The ‘bigs’ have made a big impact this postseason Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid and other big men have been difference-makers for their teams

In New Orleans, Anthony Davis scored a playoff franchise-record 47 points as the Pelicans center completely dominated in the first-round sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns answered the critics who questioned his effort and ability with 18 points and 16 rebounds Saturday in a 121-105 win over the Houston Rockets, giving the Timberwolves their first postseason win in 14 years.

And in Miami, Joel Embiid returned to the lineup and led the Philadelphia 76ers to win two straight games — including the 106-102 victory over the Miami Heat — to seize control of their opening-round series.

In an era of basketball where stretch fours and fives have many 7-footers believing they have a green light from beyond the 3-point arc, the first round of the playoffs has proven that size — traditional back-to-the-basket, low-post size — still matters.

It’s not just the play of Davis, Towns and Embiid, who all had a big impact on their team’s wins on Saturday.

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had 18 points and 12 rebounds as his team took a 2-1 series advantage over the Oklahoma City Thunder with Saturday’s 115-102 win.

And Washington’s Marcin Gortat scored 16 points (hitting eight of 10 shots) in the win April 20 over the Toronto Raptors, and will have to play a big role if his team wants to even its first-round series Sunday night.

Embiid claimed two weeks ago that he’s “the best center in the league,” a sentiment shared Saturday by former NBA power forward Charles Oakley, who tweeted this:

Embiid, at times, struggled in Saturday’ game against Miami as he committed eight turnovers while missing nine of his 11 shots from the field (including failing on all four of his 3-point attempts). He scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and his defensive presence (five blocks) had as much to do with the Sixers’ win as J.J. Redick’s game-high 24 points and Ben Simmons recording the first triple-double (17 points, 13 rebounds and 10 assists) by an NBA rookie since Magic Johnson in 1980.

Embiid’s good. But, with all due respect to both Embiid and Oakley, Davis is the league’s best big. Far from a traditional back-to-the-basket big, Davis scores many of his points on pick-and-rolls, putbacks and the occasional pick-and-pop.

Davis, in his fifth year, averaged 33 points (on 57 percent shooting) and 12 rebounds in the opening round. In Saturday’s closeout game, Davis had 47 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, becoming just the second player to do that in a playoff game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 49 points, 25 rebounds and six blocks in Houston’s playoff game against Seattle in 1987.

“This is probably the best game he’s played since I’ve been here,” New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry said of Davis. “I thought AD was one of the top players in the league when I came, and he’s improved lot since then.”

Especially his ability to score around the basket. Yet Davis is versatile enough to launch shots from beyond the 3-point line with confidence, which is a shift from the traditional big men who dominated the NBA in the 1990s. Davis has attempted and made more 3-pointers over his past two regular seasons than dominant big men such as Shaquille O’Neal, Patrick Ewing, Olajuwon and Tim Duncan totaled in their entire careers:

Career 3-point BASKETS/Attempts


  • Anthony Davis (2016-17, 2017-18 combined) 95/296
  • Tim Duncan (career) 30/168
  • Patrick Ewing (career) 19/125
  • Hakeem Olajuwon (career) 25/ 124
  • Shaquille O’Neal (career) 1/22

The last NBA team to win a title with a dominant big man? That would be the San Antonio Spurs in 2014 when Duncan — a few years past his prime — was the second-leading scorer on a team that beat the Miami Heat in five games to win the championship.

Can Davis get the Pelicans that far? As well as he has played, he’ll have his hands full in the next round as he’s likely to face a Golden State Warriors team that’s attempting to reach its fourth straight NBA Finals.

Embiid might have a better shot of being the first dominant big man to reach the NBA Finals in a while, especially in a conference that’s wide open with the Cleveland Cavaliers struggling and the Boston Celtics’ chances affected by the late-season loss of Kyrie Irving.

The balance, depth and intensity of the Sixers make them legitimate contenders.

“We know they’re the third seed,” Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade said of the Sixers on Saturday. “This is a very good team. They execute very well, they’re very well coached and they have a lot of talent in a lot of different positions. They put the right team together.”

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You’ve seen the NFL schedule, now peep the games really worth watching Dak Prescott vs. Russell Wilson in Week 3, plus other matchups to tune in to

The NFL did it again.

Only professional sports’ most powerful league could make the release of its schedule — by definition, a mundane activity — must-see television. And even with all the weekly matchups, sites and times revealed, there’s still much more to see.

As always, some games (at least at this time of the year, anyway) appear to be more intriguing than others. Let’s dig a little deeper and check out the most Undefeated games of each week on the 2018-19 schedule. All game times listed are Eastern time.

Week 1

Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles

When/where: Sept. 6, 8:20 p.m., NBC, Lincoln Financial Field

Comment: In a salary cap move, the Eagles traded socially conscious wide receiver Torrey Smith to the Carolina Panthers. But with safety Malcolm Jenkins and defensive end Chris Long back, as well as the addition of outspoken defensive lineman Michael Bennett in a trade with the Seattle Seahawks, the defending Super Bowl champs still figure to be the NFL’s most socially conscious team. Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones is such a baller.

Week 2

Kansas City Chiefs at Pittsburgh Steelers

When/where: Sept. 16, 1 p.m., CBS, Heinz Field

Comment: The Patrick Mahomes era begins in earnest, and the Chiefs’ second-year quarterback appears to have a bright future. Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown is second to none both at his position and as a showman.

Week 3

Dallas Cowboys at Seattle Seahawks

When/where: Sept. 23, 4:25 p.m., Fox, CenturyLink Field

Comment: Dak Prescott vs. Russell Wilson. Do we really need to say more?

Week 4

Tampa Bay Buccaneers AT Chicago Bears

When/where: Sept. 30, 1 p.m., Fox, Soldier Field

Comment: Is this the year quarterback Jameis Winston puts it all together and leads Tampa Bay back to the playoffs? As a rookie last season, former North Carolina A&T sensation Tarik Cohen proved he belonged. Now, the diminutive runner (Cohen is listed at all of 5 feet, 6 inches) figures to be a bigger part of the Bears’ offense.

Week 5

New York Giants AT Carolina Panthers

When/where: Oct. 7, 1 p.m., Fox, Bank of America Stadium

Comment: Odell Beckham Jr. is still a member of the Giants. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton loves the spotlight.

Week 6

Carolina Panthers at Washington Redskins

When/where: Oct. 14, 1 p.m., Fox, FedEx Field

Comment: Tough Washington corner Josh Norman faces his former team. He’ll have to control his emotions, which isn’t always easy for him.

Week 7

Los Angeles Rams AT San Francisco 49ers

When/where: Oct. 21, 8:20 p.m., NBC, Levi’s Stadium

Comment: Star running back Todd Gurley is the driving force of the Los Angeles Rams’ offense. Don’t be surprised if he takes another big step forward this season.

Week 8

Washington Redskins at New York Giants

When/where: Oct. 28, 1 p.m., Fox, MetLife Stadium

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Josh Norman. Talk about a heavyweight matchup. The previous title bouts were intense. Again, the game officials will be on high alert for this one.

Week 9

Pittsburgh Steelers AT Baltimore Ravens

When/where: Nov. 4, 1 p.m., CBS, M&T Bank Stadium

Comment: Quarterback Robert Griffin III is back in the NFL as Baltimore’s backup. Does the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL’s 2012 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year still have game? The Ravens certainly hope so.

Week 10

Carolina Panthers at Pittsburgh Steelers

When/where: Nov. 8, 8:20 p.m., Fox/NFL, Heinz Field

Comment: I know, I know: another game featuring either the Panthers or Steelers. But both Newton and Brown will be on the field, in prime time, during the only game of the day. Try to find a more lit matchup that week.

Week 11

Green Bay Packers AT Seattle Seahawks

When/where: Nov. 15, 8:20 p.m., Fox/NFL, CenturyLink Field

Comment: If you’re not interested in watching Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson duel, well, you’re simply not a football fan. There’s no other way to put it. Are we clear?

Week 12

Atlanta Falcons at New Orleans Saints

When/where: Nov. 22, 8:20 p.m., NBC, Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Comment: New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara, the NFL’s 2017 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year, was a Falcons fan while growing up in Norcross, Georgia. Last season, he joined Pro Football Hall of Famer Gale Sayers as the only other rookie in NFL history to have at least five rushing touchdowns, five receiving touchdowns and a kickoff return touchdown. Sayers accomplished the feat in 1965.

Week 13

Minnesota Vikings AT New England Patriots

When/where: Dec. 2, 4:25 p.m., Fox, Gillette Stadium

Comment: At this point, this one could be a preview of next season’s Super Bowl. And stay focused on impressive young wideout Stefon Diggs, who already has secured his place in Minnesota Vikings history with his part in the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

Week 14

Carolina Panthers at Cleveland Browns

When/where: Dec. 9, 1 p.m., Fox, FirstEnergy Stadium

Comment: Newton vs. Tyrod Taylor. Yes, we know the Browns plan to take a quarterback with either the first or fourth overall pick in this month’s NFL draft. But head coach Hue Jackson, who’s 1-31 in two seasons with the Browns, needs to win some football games. We think Taylor holds off a young challenger, at least until Newton comes to town.

Week 15

Philadelphia Eagles at Los Angeles Rams

When/where: Dec. 16, 8:20 p.m., NBC, Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

Comment: The Rams have added so many high-profile players (defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, wide receiver Brandin Cooks, cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib), they’ve made it clear they’re coming for the defending champs. This late-season encounter looks like it could have a big impact on postseason positioning.

Week 16

Denver Broncos at Oakland Raiders

When/where: Dec. 24, 8:15 p.m., ESPN, Oakland Coliseum

Comment: Oakland Raiders superstar outside linebacker Khalil Mack was the NFL’s 2016 Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year. Denver Broncos superstar outside linebacker Von Miller, a three-time first-team All-Pro selection, was the 2015 Super Bowl MVP. This could be a rough game for the quarterbacks.

Week 17

Jacksonville Jaguars vs. Houston Texans

When/where: Dec. 30, 1 p.m., CBS, NRG Stadium

Comment: With fast-rising young players such as cornerback Jalen Ramsey and defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, the Jaguars now have a lot of swagger on defense. Before his injury, Deshaun Watson showed that the Texans chose well. He looks like a longtime franchise quarterback.

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That time former NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer almost sued Prince A hair salon, a dance floor and a heart-shaped bed — what else did Prince manage to squeeze into Boozer’s home?

It’s been two years since the world was rocked by the news that Prince, one of the most talented artists to roam this earth, had died in his home.

As the world grappled with such a significant loss, others attempted to fill the void with some of their fondest memories of Prince. Sharing stories of fan meet-and-greets with those who either knew him personally or were touched by his aura almost became therapeutic. Most sentiments were sweet and thoughtful, while others expressed the playful side of Prince. But the anecdotes that seemed to gain the most attention came from those who had experienced “made-for-television moments” with The Purple One himself. One of those people? Former NBA All-Star Carlos Boozer.

Boozer’s unique encounter with Prince is one deserving of an E! True Hollywood Story segment on Chappelle’s Show. Thirteen years and many previously unreleased details later, the story has quickly become one of Boozer’s most popular to share.

We’ll take it back to 2005, when Boozer, a 23-year-old with only two seasons of professional basketball under his belt, had just signed a contract with the Utah Jazz. It was a fresh start for the NBA player, and finding a new home topped Boozer’s list of priorities. Boozer hadn’t planned all the details of his new location, but after growing up in Alaska and battling harsh winters in Cleveland, he was certainly in search of a warmer climate. Ultimately, Boozer settled on a 10-bedroom, 18,000-square-foot mansion in Bel-Air, Los Angeles.

But before Boozer could spend quality time in his new crib, the Jazz training camp was calling — and so were at least 20 people looking to rent his new house while he was away.

“My Realtor Roxanne hits me and she says, ‘Los, I got a call from a bunch of people who want to rent your crib,’ ” Boozer said. “I was like, ‘I haven’t even lived in it. I’m still a week away from decorating, so, no. I haven’t lived in it yet, why would I lease it out to somebody else?’

“The list kept getting shorter and shorter of people calling about it. The first calls, it was about 20 people. The previous owner had been in entertainment and was well-known and threw gatherings and parties there, so they knew the house.”

As Boozer continued to decline offers, the list continued to dwindle. Twenty people became 18. Eighteen became seven. Around a month later, Boozer was down to one persistent person, who’d call to make an offer at least eight times. The unidentified person was willing to pay $95,000 a month, which was a little over $1 million for the year, and that was an offer Boozer refused to pass up. As good as the deal was, there was only one short catch: Boozer would have to fly from Utah back to Los Angeles to meet with the potential renter.

Boozer waited for an off day to make the trip. He returned to his home and waited to meet the renter who’d be helping him with his mortgage payments. The gates to the home opened, and a limo entered. Out of it came a man no taller than 5 feet 2 inches and dressed in a layered top, nice jeans, boots with a perfect hairstyle. His eyes remained hidden behind sunglasses, but a starstruck Boozer already knew exactly who it was. The potential renter surprised both Boozer and his real estate agent Roxanne Nelson.

“As soon as he stepped out of the limo I was like, ‘Wow’ because I didn’t know who [I’d be renting to],” Boozer said. “Roxanne didn’t even know who it was because it was always the assistant calling on his behalf. So when he pulled up to sign the paperwork at the house, I was like, ‘Roxanne, is that Prince?’ It was a moment for me because there’s not that many times I’ve been starstruck, but that was one of those times. I was starstruck because it was Prince — I listened to half his albums because my parents were huge fans growing up. I watched his movies. Purple Rain is still one of the best movies ever made. It was incredible to be able to rent my house to him.”

“It was a moment for me because there’s not that many times I’ve been starstruck, but that was one of those times.”

The two began to talk and bonded over their common interest in basketball. On the rooftop was Boozer’s basketball court. Prince began shooting around with Boozer and talking to the rising star about his career.

“He was very cool,” Boozer said. “Obviously, very short, but he was huge into basketball. Loved basketball. We had a great conversation. He said he followed me a bit in my career. He told me I was a beast of a young player, because I was young. I was a baby in the NBA. He’s from Minnesota, so he was a huge Kevin Garnett fan at the time.

“Honestly, he had a good jump shot. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He could actually play ball. Very impressive.”

Prince disclosed to Boozer that he needed a place where he and his band would feel inspired enough to create a new album. He signed a one-year lease and began occupying the space during basketball season. But a few weeks later, Boozer would be sidelined with a hamstring injury that required physical therapy.

“The best physical therapist, Judy Seto, was in L.A.,” Boozer said. “I fly out to L.A. I had to be there like three weeks to take care of my hamstring, and I go by the crib. I hit him up, I said, ‘P, I’m about to come by the house. If you need anything, let me know.’ ”

Boozer returned to his street, but something had changed. The house he’d purchased didn’t look like the house he’d purchased at all. Maybe it wasn’t his. Boozer continued to drive down the street, then back up to the only house with his address. The 12-foot-high gates adorned with gold lions that greeted him every time he came home had been replaced by a purple symbol of some sort. This couldn’t have been his. Boozer punched in the code to his home and the gates opened right away. “I’m like, ‘Wow, so the homie changed my gate to this symbol,’ ” Boozer thought at the time.

“I’m about to sue Prince. Who wants to sue Prince?”

It was his home. But what had happened to it? Boozer stepped out of his car. The stairs leading from the motor court to his home were draped with a purple carpet emblazoned with the same symbol that greeted him minutes earlier.

“I wasn’t aware of what that symbol was at the time,” Boozer admitted.

Prince’s decorative creations outside of the home seemed minor once Boozer laid eyes on the interior renovations. The beautiful Italian carpets chosen by his then-wife were pulled up and replaced by black carpeting. Black and purple seemed to be the new theme of the home, and there were those symbols again. Boozer approached a spare bedroom that had been completely transformed into a full-use hair salon. The other, a massage parlor.

“I never had that [in a home], but I’m still like, ‘What’s going on?’ I spent all this bread to decorate, and now he did all this. I had a really awesome weight room. He turned the weight room into a dance floor. He had a disco ball and a DJ booth, which I thought was pretty awesome since I never had that before either, but I was still like, ‘What the hell?’ I’m livid. I go into the bedroom and it’s a purple, heart-shaped bed with black carpet. At this point, I’m like, ‘What the f— happened to my house?’ ”

Boozer immediately began placing calls to the superstar, only to be greeted by his voicemail each time. Days turned into weeks, and after nearly two months without a returned call or response from Prince, Boozer was ready to take legal action.

“I left him one more message and said, ‘P, I’ve been trying to get ahold of you for two months. I don’t know where you are, I hope everything is cool with you and your family, but I’m about to sue you because you changed my whole house around without giving me no notice, and that’s a breach of contract.’ ”

Three days later, Prince was back on the grid.

“My lawyers were about to prepare the paperwork and everything. I’m about to sue Prince. Who wants to sue Prince? An idol, someone you look up to? Nobody wants to do that. It gets to that point and he calls me. I’m at a game and he’s in Japan on tour for that 3121 album. He goes, ‘Man, I’m so sorry. I’ve been on the road the whole time. Don’t worry, the house is going to look just like the house when you moved out. When I move out at the end of my lease, it’ll look just like I was never there. Trust me.’ He wired me $500,000 to ease my mind, which is a lot of bread on top of the rent that he was already paying.”

Being a man of his word, Prince did exactly what he said he’d do. By the end of his lease, the house looked as if he’d never been there. Boozer walked in to see beautiful Italian carpeting. The hair salon was gone, and all the equipment was back in his awesome weight room. The mystery symbols that were seen in nearly every room had vanished without a trace. Still in disbelief at how quickly Prince had transformed the home back into his home, Boozer wired the $500,000 back to his renter.

Proof of Prince’s stay is documented throughout the album artwork for 3121, Prince’s 31st studio album released in 2006.

“If you look at the CD cover, it’s my house,” Boozer said. “So he put the house all in the CD cover.”

The two formed a friendship over the years and would make time for lunch or dinner when they were in the same area. The last time Boozer would see his friend was at the Jordan Brand’s 30th anniversary party during NBA All-Star Weekend in 2015. Prince gave an impromptu performance and wowed the crowd, just as he did throughout his career.

“Even now with the two-year anniversary [of his passing], it’s still mind-boggling to me what really happened,” Boozer said. “There’s just so much mystery around his death — Michael Jackson’s death, Whitney Houston’s death too. I’d like to know what really happened.

“[If he were still alive], I’d tell him it is an honor to meet you. I literally do believe I was conceived because of your music between my mom and dad. You’ve inspired so many people. It’s an honor to have met you, great to hear your music and good to call you a friend.”

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The boldest statement Adidas could make is to sign Colin Kaepernick Now more than ever, black people need to be reassured there is a genuine appetite for black voices, and not just a superficial need for black faces

To write this column, I re-watched a short film released by Adidas last December that was appropriately titled, Calling All Creators, a stylish ad campaign that featured some of the most remarkable influencers in the world gathered around a table discussing creativity, progress and inspiration.

A stunning list of people appear in the film, which has amassed nearly 40 million views on YouTube — Lionel Messi, Pharrell Williams, Pusha T, Carlos Correa, Kris Bryant, Damian Lillard, and Von Miller, among others. In fact, if I named all the people in the campaign, it would probably take up another paragraph.

But you know who would have been a great choice for the film?

Colin Kaepernick.

Mark King, the president of Adidas North America division, said this week that if Colin Kaepernick were signed by an NFL team, his company wouldn’t hesitate to sign him as a brand ambassador.

“We love athletes that have a platform to make the world a better place,” King said. “If they’re an activist in a way that brings attention to something that moves the world forward, even if there’s controversy at that moment, we’re really interested in those athletes, because I think it represents the world today.”

So why wait on NFL teams, who, so far, have shown practically no interest in signing Kaepernick?

The boldest statement Adidas could make is to sign Kaepernick now. Forget about the NFL, since it seems doubtful that Kaepernick will ever play again.

One of the messages in the Adidas short film was that the brand aimed to be a space for “those who are obsessed with progress.”

Hmm. That sounds exactly like Kaepernick, who began his protest because he was disgusted by the lack of justice when unarmed black people are killed by police, and this country’s continued embrace of institutional racism.

Amid all the noise that surrounds Kaepernick, it’s often forgotten that while there are plenty of people who sadly view Kaepernick as a villain, there’s an equally large number of people who support him and are inspired by his dedication to social justice. And many of those people would love to buy Adidas products as a way to continue their support.

Now more than ever, black people need to be reassured that there is a genuine appetite for black voices, and not just a superficial need for black faces.

I’m not trying to commercialize Kaepernick’s beliefs — we’ve seen how dangerous that can be with the way Martin Luther King Jr.’s message has been perverted and spun over the years — but imagine the impact if people of color saw that not all corporations are scared to show open support of black folks who discuss issues that might make some of their consumers uncomfortable.

Kanye West is brash, outspoken and polarizing, and his personality was key in resurrecting Adidas. He and Kaep on the same team seems ideal.

Now it’s unsure if a relationship with Adidas is even possible since Nike released a statement to USA Today affirming that Kaepernick is currently one of their athletes. While details of their contract with Kaepernick aren’t publicly known, they haven’t done much with Kaepernick since he began his protest in 2016.

Given that Kaepernick has laid low, it’s possible that he wanted it that way. It’s also possible that Nike not amplifying Kaepernick has to do with the fact that in his last year in the NFL, Kaepernick played for a San Francisco 49ers team that wasn’t very good.

Unfortunately, there are countless examples of vocal black athletes being ostracized and losing everything — jobs, income, or worse, their dignity — as soon as they start speaking truths that hit a little too close to home. And shamefully, the majority of them are only remembered fondly after it’s proven they were on the right side of history.

But during this time especially, it’s important that black people are reassured they matter to the people who can write the biggest checks. We have black men being hauled out of Starbucks by police for minding their business, a Syracuse fraternity suspended after recording racist videos, and a viral video that shows two black servicewomen being verbally and physically attacked by a white woman after a dispute over a parking space — and that’s just in the last few days. The threat and vulnerability people of color feel right now is real. And if companies want to show sincere respect for their black customers, that means doing more than just using black folks’ talents to peddle more products to black audiences. If you want black dollars, maybe try being invested in black issues.

Sure, some will counter that they don’t want to think about police brutality or institutional racism when deciding to buy a pair of sneakers. Well, most people of color don’t have the luxury of picking and choosing when race matters, because for us, it matters all the time.

Adidas didn’t change its fortunes by being safe, so why not continue to be bold? Because as Pusha T said in Calling All Creators, sometimes, “it’s about making a statement.”

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The state of the black manager in Major League Baseball would disgust Jackie Robinson We examined the numbers since Robinson called out the MLB in the 1972 World Series

It took Gary Jones absolutely no time to find success as a baseball manager. At 30 years old and in his first season as skipper of the Madison (Wisconsin) Muskies, he led the Class-A ballclub to a 77-61 record and to the 1991 Midwest League championship game.

The team would fall to the Clinton (Iowa) Giants, 3-0, but Jones received the Midwest League Manager of the Year award for his team’s success. Four years later and coming off a 1994 Southern League championship with the Double-A Huntsville (Alabama) Stars, Jones decided to interview for the Oakland Athletics’ managerial opening left by Hall of Famer Tony La Russa in 1995.

At two different levels, he had shown he was capable of guiding teams to the title game. But Oakland ultimately picked Art Howe for his experience, Jones recalled. So he went back to work in the minors, winning back-to-back Pacific Coast League championships with Edmonton (Alberta, Canada) in 1996 and 1997. He moved up to the major leagues in 2013 as third-base coach of the Chicago Cubs.

After 27 years as a manager or coach, four minor league Manager of the Year awards and a World Series title in 2016 with the Cubs, the 57-year-old has yet to become a manager with a Major League Baseball team. Jones is still holding out hope that one day he’ll get the call.

“It’s still an aspiration of mine to manage at the major league level,” Jones said. “I feel like I’ve paid my dues. You pull up my bio and my history and most of the teams I’ve been involved with have normally been winning teams, whether it be at the minor league level or major league level. I’ve never been one to toot my own horn, but I feel like I’ve been a big part of those situations.

“Not getting opportunities, not getting interviews. … I don’t have an agent. I just do my thing and hope my work will speak for itself. Sometimes, you sit back and see other guys getting opportunities with way less experience, and I’m not going to lie, sometimes I do shake my head and wonder, ‘Why don’t I get an opportunity to be put in that situation?’”

Jones, who is managing the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies’ Triple-A affiliate, after the Cubs let him go in 2017, is asking a question that many African-Americans aspiring to manage at the highest level have been asking for the past 50 years.

The Undefeated, in collaboration with ESPN Stats & Information, studied the opportunities that black skippers and minority managers have been afforded since Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson called out MLB for its lack of black managers on Oct. 15, 1972, at Game 2 of the World Series.

“I am extremely proud and pleased to be here this afternoon,” Robinson, who died nine days later, said before 53,224 people at Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati, “but must admit, I am going to be tremendously more pleased and more proud when I look at the third-base coaching line one day and see a black face managing in baseball.”

It’s likely Robinson would be disgusted by how little has changed and how this problem has uniquely affected African-Americans. Sixteen black men have ascended to manager since he spoke out, filling 27 jobs — 10 interim and 17 full-time. Over that period, 224 men were hired to fill 470 openings (many jobs came open several times).

Two of the 27 openings were with teams that finished above .500 the previous season. Winning ballclubs have had substantially fewer issues extending managing opportunities to Latinx (nine of 31 openings) or Asian (one of two) skippers, by contrast. The average record of the teams that non-interim black managers inherited is 73-89.

For comparison, there have been 17 managerial jobs filled by individuals who didn’t have managerial or coaching experience at either the major league or minor league level. Frank Robinson and Buck Martinez are the lone people of color to manage with no prior experience.

Six of those opportunities (35.3 percent) were with winning teams, and white men filled five of those six openings. Aaron Boone of the New York Yankees is the latest example. Martinez was the lone minority without experience to take over a winning team, when the Blue Jays hired him in 2000.

Of the 27 times when a black manager has been hired, only two involved an organization with a winning record. But among the 15 white managers with no previous coaching experience at any level who were hired, five of them were handed the reins to an above .500 team at the time of their hiring.

Managers without experience who have taken over winning teams (since 1972 World Series)

Manager Team (Year) Record at time of hire
Jim Fregosi Los Angeles Angels (1978) 25-21
Larry Dierker Houston Astros (1996) 82-80
Buck Martinez Toronto Blue Jays (2000) 83-79
Mike Matheny St. Louis Cardinals (2011) 83-79
Brad Ausmus Detroit Tigers (2013) 93-69
Aaron Boone New York Yankees (2017) 91-71

What MLB has done since Robinson called out the league on its biggest stage is commit to the image of change in the absence of real change. If Robinson’s only request had been that black managers be in the game, then MLB could pat itself on the back.

But Robinson and other black players and coaches were asking for equal opportunity to succeed when they get those jobs. And when one considers that 25 of the 27 jobs black managers have come into are on losing teams, and men who have been toiling for nearly 30 years aren’t getting callbacks or are beaten out by others with less experience, then that’s not real progress.

In 1999, MLB established the Selig Rule, named after former commissioner Bud Selig, which requires teams to interview a person of color for high-ranking positions. Two years ago, former Pittsburgh Pirates director of player personnel Tyrone Brooks helped the league create a front-office and field staff diversity pipeline program in the hopes of expanding the pool of qualified minorities and women.

Just before the start of last season’s World Series, the inaugural Major League Baseball Diversity Fellowship Program was launched. Its goal is to attract, recruit and retain people of color and women and help them establish roots in the league.

“I actually think it’s so revealing that it was Jackie Robinson calling them out, because it speaks to how Major League Baseball has and continues to rely on the symbols of racial progress in absence of racial progress,” said David J. Leonard, a professor in the Department of Critical Culture, Gender, and Race Studies at Washington State University. “So here we have Jackie Robinson pointing out the persistence of the color line in baseball, and he continues to be used by Major League Baseball as a symbol of change, yet he isn’t even heard. That his concerns and protests and demands weren’t heard over the last 46 years, and so I think it speaks to an investment in the symbolic change in absence of actual change or the embrace of a truly equitable playing field.”

When Ernie Banks filled in for Cubs manager Whitey Lockman after Lockman was ejected on May 8, 1973, Banks became the first African-American to manage an MLB game in any capacity. For this study, men who managed in a single game will be acknowledged, but if they weren’t credited with a win or loss for the game, they aren’t counted in the study’s statistics.

MLB didn’t have a full-time black manager until two years after Robinson died, when Cleveland named Frank Robinson in 1974. Forty-one years after Frank Robinson, Dusty Baker became the first black manager hired by a team above .500. He did so in his fourth managerial job with the 83-79 Washington Nationals in 2015. Dave Roberts, who took over the 92-70 Los Angeles Dodgers that same year, was the second African-American and first Asian manager to come into a winning ballclub.

So a manager with Baker’s credentials — seven winning seasons in his decade with the San Francisco Giants, three National League Manager of the Year awards and a World Series appearance in 2002 — didn’t inherit his first winning team until he was 20 years into his managerial career.

And even after taking on that winning team, improving its win total by 12 the first season and two more games the second season and leading it to back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history, Baker finds himself out of managing.

“Look at Dusty Baker,” Jones said. “This guy has done everything he needed to do. He’s always been successful, and they find a way to get rid of him for whatever reason. And now, he’s not even managing in the major leagues.

“Tell me why he’s not managing one of these major league clubs. You look at it, it doesn’t really make sense.”

Most occurrences of winning 90-plus games in final season (regardless of race)

Dusty Baker: 3

    • 97 wins with 2017 Nationals
    • 90 wins with 2013 Reds
    • 95 wins with 2002 Giants

Bobby Cox: 2

    • 91 wins with 2010 Braves
    • 99 wins with 1985 Blue Jays

Lou Piniella: 2

    • 93 wins with 2002 Mariners
    • 90 wins with 1992 Reds

Alvin Dark: 2

    • 98 wins with 1975 A’s
    • 90 wins with 1964 Giants

Source: Elias Sports Bureau

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Baker is the only manager to coach three teams to 90-plus wins in his final season. Felipe Alou took over the 95-66 Giants team that Baker coached to the 2002 World Series, while Dave Martinez, in his first managerial job, took over the 97-65 Nationals.

“I’m not surprised by that at all,” Baker said of his distinction. “At some point, I started wondering, ‘What do I have to do to not get fired?’”

A black manager is more likely to lose a team he led to a winning record than inherit one. African-Americans have taken on winning teams twice (Baker and Roberts) while relinquishing the reins five times. Aside from Baker, Cito Gaston managed the 2010 Blue Jays to an 85-77 record in his last season and Jerry Manuel led the 2003 White Sox to an 86-76 mark in his final season.

No Asian managers have ever given up a winning ball club. Two Latinx managers — Corrales (43-42 Phillies, 1983) and Pinella (90-72 Reds, 1992, and 93-69 Mariners, 2002) — have not been brought back to teams they coached to an above .500 record.

“I don’t think one can look at the landscape and see one, progress, and two, a system and a culture of meritocracy, something that sports likes to describe itself as,” Leonard said. “In reality, we see example after example where success doesn’t translate into opportunity.

“Baker … [speaks] to how black managers and black coaches across different sports are not given credit for success. The success that they had is attributed to other factors — the general manager, the player performance — that it’s not about their ability to motivate. It’s not about their in-game moves.

“You’ll hear people who will justify the persistent color line and they’ll say, ‘Well, black managers haven’t been successful.’ When has anyone ever said, ‘Look at all those white managers who weren’t successful, I guess we’ll not hire any white managers this year.’ The lack of success of a black manager is used to make wide commentary about other black managers, whereas white managers that aren’t successful, that is about them as individuals or other factors.”

There are perks to being a white man with no managing or coaching experience when it comes to big league manager positions. That hiring trend has taken off since 2012, with eight men being hired to take over as skipper in the past six years.

Six managers of color, all of whom have coaching or managing experience, have been hired, on a non-interim basis, in that same span. All but three of the job searches since 2012 have had a candidate of color with coaching experience considered (Colorado Rockies, Miami Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers).

It should be noted that no one else was considered for the job in Miami where general manager Dan Jennings took over, and when Craig Counsell, the team’s special assistant, took over the reins, the other potential hire in Milwaukee was white. Only the Rockies have had a traditional job search where a candidate of color was not in consideration. (This information was determined by reviewing news articles about the coaching searches.)

The last eight managers with no experience and those who weren’t picked

CHICAGO WHITE SOX, 2012: Robin Ventura Not picked:

    • Dave Martinez, bench coach (Tampa Bay Rays)
    • Sandy Alomar, first base (Cleveland)
    • Terry Francona, two-time World Series champion as manager (Boston Red Sox)

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, 2012: Mike Matheny Not picked:

    • Joe McEwing, manager (Charlotte Knights, White Sox’s Triple-A affiliate)
    • Chris Maloney, manager (Memphis Redbirds, Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate)
    • Jose Oquendo, two-time World Series champion as third base coach (Cardinals)
    • Ryne Sandberg, manager, (Lehigh Valley IronPigs, Philadelphia Phillies Triple-A affiliate)

COLORADO ROCKIES, 2013: Walt Weiss Not picked:

    • Tim Runnells, bench coach (Rockies)
    • Jason Giambi, active player/free agent
    • Matt Williams, third base (Arizona Diamondbacks)

DETROIT TIGERS, 2014: Brad Ausmus Not picked:

    • Rick Renteria, bench coach (San Diego Padres)
    • Lloyd McClendon, hitting coach (Tigers)
    • Dusty Baker, three-time National League Manager of the Year, former manager (Cincinnati Reds)
    • Eric Wedge, former manager (Seattle Mariners)
    • Tim Wallach, third base (Los Angeles Dodgers)

MILWAUKEE BREWERS, 2015: Craig Counsell Not picked:

    • Ron Gardenhire, World Series champion as third base coach and former manager (Minnesota Twins)

MIAMI MARLINS, 2015: Dan Jennings Not picked:

    • No other candidates

SEATTLE MARINERS, 2016: Scott Servais Not picked:

    • Jason Varitek, special assistant to the general manager (Red Sox)
    • Tim Bogar, interim manager (Texas Rangers) and special assistant to the general manager (Los Angeles Angels)
    • Charlie Montoyo, manager (Durham Bulls, Rays Triple-A affiliate)

NEW YORK YANKEES, 2017: Aaron Boone Not picked:

    • Hensley Meulens, three-time World Series champion as hitting coach (San Francisco Giants)
    • Carlos Beltran, retired player (Houston Astros)
    • Rob Thompson, World Series champion as third base coach, bench coach (Yankees)
    • Eric Wedge, player development advisor (Toronto Blue Jays)
    • Chris Woodard, third base coach (Dodgers)

Leonard, along with Richard Lapchick, director of The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES), and Peggy McIntosh, author of the famous 1988 and 1989 papers that dissected white privilege and male privilege, have studied the way in which race shapes the perception of whose playing experience best prepares one to be a manager. Where black athletes are viewed as athletic and celebrated for their physical gifts, the language of white baseball players has historically and continues to be about leadership, being a hard worker and playing the game the right way.

“One, white privilege is to know that if you are seen by whites as managing things well in any respect, you will be seen by those whites as a potential manager,” McIntosh, founder of the National SEED Project (Seeking Educational Equity and Diversity) and a senior research scientist at Wellesley College, said via email. “Another white privilege is to know that if you as a white person are appointed as a manager, others will feel it is appropriate to do what you ask. Very bad picture, isn’t it? Whites have been given the conviction that they are cut out to be [i.e. created to be] managers and are good at it.”

To this end, Leonard doesn’t believe there’s a way to justify the hiring of Boone over Meulens, who won three World Series in five years as the hitting coach for the Giants, speaks five languages and is a former Yankee. It does, however, spotlight the absurdity of those who argue the way to become a manager is to pay one’s dues, and that if a person of color just toils away — as position coaches, going to the minor leagues, Latin American or Caribbean leagues — and proves his value, then in due time a managerial job will open up to him.

If anything, Leonard said, this situation speaks to something he’s seen in his research, which is the centering of white players and the idea that a manager of color isn’t capable of relating to them. White managers, meanwhile, don’t have their ability to connect across racial, national and linguistic boundaries challenged, and their ability to connect with white players is of central importance. Black people and other minorities in baseball are often contorting themselves to fit into white space. That’s in contrast to their white counterparts, who have rarely had to function in an environment where they weren’t in the majority.

A perception that minorities may relate to one another because of potentially shared experiences, such as dealing with racism or discrimination on and off the field, is somehow viewed as they may not be able to relate to others who don’t deal with discrimination. Therefore, Leonard said, Meulens’ ability to connect with players from Japan, the Caribbean and throughout Latin America, as well as African-American players, isn’t viewed as an asset.

One of the biggest consequences of the Boone hiring is the message that the Yankees, the most recognizable brand in baseball, sent to minority candidates looking to apply to big league teams.

“It says that the long expression that transcends sports, that [black people] have to be twice as good as their white counterparts, is not only true, but maybe it’s three times as good. Maybe it’s four times as good. Maybe it doesn’t even matter,” Leonard said. “What we’ve seen is that every pathway that’s said to be ‘the pathway’ — whether it’s go to the minor leagues, be a bench coach or be a hitting coach — that those are not pathways that lead to managerial spots.”

Before 2012, just nine men without a coaching or managing résumé became skipper. Of the 17 total managers hired without coaching experience, just two were minorities: Buck Martinez and Frank Robinson. It’s worth noting that Robinson’s initial managerial experience was as player-manager, and therefore it would’ve been impossible for him to have had coaching experience because he was still playing when his managerial career started.

There were some other oddities in this group, including a special assistant to the general manager (Counsell, Brewers), a general manager (Jennings, Marlins) and Atlanta Braves team owner Ted Turner, who took over for a game.

Even though the total number of individuals (0.076 percent) and total number of jobs these men have held (0.034 percent) are extremely low, the number of successful teams these men have been hired for is substantially better than their black colleagues with experience.

“I definitely feel like black coaches and black managers in the minor leagues and black managers in the major leagues, sometimes it just seems like they get the short end of the stick,” said Jones. “I’m not blaming anybody, I’m just saying from our perspective, looking at it from our eyes, that’s the way it seems. I think if you ask most black coaches and managers that are in this game, most of them will tell you the same thing and feel the same way.”

Since the conclusion of the 1972 season, only 38 of the 224 overall managers have been of color, and of the 470 openings in the past 46 years, 59 have been filled by minorities. That breaks down to approximately 17 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.

Of the 38 managers of color, 21 have been Latinx, 15 black, one Asian and one manager of two races. (Dave Roberts is black and Asian.) Three of the men from this pool — Piniella, Gaston and Ozzie Guillen — have won a World Series. This season, Rick Renteria, Roberts, Alex Cora and Dave Martinez are the lone managers of color in the majors and account for 13.3 percent of all the skippers in the league.

Eight men of color, in the chart below, have taken over a winner in their first managerial job, while three men — Alou, Baker and Fredi Gonzalez — did so in subsequent managerial posts.

Managers of color who inherited winning teams (since 1972 World Series)

Manager Team (Year) Record before hire
Pat Corrales Texas Rangers (1978) 86-75
Lou Pinella New York Yankees (1985) 97-64
Ton Perez Cincinnati Reds (1992) 90-72
Buck Martinez Toronto Blue Jays (2000) 83-79
Felipe Alou San Francisco Giants (2002) 95-66
Ozzie Guillen Chicago White Sox (2003) 86-76
Fredi Gonzalez Atlanta Braves (2010) 91-71
Dusty Baker Washington Nationals (2015) 83-79
Dave Roberts Los Angeles Dodgers (2015) 92-70
Dave Martinez Washington Nationals (2017) 97-65
Alex Cora Boston Red Sox (2017) 93-69

Black managers, coaches and historians of the game say there’s a pervasive idea that the lack of black managers correlates to the lack of black baseball players and not a larger problem with racial inequality in society. But in the NBA and the NFL, where most of the players are black, there is still paltry representation in the head coaching and management ranks.

The idea that fewer players means fewer managers also doesn’t hold up when one considers the number of black coaches (88) was greater than the number of black players in the league (58) on Opening Day 2017.

“What we see in baseball is a microcosm of society as a whole,” Leonard said. “So for those individuals who want to come up with counterarguments, it’s important to look at how those counterarguments fall apart as we look at the shared seams across sports and across other industries. Ultimately, the question will be are we collectively OK with persistent color lines inside and outside of sports, notwithstanding a yearly Jackie Robinson celebration.”

The theory that more players leads to more skippers also discounts the influx of Latinx players, who, when they retire from playing, see many members of their community rise to the coaching ranks but see few achieve managerial status.

Last season, there were 239 (31.9 percent) Latinx players in the league and 357 (35.9 percent) coaches, but only one (3 percent) manager. The three Latinx managers this season account for 10 percent of all jobs and are tied for the second-most ever in one season.

“We haven’t seen a dramatic increase in the managers of color in that regard,” Leonard said.

According to the 2018 Racial and Gender Report Card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports (TIDES), players of color accounted for 319 of the 750 (42.5 percent) players in the league on Opening Day 2017, an all-time high that received an A-plus, and coaches of color accounted for 467 of 994 (47 percent) of all coaches.

The Dodgers’ Farhan Zaidi (Asian) and the Detroit Tigers’ Al Avila (Latinx) were the two general managers of color last season, while the Miami Marlins’ Michael Hill (black) and the Chicago White Sox’s Kenny Williams (black) were the two presidents of baseball operations of color.

When Derek Jeter, who is part-owner of the Marlins, was named CEO by the team, he became MLB’s first African-American to serve in that role.

“You have to figure into it who’s doing the hiring,” said Lapchick, the director of TIDES at the University of Central Florida. “Who’s your general manager, who are the owners? … When you look at vice presidents, CEOs and presidents, there are not many people of color in that pipeline. So who do [the owners] know, who do they rely on, who do they listen to? If the owners are listening to them, and they’re all white men, then there could be an element of racial discrimination. But more likely it’s an element of the ol’ boys network continuing to operate as rapidly as it has done throughout the history of sports in America.

“Ultimately, there will be not only better baseball teams, but better as a society, if we embrace diversity,” Lapchick said. “There was a time when I was enthusiastic about both the Rooney Rule and the Bud Selig Rule, but obviously, if we only have four managers of color after we’ve had 10 at two points in history, then the Selig Rule only isn’t working and we need other things at play.”

The Undefeated reached out to MLB for comment about its study with ESPN Stats & Information and was referred to commissioner Rob Manfred’s past comments about the league’s efforts to diversify non-playing jobs:

“You can’t just say, ‘I’m going to improve my employment statistics’ and rest on that as your diversity program in today’s world,” Manfred said at the Fourth Annual Sports Diversity & Inclusion Symposium in 2015. “Our people want to do the right thing. But it’s much easier to get people committed to doing the right thing when your programs are supportive of your fundamental business objectives.

“The other thing we’re doing is very actively engaging with the clubs and focusing in the Commissioner’s Office on entry-level positions. I think it’s important not to just think about GMs and field managers but, over the long haul, to focus on the pool of people who ultimately will mature into candidates for those senior leadership positions.”

The assumption that black managers are landing most of their jobs with historically bad franchises because of the presumed high turnover of such organizations and the presumed lack of turnover with historically good teams is simply not true. Based on the data, high turnover is not indicative of team performance. Both good teams and bad teams can have high manager turnover.

Simply put, black managers, and minorities as a whole, are hired by organizations that are committed to diversity and not hired by franchises that aren’t.

“Diversity should be valued because bringing in different voices and different perspectives and people who have had different experiences has shown to lead to success,” Leonard said. “That homogeneity stifles creativity, that it stifles success. … For me, it’s also about dramatically changing the culture — one that embraces equity and inclusion — not simply because of the value of symbols.

“Until teams and the league itself see the value in diversity, even the most ardent rule change that requires teams to interview won’t have some effect, because then it’s about compliance as opposed to, ‘No, we can be better. We can be better as a league and as a team and as a society when we see the values and the strengths that every individual can bring.’ ”

The Yankees (23) and Los Angeles Angels (21) have had the second- and third-most managers hired since the conclusion of the 1972 season and have hired one manager of color each.

Every other team in the top nine has hired at least two minorities, and the Seattle Mariners, Reds, Houston Astros and Nationals/Montreal Expos have all had fewer openings at manager and hired three or more minorities.

Tied for 10th is the San Diego Padres, who have hired 18 managers and had zero minority skippers. Washington, which has also had 18 openings, has employed five minorities, including when the Nationals were the Expos.

Oakland, with zero minority hires, is underperforming every other team with 16 openings filled. Cleveland, the New York Mets, Toronto Blue Jays, Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox have all had two or more managers of color, while the Red Sox with their recent hire of Cora have one.

San Francisco, with 12 openings, has hired more managers of color (3) than the Cardinals, Tigers, Phillies and Braves, who combined have hired two managers of color for their 56 openings.

“If baseball really wants to honor [Robinson], then it will look in the mirror and see how the absence of progress across the league in every aspect of its organizations needs to be rectified,” Leonard said. “What we see often is a refusal to confront this reality and excuse-making.”

Team managers of color

Team Manager openings Hires of color (%)
Chicago Cubs 27 4 (15%)
New York Yankees 23 1 (4%)
Los Angeles Angels 21 1 (5%)
Milwaukee Brewers 20 2 (10%)
Cincinnati Reds 20 3 (15%)
Seattle Mariners 20 4 (20%)
Texas Rangers 20 2 (10%)
Houston Astros 19 3 (16%)
Washington Nationals 18 5 (28%)
San Diego Padres 18 0 (0%)
Kansas City Royals 17 2 (12%)
Miami Marlins 16 4 (25%)
Oakland Athletics 16 0 (0%)
Boston Red Sox 16 1 (6%)
Chicago White Sox 16 4 (25%)
Baltimore Orioles 16 2 (13%)
Toronto Blue Jays 16 3 (19%)
New York Mets 16 2 (13%)
Cleveland Indians 16 3 (19%)
Philadelphia Phillies 15 0 (0%)
Atlanta Braves 15 1 (7%)
Detroit Tigers 13 1 (8%)
St. Louis Cardinals 13 0 (0%)
San Francisco Giants 12 3 (25%)
Los Angeles Dogers 10 1 (10%)
Pittsburgh Pirates 10 1 (10%)
Arizona Diamondbacks 9 1 (11%)
Minnesota Twins 8 0 (0%)
Colorado Rockies 7 1 (14%)
Tampa Bay Rays 5 1 (20%)

Black skippers are going to bad teams because they want to manage and don’t know when their next opportunity will come, said Jones. Often, it’s a lose-lose: They can hold out for a less awful team to come along, or they can take on these bad clubs knowing they probably won’t have enough time to fix them.

As blue-blood teams simply don’t afford black managers the chance to manage their ballclubs, and even some of the historically bad franchises haven’t opened their doors to the group over the past four decades, Robinson would not be pleased to see that the league continues to drag its feet.

“If they don’t have the opportunity to really build something and be successful, then the chances of them being successful is, obviously, radically diminished,” said Lapchick.

Fundamentally, the lack of diversity in general managers and other front-office positions has consequences in terms of managerial choices, both Leonard and Lapchick warned. To continue to create change, critical conversations need to be had that expose color lines and hold teams accountable. Establishing how teams and managers pick out and prepare the next generation to become managers has to also be addressed.

Racial biases about black intelligence persist and manifest in new forms today. In the conversations surrounding the recent trend that managers be invested in and understand analytics, the coded language and stereotypes that privilege white candidates as being better prepared for a game about computer formulas and probability are used to justify why certain individuals are picked over others.

“You’ll even hear the way black managers are undercut — their in-game decisions were not good, or they didn’t know how to push the right buttons,” Leonard said. “All these nebulous and ambiguous descriptors that again plays on these long-standing ideas about not only leadership but intelligence, preparedness.”

This is history repeating itself, as 50 years ago the league was being called out by players, the media and coaches for its procurement of black bodies to line its pockets but not the extension of jobs outside of the field of play.

Joe Black took to the Chicago Daily Defender in 1968 to call out the league, the same way Maury Wills did a year later in the Philadelphia Tribune.

Bill White told the Tribune‘s Claude E. Harrison on May 27, 1969: “I figure it’s time for Negroes to be more in baseball than merely players. But it will take an owner with guts to name a Negro manager. … And it shouldn’t be a showcase job. The first should be picked because he’s the most qualified man. Not as a Negro, but as a man who can win.”

Jones, on April 14, 2018, said: “Let me clarify myself here, I wouldn’t want to be given a job just because it was a black owner or a black GM and they’re just giving me the job because I’m black. I don’t want a job just because I’m black. I want a job because somebody sees that, ‘Hey, this guy just happens to be black, but we know he’s going to do the job.’ ”

The quotes above from White and Jones are nearly 50 years apart. They’re virtually identical. That speaks volumes about the lack of progress that black managers have made in MLB.

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Rob Gronkowski bought a horse named ‘Gronkowski’ and other news of the week The Week That Was April 16-19

Monday 04.16.18

Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, still enjoying “The Process,” posted on social media that he is “f—ing sick and tired of being babied” after being held out of Game 2 of the team’s series against the Miami Heat. Some San Antonio Spurs fans who were perfectly fine when the team fleeced the city for hundreds of millions of dollars to build and renovate the AT&T Center and every time head coach Gregg Popovich flippantly responded to a sideline reporter are now “Mad Online” that Popovich has criticized President Donald Trump. Professional boxer Adrien Broner, who has had to vacate multiple championships because he failed to make weight and is 6-3 in his last nine fights, threatened, with vulgar language, to fight New York rapper 6ix9ine after the hip-hop artist wrote “clown” under a photo posted on Broner’s Instagram account. Former New England Patriots linebacker James Harrison, not likely to receive a participation trophy after totaling six tackles last season, announced his retirement after 15 seasons in the league.

Tuesday 04.17.18

Milwaukee Bucks guard Eric Bledsoe responded, “I don’t even know who the f— that is” after a reporter asked him about the play of Boston Celtics guard Terry Rozier, who has outscored, out -assisted and overall outplayed Bledsoe through the teams’ first-round series. In what sounds like a repercussion of unwillingly appearing on To Catch a Predator, Wisconsin football head coach Paul Chryst is not allowed into an Ohio high school because of a seven-year beef with the school’s football coach. Trump inadvertently exacted revenge on NBA players who turned down a White House visit and called him a “bum” by possibly costing them millions of dollars through the new tax plan. Tallahassee, Florida, police, thinking it had a Scarface on its hands but in reality more Half Baked, investigated Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois for two months after a man dimed Francois out for being a drug dealer when actually the quarterback had just 17 grams of marijuana in his apartment. NBA G League players will receive a raise next season, putting their five-month $35,000 salary on par with first-round draft picks of the NBA 2K video game league.

Wednesday 04.18.18

Hall of Fame basketball player Scottie Pippen, a Chicago Bull in more ways than one, is offering a reward for any information on the whereabouts of $50,000 worth of tractors from his family’s Arkansas farm. New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, doing everything he possibly can to be a thorn in head coach Bill Belichick’s butt, acquired a stake in a 3-year-old horse named Gronkowski that is slated to run in next month’s Kentucky Derby. Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James, who, after the team traded away six players in February, told his teammates, “We have a f—ing squad now,” said after the Cavs’ Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers that, after the trade deadline, the team “spent so much time trying to figure out who we were in the regular season and getting the right lineups and guys in and out and things of that nature, we could never build for the playoffs.”

Thursday 04.19.18

Former college football play-by-play announcer Brent Musburger is in a feud with fictional TV character Jim Brockmire, calling the Hank Azaria-performed character “Buckmeier” and accusing him of screaming, “ ‘For All The Tostitos’ prematurely” with his ex. A day after New York Giants receiver Brandon Marshall allegedly posted the caption “Sorry baby bro no room. @dezbryant” over a screenshot of a news story about the former Dallas Cowboys receiver’s interest in joining the Giants, Marshall was released. The father of Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts, a graduate of the Cecil Newton School of NCAA Infractions, said if his son were to lose an offseason position battle with Tua Tagovailoa, “he’d be the biggest free agent in college football history.” Sacramento Kings guard Garrett Temple hoards bottles of Fiji and Essentia water in an effort to avoid other brands such as Smartwater, Dasani and Aquafina despite — hot take alert — all water tasting the same.

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When Prince sat courtside at Thunder-Warriors game Draymond Green: ‘When he walked in, no one’s attention was on the game anymore’

OAKLAND, California – Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Rihanna. Floyd Mayweather Jr. Rapper E-40. Neymar. Dave Chappelle. Russell Wilson and Ciara. Snoop Dogg.

These are a few of the celebrities who have sat courtside to watch the Golden State Warriors. But of all the stars who have graced the seats at Oracle Arena, none distracted the Warriors players more than Prince, who on March 3, 2016, walked to his seat at tipoff with the aid of a fancy cane.

“Having Prince at your game is a big deal,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Everybody ain’t Prince. He kind of stole the show. That’s OK. It was a huge. When he walked in, no one’s attention was on the game anymore.

“You have Jay-Z and Beyoncé and that’s like dope. Super dope. But, it’s like, Prince garners a whole other type of attention.”

Performer, Prince attends the Oklahoma City Thunder game against the Golden State Warriors on March 3, 2016 at ORACLE Arena in Oakland, California.

Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

Said Warriors guard Shaun Livingston: ““You see a lot of people with influence. Some star power. Prince? My mom and daddy grew up on Prince. Seeing him was like a step under seeing Michael Jackson.”

On the eve of the two-year anniversary of Prince’s death, the Warriors recalled the stunning guest appearance of the eight-time Grammy Award winner as if it happened yesterday. Perhaps Prince was just as excited to see Stephen Curry and the Warriors play against their Western Conference rival Oklahoma City Thunder.

Prince was a high school basketball star in Minnesota who was a good ball-handler and shooter despite standing just 5 feet 2 inches. He attended numerous Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Lynx games and even treated the Lynx players and staff to a private concert at Paisley Park after they won the 2015 WNBA title. Chappelle’s Show had a famous skit in which comedian Charlie Murphy told a hilarious story about playing Prince in basketball and eating pancakes afterward.

“All I remember is looking across the way, seeing him and being blown away,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He just had that presence. The It factor. There aren’t many people like that on Earth. We were all in awe. I’m a fan. I have him on my Spotify. He’s phenomenal.”

Prince had come to the Bay Area because his protégé Denise Matthews, better known as Vanity, died in nearby Fremont on Feb. 15, 2016. Prince attended Matthews’ funeral in Union City on Feb. 27 and his presence changed it from public to private. Prince performed two sold-out concerts the next day at Oakland’s Paramount Theater.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, before one of the songs Prince asked his fans, “What can you truly count on besides Steph Curry? And you can count on Steph Curry.” Green attended one of the shows at the Paramount, sitting four rows from the stage.

“It was special to see him, like I’d never seen him before in my life,” Green said. “To have that opportunity to see Prince at my age was special. What I took away from it was you see so many of these huge stars now with the way they perform on the floor and then you say, ‘That is where they got some of their beats from.’

“He does little subtle things, but the crowd goes nuts. It was very satisfying. I was honored.”

Warriors owner Joe Lacob offered Prince two courtside seats for the game against Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and the Thunder. Prince not only agreed to take the tickets, but also ended up agreeing to perform at Oracle Arena the next night.

The hallway that extends from the north tunnel entering Oracle’s VIP parking lot to the visiting locker room was dimmed with purple lights. There was also a purple curtain that went from the visiting locker room to the court. Curry took a picture of the hallway after the game and posted it on social media.

Durant, now with the Warriors, also recalled the purple lights when he arrived with the Thunder that night.

“I didn’t know what was going on,” Durant said. “Then you go out to the court and see a legend out there. Someone you’ve heard so much about. To get to see him watching us play knowing how much he enjoyed basketball, it was kind of surreal. It was like out of a dream. He was someone who meant so much to culture, music and entertainment. It was an honor.

“You really didn’t expect to see all those lights. But to then see Prince there and then say, ‘Oh, that was what that was all for.’ ”

Prince arrived sporting mammoth sunglasses and a blue satin pantsuit with black trim while walking with the aid of a cane and security watching closely. The crowd gave him rousing applause and a standing ovation.

Green described the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s entrance as “so Prince.”

“He picked a perfect time to make an entrance,” Green said. “Dead ball. He made his entrance walking only the way he could walk. Big afro. He kind of drew all of the attention.”

Supermodel Damaris Lewis arrived with Prince and sat next to him during the game. Lacob said the legendary singer didn’t say much that night.

With 1:22 remaining in the first quarter, the Warriors showed a smiling Prince on the JumboTron during a timeout. The Warriors showed how much they adored him as the dance team performed to his song, “Let’s Go Crazy.” His song “Kiss” also played during the timeout-staple Kiss Cam. Prince had a gift and every fan received a copy of his “HITNRUN Phase Two.”

The Warriors’ tied the Chicago Bulls’ record that night by winning their 44th straight regular-season game and 55th regular-season game en route to a 121-106 win over the Thunder. Curry also entertained Prince and the fans by scoring 33 points. But Prince departed at halftime and didn’t see the second half.

While Prince was watching the NBA game, he probably did not know that the players were watching him intently as well.

“I remember him sitting right across from our bench,” Curry said. “He showed up in the first quarter with purple on, cane. It looked like he was having a good time. He really didn’t have many facial reactions. But he seemed to enjoy the vibe and I remember that we made it real warm and welcoming for him in the hallways and stuff.

“I saw him on the sideline. I kind of gave him a head nod. He smiled.”

Said Livingston: “He was iconic. We were like, ‘Yo, that’s Prince.’ Everybody was. You usually don’t see icons come to the game.

Said Durant: “It was incredible. It was like seeing an angel on the sidelines.”

The Warriors players were all offered suite tickets to attend Prince’s concert at Oracle Arena the next day. Green and forward Andre Iguodala attended. At that show, Prince also told the crowd: “Take your place in history. I know Stephen Curry has.” Green actually watched Prince perform twice that week and shook his hand at the Oracle concert near the Warriors’ locker room.

Curry gave up the ticket he had to see Prince due to a prior engagement. The two-time NBA MVP said he saw two of Prince’s shows in Oakland in 2011. Curry’s father-in-law, John Alexander, is a musician who was inspired by Prince.

“I went to two shows in a row because they were that good,” Curry said. “He knew how to entertain. My father-in-law and basically my wife’s family are all die-hard Prince fans.”

Prince died on April 21, 2016, from an accidental overdose of fentanyl. He was 57. The Warriors heard the news of his death during a shootaround for a playoff game against the Houston Rockets.

Warriors assistant coach Nick U’Ren accepted a request from Curry and Iguodala and played Prince’s “Purple Rain” and “When Doves Cry” on a portable speaker. Next up was “Raspberry Beret,” a request from forward Klay Thompson. The Warriors put out a statement in which Lacob said that he was “shocked and saddened” by the news and that a “true icon in the entertainment business” was lost.

“I’m a fan of his music. I got his songs on my iPhone library,” Thompson said.

Said Green: “I was like, ‘Damn, life is so short.’ I just saw this man. What are the odds that I get the opportunity see him? The chances to see him at 26 and then he passes away? I cherish that.”

Durant said he saw Prince perform in concert once.

“You never want to hear that your heroes or legends pass away. But we all are human,” Durant said. “I never thought something would happen to guys like him, Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross. Growing up, my mom, aunts and uncles would play their music. I just felt like these people were like gods to us.

“You felt like everything they did was perfect. But they are human. You can appreciate them for what they do and how hard it was for them to get where they were.”

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What Eric Reid’s unemployment could mean for Kaepernick’s collusion case Experts in labor law say Reid’s failure to land a job could aid Kaepernick’s legal battle with NFL

As Colin Kaepernick’s legal battle with the NFL progresses and teams continue to shun the quarterback, his case may be strengthened by safety Eric Reid’s failure to land another job in the league, several experts in labor law said.

While they were San Francisco 49ers teammates in 2016, Reid was the first player to kneel alongside Kaepernick during the national anthem to shine a light on racial injustice in the United States. Although Reid is widely considered by NFL player-personnel officials to be among the top free agents at his position, he remains unsigned more than a month after clubs were permitted to sign free agents.

Kaepernick hasn’t worked since opting out of his contract after the 2016 season. Many civil rights activists and NFL players have blasted the league, claiming Kaepernick is being shut out because of his political views. In October 2017, Kaepernick filed a grievance under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, alleging that owners have conspired to keep him out of the league. Kaepernick’s legal team is collecting evidence, including depositions from high-ranking league executives and owners.

The fact that Reid, the player most closely aligned with Kaepernick, also hasn’t joined another team could be problematic for the NFL, said Thomas A. Lenz, a lecturer at the University of Southern California Gould School of Law.

“To the extent that someone else has some parallel activity, some similar involvement, it certainly cast suspicion” on what’s occurring in the NFL, said Lenz, an expert in complex labor and employment matters. “It’s the sort of thing that, as the facts bear out, you have to wonder if there’s some sort of pattern going on. … It definitely warrants some inquiry.”

Kaepernick, 30, repeatedly has been passed over for jobs that have been filled by far less-accomplished passers. Privately, some NFL coaches acknowledge Kaepernick is better than many signal-callers who currently occupy spots on team rosters.

Reid, 26, has played five seasons. Even scouts critical of Reid’s performance acknowledge he’s a starting-caliber defensive back. Yet, just like Kaepernick, Reid is still out of work.

Reportedly, the Cincinnati Bengals backed away from making Reid an offer last week because he essentially declined to commit to standing during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Although Reid had recently said he did not plan to demonstrate next season, he apparently chafed at the Bengals’ demands.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Seattle Seahawks postponed bringing Kaepernick in for a visit last week after he also declined to say he would stop kneeling next season. Attempts to contact Kaepernick’s attorney, Mark Geragos, were unsuccessful.
Susan D. Carle, a professor of law at American University Washington College of Law, is intrigued by Reid’s current position, as it could potentially impact Kaepernick’s case.

If someone is sort of in the range of a player who may or may not get a job based on a variety of factors – skill, versatility, age, etc. – then those situations “wouldn’t be very probative” for Kaepernick’s grievance, said Carle, an expert in discrimination, labor and employment law. “But if the player is having trouble getting a job, and if that just doesn’t make sense because of his skill level, it could be supportive evidence.”

Observing what has occurred with Kaepernick and Reid, it’s impossible to ignore the similarities, said Stanford Law School professor William B. Gould IV. An expert in labor and discrimination law, Gould argues that Reid’s unemployment “might augment Kaepernick’s case.”

“The fact that [Reid] seems to be somebody who has capability … you would think he would be attractive to any number of teams,” said Gould, who served as chairman of the National Labor Relations Board from 1994-98. “And the fact that the offers have not been forthcoming helps Kaepernick in suggesting that he’s being blackballed for his views.”

Even with Reid on the outside looking in, Kaepernick faces a high bar to prove his case, the legal experts acknowledged.

Former Miami Dolphins safety Michael Thomas, a cohort of Kaepernick and Reid in the protest movement, signed with the New York Giants in free agency. Bolstering their efforts in an attempt to defend their title, the Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles traded for outspoken defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who’s among the most socially conscious players in the league.

Also, the NFL, which is almost 70 percent black, recently ratified the budget for its landmark social justice initiative with players. Owners have committed $89 million over seven years to bankroll causes considered important to African-American communities.

“There are definite difficulties any time you are looking at collusion or conspiracy,” said Lenz, the USC professor. “But if you start seeing people treated in adverse unfavorable ways, there are definitely questions to be answered. Why is this happening? Is there something about Mr. Reid that makes him somehow unfit to play? What’s going on?”

Reid’s situation doesn’t amount to “smoking-gun evidence,” but Kaepernick may not need a smoking gun to prevail, Stanford’s Gould said.

“I don’t think the threshold is a smoking gun. Even in [Major League Baseball], in the anti-collusion cases in the late ’80s, they didn’t have a smoking gun,” Gould said. “They had a lot of statements. They had a lot of things that happened, in conjunction with one another, that convinced the arbitrator that the inference of barring of free agents who wanted to change teams was a reasonable one.

“Similarly, I don’t think Kaepernick has to find a smoking gun. I think he has to be able to show inferences and circumstantial evidence, which would indicate that he’s being penalized for his free expression. And again, I think the fact that Reid doesn’t have any offers is going to be helpful. I think it could be quite helpful to him.”

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From Ken Griffey Jr. to the Braves’ Ronald Acuña — is Major League Baseball still not feeling hats to the back? The long battle cry of the backward ballcap

The baseball cap seems innocuous enough. A brimmed hat emblazoned with a team logo for players to wear while on the field for protection from the sun. Simple. But over the past couple of decades, the baseball cap has become a lightning rod. Depending on the direction it is turned, or who wears it, the cap is a stand-in for the sport’s racially contentious past … and present. From legends such as Ken Griffey Jr. to newcomers such as Ronald Acuña, the baseball cap has been as divisive as a Subway Series.

When is a hat not a hat?

Ronald Acuña (center) of the Atlanta Braves in action during the spring training game between the Atlanta Braves and the Toronto Blue Jays at Champion Stadium on March 13 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.

B51/Mark Brown/Getty Images

Acuña walked into an Atlanta Braves training camp interview on Feb. 15 and left having been asked to make a sartorial change.

The Venezuelan outfielder signed with the Braves in 2014 and honed his skills with various minor league teams, getting ready for the big leagues. He’s dominated, garnering comparisons to Ken Griffey Jr. for his play, and his swagger. The buzz around him, and superior performance has led him to be named the top baseball prospect entering the 2018 season and has allowed him the leverage to turn down the Braves’ $30 million offer in the offseason. The Braves and the city of Atlanta are head over heels for Acuña and the possibility of what he can bring to the franchise when he gets called up from the Gwinnett Stripers minor league squad at some point this season.

But first, there was that training camp interview.

Braves manager Brian Snitker called Acuña in to address his cap. Acuña had been wearing his hat tilted to the side, and a little bit off of his head because his thick locs were making it impossible for the cap to fit perfectly. The style balked at tradition.

Tradition. Major League baseball celebrates Jackie Robinson day, Latin American athletes, and has launched a diversity pipeline initiative to create more executive positions for people of color, but Major League Baseball and its fans seemingly long for the years of Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Ty Cobb. When ESPN ranked the top 100 MLB players of all time in 2015, six of the top 10 players had played before integration. CBS’s 2016 list of its top 10 players also features six players from a segregated league. So when baseball fans talk about traditions or years past, they are talking about a time that excluded black athletes. And that’s not the only hard pill to swallow.

They only saw a black man with his hat backward and all of the negative connotations that come with it — disrespect, nonchalance. Code words.

Other baseball traditions and taboos are alienating to black and Latino fans. Players are supposed to respectfully trot around the diamond after home runs, sans backflips or excessive celebrations. The same self-expression in the form of chest-pounding, trash talk and playing to the crowd that has made the NBA hip — and black — isn’t allowed in baseball. Celebratory dances are frowned upon, part of a culture of unwritten rules with a simple message: Fall in line.

For example, in 2013, Yasiel Puig was pulled to the side by opposing Mets players for rubbing their noses in his home run trot. His offense? Taking 32 seconds to round the bases. All of this is code for following traditions set in stone before black and white and Latino athletes played in the same pro league(s), and when fans were segregated in the stands. And part of those baseball customs is making sure players wear their hats straight.

“It’s the look,” Snitker told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on March 2. “You do respect the game and the organization and the team on the front of it [the hat]. I tell these guys, we don’t do things like everybody else. There’s a lot of Hall of Famers who spent a lot of time in this organization. We wear batting practice jerseys, and people don’t put glasses on over the ‘A,’ things like that, out of respect for the Hall of Famers that put a lot into this organization, and all those flags that are hanging.”

With all due respect, Snitker’s point is not only silly but it’s another reminder that baseball is about its archaic traditions —the Braves organization was founded in 1871, for reference — more than its players, and what those players represent. Acuña, by all indication, is a transformative talent who can turn the Braves’ future around — the franchise hasn’t made the playoffs or had a winning season since 2013 and hasn’t won a postseason series since 2001. The organization is concerned about how he wears his hat, even as plenty of white Braves players have worn their hats backward, to the side and every other way besides straight.

The Acuña hat issue isn’t a new thing. It’s been around, most famously since the ’90s, when the aforementioned Ken Griffey Jr. was a young, swaggy outfielder who seemed poised to take over baseball. But his appearance — backward hats and untucked jerseys — flouted baseball tradition, and one of the biggest defenders of old customs was then-Yankees and current Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter.

“I shouldn’t say this publicly,” Showalter told the New York Times Magazine in 1994. “But a guy like Ken Griffey Jr., the game’s boring to him. He comes on the field, and his hat’s on backward, and his shirttail’s hanging out.” Showalter added Barry Bonds to his list of transgressors for having his shirttail untucked at the All-Star game. “To me, that’s a lack of respect for the game.” Respect. Tradition. Coded language.

What people who share Showalter’s views didn’t understand or don’t want to understand is that Griffey, who only actually wore his hat backward for batting practice, wore his hats backward as a tribute to his father, Ken Griffey Sr. When Griffey Jr. wore his dad’s hats, they were too big, so his turned them backward so they’d fit. Then he just kept doing it, into his pro career. There isn’t a bigger sign of respect for tradition than honoring a father who also used to play in the very same MLB that wanted to maintain said customs. But the controversy wasn’t about why Griffey wore his hat backward. Nobody seemed to care. They only saw a black man with his hat backward and all of the negative connotations that come with it — disrespect, nonchalance. Code words.

Griffey wasn’t afraid to hit back at his detractors. “Why should I care about a person from an opposing team?” Griffey said to the Seattle Times a week after Showalter’s quotes surfaced. “I don’t take the game seriously? Why, I do believe [Showalter] was coaching third for the All-Star team when I won the [1992] MVP.”

The criticism obviously stuck with Griffey, so he poked at the MLB one last time. When he received his Hall of Fame hat in 2016 during his acceptance speech, the first thing he did was turn it backward. One more reminder that he did it his way.

So what does this all mean for baseball as a whole? It’s about cultural irrelevance. Baseball’s reliance on homogenized traditions is its own Trojan horse, infiltrating the sport’s psyche and destroying it from the inside. Holding on to archaic practices that erase unique expressions uphold whiteness but close the sport off to audiences from diverse backgrounds. And for black fans, it’s demoralizing to see people who look like us, and express themselves like we do get constantly reprimanded for representing our cultural tics on a national stage. It’s a major reason black audiences are flocking to the NBA and the MLB has as few black players as ever.

Here’s a legendary story about Satchel Paige. During a semi-pro game, before his Negro League debut, Paige’s team was up 1-0 in the ninth inning. His outfielders made three straight errors to load the bases. Paige, fed up with his team and determined to show off his skill, walked around the bases and outfield, demanding that his teammates sit down in the infield. Then the legendary pitcher struck out the next three batters to end the game.

It’s a story that has become part of baseball lore for its brashness, showmanship and drama. And it’s the same type of story that would get someone like Paige punished for his bravado if it happened in 2018. However, that story is part of baseball tradition. It’s a part of black tradition. And baseball needs to embrace these traditions — alternative hat placements and all — or else become a cultural relic instead of regaining its place as America’s pastime.


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