Unapologetic

In 1995 I watched a TV ad that was as cool as anything I had possibly ever seen. Channel 4 and BBC 2 were sharing rights to provide highlights of NBA action and as a fan I loved seeing the upcoming stars listed in the Nike Ad. Krs1 provided the voice and the link to a supposed Basketball revolution styled on Gil Scott Heron’s classic. The advert was projected as the future of Basketball. Brought to you by Nike and the tag line – Just Do It.

End of Just Do it Advert

Winning smiles Colin Kaepernick

Daring

Colin Kaepernick was the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, who dared to kneel during the National Anthem to protest against the many people killed at the hands of law enforcement across America in recent years. His protest courted controversy and the possibility of his never playing for an NFL team again. He continued to kneel and inspired many others to join his respectful protest. Kaepernick’s actions courted comment from POTUS and many others, stating that Colin’s not signing with another team may have little to do with the protest and more to do with his waning skills as a quarterback.

Do It

Nike’s recent and controversial video marking 30 years of it’s ‘Just Do It’ campaign, is moving on a number of levels for me. In the first instance, the simple piano piece and then the commentary noting feats of overcoming adversity and daring against great odds and triumphing – Just Doing It are eyeopening to witness. From the misfortunes of the skateboarders, we cut to a surfer – then a wrestler – a boxer – runner – football player/homecoming queen – iron man finalist – soccer player – basketball icon – and tennis legend. The request is to be not just good, but dare to be exceptionally outstanding.

Endurance

The second aspect to the 2 minute advert that has me moved, are some of the words Colin shares. Insights to ideas of a legacy he has set in motion. Nike, one of the largest global sports manufacturers has endorsed, possibly playing the long game.

American Dream

Backing a be felled star. Supporting a man’s vision to realign the promise America holds as it’s dream. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I feel that Colin is the one who has set in motion an unstoppable wave.

As fast as Bolt

Jesse Owens Dignity in Motion

Pairs

That of living your truth without compromise. It is both daring and congruent. Scorn, ridicule, not being signed have followed in the wake of his protest and still Colin continues to support his idea of what is right. It speaks of strength, resilience and of an indelible message. Much like Nike’s ‘Just Do It’, I can see how the pairing came to be.

Star

“Believe in something even if it means sacrificing everything.” Colin has stood by his convictions and as a result has been locked out of playing for an NFL team. He believed that he as a sports star could make his feelings known about the spate of unlawful killings that have happened far too often in recent years. Captivating the media and awareni of social commentators and members from black and minority groups around the world.

Seeing Red

Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castille, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant III, Janelle Monae’s Hell You Talm Bout is a song accounting the number of women children and men that have been killed by law enforcement. The song expresses the feeling of injustice in a clear and profound way.

Equality

Colin knelt to protest the injustice of those slain and their killers not brought to justice for their wrong doing. Protests and movements including Black Lives Matter have given voice to the many that feel that America has not lived up to it’s promise of equality and justice for all. America appears to justify killing those marginalised and held accountable for essentially being classed as wrong and for surviving simply.

Reality

The injustice, the silencing, the bigotry, the racial profiling, the implicit and explicit racial biases, the misdirecting of public insecurities by media outlets, the fanning of inferiority complex flames that I believe Colin was quietly protesting, were being dragged from the shadows into uncomfortable light. His aim – to draw America’s attention to what has been affecting members of it’s citizens in lethal ways.

Wrong, wrong wrong

The demand that those who watched the games he played, and those of his teammates and colleagues across the league could see that by respectfully protesting – something was horribly wrong. The protest though humble, was as loud as thunder and the world heard and payed attention. Colin standing for something risked losing everything.

Ignored

“Don’t ask if your dreams are crazy ask if they are crazy enough.” He asks at the end of the advert. When a person has been discounted, knocked down, possessions stolen, aspects of their identity misrepresented and misprinted as truths, when their voices are ignored, their walks, sit ins, runs, dunks, punches, hits, throws, dances tweets and music appropriated repackaged and resold as another’s triumph story. Viewing the world from the position as low as a pavement, and being held there, stating to anyone who listened ‘I can’t breathe’, dreams then are all that are left. Martin Luther King Jnr had a dream. For Colin taking a knee was his stand, his ‘I Have Had Enough’.

Visceral

Prior to the protest and the NFL Black Out of 2017 I knew little of Colin Kaepernick. My disappointment at his treatment by owners and sponsors of NFL teams grew as I witnessed a man quietly make a point against a problem his country faces. The protest was to kneel during the National Anthem played at the beginning of all games. He did not burn a flag, he also did not curse, taunt or abuse others that stood for the anthem. Visually the image is even more notable as most players stand.

Embracing discomfort

Colin knelt because, as a football player, he felt moved by people being killed by law enforcement across his country. So moved, he had to show something to those that watched televised football games. Feeling that the country should know and be moved too by the intolerable slayings. Colin did little to exonerate himself from those who hurled insults and barbs about his reasons for kneeling. They claimed that he was insulting the flag and the National Anthem.

Game Changer Serena

The Legend that is…

Unpatriotic.

Un-American. He was pouring scorn on those who had given up their lives in foreign lands defending and protecting their country. He knelt paying not only respect to the flag but also protesting against what he saw as injustice. A deft quarterback move. Feigning a pass to rush those yards to get a 1st down. What appears unsurprising is the split his kneeling has caused. The act is a difficult one to fathom for those who may find critical thought, critical analysis and aspects of philosophy a challenge. A football player protesting about an unjust system of justice is beyond red and green, blue and orange, purple and yellow thinking.

Black Power Salute

Winning Gold and Bronze Politics in Sport

One or the other

The proposition is not binary. The invitation is a request to see Colin’s act through a lens of plurality. Holding us all in the midst of it’s story – trying to figure it out. A world past Post Modernism, 18 years into the Information Age, of Alt truth, Alt Right. Play football and inspire us as a quarterback Colin, but ignore the plight of those named and the others unnamed. The many whose lives could have resembled Kaepernick’s and his – theirs. The splitting of consciousness, of opinion of right and wrong, of good versus bad and poor appears like a schism; a form of un-diagnosed mental illness, festering and leading to a paranoid schizoid position that is fanned by unchecked fear and misdirected internalised self-esteem issues.

Step forward

When America requires a sports phenomena to politically fight against a global threat as was the case with Jesse Owens in the 1936 Olympics – acceptable. Jesse’s treatment by America post his 4 Olympic Gold medal winning haul was beyond shameful, unacceptable, disrespectful. When Tommie Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympics stood and raised their fists in a salute that sent a message around the world. The two men were reviled for their act. Their lives were negatively affected for standing up for an ideal – equality and justice for all. With the case of Tommie and John the Black Panther Party supporters, their political fight was seen as unwanted and apparently tarnished the reputation of athletics, the Olympics and the United States.

40 Million Dollar

The book by William Rhoden ‘40 Million Dollar Slaves’ that I was invited to read by Q, D amd Ruze from Broad Waters Podcast appears to have caught a few in the public stratosphere of sports super celebrity’s attention. In the book Mr Rhoden charts the experience of African Americans in sports events as diverse as Horse Racing, Boxing, Baseball, Football and Basketball.

40 Million Dollar

No Exemption

Plethora of sport

In Rhoden’s book all sports are portrayed through a lens of retrospective curiosity and invites reflection of recent sports stars actions, endorsements and silence in relation to social justice. Mr Rhoden appeared to be tilling the soil for new sports stars – conscious and willing to engage in a higher moral purpose other than filling bank accounts and surfing the waves of popularity. Mr Rhoden appeared to be calling on those who had made it, to right the overturned table preventing equality, social justice and social responsibility for black and minority peoples across America. Rhoden’s call may have been answered.

Stars Shining

Lebron James Foundation

Dwayne Wade’s Foundation

Alonzo Mourning Foundation

Dikembi Mutumbo

Tim Duncan Foundation

Serena Williams Fund

 

Furtherance

Code Switch 30th May 2018 A thousand Ways To Kneel and Kiss the Ground

Fighting Talk 8th of September 2018

Kevin Durant discusses race

Broad Waters Podcast Politics in Sport

Bravery

Humble yet defiant

Taking a Knee Colin Kaepernick

Colin Kaepernick should have a new contract playing for an NFL team if he so chose I feel. He had a number of years left to play. The impact of his protest has unveiled a new law by the NFL banning any player kneeling through the playing of the National Anthem. I believe that Nike have the right person for the ideal of Just Do It. Colin Kaepernick has and is continuing to… Inspire, Educate, Support, Seek Justice and look beyond self..

Lastly: Colin Kaepernick discusses his protest and the cause he supports in this video. A synopsis of all that is written above.

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When Coaching gets it Wrong

My first introduction to American football happened as a result of Grid Iron on Ch4. I was already an enthusiast of Basketball and Football became a new sport to invest time with and learn about. I enjoyed the UK based commentators attempt to over explain the rules and various decisions that occurred throughout the game. This was in the late 80’s.

Choice

Due to Colin Kaeparnick’s non signing with a team last season I chose not to watch any NFL games. I am vaguely aware of the winners of last season’s Super Bowl but am not as up to date with trades and new signings for this season. Netflix and Amazon have been my go to’s.

Offering my NFL starved eyes initially Friday Night Lights – then Last Chance U, All or Nothing, Undefeated, Coach Snoop and QB1. Marching Orders has been a late addition to my TV watching that I have been fascinated by. The show has little to do with football as they perform for themselves and in competition with other bands. Each Last Chance U features a marching band intro and I have been impressed with their discipline and timing.

Defining synchronicity and Timing and Discipline

Netflix show Marching Orders

Losing It

In my experience great leadership can lead teams to phenomenal successes and some devastating defeats. As a former Basketball Coach I recognise the want for excellence from all, all of the time. The reality is that excellence and perfection are not always possible, no matter how much it is wanted, worked for or at times wished for. A number of years ago I had a moment at a London Youth Games tournament when for 30 seconds I lost it with my basketball team. I lost sight of what we had come to do, play well, play for enjoyment and play as a team. The Hurricanes had worked so very hard to get to the games and the 1st game had been a great example of what I enjoyed about coaching. The first game was a narrow defeat but they had gained learning from the experience and looked to have fun throughout the game. I had felt that they were ready to take on any other team and play well.

A meme that inspires

Friday Night Lights Coach Taylor’s advice.

1st Quarter Defeat

The second game out they were losing to another team within the first few minutes of the 1st quarter by 15 – 2. Stunned, appalled and amazed at the swiftness the other team from Westminster were dispatching us with, I called a time out. I wanted to rally my team and interrupt the flow of the game. In the time out my words were incendiary and raw coming from a place of hurt, anguish, disappointment and guilt. My ire was intolerable and according to the team lifted the roof on Crystal Palace’s main hall and painted it an array of colours. My several words of profanity put me in reach of Last Chance U’s Buddy Guy and Jason Brown coaches.

Story Book

The need to perform well and win against insurmountable odds must be a chip that gets inserted into a coaches sub consciousness at some point during their lives. The Hurricanes had trained well. The drills we had covered over the months leading up to the London Youth Games I and my co coach believed would provide them with chances to play well, be versatile, flexible on offence and decisive on defence. The pain of disappointment came as I realised that for some this was to be their last youth games. That their Basketball playing potential was not going to be realised that day, or any other where I were to coach them. The reminder of the story book ending slipped out of sight that afternoon. But life as always continues.

Last Chance Who?

Last Chance University Season 3

2 Shows and Out

Season 3 of Last chance U has underwhelmed me. I enjoyed the first season, it offered a behind the scenes look at another coaches habits and team building capability. The Editing of the  episodes watched may have miss represented Coach Brown’s input with this season’s show.

In season 2, Buddy’s past crept in and derailed his attempts at claiming inter state championship victory. A punishing disappointment that he seemed unable to let influence his decisions and mood. Coach Brown in season 3 appears to have not read the coaches charter. I find it difficult to watch his players be screamed at repeatedly with no information to guide their overall improvement. The coaching staff do not get off lightly either as they are viciously hurled abuse at. My mental health antennae have turned to on and I am starting to see Coach Brown’s ire as unsavoury and dehumanising.  I had not foreseen that such poor management, poor leadership and an unstable personality type could rip a team apart as resolutely as Coach Brown’s had.

The Islander

I am dismayed at the latest instalment of Last Chance U, yes it was never supposed to be as neat and as sewn up as Friday Night Lights, however I held out for something redeemable. A quality to the calibre of Coach Brown that young men were willing to put their hearts minds and bodies on the line for. Initially the spark and committment and energy was there but as pressure mounted Coach Brown started to retreat into a concentric circle pattern that had him be isolated, unlikeable and lacking connectivity. Good leadership drives hard, has unrelenting standards, knows how far to push and be pushed and then offer to those who they work with all the accolades and praise when they achieve what they are due. Marching Orders band director Donovan Wells is a great example of a person who is willing to have vision and inspire others to achieve it and not lose the respect of those he is working with. Once the likeability and the ‘I will run through that wall for you coach’ is gone, the team is lost and the game is over before it even began.

The leader of the field team

Quarter Back #1

Leadership

To lead one should be willing to listen to all voices especially those that dissent. An element in disagreement  may perhaps with revision could support attainment of goals desired. I feel that a good leader, coach, counsellor, mentor, should be willing to be led. Leaders cannot know all, do all or be all. At times it would be best to sit still, listen and learn.

Some Losses

The Hurricane members that I am still in contact with have forgiven my ire and curse words of that then. I am thankful of their resilience and patience with me. It has become a “remember when Coach Mike…”

Laughing plays an important part in dislodging, dissolving and supporting growth. I saw little laughter in last Chance U season 3, unless at the expense of Coach Brown. I am happy that I didn’t permanently damage the Coach player relationship with my team. I lost my temper and not the team.

Some losses are too great…

Oscar Grant III – Marcus Isaiah – Viktor Frankl

FRUITVALE

MICHAEL B. JORDAN stars in FRUITVALE

Recently I watched Fruitvale Station the movie (June 24th 2016). A few of my friends Gromyko Dumuje and Thomas Keenan mentioned the story a few years ago, and how it invited them to feel, sad, angry, disappointed and frustrated. I had held back on watching the movie because I was not looking forward to experiencing some of the identified feelings myself.

In short, I was surprised that I was swept away by how I felt in relation to how Michael B. Jordan’s portrayal of a young man who was attempting to turn his life around and how his efforts were ultimately halted. I came across Michael B Jordan in the film: Chronicle and was spell bound by his relaxed affable nature in the movie. The next notable appearance of Jordan for me was in season four of Friday Night Lights. I am to write a piece on the effect that Friday Night Lights had on me. B. Jordan’s acting was notable as Vince the quarter-back. His human struggle were immediately identifiable and I applauded his successes and bemoaned his disappointments and failures.

I had not realised that he also was a character in The Wire called Wallace. There is much I had forgotten about the Wire apart from Season 4. The story of the group of young men whose lives all went in various surprising directions. The Wire was the ultimate experience of creating a TV script that leapt out from the screen and stole hearts. Season four of the Wire was the first time I came across the term Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Which could be a pre experience of personality disorder in teens. Treme was the next TV show that held me in it’s rhythmical and complex sway. Friday Night Lights (FNL) has been the latest story to fully captivate me. The story telling and character portrayal are movie calibre in quality, complexity and delivery.

Oscar – Marcus

Getting back to Fruitvale and what touched me about the story, was me recognising the similarity of Oscar Grant’s story and a young man I worked with in a London Prison. Marcus Isaiah (Not the man’s real name) was a 25 year old black male who grew up in London but was from another city in England.

Marcus Isaiah

Marcus was a footballer and enjoyed playing football (Soccer). At the age of 12/13 he was scouted by a large London football club and placed on their player pathway to access good coaching, regular football games, nutrition advice, support with homework and possible pathways to playing with a premiership team.

I met Marcus in my 2nd year at the London Prison I volunteered at 2011-2012. At the assessment meeting Marcus stated that he did not want any psychological help and that he was fine as things were. He had recently been in a fight with another male who had since been moved to another house-block. He was shaken, and visibly stirred by the event. Marcus appeared to be trying to adjust to life in the prison, and also to the fact he had been in a physical altercation with another and that his life at our point of meeting appeared bleak. I agreed to not ‘therapize’ Marcus and check in on him within a week.

Pausing to reset

The decision to pause support and give chance for Marcus to re-evaluate if the support was needed was useful. When I returned and checked in with Marcus, he appeared a little more settled and ready to begin in some therapeutic engagement. He expressed that he was feeling stressed and that talking with someone about it, he may find useful. It is possible that being non-committal offers possible clients engaging in therapy, an out if the therapy does not resolve the identified concerns. They then can say that therapy didn’t work and will not allow themselves to be too disappointed with the end result. We agreed to meet for 6 weeks with the possibility of review and extension if necessary of more sessions.

The lull of the street

Marcus described how he had been taken into custody and of elements of his past. He talked about his footballing career. At the age of 15 being a difficult time to negotiate the draw of the street or playing football. The tension to maintain both due to relationships away from the football pitch Marcus found impossible.

Invitations to chill with friends and associates, and be into what they were into, he acquiesced to. He shared during a therapy meeting that a choice to follow friends ultimately was his largest mistake. He started not attending football practice, talking back to his coaches when he did attend, and his football playing suffering as a result. The people he was around were into moving drugs and also smoking weed. Marcus had also started to use and found that football was less appealing than being around friends and associates and making fast and easy money. Football appeared to be the longer route to gaining the success he felt owed to him.

Background to Marcus

Marcus grew up in a single parent household. He lived with his sister and a parent. The pressures of living in London and witnessing how hard his parent was working to make a hard life liveable appeared to make his decision to make money quickly more appealing than staying in school and attending to his football career. Marcus had a number of negative experiences with Police which could have been viewed as a wake-up call which he was unwilling to answer. The excitement of one game appeared to have been replaced by the thrill and risk in another.

Choice

Similarly to Oscar (Fruitvale) who appeared to have come to a realisation on his own and had tried to turn the corner on his past. Marcus was aware that the former life he had lead was over. Marcus talked about how he would like to be when he was released. He thought about the people he had been spending time with in the last few years. Not one of these friends/associates had visited him in prison. Moving cannabis and weed and getting paid, Marcus now thought was not worth the risk for himself and for those he was connected to including his parent and his sister.

Self Iso’

During our 3rd meeting Marcus described in a poignant and charged way that he had stopped his girlfriend from coming to see him. He was not sending out any more VOs (Visiting Orders) making it almost impossible for her to schedule a visit. His intention was to end their relationship and sit out the time he had left in prison by himself. His parent and sister were also vetoed from attending the prison.

Marcus appeared to be self-isolating in order to minimise the impact of not being able to live with those he cared about. I have witnessed this act a number of times and the consequences of self isolation were short lived and did not deliver the desired effect of stopping the anxiety and reducing the sense of stress in relation to thinking about those who remain in the community.

The Charge

We discussed the reality of what he was facing and what this may mean for the people in his life. Marcus was being held on suspicion of carrying a firearm with intent, possession of illegal substances with intent to supply and driving offences. If found guilty Marcus was facing 2-6 years of life in prison. Marcus maintained his innocence and shared the story of how he was caught by the Police. The arrest sounded painful, provoking of a fear response and highly embarrassing.

The officers who arrested Marcus believed him to be carrying a firearm and were armed themselves. After a chase through the streets of a Southwark neighbourhood, Marcus was dragged over a wall, pinned to the ground, his arm was brought up behind him whilst the arresting officer knelt his full weight on Marcus’ shoulder. Months after the arrest, his shoulder back and arm were still causing him much pain. Studies have shown that extensive periods of pain management lower a person’s mood and can increase their likelihood of developing mental illnesses like depression.

Marcus’ Identity

In Marcus’ case his low mood after being arrested and hurt at the scene of the arrest, detained and entering custody, facing the possibility of years of incarceration was escalating a number of negative associations for him. By Marcus removing people from his life, he was attempting to jettison the feeling aspect of himself. Wrapped up with what Marcus felt needed to be held away from him, was a felt sense of who he was. We could call it Marcus’ Identity: The who he really is. By denying those he cared about access to him and he to them, Marcus could be seen to be arresting his emotional development. By engaging in therapy there was a chance that the attempt to move into a primal state of being could be averted.

Oscar’s frustration (Fruitvale) was witnessed three times during the movie.

  1. The prison scene: where the other prisoner expressed anger after a space infringement was unknowingly crossed. Oscar feeling violated on his turf by a known aggressor in a place he did not want to be in. His mom being present to witness him be verbally abused she also being verbally assaulted. Oscar attempted to stand up for himself in the only way he knew how. Shouting and looking to stop the words from causing further harm. Oscar tried to get at the other prisoner. This act cost him the visit. As he was physically restrained and his mom walked out on him. Adding further hurt to the harm caused by his own actions – Abandonment.
  2. When back in the community Oscar attends his former work place and asks his manager to give him back his job after he had been fired. This scene is coupled with Oscar showing a customer his ability to help another by giving her his grandmother’s recipe for fried fish. A selfless act of reciprocity.
  3. The fatal scene on the train ride home after the New Years celebration where the guy from the prison is also on the train. It get’s ugly quick. However no guns are pulled at this point. Permanent Exit.

Complex – simple

Those who are incarcerated attempt to split themselves into smaller more manageable versions of themselves. Marcus was on his way to achieving a simpler version of himself that would be able to manage the prison system and all that it threw at him. Meeting me gave him a chance to check through this self diminishing plan again.

Oscar and Marcus shared a number of similarities. They were both brilliant young black men. Who had ideas of what living well meant to them in the contexts of their young urban lives. They both attempted to provide for themselves and their loved ones, by the means they found available at their disposal.

Both Oscar and Marcus held views of themselves and of the world around them that included breaking laws and being aggressive. Their reasoning could be as a result of the experiences they had whilst growing up. Both men came from single parent homes, poverty appeared prevalent for both males. Opportunities to move beyond the circumstances of their families appeared to have been derailed either by themselves or by circumstance. On some level I could perceive that both Oscar and Marcus had been beaten by an unforgiving system that was intent on further stripping both men of their dignity and self-respect. This being the case they made choices that affected their civil liberty, their lives and the lives of others.

Recognising the gap in the wall

The point of change for Marcus arose as we entered the 4th meeting and he asked if there could be any meaning to his life. ‘Like what is my life about now? More of this shit? I’ve had it with prison and with being in here.’ He asked if there was another way it could have been or could be as he could not see it. I asked if he read, and then told him about Viktor Frankl the Viennese Psychiatrist, Philosopher, Psychotherapist who survived concentration camps in Nazi Germany. Marcus seemed genuinely shocked and intrigued by the story of Logotherapy and Frankl’s ability to rise from a very dark moment in history. I believe that what hooked Marcus was hearing a story as bleak as his and identifying himself with an internal revolution. I told him about what I remembered from the book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ and wondered if he would like to read it?

I doubt that I have ever been more surprised or pleased to share a book! I read the book with a general interest as to how a man who nearly died in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia could at the end of the war return to his native Vienna in Austria and accept that people he knew may have turned him and other Jewish people over to the German authorities to perhaps die. His wife, mother father and unborn child all died at the hands of the Nazis.

Logotherapy

When I read ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ in 1997 the concept of acceptance was a distant thought, compassion even more remote. On passing the book forward to Marcus I was gaining ground on acceptance and compassion as a concept was also being closely followed. The book was a catalyst for me in seeking change and for providing me with answers to an age old ache ‘Who am I and what am I to do with the who I am?’ I was able to fashion meaning from another’s wisdom and insight: Viktor Frankl. In passing the book forward I was attempting to assist another reconstruct themselves with a picture of a young disenfranchised man: in a new progressive light.

I was to meet Marcus for a 6th appointment a month after the 5th appointment had taken place. I called in to the houseblock’s control room to check that Marcus had been invited to stay on his spur for the appointment. I was told that he had gone to court and had been released from there. I tried to hide my joy but I am sure it was witnessed by the officer at the control desk. I was happy that a young man who had made some unwise choices would get a second chance. For the remaining years I worked at the prison I did not see Marcus return. I can only hope he is doing well and I wish him a peaceful journey