Daily Dose: 9/18/17 Marshawn Lynch making all the right moves

Donald Glover and Lena Waithe did it for the culture. At the 69th Emmy Awards, the true shining stars of the evening were rapper and actor Donald Glover and writer Lena Waithe, who made Emmy history with their wins. Glover made history in the outstanding directing for a comedy series category for his B.A.N. episode of the hit FX comedy Atlanta and also snagged a second award for lead actor in a comedy series. Waithe made history as the first African-American woman to win an Emmy for comedy writing. Waithe was awarded for co-writing the Thanksgiving episode of the Netflix original series Master of None with comedian and show creator Aziz Ansari. And while we’re at it, let’s all take a minute to thank Issa Rae’s support while “rooting for everybody black” and remaining unbothered as many accused the Insecure star of being a racist and black supremacist. But seriously, is black supremacy a thing? Asking for a friend.

“Spicey” Spicer does have a sense of humor after all. After resigning from his position as White House press secretary in July, Sean Spicer is living it up, and even making fun of himself in the process. In the Emmy Awards’ opening monologue, Spicer appeared on stage behind a moving podium, mimicking the Saturday Night Live sketch that features actress Melissa McCarthy as Spicer. Despite President Donald Trump saying SNL should be retired after he became a regular punchline, Spicer used it to his advantage. “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period, both in person and around the world,” Spicer said on stage. The bit received mixed reviews, but the overwhelming response by those in attendance seemed to be amusement.

Welcome home, Marshawn Lynch. The Oakland Raiders running back is living his best life, and we ain’t mad at him. During a timeout in the fourth quarter, with the Oakland Raiders up 35-13 over the New York Jets, the camera panned to a hyped Lynch giving the crowd the best moves he could muster during the first game in his hometown. Hand behind head, dreads flying, bobbing to the music and getting hyphy is how I want to start every day. Could it have been the Skittles bringing Beast Mode to new levels? My best guess would be yes. If so, I need some too.

Train up a child. In another one of Kobe Bryant’s post-retirement family videos, the greatest of all time (GOAT) is grooming his daughter for baby GOAT-hood. In the video, Kobe’s middle daughter, Gianna, is seen draining a shot from the right corner and dodging her dad’s defense to go for a layup. “Gigi working on that DianaTaurasi stroke #wristwork #wnbafinals we r hype for the rematch!” Kobe wrote in the caption. Stuntin’ like her daddy.

‘Ballers’ recap: When things fall apart Will Spencer deliver? Will Charles stay in the Dolphins’ front office? Will Ricky retire?

SEASON THREE, EPISODE NINE | “CRACKBACK” | SEPT. 17

Crackback noun / crack·back / ˈkrak-ˌbak / a blindside block on a defensive back in football by a pass receiver who starts downfield and then cuts back to the middle of the line. This is the definition, according to Merriam-Webster, of the word given to this week’s episode of Ballers. It’s a fitting title, because as season three draws to a close, every major character gets a blindside slap in the face.

Let’s start with the polarizing protagonist of the show, Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson), who’s been trying his hardest all season to be the man behind the move of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas. Last week, we saw Spencer and his partner, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), tell their team at Anderson Sports Management that they’ll be selling the company to go all in on relocating an NFL team to Sin City.

But maybe Spencer and Joe pulled the trigger too soon, because at owners meetings in San Francisco, he gets wind of the fact that there is a competing group also looking to move the Raiders to Vegas. The catch? This group is endorsed by the league, while Spencer’s is not. Fast-forward to a fiery exchange over drinks with Candace Brewer (Emayatzy Corinealdi), the sexy and tough NFL executive who advises Spencer that the best play is for both groups to join forces, with Spencer’s team taking a back seat in the deal.

This certainly isn’t what Spencer wants to hear — and, unfortunately, the bad news doesn’t stop there. Spencer receives a call from his business partner, Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg), who informs him that he’ll be giving his investment and huge plot of land to the NFL-endorsed group.

Back on South Beach, Larry Siefert (Dulé Hill) is officially fired as general manager of the Miami Dolphins, after his assistant general manager Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller) went over his head and persuaded the team to hire Larry Csonka as head coach. Siefert anticipates that Charles is next in line to be Miami’s new general manager, although the team’s owner has different plans. Charles is told that he’ll remain in the No. 2 assistant general manager spot, forcing him to consider resigning.

Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) is on the brink of signing a new deal with the New England Patriots despite being recently diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The Patriots offer a huge two-year, $20 million contract, with $16 million guaranteed, but before putting ink to paper, Ricky confesses that he’s had a months-long concussion and wants to receive medical help before deciding whether to even play again. The Patriots immediately pull out of negotiations.

Will Spencer be responsible for delivering an NFL team to Las Vegas? Will Charles remain in the front office of the Miami Dolphins? Will Ricky retire? These are all questions to ponder after a blindsiding episode nine. Hope the finale has all the answers.

Marshawn Lynch was fined for flipping the bird and other news of the week The Week That Was Sept. 11-15

Monday 09.11.17

Musician Kid Rock, who is both the “KING OF DETROIT LOVE” and the creator of “Sweet Home Alabama,” said he is not racist because “I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE.” Right-wing radio host The White House, whose high-profile occupant believes the human body has “finite amount of energy,” went into lockdown after a yoga mat was thrown over the north fence. Cable morning show Fox & Friends, once compared to a children’s show by The New York Times, compared Sept. 11 memorials to those of the Confederacy. New Orleans Saints running back Adrian Peterson, who averaged just 2.5 yards per carry during the preseason and 1.9 per carry last season, said he wanted to run the ball up the Minnesota Vikings’ “Donkey” after rushing for 18 yards on six carries. An employee of the Chelan County (Washington) Emergency Management Department posted a meme of a stick figure being run over by a vehicle with the headline “ALL LIVES SPLATTER.” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was caught “liking” graphic pornography on his official Twitter account; the senator’s communications team said the “offensive tweet” was “posted” to Cruz’s account despite that not being how likes work on the social media platform.

Tuesday 09.12.17

Musician and habitual line-stepper R. Kelly attempted to promote new music by tweeting a message that said, “All it takes is one ‘yes’ to change your life” followed by a graphic of repeating “Noes” with a “Yes” nestled in the middle. A student loan refinancing company reportedly maintained a work environment where the (former) CEO slept with multiple employees who were not his wife; an executive drunkenly crashed his car after sexting a subordinate; and where colleagues had sex in parking lots and public restrooms, where multiple toilet seats had to be replaced. A separate company, once again proving you never eat at the company potluck, had one employee stop breathing and others fall severely ill after they ate a shrimp casserole. Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant, definitely not mad online, released a new NBA Finals-themed shoe that includes every critique directed at him over the past year imprinted on the insoles. Former NFL wide receiver Steve Smith,

who had 2,641 yards and 12 touchdowns in his six-year career, was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame because voters confused him with five-time Pro Bowler Steve Smith Sr. Black conservative radio host Larry Elder, who once tweeted, “The welfare state has done more to destroy the black family than did slavery and Jim Crow,” tweeted, without a hint of irony, that “ ‘Uncle Tom’ is a more destructive pejorative than ‘n—–.’ The latter is an insult. The former stops blacks from independent thinking.”

Wednesday 09.13.17

The White House misspelled African-American Republican Sen. Tim Scott’s name as “Tom.” The Minnesota Vikings, a team that built a new stadium that kills a lot of birds, hired an 18-year-old author and public speaker to serve as its “Gen Z Advisor.” The New York media is upset that professional dancers and part-time athletes Odell Beckham Jr. and Russell Westbrook had a dance-off during a live Wyclef Jean performance. A day after Kid Rock told protesters in his hometown they “can protest deez nuts,” the Detroit Lions declined to comment on a season-ticket holder posting a photo of two African-American fans on his Facebook page with the caption “Ignorant n—–s.” A Shelby County (Tennessee) strip club, where in 2016 a man was shot in a restroom and left a paraplegic, turned out to be illegally owned by the county, a new lawsuit revealed; the establishment, formally named Babes of Babylon, was ordered shut down in 2011 after “drugs, assaults, and prostitution got so bad at the club.” Retired boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., outside of the strip club he owns in Las Vegas, told an inanimate Hispanic puppet that he has seven girlfriends because “having one is too close to having none.” Hawaii walk-on quarterback Hunter Hughes had to twerk to the sounds of a trombone at a WWE event to earn a full athletic scholarship.

Thursday 09.14.17

Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie, who employed Michael Vick when the quarterback was released from prison after a dogfighting conviction, Riley Cooper after the receiver was caught on camera saying, “I will fight every n—– here,” and Wendell Smallwood after the running back was arrested for witness tampering related to a murder case, said he wouldn’t sign Colin Kaepernick because “I don’t think anybody who is protesting the national anthem … is very respectful.” Peterson, still not letting it go, said he “didn’t sign up for nine snaps” when he signed with the Saints this season despite the team already having a starting running back and a quarterback who threw for more than 5,200 yards last year. Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch, best known for repeatedly stating, “I’m here so I won’t get fined,” was fined $12,000 for “raising the middle finger on both hands” during last week’s game against the Tennessee Titans. Trump once called his attorney general, Jeff Sessions, disloyal and an “idiot” and told him to resign after a special counsel was appointed to lead the Russian investigation earlier this year. Wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, who recently was awarded $31 million for a sex tape he willingly participated in, called those without water and power in Florida because of Hurricane Irma “crybabies.”

Friday 09.15.17

Two weeks after being traded to the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Jacoby Brissett, who has had only 13 days to learn the playbook and plays a different style from starter Andrew Luck, is expected to start for the 0-1 team. A former St. Louis police officer who reportedly yelled that he was “going to kill this m—–f—–” before fatally shooting an unarmed black man was found not guilty of first-degree murder. In completely unequivocally unrelated news, Kaepernick was named the NFL Players Association’s Community MVP after the first week of the season. Former White House strategist Steve Bannon wears no fewer than three shirts at all times; “Never two. N-e-v-e-r t-w-o,” his spokesperson said. Police officers in a Chicago suburb sold $10 raffle tickets at a Labor Day festival for the chance to win an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle; the town banned assault weapons in 2013.

‘Ballers’ recap: Which will go down first — Spencer having a child or an NFL team in Las Vegas? Also, Travis Scott is homeboys with Wayne Hastings Jr., and we’re here for it

SEASON THREE, EPISODE EIGHT | “ALLEY-OOPS” | SEPT. 10

Spencer Strasmore takes a deep breath, gazes into the distance and summons the courage to mutter into the phone the question that’s on his mind: “It’s not cancer, is it?”

The voice on the other end of the line responds without hesitation. “The test was for sperm count,” the doctor’s office receptionist says.

Remember, in the first episode of this season of Ballers, when Spencer’s realization that he’s never had a single pregnancy scare leads to a trip to the fertility clinic to see if he’s even able to have children? Well, seven episodes later, the results are in. But, before we get to the verdict, a much-needed update on the NFL-to-Las Vegas situation, for which Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is willing to sell his professional baby, Anderson Sports Management, to come up with the needed capital.

In the scene after his conversation with the receptionist, Spencer dials his business partner and Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg), who’s pouring up with a group of women and none other than rapper Travis Scott. In this moment, one of life’s most important questions is answered: When a phone rings, how does Travis react? Our hopes and dreams are fulfilled when Wayne’s phone goes off and Travis exclaims, “PICK UP THE PHONE, BABY!” — the first line of the chorus to his hit 2016 track “Pick Up the Phone.” Thank you, Ballers writers, for this wonderful moment.

On the call, Spencer pressures Wayne to find an area in Sin City where an NFL stadium can be built so the Oakland Raiders can be relocated. Soon, the Las Vegas mogul delivers a video, showing a huge plot of land directly behind the Vegas strip, which officially puts the sale of Anderson Sports Management into motion and cements the reality that Spencer and his partner, Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry), will have to break the news to their staff and beloved clients.

Two of those clients, Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) and Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), really could use some advice from Spencer and Joe right about now. After finally deciding to seek help as a result of taking too many hits to the head in the NFL, Ricky is officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder and placed on medication that he’s afraid will affect his daily life on and off the field.

And, in the throes of NFL front-office life, Charles’ interview for the open general manager job with the Los Angeles Chargers is canceled after someone with the Miami Dolphins receives word that Charles is looking to move on. There’s no doubt that the party pooper is Miami’s tyrant general manager Larry Siefert, with whom Charles has butted heads all season long.

Spencer eventually makes the long-awaited visit to the fertility doctor, who informs him that he has functioning swimmers, though they’re “more Ryan Lochte than Michael Phelps.” What that means is his sperm count is declining and the window to have kids is rapidly closing. The news seems to weigh heavily on Spencer, who ends the episode in a passionate sex scene with his girlfriend Chloe.

After things get superhot and heavy, Chloe asks Spencer, “Did you just …”

Yup, he did, Chloe.

Michael Bennett had gun pointed at his head by police and other news of the week The Week That Was Sept. 4-8

Monday 09.04.17

Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler, who signed a $72 million contract with the Houston Texans last year and went on to complete just 59 percent of his passes and throw 16 interceptions, said signing with Houston was like “when you’re a little kid and your mom, you know, she tells you, ‘Don’t touch the hot stove.’ So, what do you have to do as a curious kid? You’ve got to go touch the hot stove, and you learn real quick how nice that stove is when it’s not hot.” The Jacksonville Jaguars are so lacking in quality players that

they named a tight end and offensive lineman as team captains. New Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety T.J. Ward, once arrested for throwing a glass mug at a female bartender in a strip club, said his former team, the Denver Broncos, were “completely unprofessional” in how they cut him from the team last week. The Buffalo Bills signed quarterback Joe Webb; the 30-year-old played wide receiver last season. The Oakland Raiders are engaged in a $4 million “contractual standoff” with their … kicker.

Tuesday 09.05.17

Motivational speaker Sean “Diddy” Combs said, among other things, to “be a f—ing wolf … eat people’s faces off … [and] never apologize for being awesome.” Former Donald Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, once accused of assaulting a female reporter, will serve as a visiting professor at Harvard this fall; the school’s Institute of Politics said Lewandowski will engage in “dynamic interaction with our students.” President Trump, who rescinded an immigration policy that protected children of undocumented immigrants, pardoned a former sheriff who was accused of violating the civil rights of Hispanics and wants to spend billions of dollars on a wall along the border, said, “I have a great heart for” those affected by his most recent immigration policy decision. Former Milwaukee sheriff David Clarke, once a highly regarded law enforcement official and rumored Department of Homeland Security deputy secretary nominee, will serve in the distinguished role of spokesman for a pro-Trump super PAC. The Boston Red Sox, who, yes, hail from the same region as the New England Patriots, admitted to stealing hand signals from the New York Yankees using an Apple Watch. Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins said the Lord told him to only sign a one-year, $24 million contract with the team this year; no word on whether the Lord also told him to throw two interceptions in a season-ending loss to the New York Giants last year.

Wednesday 09.06.17

A Pennsylvania man, attempting to keep it real, will be charged with disorderly conduct for asking Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pennsylvania) if he knew “whether or not your daughter Bridget has been kidnapped?” Former Boston Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas, actually keeping it real, said, “I don’t think the Boston Celtics got better” by trading the All-Star to the Cleveland Cavaliers. A Hawaii football assistant coach, whose team has won just

20 games over the past six seasons, fractured his wrist and dislocated his elbow while celebrating a blocked kick last weekend. A Florida sheriff, showing tremendous dedication to protecting and serving, is threatening to detain people with warrants who attempt to seek shelter during Hurricane Irma. Also getting this whole compassion thing down, Trump told a North Dakota crowd, “You have a little bit of a drought. [Texas] had the opposite. Believe me, you’re better off.” Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) director, and creator of aptly named song “I Ain’t Bulls—-in’,” Luther Campbell told Florida residents that “you all can die” if they plan parties during Hurricane Irma.

Thursday 09.07.17

Waffle House restaurants, violator of many health code violations, are used by FEMA as a barometer for how an area will recover from a natural disaster. A Las Vegas police union, in trying to defend two officers accused of assaulting Seattle Seahawks defensive player Michael Bennett, brought up Bennett’s national anthem protest, the height of a barrier he allegedly jumped over and the racial identity of the officers instead of explaining why at least one of the officers aimed his weapon at the player’s head. Brooke Hogan, the daughter of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan, said fellow legend Ric Flair, weeks removed from being placed in a medically induced coma, sounded like he was “full of piss and vinegar” and could return to the ring at the ripe age of 64. Former NFL player Steve Smith Sr., best known for his subdued temper and for once predicting there’d be “blood and guts everywhere,” now works at a Taco Bell. There’s a supervolcano underneath Yellowstone National Park that could kill us all. Commissioner Roger Goodell, paid over $30 million a year to run the National Football League, said he is not a “football expert.” In “racism is in the past” news, Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin received a letter from an unknown sender this week that read: “You suck as a coach! You’re a n—– and can’t win! Please get lost! Or else.”

Friday 09.08.17

The NFL finally got around to adequately suspending 38-year-old free agent placekicker Josh Brown for allegedly abusing his ex-wife. Three days after proclaiming that Hurricane Irma is “a desire to advance this climate change agenda” by the “drive-by media,” right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh will evacuate from Florida. Despite the continued unemployment of national anthem protester Colin Kaepernick, NFL ratings are still down. A Washington Redskins-themed restaurant, staying on brand, was forced into bankruptcy after just one year in operation. Florida Atlantic football coach Lane Kiffin thinks the Bible, like The Simpsons, predicted hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Golden State Warriors guard Nick Young caused the infamous locker room duel between Washington Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton in 2009.

‘Ballers’ recap: Guess who’s coming to (blows at) dinner? Larry Siefert and Coach Berg Meanwhile, Vernon switches from marijuana to virtual reality — but not without a random NFL drug test first

SEASON THREE, EPISODE FIVE | “MAKE BELIEVE” | AUG. 20

Larry Siefert’s face gets smushed into a plate of mashed potatoes. No, wait. Siefert, the general manager of the Miami Dolphins, gets slapped in the face, then his face gets pushed deep into a plate of brisket, between the potatoes and cornbread.

God bless the writers of Ballers for the greatest moment of the season so far. In an attempt to squash the team’s beef between Siefert (Dulé Hill) and Coach Berg (Peter Berg), which had been brewing for the first four episodes with assistant general manager Charles Greane caught in the crosshairs, Julie Greane (Jazmyn Simon) vowed to settle the feud her husband has to deal with daily over a home-cooked meal.

But when the egos at the dinner table become too much for Charles and Julie to handle, Berg bum-rushes Siefert, employing the training he received in a previous scene from legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach, to put the pompous general manager in his place. You have to wonder how Simon felt about seeing Hill, her real-life fiancé, get played in this scene.

Speaking of boxing, after punching his neighbor’s teenage son in the face last week, Ricky Jerret (John David Washington) has to call his financial and social adviser Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to bail him out of jail. While walking free from the police station — luckily, no charges were pressed — Ricky questions why Spencer is so determined to relocate the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas when the team is flourishing in the Bay Area city for the first team in years.

Spencer tells the NFL wide receiver that the move will help him pay back the $5 million Ricky lent him to buy Anderson Sports Management. The only thing is no cash is behind the deal just yet, with Las Vegas hotel mogul Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg) initially unwilling to contribute a single dime to the move despite support from the owner of the Dallas Cowboys.

Vegas, however, is the last thing the Cowboys need to worry about at the moment. The team’s star defensive player Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter) is on the brink of suspension, even after being persuaded by Spencer’s partner Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) to divest from the marijuana business and instead sign an endorsement deal with a virtual reality company. Yet, an unexpected visit from an NFL rep to issue a random drug screening leaves Vernon sweating, with cannabinoids in his system that he took not to get high but for recovery.

God bless the writers of Ballers for the greatest moment of the season so far.

With his client’s playing status in jeopardy, Spencer meets with NFL executive Candace Brewer (Emayatzy Corinealdi), who promises she will give Vernon the minimum stage two suspension of four games when he inevitably tests positive for marijuana. Candace also uses the brief meeting to warn Spencer to stick to his job of managing players’ finances, “not facilitating a billion-dollar franchise deal and stadium move.”

But, of course, Spencer doesn’t listen. He had already commissioned Vernon’s newly endorsed virtual reality company to simulate an NFL stadium experience in Las Vegas for Wayne. At the sight of the spectacle and vision through virtual reality goggles, Wayne is so impressed that he changes his mind and pledges $100 million and 600 acres of Sin City land to the effort.

The catch? He wants his name on the stadium, even though “Wayneville” doesn’t really have a ring to it.

With the new movie ‘Crown Heights,’ Nnamdi Asomugha relies on everything he learned from football The former superstar cornerback won Sundance with the story of a man who went to prison for a murder he didn’t commit

Nnamdi Asomugha is taking a quick break.

There’s a photographer, and the photographer’s assistant is setting up a new orangish background. Asomugha, in a gray Converse crewneck and slim-fit black pants, overhears a conversation that’s disdainful of grimy movie theaters and movie theater chains.

He jumps in, makes a funny face and shakes his head adamantly in disagreement. Asomugha loves movie theaters. Always has. When he wasn’t on a football field — the former Cal Bear and first-round draft pick spent his first eight National Football League seasons with the Oakland Raiders — he would sneak into theaters and sit there all day, soaking it up, consuming content and daring to dream of something beyond academics and athletics.

At the Manhattan photo shoot, the Pro Bowler gives a sly smile. This is a full-circle moment.

For 11 seasons, Asomugha was one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. After his years with the Raiders and stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers, he walked away from the NFL in 2013 at age 32 via a one-day contract with the Oakland Raiders so that he could officially retire in the city in which he came of age. A true shutdown corner, Asomugha retired with 15 interceptions, 80 passes defensed and two sacks.

Oakland Raiders’ Nnamdi Asomugha (21) breaks up pass intended for Dallas Cowboys’ Keyshawn Johnson (19).

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

But if you don’t know his name for those reasons, don’t worry, soon you will — and it’ll have absolutely nothing to do with football.

Asomugha is an actor. And a producer. And not because he’s indulging an ego-driven post-athletic career fantasy realized through his ability to cut a big enough check and buy his way onto a set. No. As an actor, Asomugha expertly brings to the screen the story of a man we all should know about — and as a producer, he’s brilliant at finding and financing stories that need to be told.

His Crown Heights, which opens in select New York theaters this week and has a wide release next week, is the true story of Colin Warner, a Trinidadian resident of the Brooklyn neighborhood Crown Heights who was wrongly accused and convicted of murder. Warner served 21 years for the crime, while his best friend, played by Asomugha, tirelessly worked to prove his innocence.

He also happens to be married to Kerry Washington (Scandal, Cars 3, Confirmation), and like his wife of four years — they have two children, Isabelle and Caleb — Asomugha rarely speaks publicly about their marriage or partnership, preferring instead to focus on the work. And it’s understandable, especially in his case, considering that his ambition to become an actor dates back years — before he married his wife in 2013 even, and years before she became famous. The furthest thing from Asomugha’s mind is attaching himself, and this full deep dive into a new career, to his famous and famously talented wife, who happens to be one of very few black women in Hollywood who can consistently commandeer mainstream magazine covers.

Asomugha’s focus is on this second act — and on getting people to see beyond his storied football career. Especially now that he’s doing the thing that ignites him as much as covering wide receivers used to.

“Then we went onstage to perform. And I felt the rush. I loved every bit of it. It was the moment where I said, ‘Oh, this is what gets me close’ …”

“I went to the Los Angeles Kings game,” he said, “and the national anthem started playing. Anytime the anthem comes on … I was fresh off of leaving football, and was just really taken by the moment. There was this [feeling] of, ‘I’m not going to be able to hear that and be ready to go on the field anymore.’ We watched the Kings win the championship, and then I went and called one of my former teammates, Charles Woodson, and said something like, ‘I need that feeling again, of getting ready to go out on the field. With the crowd and all of that.’ I was missing that.”

His friend had advice. “He said, ‘You have to find something that gives you a feeling close to that, because you’re never going to get that again. You’re never going to be able to go out on the field and get 70,000 people screaming when they announce your name. But look for whatever gets you closest to that point.’ ”

Asomugha said that maybe three or four months later, he was in New York doing a reading of a play at the Circle in the Square Theatre. “When you’re backstage,” he said, “and you’re coming out with the actors, you go through a tunnel before you get out there. And then you stop right before you go onto the stage. It was just a reading. But I had that moment. I was back in the tunnel. Then we went onstage to perform. And I felt the rush. I loved every bit of it. It was the moment where I said, ‘Oh, this is what gets me close. …”


Asomugha was born in 1981 in Lafayette, Louisiana, to Igbo parents. He loathes the term “Hollywood” as an adjective. He mock-scowls — hard — when he hears it being said. Asomugha was reared in Los Angeles, the entertainment industry nestled practically in his backyard. But “going Hollywood” is akin to someone saying you’re fake. Or out for self. Or perhaps more mystified by the bling than the hard work. “That’s not,” he said, “me.”

André Chung for The Undefeated

Who he is: a guy who came up in a Nigerian family that celebrated academic excellence and embraced the high arts. The creative space has always had a strong hold on him. It came to him naturally, more so, even, than his athletic prowess. “I come from a performing family,” he said. “My parents are Nigerian, and their parents and their parents — and it’s all about performance in their culture, you know. The music. The dancing … you’re told to stand out at family gatherings and perform in some sort of way. You’re just kind of born into it,” he said. “Me and my siblings … were forced to get up in the church and do some sort of play for the rest of the church. We’re like 7, 8 years old. It’s just what you had to do. It was always sort of in my blood.”

But the performing arts had to be a quiet passion. Especially once he got older. Football was king. So was basketball. And he played both at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California.

“We took piano lessons. And I remember going to football practice — me and my brother. We were late to practice one time, and … I remember the coach standing us up in front of the whole team and just saying, ‘Nnamdi’s late, guys, and I wanted to tell you, he had a piano lesson.’ Everyone’s laughing, and I’m just sitting there like …” He shakes his head at the memory. “That stuff wasn’t cool at all.”

“Football taught me so much just about life,” he said. “The confidence of me being onstage or performing in some sort way … that was nurtured … and blossomed because of football.”

He shifted. Went full throttle into football, leaving the creative arts, and his equally passionate desire to excel in them, behind. It wasn’t until years later in college — he attended and played for the University of California, Berkeley — that he was reminded it was possible to live in and do well in both worlds.

“It was my junior year at Cal. A [teammate] of mine came up to us after practice like, ‘Hey, guys, I’m doing a performance down at Wheeler [Hall].’ I don’t even know what the play was. Like Porgy and Bess or something. Immediately I started making fun of him. You make fun of someone when they start talking about this, especially in the football world. I got all the guys to make fun. Like, ‘This guy, he’s doing a play!’ We went there to clown him,” Asomugha said. “[But] I’ll never forget he was brilliant onstage. I will never forget it … because it was one of the moments where I was like, ‘Oh, no, this is cool. This is OK, even though we play football.’ He opened my mind up.”

Cal Berkeley rid Asomugha of his own boundaries. It was transformative. He loved football, and knew he’d make a career out of it, but he also knew that when football was over, he’d transition into something more creative. And it was football, ironically — even with that early atmosphere of being anti anything that didn’t scream hypermasculinity — that gave Asomugha the confidence to pursue the creative arts. He’s appeared in the Friday Night Lights television series, as well as on The Game and Leverage; he collected his first credit in 2008.

“Football taught me so much just about life,” he said. “The confidence of me being onstage or performing in some sort way … that was nurtured … and blossomed because of football. Just being able to do things that you didn’t think you can do, that you can’t turn around. You have to do it and doing it in front of thousands, and then millions, that are watching. You’re onstage. It’s not that I don’t have the fear, it’s just that I know how to handle the fear, you know? I can have the fear and still think.”


For the new Crown Heights, Asomugha didn’t make it easy on himself.

He helps tell the real story of Colin Warner. In 1980, Warner was wrongly convicted of murder. In the film, which is based on a This American Life episode, Asomugha portrays Warner’s best friend Carl King, the man who devoted his life to proving his friend’s innocence, and to getting him out of prison. Lakeith Stanfield portrays Warner, and the film is an important moment for both actors. Stanfield pulls off an emotionally complex role, and Asomugha displays impressive dramatic chops.

Nnamdi Asomugha as Carl King in the new film “Crown Heights.”

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

“One of the interesting things about Nnamdi is how calm and assertive he is,” said executive producer Jonathan Baker, who founded I Am 21 with Asomugha. “He’s an extraordinarily even-keeled individual. His experience with sports created a sense of get-up-and-do-it-again. The discipline. People respond to him as a natural leader, and it’s evident in everything that we do.”

Asomugha even nails a very distinct Trinidadian accent. “He took it seriously,” Carl King himself said of Asomugha’s portrayal. “He’d call me and ask me questions. ‘Am I bothering you?’ It seemed like he just wanted to do the best job he could have done. And he told me he wanted to do the story justice. It’s a deep story. It’s not one of the stories that you can make up. This is a story about an injustice that was done to this kid in 1980. He had to endure 21 years of the very worst. And portraying me? I’m very pleased.”

The film premiered at Sundance earlier this year and was a critical darling and a fan favorite, nabbing the Audience Award. And Asomugha was ready for the moment, good and bad, both as a producer and a co-star of the film.

“This is cool. This is OK, even though we play football. It’s OK to live in both worlds.”

“I’ve played for the Raiders and the Eagles,” Asomugha said before laughing, “Those fans will prepare you for any event that you have to go through in life! I’m able to explore and just take risks, and just really go after something that I’m passionate about. I can take whatever’s going to be thrown at me.”

That preparedness was crucial.

“I didn’t bat an eye. Football taught me was how important the preparation is before the actual moment. And then when you get into the moment, being able to throw away the preparation and just hope that it’s in you somewhere, that it stayed in you. And that’s what I think with this,” he said. “The project came [along, and it] didn’t feel daunting. I wasn’t nervous. I wasn’t like, ‘Oh, my goodness, I can’t believe this!’ I was like, ‘Oh, I’ve trained for this. I’m excited. I can’t wait to go into a character [and] put something on film! And then it got such a great reception at Sundance, so I was happy.”


There’s more coming from Asomugha. He’s hell-bent on bringing more stories like Crown Heights, which will be co-distributed by Amazon Studios and IFC, to life. Asomugha’s company, I Am 21, is prepping to shoot the highly anticipated Harriet Tubman biopic. It’ll be an important film: Tony winner Cynthia Erivo is starring, and it tells the story of the former slave-turned-abolitionist who worked tirelessly as an Underground Railroad conductor, nurse and spy.

The plan is to start shooting sometime this fall, and Asomugha said the film falls right in line with the mission of I Am 21.

“There’s an element of true story, an element of stories that connect to social issues that effect some sort of change in the world,” he said. “There’s also fun stories that aren’t true, but just have amazing characters at the center. Whether it’s a woman or it’s a person of color, whether it’s a person [who is] just ‘other’ … telling the underdog stories, and how they’ve risen out of that.”

And as for the future of his own acting career? He’s been ready. “I’m the type of person that always has a goal of greatness,” he said. “My mindset is, I can take all the chances in the world. I don’t put stress on myself. What I do is enjoy preparation. It’s just who I am.

André Chung for The Undefeated

“There was a long stretch where practice was much harder than games for me. I felt a level of dominance and being in the zone, for years. Game after game, after game — practice was always harder. So, if there’s any level of stress in this, it’s not being onstage, it’s not the moment that the camera turns on. It’s the preparation that comes before that.”

‘Ballers’ recap: Spencer’s still on Vegas time — and Ricky is unraveling Does The Rock always have to save everybody?

SEASON THREE, EPISODE FOUR | “RIDE OR DIE” | AUG. 13

In the world of hip-hop, no vehicle is more coveted nowadays than a Bentley truck. It seems every rapper imaginable has rhymed about copping one (or has actually copped one) — from Future, to Migos, to Rae Sremmurd to Young Thug and Travi$ Scott. 2 Chainz even has an entire song dedicated to the SUV.

Yet in the world of Ballers, which HBO just renewed for a fourth season, a Bentley truck means almost nothing to a G like Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). While stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way to a crucial meeting with Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg) about moving an NFL team to the gambling capital of the world, Spencer shifts a gear to park and straight-up abandons the truck on the highway. He’s convinced that the fastest way for him and Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) to get to Wayne before he jets out of town is on foot.

The reason that the two financial advisers are running so late for the “biggest meeting of our lives,” as Spencer says, is that one of their clients, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter), is on the verge of one of the worst fates an NFL player can endure. After Vernon fails to divest of the marijuana industry at the request of his team, the Cowboys owner (Christopher McDonald), aka the “Boss Man,” tells Joe he intends to cut Vernon.

The brash plan leaves Spencer with no choice but to pick up the pieces, like he always has to do, and sneak up on the Cowboys’ owner while he’s vacationing in Miami. Spencer not only gets the threat of Vernon’s release rescinded but also persuades the Boss Man to support Anderson Sport Management’s efforts to collaborate with Wayne in relocating the Oakland Raiders to Vegas.

Spencer shifts a gear and straight-up abandons the Bentley truck on the highway.

Spencer and Joe make it to Wayne just in time to relay the good news and save the partnership. But if there’s one thing true on Ballers, it’s that Spencer’s problems are always only temporarily fixed.

The life of one of Spencer’s premier clients, New England Patriots wide receiver Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), is unraveling faster than the real-life Miami Dolphins passed on Colin Kaepernick. Ricky has a child on the way, although his future child’s mom, Amber, is packing up to leave Miami (and her irresponsible boyfriend) behind. Meanwhile, Ricky’s new Patriots teammates Tom Brady, Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski have all been practicing without him, leaving the job of scheduling training sessions to his fun-loving pothead best friend, TTD (Carl McDowell).

After an awful workout with a high school kid, the only quarterback TTD can find to throw on such short notice, Ricky storms off the field and returns home — or, to what he thinks is home. The absentminded Ricky rolls up in a house that belongs not to him but to a white family. So, after receiving a tap on the shoulder from the son of the house’s owners, Ricky out of shock delivers a right hook to the kid’s face.

“I know who you are, a–h—. You’re not going to get away with this,” the bloody-nosed kid tells Ricky.

His response? “TTD, call Spencer,” Ricky says into his cellphone.

That’s always the go-to reaction when something goes wrong: to call Spencer. The question is, whom can Spencer turn to for help?

‘Ballers’ recap: Meet Candace Brewer, the brilliant woman between Spencer and Las Vegas While Spencer is handling business, Joe and Reggie hotbox a Rolls-Royce

SEASON THREE, EPISODE THREE |“IN THE TEETH”| AUG. 6

One thing is standing in the way of Spencer Strasmore’s master plan of bringing an NFL team to Las Vegas — a brilliant woman. Sunday night on Ballers, we meet the beautiful, and trill as ever, Candace Brewer (Emayatzy Corinealdi; Hand of God, Middle of Nowhere) — a high-powered league executive who summons Spencer (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) to drinks in Oakland, California, after hearing about his gutsy NFL-to-Vegas quest.

Candace and Spencer go all the way back to the former Miami Dolphins superstar’s playing days, when he insulted her live on Jay Glazer’s talk show Glazed and Confused. Candace doesn’t seem to like Spencer too much, or the idea of an NFL team relocating to a city notorious for sex, drugs and, of course, gambling.

“I just want to know if you’re an enemy of the league,” Candace point-blank says to Spencer in the shortest drinks meeting in history — she dips out before finishing her wine. We might have just met Spencer’s Kryptonite.

We might have just met Spencer’s Kryptonite.

While the big fella is in the Bay Area, his right-hand man Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) is trying to persuade Reggie (London Brown) and Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter) to stop investing in the cannabis company, High Powered, before Vernon is blackballed by the NFL. Reggie, however, takes Joe on a little field trip to the dispensary to show him that Vernon is endorsed by a company that’s focused on much more than smoking weed. But that’s how the visit ends — with Reggie and Joe hotboxing in a Rolls-Royce to the smooth sound of Style’s P’s “Good Times.”

In the front office of the Miami Dolphins, tension is building between Charles Greane (Omar Benson Miller), the team’s assistant general manager, and his boss, Larry Siefert (Dulé Hill). Charles feels some type of way when Siefert goes on Glazer’s show and fails to give him credit for one of his intelligent roster moves. Siefert is shady, and his voice is more annoying than going 1 cent over $20 when filling up your tank up at the gas station. And every time he breaks out the Southern accent, it’s hard not to remember Sam the Onion Man, Hill’s character from 2003’s Holes — as well as Sam’s famous line, “I can fix that.”

Charles and Siefert’s relationship is about to blow up. It’s inevitable. Especially after the Dolphins head coach tells Charles, “Attaching yourself to Siefert is not the move a smart man makes.”

Ricky is late to a doctor’s appointment for Amber, his girlfriend — and future child’s mother. When he finally shows up, he meets the friend whom Amber decided to bring in his place, who, to Ricky’s chagrin, is a white dude. Awkward.

The only person in the crew who really seems to be getting stuff done without being let down is Jason (Troy Garity), Vernon and Ricky’s agent, who’s working with his new client, free-agent running back Kisan Teague (Kris D. Lofton). That is, until Jason attempts to negotiate a deal with the Indianapolis Colts and receives word that the running back is under investigation for drug trafficking. Kisan vows he’s innocent. Jason’s response to the Colts general manager? “Eat a bag of d—-.” Because they’re going to find a new team.

Back in Oakland, Spencer heatedly leaves his meeting with Candace. He calls Hall of Fame wide receiver Tim Brown, who on Ballers is involved with the front-office moves of his former team, the Oakland Raiders. Spencer promises an additional $300 million in private financing plus whatever team owner Mark Davis needs to get a deal done, and the Raiders to Vegas.

But can Spencer really deliver?

“Oh, I know I can,” he mic-drops to close the episode, cueing up none other than the 21 Savage track “Savage Mode.”

Spencer is about to go to war with Candace and everyone else in his path to Sin City.

‘Ballers’ recap: A timely season three opens with potential NFL-to-Las Vegas move Yet even with a big look from Steph Curry, can Spencer Strasmore deliver?

SEASON THREE, EPISODE ONE | ‘SEEDS OF EXPANSION’ | JULY 23

Was HBO’s Ballers working to deliver a pro football team to Las Vegas on a similar schedule as the real-life NFL?

It sure seems like it, based on Sunday’s season three premiere, which ends with the former NFL player turned financial adviser Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) asking Las Vegas hotel tycoon Wayne Hastings Jr. (Steve Guttenberg) the simple question, “How would you feel about bringing an NFL team to Las Vegas?” They were on a terrace overlooking the Miami skyline after a dinner party. “I love that idea … I love that idea,” Wayne responds before clinking glasses with Spencer as the show appropriately fades out to Kodak Black’s “Patty Cake.”

That episode aired four months after NFL owners voted 31-1 to approve a relocation of the Oakland Raiders to Las Vegas in the next few years. In July 2016, three weeks into season two, HBO announced that it would be bringing back Ballers, the Entourage-esque series that takes a look into the lives of pro football players, as told through the people around them: financial advisers, agents and their homies.

The renewal gave showrunner Evan Riley a year to craft the direction of Ballers around the timely conversation of the NFL making a move to Sin City. And as we wait to see how negotiations spearheaded by the polarizing Spencer will unfold, Riley teases us in the first episode of the new season with added layers to a select group of his core characters.

Let’s start with Spencer, who is now pain-free after undergoing a hip replacement, yet still having money problems while on a quest to pay back the $5 million he borrowed from his client Ricky Jerret (John David Washington), which he put up to become a co-partner at Anderson Sports Management. We learn that Spencer has his mind on being a father, when Ricky tells him his girlfriend might be pregnant. The question is, can Spencer even have kids? A trip to the fertility clinic ensues.

Speaking of Ricky, after spending much of season two handling daddy issues with his estranged father, Dennis, and trying to figure out which NFL team he’d sign with (don’t forget, he decides to take a massive pay cut to play for the New England Patriots), he has new problems. His girlfriend, Amber, is in fact pregnant, meaning his playboy days might be coming to an end. Or will they?

After two seasons of dumb off-the-field decisions, most of which came from the steering of his childhood friend Reggie (London Brown), Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Vernon Littlefield (Donovan W. Carter) is finally showing signs of growing up. At an autograph signing, Vernon is shocked to discover that a young kid regards him, not Dak Prescott or Ezekiel Elliott, as his favorite Cowboys player. Vernon responds to the heartfelt moment by giving the kid his marijuana leaf-adorned hoodie. So maybe Vernon isn’t the best role model just yet, but the sweatshirt is part of his startup clothing line — a $200,000 brainchild investment of Reggie’s.

That brings us to the fact that some characters still haven’t changed much. Reggie is still Reggie — a bit of knucklehead. And while continuing his journey into the throes of front-office NFL management as the assistant general manager of the Miami Dolphins, the gentle giant Charles Greane (Omar Miller) remains under the thumb of the manipulative Dolphins general manager Larry Siefert (Dulé Hill). Without Spencer by his side, fellow adviser Joe Krutel (Rob Corddry) still can’t seem to get anything done with a client, like persuading Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs to give up one of his houses in order to save money for the future. Yet, Joe’s ability to be a voice of reason is essential to Spencer’s decision-making and livelihood. “You are the asset,” he tells Spencer heading into the dinner party, which concludes with the genius Vegas idea.

And what would an episode of Ballers be without a celebrity cameo? The first family of basketball, Stephen and Ayesha Curry, make an appearance on a call with Spencer, who’s attempting to sign the two-time NBA MVP. “You thought it was a date night,” Steph tells Ayesha as they board a private jet. “I’m tryna get you in the mile-high club.”

We see you, Steph. We see you.