‘Scandal’s’ Joe Morton on being Papa Pope: ‘That kind of theater doesn’t happen on TV’ The actor talks the series finale, Serena Williams, family and more

“The only way I can describe the finale is that when the cast finished reading it at the table read, for a good 15 seconds, there was absolute stunned silence,” said Joe Morton, the actor known to Scandal fans as B613 leader Rowan “Eli” Pope and known as Papa Pope in “Shondaland.”

As Olivia Pope’s (Kerry Washington’s) father, Morton’s character isn’t even in line for the Daddy of the Year award. But he firmly believes that everything he’s done has always been to protect his daughter, who has dedicated her life to protecting and defending the public images of the nation’s elite by keeping their secrets under wraps.

Morton, a Harlem, New York, native, won an Emmy for his role in Scandal, and his acting career spans 40 years in film, television and theater. He’s acted in recent big-screen hits such as Justice League and classics such as Terminator II. Many fans remember him as politician and fiancé of Whitley Gilbert (Jasmine Guy), Byron Douglas III. He also had roles in Speed, What Lies Beneath, American Gangster, Stealth and Ali.

As the show comes to an end, Morton spoke to The Undefeated on his evolution, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the respect he has for queen of the tennis court Serena Williams, Colin Kaepernick and more.


How has Rowan evolved over the seasons?

Interesting thing about Rowan is that he went from someone who is very, very dark to someone who realized he needed to help his daughter get back into the light, which I thought was wonderful. When he’s with Quinn’s baby in his house, in some small ways, he tries to relive what he didn’t do with his own child, Olivia.

Whether solicited or not, Rowan is always giving advice. What’s the best advice you’ve ever given personally?

The best advice I’ve given is that when you’re a parent, you’re a parent for life. It doesn’t matter how old your children get.

How did you prepare to play such a complex character?

First thing was the amount of monologues that Rowan was given. That kind of theater doesn’t happen on TV, usually, so that was enormous to me. In each of his monologues, you learn something new about him. From his beliefs, thoughts, where he came from, etc. I learned a bit more of who he was from each of those.

Rowan has this fascination with dinosaur bones. What’s the last museum you’ve personally visited?

Recently I was in Washington, D.C., and visited the African-American Museum. It’s a mind, feeling and emotional experience with three tiers that walks you through African-American history from slavery to advancement and culture and what black people contributed to this country. It’s just very beautifully organized, and everything has a point and reason that leads to the next.

What will you always be a champion of?

I will always be a champion of the truth and champion someone who despises the hypocrisy of democracy. Those are things that I will always speak out against. … I think what Colin Kaepernick did [in taking a knee during the national anthem] was brilliant because it was peaceful and protesting the fact that democracy was down, just as players take a knee when a player is down, and too many black men were being killed by white officers and police in general. Anyone who says that’s unpatriotic has it backwards. You have to remember that this country was built on revolution.

What’s your favorite sport to watch?

Tennis. I enjoy watching Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and, of course, the queen of the tennis court, Serena Williams. Serena and Venus have changed tennis in so many ways. They are amazing players. Venus coming back from her ailments and Serena coming back after giving birth and winning at Indian Wells, which is the place that used to boo and make fun of her, is remarkable. I had the opportunity to meet them both, but it was a day that I was working so couldn’t make it. I do hope to meet them one day.

Miami Dolphins’ Charles Harris on why promoting multiple sclerosis awareness is his passion ‘I feel like it’s about time for Kansas City to have an athlete that actually comes back to the community’

For Charles Harris, giving back to his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, is important.

“I feel like a lot of people come from places and then never come back,” Harris said. “I feel like I’ve never seen an NBA or NFL player growing up in Kansas City versus other cities like ATL, L.A., St. Louis even, where you got a lot of athletes who are good or productive and always come back. I feel like it’s about time for Kansas City to have an athlete that actually comes back to the community, comes back to the city, to actually do stuff for the city.”

The 23-year-old Miami Dolphins defensive end is doing just that. Ahead of the University of Missouri’s pro day in March, he gave of his 14 former teammates who participated in the event a pair of new Jordans.

Harris is also an advocate for multiple sclerosis awareness. That’s because he watched his mother, Deborah Clark, battle with the disease that takes over the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information between the brain and body.

“I wanted to bring attention to it,” Harris said. “Initially it started off as I just wanted to do something for my mom, with me wanting to make some dope cleats for my momma so she can have something to see.”

In December 2017, he participated in the NFL’s My Cause, My Cleats campaign, which allows players to wear non-standard cleats to help raise money for charitable causes. He chose the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.

“Growing up with Mom’s condition, she’s always reached out to an organization, she’s always asked for it, but they never reached back,” Harris said.

Now that he’s in the league, he believes he’s in a position to advocate for those affected by the disease and help his mother get the resources she needs. “I plan on doing bigger things with the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation this upcoming year. I got some things in the works, such as pledge where every time I get a tackle the money goes to the foundation.”

Harris’ desire to help his mother and his family doesn’t stop there. After being selected by the Dolphins as the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft and signing a four-year, $11 million contract with a $6 million bonus, Harris decided to purchase a home for his mom in Tifton, Georgia.

“Back in August of last year, right after I got drafted, we started searching. I didn’t know where to put them, and I asked them, ‘Where do you all want to live?’ My grandmother is from Tifton, Georgia, and she was like, ‘I always wanted to go back to where I lived,’ back to the town where she grew up. I then asked my grandfather, and he was like, ‘I’ll go wherever your grandmother goes,’ and mom was like, ‘Shoot, I’ll go wherever they want to go.’

“I’m gonna say everyone has probably seen it as the thing you’re supposed to do, like buy your mom a crib, take care of your parents, all that kind of stuff,” Harris said. “From a budget standpoint, I was like, ‘Anything for my momma.’ I know I can make it back. It’ll also motivate me to make it back.”

He also surprised his mother with a personalized gift.

“I got her a Chrysler Pacifica too, 2018, the mobility van, so she can get around.”

Harris’ mother depended on a transportation service to attend her doctor’s appointments.

“It’s hard for them to have services that you would have versus the inner city, so for my mom to get around, they’d have to hire somebody else,” Harris said. “I made it to where she has the mobility van where she can just put a wheelchair in there and everything, so she can go out on her own versus having to depend on another car service.”

Harris’ work ethic kept him aware on the field, but off the field, he worried about his family.

“It’s kind of hard because it’s the first time having money and really being in the league, so it’s kind of hard for me to be away from home, knowing I just got paid, but I can’t do anything about it. Like my family, everybody’s still in their same situation,” he said.

He plans to launch his own foundation next year.

US Open champion Sloane Stephens is teaching kids how to play the game She is rebuilding tennis courts in Compton and encouraging kids to live healthy lifestyles

Eight months after winning the US Open and two weeks after taking the championship trophy at the Miami Open, tennis slayer Sloane Stephens is taking time to pursue her passion: helping kids with tennis.

Stephens and her foundation recently teamed up with the United States Tennis Association (USTA) in Compton, California, where she hosted the Sloane Stephens Foundation Net Generation Day. The courts were rebuilt by The Sloane Stephens Foundation and the Compton Unified School District. She helped 400 elementary and middle school students with tennis drills while encouraging healthy lifestyles.

“I just love kids and I think tennis has given me so many opportunities in my life, and just to be able to give that back to give another kid an opportunity to play a sport that’s given me so much of my life,” Stephens said.

The occasion was a joint effort with Net Generation, USTA’s youth tennis brand launched to connect tennis providers with youths ages 5 to 18.

“Net Gen is a great resource to find programs,” Stephens said. “It’s just like another tool. There are so many things you can do.”

Thousands of tennis providers are listed on the Net Generation website, which has resources including links to free apparel and a directory to help families find accessible tennis programs in their areas.

Net Gen Day was the perfect match for the activities she handles with the Sloane Stephens Foundation.

“I do after-school tennis in Compton Unified for the school district,” she said. “I have 23 schools. I do after-school, I have Saturday tennis and I have recess tennis. They do 10 weeks of tennis straight, and at the end they have a huge culminating event where they compete against each other. It’s like a huge play day. We have lunch, DJs, games, prizes, a little carnival, and everyone gets to come together and compete to show off what they learned. We keep doing it over and over. It’s the same kids. They keep getting better and better.”

Sloane Stephens holds court during her foundation’s Net Generation Day at Centennial High School in Compton, California, on April 12.

Stephens’ social responsibility is an act of reciprocity to the game that the 25-year-old says opened doors for her.

“I played at a park and they had a JTL [National Junior Tennis and Learning],” Stephens said. “It’s a little bit different now. I have my own foundation. We’re in schools and stuff but, all in all, the same concept. But all the programming is free. All the equipment is free. It makes it easy. It’s very accessible, which makes it great.”

For Stephens, life is a balancing act with social responsibility a backdrop of her time off the court.

“[I] take it day by day, try not to get overwhelmed,” Stephens said. “I feel like I’m always better when I’m doing a lot of things at one time. I just try to do things that I love and I’m always passionate about so I never lose that spark.”

Stephens said working on her foundation was a learning process that involved the realization that she can’t interact with the children as much as she desires.

“I think the hardest part is not being able to be there every day,” she said. “Because I love them so much I feel like they’re like my own children. … It’s amazing to see their improvement and see them getting better and just seeing them be excited about something.”

Born in Plantation, Florida, Stephens often trains in Carson, California. Her successful junior tennis career included doubles titles at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in 2010. She became the youngest player in the Top 100 and the 2017 US Open women’s singles champion.

“I want to feel like I’ve given as many kids the opportunity to play tennis as possible,” Stephens said. “Giving them the right tools to be able to have those opportunities and capitalize off of them, for me that would be a success.”

WNBA champion Tamika Catchings talks entering the WNBA As well as the power speaking to young girls and her next chapter after basketball

Former WNBA standout Tamika Catchings has advice for women entering the WNBA out of this year’s draft.

“I think for the players coming in, just being able to live their dreams and take advantage of the opportunities that’s presented to them — take advantage of every opportunity …,” Catchings said.

The 2001 No. 3 draft pick also posted a memory of the day she was drafted by the Indiana Fever, where she spent her entire 15-year career.

“DRAFT DAY! Every yr when @wnba #DraftDay comes I’m reminded of my @IndianaFever journey & how blessed I’ve been! To ALL of the 2018 draftees, enjoy this day & dwell in the emotions that 2nt will bring! I’m excited for u and ur paths 2 greatness #TheBestIsYetToCome!”

Catchings led the Fever to the 2012 WNBA championship and picked up the Finals MVP award. She holds four Olympic gold medals and is a five-time WNBA Defensive Player of the Year and 10-time All-Star. In 2011, Catchings was voted by fans as one of the WNBA’s Top 15 Players of All Time.

The next chapter for Catchings includes running Catch the Stars Foundation, where she helps prepare youths “to catch their dreams one star at a time”; enjoying her newly purchased tea shop, Tea’s Me Cafe; handling the daily operations as the director of player programs and franchise development at Pacers Sports and Entertainment; and speaking to young girls.

Just ahead of the 46th anniversary of Title IX (June 23), the WNBA champion answered the call to speak to more than 300 middle and high school girls at the Second Annual Girl’s Summit, in celebration of the historic act hosted by the Memphis Grizzlies, the National Civil Rights Museum and the Women’s Foundation of the Mid-South in March.

“Well, for me, the WNBA wasn’t around, and that’s one thing I told them,” Catchings told The Undefeated. “You guys have a prime opportunity because you have the WNBA to aspire to be in. You have all these professional sports that will give you options to pick. Maybe I don’t want to play basketball; I want to play soccer. I want to do tennis, or golf, or whatever it is. You have all these different opportunities that you can strive to be, and you have role models.”

One of the things that stood out for Catchings at the event was being able to work with the Memphis Grizzlies.

“They’re so passionate about what they do,” Catchings said. “It makes it easy to come in and fit in and be in alignment with the things that they have going on. It’s a lot of fun. And then, of course, being able to impact kids no matter what city they’re from. Changing lives is something that I want to do, and that I hope that I can continue to do.”

An outspoken voice for women’s empowerment and equal opportunities for young girls, the University of Tennessee standout joined with the other panelists, including women’s soccer Olympic gold medalist Angela Hucles and University of Memphis standout and now assistant coach Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, and spoke about opportunities, networking and availability.

Diane Terrell, vice president of community engagement and executive director of the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, was thrilled about the event and Catchings’ presence.

“Everyone knows Tamika Catchings because she was a UT basketball star,” Terrell said. “I think most NBA teams can easily forget girls. But, you know, everybody now is talking about sort of playing multiple sports. I think the timing is right for an NBA team to start acting around other sports opportunities other than basketball. We’ve always done clinics. But this is really about more than basketball; this is about access and opportunities.”

According to her LinkedIn profile, Catchings hopes to be a general manager in the WNBA or NBA.

“It is something that I have dreamed about since college. Throughout my career, I have constantly been observing and studying different GMs so that when my chance comes I can be successful.”

Catchings spoke about family, passion and transitioning out of basketball.


What inspires you to keep going?

The cares of today and realizing that we are basically setting up what our future will look like. Lord willing, I’ll have kids and be able to have positive role models for my kids to look up to. I take every single day and every opportunity that I have to go out and to be a positive force in a lot of our kids’ lives, boys and girls, is really, that’s what inspires me. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what drives me every single day — just to be able to make an impact and to help to see the light.

Who was your role model growing up?

My role models were, honestly, my parents. My father played in the NBA, so being able to watch him and travel around a lot and did a lot of things with him. That was kind of first and foremost for me. And my mom, she’s absolutely amazing. Just wanting to be more like them. ’96 Olympic team was the first team — by then, I was a freshman in college. That was the first true woman team that I saw. From that, from watching them, that was kinda like, ‘Man, one day I wanna be like them. I want to grow up, and I want to play for my country, and I want to represent the USA team.’ Having them to kind of follow, that’s what inspired me.

Was your dad the first person to put a basketball in your hand?

Of course. He was playing when I was born. His last year was ’84. He played ’73 to ’84; I was born in ’79. Watching him, that was it.

When did you first know that you had the “basketball jones”?

I would say seventh grade. Seventh grade was the first time I made, like I had a dream. I want to play in the NBA. I want to be like my dad. I want to follow in his footsteps. That’s kind of where it started, and then from there it just became life. I actually talked about that today. Basketball is life. That’s kind of what we strive to do.

How do you feel being at the forefront of being a league that really prompted a huge movement centered around social justice?

I was the president of the Players’ Association and to have so many ladies that were on the same page and to be able to voice and to have your voice heard is important. We all wanted to be able to share our voice and share the things that we believe in. I think to be able to have that, and to be able to have the platform to do that and the courage to do it, says a lot about not just me but our league as a whole and what we represent and what we stand for.

Do you miss being on the floor?

I do not.

How has transitioning into life after basketball been for you?

It’s been great. Just being able to do a lot of the things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I still work for Pacers Sports Entertainment. I still have the opportunity to be around the game, to be on the court and all of that, but being able to travel. I’m an ambassador for the NBA and the WNBA, so I still get to do a lot. … It’s given me a lot of opportunities. I think a lot of the opportunities have come because of being able to learn the life skills, the life lessons from being trained in basketball.

I bought a tea shop [Tea’s Me]. I love hot tea, cold tea, green tea, black tea and oolong. It’s awesome. I love it. I love making people happy, and tea makes people happy, and tea makes me happy.

What is coming up with you?

Lord knows. I feel like I’ve been able to do a lot of different things. It’s cool to be able to live life, and learn, and channel and impact people. Coming in and out, kinda keep it moving.

What do you tell WNBA players transitioning out?

For the ones that are transitioning out, same thing. It’s kind of crazy. You hope that you’ve instilled a lot of things and have taught them a lot of things about what they’re going to be doing. Staying in contact with people. For us when our careers end, it really is about transitioning into another world and trying to figure out what that looks like. So hopefully you can figure that out while you’re playing so the transition is maybe a little bit easier.

Kobe Bryant is gearing up for the 2018 NBA playoffs ‘I feel like it’s part of my responsibility to give back to the next generation’

When future NBA Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant walked away from the 2018 Academy Awards, he left with an Oscar for his animated feature Dear Basketball. As well as the satisfaction that following his passion had been the right move. There was no such certainty in 2016 when Bryant launched Granity Studios, a multimedia content creation company focused on helping athletes maximize their full potential through creative storytelling.

“Building a studio is no small task,” Bryant said Wednesday afternoon during a media conference call. “My passion is writing, creating, putting beautiful stories together, weaving them in the form of a narrative.”

Now you’ll be able to hear more of the Black Mamba through his new show, Detail, just in time for the 2018 NBA playoffs. The show, written, produced and hosted by Bryant, will feature his insights as he breaks down games throughout the postseason. He gives in-depth observations for games on ESPN and ABC. The first episode will debut Thursday on ESPN+. Through Granity Studios, he created a new 15-episode basketball analysis show “for the next generation.”

“I felt like it’s important for the next generation to learn how to watch film, how to study the game,” Bryant said. “I felt like if this show was around when I was 10 years old, 11 years old, I would have gained so much insight, so much value from it, that by the time I’m 22, 25, my knowledge of the game would be at a much, much higher level than my predecessors. I feel like it’s part of my responsibility to give back to the next generation, try to share and teach some of the things I have learned from some of the great players, great mentors, great coaches that I’ve had.”

Bryant’s career spanned two decades with the Los Angeles Lakers, with whom he won five NBA championships and became an 18-time All-Star, among many other equally stellar stats.

On this call, Bryant weighed in on his new endeavor, the NBA playoffs, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets, Dirk Nowitzki, playing through injuries and more.


What are your thoughts on Dirk Nowitzki and bigs in the league?

When he first came in the league, he took a lot of 3s. The year they won championships he might have taken half the 3s than when he first came in the league. The idea of having a guy that was 7 feet, 7 feet 1 that could stretch the floor, that was revolutionary. I’m sure it inspired a lot of bigs to be able to say, ‘You know what, I want to be like Dirk Nowitzki.’ Dirk, he was looking at guys like Arvydas Sabonis, Vlade Divac, guys like that.

Dirk obviously took it to a different level because of his mobility, the ability to put the ball on the floor and spin. But, by and large, when Dirk won that championship that year, the biggest problem we had with him, that Miami and all the other teams had with him, wasn’t his picking and popping, it was his ability to play at the free throw line and below the free throw line. For him, that was his biggest growth as a player.

How do you see the playoffs shaking out? Who do you think is going to win the championship this year?

I try to stay out of the business of clairvoyancy. I kind of look at the raw picture of what I see in front of me from the execution standpoint. Obviously, a lot of it depends on the health of Golden State. Houston have put themselves in prime position with their length, versatility, their speed, their aggressiveness. They’re a very aggressive team. It’s a more aggressive team than [Mike] D’Antoni has had. Phoenix, they play with a lot of speed, but none of those guys are naturally physical. Houston has some real physical players, man. I like where they’re at.

Cleveland, obviously with LeBron, the shooting they have around him, some of the youth they infused that team with is obviously going to be dangerous. Curious to see what Toronto does. Kyrie going down makes a big difference in the Eastern Conference.

I like Houston and Golden State, pending their health, as being my top two favorites. Like I said, I kind of stay out of the business of predictions.

What is the one thing from an analysis standpoint that you are going to be most interested to see during these playoffs?

I’m just looking at it from the perspective if I was a player, right? If I was Harden in the series, I just played this game, I’m watching the film, what would I be looking at? It’s basically me going back to my old ways of watching film, how I was breaking down series when I was playing. That’s that.

What stories do you think you’re most interested in telling specifically about the Rockets, Chris Paul, James Harden, others on that team?

There aren’t really stories that I’m fascinated with telling in terms of like Chris’ performance in a playoff with Houston, how they’re meshing together, Golden State’s health. I don’t care anything about that.

The only thing I care about, I’m James Harden, we just played Game 1, what do I need to focus on and learn from Game 1 that will help us in Game 2? What could we do better in Game 1? What do we need to look for that our opposition could counter with in Game 2, right? It’s that level of detail that this show is about.

The name ‘Detail’ was pulled for a very specific reason. This is content that might not be for everyone, right? It’s really at the smallest, smallest level of basketball breakdown to try to advance in a series.

Where is your Oscar?

I have it in my house. It’s sitting right next to the Emmy Award we’ve won, as well. I look at them every morning before I go to work.

What inspires you to continue to reinvent yourself and stay on top of everything you decide to do?

I follow my passion, things that I love to do, like writing and storytelling, I enjoy that. I don’t find myself having to remind myself to work hard and push myself to stay on top of things, because I just love doing it. I don’t really look at it so much as reinvention, as my career as a basketball player was over. I loved storytelling, so here I am.

How did you manage your pain level throughout your injuries?

Sometimes you have injuries where you just have to deal with the pain. It’s not going to get any worse, but you have to deal with the pain. When I fractured my finger, there was nothing else that could be done … suck it up and play or sit out and get it fixed right then and there. That’s typically how I handled it.

During this time of year, is it hard for you to watch basketball?

No, not at all. I don’t have a hard time watching it at all. This is where me and Michael [Jordan] differ a lot. Where I was going through the process of retirement, I think people were kind of assuming Michael and I behave the same way from a competitive standpoint.

You hear a lot about a team like the Cavaliers, LeBron James flipping a switch when the playoffs come. In your experience, how do you prepare for that? How difficult is it to go to a new level in the playoffs?

Here is a thing about flipping the switch. Flipping the switch is just another word for you have one team that you’re focusing on, so you can really zero in on that team. That’s all that is. You’re still playing just as hard, you’re doing all the things, but playoffs means, if you have one team to focus on, that means you can study all your regular-season matchups against them, you can learn all the information you need to learn to prepare yourself for this playoff series. That’s flipping the switch.

Then, from the Cleveland standpoint, Cleveland seems to be executing a more democratic style of offense. I did a piece last year or a couple years ago, maybe last year, about the two-kings system that the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing with, LeBron and Kyrie, and contrast that with Golden State’s democracy. If you watch Cleveland play now, they’re starting to play with a more democratic system. See LeBron at the elbow at the top of the key being the Draymond Green of the Cavs, while the other players, whether it’s Jordan Clarkson or Kevin Love, are running corner split games, playing a rip action, doing stuff on the weak side where they’re moving off the ball. That makes them infinitely more dangerous.

What are your impressions of rookie Ben Simmons?

I think Ben played with a really great tempo. The time he’s had to watch the game has helped slow down the game for him. He’s had a chance to really observe the NBA game and be around it, pick it apart. Now that he’s playing, I think the game’s in slow motion for him, which is different than most rookies. He’s had a chance to view it a lot.

From a game perspective, his size gives him a clear advantage, his speed. He also knows how to use it. He knows his spots on the floor, he knows his strengths and weaknesses. He does a great job getting there. He’s been able to dominate and take that city of Philadelphia to a place where it hasn’t been in a very long time.

Detroit’s Midnight Golf Program teaches lessons of the game and life Hundreds of students benefit from mentors, scholarships and college tours

The 2018 Masters Tournament has a new champion, and his name isn’t Tiger Woods.

But young black golfers, like the participants in Detroit’s Midnight Golf Program, are still excited about the game and their place in the sport.

The Midnight Golf Program, affectionately known as “MGP,” is a selective, golf-centered program that was founded by Reneé Fluker. The program is based in Detroit, and only high school seniors in the area are eligible for the prestigious program. Those granted a spot in MGP have an opportunity to gain mentorships and learn life skills, etiquette and more, all while learning the game of golf. They are supplied with a set of golf clubs and Midnight Golf paraphernalia, such as polo shirts, hats and golf gloves.

The group’s name is a bit misleading. They do not play golf at midnight.

“Playing golf at night is impossible unless someone shines a light. The program uses the game of golf to give young people a brighter vision of their future,” said Fluker, who also is president.

Established in 2001, the program started with 17 students. That number has blossomed into roughly 200 students each year. This year’s program has 263. Participants attend biweekly sessions for seven months. Each session is three hours long — students receive golf lessons and life lessons such as financial literacy, interview skills and speech writing — with dinner. The program doesn’t cost participants anything, thanks to funding from sponsorships and donations from businesses, community donors, mentors and program alumni. Nearly 60 mentors and PGA professionals contribute their time and expertise.

“Young people in Detroit are full of promise. What they need is direction because school is such a small aspect of what’s necessary for success. I hope that message spreads,” said David Gamlin, vice president and program director of the Midnight Golf Program.

“Young people in Detroit are full of promise. What they need is direction because school is such a small aspect of what’s necessary for success. I hope that message spreads.”

MGP caters to underserved young men and women in Detroit and surrounding suburbs, and mentorship is one of the most essential parts of the program.

“Midnight Golf has impacted my life by helping me see that my future is important and that I can do anything I put my mind to,” said Asia Branham, 20, a sophomore at Harris-Stowe State University. “They helped me see that I don’t have to settle for less and that there is more out there in the world than just Detroit neighborhoods.”

MGP aims to provide mentoring and professional development in a familial atmosphere for its students and mentors. Students receive one-on-one mentoring with three to five students paired with an individual mentor. Mentors take students under their wing, staying in communication with them even after they go to college. The program’s motto is “College. Career. Beyond.” According to MGP, more than 98 percent of MGP students matriculate to institutions of higher education.

“I’ve seen young people with no intention of going to college or who didn’t believe they were ‘college material’ go on to be valedictorians and graduate summa cum laude,” said Winston Coffee, 34, who is in his seventh year of mentoring with the program.

The program relies heavily on its mentors, who must be able to volunteer twice a week and be at least 25 years old with no criminal background. They represent a diverse range of professions, from pilots to accountants to nurses and more.

Midnight Golf students and mentors primarily work together in Detroit. Since 2005, they have also traveled to colleges, universities and golf courses around the country. This portion of the program is called the Road Trip For Success (RTFS).

“The first time I visited my college, Philander Smith, was on the RTFS. I saw it and fell in love. I applied and was accepted with scholarship,” said Tiffany Phillips-Peters, a 2017 graduate of Philander Smith College. “Beyond the road trip, Ms. Reneé and another mentor, Mr. Ambrose, saw to it that I made it to and through college successfully. Mr. Ambrose and another mentor even attended my graduation.”

This year, the trip includes six cities. Six charter buses have transported students to North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina Central University, Duke University, Winston-Salem State University, Duke University Golf Club, Birkdale Golf Club and the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Although they were unable to ride to Augusta, Georgia, for the 2018 Masters, that didn’t keep them from following the tournament — especially since Woods was playing.

“It is a sport that has no equal and will be viable for the individual throughout time. Can’t digitize it. Can’t shrink it. We can speed it up, but golf will always be a great asset for those who play.”

“Tiger has been a strong inspiration for many new to the game, but golf needs no PR,” said Gamlin. “It is a sport that has no equal and will be viable for the individual throughout time. Can’t digitize it. Can’t shrink it. We can speed it up, but golf will always be a great asset for those who play.”

Although Woods was not a top finisher at the Masters and has been out of the sport for most of the past four years, that has not affected the students’ enthusiasm for the game. They credit MGP.

“Golf is not just a sport, but it teaches life principles and fundamentals for success,” said Tiffany Moore, 25, an alum of the program who is a current MBA student at Northwood University. “Many business transactions are held over the game of golf. I have been able to gain a business network from speaking on my experiences through the program and have encouraged a previous employer to invest in the program.”

Once students complete the 30-week program, they are eligible to receive awards, scholarships for college, a graduation cord and the title of MGP alum. Many also walk away with a desire to give back and help uplift others.

“The biggest lesson I took away from my experience as a Midnight Golf Program participant is that as you advance in your career and life overall, it is your duty to reach back and pull as many people up with you as possible,” said Jenise Williams, 21, a current senior at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Gaining alumni status in MGP is something that students don’t take likely.

“MGP made it known that we are not who we are merely off our own hard work. For that, we should pay forward the love and devotion others have poured into us, no matter how big or small.”

Grant Hill speaks out about the nation’s opioid crisis The NBA legend is on his way to the Hall of Fame, but he won’t let that overshadow his latest passion

On Sept. 7, millions of basketball fans will witness NBA playmaker Grant Hill’s induction into the 2018 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Hill helped Duke win two NCAA titles (’91, ’92) and was the ACC Player of the Year. He boasts a 19-year NBA career, including seven All-Star selections, and he’s now part-owner of the Atlanta Hawks.

But his accolades do not overshadow his community work and his latest passion: fighting opioid addiction.

Hill has teamed up with Choices Matter, a campaign designed to empower and encourage surgery patients to proactively discuss postsurgical pain management, including non-opioid alternatives, with their doctors. He partnered with the campaign once he realized its goals were aligned with his.

“It’s been fun and it’s been consistent, and aligned with how I believe in terms of playing against pain and the campaign, and just really try to make people aware there’s an epidemic right now in our country and this is just a way to try to minimize that, and to try to prevent people from going down that road that we know so many have as a result of overprescription of opioid pain medications. So it’s important, it’s the right thing, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”

During his NBA career, he underwent 10 surgical procedures and was prescribed painkillers. His short-lived brush with opioids ended when he asked his doctor for an alternative to the painkillers.

“I had so many surgeries during my playing days. And as you go through your pain management process, you are exposed to so much, so many opioids. I just never liked how I felt,” Hill said.

“So I’m given a bunch of pain meds to manage my pain,” he said. “And I just felt horrible and did not like how I felt, and could not wait to get off. At that point, you start investigating, talking to doctors, trying to get a sense and understanding of what it is you’re taking. And at that time, the internet was just sort of in its infancy. But you realize how dangerous and addictive these drugs are, but that was the only protocol that was around.”

He went through more surgeries, but before one of his final operations, he was exposed to an alternative, eliminating postsurgery pain meds.

“It’s like, wow, there’s another option,” Hill said. “Having that exposure, that experience, and also understanding that at the same time this opioid epidemic is occurring, [I’m] really just trying to make people aware as they go through their surgical procedures that there are options for pain meds, that there is an alternative.”

Hill describes his alternative as a block, “a numbing agent that they insert into your body and it lasts for three or four days, which is typically the time period where pain postsurgery can be where it intensifies and can be problematic. Once that block wears off, typically the pain has started to go away and you had no exposure to any opioids.”

A United States for Non-Dependence report, conducted by the QuintilesIMS Institute and issued in September 2017, found that enough opioids were prescribed in 2016 for every man, woman and child in America to have 36 pills each.

“Anytime you have surgery, and whether you’re an athlete, whether you’re a weekend warrior, whether you’re a stay-at-home mom … whatever it is or whatever you do, and whenever you’re considering having surgery, you want to be able to sit with your doctor and really understand what you’re about to embark upon, not just from a pain management standpoint but also just understanding what the surgery is, what they’re doing and what the recovery is,” Hill said. “And if anything I’ve learned through my 10 surgeries during my career is really to educate yourself. And I think the same thing goes in terms of what are my postsurgery pain management options.”

According to Choices Matter, 1 in 3 families in the United States is affected by addiction. Hill, who is the father of two daughters with his wife, singer-songwriter Tamia, takes his responsibility to educate his children about drug use very seriously.

“As a parent, that’s part of your responsibility, to try educate and inform, and then try to use your own experiences,” Hill said. “Dad’s had surgeries, Dad’s taken these things, Dad doesn’t like how they made him feel. And having this type of back-and-forth, I think as a parent, is healthy and important.”

In October, President Donald Trump declared the epidemic a public health emergency. On Nov. 4, 2017, Hill showed his support for ending the epidemic by appearing at the Atlanta 5K Run/Walk hosted by the nonprofit organization Shatterproof. He’s also part of the organization’s national campaign, Rise Up Against Addiction, which works to end the stigma of addiction. More than 58 teams participated in the event that raised more than $1.75 million for the crisis in which only 1 in 10 Americans seeks treatment and 141 people die of an overdose daily, according to Shatterproof.

“It was a great event. It was cool to see folks who are recovering, had been through it or maybe had a family member who had been through it, and sort of just coming together and bringing awareness, raising money. … There’s a real sort of community that it can really galvanize, and I saw that firsthand,” Hill said.

According to an article in The New York Times, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows studies that reveal the opioid drug death rate is rising among blacks between the ages of 45 and 64. “Drug deaths among blacks in urban counties rose by 41 percent in 2016, far outpacing any other racial or ethnic group. In those same counties, the drug death rate among whites rose by 19 percent,” the article reveals, finding that the drug fentanyl is one culprit.

“I’m not an expert when it comes to politics, but I think there needs to be a serious conversation,” Hill said. “I think we need to bring in folks who are experts, bring in people in the medical profession to have open and honest conversation, to discuss it.

“So much of this is the result of people being overprescribed from doctors and there being drugs left over, and people using them and becoming addicted,” Hill said. “You don’t need 50 pills for a surgery. Trust me. I’ve had 10 of them, I know. That’s when you have issues. That’s when stuff is hanging around and it gets in the hands of the wrong person … And next thing you know they have an issue. I do think the conversation needs to be had and there needs to be pressure put on our government officials to do something.”

Motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles on why he left the 9-to-5 grind ‘My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers’

People refer to him as Dr. Sprinkles. But he’s no doctor. He’s a man with a gift for helping other people see themselves.

“I don’t know where they get that from. My mom is Dr. Sprinkles,” said author and motivational speaker Jonathan Sprinkles. “That was actually part of my journey. I went from my father to my mother, and during all four years of my high school my mom was studying to get her doctorate. I have a bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Texas.”

The 41-year-old’s personal journey includes overcoming a childhood of humble beginnings, his parents’ divorce, and the loss of his father to cancer when he was just 15.

“He always said he … wished for one thing in life: ‘That I can live long enough to see you be a great father, because I know that you will be.’ He said this when I was maybe 11 years old. I look back at it as the best worst thing that ever happened to me. It was painful, it still is. There are so many things that I still wish that he was around to witness.”

This experience led him into thinking about human connection.

“I was living the big disconnect,” he said. “But I was too afraid to open up and be vulnerable because I believed that there was a relationship between love and loss. The reason why I lean in so hard on connection is because that’s what I had been searching for in various phases of my whole life.”

Now the author of 13 books, including two best-sellers, Sprinkles coaches individuals and organizations on how to create a sense of engagement, loyalty and profitability. For Sprinkles, connection is key to prevailing over life’s obstacles, and his mission is “to help people find what they are truly connected to and use it to passionately serve people in business and life.” He often uses sports analogies to introduce the principles of “making a champion.”

Sprinkles lives in Houston now, but his sports loyalties reflect his youth in Los Angeles.

“I do support the Texans, although my heart is with all the L.A. teams. I’m a Lakers fan till I die. Dodgers fan till I die. Even Oakland Raiders, even when they become the Las Vegas Raiders, I’m going to love them. I bleed silver and black, but I also love the Texans as well.”

Sprinkles wakes up at 6:50 every morning in time for his 7 a.m. group prayer call. He takes his 7-year-old son, Jaxson, to school every morning. When he’s not traveling, he handles coaching calls or training people and companies. Sprinkles spoke to The Undefeated about motivational speaking, finding balance and his future goals.


How did you transition into motivational speaking?

I kind of found it and it kind of found me. I started off as a raving introvert. I have incredible stage fright, but I did a Black History Month presentation in the fifth grade and I got third place. Then I tried again the next year and got first place.

What that evolved into was in the University of Texas, this is a school of 53,000 students and it was only, unfortunately, less than 1 percent African-American. So we had to really fight hard to make a name for ourselves, and at that time there was a lot of racial justice issues. Blacks really had to speak up. African-American students had to really represent, so I was like a leader on campus.

I called on those skills from long ago to be able to persuade people. I ended up working at Dell Computers next. I was making decent money. I made more money than either of my parents did very quickly into my career. … It turned out I loved doing that more than I loved my 9-to-5 job.

When did you leave that job?

Just after 9/11 I realized that I was going to make a choice. I was either going to chase a paycheck or I was going to chase my purpose. I remember, it was in April of 2002. I prayed that special prayer. I said, ‘When is it that I’m supposed to go? When is my time?’ That still, small voice said back to me, ‘May.’ I was scared to death because I couldn’t believe that everything that I’ve worked so hard for to build it, I had already moved up in the shortest amount of time possible. I was one of the senior sales reps. They had me tapped for management. I was one of the bright shining stars in their fastest-growing division.

I remember I went in and talked to my boss and I said, ‘Hey, I have something to tell you. I’m going to leave and I’m going to go out and speak.’ I did one free talk for a friend of mine that ended up creating a contract that gave me enough money to keep going.

How did you overcome your fears?

The only way to overcome fear is with experience. We all have a level of fear. We have fear of things that we’re not familiar with.

How do you replenish yourself?

Self-care is the best care. I’m not going to front. I’m the classic giver, entrepreneur, big-dream chaser. I’m not the best at always making sure that my glass is full. But what I do know is that I have to look at what does it for me. One thing I have had to do is become very self-aware. I need to give. So when I’m down, I write thank-you notes for people. That does it for me.

What’s been the hardest part of your journey?

It’s the trade-offs. In principle, I understand because you can’t be two places at the same time. So sometimes you may want to be with your family but you have to work. Or sometimes you may really want to get some work done but you’re with your family.

How do you balance those?

Although I may not always have quantity time, I make sure I always put in the quality. For example, I coach his [Jaxson’s] basketball. During his track practice, I was there. So I’m always there. I’m the one yelling in the stands all the time. I’m the parent who won’t shut up.

What are your personal goals?

My goal is and always has been to influence the influencers. I’ve always wanted to be the one who can speak to the powerful people and help to influence what they’re doing, and help them to be better at that. That means the athletes, I can see myself doing television. I can see myself being a best-selling author many times over. I’ve got a lot of books in me.

Parker Curry, a little black girl just being her own amazing self Ever since the photo of her staring at Michelle Obama’s portrait went viral, she’s become a star on the toddler circuit

An hour before her big moment, Parker Curry was doing the same thing that the rest of us were doing at Nationals Park: shivering. With a game-time temperature closer to freezing than not for the Washington Nationals’ home opener versus the New York Mets, standing on the field meant dealing with the just plain cold weather outside. Her pink bubble parka was in tow, but the cameras were out, and she was wearing her Bryce Harper jersey with matching white Converse Velcro Chuck Taylors, so it was time to stunt.

For Parker and her mother, Jessica Curry, this was a slightly less controlled environment than usual for her media appearances, but also the least personal. The 3-year-old rose to fame when a photo of her staring at former first lady Michelle Obama’s official portrait at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery went viral, and since then she’s become a star on the toddler circuit.

“Life has been busy, but good busy,” Jessica explained. “A lot of people have reached out to us for appearances and things like that, and for the most part things have normalized. We’re back to ballet, we’re back to gymnastics. I’d say now it’s been about three weeks since she took the picture … and every week we’ve had a number of opportunities and we just take it one day at a time, and whatever we think is a good opportunity for Parker then, we’re open to.”

The run has been pretty meteoric. She got to actually meet Obama, which for many people would be the highlight of a lifetime. She also got to appear on Ellen, America’s Adorable Child Show of Record. Ellen DeGeneres did her best not to act like she wasn’t tight about the fact that Obama stole her bit and danced with her, but it was all good. They re-enacted the photo moment instead. In all seriousness, the online sensation made it all the way to CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, cementing her status as the most precious child in America for 2018.

But on Thursday, a lot was going on. Both teams had to be introduced. There was a national anthem to be sung. There were accolades to be handed out. Fireworks were going off, and on top of that, Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser had just arrived to help with Parker’s portion of the show. Before that, she’d taken a quick potty break to make sure things didn’t go awry before the big moment, but now that we were here, the scene was a tad hectic.

Like many grown-ups would probably be likely to do when feeling a tad overwhelmed, Parker cried a little. For a 3-year-old, surrounded by a crowd of 40,000 people, with people yelling her name and sticking cameras in her face, it was understandable. Luckily, there was a Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pie to the rescue nearby to lighten her mood.

Bowser, whom Parker had met previously — her mother is a D.C. native and a baseball fan who goes to a fair number of Nats games — was there to yell “Play ball!” and officially open the season. Parker, although a star, isn’t exactly a method actor yet, so relying on her to deliver the line wasn’t easy. Thus, the two rehearsed. They practiced their pageant waves, and Bowser went over the script. “I’m going to say, ‘On behalf of Parker, myself and all Washington Nationals fans: Let’s. Play. Ball!’ ”

By the time the two had scrambled on top of the dugout to deliver the line and get the game started, Curry was just hanging out, watching her child dazzle a ballpark crowd with the mayor of her hometown. Which led to the question, exactly how hectic is this child’s life? Curry, who runs Happy Mama Happy Babies, a motherhood and lifestyle blog, says she’s not letting things get out of control.

“It’s not stressful because of the fact that I realize that to some extent, I’m in control of the situation,” she said. “I don’t interrupt her nap times, I don’t interrupt her meal times, I don’t take away her activities that she does on a usual basis. If something comes up and it works with the schedule that we already had, that she already had before all this happened, then we do it. And if it doesn’t, then we don’t do it. I’m not letting it get to a point that I’m stressed out.”

Sometimes, however, plans do change. Lunch with the mayor was not exactly on the schedule, but what can you do? By the time we got into the Delta Club at the yard, Parker was walking around the dining room with her giveaway towel looking for food. Up until that point, it had been a day like any other. They’d had a big breakfast at home, and according to mom, she was hoping to see Muriel, her new close personal friend, at the game.

Overall, though, Curry is just glad that they’ve gotten the opportunity. For outside onlookers, the appeal is obvious. And in a world in which our children are so often portrayed in ways that are unfair to every part of their being, Parker’s life is a window into an existence we saw more of: a little black girl just being herself.

“It’s been really cool; we’re really blessed. I feel really honored that so many people are kind of interested in Parker, and interested in following her,” Curry said. “We’re back to doing everything that we normally do. Going to the library, going to museums, hanging out. It’s just that now there’s way more people watching what we’re doing. I’m happy to have the opportunity to inspire other parents to do cool stuff with their kids and inspire their little kids to do great things.”

But we gotta be real. The stunt factor is no joke. Most 3-year-olds don’t have the kind of Rolodex that Parker does and Curry has to manage that, no matter how ridiculous it may all seem.

“I no longer deal with the regular 3-year-old tantrums,” she said with a laugh before brisking off to eat. “I’m now dealing with tantrums that include pleas for Michelle Obama and Muriel Bowser and Ellen [DeGeneres]. These are the types of women that I have to deal with her asking for when she’s upset with me.”

Some call that Black Girl Magic.

NBA legends share their love for Marvin Gaye Pat Riley, Dr. J and Isiah Thomas on their love for the music legend on the anniversary of Gaye’s death and his birthdate — which nearly coincide

Everything about Marvin Gaye was poetic. Quite poignantly, his violent end.

A day before what would have been his 45th birthday, the iconic soul singer was tragically murdered by his father, Marvin Gay Sr. It was April Fools’ Day 1984. Heavenly gifted yet tormented by a variety of hells in his life, Gaye spent the final year of his life on a pendulum of deeper and deeper paranoia. And while he would embark on the last tour of his career that summer, his buttery rendition of the national anthem at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game is arguably the last iconic musical moment of Gaye’s career.

Earlier this year, we spoke to NBA legends such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Pat Riley and others about what it was like to be on the same court as the singer who soundtracked the days of their lives. The passion in their voices tells the story of a man and his music.

Gems/Redferns

Pat Riley


“In my mind, ‘What’s Going On’ — for my lifetime — had the most impact on me than any record ever.”

Marvin Gaye performing in 1964.

David Redfern/Redferns

Isiah Thomas

“[Marvin] and Earth, Wind & Fire were basically the soundtrack of my teenage years.”

Marvin Gaye performs at the University of Detroit Fieldhouse in 1976 in Detroit.

Leni Sinclair/Getty Images

Julius “Dr. J” Erving

“He died young, and it’s like there was an unfulfilled promise.”