Pots & pans: We need to celebrate our heroes and heroines both past and present this Juneteenth No matter the when, they are all making it possible for blacks to realize the true American dream

On this date in 1865, black people enslaved in Galveston, Texas, were told the Union forces had won the Civil War and that they were free. Since then, black Americans have marked Juneteenth with jubilation, feasts, strawberry soda and other red drinks.

Today, I raise my glass of strawberry soda to salute some of the people I believe exemplify the continuing struggle to gain full civil and human rights for black people in our country, a struggle that has helped America draw closer to the vision outlined in the Declaration of Independence.

Consequently, I toast LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Since 2010, James has gone from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Miami Heat and back again, winning three NBA championships along the way. This season, K.D. moved from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors and led that team to a 4-1 victory in the NBA Finals over LeBron’s Cavs, the defending champs. Furthermore, they triumphed by competing against each other vigorously while respecting each other as athletes and as men.

Although some deride and dismiss the significance of millionaire black athletes deciding their fates, their actions represent a generation of black athletes who feel free to pursue happiness and league championships on their own terms.

I toast broadcast journalist April Ryan and U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris from California, wonder women who seek to lasso the truth with their probing questions. They have asked questions that revealed inconvenient truths about the white male political establishment that has sought, without success, to dismiss them and shut them up.

Meanwhile, I toast Ta-Nehisi Coates and Chadwick Boseman. The two Howard University men continue the integration of the nation and the world’s fantasy life. Coates, a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation genius grant winner, has been writing the comic book Black Panther, about a genius inventor and one of the world’s smartest people. Boseman, who has captured the physicality and emotional complications of James Brown and Jackie Robinson on screen, will continue playing the Black Panther in an eponymous 2018 movie.

As Coates and Boseman champion black inclusion in society through a superhero, Lynn Nottage uses ordinary people to help America better understand today’s challenges, which are made worse by racial and class divisions.

She earns a strawberry soda salute with her bittersweet Sweat, her Pulitzer Prize-winning play that explores the end of work and the emotional chaos that follows. Colson Whitehead, a Pulitzer Prize winner for The Underground Railroad gives us a poetic vision of slavery and its aftermath. And Tracy K. Smith, another Pulitzer Prize winner (Life on Mars), and the new poet laureate of the United States, finds majesty in the everyday, just as Gwendolyn Brooks and Rita Dove did before her.

They meld the intellectual ambition of W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington’s veneration for sweat and craft. They show that the road to higher ground is paved with a commitment to excellence. They show that great art is fundamental to our survival. I toast them all.

And I toast all the black people, especially the slaves, lost to the years. They bore the lash. They prayed. They loved.

And they live in today’s triumphs, undefeated and unbowed, now and forever.

Tiger Woods says he’s ‘Cablinasian,’ but the police only saw black The golfer’s DUI arrest highlights the country’s ‘one-drop’ rule and his complex relationship with black America

Tiger Woods, once the fresh-faced future of golf, stared into the police camera with a forlorn look and hooded eyes. A 41-year-old man who has famously insisted on his mixed racial heritage was identified in the arrest report with one word: black.

The former No. 1 golfer in the world was sleeping at the wheel of his Mercedes-Benz early Monday when Jupiter, Florida, police said they spotted his car stopped in the road, its blinker flashing and engine running. He was charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and is scheduled for a court appearance July 5. Woods, who is recovering from back surgery, apologized for the incident, saying in a statement that it resulted from “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”

Golfer Tiger Woods after his arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI) May 29, 2017 in Jupiter, Florida.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office via Getty Images

The arrest marked another twist in Woods’ quest to return to the PGA Tour after a nearly two-year layoff. His attempted comeback has stoked widespread fascination with the drama of an iconic athlete battling age and injury in an attempt to regain his championship form. But as big a part of the attraction is Woods’ standing as a racial trailblazer. He is a person of color who conquered golf. He is the record holder for most consecutive weeks — 281 — atop the world golf rankings. He won 79 PGA titles, and 14 majors, putting him second all-time on each list.

All of this looms large because of the sport’s racist history. Not only did professional golf’s most prestigious tournament, the Masters, bar black players until 1975, but its hallowed course in Augusta, Georgia, had no black members until 1990. Woods won the Masters for the first time in 1997 at age 21, making him the youngest player to win there. He has gone on to win the tournament three more times.

In the minds of many African-Americans, those achievements made Woods the Jackie Robinson of golf. The analogy would fit nicely if only Woods saw himself as black. Or only black. But Woods, 41, has long chosen to embrace his full multiracial identity. Rather than black, he sees himself as “Cablinasian” — a mix of Caucasian, black, (American) Indian and Asian.

Nobody can argue with his precision. His mother, Kultida, is of Thai, Chinese and Dutch descent. His late father, Earl, said he was African-American, Chinese and Native American. If that is accurate (and some say his father’s Chinese heritage is subject to dispute), Woods is more Asian than he is black. In any event, he has explained that to call himself African-American would have the effect of writing his own mother out of his racial identity.

Woods’ decision to embrace his full multiracial identity was respected by many African-Americans as his right. But others who celebrated his many breakthroughs and saw his success as their own, treated it as a rejection — not to mention a sign of naiveté, cowardice or even betrayal.

There were jokes that Woods would know he was black if he tried to catch a cab at night. Even Colin Powell, the first black chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when asked about Woods, was quoted as saying, “In America, which I love from the depths of my heart and soul, when you look like me, you are still considered black.”

The criticism only intensified when Woods got caught up in the sex scandal that presaged his golfing decline and ended his marriage. Each of Woods’ many mistresses, like his ex-wife, was white. The fallout weakened Woods’ already shaky standing among many African-Americans.

Years later, the debate about racial identity ignited by Woods continues to resonate. Angela Yee, co-host of the Breakfast Club, a nationally syndicated radio show, relates to Woods’ situation. Her mother is black and from Montserrat, a small island in the eastern Caribbean. Her father is Chinese.

Growing up in black neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, and South Orange, New Jersey, she had nearly all black friends and schoolmates. She listened to black music, and considered herself culturally black. Yet, she also celebrated Chinese New Year and embraced both her Asian and black heritage. So she understands Woods’ choice, although she is disappointed by it.

“As a person who is mixed-race myself, I do identify as both black and Asian,” Yee said. “But to be as good as he has been in the world of golf, and with black people so proud of his success, it would have been great to have Tiger say, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’ ”

Yee explains that when she is asked to check a racial box, she chooses African-American. At the same time, she acknowledges that racial identity can be a tricky thing. Often, when people see or hear her last name, she said, “they assume I am straight-up Asian.” At times, that has led to unfair assumptions. Earlier in her career, a blogger who had only heard her on the radio complained, “Asians are taking over our culture.”

Racial identity has long been both subjective and mutable. Barack Obama is biracial, and was raised by his white mother and white grandparents. But he will go down in history as the first black president in no small part because he identifies as black, married a black woman and raised two black daughters.

Paris Jackson, the blond, blue-eyed daughter of the late Michael Jackson, recently told Rolling Stone that she thinks of herself as black, even if a casual passerby might not.

New York Yankees legend Derek Jeter is the son of an African-American father and Irish-American mother. As a child growing up in Kalamazoo, Michigan, he “sometimes felt the stares” of people in town when he was out with just one of his parents, he told his biographer Ian O’Connor. Coming up, he claimed both sides of his heritage. He would tell people he was black and white, or black and Irish. Once he became a baseball superstar, he was romantically linked to a series of beautiful women, many of whom were white.

But Jeter’s mixed-race background did not prevent him from receiving a threatening letter in the clubhouse from someone who promised to shoot him or set him on fire if he continued dating white women. The missive was investigated by the FBI and the New York City Police Department’s hate crimes unit. Jeter publicly shrugged the threat off as “just a stupid letter,” and last year married Hannah Davis, who happens to be white.

In America, the idea of black identity being linked to even “one drop” of black blood is inextricably tied to the nation’s racist history. Beginning in 1850, mulatto was the name the government assigned to mixed-race African-Americans. By 1890, the census became more exacting, defining mulattoes as people with “three-eighths to five-eighths” black blood. A quadroon was someone who had one-quarter black blood, and an octoroon had one-eighth or less black blood.

But even people with just a drop of black blood might as well have been all black as far as the law was concerned. In its 1896 decision Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the French-speaking and white-looking Homer Plessy could not ride in a whites-only rail car in Louisiana because he was an octoroon. The ruling cemented separate-but-equal as the law of the land for more than half a century.

The one-drop rule stood as the nation’s racial standard until the middle of the 20th century, meaning that if someone was a mixture of white and any other race he could not be counted as white. In 1930, for instance, census takers were told that a person who was both black and white should be categorized as black, “no matter how small the percentage of Negro blood.”

Those strictures have slowly given way, and in recent years an increasing number of Americans are embracing their full identities. The 2010 census had 63 possible race categories: six for single races and 57 for combined races. In 2010, 2.9 percent of Americans, a total of 9 million people, chose more than one racial category to describe their racial identity, according to the Pew Research Center.

Even as Woods has refused to embrace his blackness without simultaneously acknowledging the rest of his racial identity, he has always been aware of golf’s shameful past and saw himself as someone who would help usher the game into a new era.

Woods was a 14-year-old prodigy when an interviewer asked him about his goals as a golfer. Woods answered that he wanted to be a superstar. “Since I’m black, I might even be bigger than Jack Nicklaus,” he said. “I might be even bigger than him, to the blacks. I might be sort of like a Michael Jordan in basketball.”

Asked whether there was a tournament that he wanted to win once he turned professional, Woods did not hesitate. “The Masters,” he said.

Why?

“The way blacks have been treated there. [Like] they shouldn’t be there,” he said. “If I win that tournament, it will be really big for us.”

Seven years later, Woods won the Masters by a record 12-stroke margin. His victory rocked the golfing world, and not everyone knew how to handle it.

As Woods was cruising to victory, tour veteran Fuzzy Zoeller was asked about the young pro’s performance.

“He’s doing quite well, pretty impressive. That little boy is driving well and he’s putting well. He’s doing everything it takes to win,” Zoeller said of Woods. “So, you know what you guys do when he gets in here? You pat him on the back and say congratulations and enjoy it and tell him not to serve fried chicken next year. Got it. Or collard greens or whatever the hell they serve.”

Zoeller called the remark “a joke gone awry,” and Woods was forgiving. He was similarly forgiving in 2008 when broadcaster Kelly Tilghman said golfers challenging the dominant Woods in the Mercedes-Benz Championship should “lynch him in a back alley” to win. Through his agent, Tiger said, “We know unequivocally that there was no ill intent in her comments.”

Woods has said he also faced racial hostility back when he started school in Orange County, Calif. On his first day of kindergarten, he said, a group of sixth-graders tied him to a tree, spray painted the N-word on him, and then threw rocks at him. He said his teacher “didn’t do much of anything,” about the assault. The former teacher has dismissed the story, which Woods has recounted in several interviews, saying it never happened.

Through the years, Woods has paid tribute to the black pros who paved the way before him: Lee Elder, Teddy Rhodes, Bill Spiller, Calvin Peete, and most of all, the late Charlie Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour. Woods would refer to Sifford as his grandfather, and went on to name his son, Charlie Axel, after the golfing pioneer.

Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Tiger Woods Foundation has spent tens of millions of dollars — more than $7 million in 2015 alone — on after-school centers and scholarships for low-income students.

Woods’ substantial philanthropy and respect for golf’s racial history has not been enough to draw other young black golfers onto the professional circuit. Is it because of his refusal to identify only as African-American?

The National Golf Foundation estimated that 1.4 million African-Americans were recreational golfers in 2009, the latest year for which statistics are available. Yet, there is only one African-American on the PGA Tour: Harold Varner III. And there is also only one Cablinasian: Tiger Woods.

As a Red Sox fan, what happened to Adam Jones sickens me Face the truth, we don’t live in postracial America

You can never fully put yourself in someone else’s shoes. But every so often, a moment comes along that allows you to temporarily slip them on for size. This week, I have a slightly better idea of what it must be like to be ashamed, depressed and fearful that an entire people will be labeled a certain way, even though it’s a tiny percentage who give everyone a bad name.

It’s far from the perfect analogy, but it’s how I’m feeling as a white guy and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan. Checking my phone Tuesday morning, I got sick to my stomach reading that Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones, one of the dwindling number of African-American players in major league baseball, was subjected to racist taunts and other indignities from some folks in the stands at my beloved Fenway Park.

Hurled at Jones on Monday night were several N-words and a bag of peanuts. The white guy who tossed the peanuts was ejected. There is video showing him aiming for Jones. But no one is sure whether the racist loudmouth(s) who shouted the epithet was also tossed out of the park.

Before last night’s game, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts tweeted to the Sox faithful. “Fact: I’m black too. Literally stand up for @SimplyAJ10 tonight and say no to racism.” So when Jones stepped up to the plate in the top of the first inning, fans’ clapping built into a standing ovation, Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale stepped off the mound to let Jones savor the moment, and Jones acknowledged the kindness of the crowd.

But Jones said before the game that it’s not a standing ovation he desires. He just wants to be treated as normal. “Just keep the racial stuff out of it,” he said. “Boo me. Tell me I suck … but be respectful of where you’re at. You’ve got little kids here. You hear this kind of thing. I’ve got two little boys. How do I explain this thing to them?”

Only last September, Jones called baseball “a white man’s game” when he defended San Francisco Giants quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem.

The Boston Red Sox apologized to Jones and the entire Orioles organization, saying the team has “zero tolerance for such inexcusable behavior, and our entire organization and our fans are sickened by the conduct of an ignorant few … any spectator behaving in this manner forfeits his/her right to remain in the ballpark and may be subject to further action.”

There’s an acute sensitivity in Boston about racism. Ask former major league first baseman Tony Clark. Like many other African-American players, Clark experienced his share of racial taunts when he played for the Red Sox and other teams. He’s now executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

“It should go without saying that the type of behavior displayed toward Adam Jones at Fenway Park is unacceptable, unfortunate and should not be tolerated on any level,” said Clark. “Sadly, however, racist acts and behavior continue to plague our society, and our ballparks are certainly not immune. We must continue to work together to deter this type of behavior and get serious about educating people about its deleterious impact. …”

I’ve been a Red Sox fan since I first caught the bug in the early 1960s, witnessing my grandfather with a transistor radio fixed to his ear and listening to Curt Gowdy call the games. But it took me a while to become fully aware of the team’s checkered racial history. In 1959, the Red Sox were the last of the original franchises to integrate, 12 years after Jackie Robinson broke into the majors, although they held what some called a sham tryout in 1945 for three Negro League stars, including Robinson. In 1949, the Red Sox declined the opportunity to sign a guy named Willie Mays.

In 1986, former Red Sox outfielder Tommy Harper, then a Red Sox coach, sued the team after getting fired for criticizing the Yawkey family ownership for adopting a whites-only Elks Club in the team’s former spring training venue of Winter Haven, Florida, as its unofficial watering hole. Harper, an African-American, alleged that as far back as 1967, the team was distributing passes to the segregated social club to only white players. The suit was settled out of court, and the Yawkey Family Trust sold the team in 2002. Two years later, under new ownership, the Sox won their first World Series championship in 86 years.

Beyond Red Sox history, it’s fair to say Boston has had a turbulent racial past. On my first day as a summer intern at the hometown public radio station in the mid-1970s, I was given audiotape to edit of the hearings on racial unrest in the city that followed a judge’s mandate to bus students in order to achieve racial balance in schools. It was a tense time.

Forty-odd years later, racism has hardly been extinguished in Boston, or any other corner of the country. We don’t live in postracial America. Far from it. As Renee Graham, an African-American columnist for The Boston Globe wrote about the Jones incident, “It speaks to the layers-deep racism that has become as much a part of the city’s national image as clam chowder and winning sports teams. What happened to Jones does not surprise people of color, but it breaks our hearts.”

Your mind immediately goes back to the taunts and indignities Robinson suffered as the first black player to integrate the major leagues. Seventy years later, why must we still endure this?

It’s a question that Adam Jones, for one, must be asking. As he said before Tuesday night’s game, “Walk in my shoes, you’ll understand.”

Daily Dose: 4/17/17 Fearless Girl is more important than Charging Bull

We did The Morning Roast three the hard way again this week, with me in Bristol, Connecticut. Why was I there? Because Aaron Dodson and I hosted a Jackie Robinson Day radio special Saturday.

A lot of people smoke weed. Your librarian, your doctor and likely your local police chief. This is just a fact of the matter in today’s America. You know why? Because from what I understand, marijuana usage makes people happy and makes them feel better. It helps people with seizures. It helps people eat. It helps people sleep. Which is why Canada is getting ready to legalize it. It’s also why various states have decided that criminalizing its sale isn’t worth their time. Meanwhile, fun fact: More than half of Americans have tried it, according to a new poll.

The guy who created the Charging Bull statue is not happy. His name is Arturo Di Modica, and he claims that a little girl is compromising the artistic integrity of his work. When someone erected the Fearless Girl statue across from Charging Bull, the world came to celebrate the former, which is a pretty dang good symbol for where we are in this nation and world with feminism. Di Modica’s taking the whole fight to court, and it’s pretty embarrassing from a self-awareness standpoint. Whether it’s a corporate stunt or not, it’s worked. Deal with it.

Here’s the thing about the White House Easter Egg Roll: It’s for children. As in, little kids come to the South Lawn for the purpose of finding items left around by a fake rabbit to celebrate a Christian holiday, and it’s an officially sanctioned event. Point being, in the overall scheme of things, it matters not and is strictly a ceremonial event for fun. Unless you screw it up. But because this group feels the need to reaffirm its existence every second of the day, the president says things like this to a group of non-adults. Awkward.

The Atlanta Hawks are afraid of the Washington Wizards. Every team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference is afraid of the Washington Wizards. Fans of the Washington Wizards are afraid of the Washington Wizards. By that I mean everyone knows they’ve got talent. They know they’ve got talent, and they know that you know that they know that. So they’ve taken a fun strategy in the playoffs: Beat people up and talk mega trash. I could not be more here for it. Paul Millsap is complaining because it’s too physical. News flash: Get used to it.

Free Food

Coffee Break: Hey, if you play a superloud, screaming maniac on TV, don’t be surprised when people think that’s who you are in real life. Alex Jones, that InfoWars guy who you only hear about when he’s going nuts about the conspiracy theory du jour, says it’s all an act, but his ex-wife thinks he’s crazy.

Snack Time: A coming-of-age movie on a Caribbean island that involves a goat? Sure, I’ll give them some money. They need it to get it done.

Dessert: If you still weren’t in the mood for baseball season, just watch this.

Locker room talk: Jackie Robinson’s legacy is profound, but unfinished What progress have we made with only two black managers and a dwindling number of black players?

Every year since 2009, Major League Baseball has celebrated the memory and legacy of Jackie Robinson.

The celebrations have been fantastic and in some cases profound.

Last year, the city of Philadelphia officially apologized for the racist taunts Phillies players directed at Robinson when they hosted the Brooklyn Dodgers.

This year, all major league clubs playing at home Saturday will commemorate Jackie Robinson Day with special on-field pregame ceremonies in their ballparks. Home clubs will feature Jackie Robinson Day jeweled bases and lineup cards.

In Los Angeles on Saturday, Robinson’s wife, Rachel, their daughter Sharon and son David, will be in attendance when the Dodgers unveil a statue at Dodger Stadium showing Robinson in his rookie season of 1947, sliding into home plate.

All of these festivities celebrate the 70th anniversary of Robinson breaking Major League Baseball’s color barrier.

While the annual celebrations are fantastic, I wrestle with the same Jackie Robinson dilemma of celebrating the man, his courage and conviction but wondering whether the integration movement in which he played so vital a role was all that great for most African-Americans.

The gap remains between the glossy celebrations and the persistence of the exclusion Robinson fought so hard to eradicate. While baseball celebrates, each year the number of black players in baseball dwindles. According to a study by USA Today, there are fewer African-Americans in baseball than at any other time in the last 60 years. African-Americans comprise 7.1 percent of players on this year’s opening-day rosters.

There were no black managers when Robinson left the game in 1956. Today, there are two: the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dave Roberts and the Washington Nationals’ Dusty Baker.

In an essay she wrote a few years ago, Rachel Robinson addressed the gap between baseball’s celebration of her husband and the reality of so few African-American managers and front-office executives.

I had the honor of sitting at the table with Rachel Robinson and her daughter Sharon last month at the annual Jackie Robinson Foundation dinner in Manhattan.

“The fundamental questions that faced Jack in 1947 are abounding today,” she wrote. “We’ve got to go beyond celebrating the past and use our emotions/sentiments, ideas and analysis to move forward. This will be the greatest tribute to Jackie Robinson.”

One of the highlights of the evening was an announcement that the groundbreaking for the Jackie Robinson Museum will begin this spring. Major League Baseball has donated $1 million to fundraising efforts.

My larger dilemma with the integration initiative with which Robinson was so connected is the deleterious impact it had on many African-American businesses, notably Negro League baseball.

Indeed, integration was a mixed bag that would help destroy — or escalate the destruction — of Negro League baseball. That in turn would eventually dry up interest in baseball that at one point was a vital part of the black community’s economic structure.

Because blackness has never been one-size fits all, there were ferocious debates about the pros and cons of black players going to the major leagues.

In 1943, writer Joe Bostic cautioned: “Today, there are two Negro organized leagues, just at the threshold of emergence as real financial factors. Organized Negro baseball is a million-dollar business. To kill it would be criminal and that’s just what the entry of their players into the American and National Leagues would do.”

On the other hand, sportswriters Sam Lacy along with Wendell Smith were fierce proponents of integrating the game, from the playing field to the press box to hotels at spring training.

Integration was a powerful, tornadic force that shattered a relatively cohesive black community into millions of pieces. The community in many ways is still putting itself back together, defining and redefining what constitutes “black” in the 21st century.

This is the movement Robinson helped push forward. He became a polarizing figure, accused by some as representing white interests, embraced by others for shattering barriers. Robinson testified against artist and activist Paul Robeson in 1949 before the House Un-American Activities Committee. While Robeson certainly had his critics within the black community, he was greatly respected for his talents, his intellect and his commitment to black liberation.

Late in his life, Robinson admitted that he had made a mistake. In his autobiography, I Never Had It Made, Robinson wrote that he regretted the testimony.

“In those days, I had much more faith in the ultimate justice of the American white man than I have today,” he wrote. “I would reject such an invitation if offered now. I have grown wiser and closer to the painful truths about America’s destructiveness and I do have increased respect for Paul Robeson who, over a span of twenty years, sacrificed himself, his career and the wealth and comfort he once enjoyed because, I believe, he was sincerely trying to help his people.”

Robinson may have learned a valuable lesson from Robeson, who was 21 years his senior.

Indeed, the significance Jackie Robinson — the question he asks — is whether you have the courage of your convictions — whatever those convictions might be.

For which causes are you willing to dedicate your life and give your life, if necessary?

Robinson was raised in an era in which barriers and obstacles prevented so many African-Americans from gaining first-class citizenship and access to better neighborhoods, better schools, better employment.

His mission – his life work, beginning 70 years ago today — was to tear down those barriers. Robinson never fully appreciated the extent to which he succeeded.

During a conversation in her office a few years ago, Rachel Robinson told me that her husband wondered whether it all had been worth the pain, the agony, the tortuous road to Calvary.

“He was so discouraged at the end of his life that change would not take place, that it would not be permanent, that it would not be expansive,” she said.

We are reminded each spring how powerfully he succeeded.

I might debate the aftermath of integration. There is no doubting Robinson’s courage and Rachel Robinson’s commitment to keeping her husband’s legacy burning brightly.

Nearly 56 years after his retirement from baseball, 45 years after his death, Robinson continues to resonate.

Daily Dose: 4/14/17 James Baldwin’s papers find new home in Harlem

Quick announcement: On Saturday from noon-2 p.m. EDT, Aaron Dodson and I will be hosting an ESPN Radio special for the 70th anniversary of Major League Baseball’s Jackie Robinson Day. Should be a fun one, kiddos!

The United States dropped on a bomb on Afghanistan. It’s still not really clear why. According to officials, 36 ISIS fighters were killed, but judging from the size of the bomb, who knows how many other people died in the attack. The bomb has a nickname — “Mother of All Bombs” — which in itself is a bit scary as a concept, both the title and the shorthand for explosives. It’s the largest non-nuclear device of its kind used in combat. Here are the details on exactly how it was deployed.

How much of James Baldwin’s work are you familiar with? In the new movie I Am Not Your Negro, the legendary author’s last work is explored through the eyes of today’s news and societal progress in America. But that’s just one movie that reflects one unfinished book. He had plenty of other published works and private papers, which will soon be on display at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, thanks to his estate. In general, the concept of being important enough to have “private papers” is pretty dope.

If you’re into weed, Canada might be the place for you. Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made good on a campaign promise to legalize recreational marijuana use in the country with something called the Cannabis Act. It’ll be up to each province to figure out how it wants to regulate things, which will lead to some interesting political discussions across that country. But it’s not all bongs and vape clouds. The penalties for breaking the rules will be pretty stringent, considering that growing and smoking it will no longer be illegal.

It always interests me what non-playoff NBA teams do once the tournament starts. Plenty of teams miss a chance to get a title and the panic that ensues is intriguing. For example, the Orlando Magic fired its general manager. Granted, it hasn’t been to the postseason in five years. And the Los Angeles Lakers sort of screwed themselves by ending their season on a winning streak, but they say they have a plan in case they don’t get a top 3 pick. But come on, it’s the NBA. There’s no way they don’t find a way for Lonzo Ball to end up at the Staples Center.

Free Food

Coffee Break: The greatest American comedy of all time, for my money, is Coming to America. Now that a sequel is officially in development, some people are nervous about how it could affect the legacy of the previous film. Good news, though, the original writers are actually back on board.

Snack Time: You know your cable news network has a branding problem when a local station, in Boston no less, doesn’t even want your name in its broadcasts.

Dessert: The new trailer for the Dear White People Netflix show is incredible. Can’t wait for this show.

 

Adidas, Shinola honor Jackie Robinson with style Items commemorate the 70th anniversary of No. 42 breaking the color barrier

April 15 marks the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, and two apparel lines have released commemorative items to celebrate.

Adidas created a series of special-edition baseball cleats and turf trainers that feature Robinson’s signature. The cleats and trainers sell for $120 and $100, respectively, and are available at adidas.com, eastbay.com and dickssportinggoods.com.

The company also built a new baseball and softball field at Robinson’s alma mater, John Muir High School in Pasadena, California. The school’s athletic facilities are also used by the community’s Little League teams.

Detroit-based watch company Shinola has released a limited-edition Jackie Robinson timepiece that features his famous “42” jersey number. The 42 mm stainless steel watch retails for $1,500 (available at Shinola.com and in Shinola stores) and is sold as part of a limited-edition gift set that includes a mini-pennant, a set of three pins and a four-pack of postcards. The watch is the fifth installment in Shinola’s Great Americans Series, which honors inspirational figures such as Maya Angelou and the Wright brothers.

Robinson is, of course, one of the most important race men to have ever played professional sports. Before Muhammad Ali, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Jim Brown, there was Jackie Robinson. After being signed to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947, Robinson shouldered the burden of being the first — and, for a time, only — African-American to play in the major leagues. Over the course of his outstanding 10-year career, he and other Negro players faced open hostility from teammates, fans and media.

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s signing with the Dodgers, the team is planning to unveil a statue of their most iconic star Saturday at Dodgers Stadium. Rachel Robinson, 94, and two of her children, Sharon and David, are expected to attend the ceremony along with nearly 200 friends and family members.

Pots & Pans: 70 years after Jackie Robinson’s breakthrough, stats are changing sports but not what makes a hero No. 42 put up great numbers, but they don’t capture his importance

Through the years, observers have called the baseball gloves worn by outfielders Tris Speaker and Willie Mays places where (would-be) triples went to die. For me, those comments illustrate the Hall of Famers’ fielding prowess better than their respective defensive runs saved (DRS) scores ever could. Thus, I’m unlikely to ever lead a baseball conversation rooted in the understanding of advanced defensive stats or any other advanced sports statistics.

But by the Major League Baseball All-Star break, I plan to know enough about advanced baseball statistics to nod at their disciples in an opaque way that masks my lack of knowledge, just as I do when the younger brothers in the barbershops start talking about today’s rap versus the vintage flow from Tupac and Biggie. After all, I believe having even a nodding acquaintance with new languages, interpretations and perspectives can promote understanding among disparate groups.

Besides, advanced and sophisticated statistical analysis looms large in sports. And it’s not just in conversations in barbershops, at workplace water coolers or on sports talk shows, especially those comparing players from different eras. Increasingly, advanced statistical analysis determines how today’s games are played.

In baseball, such analysis has reduced the importance of stolen bases, pitching complete games and making sacrifice bunts. Further, managers such as Dusty Baker, 67, are sometimes criticized for being out of touch with today’s baseball. With a half-century in baseball, Baker, a three-time Major League Baseball Manager of the Year, is more likely to refer to his gut than a spreadsheet when deciding what he and his Washington Nationals ballclub should do. He’s never managed a team to a World Series victory. Further, in a managing career that has lasted more than two decades, Baker has taken the Chicago Cubs, Cincinnati Reds, the San Francisco Giants and the Nationals to the playoffs without winning a World Series.

But Theo Epstein, the 43-year-old Yale grad-turned-Major League Baseball front-office rainmaker, has used analytics to put together teams that ended World Series victory droughts of over 80 years each for the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs. Who can argue with Epstein’s approach?

Furthermore, in the NFL, the new numbers game has led to the devaluing of running backs. Their careers in the NFL often go like this: Runners are devalued in a “passing league,” so they are picked in later rounds of the NFL draft and given less money to sign initial contracts. Nevertheless, the best runners run a lot, and just when they’d be rewarded with a big second contract for running a lot and producing a lot, a number cruncher says, “Not so fast.” The player has been running a lot; he’s approaching 30 and about to lose productivity and become more injury-prone. Consequently, the number cruncher recommends that the player — let’s call him John Henry — not be re-signed, or get cut or traded for draft picks.

In big-time college basketball and NBA basketball, the new numbers game has given rise to the 3-point shot. Despite the University of South Carolina women’s team winning the 2017 Division I Championship game while going 0-for-3 on 3-pointers, everyone from the University of Connecticut women’s teams to NBA stalwarts such as the Golden State Warriors have used the 3-point shot to contend for championships or to win them.

Indeed, guard Lonzo Ball, the UCLA freshman who has declared for the NBA draft, presents himself as the ultimate modern baller: He takes 3-point shots or he drives to the basket. He employs his midrange jumper about as often as his dad, LaVar Ball, reveals his humility.

Consequently, young Mr. Ball is already an avatar of contemporary style and practice on the basketball court. I can envision years from now the images of Ball and his younger basketball-playing brothers, dressed as a trio of Sportin’ Lifes from Porgy and Bess, adorning the cover of a video game called It Ain’t Necessarily So. The game will remind players that the well-lived life in sports can’t be captured or appreciated solely through game statistics.

Game players will earn points for the things their video avatars do, including playing with great panache, donating their money to worthy causes, and giving younger athletes sage private counsel rather than showering the younger players with public ridicule. Also, some game players will earn points when their video avatars stay out of trouble and save their money, making it possible for their children and their children’s children to enjoy great wealth and security.

Oh, sure, such a video game promoted by the Ball brothers or anyone else is not likely to happen. But the real winners in sports, such as Muhammad Ali, Roberto Clemente and LeBron James, have shown they understand Jackie Robinson’s telling words: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

During his Brooklyn Dodgers career, Robinson compiled a .311 lifetime batting average. He won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. But his statistics and sports honors don’t begin to capture his enduring significance: Robinson’s breaking Major League Baseball’s color line in 1947 resounds in our country every time another noble warrior redefines what’s possible for future generations.

This week, as we mark the 70th anniversary of Robinson’s majestic triumph, let’s resolve to move our appreciation of Robinson beyond speeches and applause. Let’s honor Robinson, as the Hall of Famer honored his gifts and talents, as he honored the heroes who went before him: Let’s seek to improve the lives of others.

That’s what winners do.

Lady Liberty is a black woman, and Joe Louis, Jackie Robinson and Jesse Owens get commemorated in coin, too Some of the money spends, but the currency is truly about history, power and respect

The U.S. Mint is issuing a $100 gold coin depicting Lady Liberty as a sista to commemorate its 225th anniversary. It’s 24-carat gold and weighs in at an ounce. Future coins will show Lady Liberty as Asian-American, Latin American and Native American “to reflect the cultural and ethnic diversity of the United States.” And while this isn’t the first time African-Americans have been featured on U.S. currency, this is first time Lady Liberty has been illustrated as nonwhite.

Black people have been featured on currency for decades. In 2003, York, Capt. William Clark’s slave, appeared as the first African-American on circulating currency, the “Missouri quarter.” In 1951, Booker T. Washington and George Washington Carver appeared together on a commemorative half dollar. And in 2020, the design of the new $20 bill featuring Harriet Tubman will be “released in honor of the 100th anniversary of the women’s suffrage movement.” Proofs of President Barack Obama’s commemorative coins and various other coins are available at the U.S. Mint’s website.

And before San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee for justice, athletes such as Jesse Owens, Joe Louis and Jackie Robinson advocated for equal treatment of all. At a time when it was even tougher to be black, and tougher than that to talk about being black, these three athletes met calls to action and transcended their sports by pushing for change and inspiring a nation. They helped America become a better reflection of itself. These three legends are the only athletes to be featured on U.S. commemorative currency. Being featured on U.S. currency is among the nation’s highest honors.

Commemorative coins and medals are not for circulation but serve as keepsakes that recall a particular event or issue that took place in the United States. Several prominent black figures have attained this honor, having their contributions ratified and recognized throughout several presidential administrations and by members of Congress since the 1960s. Commemorative objects featuring Owens, Louis and Robinson went on display Jan. 31 at the Museum of UnCut Funk’s newest exhibition, For the Love of Money: Blacks on U.S. Currency, along with other noted entertainers, politicians, and military and civil rights leaders. The exhibit will remain open at the New York City’s Museum of American Finance until January 2018.

The museum’s aim is to educate all people about black history — essentially, American history — via 41 commemorative items featuring African-Americans and their centuries-long struggle for equality. The museum also will educate people about the legislative and U.S Mint process. For a figure to be selected for representation, he or she must first be nominated and then ratified by two-thirds of Congress. “In addition to being amazing athletes,” the Museum of UnCut Funk’s co-curator, Loreen Williamson, said, “they carried the weight of black America on their shoulders.”

Louis, who reigned for 12 years as heavyweight champion, is regarded as one of boxing’s all-time greats. During his long reign as champion, there was perhaps no more remarkable victory than his 1938 rematch against Germany’s Max Schmeling, whom Louis defeated during the Nazi era. Louis fought for more than the sport. “The symbolism,” said Williamson, “of beating a German at the time transcended the sport. It was him defeating Nazism, defeating white supremacy.” Louis is featured on a 1982 commemorative bronze medal.

The 1936 Olympic Games were of course the supposed showcase for Adolf Hitler’s Aryan supremacy. African-Americans foiled that notion by leading the United States to more than half of the 11 gold medals won by Americans. Owens proved to be the most dominant athlete competing. Back in the States, Owens spoke openly and critically about the hypocrisy of the U.S. “When I came back to my native country,” he said, “I couldn’t ride in the front of the bus. … I had to go to the back door. I couldn’t live where I wanted. I wasn’t invited to shake hands with Hitler, but I wasn’t invited to the White House to shake hands with the president [Franklin D. Roosevelt], either.” Owens is featured on a 1988 commemorative bronze medal (“medals” and “commemorative coins” are used interchangeably).

Jackie Robinson famously broke baseball’s color barrier. During his almost decade-long career in the majors, Robinson became one of the best baseball players to have ever played and became an important civil rights figure. “Robinson broke barriers in a team sport, which is difficult. As a young man, these guys couldn’t just play the game,” said Williamson. “They represented more than a game.” Robinson is featured on a 1997 commemorative gold coin, 1997 commemorative silver dollar and a 2005 commemorative bronze medal.

Fifty thousand people visit the Museum of American Finance each year. Williamson said she hopes to bring the exhibition to museums across the country.

Writer Margery Miller Welles deserves to be the first woman in the Boxing Hall of Fame Author of the book ‘Joe Louis: American,’ she was a rare woman writing about sports and race

The International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) has a category of inductees called “Observers.” The group currently has 38 writers, artists and journalists, including the likes of Howard Cosell and W.C. Heinz. All 38 are men.

It is time for a woman to join their ranks, and I have someone in mind. Her name is Margery Miller Welles, one of the unsung pioneers of boxing journalism. I have called and written letters to the IBHOF without results.

With this essay, an update of one I wrote in 2003, I am upping the ante. Margery Miller Welles should be invited into this Hall of Fame, not just as the first woman but as someone whose life story and life’s work should be an inspiration for all those who would tell powerful stories about the “sweet science” of boxing. She was also willing to talk about the connection between sports and racial justice in America — and she did it two years before Jackie Robinson crossed the color line into the major leagues.

What first caught my eye at the antiquarian book fair in Florida was the book cover, an image of a brown boxing glove punching its way through a stack of newspaper headlines. Joe Louis: American was the title, and Margery Miller was the author. The back of the dust jacket told a story almost as interesting as the one inside the book. This biography of the “Brown Bomber” was published in 1945. The author, Margery Miller, was only 22 years old, a recent honors graduate of Wellesley College and a devotee of boxing, having seen her first championship prizefight at the age of 15. The accompanying photo shows a sweet-faced young woman with full eyebrows, her chin tilted toward the future.

The book cover of “Joe Louis: American” written by Margery Miller

I purchased this first edition for only $15 — a bargain, it turns out, since the same edition was being offered at five times that rate online. But my investment carried a much more valuable dividend: the discovery of a pioneering sportswriter, a woman grudgingly recognized as one of the most knowledgeable boxing journalists of the 20th century, her work drawing praise from fans as disparate as Eleanor Roosevelt and Joe Louis himself.


Here’s what I’ve learned about her, mostly from newspaper clippings stored in the Wellesley archive: Margery Whitney Miller became interested in boxing in 1935 as a 12-year-old girl living in small-town Vermont. While many other girls played jacks and jumped rope, Margery read about the fights of Joe Louis and listened to bouts on the radio. She studied the work of boxing historian Nat Fleischer, who took a keen interest in her work and to whom she would dedicate her book. In 1938, she attended her first heavyweight championship fight with her father, the return bout between Louis and Max Schmeling, the German icon.

While Miller’s prose, as a young writer, is straightforward and analytical, her description of the end of this legendary bout at Yankee Stadium is exuberant:

“Schmeling went down three times. When he got up the third time, his legs were sand and his hands hung useless at his sides. He looked like a grotesque drunk who could neither think nor act … ‘Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe! Oh, Joe!’ The crowd now came near to having only one voice. It howled and shrieked. It stood on its chairs and tore its hats to bits. It jumped up and down in its frenzy. ‘Oh, Joe. Oh, Joe.’ It drowned out the formal announcement of Louis’ victory. Seventy thousand people had gone insane.”

Whatever fascination the young Margery had with boxing until that moment, it transformed itself into passion with Louis’ demolition of Schmeling.

White racists in the America of the 1930s were hard-pressed to choose between Louis and Schmeling. White Americans did not like black champions. They had proven that with their endless search for a “white hope” when the arrogant Jack Johnson reigned as champ. For a pugilist of such prodigious power and speed, Louis was a modest and unassuming athlete, less threatening to the white sensibilities of the time, more accommodating, more Booker T. Washington than W.E.B. Du Bois. While revisionists have come to downplay the political or racial animosity between Louis and Schmeling, the two fighters became part of American sports mythology, like Jesse Owens in his victories during Hitler’s Olympic Games of 1936.

Miller carried her passion for boxing onto the campus of Wellesley College in 1942 and eventually into the composition classroom of professor Edith C. Johnson. By then, she had developed a reputation as something slightly unnatural, a dancing bear, a young woman who earned the nickname “Cauliflower” from her college friends, not for her cooking but in honor of the deformed cartilage of a prizefighter’s ear. Miller, whom The New York Times described as “slim, pretty, brunette,” wore the nickname like an orchid corsage.

She chose the life of Louis as her senior thesis, and it was published by the time she graduated in 1945. She developed the work upon a strong hypothesis: that Louis was more than a great fighter and a huge public celebrity.

“My brother used to kid me about my theory,” Miller told the Daily Argus of Mount Vernon, New York, in a 1975 interview, “but I made up my mind come hell or high water I was someday going to write about Louis. My message was going to be that if one poorly educated Negro, with little opportunity, were able to handle being a celebrity gracefully, what might we expect if we recognized ability, race and color.”

While Miller does not ignore the champ’s flaws — and cannot foresee the latter, sadder stages of Louis’ personal life and professional career — her narrative reads like hagiography, with one daring difference. The saint is a black man, and the author is a young white woman, writing a full decade before the Montgomery bus boycott.

For its time, Miller’s writing on race and America seems remarkably progressive, as in this description of the crowd at the first fight between Louis and Schmeling:

“A large Negro delegation from Harlem arrived early to occupy the cheaper seats and await the appearance of their hero. They drank their pop and read their programs in high spirits. One of them, their boy, was going to fight and win before the forty-two thousand customers in [Yankee] stadium. They identified themselves with him. Each success he had scored in the past had given them a new measure of self-respect. Most of them didn’t mean to boast about Joe, any more than he himself would boast. But they could cheer for him, couldn’t they? They could worship him as the living proof that a Negro could succeed against white opposition, if given half a chance.”

There was more gritty and determined writing about sport and race in 1945, to be sure, by the likes of African-American author Richard Wright, but it takes a combination of archaeology and sociology to unearth it. Even if Miller could not approach the sizzling insight of a “native son,” she should occupy a place in journalism history accorded only to the true trailblazer. As her contacts in the fight game might have said back then, the kid had moxie.

Current Books published 10,000 copies of Joe Louis: American, a work that was translated into six languages and earned praise from the likes of Roosevelt, who testified that she had stayed up all night reading the book. Miller was probably the only author interviewed by The New York Times who was asked her weight. Her answer reveals a lot about her character, sense of humor and devotion to her craft: “I myself weigh 112 pounds — a flyweight.”

Miller covered boxing for the King Features Syndicate from 1945-47, then turned her talents to editing trade books for E.S. Barnes & Co. in New York. In 1953, she became one of the founding writers for Sports Illustrated. I own a copy of the first issue of SI, and the first piece on boxing in the history of the magazine, a short feature on Rocky Marciano, was written by Miller.

Along the way, Miller overcame many jeers from unenlightened colleagues about her reporting from the locker room — a foreshadowing of the terrible treatment female sports reporters would receive in later decades.

A classy and grateful Louis sent her this message, according to her sister Marilyn Willey: “You tell Miss Miller that if she will call me in advance, I’ll be sure to be wearing my terry cloth robe and she can come back anytime.”

Let’s focus in on this almost shocking bit of history. In the 1980s, as more women took up sports journalism as a profession, they struggled for equal access to athletes. That included reporting from the locker room. The stories of verbal abuse and invective against those female journalists, by athletes and other journalists, remain horrific. It appears that Miller was able to negotiate this controversial territory more than 30 years before it became a major social issue!

Impressed by her book, the editors of the Christian Science Monitor asked her to write a weekly sports column, which she did from 1946 to 1961, covering the sport of boxing from the careers of Louis to Muhammad Ali. Such was her expertise and her skill as a writer that she was asked to revise the section on boxing for the Encyclopedia Britannica.

She met her husband, Samuel Welles, in 1954. Welles, a Rhodes scholar, was the Chicago bureau chief for Time Life, which owned SI, and he had gotten a tip about the boxing underworld that he wanted to pass along. He was surprised and delighted when the sports magazine’s boxing expert turned out to be Miller. Their engagement and marriage a year later were covered on the society pages of The New York Times. They had three children.

My lingering impression of Miller is as “Cauliflower,” the Wellesley student who’d visit the training camps in Boston while most of her classmates were in the library or going to parties. “I’d call up Jack O’Brien, who used to promote fights at Mechanics Hall and the Boston Garden,” she told The New York Times shortly after her college graduation. “And he’d say, ‘You’d better come in. There’s a good mob here.’ ”

Miller died in 1985 in Charlotte, North Carolina, at the age of 61 after a long bout with cancer. She deserves enshrinement into the IBHOF.

I’ll give the final words to her granddaughter Donna Welles, who is based in Washington, D.C.: “Joe Louis was a great man. My grandma is remarkable because she saw this before others did and acted without fear. Sportswriters don’t make athletes great; they explain to people who don’t understand why they’re great.”

Donna Welles, who studied international affairs at Georgia Tech, has written about sports, including boxing, for the website Global Voices Online. Her grandmother would be very proud of her.