Fast Break Freestyles features rappers discussing culture, basketball and their cities. Hosted by DJ Set Free (creator of the AND1 mixtapes), Fast Break Freestyles is a collaboration between The Undefeated and The Compound.
Season 2, Episode 7 | Champagne Papi | April 12
Keeping with the theme of the past two episodes, Atlanta returned with yet another solo excursion. This time giving us the long-awaited Van episode.
The writing was on the wall after she and Earn’s falling out in episode four, and last night’s installment only solidified one truth — getting over someone is hard. The opening scene with Van and her squad (Tami, Candi and Nadine) featured an all-too-familiar conversation about birth control and the disdain for condoms. But it was also the beginning stages of Van’s ultimate plan, and one that has become so customary when attempting to move past a former love interest. “Do it for the ’Gram” is a disease that has infected nearly all of us at some point. And Van had a full-blown case of it.
She’s on Earn’s Instagram stories and instantly plummets into her feelings when she sees him with another woman. From there, the plan is hatched. She’s going to this party hosted by Drake (more on that in a moment), and if nothing else, she’s going to stunt for social media. Not because she necessarily wants to have a good time, but because she wants Earn to see her with Drake. On the surface, it’s a foolproof plan. It’s Drake we’re talking about here. She’s bound to be the muse for one of his future songs, and the last thing Earn would want to hear is Drake singing melodies about meeting Van at his New Year’s Eve party. But on the flip side, it reveals how sadly inauthentic people become on social media.
The Drake house party is exactly how you’d expect a Drake house party to look. From the shuttle in a parking lot taking the girls to the mansion to the one chick forging a Drake invite to wearing footies over shoes so as not to scuff up his marble floors, everything seems to fall into place. Even down to the gummy edibles, which aren’t exclusive only to Drake — every party has edibles if you know the right person to ask — but I’d imagine there’s no shortage at a Drizzy party. From there, the girls split up. All, in their own way, on the hunt for Drake.
Before moving on, let’s give it up one time for the Drake marketing department. Just days after the release of his already smash single “Nice For What” and the simultaneous drop of the superstar-laden video, he now has his own episode on arguably the hottest show on television. As I previously said about Atlanta, nothing Drake does is without careful, meticulous planning. He knew this episode was on the horizon, and it wouldn’t have surprised a soul if “Nice” somehow appeared in the episode.
Nevertheless, the entire experience is a wash — falling in line with a theme of the entire season where the idea of heroes is destroyed. Not Drake himself in particular, but the idea of being around a superstar of that caliber. None of the girls finds Drake. Tami bounces early with her DJ boo to a T-Pain party, which should have been a clear indication Drake wasn’t at his own party. Candi is too caught up on an interracial relationship at the party to care about anything else — but she did give us one of the most hilarious scenes of the season when she cussed out the white girl on the couch. Van, who thank the heavens avoided the creep whose cousin is Drake’s nutritionist, finds out Drake is Hispanic (while actually wearing Drake’s clothes she took out of his closet because, no, that’s not weird at all). She also learns all the pictures from the party with girls posing for selfies with Drake were actually life-size cardboard cutouts. Again, the allure is destroyed, and no number of Instagram filters can change that reality.
However, it’s Nadine, tripping off an edible for the majority of the entire episode, who actually tied the whole thing together. It made sense that she and Darius, who was randomly at the party too, connected on a spiritual level. At a party overflowing with Drake innuendos and shallow conversations, Nadine proved to be Yoda. Perhaps the credit goes to the weed, but she saw through all the nonsense.
"It's a simulation. It's all fake." — Nadine revealing the point of the entire episode. #AtlantaFX
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) April 13, 2018
By far the most fun I’ve had at a party in the past two years was Dave Chappelle’s Juke Joint in New Orleans for NBA All-Star Weekend in 2017. They put your phone in a pouch that can only be unlocked once you leave. The whole point is to omit the dependency we all have to want to be on our phones during a party. We always feel the need to Snap everything or put the “fun” part of our lives on Instagram. It’s superficial. And in the process we forget what we actually come to party for. It’s not even about us having fun. It’s making sure whoever follows us sees we’re having fun. We’re all guilty of it — myself included.
So, yes, Nadine was right. We’re all jaded by a lifestyle that, at best, is fleeting and, at worst, isn’t who we are to begin with. Who says marijuana has no redeeming qualities? Take that, Jeff Sessions.
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!”
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! pic.twitter.com/3U4Kc3iRB5
— Tamika Catchings (@Catchin24) April 12, 2018
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.
NEW YORK — Together, they boast a combined 8,221 points in 489 career NBA playoff games, with four total championships. During their storied careers in the league, the now-retired Julius “Dr. J” Erving, Rasheed Wallace and Ray Allen always seemed to rise to the occasion in the postseason — and they did so in style, with the freshest kicks they could get their feet into.
On Monday, Nike, Air Jordan and Converse unveiled their “Art of a Champion” art exhibit, featuring 16 pairs of meaningful sneakers, inspired by the all-time great playoff performances from different players across basketball history. Erving, Wallace and Allen each have pairs in the collection of shoes, which will all be available for sale between April and June. The Undefeated caught up with the three living legends, who broke down what the sneakers mean to them and their memories of the moments they wore them.
Julius “Dr. J” Erving’s Converse Pro Leather Mid “The Scoop”
Release date: April 19
Playoff moment that inspired the shoe: On May 11, 1980, in Game 4 of the NBA Finals between the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers, Erving broke out one of the most athletic moves basketball has ever witnessed: a behind-the-basket, up-and-under layup around both Mark Landsberger and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, known timelessly as the “scoop shot.”
On what the shoe means to him: “It’s a standard. It’s a good representation of what I had on my feet when I played basketball. I played in the NBA, in the ABA … around the world … in the Rucker League. It meant a lot at that point in my life, and now it continues to be.”
On whether current NBA players could be successful in Converse: “In terms of the competitive shoes, Converse has moved over to a space of style and extreme sports, like skateboarding. I wouldn’t mind, though. They could compete in this shoe. But I think the contracts associated with the top-tier players just don’t work economically the way they work for Nike.”
Rasheed Wallace’s Nike Air Force 1 High Retro “Rude Awakening”
Release date: April 26
Playoff moment that inspired the shoe: Wallace’s team-high 26-point, 13-rebound performance for the Detroit Pistons in Game 4 of the NBA Finals on June 13, 2004, against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pistons ultimately defeated the Lakers, 4-1, in the series to bring a championship back to Detroit for the first time since 1990.
On what the shoe means to him: “For me, it was about my ankles and my knees … gotta protect the moneymakers. … That’s why I always wore high-tops … that’s why I always rocked the Air Force 1s. Of course I put an orthotic in there, because these joints are flat. They’d kill your feet if you just slip them on and think you could hoop. But that’s the main reason I wore them — not only that they’re fashionable, but ankle protection.”
On letting the shoes’ straps hang while playing: “It’s a Philly thing. That’s what my brothers did, and a lot of my old heads did, when I was growing up. That was sort of our little signature with the Air Force 1s.”
Ray Allen’s Air Jordan XX8 “Locked and Loaded”
Release date: May 12
Playoff moment that inspired the shoe: On June 18, 2013, Allen of the Miami Heat hit a game-tying corner 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs. The Heat would go on to win in overtime and close out the series in Game 7 to claim back-to-back NBA titles.
On what the shoe means to him: “They were comfortable. Every shoe I played in symbolizes something that I experienced in my career. I know where I was. The evolution of a shoe, as you get older, it changes because your foot changes. So there are certain things that you require in comfortability and playability. The 28s were at the right time because they certainly gave my foot a lot of breathability. Even now, wearing them, they feel good.”
On the legacy of the shot: “I see video from that shot all the time. It gets posted on social media a lot. For most people, it seems crazy and insane, but for me, it seemed regular and simple.”
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.
There’s a notation on the Wikipedia page of veteran offensive lineman Marshall Newhouse that jumps off the screen. It’s not that he’s played for five franchises. Nor is it perhaps his greatest accomplishment on the football field: winning a Super Bowl as a rookie with the Green Bay Packers, after the Dallas native was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Texas Christian University.
The line that sticks out is from the “Early Years” section: “He was also very active on campus at Lake Highlands as a member of the Horticulture Society and Japanese Club.” The two extracurricular activities are also mentioned in his old TCU bio, which you can still find online. Despite being more than a decade removed from high school, the 29-year-old Newhouse can’t seem to avoid questions about his interests in “the art and science of plant production for both beauty and utility” or Japan.
So in late March, when The Undefeated caught up with Newhouse not long after he signed a one-year deal to join the Buffalo Bills, we couldn’t help but ask him about the two clubs — among other things, of course.
We’re approaching the annual NFL draft. What do you remember most about the day you were drafted?
I was with my family and a few of my closest friends. We were still at College House in Fort Worth. … In the second round, I got called [via phone] twice … by Kansas City and by Denver. You leave the room and take the call. One of them was the O-line coach, and one was the GM [general manager]. Both of them said, ‘Yeah, we wanna take you with this next pick.’ You come back in the room, tell your family and friends, then the picks come and your name isn’t called. That was a shock. … By the third day of the draft, we got tired of sitting on the couch. I said, ‘Let’s go get some tacos.’ We went to one of my favorite places in Fort Worth called Ernesto’s. Then [Green Bay general manager] Ted Thompson’s on the line, asks me if I wanted to be a Green Bay Packer. It’s kind of crazy how it went down like that.
What do you remember most about winning a Super Bowl as a rookie?
First, it was just the confetti and that euphoric realization, like, ‘Oh, crap, this is happening.’ You try to live in the moment as much as you can. Just soak it in, ’cause winning is incredibly hard. Watching the trophy walk by on the field … my family was there, so I got to hang out with them in the stadium. That was my late grandmother’s last game she saw me play, so that was pretty special. That night, we went back to the hotel and had a party. Kid Rock played … that was pretty cool.
Do you remember any specific moments you shared with your grandmother that night?
She was just so proud and happy. She was a big part of me pursuing sports. When my parents were working and I was playing select baseball, my grandma was the one who took me to practice, or tournaments on the weekends. She was just such an important part of my sports history, so seeing her in that moment, getting to share that with her, was really special.
Where do you keep your Super Bowl ring?
It was in my bedside dresser in a jewelry box, but I’ve been moving so much … it’s at [my family’s] house in a safe right now.
My dad was pivotal in my football upbringing. He was my coach for a lot of years too. I don’t know if there’s one particular lesson, but he was a running back that played the veer at the University of Houston. He went through some adversity, had to persevere and fight through some crazy stuff, and injuries. Robert, who was called my uncle growing up because he’s around my dad’s age, he told me, ‘You never know what your last day is gonna be, so use that as … motivation to continue to work and make the most of the short opportunity.’ Because relative to the rest of your life, the NFL is a very, very small piece.
Fill in the blank. If not for the NFL, Marshall Newhouse would have pursued a career in … ?
Man, that’s changed so many times. At one point, I thought it would be graphic design and art design. That was early on in college, and I switched. Then I thought I was gonna be in advertising. It switched even more now to just being an entrepreneur. And that’s such a broad term, just making a business for yourself, being your own boss, kind of getting to pursue whatever you see fit.
What was your experience in the NFL’s recent Sports Business Academy — and how’d you get involved?
That was incredible. I give thanks to Kaleb Thornhill for putting that together, and all the people that were involved. Never in my career had I been around that many guys in the league who were that like-minded. And also the professionals and CEOs and founders were all just there to help us. It was such a learning opportunity, and even past that, the formation of a bond that all the guys that were there will have. It’ll be fun to see how it manifests for every guy … and we’ll stay in touch through it all. Some of us might do business together, and we’ll continue to encourage each other.
Aside from yourself, who would you say is the most business-savvy player in the NFL?
You can’t know that for sure unless they share a lot with you. Some guys are more quiet than others, which I respect. I’m more that way too. But I would say Ndamukong Suh. Talking to him, his mindset is just so on point. Where he’s at right now, the way he’s leveraging, the people he’s meeting. He’s got his hands in a lot of stuff. He’s high-profile, so a guy like that could just sit around and not do much. But he’s … in multiple fields of business and he’s getting it, for sure.
What’s the worst purchase you’ve made since entering the NFL?
I’m frugal by nature, but I think the worst purchase is … man, I bought a gaming PC like four years ago, which I used, but it being a desktop, I couldn’t travel with it. So it sat at my home for eight months out of the year and collected dust until I sold it. That was a couple thousand dollars. It was a custom PC and really nice. But it was a dumb purchase.
Who’s on your Mount Rushmore of offensive linemen?
I grew up watching Larry Allen in Dallas. … Walter Jones, I always looked up to him … and same with a guy like Jonathan Ogden … I don’t think he gets enough credit. I enjoyed watching … Damien Woody play. I kind of compare myself to him in terms of stature and size.
Who’s the most difficult player you’ve had to block during your career?
There’s been a lot … but I would say Cam Jordan. I still don’t think he gets his fair due. He’s a great player. You gotta get your mind right before you go against him.
You played at TCU with Andy Dalton, as well as in Cincinnati. What’s one thing not many people know about him?
He loves The Office maybe more than anyone I’ve met in my life. Like, he has seen every episode multiple times, can quote it. It’s crazy.
What’s your favorite TV show of all time?
I’m a Seinfeld guy. I grew up watching Seinfeld. My parents say I got some of my smartassness from watching too much of it. Most shows have characters who are redeemable or try to better themselves, but no one on that show tried to be better. They were all just terrible people, and I just thought it was hilarious.
What’s your favorite movie of all time?
I don’t know if I could do just one. … It’s obscure, but The Fifth Element … it comes on and I watch it. It’s one of the ones where I can quote most of the movie. I’m a big fan of Pulp Fiction. I’m a big Tarantino fan.
Which actor would you want to portray you in a movie about your life?
I’ll just say Denzel Washington because he’ll make me look more handsome than I am.
What’s one bad habit you wish you could shake?
Socially, I’m never on time. When it comes to my job, or business meetings, I’m always on time. But with friends, like going to dinner or being out, I’m habitually late. It’s something my friends give me crap about all the time, and I really wanna change that.
Were you actually in the Horticulture Society and Japanese Club?
They had a club day at the beginning of the school year where you could sign up for dinner clubs. And I’d always heard the more clubs you’re in, the better your applications to college will look. So I was literally going from table to table and signing up for whatever I could find. With football, I didn’t have time to do it at all … but I always had an interest in Japan and Japanese culture. The horticulture thing was … random. I think I attended, between the two clubs, one meeting. And then somehow that ends up in my bio in high school, college and now the NFL. And here you are asking me about it. It’s followed me everywhere I’ve gone.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Audriana Thomas made a trip to Memphis and found herself in the midst of making history. The Florida A&M University student, one of dozens selected as a delegate for the I AM 2018 Mountaintop Conference honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and other great leaders, was front and center for the MLK50 march on behalf of union workers.
“AFSCME came to my school and did a seminar on different injustices that are going on in society, specifically with workers’ unions, and they actually recruited us,” Thomas said. “They have actually been giving us leadership training and helping equip us for our future.”
Thomas, other visitors, civil rights icons, pastors, and others numbering more than 7,000 made their way to downtown Memphis to commemorate the death of King in the city where he was assassinated on April 4, 1968, on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel.
A crowd gathered in the morning on the north end of Beale Street in Memphis to recreate the legendary “I AM A MAN” photo. Several groups of visitors headed to the National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel. Others piled onto another corner at Fourth and Beale streets, anticipating a march slated for noon. The location was filled with music by performers Common, Goapele and Sheila E., as well as speakers who took to the stage throughout the morning. Hundreds more continued to arrive for the kickoff of the nearly two-hour MLK50 march.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) April 4, 2018
Locked arm in arm, Martin Luther King III, his wife, Arndrea, and daughter Yolanda Renee were joined by Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. James Lawson, AFSCME president Lee Saunders, Bishop Charles Blake, actors Chris Tucker and Glynn Turman, and Sen. Bernie Sanders. Hundreds made their way through the stop-and-go path in the chilly spring weather.
— Nicole Harris (@NicTheEditor) April 4, 2018
While many were in Memphis to commemorate King’s death and honor his fight for justice, some were continuing his fight for better wages and safer working conditions.
Francis Nichols III of Washington, D.C., represented the American Federation of Government Employees as an organizer for AFGE Y.O.U.N.G. (Young Organizing Unionists for the Next Generation).
“We make sure there is a future for our youth today,” Nichols said. “We make sure there is stability and fair work wages and safe work conditions for all. That’s what we stand for at AFGE. … This is something monumental, and everyone got to witness that. He [King] died for us, and we will march for him.”
Meanwhile, Memphian Michael Clark said he understood local concerns in the community. As a Memphis sanitation department employee for 36 years, he said, this march is dear to his heart.
“I will be here every year until I leave here. And I will teach my kids the same thing.”
After the march, a red and white wreath was dropped from the balcony at 6:01 p.m., followed by a moment of silence and a ringing of the 120-year-old, 1,700-pound church bell from Clayborn Temple in Memphis. Singer Al Green hit the stage for a surprise performance in front of thousands.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) April 5, 2018
Wednesday’s events wrapped up with an Evening of Storytelling at the city’s Crosstown Concourse, with panels hosted by Michael Eric Dyson, Tamron Hall and April Ryan featuring the local organizer and founder of the Take ‘Em Down 901 campaign, Tami Sawyer; national activist Bree Newsome; Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.; and others.
While many will leave Memphis, the city’s struggle with poverty, racism and classism persists. These issues are chronicled by columnist Wendi C. Thomas, who founded MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. The digital website is a yearlong reporting project produced by a team of writers, editors and photographers. The coverage focuses on issues that were close to King’s heart, such as jobs and wages, power and wealth, and black business.
MLK50.com reported on research that concluded that 50 years after King’s fight for city sanitation workers, “white workers hold a sizable majority of the higher-status and better-paying jobs among large, private employers in the Memphis metro area, though they represent only 43 percent of the overall workforce.” The data also shows “88 percent of executives and senior level managers in the Memphis area were white. In the lowest-paying job categories, nearly 76 percent of laborers and 73 percent of service workers were black” and “the median income for 2016 was $35,664 for black households and $69,860 for white households.”
Other activists in Memphis were part of the Fight for $15 campaign, which advocates for a higher minimum wage. The state minimum wage rate for Tennessee in 2017 and 2018 is $7.25 per hour, the current federal minimum wage rate. According to the Fight for $15 website, the campaign organizers and participants “won $62 billion in raises for 22 million people across the country by standing up and going on strike for $15/hr and union rights.”
"There are 140,000,000 people who go to work every day living from check to check. There are 50,000,000 people who can't afford a $250 emergency…I'm mad because you're NOT mad!" – Dr. Charles Steele Jr, SCLC #FightFor15 #MLK50NCRM pic.twitter.com/1F7fPxf1r5
— Fight For 15 (@fightfor15) April 4, 2018
NBA Jam was one of the most influential sports games in history.
After witnessing 25 years of NBA Jam’s aggressive goaltending, shady announcing and fire special effects, The Undefeated and The Compound brought together two of our favorite players to battle it out.
It was about 9 in the morning on April 4, 1968. Bernard Lafayette Jr. had gotten the final details of his mission from Martin Luther King Jr.
Later on that fateful day in Memphis, Tennessee, Lafayette would pack his luggage at the Lorraine Motel and head to the airport for a flight to Washington, D.C., the site of his assignment.
Eight years earlier, Lafayette had been a classmate of civil rights pioneer John Lewis at the American Baptist Theological Seminary, a predominantly black institution in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1968, he was the national program administrator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), the guiding light of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
The charismatic and magnetic King was not only the president of the SCLC but also its spiritual force and moral conscience. King and Lafayette met alone in Room 306 that morning to discuss media relations for the Poor People’s Campaign, a monumental undertaking designed to bring national attention to U.S. poverty as the SCLC pivoted toward economic rights. That’s why King and the SCLC were in Memphis in the first place: to help the city’s sanitation workers, mostly black men, address their concerns regarding low pay and dangerous working conditions.
Lafayette, the national coordinator for the Poor People’s Campaign, was to conduct a news conference on April 5 at campaign headquarters in Washington. And the media-savvy King wanted the message to be clear.
“He wanted to make sure I mentioned the inclusiveness of the Poor People’s Campaign,” Lafayette told The Undefeated. “He wanted everyone to know that this was about more than black people. It also was about helping poor whites, Native Americans and Mexican-Americans.”
At the end of the conversation, King told Lafayette, “We are going to institutionalize and internationalize nonviolence.”
By sunset, those words proved eerily ironic.
When Lafayette arrived in Washington, Walter Fauntroy, the D.C. city councilman and Washington point person for the SCLC, wasn’t there to pick him up at the airport. That’s when Lafayette had an inkling that something was awry.
He called the headquarters of the Poor People’s Campaign, at 14th and U streets in Northwest Washington. That’s when Lafayette found out King had been shot on the motel balcony in Memphis.
Later, Lafayette called The Associated Press and United Press International wire services. Two pay telephones at once — with the AP in his left ear and the UPI in his right.
“Then, the UPI reporter started crying on the phone,” Lafayette said.
That’s when he first learned King had died. Moments later, Lafayette hopped in a cab to 14th and U.
There, he called the Lorraine Motel. Andrew Young, the executive vice president of the SCLC, told Lafayette not to return to Memphis. Fly to the SCLC headquarters in Atlanta instead, he said.
Lafayette then canceled the D.C. news conference scheduled for the next day.
a funeral for which to prepare
In 1968, Lafayette, at 28 years old, was a veteran of the civil rights movement. In 1960, he had participated in the sit-ins to desegregate lunch counters in Nashville, along with Lewis, Diane Nash and James Bevel. In 1961, Lafayette was one of the original Freedom Riders, along with Lewis, Jim Zwerg and William Barbee, as they tried to desegregate public interstate travel in the South amid physical attacks from angry white mobs.
Lafayette also was one of The Children, a book written by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Halberstam 20 years ago that focused on eight college students, all of whom attended historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs), in Nashville who vaulted to the forefront of the civil rights movement.
Lafayette’s alma mater of barely 100 students, the American Baptist Theological Seminary, is now called American Baptist College and was granted an HBCU designation in 2013.
In 2018, Lafayette, now a 78-year-old minister, makes the 22-mile drive from his home in Tuskegee, Alabama, to Auburn University on Monday afternoons to teach the principles of global leadership for nonviolence, employing the teachings of King and Gandhi. Lafayette’s Alternatives to Violence Project, started in 1975, engages prison populations in conflict reconciliation and is used in 60 nations.
In the 1960s, Lafayette even wrote songs and sang with the Freedom Singers and Nashville Quartet. They sang freedom songs at such venues as New York’s Carnegie Hall, including the “Dog Song,” which was about the irony of dogs from black and white families playing together in rural Southern areas while the children of those same families couldn’t mingle because of segregation. That history has been preserved in more than one Smithsonian museum.
Another singer exhibited his reverence for King and the movement. King’s funeral was scheduled for April 9, 1968; the Academy Awards were set for April 8. Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. and other stars threatened to boycott if the ceremony wasn’t rescheduled, according to the book Inside Oscar.
Davis, during an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on April 5, declared, “I certainly think any black man should not appear. I find it morally incongruous to sing ‘Talk To The Animals’ [from the Oscar-nominated movie Doctor Dolittle] while the man who could make a better world for my children is lying in state.”
Yes, Hollywood stopped for King; the Academy Awards were rescheduled for April 10.
“Sammy and several other movie stars came to the funeral,” Lafayette said. “They viewed Dr. King as a star, just like themselves. That’s why they came.”
Some SCLC members bandied about the idea of treating King’s funeral like the royals of Buckingham Palace in England, as in the splendor of men wearing top hats and coats with tails.
“Some of them wanted to treat him like royalty,” Lafayette recalled.
But they ultimately thought better of it, instead opting for the images of King’s legacy.
As King had said, in part, in his previous “Drum Major” address from Feb. 4, 1968, “I won’t have any money to leave behind. I won’t have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. I just want to leave a committed life behind …”
Keep it simple, the SCLC decided. Hence regular men’s attire. And a mule-drawn, wooden farmer’s wagon to carry King’s casket, symbolic signs of poverty.
The “Drum Major” sermon served as King’s eulogy, per widow Coretta Scott King’s request.
The next two months were both utterly miserable and marginally productive for the SCLC. King’s successor, the solid but less magnetic Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, was determined to launch the Poor People’s Campaign, undoubtedly one of King’s most ambitious projects, which originally was scheduled for April 22.
King’s master plan: put issues such as jobs, unemployment insurance, a reasonable minimum wage and education for the poor on the national front burner.
The day after Coretta King led a women’s march on Mother’s Day on May 12, a collection of plywood tents and shacks were constructed on Washington’s National Mall. It was called Resurrection City, with a population of about 3,000. Rev. Jesse Jackson was named its mayor.
Then came the rain. “It seemed like for 40 days and 40 nights,” Lafayette remembered. “And, man, it was muddy.”
His post-campaign analysis: “It was very challenging and difficult. It was Dr. King’s idea, but he wasn’t with us. So we had to glean from him what we thought was his interpretation of the campaign.”
Lafayette spoke of a bizarre backstory to the campaign: For many of the nation’s poor, especially in the rural South, their only mode of travel was by mule. Therefore, some of the campaign participants wound their way to the nation’s capital by mule-drawn wagons. The federal government authorized some staff members, Lafayette said, to make sure the mules were equipped with special shoes for travel on pavement and soil as well as the correct food.
What about special precautions for the impoverished human beings making the journey? “No, the people had to care for themselves,” Lafayette answered.
The campaign did result in a few lesser victories, such as the federal government allocating free surplus food for distribution in hundreds of U.S. counties in need and agreements with government agencies to hire the poor to lead programs for the poor.
Abernathy, of course, desired more impactful actions, but he had to settle for the pocket-sized ones.
A half-century after the assassination of King, the implementation of the Poor People’s Campaign and the prophetic “Drum Major” speech, a part of King’s legacy was displayed on March 24 in Washington.
His granddaughter, 9-year-old Yolanda Renee King, spoke in Washington at the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence. She told an international audience: “My grandfather had a dream that his four little children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. I have a dream that enough is enough. And that this should be a gun-free world, period.”
She was part of a remarkable scene mixing the past and the present before our very eyes. And it was a gun that killed her grandfather, a horrific murder by a white man that triggered race riots and street violence in at least 100 cities nationwide.
Said Lafayette: “That’s why I have great hope for the future. These young people are making sense, and they seem very determined. You call it passing the torch.”
For Lafayette, Yolanda Renee brought back memories of his last conversation with her grandfather at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
On that fateful day, 50 years ago.
He was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives. He became only the second African-American mayor in Atlanta’s history. Perhaps most impressive, Andrew Young operated as one of the top lieutenants for Martin Luther King Jr.
When the drum major for justice was assassinated at 7:01 p.m. Eastern time on April 4, 1968, on a balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Young rushed from the parking lot below to his side.
“People say, ‘Andy, why don’t you take a rest?’ ” said Young, 86, referring to his nonstop travel from his Atlanta home during the past 50 years to promote his various causes for the disadvantaged between delivering speeches on King’s message of nonviolence. “Well, I mean, I stay active because, right now, I can still see Martin’s blood on that sidewalk, and I can still remember the way the bullet tore into his spinal cord.”
Every moment of that day stays fresh on Young’s mind, and he gave his first-person account of what he saw and felt before, during and after King’s death to The Undefeated.
I was in court all day long, and Martin had closed on such a poignant note the night before [at Mason Temple in downtown Memphis], when he came out to speak with a fever in the pouring-down rain. But there were 11,000 or 12,000 people there, and he dragged himself up, and that’s where he made that famous speech, ‘I’ve been to the mountaintop, and I’ve seen the promised land.’ He had been feeling really bad that day, and that next morning of April 4, I expected him to sleep late, and he probably did. But I had to be in court at 9 a.m. because we were challenging the injunction that wanted us to stop from marching [in Memphis for striking sanitation workers].
So after being in court that whole time, and really on the witness stand for about an hour, I returned to the Lorraine Motel just about 4 o’clock. Dr. King, his brother [Alfred Daniel Williams King, known as ‘AD’], Ralph Abernathy, well, they were all in his brother’s room downstairs, which was the bigger room. They had been eating catfish, because Memphis was famous for its catfish dinners and somebody had brought in a whole tray. So they were all eating and drinking that sweet tea, and they were laughing and having a great time, sort of like his old gang, the guys he grew up with.
When I came in, Martin started joking with me, saying, ‘Where have you been all day long? What have you been doing?’ I told him, ‘I’ve been in a courtroom this entire time, trying to keep you out of jail.’ And he laughed, and then he said, ‘You don’t have to keep ME out of jail.’ Then I told him I wanted him to be able to continue this march in Memphis. Then he said, ‘Why didn’t you call me?’ I usually didn’t talk back to Martin, but I did this time by saying something I normally wouldn’t have. That’s when he said, ‘Oh, so you’re a smartass, huh?’ I said, ‘No, I’ve been doing the best I can, and you all have been sitting around here eating catfish and I haven’t had anything to eat.’
That’s when somebody picked up a pillow and threw it at me, and I threw it back. The next thing you know, you’ve got Martin and Ralph and everybody grabbing pillows. It was one of these big rooms with two double beds and sort of suite, and then everybody started to pick on me. I made a feeble effort to fight back, but finally, Dr. Billy Kyles knocked on the door and said, ‘You all need to be getting ready. You’re supposed to be at my house for dinner at 6 p.m.’ The pillow fight stopped, and Martin said, ‘Well, I better get ready. I need to go upstairs and put my shirt and tie on.’ He left.
By the time Martin got his shirt and tie on, Ralph wasn’t dressed yet. But Martin came out on the balcony, and I was down in the parking lot with [civil rights activist] James Orange, who was about 6-foot-5 and 275 pounds, and I was even smaller than I am now. Despite our size difference, James and I liked to shadowbox. So we were shadowboxing in the parking lot, just clowning around, and at first I thought it was a firecracker.
That’s when I looked up, and I didn’t see him.
Martin wasn’t there.
So I ran up the stairs, and he was lying on the ground in a pool of blood. The rifle shot came from somewhere across the street, and the police were over there but they came running toward us. That’s when we all began pointing and shouting, ‘No, go back over there! The shot came from over there!’ But the police kept leaving the area from where the shot came from to run to where we were.
When I looked down again at Dr. King, my first reaction was that it was such a clean wound that it literally severed his spinal cord. You could see it. It wasn’t messy, just a very clean shot, and I realized he probably didn’t get a chance to hear it, and he probably didn’t feel anything. Even though he still had a little pulse, there was no way he could have survived that shot. I thought while looking at him, ‘You’re going to heaven and leaving us in hell. How are we going to get along without you? We were barely making it with you.’
We called [Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s wife] and told her what happened, and the ambulance came to take him to the hospital. Even though I went to the hospital, I knew there was no hope.
The thing that disturbed us the most was that people started rioting, and we kept trying to talk to the press about getting folks to realize that this isn’t what Dr. King would have wanted. But the reporters wanted to talk to the rioters more than they wanted to hear from us, and that was kind of tragic.
We left the hospital, and we got back to the motel about 10 o’clock that night, and we basically said, ‘Look. We have to keep Martin’s movement going.’ I don’t know how, but we already had planned to go to Washington with 24 different groups of poor people [for the Poor People’s March on Washington that spring]. For the first time, the movement wasn’t mostly black people, but we had invited several Appalachian groups, white groups from the big cities and rural areas, senior citizens, three or four Hispanic groups from the West Coast and Native American groups. It was following Martin’s desire to raise the question of poverty. From the very beginning, the civil rights movement was about leading America away from the triple evils of race, war and poverty.
Here we are, 50 years later, and we haven’t solved those three problems, but Martin gave us the dream. Also, when I look back 50 years, I know he died instantly, and it became clear to me on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel that only his body had been killed, but his spirit lived.
In so many ways, it still lives today.