Prodigy dies at 42 and other news of the week The week that was June 19-June 23

Monday 06.19.17

The state of North Carolina, that bastion of civil rights, had a law barring sex offenders from using social media sites, such as Facebook, invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court also ruled that rejecting trademarks that “disparage” others violates the First Amendment; the Washington Redskins, locked in their own legal battle with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, wasn’t a party in the current case but supported the decision, which ruled in favor of Asian-American band The Slants. New York sports radio host Mike Francesa, when learning of the decision, referred to The Slants’ members as “Oriental Americans,” and when told that phrase was offensive, he asked, “You’re telling me that using the word ‘Oriental American’ is a slight?” The 47-year-old husband of Beyoncé announced a new, stream-only album available exclusively to the hundreds of Tidal and Sprint customers. In honor of Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery, President Donald Trump released a statement praising two white men (President Abraham Lincoln and Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger), and a sportswriter questioned the history of American police and slave patrols. A heady reporter tried Lyft Shuttle, the ride-sharing company’s beta-stage commuter option, which allows riders to “walk to a nearby pickup spot, get in a shared car that follows a predesignated route, and drops you (and everyone else) off at the same stop” — or, in other words, a bus. A data firm hired by the Republican National Committee left sensitive information — including names, dates of birth and home addresses — of nearly 200 million registered voters exposed to the internet; the company responsible, Deep Root Analytics, calls itself “the most experienced group of targeters in Republican politics.”

The Philadelphia 76ers officially acquired the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, paving the way for the team to draft yet another player with past leg issues. Markelle Fultz, the first pick in Thursday’s draft, not only was traded from 53-win team to one that won just 28 games last season but also briefly considered signing with LaVar Ball’s Big Baller Brand over Nike. A Green Bay Packers fan and Wisconsin resident who, for some reason, has Chicago Bears season tickets, sued the Chicago franchise for not allowing him to wear Packers gear on the sideline at Soldier Field; the Wisconsin man told the court that the Bears “deprived me of my ability to fully enjoy this specific on-field experience.” In other bear news, three New Hampshire teenagers are being investigated for potential hate crimes for assaulting and yelling a racial slur at costumed Boston street musician Keytar Bear, who is black.

Tuesday 06.20.17

White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said White House press secretary Sean Spicer wouldn’t appear on camera as much because “Sean got fatter.” Former five-weight boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard offered UFC fighter Conor McGregor one piece of advice for his boxing match against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in August: “Duck.” FBI director nominee Christopher Wray once represented an American energy executive who was being criminally investigated by the Russian government, but Wray deleted that information from his official online biography sometime in 2017. Mattel diversified its Barbie and Ken doll lines, offering different sizes, skin tones and hairstyles, including man buns, cornrows and Afros. For the new heavyset Ken dolls, Mattel originally wanted to market them as “husky,” but, “A lot [of guys] were really traumatized by that — as a child, shopping in a husky section.” Twitter was in an uproar after it was reported that Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot was paid just $300,000 for her role in the critically acclaimed, $500 million movie, compared with $14 million for Man of Steel’s leading man, Henry Cavill; the latter figure was not true. Imprisoned former football player O.J. Simpson, who is up for parole for burglary and assault next month, spends his time in prison watching his daughter’s show Keeping Up With the Kardashians; “He likes to keep up with all the gossip with them,” a former prison guard said. NFL Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, last heard fighting prostitutes in Arizona, has decided to donate his brain to scientists when he dies; Sapp said his memory “ain’t what it used to be.” New York rapper Prodigy, real name Albert Johnson, died at the age of 42; Prodigy, one half of acclaimed duo Mobb Deep, had recently been hospitalized because of sickle cell anemia. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the nation’s top lawyer, hired his own lawyer. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, catching up to the 20th century, signed a bill that raised the age of consent for marriage from 14 to 18. An Algerian man was sentenced to two years in prison for dangling a baby out a 15th-floor window on Facebook, instructing his followers “1,000 likes or I will drop him.” A Canadian man stole a mummified toe that had been used as an ingredient in a hotel bar drink for more than 40 years; an employee said the hotel was “furious” because “toes are very hard to come by.” To test the performative advantages of the microbiome Prevotella, a Connecticut scientist performed a fecal transplant on herself, telling a news outlet: “It’s not fun, but it’s pretty basic.” Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard, at 8:55 p.m. ET, tweeted, “Ok Twitter Fans ,, give me your thoughts , trades or otherwise & Remember 2B-Nice”; five minutes later, Howard was traded to the Charlotte Hornets.

Wednesday 06.21.17

The Pentagon paid $28 million for “forest”-colored uniforms for the Afghan Army, yet “forests cover only 2.1% of Afghanistan’s total land area.” White House aide and former reality TV star Omarosa Manigault signs her name as “the Honorable Omarosa Manigault” despite not being a high-ranking federal official or judge. Despite President Trump once valuing his Westchester, New York, golf course at $50 million, the Trump Organization valued the property at $7.5 million on tax forms, half of the town assessor’s valuation of $15.1 million, to pay less in property taxes. The Russian government, accused by U.S. authorities of spreading fake news to influence the 2016 presidential election, said it will “raise the issue of fake news” at the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, calling it “a problem that should be defined and addressed collectively.” Although terrorism is defined as using violence for political reasons, the FBI said the shooting at a baseball practice for the Congressional Baseball Game by a white man had “no terrorism involved.” Meanwhile in Flint, Michigan, the stabbing of a police officer at an airport by a man who reportedly yelled, “Allahu Akbar” is being investigated by the FBI as an act of terrorism. A group of CIA contractors were fired from the agency for hacking a vending machine and stealing over $3,000 worth of snacks. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Montana), best known for body-slamming a Guardian reporter last month, was sworn in to the House; the Democratic Party of Montana sent Gianforte an orange jumpsuit for his first day in office. The daughter of two dentists who had enough education to teach their children about stocks and investments, and who, herself, owns a multimillion-dollar company, was taught to save and now plans to retire at 40. In shocking news, a new study found that films with diverse casts outperform films that are overwhelmingly white. A police officer was acquitted of fatally shooting a black man. An auto insurance industry-funded study found that states with legalized recreational marijuana laws had a higher frequency of auto collision claims than states without such laws. Murray Energy Corp. CEO Robert E. Murray sued comedian John Oliver for defamation after the HBO host used his weekly TV program to mock the energy executive, at one point calling Murray a “geriatric Dr. Evil”; Oliver predicted on his show June 18 that Murray would sue him. Hall of Fame professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler, known for calling women’s breasts “puppies” and other sexist remarks, said even he hated the finish of a historic all-women’s match that ended with a man winning. In response to the new American craze fidget spinners, Chinese companies have started selling the Toothpick Crossbow, a small, $1 handheld crossbow that can fire toothpicks 65 feet; parents worry the crossbows could blind young children, and Chinese state media fear iron nails could be swapped in for the toothpicks. New York Knicks president Phil Jackson said he is willing to trade 21-year-old center Kristaps Porizingis, who is 21, with the “future” of the team in mind.

Thursday 06.22.17

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith, still visibly upset over the recent actions of Phil Jackson, pointed out that the Knicks president’s first front office deal back in 2014 was signing forward Lamar Odom, “who was on crack”; Odom was released from the team three months later. Meanwhile, an NBA prospect said Jackson was “falling in and out of sleep” during the prospect’s workout. Knicks owner James Dolan skipped out on the NBA draft to perform with his band, JD & The Straight Shot, at a local winery-music venue. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who last week said U.S. presidents “cannot obstruct justice,” said President Trump alleged he had tapes of former FBI director James Comey to “rattle” him. The president, who in May insinuated that he had “tapes” of conversations with Comey, tweeted that he, in fact, does not have any such tapes. The lack of diversity at the Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal is so dire that some reporters have taken to calling the newspaper “White Castle.” In another example of “life comes at you fast,” Chicago Cubs outfielder and World Series hero Kyle Schwarber was demoted to Triple-A Iowa after batting just .171 through the first 71 games of the season. The trainer for former Chicago Bulls forward Jimmy Butler, in response to his client being traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, said he’s met “drug dealers with better morals” than Bulls general manager Gar Forman. Hip-hop artist Shock G, best known for his seminal 1990s hit “Humpty Dance,” was arrested in Wisconsin on suspicion of drug paraphernalia possession; there was no mention of whether or not the arrest took place at a Burger King restaurant. Just days after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the company amid hostile work environment allegations, some company employees began circulating a petition to have Kalanick reinstated, stating “[Travis Kalanick], no matter his flaws (everyone has them) was one of the best leaders I have seen.” Montgomery County, Maryland, police are using DNA evidence to help create composite sketches of those suspected of sexual assault; the DNA, described as “bodily fluids,” is assumed to be male semen. A New York woman who traveled to the Dominican Republic to get reduced breast implants and liposuction developed an infection and now has a hole in one of her breasts; the woman, who traveled to the Caribbean island for a cheaper $5,000 procedure, will now pay over $10,000 in recovery costs. Famed comedian Bill Cosby is planning a series of town halls aimed at young people, specifically athletes, on how to avoid sexual assault allegations. After nearly three months of secrecy, Republican senators publicly released their version of a replacement for the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In unrelated news, only 38 percent of Americans want the president and Congress to repeal and replace the ACA.

FRIDAY 06.23.17

A Trump administration official once filed for bankruptcy because of his wife’s medical bills for treating her chronic Lyme disease. President Trump all but confirmed his former tweets about alleged “tapes” of former FBI director James Comey were an attempt to influence the director’s Senate testimony. Comey, who announced the reopening of an investigation into Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton just 11 days before the Nov. 8 election, refused three weeks earlier to attach his name to a statement on Russia’s involvement in that election because “it was too close to the election for the bureau to be involved.” A North Korea spokesman said the death of American college student Otto Warmbier just days after he was released from imprisonment in the country is a “mystery to us as well.” NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman, who was in North Korea around the same time Warmbier was released last week, said dictator Kim Jong-Un is a “friendly guy,” and the two sing karaoke and ride horses together. Zola, a gorilla at the Dallas Zoo, danced to (a dubbed-over version of) Michael Sembello’s 1996 hit “Maniac.” The St. Louis Cardinals announced their first Pride Night celebration at Busch Stadium; a disgruntled fan demanded that the team “stop forcing this down my throat.” Great Britain, loser of the Revolutionary War, is now putting chocolate in its chili. In response to Pirates of the Caribbean actor Johnny Depp asking an English crowd “When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” a White House spokesperson condemned the remarks: “President Trump has condemned violence in all forms, and it’s sad that others like Johnny Depp have not followed his lead.” Hours later, New Hampshire state Rep. Al Baldasaro, a Trump campaign adviser, visited the White House; last year, Baldasaro said Hillary Clinton “should be shot in a firing squad for treason.” Five-foot-9 Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said if he were taller he’d be “the best player in the world.” Nearly 500 Syrian civilians have been killed in U.S.-led airstrikes against two provinces in the Middle Eastern country. Former MTV Jersey Shore star Ronnie Magro-Ortiz, describing his breakup with fellow reality TV star Malika Haqq, said he and Haqq were like “oil and water.” He added: “It tastes good with bread, but it’s just not mixing.” A jury deadlocked for the second time in the case of a police officer killing a black man. After less-than-stellar reviews from critics and Jada Pinkett Smith, and a 22 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me is being sued for copyright infringement by veteran journalist Kevin Powell.

Daily Dose: 6/23/17 Bill Cosby is taking his show on the road

It’s officially summer. That means you’ll have a lot more people randomly taking Fridays off. And for that reason, I’m filling in on The Dan Le Batard Show today with Ryan Hollins. Should be a fun one.

Johnny Depp needs to chill. Thursday at the Glastonbury Festival in England, he intimated that he might want to assassinate President Donald Trump. Not only is this not cool at all from an obvious human standpoint, but this can also turn out to be a pretty awful career move. Just ask Kathy Griffin. Of course, Depp is rich beyond belief, but he apparently also has issues handling money, so he might want to be able to continue to work for a while. This is not going to end well for Depp.

Bill Cosby has no shame. The man who openly admitted to drugging women to have sex with them, managed to get a hung jury in a sexual assault trial, then had his handlers openly brag about his restored power is really craven. He’s planning public speaking arrangements about how to avoid sexual assault accusations. The plan is to focus on speaking to young athletes and married men. They’re going to have to pay people to show up to these things. Simple lesson: Assault is the problem. Not the accusations.

When I was a teenager, I skated a lot. Not like, let me go to the skate park and learn tricks, but more of a “I need a faster and more fun way to get around town” type. So I never really got good enough to do anything that would impress anyone, but I could ollie well enough to hop a curb from the street if I needed to. Whether I can still actually do that or not, I have no idea. But I will be covering the X Games later this summer, so maybe we’ll see. Anyway, one reporter tried to pick up skating as a grown-up and, well, it wasn’t quite what she expected.

The White House is affecting the New York Jets. If owner Woody Johnson is confirmed as U.S. ambassador to the U.K., that means his kid brother Chris is going to have to take over daily operations of the team. I love the idea of the Jets falling apart because of the owner’s excessive political aspirations. Woody Johnson screaming about some butt fumble situation with a cup of tea on the table is an image I won’t get out of my mind anytime soon. I really hope the U.S. Embassy in London is lame enough to fly a Jets flag too.

Free Food

Coffee Break: I admitted to myself the one thing in life I know I’ll regret is not being able to be around when the numbers game simply changes in the U.S. That will be when there are just too many people of color to allow unfair practices to rule our land. Here’s a great story on how interracial love is saving the nation.

Snack Time: Keep telling yourself that everything is fair in America, kiddos. Check out these two photos and you’ll get a real good look at how we are treated versus everyone else.

Dessert: Vince Staples’ new album is out. It’s got many sounds and is perfect for a party to run all the way.

Despite mistrial, Cosby is America’s dirty old man A hung jury didn’t erase the stain from multiple accusations of sexual assault

Bill Cosby might have once been America’s Dad, but after last weekend, his legacy is on a razor’s edge.

A jury chosen in Pittsburgh and sequestered throughout the trial held in suburban Philadelphia was deadlocked for several days deciding whether to convict him on charges of sexual assault, ultimately forcing a judge to declare a mistrial that will leave Cosby to deal with a myriad of questions about his personal conduct with women going back decades.

The district attorney on the case has vowed to retry Cosby on charges that he assaulted a former associate after drugging her. The fact that he wasn’t convicted isn’t likely to solve the deadlock that millions of Cosby fans have had these past few years about whether he’s actually “America’s Dad” or more like “America’s Dirty Old Man.”

Have no doubt: This trial really doesn’t make any of that go away.

As a Philadelphia native and Temple University graduate, I had great interest in this trial, particularly given my personal involvement with Cosby as a journalist working in Milwaukee in 2004, when he came to town as part of a community “call-out” tour to speak to black audiences about self-responsibility and positive messages.

Ironically, that’s the same year Andrea Constand, a Temple University athletic department employee, claimed Cosby sexually assaulted her after drugging her with pills.

The trial came after numerous women made the same allegations against Cosby, some of them far past the statute of limitations for prosecution, tarnishing the reputation of the comedian who has been world-famous for 50 years and lionized as both an artist and a philanthropist for African-American causes.

The Cosby Show cemented his reputation as a socially conscious entertainer and established his image as a positive role model who was also an advertising titan capable of selling millions of dollars of merchandise for companies looking to take advantage of his positive image.

That’s why a Father’s Day conviction would have been both ironic and damaging. But this nonresolution doesn’t really do much to settle things.

Like the cases of O.J. Simpson, Michael Jackson and other celebrities who underwent public criminal trials, most seem to accept that Cosby was a special case in terms of the willingness by jurors to convict a famous person.

The women who accused Cosby were also in a special case. They weren’t show business groupies who wanted to extort money from a rich and famous man. In many respects, this wasn’t a case about sex at all; it was mostly about power. The women all claimed Cosby exerted power over them by taking away their power to refuse him.

That’s what makes the trial all the more disturbing to someone like me, who grew up in North Philadelphia hearing about Cosby as a childhood hero and actually getting the chance to meet and interact with him personally over a period of months before his Milwaukee visit.

After that experience, I maintained a relationship of sorts with him over the years with occasional phone contact and invitations to his Milwaukee comedy shows. It was seductive at some point, where I began to think of myself as an authentic friend.

Later, I learned that Cosby took the same tack with numerous black journalists in the cities he visited during his “call-out” tour. He seemed to realize the impact his celebrity had on regular people, including journalists.

The reports about his alleged misconduct with women who claimed to have been drugged began with a trickle that quickly became a constant faucet after comedian Hannibal Buress’ attack on Cosby’s sanctimonious attitude toward various segments of the African-American hip-hop community went viral.

Suddenly, everybody knew Bill Cosby had been accused of doing some down-low dirty stuff. The first trial to come out of those accusations featured Constand’s emotional testimony, but only one other woman who had the same experience.

Because of a judge’s ruling, none of the multiple other claims that Cosby drugged women was considered by the jury. If those voices had been heard, some experts believe the jury would not have been deadlocked for more than 50 hours.

But this jury apparently didn’t believe it had enough evidence to convict the man they had likely all grown up revering. The district attorney has vowed to have another trial to give Constand, and all of the other alleged victims, a satisfying day in court.

Cosby hasn’t been found guilty of anything. So, according to the system, he’s still innocent of all charges.

But after what we’ve learned from this trial and all the other stories, I believe there’s little chance he will ever be considered “America’s Dad” again.

That is a verdict all by itself.

Bill Cosby’s sexual assault mistrial was as much about power as it was about rape Cosby’s silence speaks of his wholesale betrayal

If you ever needed proof that rape is as much about power as it is about sex, a Pennsylvania courtroom just handed it to you. On the day that Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case was declared a mistrial, his spokesperson Andrew Wyatt came right out and proudly preached to the world, “Mr. Cosby’s power is back. It’s back. It has been restored.”

While the blind comedian stood behind him, Wyatt methodically explained, whether he knew so or not, exactly why misogyny and toxic masculinity keep scores of women from never reporting their attackers.

In the words of Huey P. Newton: “Power is the ability to defy phenomena, and make it act in a designed manner.” Wyatt then repeated it. After the aforementioned declaration of the return of Cosby’s power, he continued: “The legacy didn’t go anywhere, it has been restored.”

It’s impossible to forget any of the steps that got us here. The initial accusers. The payoffs. The subsequent accusers. The pound cake speech. Hannibal Buress. All the other shenanigans that Cosby’s lawyers tried to pull to make sure this very trial would never come to light.

Ultimately, Andrea Constand was allowed to confront her accuser and a jury simply couldn’t bring themselves to convict a man who legitimately admitted to violating her when she was unable to move. Cosby was so obsessed with his invasive conquests that he told his accuser’s own mother about what he did to her.

It’s hard to describe what happens to people when they get to control things. Most men live their whole lives not realizing how much opportunity and unjust right they are given to power. But when they get it, they believe they deserve it. Bill Cosby, apparently since the age of 11, has been consumed with controlling women. When he agreed to pay Constand’s school costs, as an offset for his actions, he insisted she maintain a 3.0 GPA. Even in admitting wrong, he had to have some level of say in her choices.

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” were the words of Lord Acton, the 19th-century British politician. Cosby’s world and mind were so incredibly corrupted that he didn’t even believe that what he was doing was wrong. Woven into the fabric of his existence is a world in which women were in his life for the purposes of being his sexual objects. Most men are taught to think this way. He thought this was OK. From the way he talks, as a man of power, he thought it was his right.

I don’t need a courtroom full of people to come to a decision for me to know that Cosby is a scumbag. That was clear ages ago. In a time in America in which the legal system is so obviously perverted toward the maintenance of patriarchal power structures, nobody on earth thought this man was going to be convicted.

The odd irony of the entire thing is that Cosby knows his spokesman is lying. His eyes are failing, not his mouth. He made a living with his voice but would rather let someone else do his bidding at this stage of life. It’s a very cruel twist on rape culture that he should be allowed to be silent when he spent so many years silencing dozens of women who cried out to be heard.

No one man should have all that power. But only men do.

Warriors win the NBA Finals The Week That Was June 12-June 16

Monday 06.12.17

Ivanka Trump, who is the daughter of President Donald Trump and has presumably known him for 35 years, said that “there’s a level of viciousness that I was not expecting” in response to her father’s presidency. Former potential NBC buyer Bill Cosby declined to testify in his sexual assault trial, and his defense team rested after only three minutes and without calling an original witness. Hip-hop entrepreneur Sean “Diddy” Combs topped Forbes magazine’s list of highest-paid entertainers, notably beating out last year’s top earner, Taylor Swift, by nearly $100 million. McDonald’s announced it will use social media app Snapchat to hire future employees this summer; the app, known for its animated filters and porn, is expected to “lure in younger applicants” for the fast-food giant. Meanwhile, a close friend of the president told PBS that Trump was considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller, who is in charge of the ongoing Russia investigation. Professional wrestler Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte was sentenced to community service and a $385 fine for his assault of a Guardian reporter during last month’s special election in Montana; Gianforte said it was not his “intention to hurt” the reporter whom he punched and slammed to the ground. During a meandering rant about abortion on his official Facebook page, Missouri state Rep. Mike Moon beheaded a live chicken, cut its feet off, and removed its heart. Twitter argued over the effectiveness of Crock-Pots; in the words of one straightforward dissenter, “why on earth u wanna cook slow.” Seattle Seahawks running back Eddie Lacy received another $55,000 for not being fat. Former NBA referee Tim Donaghy, who spent more than a year in prison for illegally gambling on games, claimed the league will try to force a Game 6 in the NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors ended the Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5.

Tuesday 06.13.17

After the Warriors’ victory, Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib took a shot at Golden State forward Kevin Durant, calling the Finals MVP a “suburban kid” who had to “Link up with the best” to win a championship, and that the Hall of Fame is “laughing at you right now”; Talib, who shot himself in the leg last year, joined the Broncos in 2014, a season after Denver eliminated his former team, the New England Patriots, from the playoffs. A Canadian man who is blind in one eye installed a video camera over his eyeball; faced with privacy concerns, the man posited, “Am I not allowed to put an eye camera in my own body?” Hours after NBA Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman arrived in North Korea, an American college student who had been detained in the country since 2016 for allegedly attempting to steal a political banner was released to U.S. authorities; Rodman, who is in North Korea for a reported fifth time, had his trip sponsored by a company specializing in weed-industry cryptocurrency. Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said there was no evidence to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel. Hours later, it was reported that the president is being talked down by his staff from firing Mueller. R&B singer Tinashe, who is mixed-race, acknowledged the presence of colorism in the black community but explained that she is usually the victim of it, telling a reporter that “sometimes I feel like I don’t fully fit into the black community; they don’t fully accept me.” Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who has been rocked by the recent death of his mother and his own workplace behavior, including meditating in the company lactation room and instructing his employees to “not have sex with another employee” at a company party, has taken a leave of absence from the ride-sharing company. During a companywide meeting to discuss Uber’s alleged “bro culture,” a 74-year-old board member interrupted a female board member by making a sexist joke; the board member stepped down shortly afterward. President Trump reportedly told Republican senators that the House-adopted health care bill, which the president in May called a “great plan,” is too “mean” and called it a “son of a b—-.”

Wednesday 06.14.17

A gunman shot three people, including Rep. Steve Scalise, at a congressional baseball team practice in Alexandria, Virginia. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, who was at the practice field, proposed that lawmakers should be able to carry weapons, including, presumably, while playing baseball. In response to the shooting, Vox editor-in-chief and U.S. history buff Ezra Klein tweeted: “It’s easy to forget what a blessing it is to live in a country where politics rarely leads to violence.” Hours later, three UPS employees were killed by a gunman at a sorting facility in San Francisco. Former NBA commissioner David Stern, who was called a “modern plantation overseer” by journalist Bryant Gumbel in 2011, called Gumbel “an idiot” and said he, the implementer of the league’s controversial dress code, has “done more for people of color” than Gumbel, a black man. Days after reports came out that UNLV basketball players Dakota and Dylan Gonzalez were quitting the team to pursue music and Central Florida football player Donald De La Haye may have to give up his YouTube channel in the face of NCAA violations, University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said the football team’s recent $800,000 trip to Rome was paid for by an undisclosed school donor. A fire at a London apartment complex left at least 12 people dead. Five Michigan officials were charged with involuntary manslaughter for their roles in the ongoing contaminated-water crisis in Flint, Michigan. Right-leaning cable network Fox News has plans to drop its “Fair & Balanced” slogan, not because the tagline wasn’t true but to further distance the company from Roger Ailes, the late former network president. The Houston Astros, who called up outfield prospect Derek Fisher from Class AAA Fresno, will face the Boston Red Sox this weekend, with right-handed closer Matt Barnes expected to play. For the sequel to 1996’s Great White Hype, retired undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. and UFC fighter Conor McGregor agreed to a boxing match on Aug. 26. A Texas couple was arrested and charged after authorities found 600 pounds of meth-laced candy, some of which were shaped like Star Wars characters R2-D2 and Yoda, in the couple’s home. A 21-year-old Maine woman, who is a vegetarian, drowned a rabies-infected raccoon in a puddle of mud on a walking trail she had been jogging along.

Thursday 06.15.17

How now, brown cow: 7 percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. A day after saying that “everyone who serves in our nation’s capital is here because, above all, they love our country,” President Trump tweeted that “some very bad and conflicted people,” presumably members of the FBI, were carrying out “the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history.” The Uber driver who shuttled Buffalo Bills cornerback Shareece Wright 540 miles from Chicago to Buffalo, New York, last week is an Iranian refugee who was tortured by Iranian intelligence agents on multiple occasions and hopes to one day become an astronaut; Wright, who was rushing to get to voluntary team workouts, injured his calf during minicamp. In more disturbing Uber news, the company is being sued by a woman who was sexually assaulted by one of the company’s drivers. Dennis Rodman, while still in North Korea, gave two books to country leader Kim Jong Un: Where’s Waldo? and President Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino was issued a five-game suspension by the NCAA for his role in the hiring of exotic dancers for players and recruits; the panel that issued the punishment said in its findings that “NCAA rules do not allow institutional staff members to arrange for stripteases and sex acts.” During the Warriors’ championship parade in Oakland, California, forward Draymond Green wore a shirt with “Quickie” written on the front, with the “Q” in the same font as the Quicken Loans logo; the Cleveland Cavaliers play in Quicken Loans Arena. Cleveland forward LeBron James responded to the T-shirt on Instagram with a caption reading “That’s what she said, HUH?!?!?”; fellow NBA superstars Russell Westbrook and James Harden “liked” the photo. Hours later, Green responded with a photo of James with the caption “Them dubs finally made him go bald!!! Congrats bro @kingjames.” A 71-year-old Kansas City man who robbed a bank because he’d “rather be in jail than be at home” with his wife was sentenced to six months of home confinement.

FRIDAY 06.16.17

E-commerce juggernaut Amazon, like most of America, spent a lot of money at Whole Foods, purchasing the supermarket chain for $13.7 billion. President Trump admitted that he is “being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” Rod Rosenstein, the purported “man” who told Trump to fire FBI director James Comey, has, like his boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reportedly considered recusing himself from the Russia investigation. To add to the president’s exceptional week, his approval rating dropped to 35 percent in a new poll. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, apparently bored with life and ready to die at the age of 31, will race a great white shark. After his bodyguards savagely beat protesters last month at the Turkish Embassy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized American authorities’ response, asking, “What kind of law is this? If my bodyguards cannot protect me, then why am I bringing them to America with me?” NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, who is black, said he is the “black Steph Curry,” who is also black. The Boston Police Department’s Twitter account sent out a photo of an officer with three black girls along with the caption: “The #BPD Ice Cream Truck gives kids a reason to run towards our officers and not away from them”; the tweet was later deleted. President Trump’s lawyer hired his own lawyer. LeBron James, ironically nicknamed “King James,” said the only two people who can score on him in the post are “Shaquille O’Neal in his prime … and Jesus Christ.” Minnesota Vikings receiver Michael Floyd violated the terms of his house arrest by drinking alcohol; Floyd blamed the failed tests on Kombucha tea.

Daily Dose: 6/8/17 Sen. Kamala Harris steals the show at Comey hearing

The bars were packed in Washington, D.C., to watch of a bunch of politicians talk. Adults, babies, reporters, everyone. Wild.

James Comey was ready for his close-up. On Wednesday, the former FBI chief submitted his written testimony about what he felt happened between himself and President Donald Trump, with some interesting details about a dinner they had. There were also references to Russian sex workers, which we all know is a pretty salacious topic. But he didn’t even read that statement, instead making different opening remarks that basically included him saying that Trump was dishonest. This is all obviously a huge deal. California Sen. Kamala Harris was the real star, tho.

Typically, if I’ve had a few drinks, I smoke cigarettes. It’s something I’ve done since college and have on occasion put down, but I justify the smoking by saying it’s something that only happens when I drink, which is true. I otherwise find smoking pretty gross. But what is that? Is there such a thing as addiction that’s dependent on something else? Sort of like how every time I eat yogurt I immediately want mandarin oranges? It turns out it has to do with your memory as much as anything. Weird.

In case you forgot, Bill Cosby is still on trial. Andrea Constand, the woman who worked for Temple’s basketball team and accused the comedian of raping her, took the stand this week. But Wednesday, her mother did too. And while she was on the stand, she testified about a conversation she had with Cosby after her daughter told her what happened. Frankly, the details are horrifying and you’re left with the conclusion that Bill just didn’t see anything wrong with what he did. Which is the scary part.

The Stanley Cup Final resumes Thursday night, and the Nashville Predators officially made it a series. They not only won two in a row against the Pittsburgh Penguins at home to tie the series, but they also did so in glorious fashion, including a 5-1 bangout in Game 3 that had Nashville going completely wild. Now they go back to Pittsburgh, and things have changed entirely. But let’s be clear, this is not some flash-in-the-pan situation for the Preds. Their comeback is very real, and there are people in this world who think they could actually win the Stanley Cup.

Free Food

Coffee Break: We love sports kids, but sometimes they get overexposed. Some children want to be just that, without letting the fame of their parents affect who they are. But for some kids, the spotlight is natural and warranted. Now, Chris Paul’s and Dwyane Wade’s sons have a web show together. It’s great.

Snack Time: Everyday Struggle is continuing its way into making it one of the more important hip-hop shows of record across the diaspora. They had SZA on recently; she’s got a new album out, and we learned about crystals.

Dessert: Alchemist has a big new project coming out, which means I’ll be buying a new Alchemist project.

Daily Dose: 6/5/17 Bill Cosby trial begins outside of Philadelphia

I didn’t get to see it this weekend, but I can’t wait until I do. Reviews like this will definitely get me to the theater.

Bill Cosby’s trial has already gotten off to an awkward start. He arrived at the courtroom in Norristown, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia on Monday with Keshia Knight Pulliam on his arm. You might remember her as the little girl who played Rudy on The Cosby Show, which is just uncomfortable on multiple levels. He doesn’t expect to testify at the trial, but the woman who accused him of sexual assault will, getting the ball rolling on so many others becoming willing to come out about encounters they had with the comedian. Here’s what to watch while this all unfolds.

Speaking of questionable characters named Bill, Mr. Maher is canceled. Not literally, but as far as I’m concerned he can go away and never come back. This dude, who hosts an HBO show, said during an interview in front of an audience that he was a “house n—–” without one bit of hesitation. Various people came to cape for him, which I’m never going to understand. The list includes Killer Mike, Donna Brazile, Michael Eric Dyson and his wife. Maher apologized, but the damage is done. It’s not like he’s got some great history when it comes to bigotry.

If you’re on Instagram, what you like is public. Meaning, if someone wants to know what it is you’re double-tapping on, all they have to do is go to the activity page and scroll to see that your co-worker is really into lemon trees, or your old high school baseball teammate is now seriously stalking models in Monaco. But what would you do if you saw your significant other like someone else’s butt selfie? Hurt, offended, angry, no big deal? Here’s one woman’s investigation into why her boyfriend hearts a model’s backside.

You might recall that Kobe Bryant once scored 81 points in a game. You might also remember that that game was against the Toronto Raptors. If you didn’t know, Jalen Rose was on that team and now is obviously an ESPN personality. I like Jalen a lot and always have since I was a middle schooler trying to emulate him and the Fab Five on the court. But when it comes to asking him about that fateful day, things can get awkward. Someone decided to lean all the way in on that and make a commercial out of it. It’s hilarious.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Graduation season is really fun. Particularly when school administrators aren’t being jerks and actually understand the ceremony is about the kids and not about keeping decorum or whatever nonsense they come up with to hate on fun. This is what graduation should look like.

Snack Time: Pusha T is an anti-gun-violence advocate, and he’s been in these streets delivering his message for quite some time. Recently, he penned a letter to a 6-year-old on the topic, and it’s perfectly adorable.

Dessert: Rest in peace, Cheick Tioté. He will not be forgotten. Tioté, 30, died after collapsing during training in China.

Lisa Bonet’s May 1988 cover of ‘Rolling Stone’ is timeless in its confident rebellion The bold photo was the precursor to the carefree black girl movement

Rolling Stone

Wild and peaceful. Confident, yet vulnerable. Unconventional, but unpretentious. Since she was a teenager, Lisa Bonet has balanced on this tightrope with effortless aplomb, radiating a perfect storm of energy through a glance, a smile — or a magazine cover.

Bonet was thrust into the spotlight at the age of 16 via the 1984 premiere of The Cosby Show, the lauded, occasionally divisive study of black affluence. Her flighty, restless Denise Huxtable stood out from the other Cosby Show kids, and in 1987 she became the focus of A Different World’s first season, as the Cosby Show spinoff centered on Denise’s adventures at her parents’ fictional alma mater, Hillman College.

But after spending her wonder years under prime-time television’s microscope, Bonet was still searching for herself. Her quest was punctuated by moments that read as acts of rebellion: the blood-soaked sex scene in Alan Parker’s Angel Heart, appearing topless in Andy Warhol’s Interview and eloping with Lenny Kravitz at the age of 20 — all before 1987 was complete. Gracing the cover of Rolling Stone’s Hot Issue in May 1988 was a fourth and emphatic exclamation point.

“To me, hot means uncompromising. It means nonconforming, not afraid, just be what you are and what you feel.” — Lisa Bonet

On the cover, Bonet wore an oversized translucent shirt and a blank expression. Staring directly into the soul of everyone who laid eyes on the magazine, she laid herself bare, literally stripping away any lingering notions about where Denise Huxtable ended and Lisa Bonet began. Bonet asserted herself as a grown woman. The cover of Rolling Stone Tina Turner was the first black female cover star in 1967 — was a key moment in Bonet’s liberation: her bohemian rhapsody, but above all, her declaration of independence.

Control. It’s the thesis of the album that launched Janet Jackson’s musical career, and what she sought by firing her domineering father. Beyoncé did the same to have the career she wanted. Bonet didn’t know her father growing up, and Bill Cosby became a de facto father figure — regardless of whether she wanted that.

Needing Cosby’s clearance, even for things unrelated to The Cosby Show and A Different World, kept her in a state of perpetual adolescence, even as she left that phase of life behind. “Lisa knows that if I’m upset about something, like, say MAD, I don’t bite my tongue,” Cosby told Ebony in 1987. “She knows that if I don’t like something, I will say it at the level that I don’t like it.” During a November 1986 appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, she mentions coming to Cosby for Angel Heart approval.

“I asked him before — I told him that I was gonna do this film, and it had a little nudity in it,” she told Letterman. “He was very good. He said, ‘Well, I know that this is just a job,’ and, you know, it is a Cosby show, and we know what Cosby spells backwards.” When Letterman asked what it spelled, Bonet replied, “King of … I don’t know” before trailing off. And when asked why she accepted the move to A Different World, she said it was because “they told me to,” as if it was obvious that her opinion was never considered.


Los Angeles native Matthew Rolston is one of the most prolific visual artists of his generation. While studying photography at Art Center College of Design during the 1970s, he caught the attention of Andy Warhol. His first professional assignment was to shoot a post-Jaws Steven Spielberg for Interview, which led to opportunities at Harper’s Bazaar and Rolling Stone — all while he was still a student. He’s shot Oprah Winfrey more than any photographer for O, The Oprah Magazine and is said to be the last photographer to have formally photographed Michael Jackson — another one of his first clients. Rolston, responsible for more than 100 Rolling Stone covers alone, points to Bonet’s April 1987 Interview cover as their first interaction.

She laid herself bare, literally stripping away any lingering notions about where Denise Huxtable ended and Lisa Bonet began.

“I knew Lisa because I’d photographed her for Interview, so I must’ve called up my editor and said that I wanted to shoot Lisa Bonet,” said Rolston, who’s also worked with Vogue, Vanity Fair, W and The New York Times, besides directing music videos for Beyoncé, Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, David Bowie, Madonna, En Vogue, TLC and many others. “That’s how it started.”

Bonet was the perfect subject. Although Rolston doesn’t remember the specifics that went into conceptualizing the photo shoot, he identifies a simple, proven formula. “If you want to shock everyone, put a gorgeous person either naked or near naked on the cover of a magazine,” he said. “Believe it or not, that used to be something that got a lot of attention. In today’s culture we don’t care, but back then, that was an event. And I always wanted a picture to be an entertainment event, not just a picture.”

But Rolston wasn’t merely playing provocateur. The Rolling Stone cover was built on trust cultivated during that Interview photo shoot, and Rolston’s vision simply matched Bonet’s contribution: an undeniable, magnetic warmth. “Lisa’s always had this hippy thing going on, and it’s very appealing,” said Rolston. “She must’ve been enjoying the fun of it, and she was a rebellious one.” He recalls a time between the Interview and Rolling Stone photo shoots when Bonet accompanied him to a Vanity Fair dinner as his “photo-op date.” She asked whether her “brother” could pick her up, and his arrival toward the end of the dinner caught Rolston off guard. “In comes a very handsome man named Romeo Blue — not yet known to the world as Lenny Kravitz,” he said. “I figured out pretty quickly what was going on: This was subterfuge for getting away from whatever parental control.”

The Rolling Stone Hot Issue was part of her domino effect path to freedom. “One of the reasons that photo shoot was so talked about is because she had been in Angel Heart,” said Rolston. “She played this voodoo priestess. That was considered very shocking to the wholesome image of this girl from The Cosby Show. I was likely playing that up a little bit.” So was Bonet. The two-page spread inside the magazine featured the actress completely (yet tastefully) nude, covering her breasts with her hands and tresses. And on the second page, Bonet offered her definition of “hot.”

“People think you’re hot if you’re on TV,” she said. “I don’t even have a TV, really. I’ve seen, like, two episodes of my own show. To me, hot means uncompromising. It means nonconforming, not afraid, just be what you are and what you feel. I think if you’re gonna go for it, you might as well go for it.” And according to the May 9, 1988, issue of New York Magazine, Bonet actually wanted a more polarizing cover: one featuring the nude photo. Citing an unnamed source, the magazine said Bonet demanded to meet with Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner after learning that it wouldn’t be on the cover: “She explained to him that her philosophy was ‘Go for it’ — since she agreed to be photographed naked, she might as well go all the way.”

“If you want to shock everyone, put a gorgeous person either naked or near naked on the cover of a magazine.” — Matthew Rolston

In the long run, it didn’t matter. Partially clothed or artfully exposed, Bonet had made her point. The young biracial woman who grew up “stuck in the middle,” as she told the Los Angeles Times in 1987, ascended to the cover of one of the most reputable glossy magazines in history, back when it was the size of a vinyl cover or small pizza box. Rolling Stone’s Hot Issue celebrated the year’s most relevant people, places and things; the misfit became the “It Girl.” But, more importantly, it was a high point in her transition into formal adulthood and away from Cosby’s reach.

Bonet left A Different World after its first season because she was pregnant with her eldest daughter, Zoë Kravitz. Debbie Allen, who took over as showrunner for the remainder of the series, has said she wanted to write Bonet’s pregnancy into the plot, but Cosby vetoed this immediately. Lisa Bonet could be pregnant, but not “Denise Huxtable.” And so he brought his prodigal surrogate daughter back to The Cosby Show nest, but the reunion was short-lived. Bonet was fired in 1991 because of “creative differences” and not invited to participate in the series finale. In a 1992 People article about the show’s end, Malcolm-Jamal Warner, who played her brother, Theo Huxtable, said he always “[admired] the way she followed her own drummer.”

Today, both Bonet and her Rolling Stone cover are iconic. It exalted the “black hippy” archetype and helped cement Bonet as the prototypical boho queen who birthed generations of Tumblrcore descendants. Looking back on the cover after nearly 30 years, Rolston is struck by its agelessness. “It looks really timeless to me,” he said. “With the style and look of it, it could almost be a current photo.” And, like Bonet’s aesthetic, it lives on through popular culture: It’s referenced during the homage-heavy Netflix original Luke Cage’s first season, where the namesake anoints Bonet and Zoë Kravitz The Godfather and its remarkable sequel. Bonet’s style and spirit endure — just like the cover. No wonder J. Cole, like many others, wishes he wasn’t too young for her.

Martin Lawrence’s ‘Martin,’ 20 years later The sitcom’s legacy is as hilarious as it is complicated

The finale of Martin aired in May 1997 as its five-season run limped to the finish line. Its demise was affected by a set of circumstances — allegations of sexual harassment, an emergency cruise storyline, a restraining order — that included Tisha Campbell walking off the Detroit set in November 1996. Core fans often omit mentioning the final season in discussions of the show, even decades later. The pain and discontent of the fifth season goes hand in hand with why Martin held such a prominent place in African-American culture during the 1990s to begin with.


Martin premiered on Fox in August 1992. Its main premise: the daily exploits of its five main characters, Martin (Martin Lawrence); his girlfriend, Gina (Campbell); her best friend, Pam (Tichina Arnold); and Martin’s two best friends, Thomas Ford (Tommy) and Carl Anthony Payne II (Cole). Its two principals, Lawrence and Campbell, had a long-established rapport.

“Martin, I’ve known him for years,” Campbell said on a December 1993 episode of Regis & Kathie Lee. “He would always say, ‘You gon’ play my girlfriend.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, sure. Right, Martin.’ But he made [good on] his promise.”

Both graduated from the school of Spike Lee classics — Campbell co-starred in 1988’s School Daze, and Lawrence appeared alongside his mentor and legendary comedian Robin Harris a year later in Do The Right Thing. Campbell and Lawrence even shared the same screen in Reggie Hudlin’s 1990 masterpiece House Party: Lawrence as Bilal, the DJ with the bad breath, and Campbell as Sidney, Christopher “Kid” Reid’s love interest. They also both appeared in Hudlin’s Boomerang in 1992. The energy of the late ’80s and early ’90s, in terms of what Hudlin and Lee were producing, directly translated into stars of those movies becoming stars of film and network television. Fox capitalized on the emergence of young black talent.

Before Fox News became the conservative conglomerate it is today, its programming model operated (and still operates) on a different wavelength. The network found success and relevancy in the swelling influence of the hip-hop generation. James Murdoch helped launch the highly respected hip-hop label Rawkus Records before selling it to his father, Rupert Murdoch — an associate of President Donald Trump’s, and the most powerful man at 21st Century Fox and News Corp. — in 1996. Shows such as In Living Color, Living Single, New York Undercover and Martin were instrumental in making Fox the massive fourth network in the ’90s.

Fox saw the allure of Lawrence — the heir apparent to Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy. He was an energetic and explicit comedian with big-screen experience whose routine worked just as well in intimate settings, as shown by his stint as host of HBO’s popular and influential Def Comedy Jam. Lawrence, though, questioned the network’s commitment to providing opportunities to entertainers of color. “Fox should reflect the diversity of black life instead of putting out the same show with different titles,” he said. “I’ve never met Rupert Murdoch or Lucie Salhany [Fox’s chairman]. I bet Tom and Roseanne Arnold know the heads of the company they work for.”

“It was a show that came wholly from the African-American experience that was a hit. It proved that unadulterated blackness could be mainstream.”

Martin premiered when African-American life and culture was under the microscope: It was a post-Rodney King and L.A. riots America. The show’s crux was hip, youthful blackness: Martin and Gina, the former a radio DJ at Detroit’s fictional WZUP and the latter an advertising account executive. “Its biggest legacy is the fact that it was a show that came wholly from the African-American experience that was a hit,” said former music and entertainment journalist Cheo Hodari Coker. He’s now the showrunner for Netflix’s Luke Cage. “It proved that unadulterated blackness could be mainstream.”

The show was a success from its start, averaging north of 11 million viewers in its first season. The New York Times praised the show’s quirkiness and its willingness to embrace social issues in episodes such as season one’s Dead Men Don’t Flush, which featured a dead white man — in this case, a plumber — being found dead in a black man’s apartment. After calling 911, the show’s fab five are forced to pass a qualifying quiz to prove they’re white. “Nothing makes my day more right,” Martin jokes, “than waking up white.” The charade nearly worked, too, as the crew correctly guessed white people’s favorite pie (apple) and named two Barry Manilow songs (“Copacabana (At the Copa)” and “Mandy”). The masquerade flatlines, however, when Cole incorrectly (and hilariously) answers “hot sauce” when responding to what white people put on sandwiches. Martin, John J. O’Connor wrote in November 1992, could “still blossom into something considerably more than a conventional sitcom.” And that “whatever happens, Martin Lawrence is obviously going places.”

Martin earned a following of diehard critics and fans alike. Some painted Lawrence’s pop culture dynamo as buffoonish — Bill Cosby slammed his stint as Def Comedy Jam host as a “minstrel show.” In a numbing sense of prophecy, Lawrence shot back at Cosby, saying, “For all his clean, wholesome, Jell-O pudding, I-ain’t-never-done-no-wrong image, they still didn’t let his a– buy NBC, now, did they?” The Los Angeles Times slammed the 1993 season two episode Whoop There It Ain’t for perpetuating stereotypes of black male sexuality. Newsweek deemed Lawrence’s character a “sex-obsessed homeboy shucking his way to nowhere.”

Yet many more saw the brainchild of creators Lawrence, John Bowman and Topper Carew as over-the-top comical. Episodes such as Hollywood Swinging (which featured Tommy Davidson as “Varnell Hill”), or Feast or Famine (a battle-of-the-sexes Thanksgiving episode) were not only hilarious but also made Martin, Gina, Tommy, Pam and Cole representatives of young black companionship and friendship in the ’90s. And Martin and Gina were the cool and relatable couple. “Having a steady relationship, getting with the right woman, is something I’ll always believe in,” he told VIBE in April 1994. “The one thing I’m most proud of with Martin is that it shows a black man loving and respecting his black woman.”

The many scenes and catchphrases considered classic are diverse, though many are from seasons two and three, the series’ apex. Suspicious Minds revolves around the mystery of Martin’s missing CD player, which causes him to channel his inner Nino Brown to interrogate his friends in hilarious, but ultimately unsuccessful, fashion. Season two standout Guard Your Grill finds Martin challenging professional boxer Tommy “Hitman” Hearns to a fight for Gina’s love. Many call out The Romantic Weekend from season three, more popularly known as Chilligan’s Island — the couples retreat episode that Martin finds on the back of a cereal box. The episode birthed the classic phrase “That ain’t no damn puppy!”

On-camera, in-character power struggles define the show’s legacy as well. Martin vs. Pam became a battle of wits. Martin vs. Ms. Geri was a recurring heavyweight clash. And Gina vs. Mama Payne became the in-law relationship from hell. At Martin’s height, cameos — by Snoop Dogg, Christopher “Kid” Reid, Salt-N-Pepa, former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Randall Cunningham, Jodeci (who had no clue Martin would interrupt their performance), Biggie Smalls, Sherman Hemsley, OutKast, Tommy Davidson, David Alan Grier and more — were a regular fixture. Yet, while the show percolated on the strength of guest stars and the chemistry of its main characters, Martin was, in many ways, a one-man band. Lawrence played nine characters: Jerome, Dragonfly Jones, Roscoe, Bob From Marketing, Elroy Preston, Otis the security guard, Sheneneh, King Beef and Mama Payne.

By nearly any metric, whether cultural impact or relevance, Martin’s first four seasons rank as some of the finest television comedy ever produced. Its stature is eye to eye with shows such as The Jeffersons, Fresh Prince, The Cosby Show or A Different World. By the start of its fifth season, however, the empire was crumbling. Allegations of sexual harassment from Campbell made headlines in November 1996. Her lawsuit, in which she named Lawrence, stated that Campbell (herself a sexual assault survivor) had grown increasingly uncomfortable on set.

The lawsuit stated that Lawrence’s advances had increased as the seasons progressed. There were rumors that the tension ramped up especially when Campbell became engaged to fellow actor Duane Martin. It all started coming out: from fits of rage in which he threatened to fire the cast during season two to the charge that Lawrence would grope and simulate sexual acts before crew members when they weren’t rehearsing or filming to Campbell pleading with the show’s writers to cease writing bedroom scenes by season five. Campbell alleged that HBO executives Chris Albrecht and Christopher Schwartz and HBO Independent Productions had long-standing knowledge of the abuse, yet neglected to take action.

Lawrence denied all claims. “Martin has long been Tisha’s champion and protector,” his January 1997 statement read, “and is thus deeply hurt by these allegations.” But the public fracture of his and Campbell’s actual and scripted relationship was part of a string of bizarre situations for Lawrence, one of America’s top comic actors who was flourishing in the wake of Bad Boys and A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.

In August 1996, he was arrested for carrying a loaded handgun in a suitcase at Hollywood Burbank Airport. Months before, he was detained by police for wandering into traffic and screaming curses in a Sherman Oaks, California, neighborhood. While no charges were filed in either case, the energy around Lawrence was overshadowing his talent. Fox Entertainment President Peter Roth attempted to quell the swelling controversy around the network’s star. “The show is called Martin, and he has proved he is capable of handling the show. Whatever is happening off the set is not affecting the show.” But it did, of course, affect the show. How could it not?

Martin thrived on the intimacy of his and Campbell’s on-camera relationship, and even more so the unbreakable bond between its main five characters. Martin could no longer deliver on its promise. Martin was no longer entertaining to watch. Campbell functioned as Lawrence’s rock — no matter the antics of the character of “Martin,” “Gina” was there to reel him in. While Campbell helped fill living rooms with laughter — like when her head was stuck in between the Nefertiti 2000 headboard in season four’s Headin’ For Trouble — stress ate at her so much she reportedly had to be hospitalized. Campbell did eventually return to the close out the series — with very specific stipulations. Most notably, she and Lawrence were to never appear in the same scene together.

Tommy Ford’s death in 2016 was a reminder that while the show is eternal, physical energies are not. Today, Lawrence, Campbell and the rest of the cast speak glowingly of one another and of their creation’s staying power. New and young fans canonize Martin. Even basketball star LeBron James, who was 12 when it went off the air, occasionally features clips of the show on his popular Instagram Stories and dropped $5,000 on a “Jerome”-themed Halloween costume. Big Sean saluted the sitcom via the video for his 2015 hit “Play No Games.” And Chance the Rapper, born eight months after Martin’s series premiere, used his career-defining verse on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” to feature a brief but direct homage to the show: Treat the demons just like Pam/ I mean I f— with your friends, but damn, Gina.

What Martin did was remain true to itself in an era when black creativity served as a necessary lifeline for black America: its music, its movies, its television programs and its literature. And it did so in Detroit, a city critical to the African-American experience. The unfiltered honesty of its jokes, its dilemmas — and its shortcomings — are its flawed and labyrinthine bookmarks. It’s impossible to discuss the show without its awful ending. It’s impossible to not discuss Martin’s countless memories and laughs.

What Martin accomplished was no different from what In Living Single or The Fresh Prince of Bel Air accomplished — it just pushed the line further. It irked some and won the allegiance of others. “Martin really was one of the first mainstreamings of hip-hop culture and black culture, which really is the rage now because of Atlanta, because of Queen Sugar and because of Power,” said Coker. “It proved there was a place for it, and the place was in the mainstream, not in the margins.”

Pots & pans: How does black and white change right and wrong? Politics affect our view of athletes, entertainers and presidents

Sitcoms from Cheers to Modern Family and black-ish have presented episodes where plots and subplots explore the same issues from different perspectives.

Our society presents real-life morality plays that are like those sitcom plots. And often the results and ramifications prove troubling or frightening rather than funny.

For example, the behavior of everyone from Michael Jackson to President Donald Trump and our reactions to them have posed stark questions: Will we be governed by a societal consensus of right and wrong, or will we be more defined by notions of us and them? Will we attack or defend entertainers, athletes and politicians based upon the same moral and ethical standards? Or will our considerations be colored by whether the public figures and politicians are on our team or whether we think that we can be on theirs?

After all, wouldn’t some of the same Republicans who have shrugged at Trump firing FBI director James Comey last week be up in arms if a President Hillary Clinton had done the same thing: won the presidency and fired the FBI director while the agency was investigating Russian influence in the presidential election and the possibility that her campaign operatives had colluded with the Russians? If Clinton, averring her innocence, had fired the FBI director under those circumstances and offered a grab bag of explanations for doing so, wouldn’t many Republicans have immediately called for a special prosecutor, if not impeachment?

That’s a serious question. For a moment, let’s look at it another way.

Suppose white golfer Phil Mickelson were a black basketball player or football player? Suppose this imagined black Phil Mickelson had expressed an aversion to paying taxes and gotten caught up in an insider trading scheme and had to pay back about $1 million? Suppose the black Phil Mickelson had paid more than $2 million in gambling debts? Would the sports media feel compelled to search the hero’s cloak that Mickelson has worn throughout his career for more dirt, rips and telltale stains?

Suppose some star white country rocker, let’s call him Michah Jackson, was known for inviting boys to his house for sleepovers? Suppose he was later accused by some of the boys of sexual misconduct and then settled their lawsuits for thousands of dollars? What would you think about those who defended the white rocker while celebrating his talents? What would his defenders think of those who sought to define the rocker, a fabulous entertainer, solely by the accusations against him?

Would Bill Cosby’s fall from grace have hit me as hard if he had been white? And if Cosby were white, would as many people have called for his wife to submit to a ritual of shame and contrition where she publicly acknowledges her husband’s alleged sexual transgressions, even though they haven’t been proven in court?

We can never know the answer to questions like those. But the nation and the politicians who purport to represent us can decide whether there are ethical and behavioral standards that will govern all presidents, without regard to ideology, politics or party.

Ralph Emerson is quoted as saying, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. …” But a withering hypocrisy takes root in a society that allows eternal truths of right and wrong to be turned into temporal considerations of politics and expediency, us versus them.

All of us today, and generations of Americans to come, have a stake in whether Trump will be held accountable by the politicians and the media and the people.

If he isn’t, future Americans won’t have presidents. Instead, they will have unchallenged strongmen or women — theirs or the leaders of the opposition.