Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Sneaking around the rules

Baseball's hot stove league is at full blast, and again Blacks are the ones getting burned.

Major League Baseball supposedly has a rule that requires clubs to interview persons of color whenever managerial openings occur. Cincinnati hired Dusty Baker as its new manager last month.

What about the New York Yankees? By now you should know Joe Torre received a win-or-out-the-door ultimatum during the playoffs. His team won one of two games after that. Then we witnessed the longtime manager's status dangled like yesterday's wash while the Yankees brain (?) trust met. Torre was offered a one-year contract full of silly incentives that they knew he wouldn't agree to, and the manager walked away.

Supposedly Torre's replacement is Joe Girardi, which at last glance, isn't Black.

Now it's reported that the Los Angeles Dodgers, who openly made their intentions known that they didn't want Grady Little back as skipper, now are talking with Torre for the yet-to-be-opened job. If Little doesn't soon resign, he certainly is a fool, especially knowing that your employer don't want you around any more.

Whether the Dodgers hire Torre or not is not the question. Rather what happened to the person of color rule ? It seems like the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" clause has been invoked.

It seems that Commissioner Bud Selig, a classic waffler when it comes to sticking to rules, is going to give Los Angeles a pass because of their history of diversity.

What? Just because they once had Jackie Robinson? That was over five decades ago, and the team was stationed in Brooklyn.

I can count the number of Dodgers managers on either hand -- let me see . . .


What's good is a rule when it can be easily ignored, get around, or be winked at while doing business as usual.

The problem with such rules is that it forces teams to put on a diversity dog-and-pony show. The NFL's Rooney Rule is a classic example. Even though the league can boast about the few Black head coaches it has; that there were two coaching in last year's Super Bowl, look at how many other Blacks get the perfuctionary interview, complete with lunch or dinner, and a go-back-home card at the end. Meanwhile, White owners continue down the Great White Way as they hire a new coach, who usually is the same skin color as they.

Unless some teeth is added rules regarding interviewing and hiring persons of color, then persons such as Selig is nothing but all bark. Name an individual who wants to be a party to such charades. Hardly anyone with any semblance of pride will go into an interview, knowing that they are only a notch on the affirmative action belt.

Years ago, I applied for a position at a Midwestern college (the name is being withheld not to protect the guilty but because it happened so long ago). I got a return response, saying thanks for the interest but no thanks.

Then several weeks later, this same school called my home, wanting me to call them back collect. At the time I was home visiting my terminally ill father. I did call the school, who told me they wanted me to spend two days interviewing for the position.

After my father's funeral, I went to the interview. Almost immediately, it was crystal clear why I was there -- they were hoping that I was impressed enough with the campus to want to work there.

Only one interviewer came clean and told me that I was needed for affirmative action purposes only. I might add, that official was the only one who genuinely wanted me to come there because he felt I was the right person for the job.

Of course, I didn't take the job. I told them at the end of the two-day ordeal that I would not be interested, even if they offered it. But I truly appreciated the free hotel room and the meals.

In sports or whatever field, full diversity will only be truly achieved in this country when it becomes more than a token act. This is the case in hiring baseball managers of color.

Diversity will be nothing but a three or four-letter word. Few or none.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Support the November 2 National Blackout

Historically, the word 'black' always meant something bad. Black cat. Black magic.

Black people.

According to Webster's Dictionary, among one of its meanings, 'blackout' means "to impose." Which is what Chicago-based attorney and national radio host Warren Ballentine has called for.

Beginning October 29 through November 2, Ballentine is calling for all Black Americans to take part in a National Blackout.

Look at the things that are happening in this country: unequal justice rapidly increasing. Black women popping up dead without a peep of media attention. President Bush commutes Scooter Libby's sentence but does not life a finger about six young Blacks -- the Jena 6.

Hate crimes, such as hanging nooses where Blacks can easily see them, are simply played of as pranks. Bush vetoes legislation to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program, claiming that it costs too much, "but we can fund billions of dollars for a war," says Ballentine, who hosts a morning talk show on XM Radio (Channel 169) and on several Radio One stations around the country.

When I first learned of Ballentine's plan, it clearly reminded me of James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie. It was about the Black citizens of a Southern town who chose not to work for one day, and how it affected Whites.

Blacks spend an estimated $715 billion a year in the U.S., at least two billion a day. If we stop spending our money for one day, what impact that would make. "I want to scare the bejeeves out of the boys on Wall Street, Capitol Hill, and the lobbyists, and let them know that enough is enough," explains Ballentine. "As taxpaying citizens, we are tired of being taken advantage of and being lied to."

November 2 is National Blackout day. I am participating, and I urge you as well. I am keeping my hard-earned bucks in my pocket all week. No grocery shopping. I've filled up my gas tank so that I won't have to go there as well.

Why stop buying a few days before November 2, Ballentine was asked. "I don't want to come out and call it a one-week blackout," he says. "But if everybody gets everything by October 29 -- get your gas, toilet tissue, food, everything you need -- that means Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday that you are not spending money. Now, essentially a one-day blackout has turned into a four-day blackout. That's eight billion dollars that will not be in this economy."

Almost every caller to Ballentine's show claims they will support the Blackout. But of course, there are some who don't, such as a White caller. "Do the Blackout," the person urged, "but why don't you do something else. Just stay at home so we (Whites) don't have to see you."

"I have had a death threat, but I don't worry about things like that because I am a child of God," Ballentine points out.

Yes, we know that Denzel Washington's new movie also premieres November 2. "If you go see that movie (that day), you are paying Universal (the movie's distributors) not Denzel. He already has been paid," says Ballentine.

Furthermore, if this National Blackout is to be successful, Blacks must not make a mad dash to stores in the days prior to and on the days immediately following it. If stores and other businesses, most of which are corporate owned, have a major increase in sales as a result, then the Blackout will not create the impact that those of us who are participating wants to see.

The producers of the American economy, along with elected officials in Washington, need to feel the pain, if only for a few days.

We as Blacks in this country must also realize that our money is just as good as others. That our concerns are as real as others. That we are just as relevant as other groups. We need to make Mister Charlie Economy sit up and take notice of persons of color as serious economic players -- thus far we have just been getting economically played in this country.

The National Blackout is just the beginning. "We are calling for a national march on Washington after the National Blackout," notes Ballentine. Check out his Web site for more details.

"I am trying to awaken the social conscience of the American people," concludes Ballentine. "If we don't wake up and see what is going on in this country, one day we are going to wake up and say, 'What went wrong in this country?'

"I am not just talking about Black folk, but (all) the American people," he says.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Still want BTN

I never met Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press, but I think I have found an ally.

Rosenberg recently wrote about the ongoing Big Ten Network (BTN) and Comcast on carrying it. BTN wants to be placed on the same basic cable tier as ESPN, while Comcast wants to stash it on a sports tier, where customers must pay extra. "We don't want to burden our customers with something they don't want," Comcast Midwest region communications director Patrick Paterno told Rosenberg.

This is the same crap that Minnesotans are hearing from the Comcast folks: they control both cable franchises in Minneapolis and St. Paul. They even put a channel on, which only shows a stupid message that the BTN will be there, if only they do what Big Brother Cable wants.

"This is a big money hungry company that plays to win," writes Rosenberg.


Last month I wrote that we as fans always are caught in the middle, getting squeezed (or something else, but I will keep this clean) by feuding sides. No one is willing to give, and those who want to watch the Gophers (well, maybe not football this fall) are left in the dark unless they buy a satellite dish or head to some sports bar.

Comcast isn't local, whether here in Minnesota or Michigan, or anywhere else in the Midwest. They are East Coast folk, Wall Street types -- they wouldn't know a Gopher, Wolverine or a Spartan from a hole in a wall. Or in their heads.

They only know one thing, as backup singers for the O'Jays -- For The Love of Money.

Comcast won't back down. They are propagandists that would make a former Soviet Union government official proud and envious.

They are as much looking out for me as a runaway train at night. If they did, Comcast wouldn't burden me with programming I don't want. Such as a zillion shopping channels, fifty MTV's and endless informerical garbage that currently crowds our local cable lineup.

But as Big Brother Cable claims, they are looking out for me, deciding for me what I want or don't want. The only way Comcast will change, if ever, is by flooding their phone lines, demanding that BTN be added. I do, every chance I get, as well as in person when I pay my monthly cable bill, which has increased 800 percent over my 20-plus years as a cable customer. It has gone up under previous regimes as Rogers, Paragon and Time Warner, before Comcast assumed their present money gouging position a couple of years ago.

For full disclosure, I have not added a single movie channel, or buy pay-per-view movies and such. In fact, several channels I loved watching, such as BET Jazz, was dropped last year in favor of more MTV channels. Oh, yeah -- my bill also went up.

Hear me Comcast -- I want BTN. Like Helen Reddy, hear us Big Ten fans roar.

You can read my "Cable Wars" column on Rosenberg's take is on the Free Press' web site.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A sneak preview

Annually I can only stand to watch one NBA preseason game. Actually one preseason game of any sport typically is my limit. I want to see the players in game situations; any subtle changes in their reactions, whatever. I chose not to get overly optimistic or downcast at this time.

After all, these games don't count. I am an advocate of a couple of preseason contests, one home and one away, and not charge fans. After all, there are nothing more than glorified practice games.

With this said, I attended Tuesday's Minnesota Timberwolves-Indiana Pacers preseason game. It was the team's first home practice game of the 2007 preseason. The team has been world weary, beginning training camp for the first time overseas, then playing a couple of contests on foreign soil. Then a few more practice contests back in the States.

Like watching those movie trailers, which often times you are really seeing the best scenes because the rest of the flick is junk, this is what Tuesday's Minnesota Timberwolves - Indiana Pacers preseason game was like for me. I got a glimpse of what the upcoming 2007-08 regular season will be like in the post-Kevin Garnett era. (For full disclosure, I am one of two reporters -- Jerry Zgoda is the other, who witnessed the team's first ever practice, long before KG started playing high school ball.)

Like watching an over hyped film, the 2007-08 Wolves' slogan: See What They Can Do, fails to live up to its silly billing.

"We're not a very good team," says Wolves Coach Randy Wittman during his post-game comments, stating the obvious. "We still quite not knowing what to do."

This is sad but true. Wittman has a squad with so many new faces -- he still hasn't made his final cuts yet. He still hasn't settled on a starting lineup or rotation.

Oh, he has some pieces to work with:

Al Jefferson showed the home fans what he is capable of, grabbing a mess of rebounds (I don't get into preseason stats because they don't carry over into the regular season). "Al have to continue to do the other things," says Wittman, which includes being able to effectively play interchangeably at the '4' and '5.'

Corey Brewer has some hops along with his defense, but he has only six practice games on his yet-to-begin rookie season. He got schooled a couple of times by Indiana. Goodbye Florida, hello prime time. "They call it the NBA for a reason," notes Brewer's first NBA coach. "You better respect your opponent, whether you know him or not."

Brewer's college teammate, Chris Richard, is a legitimate beast inside, something Minnesota has lacked for years.

I also like Ryan Gomes, who in my opinion, is the steal of the multi-player, one-sided deal that sent Garnett to Boston this summer. He has some athletic ability and if he can show more consistency, he can be a keeper.

But no point guard: Randy Foye and Sebastian Telfair both are out with injuries, which doesn't help Wittman getting his offensive schemes fine tuned. "We still need a little bit more direction," admits the coach. "We need those guys back but they must get healthy first."

Theo Ratliff, supposedly a deal throw-in for salary cap reasons, will be the Wolves' starting center. "Some people are surprised about Theo but I'm not," Wittman concurs. The veteran center reminds me of Ervin Johnson, a big man who will do his job underneath and won't get in the way. Johnson was the last good pivot the Wolves has had.

"He can rebound, score and block shots," says Wittman on Ratliff. After missing the entire 2006-07 campaign, save for a couple of games, because of his back, Ratliff "is healthy -- he's a great weapon for us," proclaim the coach. "He covers up a lot of (defensive) sins" with his shot blocking.

Regarding the game itself -- the Wolves got down early, came back and got close a couple of times, only to see Indiana, who never trailed, maintain their distance en route to a practice win.

Afterwards, I was asked my opinion: Much of what I saw was like watching a sneak preview of a B-movie.

Mostly bad.

"We've got 10 days left," concludes Wittman on the amount of time the Wolves has before its Nov. 2 regular season opener. That is not nearly enough time to right a multitude of wrongs with this team.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

She didn't have to do it

Once a world-class sprinter -- some considered her the world's best, Marion Jones had the track world at her feet. However, poor choices eventually threw all of that away.

Jones recently admitted that she took steroids during the time she was winning medals at the 2000 Olympics. When asked by a federal grand jury, she testified under oath that she did not take anything illegal.

Her admission came in a letter to family and friends: one of her friends supposedly leaked information from the letter to a newspaper. I don't think this is what Dionne Warwick meant when she sang "That's What Friends Are For."

And the Beatles' "With A Little Help From My Friends" certainly wasn't Jones' theme song, either: she took steroids from a former track coach, who is now on trial. A husband and her baby's daddy, both of whom also got popped for being juiced, most likely were bad influences in Jones' life as well.

Jones' admission, which also included her returning her Olympic medals, just was the iceberg tip of her problems. The International Olympic Committee most likely will take out their eraser and permanently remove her name from their record books, take away her world championships, pursue her for prize money and appearance fees, and a possible ban from future Olympics in any shape or form.

Can't you hear the "I don't you so" chorus humming in the background?

She didn't have to do it. Jones was a NCAA champion in both basketball and track at North Carolina before she took on the world. She could run like the wind. She also did some broadcasting work on the side, and wasn't bad at it -- Jones had a future career in the works after her running days was over.

Well, they are -- but now Jones' future is very uncertain.

She's a cheater. She's been stripped of everything but her shattered pride.

She didn't have to do it.

Jones is like countless star athletes, who despite their God-given ability along with work ethic, often operates out of fear. Fear of losing. Fear of one day no longer in the spotlight. Fear of no longer world class but just an Average Joe or Josephine.

As a result, they listen to the wrong people. Too often they take the wrong advice. Bad decisions ultimately becomes a house of cards.

In Jones' case, her wrongdoing isn't individually isolated. Her fellow members of the U.S.'s 4 x 100 relay team also will lose their medals as well. Even if they didn't do anything wrong, their names, their accomplishments are forever tarnished.

Bad decisions often affect more than the individual but others as well.

It's all well and good that Jones fessed up to loved ones -- even to us, the public. Even those who are now singing in high pitch, "I told you so.'

But the ones Jones should be on her knees, now that she is in the contrite mood, is not the track world or the IOC. It's her track team members who she should be writing to every day for the rest of her life, begging their forgiveness.

Because she didn't have to do it.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What would M & M do

Rev. Al Sharpton is at again.

He plans to protest outside Madison Square Garden in New York City, demanding that New York Knicks coach and president Isiah Thomas apologize for remarks he supposedly said to a former female employee, who last week won a sexual harassment case against Thomas and the team.

During testimony, it was learned that Thomas once explained to Amacha Browne Sanders the difference of when a Black man and a White man calls a Black woman a female dog. The jury later couldn't 't decide if Thomas should pay Sanders, which led to a mistrial on that issue. But if he indeed had said this, if anything, Thomas is guilty of stupidity.

But does this warrant Sharpton parading in front of MSG in a sandwich board, leading "Thomas must go!" chants? What would Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X -- M & M, do in this case?

I'd suspect these two 'real leaders' probably would have release a written statement, decrying Thomas' actions, and move on to more pressing issues. Such as President Bush's veto of a child insurance bill. The war in Iraq. Congress continuing throwing billions to it.

Funding private security hit men with federal dollars in Iraq. Unequal justice in Jena, La.

Troy Davis, whose death penalty case will be heard in Georgia Supreme Court, in November. Any number of important things.

This shows leadership, not show-off leadership.

Sharpton and his like again will draw mainstream media's spotlight for his protest, diverting attention away from more important issues. Again, he will pat himself on the back, just like he did over the firing of Don Imus, which the good reverend took credit for, when actually it was the adverse effect on the bottom line that ultimately did Imus in, rather than Sharpton's mouth.

Calling for Thomas' head over a civil suit is nonsense. It only fuels the daily yakety-yakers on sports talk radio. Should he be fired? That's for his bosses to decide -- Thomas has done much worse as a basketball executive in his Knicks tenure that he has earned a pink slip several times over.

Do I condone what he supposedly said to Browne? Absolutely not. She had her day in court and proved her case that the Knicks, and Thomas, were wrong. Collect your millions at the door and go home, I say.

Did I condoned what Imus and his gang said about the Rutgers' women basketball team last spring? Absolutely not, but I didn't call for his firing either. His bosses eventually decided it was best to part company with the longtime loudmouth, who reportedly soon will return to the airwaves -- just as I predicted.

Sharpton is just being Al -- a manufactured Black leader. His protest in front of MSG will be topic number one on his national radio show. Some chowder head sports junkie will use it as verification that Thomas should be axed.

What would M & M do? Like me, absolutely nothing.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Walking while Black

Next week will be my fifth trip to St. Cloud, Minnesota in six months. The Council on Black Minnesotans (CBM) will hold hearings October 9 on a variety of issues, racial profiling notwithstanding.

Racial profiling of Blacks and other persons of color is nothing new in St. Cloud. The problem is that too many city police officers won't stop. Despite cries from the Black community; despite a state legislative report that showed St. Cloud as having the highest number of racial stops in Minnesota; and despite a police chief that told me last year that he is weeding out the longtime practice, it still occurs.

It's demoralizing when you pulled over by some cop, fully knowing that you did not nothing wrong. Especially when you are with friends and family -- you have to go through the humiliating drill of a police officer giving you the fifth degree, delaying you from reaching your destination.

Simply because you are Black.

Driving while Black isn't new -- it occurs nationwide. It has been around as long as Blacks began driving cars in this country. Black comedians often joke about it: D.L. Hughley last week on his HBO special talks about how Whites can get away with talking to police any way they want but not Blacks. If persons of color did, they will resemble Swiss cheese or worse as a result, Hughley surmised.

"They (police officers) stop you and laugh," notes St. Cloud State professor Michael Davis, "but I don't find anything funny about it all."

But 'walking while Black,' which occurred to St. Cloud State University professor and department head Dr. Luke Tripp is a relatively new occurrence.

We first learned about the incident shortly after it occurred in early July by retired SCSU instructor Mytle Cooper, a frequent critic of both the school and the city in regard to its treatment of Blacks. We also received the copy of Tripp's letter to St. Cloud Police Chief Dennis Ballantine, detailing the ordeal and formally complaining about the two officers who stopped him, supposedly on the pretense that he stole a purse.

The 18-year city resident who walks to work daily was stopped by St. Cloud police officer Sue Proshek, who told Tripp that she mistakenly took his book bag as a purse. If the professor had the nerve to commit such a crime in broad daylight, and continue walking with it in his hand, he is a dumb purse snatcher. The false charge alone is insulting enough -- being falsely stopped in itself is embarrassing.

According to Tripp, it took almost two weeks for Chief Ballantine to respond to his letter, and even after a month later in a meeting with him, the police chief still was turtle-like in his response to the professor's concerns.

In this meeting, which also included SCSU professor Semya Hakim, Nancy Jessee, who represented new school president Earl Potter, and other school and city folk, Ballantine told Tripp that he can't act on complaints against his officers unless a formal complaint is filed. Apparently the July 10 letter that Tripp sent to him didn't constitute as a formality. After the meeting, the professor said he did file a formal complaint, but as of now, no action has been taken.

We finally went to press with the story ("Council on Black Minnesotans takes on St. Cloud racial profiling") this week after Tripp decided to talk publicly about it (see

"The city is much more backwards than the campus," Tripp says of St. Cloud, whose too many of its police officers believe that they live not in the heart of central Minnesota but in Dixie.

He says that the October 9 CBM hearing, which he plans to attend, should finally bring the racial profiling issue to the forefront as important enough to be dealt with. "Once we educate more people about this," he adds, "then hopefully we will be better able to mobilize (Blacks) and bring more pressure on the city council and the mayor."

However, Davis, a St. Cloud State education professor currently on sabbatical, isn't as optimistic. The CBM have been in the city before, "They come and listen, and that's it," notes Davis. "We have been talking abut this (racial profiling) for years," notes Davis. "You have all these meetings, and they are like 'feel-good' sessions. You go there, and they say this and that, and nothing happens."

When Blacks are silent, afraid to rock the boat or both, then city officials easily can dismiss a charge such as Tripp's, Davis continues. Despite Ballantine's pledge that he will clean up things in his department, "no real change" have been seen by Davis and others.

"It is alarming," CBM executive director Lester Collins says on the continuing problems in St. Cloud. He disagrees with Davis -- next week's hearing will be productive, he promises. "We are planning to forward our findings, concerns and (the St. Cloud's Black community) voice to (the Minnesota legislature) and back to the city officials themselves."

As I head back to St. Cloud or as it is better known to many Blacks, "White Cloud," it will be interesting to see what kind of hearing indeed will take place: the productive and educational one that Tripp and Collins foresee, or another Dr. Phil session as Davis fears. As the Black citizenry of St. Cloud will not act like the guy in "Network" -- "Mad as hell and won't take it anymore." Or go back quietly into the night, allowing St. Cloud police officers to continue acting like Deputy Dawgs in their views about Blacks driving , and now walking around their fair White city.

Either way, I will file a report for our October 17 edition.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

A living history book in the heart of central Minnesota

I spent a lovely Monday evening with St. Cloud State University's associate multi-cultural dean Dr. Carolyn Ruth Williams. A simple interview turned into a thoroughly history lesson which I was a very attentive student.

Her office inside the school's College of Education building is windowless. Stepping inside, you step into history that no book could rightfully tell. Pictures and letters of gratitude from former students. Memories from her travels overseas. Overflowing bookshelves. Awards that somehow got lost in fully recognizing her numerous accomplishments.

Look up multi-cultural in the dictionary and you'll see Williams, a proud woman whose family roots intertwined through Cherokee, Greek and African. Her uncle is a Tuskegee Airman. Her grandfather started a church down south.

I never met someone who worked at NASA, which Williams once ran a special program.

I never met anyone whose father once studied under Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, which Williams proudly allowed to slip out during our discussions.

I never met a granddaughter of a woman who once served meals to President Abraham Lincoln.

I never met a Black person whose family got their repartition, their "40 acres and a mule" rightly promised to Blacks after slavery -- Williams' family got several acres of land in northern Alabama, which still today belongs to her family.

I never met anyone who loves school as much as she -- Williams has three Masters degrees, a Ph.D., studied in England and China. "I always loved going to school," she unabashedly admits. Her parents fully supported her, as did her husband James, who allowed his wife to take sabbaticals from their marriage as she pursued her educational and professional aspirations, living in separate quarters, several states apart at times.

I never met anyone who after our official interview officially ended, wanted to continue to talk. She wouldn't allow me to leave without giving me something; as hard as I tried, she wouldn't take no as my answer. Dr. Williams gave me a new book on Black politics.

We continued our discussion at a local eatery, which one of Williams' students once took her, and the dean fell in love with it. We talked and talked even after it closed its doors for the business day, sharing family stories and personal recollections. The couple of hours seemed like a few minutes.

Williams later e-mailed me, thanking me for the interview, saying I was a God-send. This again is a first for me -- typically I believe that most interviewees rather have root canal work than having to endure my sometimes rambling questions. I am one of those rare reporters, who act like I don't know anything and that the person or persons I am talking with is the expert.

Something that I did not do during our first encounter, I totally disagree with the longtime educator. Instead, Williams was the God-send, a refreshing cap to a day, that up to that point, was rather long and tedious. I sincerely hope that St. Cloud State University students, faculty and staff soon realize this as well, and give Williams her proper respect, which has been long overdue and her work long underappreciated.

(Williams' interview is in the September 27 print and on-line edition of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder --