is a long way from the days Wallace raced go-carts with his dad when he was 9 years old, but it was that experience that sparked his initial interest in racing. “My dad bought a Harley-Davidson and he wanted to make it look good and get it all fixed up,” he explained through a heavy southern drawl. “A friend of ours, the guy that did it for us, he raced go-carts and we became really good friends and he invited us out to one of his races one year. We went out and watched and got hooked and the next thing you know, the next weekend, we were racing go-carts.”

After four years of racing go-carts, Wallace was ready to move on to bigger things and by the age of 13, he had transitioned into racing full model vehicles. Currently, he is in his rookie season driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports on the truck circuit. He is the fourth full-time black driver in one of NASCAR’s top three national series. “I don’t call myself a professional, I’m just a kid that likes to go out there and race,” Wallace says humbly.  But with over 100 wins and with Saturday’s win, people are taking notice. “You know we’ve seen great things out of Darrell this year and he’s really come a long ways throughout the season,” claims Kyle Busch, owner Kyle Busch Motorsports.

Saturday’s win was not only a huge win for Wallace but it’s also a win for NASCAR. “NASCAR’s initiative these days is to change the sport, for the better and try to bring in a new face—no matter if it’s the younger generation, people of color: African-Americans, Hispanics, women, anything—it doesn’t matter,” explains Wallace. “They’re trying to change it all and make it more diverse. You can watch a football game and see all walks of life there; racing is a southern sport and you know it’s a predominately white sport and we’re trying to change that. So by me going out there and winning races and running up front, that attracts new faces to the sport and that’s a key goal of mine.”

By his own estimates Wallace is about three to four years away from the Sprint Cup series races such as Indianapolis, Daytona and Talladega. On the other hand, if he keeps his current pace, he is far closer to winning many new fans and broadening racing’s audience in the not so distant future.

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October 24, 2013

By James W. Wade III

Special to the NNPA from The Call & Post

 

Cleveland felt let down when quarterback Brian Hoyer got hurt, since Hoyer had helped turn the Browns around, and he won two straight games. “He’s been a big part of what we’ve done the last couple of weeks. I think it was a little bit of a shock for the guys at first. But (QB) Brandon (Weeden) came in and played real well. I think the guys rallied around him. In the second quarter we got rolling and were playing a lot better there. I can’t say enough about Brandon coming in, and in the situation he did, not having practiced a lot this week and being able to play the way he did and get the job done,” said Browns coach Rob Chudzinski.

Cleveland has some great fans. Any team that wins, we will always see them come out to support them. “They always remember the ’64 championship, these people want a winner,” Jim Brown said.

While being interviewed by the NFL network, Jim Brown shared his view on the Trent Richardson trade. “Because of what you have to do when you rebuild, one man is not going to be a big deal…in your rebuilding unless he is a certain kind of a back,” Brown stated.

“He is not only a cherished member of the Browns, but his contributions to the NFL and its national prevalence are immeasurable,” said Browns CEO Joe Banner. Brown’s 1,863 rushing yards in the 1963 season remain a Cleveland franchise record. It is currently the oldest franchise record for rushing yards out of all 32 NFL teams.

Fans will always appreciate the legendary, greatest running back of all time, Jim Brown, especially in Cleveland, and it’s good to see him reunited with his team that he loves, dearly.

The Cleveland Browns presented Brown with the game ball at the end of the night.

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October 24, 2013

By Antonio Harvey

Special to the NNPA from The Sacramento Observer

 

DOWNTOWN SACRAMENTO — It’s no joking matter when the Sacramento Kings principle owner Vivek Ranadivé says time after time that he likes to surround himself with people “smarter” than he is. Based on his professional background, the self-imposed discipline Ranadive endorses has been an effective tool for the software engineer and the companies he has built.

Ranadivé has been making some productive personnel changes since he took over the reigns of the Kings. He is also showing his commitment to diversity during the process. It’s a procedure that should fit the Sacramento region and its humanly inhabitants perfectly.

“It’s all about people,” Ranadivé told The OBSERVER during an exclusive interview at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in downtown Sacramento. “The one piece of advice I got when I became an entrepreneur was to surround myself with people smarter than me. I’m not super smart. So I’ve been able to do that. But it’s the same philosophy I’m carrying over into the Kings’ journey.”

What Ranadivé is specifically “carrying over” to the Kings’ operation is obviously the business model that works for TIBCO Software Inc., his 16-year-old software company headquartered in Palo Alto. Ranadivé’s first company he founded in 1986 is Teknekron Software Systems.

TIBCO, short for The Information Bus Company, provides infrastructure software for companies to use on-premise or as part of cloud computing environments. TIBCO employs its trademark’s products to supply companies the “two-second advantage,”which is the ability to retrieve information instantly and act on it to gain a competitive advantage.

TIBCO has more than 4,000 customers worldwide that count on the software company to act as a steward for information, decisions, people, and data in real time. Ranadivé’s high-level management team and staff includes people of all different races and gender. Former San Francisco 49ers great Roger Craig is one of the Kings’ owner best friends and business associate.

“We just have the best people (to work for TIBCO),” he said. “That’s something you can never compromise.”

With the inclusion of 160,000-plus African Americans, the Sacramento region boast more than 2.5 million people and has a diversity pool that may exhibit a face from every corner of the globe. Ranadivé likes that human-facade factor of Sacramento. He made references to the region’s diversity as a form of popular music or a gumbo mix.

“Oh, I think it’s fantastic,” Ranadivé said of the makeup of the region. “What you get is the ultimate jazz band. You have people from everywhere. Bring them together and great things happen.”

The Kings’ ownership group, Ranadivé cited, is a mixture of backgrounds within itself. Youtube co-founder Steven Chen (Taiwanese American), the Jacobs family that founded Qualcomm (Jewish Americans), and former NBA star Dr. Shaquille O’Neal (African American) are a part of the Kings ownership group. Ranadivé is from the of India, the second most populated country in the world.

“If you look through it, you’ll find just about every kind of person represented in the ownership group,” Ranadivé told The OBSERVER. “You’ll see the same thing in the Kings’ staff like Shareef Abdur-Raheem (also African American). He’s the general manager of our D-League team and he’s doing a fantastic job.”

TIBCO and the Kings, as diversified as they are, is a only a key component of Ranadive’s repertoire. He is persistent in hiring the best people that are qualified for the position. People with different ethnic backgrounds is a plus, though performing the tasks with competent skills is a must, Ranadivé said.

“I am actually pretty colorblind,” Ranadivé said. “I have the best people and it just turns out that they come from everywhere. Openness is one of my core values. Openness and diversity actually make good business sense.”

Leslie Moore, TIBCO Software Inc.’s Director and Global Head of Corporate Communications and a graduate from Fresno State University, said the company’s diversity makeup stretches around the world. TIBCO is global and has offices all around the planet earth.

“(Diversity) carries over into his software company,” Ms. Moore said of Ranadivé. “His executive leadership group reads like an international, global database.”

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson expressed that Ranadivé’s Kings could be a definitive reflection of TIBCO. Johnson said Ranadivé built his company and reputation on finding the cream of the crop to implement the business’ vision and organizational infrastructure. Ranadivé is completely changing the whole Kings organization’s culture from top to bottom.

“I think that most people realize that if you want to build a high-performing company or high-performing sports team…diversity is in your best interests,” Johnson said. “You want to get the best and the brightest. But when you have different perspectives…certainly you’re able to do that (perform at a high level). And certainly, (Ranadivé) is able to tout his success in Silicon Valley. I’m sure that same kind of broad-based approach, diversity and perspective, will be a part of what he brings to the Sacramento Kings’ franchise,” Johnson stated.

In regards to building the Kings back into a winning franchise, Ranadivé also shared that the team is operating under a mission statement that relies on enhancing lives, reaching the lives of those it touches “and to make the world a better place,” he said.

Along with the mission statement, excellence, integrity, hard work, openness, and amusement values have been incorporated into the franchise to ensure everyone is making a contribution and commitment to put out the best product possible.

“We’ve laid all this out and everybody has bought into it so that we are all on the same page,” Ranadivé said. “The analogy I make is that the 20th century model ­leadership was a marching band where everybody robotically marched to the beat of a single drum. The 21st century model that I subscribes to is more jazz. Everyone can contribute, do their own thing, and sometimes improvise. But at the end of the day…what occurs…is beautiful music,” Ranadivé stated.

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October 24, 2013

Associated Press

 

GRAMBLING, La. (AP) — Naquan Smith and his Grambling football teammates have no regrets about a nearly weeklong boycott that forced the university to forfeit its game against Jackson State on Saturday.

Grambling players stood behind Smith Monday during a press conference outside of the Eddie Robinson Museum on campus. Smith said the entire team was present and that the vote to return to the field was “100 percent.”

“The football team took a stance on what we thought was right,” Smith said. “We did not quit on our university. There are many problems that exist and if no one says anything, nothing will become of our institution. We hope coach Eddie Robinson and his legendary players appreciate we took a stand and thought we were right.”

Smith said players decided to end the boycott after reaching out to several Grambling greats, including former coach Doug Williams, who advised them to, “Go out there and play football.”

Williams also put them in contact with Baton Rouge businessman Jim Bernhard.

Smith said Bernhard told players he has their “best intentions at heart and that he would ensure we had updated facilities, but we had to agree to being back practicing Monday ... and finish the remainder of our season.”

Smith said although the team will play, “We have not forgotten the situation and how we’ve gotten here.”

Players refused to travel to Saturday’s game at Jackson State, a forfeit, because of issues with university leaders.

The Southwest Athletic Conference said Sunday that Grambling had not been fined yet. SWAC Commissioner Duer Sharp told The Associated Press on Friday that Grambling would be subject to a fine for forfeiting according to the league’s bylaws.

Grambling will resume practice on Monday evening at the university practice facility. The Tigers host Texas Southern on Saturday.

“Everyone on the team wanted to play, but to get what we feel is right, we had to take a stand and make sure our voice was heard,” Smith said.

Smith said he had no comment when asked if there had been any pushback from university officials because of the boycott. No athletic administration officials were present at the players’ press conference.

It’s been a tough season for Grambling (0-8), which is on its third coach this season and has lost 18 straight football games to NCAA opponents. Williams was fired after just two games this season and replaced by George Ragsdale, who was reassigned within the athletic department on Thursday and replaced by Dennis “Dirt” Winston.

The players have not participated in practices or games since Tuesday, when they walked out of contentious meeting with school administration.

Emmett Gill, the national director for the Student Athlete Human Rights Project, said he was on campus to help ensure that players do not face retaliation from school administration for their protest.

Grambling’s administration has confirmed one of the players’ concerns was about travel. The team recently took buses to games in Kansas City and Indianapolis.

University spokesman Will Sutton said Grambling has endured a 57 percent cut in state funding over several years that has affected the entire campus.

The athletic department was asked to cut $335,000 this year from its overall department budget of $6.8 million. Sutton said football was cut by $75,000 to about $2 million.

ESPN reported Saturday that it had obtained a letter detailing player complaints, which included mold in the locker room and improperly cleaned uniforms contributing to an increased likelihood of staph infections.

Sutton said that local health department inspectors, acting on an anonymous tip, recently visited Grambling athletic facilities and recommended changes to improve conditions, but did not deem those facilities a health hazard.

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October 17, 2013

Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

 

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder staunchly defended his decision to keep the team’s name on Wednesday amid a growing opposition that has gathered steam after President Obama recently weighed in on the topic.

In a letter to season-ticket holders, Snyder said that while he was cognizant of the criticism of the name — which many consider a disparaging term for Native Americans — the team’s tradition and legacy is too important to consider a switch.

“I’ve listened carefully to the commentary and perspectives on all sides, and I respect the feelings of those who are offended by the team name,” he said. “But I hope such individuals also try to respect what the name means, not only for all of us in the extended Washington Redskins family, but among Native Americans too.”

Snyder, a “lifelong” Redskins fan who purchased the team from Jack Kent Cooke for $800 million in 1999, wrote in the letter of attending his first Redskins game at 6 years old with his late father. He spoke of when the franchise in 1932, then located in Boston, changed the team name to the Redskins.

“On that inaugural Redskins team, four players and our head coach were Native Americans,” he said. “The name was never a label. It was, and continues to be, a badge of honor.”

The issue has always been a contentious one, but has heated up in recent years as other sports teams with nicknames deemed racially insensitive toward Native Americans have changed in an era of increased political correctness.

President Obama said earlier this month that he would consider changing the name if he owned the team.

“I respect the opinions of those who disagree. I want them to know that I do hear them, and I will continue to listen and learn,” Snyder said. “But we cannot ignore our 81-year history, or the strong feelings of most of our fans as well as Native Americans throughout the country. After 81 years, the team name ‘Redskins’ continues to hold the memories and meaning of where we came from, who we are, and who we want to be in the years to come.”

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