Olympian Micha Powell runs a different course: Embracing failure as a means to success A weekly series from the sprinter on balancing sports, school and life

Hey, all, Micha Powell here. Welcome to my video diary! I’m a recent University of Maryland graduate with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism, three-time NCAA All-American and 2016 Canadian Olympian.

If you’ve wondered what it takes to be a track and field student-athlete and compete at the international level, look no further. With this weekly video diary, you can follow my journey from training as a student-athlete at UMD to representing Canada at the 2017 World University Games in Taipei, Taiwan, at the end of August. With my degree in broadcast journalism, I will use my reporting and editing skills to produce an in-depth look at the high-performance world of a 400-meter sprinter.


Week 2

After I was named to the Canadian Olympic team in 2016, I thought that everything in my life would fall into alignment. I was going into my senior year of college at the University of Maryland as captain of the track and field team and on course to graduate with a B.A. in broadcast journalism in the spring. Also, with my new title as Olympian, I had an edge over my college competitors, having experienced the pressure of being selected to represent my country on the world stage. I felt prepared to dive in, headfirst, into my most intense year at Maryland. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be the most mentally and physically challenging season of my track career thus far.

I had been chosen to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympics based on my personal best (PB) time of 51.97 seconds in the 400 meters that I clocked at the 2016 East Regional Championships in Florida. At the beginning of my 2017 outdoor track season, I became transfixed with my best time from the previous year and was determined to run an even faster PB. I had dropped a second every year since I joined the UMD track team and was hoping to continue my streak. That was until I experienced my first substantial injury. Over spring training, I ran a tuneup 200-meter race to increase my speed and suddenly felt something not uncommon in the world of track and field: a hamstring strain. This slight hiccup quickly turned into a recurring pain that no amount of treatment (up to three hours a day) could quickly fix.

Regardless of this setback, my plan was simple. I would go to physical therapy until my body readjusted itself, and then I would be back running in time for my Canadian Championships, where I would run a world standard qualifying time to secure my spot on the World Championship Canadian team. My one-dimensional thought process led me to assume that I would make the Canadian team this year simply based on making national teams in the past. I didn’t allow myself to acknowledge the truth about my circumstance. I had to sooner or later face the fact that I could not rely on last year’s outcome to predict my coming track season.

My athletic trainer, Anthony Benyarko, concluded that my symptoms were a result of lower crossed syndrome (LCS). I did not want to admit that I had been running with LCS because of its association with muscle imbalance, which I interpreted as a weakness. I wanted to put on a brave face and not tell anyone the severity of my pain in the hope that it would go away. Call it pride or arrogance, but I thought if I didn’t speak my injury into existence, maybe I would still be able to run fast. After two months of rehabilitation exercises, Benyarko helped me master these new strengthening movements and my confidence came back full-fledged, and I was eager to get back into my spikes.

After I was cleared, I had a breakthrough toward the end of my outdoor collegiate track season at the 2017 East Regional Championships in Kentucky, when I ran a 52.15 (0.05 seconds off the world standard time). However, it came at the expense of my hamstring feeling like I had shredded it coming out of the blocks. I was too determined to not end my senior year without trying my hardest to qualify for NCAAs, so I kept pumping my arms throughout that race and did my best to ignore the excruciating pain in my leg. Wanting to make it to nationals and get the world standard so badly to race at the 2017 World Championships in Athletics in London blinded me to the fact that I was still running hurt.

In June 2017, my leg held up just enough for me to earn second-team All-American honors at my last NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Oregon. I was still favoring one leg, but I told myself that I could last a little longer until my Canadian track and field trials for the world team in July.

After weeks of training in the muggy Maryland heat with my coach prepping me for the Canadian Championships, I believed — no, I wanted to believe — that I still had another faster time left in my legs. The moment had come, and I was mentally ready to compete at my third senior-level Canadian national competition. I only had to convince myself that I was physically ready to leave it all out on the track. I made it through the semifinals with a time of 53.69 but considered scratching the finals because of the immense discomfort I was still feeling in my leg. I made my final decision during my warm-up before stepping onto the track for the 400-meter finals. I looked to my coach, the great world-record holder, Andrew Valmon, and decided I wanted to race one more time to honor all the work we’d put into training.

The announcers presented the lineup, and the track was closed off to everyone but the eight of us sprinters who qualified for the finals. I settled myself into my blocks, and within an instant the starting gun went off and I didn’t look back. I crossed the finish line only to realize that I had been disqualified for a lane violation near the 300-meter mark. Realizing I was not going to run at Worlds was devastating, to say the least. I felt like I had let down my coaches, family and friends who had come to see me race at what I thought would be the highlight of my season. I reflected back on my past five years in track right then and there and thought, Did I do all of this for nothing? I felt hopeless and did my best to mask my sadness. My mind kept going over my new reality. There would be no postrace interviews, no world team nomination celebration and no chance for me to show the world what I’m capable of doing around a 400m track in London.

I had to come to terms with the truth. My path had been altered. I was going to either accept this change in course or dwell over everything that didn’t go right in my track season. I decided on the former and promised myself that I was going to focus on getting my lower back and hips stronger to alleviate the pressure it was putting on my hamstring. I have to hold myself accountable, and only then will I be able to come back and run stronger than before. The best way I can grow and learn from this experience is to accept that success doesn’t come without failure. I refuse to let a setback prevent me from going after my goal of being the best Canadian 400-meter runner. It won’t be an easy road ahead; however, I know that disappointment from my shortcomings filled my heart with more desire and a mindset void of complacency.

Allen Iverson suspended one game for missing a game and other news of the week The Week That Was July 31-Aug. 4

Monday 07.31.17

New York Jets safety Jamal Adams, drafted to a team that went 5-11 last season, told an audience “if I had a perfect place to die, I would die on the field.” Teammate Morris Claiborne, not to be outdone, said he too would “die out there on that football field.” Green Bay Packers tight end Martellus Bennett, on the other hand, “ain’t dying for this s—.” The Baltimore Ravens signed another quarterback who is not Colin Kaepernick. Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, trying so hard to encourage star forward LeBron James stay with the team, was approved to build a jail complex in Detroit. President Donald Trump tweeted “No WH chaos.” Six hours later, recently hired White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, who is not dead, lost his job. Multiple White House officials, or “the best people,” were tricked into responding to emails from a British prankster. Twelve inmates broke out of an Alabama prison using peanut butter. University of Central Florida kicker Donald De La Haye was ruled ineligible by the NCAA for making YouTube videos.

Tuesday 08.01.17

Guests at a New York City hotel won’t stop having sex up against their room windows; “Guys are together, girls and girls are together. They don’t even pull the shades down,” one resident said. A congressional staffer instructed a group of interns to not leak a meeting with White House adviser Jared Kushner; it was immediately leaked. Hall of Fame basketball player Michael Jordan said eccentric helicopter dad LaVar Ball couldn’t “beat me if I was one-legged.” Ball, keeping his name in the news, said Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski “can’t hang with me back in my heyday.” “Marijuana moms” is a cute new name for mothers who like to smoke weed; meanwhile, the government still wants to arrest certain people for marijuana use. NASA is hiring a person to protect Earth from aliens. Former Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said Kaepernick, who hasn’t publicly spoken in months, should not talk openly about his social activism if he wants another job. Recently retired NBA player Kobe Bryant is getting thick. Two planes designated to be the new Air Force 1 were originally scheduled to be sold to a Russian airline. Scaramucci, the former White House communications director, known for hits like “I want to f—ing kill all the leakers,” invested almost half a million into an anti-bullying musical. Trump called the White House “a real dump.”

Wednesday 08.02.17

NBA Hall of Famer and BIG3 player-coach Allen Iverson, who has played in just half of his team’s games, averaging 9.1 minutes and two points per game, has been suspended one game by the league for missing a recent game. The Ravens are interested in another quarterback not named Kaepernick. Former second overall NBA draft pick Darko Milicic punched a horse in the face. The NFL released a video defining acceptable (simulating sleep) and unacceptable (twerking, pelvic thrusts) celebrations for the upcoming season. California Highway Patrol officers responded to reports of a kangaroo on an interstate highway; it was a raccoon. A 10-year-old boy named Frank, who admires Trump’s “business background,” offered to mow the lawn of the White House … for free.

Thursday 08.03.17

Trump told Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto “I won New Hampshire because New Hampshire is a drug-infested den”; Trump lost New Hampshire. Dukes of Hazzard actor Tom Wopat was arrested for allegedly peeling the sunburned skin off the arm of a woman and putting his finger between the butt cheeks of another woman; in response to the allegations, Wopat responded “F— them all.” A third person was arrested in Kentucky for allegedly digging up the grave of one of the suspect’s grandmother in search of valuables; “He should have known better because he was there in the funeral and he knew she didn’t have much to start with,” a relative said.

In “boy, he about to do it” news, special counsel Robert Mueller impaneled a grand jury for his investigation into Russian interference in the last year’s presidential election. A New Jersey man, possibly an eggplant emoji kind of guy, was kicked out of a showing of The Emoji Movie for pleasuring himself in the back row of the theater. A London pub, aptly named the Cock Tavern, banned the use of profanity; a patron responded to the restriction: “That’s bulls—.” The Secret Service, charged with protecting Trump and his family, was evicted from Trump Tower in Manhattan. Gov. Jim Justice (D-West Virginia) will switch to the Republican Party; the state party’s Twitter account said Justice “would be the worst thing to happen to WV” before last year’s election and called him “low-energy” and “Sad!” an hour before news broke of the party change.

Friday 08.04.17

Former independent counsel Kenneth Starr, who unearthed the Monica Lewinsky affair while investigating former President Bill Clinton for something else, in response to the Russia investigation, said, “we don’t want investigators or prosecutors to go on a fishing expedition.” Former President Barack Obama was blamed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions for the “culture of leaking” currently ravaging the Trump administration. Los Angeles Clippers coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, the architect of the Austin Rivers trade, was fired from and kept his job at the same time. Former welterweight champion Amir Khan, playing himself, accused his wife in a series of early morning tweets of cheating on him with heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua; Khan’s wife, Faryal Makhdoom Khan, responded by calling her husband a cheater, a 30-year-old baby, and accused him of sleeping with a prostitute in Dubai. Joshua responded to both set of tweets with a video snippet of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” music video and a message that “I like my women BBW [Big Beautiful Women].”

Daily Dose: 7/6/17 Chauncey Billups didn’t need the disrespect in Cleveland

If you missed me Wednesday with Ryan Hollins on The Dan Le Batard Show on ESPN Radio, you can check out the podcast here. We’ll be doing it again Thursday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., so check us out!

Rep. Steve Scalise is back in the hospital. After a man decided he was going to shoot at elected officials who were practicing for the Congressional Baseball Game, the Louisiana representative was battling for his life. He was out for a while, but his status was never really understood to be in the clear. Meanwhile, a representative from Kentucky is using this opportunity to try to loosen gun laws in D.C. while keeping the Capitol itself protected since, clearly, guns are dangerous. What a craven move.

President Donald Trump is headed to Hamburg, Germany, for the G-20 summit. If you don’t recall, the last world trip he took caused all sorts of issues because he doesn’t particularly play well with others on the world stage. He first stopped in Poland, where he indicated that no one really knows what happened regarding the U.S. election, which is bizarre. Anyways, over in Germany, where this showdown is set to kick off, people are dressing like zombies in the street. For me, as far as artistic protests go, this one is awesome.

I’m slightly scared of glasses. For years, I never had any problems with vision. Then after years of looking at television and computer screens, it was clear that I needed help to see. But because of vanity, I’m yet to actually cop a pair of lenses, and because of physical capability, contact lenses are not an option. I seriously have no idea how people jam those things in their eyes every day. But, for one person who did, a scary result came of it: Her eyes went rogue. This seriously scares me silly.

The Cleveland Cavaliers’ owner is really trying hard to screw this up. After the team got to the NBA Finals, he decided to fire his own general manager, which is insane. After that, he went after Chauncey Billups — you know, the former NBA star. Apparently Billups is looking to get into the business and figured a team that already had a few stars was a good start. But Billups doesn’t exactly need the job, per se. So Dan Gilbert lowballed him, creating a really awkward situation. Not good in Cleveland.

Free Food

Coffee Break: If you’re in Nashville, Tennessee, next week, I have some instructions for you. As soon as you arrive, or right now, go to the venue Basement East. Then stay there until July 12. Why? Because the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard has a new band called Bermuda Triangle, and they’ll be performing. It should be incredible.

Snack Time: If you haven’t seen the video version of JAY-Z’s “The Story of O.J.” yet, it’s on YouTube. Peep below. But if you aren’t familiar with all the visual representation in the short, check out this breakdown.

Dessert: Statik Selektah and Joey Badass have some new bangers out. Perfect for midsummer chillin’.

Murder of new Army officer at Maryland part of a frightening surge in racial violence FBI investigating death of third-generation military man as potential hate crime

Summer semesters are often quiet in the ROTC offices at Bowie State University. The unit’s cadets are away, training in places from Kentucky to Tanzania. Those who graduated are launching their military careers.

But this summer the quiet is tinged with grief because one of their recent graduates, a newly minted officer, is dead. He was not killed in some faraway conflict. Instead, he was the victim of a murder the FBI is investigating as a possible hate crime at the nearby University of Maryland.

Lt. Richard W. Collins III, 23, was stabbed to death in the wee hours of May 20 as he waited for an Uber ride-sharing car with two friends on the College Park campus. Two days earlier, he had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and the following week he was set to graduate from Bowie State, a historically black university between Washington, D.C., and Annapolis, Maryland.

Collins, a third-generation military man who aspired to be a general, was killed in what police called a “totally unprovoked” attack. Court papers describe a white man screaming as he approached Collins and his two friends from a nearby stand of trees. “Step left, step left if you know what’s best for you,” the man said to Collins. Collins replied, “No,” and the man plunged a 3- or 4-inch knife into his chest, according to charging documents.

Police charged University of Maryland student Sean Urbanski, 22, with the murder. Urbanski, who grew up in a middle-class family in suburban Maryland, was described by authorities as a member of a Facebook group called Alt-Reich: Nation, which trafficked in racist, sexist and anti-Semitic material.

“Suffice it to say that it’s despicable,” University of Maryland Police Chief David Mitchell told reporters. “It shows extreme bias against women, Latinos, members of the Jewish faith and especially African-Americans.”

Within minutes of the stabbing, police found Urbanski sitting on a bus stop bench just 50 feet from the murder scene. They said a knife was in his right front pocket. Also, they noted, the crime was captured on video. Urbanski has pleaded not guilty and is being held in a suburban Maryland jail without bail. His lawyer, William C. Brennan, told a judge that his client was incoherent when he was arrested, and that drugs and alcohol likely played a role in the crime.

Prosecutors expect Urbanski to be indicted by mid-July on first-degree murder charges that could land him in prison for life without a chance of parole. The FBI is continuing to scour his cellphone records, emails and social media footprint for evidence needed to support federal hate crime charges, which could expose Urbanski to the death penalty. Prosecutors noted that his membership in the Facebook group, where one source in the office said his activity was limited to “liking” several posts, would not by itself be enough to sustain a hate crime prosecution.

Investigators may or may not find enough evidence for Collins’ murder to meet the legal standard for a hate crime. But its elements — a black victim, a white suspect with a connection to extremist social media, and the fact that Collins and Urbanski were complete strangers — have led many observers to see it as part of the mounting toll of racist incidents accompanying the rise of President Donald Trump.

After the murder, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.) introduced a resolution, co-sponsored by 55 members of Congress, condemning the murder as “racially motivated” and pointing to a troubling rise in extremist activity on college campuses around the country. The NAACP, Brown and U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives, called on the Trump administration to condemn the attack.

Participants at a candlelight vigil for Richard Collins III listen to a speaker before balloons are released in his memory at Bowie State University on Monday, May 22, 2017 in Bowie, Md. Collins, a student at the historically black university, was stabbed while visiting the University of Maryland, College Park. Sean Urbanski, a white student, has been charged with murder in Collins’ death.

AP Photo/Brian Witte

The president has spoken out against racial intolerance on several occasions: in interviews, on Twitter, in official statements and, perhaps most notably, in an address to a joint session of Congress in February. But critics say the president’s efforts have been sporadic and at times come off as perfunctory. Also, they have not matched the racist and anti-immigrant passions his often caustic presidential campaign stirred among some of his supporters.

“When individuals occupying our nation’s highest office spew hate-filled rhetoric and unapologetically associate with and staff the White House with white supremacists, our entire nation drinks from the same poisonous well,” said NAACP chairman Leon W. Russell.

Trump has said nothing about Collins’ murder, despite the victim’s military pedigree.

“I don’t know of any statement or reaction that came out from the White House on the murder of Lt. Collins,” said Brown, himself a retired Army colonel. “Quite frankly, I think the president has been lukewarm at best in demonstrating his disdain and disgust and disagreement with hate crimes and extremist misconduct. He has spoken on a few incidents, but it has been very lukewarm.”

The White House did not respond to an email requesting comment on the president’s silence.

Since last fall, hate crime watchdogs have cataloged 150 racist incidents on college campuses in 33 states, Brown’s office said. Off campus, there have been many more. The Southern Poverty Law Center counted more than 1,000 bias-related incidents across the country in just the first month after the election. Many of the alleged perpetrators alluded to Trump or his campaign slogans. Hate crimes were up 6 percent in 25 large cities across the country in 2016, according to a new report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. Of the 25 localities surveyed, 14 hit or tied multiyear highs, the report said.

The number of incidents has tailed off, but alarming instances of racial violence have continued. On Memorial Day weekend, two men were stabbed to death and a third was badly injured on a train in Portland, Oregon, when they stood up to a man who was harassing two Muslim women. In court, the suspect, Jeremy Joseph Christian, 35, shouted, “Death to the enemies of America. … You call it terrorism. I call it patriotism.”

That same weekend, a white man was arrested and charged with intentionally running over two Native American men with his pickup truck in Washington state. One victim died and the other was hospitalized. Also that weekend, a white man yelling racial slurs and wielding a machete attacked and seriously wounded an African-American man in a Clearlake, California, apartment parking lot.

The Southern Poverty Law Center says some people take the president’s often harsh rhetoric as a signal to act on their racist sentiments.

“Trump’s racially charged, xenophobic campaign, coupled with his attacks on so-called political correctness, not only energized the white supremacist movement but gave people a license to act on their worst instincts — their anger, their prejudices, their resentments,” the law center’s president Ben Cohen wrote in an article on the organization’s website.

Even as the nation’s racial climate has turned stormy, few at Bowie State expected the hate to hit so close to home. Lt. Col. Joel Thomas, an Army Ranger who leads the university’s ROTC program, said it took a while for news of Collins’ murder to sink in.

“Initially, there was just disbelief,” he said. “I got a call on Saturday, and I don’t think it sunk in until I was at church the next day. This was a young man who did everything he was supposed to do. If he were on the front line, you would be a little more prepared for it.”

Montrose Robinson, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and the ROTC’s recruiting operations officer at Bowie State, had known Collins since shortly after he sent her an email inquiring about an ROTC scholarship in late 2012. It did not take long for him to be approved.

“He was a star, a model cadet,” Robinson said. “He excelled in physical training, and he was an excellent student. He wanted to be a general officer, and he had what it would take to be a general.”

The military had always been a big part of Collins’ life. His grandfather, Richard W. Collins Sr., served in a field artillery unit in the Korean War. His father, Richard W. Collins Jr., retired from the Navy after serving 25 years as an air traffic controller, with postings in places including Vietnam and Somalia. Collins, who had earned a business administration degree at Bowie State, was Airborne qualified and headed to be an intelligence officer.

Even while attending Annapolis Area Christian School for his final two years of high school, Collins had something of a military bearing. He was quiet and well-mannered, athletic and team-oriented. He played soccer and lacrosse and was devoutly religious. After he moved on to college, he would sometimes be seen in his ROTC fatigues picking up his younger sister after school.

“You always had the sense that he was well-raised. He was very respectful. He seemed to put effort into his studies,” said Don Wiley, a dean at Annapolis Area Christian. “He was gentlemanly and took care of his business. You got the sense the parents had sent him on a trajectory to become an officer and gentleman.”

The murder touched off an outpouring of support for the Collins family, who remain too devastated to talk publicly, according to a family spokesman. There were vigils at both the University of Maryland and Bowie State, and flowers, cards and notes of condolences have poured in from across the country.

But, disturbingly, not everyone has shared that sense of sorrow. Online, someone who identified himself as a classmate of Urbanski’s wrote in a screenshot released by police: “F— yeah Sean!!!!! That’s what happens when n—–s try and get frosty with an OG! Talk s—, get stabbed lol.”

In a comment on Facebook, Welby Burgone, a high school classmate of Urbanski’s who was training to be a dispatcher for the Anne Arundel County Police Department, posted an image that seemed to support that sentiment. It showed a crab holding a knife with the words “You mess with crabo You get stabo.”

The department denounced the post as “extremely insensitive.” Days after Anne Arundel police were alerted to the image via Twitter, Burgone was no longer working for the department, a spokesman said. Burgone could not be reached for comment.

The ROTC’s Robinson said it is unlikely that Collins would have attributed the nation’s always fraught racial climate to the president’s campaign. Collins was not one to “see race,” she said, and he had friends of many races. The night he was murdered, she said, he was out with two friends: an Asian woman and a white man.

“That’s who he was. He just looked at people’s spirit and who they were,” Robinson said. “When you are in uniform, you support the commander in chief, and I know that Richard did like the president. He is commander in chief, and Richard was excited and ready to serve.”

Broadcaster Lisa Leslie remembers Prince, loves Nilla wafers — and ‘Gidget’ ‘Me and Jesus go way back,’ says the WNBA Hall of Famer, ‘so I’d like to have a few words’

Hall of Famer Lisa Leslie is proof that life doesn’t end after retirement from professional basketball. The former Los Angeles Sparks center, who put in 12 seasons before hanging up her sneakers in 2009, may be busier now than she was during her time on the court, when she was a member of four gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic teams, led a team to the WNBA championship in 2001 and received three MVP awards. Shortly after retiring, Leslie became an in-studio sports analyst for ABC, Turner Sports and CBS Sports Network. And the grind hasn’t stopped for the 44-year-old wife and mom of two. These days, Leslie co-hosts the all-woman CBS Sports Network talk show We Need To Talk, is an ambassador for The Players’ Tribune and most recently co-authored the self-help book From the Court to the Boardroom with business partner Bridgette Chambers. “Eventually, anyone can have these certain levels of success,” Leslie said. “It’s not based on luck. It’s strategy.” When she manages some downtime, you can find Leslie listening to her favorite Les Miserables songs, binge-watching Netflix series and kicking butt while playing board games with her family.

What’s one thing you did in the past year that you never thought you’d do?

Move across the country [to Florida]. I never thought I’d leave Los Angeles.

Which pro athlete would you never want to trade places with?

Any of those boxers, probably. Or MMA fighters. Ronda Rousey. I’d never want to be in the ring, because they take some serious beatings. I’ll pass on that sport.

What are you looking forward to achieving this year?

I’m actually about to go back to school to get my real estate license for the state of Florida. I’ll have to go to class for a month. My husband and I have had properties in California. … I like the whole idea of investing … flipping properties. That’s probably my biggest focus this year. Trying to get people to move to Florida.

“I tie my shoes too tight. Because when I would play, I had to tie my shoes and retie them three times before jump ball.”

Are there any habits you developed in the WNBA that you still find yourself doing now?

Yes. I tie my shoes too tight. Because when I would play, I had to tie my shoes and retie them three times before jump ball. I [was] just so neurotic about my shoes being tied tight before I played, that now sometimes I catch myself and my shoes will be too tight and I’m like, ‘What is wrong? I’m in pain.’ I have no game to play.

Which current WNBA athletes remind you most of yourself?

[Los Angeles Sparks forward] Nneka Ogwumike reminds me of myself. She’s tenacious and plays both ends of the floor, and she just has heart and a will that she doesn’t give up. She’s a hard worker. I was a hard worker, and I like that.

If you could go to dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?

Jesus. Me and Jesus go way back, so I would just like to have a few words. Face to face would be great. Get a few answers.

Have you ever been starstruck?

Yes. I met the late Michael Jackson, and I met Janet Jackson. I met a lot of the Jacksons, but Michael was so cool. Michael wanted some Kentucky Fried Chicken, I remember that. He liked chicken, and he had really big hands. I also met the late Prince, who was supercool. Prince was the symbol at the time, but he was very militant and very beautiful. He was really the most beautiful person I ever met … his face was gorgeous. It was ridiculous. He looked like a porcelain doll, and I don’t think he ever had any work done. I’m looking at him, and of course he’s like 4-11 and I’m 6-5. We’re both leaning against this wall, and we were chatting it up. He was really nice and super down to earth.

“MMA fighters. Ronda Rousey. I’d never want to be in the ring because they take some serious beatings.”

Who would you want to play you in your biopic?

That’s so funny because I don’t know if anyone’s actually tall enough. But Gabrielle Union is the only celebrity I know who actually has some game, and can shoot and play. She’s a little short for me, but everything else is there. She has the right color, she’s got swag. She can do it.

What’s the worst purchase you’ve ever made?

You don’t want to know. And this was a true accident. In the Tiffany’s store, I accidentally bought some diamond earrings that were like $32,000 and I thought the lady was saying that they were $3,200. I was trying to buy my mom some real diamond earrings. The lady was like, ‘These are 2, these are 3, and these are 4.’ How was I supposed to know the 2, the 3, and the 4 were $20,000, $30,000 and $40,000? That lady took my American Express and put $30,000 and I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I’m walking out of here today, but we’re bringing these back.’ That may be my most embarrassing moment too. I know there’s people that do that, but I’m not them; $30,000 was a big stretch.

What is the most embarrassing music you admit to listening to?

It’s not embarrassing to me, but my family, kids and all, they hate when I put on Les Miserables. I listen to ‘Bring Him Home’ and they hate it. My kids are like, ‘Mom. No.’ I think it’s so beautiful. It’s such a spiritual song, and I’m a spiritual person. Nobody wants to hear Les Mis in the house, though.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Things I don’t ever get to have. Hostess powdered doughnuts, when they’re fresh. A box of Nilla wafers, when they’re fresh. Come on. That’s old school. Red Vines, not Twizzlers.

“The problem is, everyone thinks I cheat in Clue.”

What will you always be the champ of?

Clue. In my family, nobody will play me because I beat everyone. I get the answers right every time, and they get so mad at me. We play a lot of board games: Life, Monopoly, Taboo. We play a homemade game called Fishbowl, which is a mixture of Taboo and charades. We’re competitive. The problem is, everyone thinks I cheat in Clue. Even if I leave the room and let them shuffle and put it all together, I figure it out. I’m brilliant.

The last show you binge-watched?

I was watching 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, and I’m also watching This Is Us. And then, I didn’t finish binge-watching Narcos. I’m on season two. I completed Power and now I’m like, damn, I can’t do without Power. My No. 1 show is Game of Thrones. I also finished Insecure, which is excellent.

What’s your favorite throwback TV show?

Probably be an episode of Martin because my husband loves it. Now something I’d seek out — I’m so corny — but mine would be I Love Lucy. And if I really throw it back, I would probably sit and watch an episode of Gidget. No one would know that.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Keep God first.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

AAU team plays for a national championship and to ease a coach’s grief Trying to create a safe haven for young boys in Louisville, Kentucky, coach loses his brother to city’s violence

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — The boys sweating and gasping for breath in this community center gym are AAU state basketball champions and will leave soon for Orlando, Florida, and a shot at the national title. Coach Patrick McGee reminds them to pack toothbrushes and deodorant.

“I love all y’all,” he says, “but I don’t want to smell you.”

The team, accurately if immodestly called We The Best, has just finished running a seemingly endless round of full-court sprints because of some missed free throws. But McGee has no patience for their tears or exhaustion.

“All that crying stuff is done,” he tells his team huddled up at midcourt. “You ain’t third-graders. You’re fourth-graders now.”

Patrick McGee talks to his team as they prepare for their upcoming national tournament.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

These kids look exhausted and undersized, but they play an aggressive, up-and-down style that’s hard for players this young to execute as consistently as they do. After an impressive romp through the Kentucky state AAU tournament for 9-year-olds in March, one in which their coach says the team crushed their six opponents by about 20 points a game, We The Best will begin play in Orlando on Sunday.

The trip, which will be the first time in Florida for many of the boys and their families, comes as a much-needed distraction from historic rates of violence in their hometown. In Jefferson County, which includes Louisville, there were 123 homicides in 2016, breaking the previous high set 45 years earlier. It’s a city in crisis that’s largely been overshadowed. One of the most telling examples of this was when it was left out of President Donald Trump administration’s new federal program to help reduce violent crimes in a dozen cities — some that had homicide totals that are dwarfed by Louisville’s.

And the violence isn’t slowing down. From the start of the year through June 29, 66 homicides have been investigated by the Louisville Metro Police Department, 20 percent more than the same six-month period last year, according to the department’s Homicide Unit.

“There’s a lot of bad stuff out there, but you try not to think about it,” said point guard Brandon Heath, who lives in the city’s West End, where a large portion of the violence and gang activity unfolds.

Jermaine “Chief” Cameron Jr shoots hoops on the street outside his home in the Portland Neighborhood of Louisville. Gun violence has become an issue in this community and murders in Louisville are already outpacing 2016.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

But there’s another reason the rise in homicides isn’t lost on this group of rising fourth-graders. Three weeks after they won their state title, McGee’s brother, Lee, a star high school basketball player in Louisville during the mid-2000s, was gunned down outside of a convenience store in the West End. Since then, the team and their families have rallied around their coach in his time of need. Playing for a national title and getting a trip to Orlando is cool, but keeping the days busy in an area that’s going through a significant uptick in violence is just as important for the families — and the man who leads them.

“One of the bright moments I have to look forward to is going to practice,” said Patrick McGee, 30. “I look forward to just being around them. They make me feel better.” He added: “If it wasn’t for them boys, I don’t know what I’d be doing.”


The 10-minute drive to Louisville Cemetery is a recurring punch to the gut for the McGee family. “This has been the longest 90 days of my life,” Patrick McGee says, using his white T-shirt to wipe away the tears trickling down his face. “I’ve tried to keep pushing. I think about my brother a lot and miss him a lot.”

Patrick McGee holds up a photograph of his brother, Lee Andrew McGee, who was killed in a shooting in March.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

Patrick McGee and his mother, Aretha McGee, walk toward a corner of the expanding cemetery. The grave, still awaiting both grass and a headstone, is marked by an empty bottle of Remy Martin cognac buried in the dirt. Lee McGee won’t be alone here: No more than 75 feet to the right of where he’s buried are similarly bare plots for two of his friends who were both killed recently. Mother and son exit Patrick McGee’s black Chrysler 300, which has newspaper obituaries of family and friends covering the dashboard. “I lose friends around here on a daily basis,” he says.

Surrounded by friends and family, Aretha McGee Bond holds balloons before releasing them at the grave of her son Lee Andrew McGee.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

It’s been three months and a day since Lee McGee — a 26-year-old brother, son and father of two — was killed, but the passing time is not making these visits any easier. Aretha McGee, wearing a pin with a picture of her deceased son, picks up a stick and writes his name where the headstone will go. As the wind blows through the trees, Aretha McGee tells me that it always comes in like that when they arrive; it comforts her.

Patrick McGee bends over the Remy Martin bottle and quietly talks to Lee.

“Miss you, baby,” he whispers.


Childhood was a struggle for Patrick and Lee, the first and third of Aretha McGee’s six children, who grew up in Rockford, Illinois, and the South Side of Chicago. By the time Patrick was 7, his single mother had checked herself into rehab for her addiction to crack. (Aretha says she’s been sober for 22 years.) The regularity of drive-by shootings at their apartment complex forced the children to sleep on the floor to avoid the bullets. “It was a normal routine,” Patrick McGee said. “You heard gunshots and you got on the floor.”

Aretha McGee Bond hold a picture of her son Lee Andrew McGee.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

Basketball was the boys’ lifeline amid the chaos. It was in their blood. Aretha McGee played for her high school team, and their uncle, Lee Lampley, was a schoolboy legend in the early ’90s and an all-state selection in 1994 who rode a silky-smooth jumper to average nearly 30 points a game that year for Rockford’s Boylan Catholic High School. Lampley’s low grades kept him from getting a look from a major school, and he was later kicked off two junior college teams. If not for a series of felonies, Sports Illustrated wrote in 2015, Lampley could have been one of the best shooters of all time.

Though family and friends laud Patrick McGee for coaching and his own play — he stuffs the stat sheet as a 6-foot-4 guard for the Kentucky Flash of the semiprofessional Midwest Basketball League — it was his younger brother who was dubbed “Lee-Bron” by those who saw him play at Central High School, Muhammad Ali’s alma mater, where he averaged 18.9 points per game as a sophomore. But, much like his uncle, that greatness didn’t last. Sorting out some disciplinary issues, Lee McGee graduated from a different high school and stopped playing organized ball altogether.

But Lee McGee felt connected to the next player in the family’s basketball bloodline: Patrick McGee’s son Da’shawn, one of the players on We The Best. He attended a lot of Da’shawn’s games, regularly played his nephew in games of one-on-one and celebrated with team members as they won the state AAU tournament.

After a day filled with basketball camp and football practice, Patrick McGee plays a game of one-on-one with his son Da’shawn.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

“He always said if I could get 20 points, that he would give me $20,” Da’shawn recalled, proudly stating that he won that bet three times.

People talked about what could have been for Lee McGee on the basketball court right up until the early morning hours of March 28. At 1:13 a.m., Lee McGee left Club Legends, a local nightclub, with some friends. He wanted to take his girlfriend and others out for margaritas, Patrick McGee said, but first decided to stop at Dino’s Food Mart, a block from the club. As Lee McGee walked toward the entrance to Dino’s, Charlie Shoulders, 24, allegedly pulled a gun from under his hoodie and shot him three times in the chest.

Shoulders was free on bond for drug and firearms charges from 2016, and police believe the two had recently gone back and forth over a woman. In security video footage, Lee McGee is seen trying to shield his head and face. He was rushed to an emergency room at the University of Louisville Hospital.

“It was just an overt, brazen act by his perpetrator,” said Louisville police Lt. Emily McKinley, who oversees the Homicide Unit and has responded to at least 400 homicides since 2011. “I think that resonated with everybody. He clearly wanted something to happen to Mr. McGee.” Shoulders was arrested two weeks after the shooting and indicted for murder by a grand jury in April.

Patrick McGee stands in front of Dino’s Food Mart, where his brother, Lee Andrew McGee, was killed in a shooting in March.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

Asleep at home that night, Patrick McGee was awakened by someone beating at the door. His phone was out of commission, and the woman at the door, a family friend, handed him hers. On the line was Erica Dotson, the mother of his two children, who told Patrick McGee that his brother had been shot. He dropped the phone and went to pick up his mother, doing 100 mph on I-65 toward the hospital. When they arrived, he estimated there were more than 200 people outside waiting to learn of his brother’s fate.

Aretha McGee has relived that night every day since then.

“I know mothers lose their children,” she says through tears, “but to lose one of your own is the worst feeling of pain ever for a mother to feel.”

On the three-month anniversary of the shooting, Patrick McGee took me to the spot where his brother died. It’s only the second time he’s been there since March 28. He notices that a makeshift memorial of flowers and photos for his brother outside Dino’s is no longer there. People filling up their cars at the gas station next door and shirtless customers walking in and out of Dino’s shoot glances at us, wondering what we’re doing there.

“He got shot down right here,” Patrick McGee says, pointing to the pavement. “I don’t like coming down here. It brings back so much pain and so much hurt.”

We leave less than a minute later. Patrick McGee doesn’t look back.


Inside the Lighthouse Community Center in nearby Newburg, it’s all about family during practice. Sure, Patrick McGee and his assistants will get on the boys for sloppy defense or poor free-throw shooting. But since Patrick McGee has coached most of them since they were 5, these critiques come from a place of love and familiarity.

“He’s cool, but sometimes he makes us run and do 20 push-ups,” center Keriawn Berry said with a grin.

Members of the We The Best Basketball Team practice for their upcoming national tournament at a gym in Louisville, Ky.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

Parents and guardians stay through practice from beginning to end, with toddlers and other children running and playing on the sidelines. They say the team has come a long way since it started practicing in a small gym in one of the area’s most troubled neighborhoods.

“This team gives our boys hope,” said West End resident Anna Reynolds, the mother of frontcourt player Ahmad Shelton. “I’m still in awe.”

Sitting in the stands and patrolling the sidelines, the parents are candid about why they keep their children’s days full of sports and other activities. The West End is filled with boarded-up homes, rundown businesses and vacant lots. Though Louisville won a $30 million federal grant for the redevelopment of a public housing site, residents say more is needed to fight the drugs and violence that have the city in a vise grip. As in many of Louisville’s regional brethren, heroin remains the main drug game in town, both for the addicts and the 25 active gangs that help traffic the product. Although the 150 nonfatal shootings through June 28 represent a dip compared with this point last year, the increased homicide rate means the incidents are becoming deadlier.

Whether it’s a morning at Rajon Rondo’s youth basketball camp (Rondo was born in Louisville and played three years of high school ball here) or an evening at football practice, the days are packed so that the boys can go from one thing to the next without having to think about the violence, or see the yellow police tape, happening around them.

Jermaine “Chief” Cameron Jr shoots hoops on the street outside his home in the Portland Neighborhood of Louisville.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

“I know that when they’re at practice that I don’t have to worry about them being caught up in gunshots,” said Anthony McClenney, Berry’s uncle. “You know for these two hours that these kids are going to be safe.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Toni Wilcox, the mother of another We the Best player, Marlon Harbin III.

“It’s easy to get caught up in the wrong things with the wrong people,” she said. “I’m happy my son has something to do.”

The week of Lee McGee’s death, the assistant coaches and parents didn’t plan to see Patrick McGee for the team’s Thursday practice. Yet he was there for the 6 p.m. start. He needed the players for support as much as they needed him for his coaching and leadership.

“He didn’t want to let the kids down,” said Allen Evans III, an assistant coach who helped start a GoFundMe campaign to help cover expenses for the Orlando trip. “Even though he was going through things, we could see how much he loved being there.”

The message? Play as hard as they could and for the love of each other. From there, the team got to running.


Last week, about 30 minutes before the start of practice, Patrick McGee and a group of 14 family and friends, including three toddlers, carry 26 blue, white and gold balloons toward where Lee McGee is buried. It’s 16 days before what would have been his 27th birthday. Sipping on a couple of bottles of Luc Belaire Luxe champagne, his brother’s favorite, Patrick McGee and a couple of others pour some out on his plot. On the count of three, they release the balloons, staring at them as they drift into the blue Kentucky sky.

“Love you, Lee Andrew,” his mother says.

Patrick McGee shows a dog tag he had made to remember his brother, Lee Andrew McGee, who was killed in a shooting in March.

Philip Scott Andrews for The Undefeated

Smiling and jumping up and down near his father’s final resting place, Lee McGee’s 4-year-old son, Lee Jr., has a message of his own: “Love you, Daddy!”

Patrick McGee pours out some more champagne before saying his goodbyes. Now, it’s time to make the 15-minute drive to the gym. Nationals are almost here. The team needs its coach. And the coach needs his team.

The Morning Roast: 6/25/17 The NBA draft is over, still no football, but there’s plenty to talk about

We’re full on in the thick of summer radio, which means that the topics are thin on sports but fun on life. Christian Yates was away on holiday, so talk of The Bachelorette stayed pretty serious, as that particular program has taken a turn for the super cynical.

As far as guests, we chopped it up with Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and Chris Herring of FiveThirtyEight.com. Obviously, there was a lot of basketball chatter on the heels of the NBA draft too.

Hour 1

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The NBA draft gave us some fun moments. There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense, as the picks were pretty much chalk, but the devil is in the details. Markelle Fultz unsurprisingly went to the 76ers and was wearing quite a bit of TV makeup that was rather noticeable. Of course the Ball family was in the building, making a tremendous scene, and LaVar’s vision came to fruition. Sidebar: LaVar might be in the WWE soon. LaMelo, though, was the best-dressed one there.

Of course, the Timberwolves traded for Jimmy Butler, which was the big deal of the day in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center. Who knows what the Bulls were thinking, unloading their best player for a couple of dudes who few like and one of whom has a torn ACL. Then they sold a pick to the Warriors. It should also be noted that Butler was in Paris when he got the news that he was traded.

We did find time for the NFL as well. With Colin Kaepernick’s tweets prompting awful takes from many writers, we had to clear a couple of things up.

Hour 2

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The New York Knicks are a mess right now. Their best player, Kristaps Porzingis, bailed on the squad before exit interviews when the season ended, and their owner was playing a rock gig the night of the draft. Thankfully, team president Phil Jackson didn’t trade the Latvian away, to the delight of fans, for once. We broke down what they can do next to make them an important franchise to the NBA again. Let’s also not forget that Charles Oakley’s court case for nearly beating up owner James Dolan is still looming.

Speaking of NYC, Kentucky head coach John Calipari showed up to the NBA draft, which is where he does a large part of his recruiting. He’s blatantly there to show face for the Wildcats, which is fine. Also, the fashion factor is a big part of the draft, so we got into that as well.

Of course, the Derek Carr $125M deal with the Oakland Raiders was big news in the NFL world. Mina and Domonique broke down how that’s not really a super significant figure overall, even though it makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL. Basically, he should be. Until the next guy comes along. Which will probably be this week.

Lastly, for Top 5, I took a look at what some of the most hateable fan bases in America are. If you’re wondering, no, New York, Dallas and Philadelphia are not on the list.

Hour 3

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Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune joined us to talk about the Timberwolves and how they look as a squad since their big acquisition of Butler. They’ve moved up from a League Pass alert team to someone that’s probably going to get a whole lot more television time. But they haven’t made the playoffs in 13 years, so we got into how this franchise is going to move forward.

In the second segment, we talked about the story of Ryan O’Callaghan, whom some of you may remember from his time with the Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots. He recently was profiled at OutSports.com with a harrowing story about how he was talked down from suicide, which he’d planned for a long time after his NFL career ended. Domonique told a great story about a teammate he played with who later came out and that he regrets not being more respectful to during their time at the University of Maryland.

I saved the best for last, however. As you all know, The Bachelorette is a big topic of discussion on this program. Since I happened to be doing this show from home, I had a surprise for the gang. After informing everyone that Christian was out of the country, I stepped away from the Skype fam for a second and returned in costume, ready for the segment. Sure, it’s not a visual medium, but the bit was worth it.

Enjoy!

The NBA draft prospects step into the style spotlight Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and other ballers make a play for best in class

I’m milling about the lobby of the Grand Hyatt New York, where many members of the 2017 NBA draft class are counting down the hours until D-day at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Tall brown men are everywhere, many of whom are a little more than 24 hours away from being very famous and very rich.

I’m here to find out what the kids will be wearing on draft night. It becomes quickly apparent that ain’t happening. No one will spill the beans on details about suits, shoes, jewelry; they know that the big reveal gets the more screen time. Having that Hollywood mind frame starts early, yo. What we see pre-draft — formal-ish suits in low-key colors, flashy designer sneakers and jewelry — is an appetizer portion of what’ll be dished up later. The fashion menu is safe and tasty — but Thursday’s will be fire.

First up: Lonzo Ball. The 6-foot-6 UCLA point guard has had a rapid ascension in the pop culture hierarchy over the past several months, partially due to his serious skills as a ball player, but mainly because of his outspoken father and manager, LaVar Ball. The Ball family launched a sneaker and apparel line, Big Baller Brand, to much fanfare earlier this year. Not surprisingly, Lonzo Ball came dressed in gray pants and a black polo shirt stamped with the “BBB” logo on the left breast; a diamond crucifix hung from a diamond chain around his neck.

“I don’t feel pressure” to rep the Big Baller Brand, Lonzo Ball said when asked what he planned to wear to draft night. “I’ll wear a black suit.” We’ll see. The marketing machine that is LaVar Ball has enough chutzpah to drop a ready-to-wear men’s suit line in time for Lonzo Ball’s handshake with NBA commissioner Adam Silver.

On to De’Aaron Fox, the charming point guard for the University of Kentucky. Fox has been making the media rounds leading up to the draft, and the Houston-bred player was not playing around, sartorially speaking. His gray two-toned suit and black collarless shirt was tailored (by his personal stylist, no less) to perfection. The famous crown of hair was peaked high and looked magnificent. Fox joked that his Gucci slip-on sneakers, which were color stamped with a picture of a snarling tiger, were coveted by his fashion-obsessed Kentucky teammate, Malik Monk. “We wear the same shoe size, and he almost took these!” Fox said. “He had a different pair of Gucci shoes, so we’re good.

“I just like to look good — I feel like I can look good in anything, but my [draft day] suit is gonna look great,” said Fox, who took off the right GG Supreme Angry Cat sneaker and offered it for inspection. “The only question is how I’m gonna fit the hat over my head.”

Instagram Photo

At a nearby table, Monk wore a blue-and-white bomber jacket with leather trim instead of a typical suit jacket. “I always have something different on, whether you see it or not. You’ve gotta be different in the NBA, gotta stand out,” Monk said as he lifted his own colorful Gucci Ace GG Wallpaper sneaker-clad foot onto the table.

Instagram Photo

I’d been waiting to talk to Markelle Fultz, this year’s projected No. 1 overall pick and famous son of Prince George’s County, Maryland. Being a P.G. County girl my own self, I was pleasantly surprised when Fultz ended up earning the award for Most Low-Key Fashion Rookie of the day. Dressed in a black button-down shirt and black jeans, the University of Washington point guard let out a loud cry as he approached the interview table, packed seven deep with reporters. “Dang!” Fultz said before taking his seat.

What do you like most about what you’re going to wear Thursday, I asked.

“The lining of my draft suit is gray, but there’ll be some special stuff about it, too. I hope people will be surprised and like it,” Fultz said. “I always try to rep for a little bit of everywhere I’ve been, P.G. County, DeMatha [High School], [University of] Washington.”

For the sake of black fatherhood, stop the war on drugs I get to celebrate Father’s Day with my dad after 27 years thanks to President Obama

“Your father WAS a good man, Nique. He always looked out for folks.”

“Boy, Ralph could run. You run just like him. He WAS a legend.”

“You Ralph son? He HAD a brain on him. Smart. Sorry to see that happened to him.”

Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, and playing sports made these common sayings that were spoken to me. My father, Ralph Warren, was a present memory in my life but a very distant one to friends and admirers. Hearing this, you might assume my father was deceased — maybe an accident, a bullet or maybe bad luck happening to a man many had fond memories of. That wasn’t the case at all. My father was alive and well living in Indiana, then Kentucky, then Illinois in a jail cell, sentenced to life in prison for a nonviolent drug offense. He wasn’t deceased, but his sentence would ensure that he would never see freedom. He would die in jail. DIE IN JAIL.

That had always hung over me with great pain, fear and anger. I would not be able to see my father grow old nor pass away in the comforts of his home because he would be in a federal prison cell. That is why on Jan. 17, 2017 — when President Barack Obama, mere days before his term was up, commuted my father’s sentence for drug trafficking and firearm charges after 27 years — I cried for hours knowing that I would know my father as a free man.


On Feb. 8, my father arrived back at the Greyhound bus station in Toledo, Ohio, where dozens of family members, including my mom and sibling, and a host of friends welcomed him back. I introduced him for the very first time to my daughter, Lois Marie. Since his release, he has edited and re-released his novel Target, begun working at a local auto supplier plant and, most importantly, spoken to recovering drug abusers and young men who have come into contact with the prison system. Together, my father and I are advocating for reduced sentencing and more funding for re-entry programs to local and federal legislators. Our lives have been affected by this “War on Drugs,” and we are on a mission to ensure it won’t reintensify.

Between 1970 and 2005, America’s prison and jail population ballooned from 300,000 to more than 2 million. America’s “War on Drugs” began under former President Richard Nixon in 1971 as a response to the increase in recreational drug use and abuse in the 1960s. Initial appropriations were geared to clinical and drug abuse prevention efforts, increased funding for prisons, directives for harsher sentences and aggressive law enforcement geared at drug cartels. It escalated under President Reagan, with the creation of mandatory minimum prison sentences in 1986 after an influx of crack cocaine in American cities targeted black and brown communities.

The American presidency from 1970 to 2005 focused on “Law and Order” to combat drug trafficking and violence, resulting in 1 in 9 black children currently having an incarcerated parent. Ninety-two percent of parents in prison are fathers, and an overwhelming proportion of these fathers are black.

Children of incarcerated parents are faced with trauma, higher chance of being in poverty, and increased rates of incarceration that create a cycle of destruction in the black community. Mass incarceration of black fathers limits the financial stability of families. Coupled with other racially prejudiced systems, mass incarceration plagues the stability of the black community.

Attorney General Eric Holder established the Smart on Crime initiative in 2014 to reduce mandatory minimum sentencing and push more funding to programs that decrease prison recidivism. Researchers from the Pew Charitable Trust agree that federal mandatory minimums don’t deter crime or reduce the number of people who return to jail. Directing prosecutors not to seek mandatory minimums for low-level and nonviolent offenses, the Obama administration’s commutation and pardon policies allowed thousands to be freed and reunited with families and society. Unfortunately, these policies came to an end with the presidential election of Donald Trump and appointment of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.

In May, Sessions directed federal prosecutors to seek the harshest indictments for drug offenses and reinstated mandated federal minimums for all charges, which includes the “three strikes” provision when disclosing to judges all facts pertaining to sentencing. This reversal of policy is not just a setback for best practices in federal prosecutions and has widespread opposition by both political parties, but it is also a setback for black fathers and their children.

Current policies for the Justice Department directed by Sessions empower prosecutors to use the full power of the federal government to enact harsh sentences for low-level and nonviolent crimes and keep the current prison population, the world’s largest, growing. We know that federal sentencing grossly prosecutes a high proportion of black males, leaving their children fatherless, without dual incomes and suffering from extreme trauma. There are no winners in this scenario, only losers. The appearance of being tough on crime from the DOJ will not reduce crime, but it will ensure millions of fatherless children who will be at risk of committing crimes themselves.

If 21st-century federal sentencing policies mirror the past 30 years of “Law and Order” mandates, we will continue to see our prison population rise and spend much-needed funding on housing prisoners instead of investing in communities, families and children. The annual cost of housing a prisoner outstrips the cost of tuition in states such as California, costing more than $75,000. Frederick Douglass in the 19th century said, “It’s easier to build strong children than broken men.” As prison and education costs rise, we as a nation have to make a choice of where our priorities lie. If we believe that families matter and children need fathers, mandatory minimums that target black men must be a policy of the past. We need to reinstate the commutation policy of the last administration so that imprisoned citizens are reinstated back to their communities.

This is the first Father’s Day I will spend with my dad in 27 years. I won’t take it for granted, because I know that many children won’t be able to celebrate it with their fathers.

They were, like me, waiting and waiting for that dream of seeing their fathers on this side of freedom. I am also vigilant for black fathers who will be targeted by the Trump administration’s arcane policies that invoke echoes of the past and have destroyed communities and families of color in the name of “Law and Order.”

On this Father’s Day, celebrate black fatherhood and work to protect it at all costs. I plan to strap my daughter into her stroller, put on my best running shoes and run just like my father, next to my father.