Category: Sports

‘Stay Close’: PBS Film Highlights Olympian Keeth Smart’s Rare Success as Black Man in Sport of Fencing

Keeth Smart (photo via Twitter.com)

Keeth Smart became the first American to reach No. 1 in the world in saber fencing and later won a silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. That he was black made it all the more compelling.

In 19 minutes, the sum of Smart’s life plays out in “Stay Close,” an inspiring short documentary that debuted last night on PBS and speaks to one man’s uncompromising desire to achieve in the face of hardship.

Using a combination of black and white animation, raw family footage and interviews, “Stay Close” illuminates Smart’s ascension from a West Indies community in Brooklyn to the apex of a sport blacks rarely compete in: fencing.

NFL Star Khalil Mack Pays Off $80K in Walmart Layaways in his Florida Hometown

NFL Star Khalil Mack (photo via commons.wikipedia.org)

NFL star Khalil Mack delivered holiday cheer for several customers at a Walmart in his Florida hometown over the weekend, according to KNX NewsRadio. The Chicago Bears linebacker reportedly paid off $80,000 worth of layaway accounts, leaving many families with less to worry about.

To quote the article:

The four-time Pro-Bowler took care of the debts at a Walmart in Fort Pierce through the Khalil Mack Foundation, which focuses on impacting lives of “inter-city and under-privileged youth and families.” The store announced the donation in a Facebook post and thanked him for the act of kindness.

“We have some wonderful News! If you have an active Holiday Layaway account at your local Ft. Pierce Wal-Mart, you account has been paid off!” the Walmart wrote. “We here at Walmart would like to thank the Khalil Mack Foundation for your generosity, and for making so many families happy for the holidays!”

Mack covered more than 300 accounts, which cost about $80,000 total, according to the Chicago Tribune. “His foundation came to us and said he wanted to be a secret Santa,” store manager Mathias Libardi told TCPalm.com.

Mack is known for giving back to his hometown. In June, he donated 100 pairs of cleats to the Fort Pierce Westwood football team.

To read more: https://knx1070.radio.com/articles/cbs-news/nfl-star-pays-off-walmart-layaways-in-his-hometown

Kenyan Runner Eliud Kipchoge Breaks 2-Hour Marathon Mark in Austria

Eliud Kipchoge wins INEOS 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria (image via twitter.com)

According to bbc.com, elite Kenyan runner Eliud Kipchoge, 34, has become the first athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, beating the mark by 20 seconds.

Kipchoge covered the 26.2 miles in one hour 59 minutes 40 seconds in the Ineos 1:59 Challenge in Vienna, Austria on Saturday.

This feat will not be recognized officially as the marathon world record because it was not in open competition and he used a team of rotating pacemakers.

“This shows no-one is limited,” said Kipchoge. “Now I’ve done it, I am expecting more people to do it after me.”

To read more: https://www.bbc.com/sport/athletics/50025543

Vanderbilt University Honors Trailblazing Student-Athlete Perry Wallace by Renaming a Street in His Honor

Perry Wallace (photo via vanderbilt.edu)

According to jbhe.comVanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee announced that part of 25th Avenue South in front of its Memorial Gymnasium will be ceremonially renamed “Perry Wallace Way” in memory of the trailblazing Vanderbilt student-athlete who integrated Southeastern Conference varsity basketball in 1967.

On December 2, 1967, Wallace made history when he played for Vanderbilt University in a game with Southern Methodist University. Two days later, he played in a game against Southeastern Conference rival, Auburn University. Wallace endured verbal abuse from fans and had objects thrown at him from the stands.

His story is told in Andrew Maraniss’ best-selling book Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South (Vanderbilt University Press, 2014).

After graduating from Vanderbilt University and Columbia Law School, Wallace served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Later, Wallace entered the academic world and served on the faculty of the law schools at Howard University, the University of Baltimore, and American University.

NBA Legend Michael Jordan Donates $1 million to Hurricane Relief in the Bahamas

Michael Jordan (photo via commons.wikipedia.com)

NBA Legend and former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan announced on Tuesday he will donate $1 million to relief efforts in the Bahamas in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, CBS News reported.

“I am devastated to see the destruction that Hurricane Dorian has brought to the Bahamas, where I own property and visit frequently,” Jordan said in a statement, shared on Twitter by his spokeswoman and manager, Estee Portnoy.  “My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering and those who have lost loved ones.”

To read more: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/michael-jordan-donates-1-million-to-hurricane-dorian-relief-in-the-bahamas-after-storm/

WNBA Legend Lisa Leslie to Be Honored with Statue Outside Staples Center in Los Angeles

 

WNBA great Lisa Leslie (photo via flickr.com)

WNBA superstar and Olympic gold medalist Lisa Leslie will be the first female athlete honored with a statue outside of Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Arash Markazi reported the news, writing that the Los Angeles Sparks and Anschutz Entertainment Group still have to iron out the specific date but agreed Leslie will be the 11th statue outside of the famed sports and entertainment arena. Leslie’s statue will also be the first of a WNBA player outside of a team’s home arena.

According to bleacherreport.com, Leslie went to the Sparks in the WNBA’s inaugural draft in 1997 and played her entire career with the team through 2009. During her professional basketball career, Leslie won three league MVPs, two championships, four Olympic gold medals and three All-Star Game MVPs .

Leslie, who was the first WNBA player to dunk in a game, was also named to eight All-Star teams and 12 All-WNBA teams, including eight first-team selections. In addition to her WNBA achievements, she once scored 101 points in a half during a game for Morningside High in Inglewood, and was named first-team all-conference in each of her four seasons at USC.

Leslie will now be forever memorialized alongside statues of Los Angeles legends such as Magic Johnson, Shaquille O’Neal and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Inaugural HBCU World Series Starts May 24th, Aims to Diversify College Baseball

According to Yahoo! Sports, the first of what organizations intend to be an annual event will feature the North Carolina A&T Aggies and Southern Jaguars at the Chicago White Sox Guaranteed Rate Field. It will join The Andre Dawson Classic as ways to promote HBCU schools, which are slowly watching their baseball programs fold.

Erwin Prentiss Hill, CEO of Black College Sports Group 360 (BCSG), told HBCU Sports he wants the event to “promote education opportunities to urban youth” who may not know of the schools or how to navigate the college admissions process.

 From HBCU Sports:

“Greatness comes from historically black colleges and universities. The bottom line is to get more urban youth back to our HBCU’s, so that talented young men and women can add to the legacy of our outstanding predominantly black universities.”

Baseball’s decline in lower-income communities

The cost of playing sports can add up quickly for families. It’s especially difficult to have to pay for a glove, cleats, bats and even uniform costs, now that there are fewer programs supported through park or school programs.

Participating on a travel team is even costlier and can require more shuttling around from parents, who might already be working multiple jobs to get by. Little League is so high-stakes it’s must-see TV in August.

Billy Witz covered the lack of African-American players on HBCU rosters Monday for the New York Times and noted the decline of baseball through the eyes of Bethune-Cookman athletic director Lynn Thompson. Thompson said places where he played sandlot ball in the 1960s were paved over for basketball courts and parking lots.

Recently, however, the percentage of black players on Major League Baseball‘s opening-day rosters in 2018 was the highest in six years at 8.4 percent. Between 2012 and 2017, 20 percent of first-round draft picks were African-American. Those numbers are in part due to MLB’s focus on its Urban Youth Academies that started in Compton, California, in 2006 and its Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program, launched in 1989.

“It’s been a huge investment for us,” Renee Tirado, MLB’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, said last spring. “Obviously growing the game amongst our players is a priority, so that uptick has definitely been from a concerted effort.”

Perhaps a focus on HBCU baseball will bring those numbers even higher in the coming years.

To read more: https://theshadowleague.com/ncat-southern-inaugural-hbcu-world-series/

EDUCATION: LeBron James “I Promise” School Showing Early Signs of Success

This week, reporter Erica L. Green wrote an encouraging feature in the New York Times about the “I Promise” public school NBA superstar LeBron James opened last year through the LeBron James Family Foundation in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.  To quote the article:

“This time last year, the students at the school — Mr. James’s biggest foray into educational philanthropy — were identified as the worst performers in the Akron public schools and branded with behavioral problems. Some as young as 8 were considered at risk of not graduating. Now, they are helping close the achievement gap in Akron.

The academic results are early, and at 240, the sample size of students is small, but the inaugural classes of third and fourth graders at I Promise posted extraordinary results in their first set of district assessments. Ninety percent met or exceeded individual growth goals in reading and math, outpacing their peers across the district.”

To read more about the school, its current impact and see photos from it, click here.

Steph & Ayesha Curry Launch STEM Scholarship Program for Girls

Steph Curry (Photo via TechCrunch Disrupt in SF 2016)

Ayesha and Steph Curry announced the launch of a STEM scholarship program for young women from San Francisco’s Bay Area.

— Read on www.ebony.com/news/steph-ayesha-curry-launch-stem-scholarship-program-girls/

Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Manuel Helps to Provide Free Swim Lessons for Every Student at LeBron James’ I Promise School

GBN just learned from becauseofthemwecan.com about Olympic Gold Medalist Swimmer Simone Manuel‘s recent visit to LeBron James‘ “I Promise” school in Akron, OH.

We are happy to report that as an ambassador for the USA Swimming Foundation, Manuel did not just talk the talk, but plans to swim the swim! She is helping provide free swim lessons to every student at I Promise during a week-long camp in June of this year.

To read more details, go to swimswam.com.