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From Michael Vick to Ezekiel Elliott: Examining troubled black NFL athletes

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The recent leaking of Ezekiel Elliott’s arbitration reminds us of Michael Vick and uncovers an even scarier problem.

You’ve probably heard the news by now. An ex-college football standout is given unnecessary privilege, fails at being a productive member of society and gets himself into unnecessary trouble. It’s the story of Dallas Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott. Then again, it’s also the stories of Michael Vick, Ray Rice, Jameis Winston and countless others.

We’ll stick with the NFL for a specific reason. The NBA, once described as a league full of “thugs” doesn’t truly have the same issue to the same level that the NFL does. Their athletes truly don’t appear to get arrested as often or have the same level of issues with self control on a regular basis. Instead, they’re branded unfairly by another sect of people, many of them older white men, who have more issues with how they look than how they act.

That, my friends, is truly another story for another day.

Elliott:

Since Ezekiel Elliott left the Ohio State Buckeyes for the greener pastures of the NFL, he’s made news for the right reasons. He proved to NFL teams again there is some value in using early draft picks on the league’s most punishing position. He legitimately had a shot to win the NFL MVP award as a rookie. It can be argued that he was a huge cog in the machine that reinvigorated the fan base of one of sports’ most popular (and bandwagon-prone) franchises.

Then, there’s that other side. He’s shown a lack of self control. He’s been described as a whoremonger. There have been stories of sexual misconduct. Then, there’s the domestic abuse story.

That one is the reason for his six-game suspension by the NFL.

We’ve all learned that regardless of what the police findings are, the league has a tendency to do it’s own investigation. Elliott was suspended. He appealed, and based off what we’re seeing, Eliott, the NFLPA and league offices have a long way to go before this situation reaches a conclusion.

Michael Vick, Ray Rice, Jameis Winston:

Jameis Winston Photo provided by the Orlando Sentinel

We know the stories of Michael Vick and Ray Rice well. There’s no need to revisit. It’s been written about enough. There’s also Tampa Bay’s quarterback, Jameis Winston.

The latter is a juxtaposition of shoplifting (the crab legs story), public displays of misconduct (jumping on a table and screaming explicit phrases made popular on the internet) and accusations of sexual battery. I’m not going to list all of his issues. You can research that on your own.

They won’t be hard to find. They never are. What’s difficult is finding the stories about his rehabilitation, growth and maturity. All of which are part of his story as well. That’s always the more difficult task.

The debate:

The question is asked over and over again why these young black men can’t control themselves. Some blame them. Others see it as another example of too many young black men lacking consistent role models. Some blame the violent game they’ve chosen to play as if they’ve been unable to separate the violent nature of a game and some of their upbringings from real-life application.

Some have even asked if there’s even one success story among the bunch. There is, and we’re glad you asked the question.

Ray Lewis:

Ray Lewis was once a member of one of the most celebrated, loved, hated and demonized programs in the history of college football, the Miami Hurricanes. Though most of the antics had calmed down prior to Lewis’ tenure, he’s forever linked as one of those “thugs” the school produced.

Ray Lewis giving back..
Photo provided by Blackcelebritygiving.com

There was just one thing. Lewis was special. He, too, found himself in trouble. In 2000, he was charged with the murder of two black men, Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar, following an incident at a Super Bowl party in Atlanta. A plea agreement was agreed upon by attorneys and charges were dropped in exchange for Lewis’ cooperation and testimony against Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting.

Lewis never found himself anywhere close to any trouble again. He’s a living testimony that some of those inner-city youths can become great men. He’s a father, a Man of God and the creator of the Ray Lewis 52 Foundation, a program that provides personal and economic assistance to disadvantaged youth. Then, there’s all of his positive contributions.

To list all of the good deeds he does would be impossible. Still, to get a brief outline, you can do so by clicking here.

Conclusion:

It’s both impossible and clueless to intertwine the paths of all of these great NFL stars as the same story. There are too many moving pieces, too many factors to consider and too many personalities. It still makes one curious however. What’s the issue? Are they men struggling to find their way? Is it safe to say boys becoming men need to find men to pattern themselves after, and they can’t find one?

Whatever the reason, the stories of failure are often inflated and don’t exist as much as some would have you to believe. There are 1,696 players on the active rosters of 32 NFL teams, most of them are African-American. Stories like Ray Lewis’ are the normally the rule and not the exception. Even if the more popular story is to distort the facts and tell you the opposite.

Then again, why are any of us even surprised by that any more?

Geoffrey Knox

Exposure Magazine Sports Editor

Geoffrey Knox is the creator and the owner of The Thunderstorm Hip Hop Sports & Entertainment Network, co-editor for Inside The Iggles and a contributor for Saturday Blitz. Bookmark Thunderstorm Media on BlogtalkRadio.com, iTunes, TuneIn and Stitcher. Follow him on Twitter @GQ_4_Eva, @stormradio66 @stormsports66 & @insideiggles.

 

Entertainment

Beyoncé Presents Colin Kaepernick with Muhammad Ali Legacy Award

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Beyoncé made a surprise appearance Tuesday night, presenting ex-49ers player Colin Kaepernick with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, which honors an athlete who uses their platform to further change.

Setting social media on fire once again with his latest award and surprise presentation from Beyonce, Kaepernick was recently honored by the ACLU of Southern California with the Eason Monroe Courageous Advocate Award. He was also recently named GQ magazine’s “Citizen of the Year” for his activism, which included pledging $1 million to “organizations working in oppressed communities.”

Kaepernick promised that “with or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people.” Trevor Noah was instrumental in setting the stage for Beyonce to be present the award to Kaepernick.  Beyonce said she was “proud and humbled” to present the award.

Last year’s Ali Award winner, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, called Kaepernick a “worthy recipient” during a video tribute.

“He fully embraced the risk to his career in order to remind Americans of the systemic racism that was denying African Americans their opportunities to equal education, jobs, health and even their lives,” Abdul-Jabbar said.

Colin Kaepernick receives the Muhammad Ali Legacy Award during the ‘Sports Illustrated’ 2017 Sportsperson of the Year ceremony on Dec. 5, 2017 at Barclays Center in New York City.

Beyoncé known by many across the globe—for her humanitarian, philantropic, and charitable work, took a strong stance on Kaepernick’s actions to protest police brutality at the 2017 Sportsperson of the Year Awards Show in New York.

“Thank you Colin Kaepernick. Thank you for your selfless heart, and your conviction,” Beyonce said in her presentation speech. “Thank you for your personal sacrifice. Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion only hope to change the world for the better. To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color.”

In her gracious style, Beyonce continued with her presentation saying,

“We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American, that when we protest racism, some assume we are protesting America. So, let’s be very clear. Colin has always been very respectful of the individuals who selfless serve and protect our country and our communities and our families. His message is solely focused on social injustice for historically disenfranchised people. Let’s not get that mistaken.”

Kaepernick’s decision to remain seated while the national anthem played back in 2016 sparked similar protests by NFL players that continue to incite controversy in the present.

Making it clear for his reason for kneeling during the national anthem—Kaepernick remains consistent in stating his reasons are to protest racial inequality and police brutality. The demonstration sparked a wave of protests by NFL players during the anthem that repeatedly have been denounced by President Trump.

Parting ways with the San Francisco 49ers in March, Kaepernick hasn’t been signed by another team. Filing a grievance against the NFL in October, Kaepernick alleges that that he remains unsigned as a result of collusion by owners following his protests.

He spoke Tuesday about continuing Ali’s legacy for fighting social injustice, saying the boxing great “mentored me without ever meeting me.”

“The footprints he leaves are large,” Kaepernick said, “and his life is and has been a multi-textured tapestry that is rich in love, wisdom, life lessons and human kindness. I can only hope that I’m taking steps toward walking on the footsteps that he has left behind for the world to follow.”

In his acceptance speech, Kaepernick said that his “platform is the people.”

“I say this as a person who receives credit for using my platform to protest systemic oppression, racialized injustice and the dire consequences of anti-blackness in America,” he said. “I accept this award not for myself, but on behalf of the people. Because if it were not for my love of the people, I would not have protested. And if it was not for the support from the people, I would not be on this stage today. With or without the NFL’s platform, I will continue to work for the people because my platform is the people.”

Colin Kaepernick attends the 2017 ACLU SoCal’s Bill of Rights Dinner at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Sunday, Dec. 3, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP)

Mentioned earlier in this report, Kaepernick has been unable to find a new NFL position since he opted out of his contract with the 49ers at the end of the 2016 season, and sued the NFL and its owners in October for collusion against hiring him.

Kaepernick skipped the red carpet prior to the show and was not available for questions. The awards show will be broadcast Friday night on NBC Sports Network.

The 2017 SI Sportsperson of the Year Show will air on NBCSN and on Univision Deportes Network at 8 p.m. ET Dec. 8 and Dec. 9, respectively.

 

LeNora Millen     12-06-17

 

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Urlacher’s Hall of Fame Candidacy High Point of Bears’ Rebuilding Season

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Coming off of their most recent home loss to the San Francisco 49ers, tallying only three wins this season, the Chicago Bears are in the midst of a definite rebuild. Despite the question marks and disappointments ranging from the offense, to coaching, to management, the most telling sign of the Bears’ lack of relevancy to this point is how a player who is no longer in the game is somewhat a beacon of hope for fans, at least until the draft comes around.

Calling it a career in 2012, former Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has become one of the talking points for the Windy City for being selected as a semi-finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Posting 1353 tackles, 22 interceptions, 41.5 sacks to go along with his eight pro bowl appearances, four all pro selections and a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2005, the question isn’t if, but when Urlacher will be inducted.

“My body of work is out there and I feel it’s as good as anybody’s, honestly, if you look at my numbers compared to defensive players in the Hall,’’ Urlacher told the Chicago Tribune recently. “But that’s not why I played the game, to get to the Hall of Fame. I never dreamed that when I started playing, I’d have a chance to be in that conversation. So just to be considered is a big deal.’’

Aaron+Rodgers+Brian+Urlacher+2011+NFC+Championship+q21omlNcJcfl.jpg

Chicago Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher tackling Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers 

The billed criteria for the hall of fame is on the field accomplishments. However it has been shown on a variety of occasions that numbers alone have not been deemed worthy of the ultimate honor in sports, which is why I can acknowledge that while still presiding on the south side of 30 years old and missing out on the Bear’s lone super bowl victory, Urlacher instilled a culture in Chicago that gave the feeling that our second victory was on the way.

Just falling short of winning Super Bowl XLI, Urlacher maintained that season’s intensity for 13 seasons. Winning Defensive Rookie of the Year to begin his career, maintaining his production for multiple coaches over the years, and even battling injuries in his final years to remain at worst formidable at his position. Revered in the locker room as a true leader and in the community as as genuine as they come, few boxes if any should go unchecked on Urlacher’s ballot.

Being recently selected to the College Football Hall of Fame along with other names such as Peyton Manning, Marshall Faulk and Adrian Peterson, one could only hope that this would be the warm up to his victory lap with the Pro Football Hall of Fame as his starting point. With the final announcement to be made just before this year’s Super Bowl, when the Bears’ season presumably will have been over for quite some time, Chicago will be looking for the grandest thank you to be expressed to one of its’ ultimate winners, patiently waiting for its’ next one.

 

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Lorenzen Wright: Man Arrested in 2010 Murder of Former NBA Center

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Police in Memphis have charged a man with the 2010 murder of former NBA player Lorenzen Wright, according to The Commercial Appeal.

Billy Turner, 46, was indicted Tuesday on a charge of first degree murder. He is being held on $1 million bond. The arrest comes one month after police announced they had found the murder weapon in a Mississippi lake, about 50 miles from where Wright’s body was found on July 28, 2010.

Lorenzen Wright was a star player at the University of Memphis, picked No. 7 in the 1996 NBA Draft ahead of Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, Jermaine O’Neal, and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. He played 13 seasons in the NBA for the Clippers, Hawks, and Grizzlies, among others.

Wright suffered personal and financial difficulties after his playing career ended in 2009. He had been living in Atlanta, but in July 2010 visited Memphis. At about 10:30 in the evening of July 18, his ex-wife said he left her home in Collierville, a Memphis suburb, with drugs and an unspecified amount of cash. He got into a car with an unidentified individual and was never seen again.

Wright called for help on his cell phone shortly after midnight on July 19, and as many as 11 gunshots can be heard on the tape. Wright had at least five gunshot wounds to his body, two to the head, two to the chest, and one to the right forearm. But his body was so badly decomposed by the time it was found that it was impossible to determine whether more shots had hit him.

Police only received 22 tips on Wright’s murder, and none contained substantive information. By December 2010, they indicated that the trail had gone cold.

 

LeNora Millen       12-05-17

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