Category: Commentary

Gladys Knight, Ahead of Super Bowl Anthem Date, Criticizes Colin Kaepernick

The soul singer Gladys Knight, who will be singing the national anthem at this year’s Super Bowl in Atlanta, seemed to criticize Colin Kaepernick in a statement published by Variety on Friday.

Kaepernick is the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback whose refusal to stand during “The Star-Spangled Banner” — and decision to kneel instead — to protest police brutality has made him a divisive figure nationwide, earning him praise from civil rights groups, but scorn from many conservatives, including President Trump.

“I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things, and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight wrote to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our national anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the national anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The statement continued: “I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3, to give the anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life.”

This is the latest twist at the intersection of politics, sports and music that has surrounded this year’s Super Bowl. Kaepernick is still in the middle of an ongoing arbitration case regarding a grievance he filed against the N.F.L. He has accused the league’s owners of colluding to keep him out of the league after not being signed last season.

His protests during the anthems became a cultural flash point, even though he wasn’t in the league. Other N.F.L. players began kneeling to support Kaepernick, as did celebrities off the field. Last fall, Nike made Kaepernick the face of a prominent advertising campaign.

This year’s Super Bowl became particularly fraught because of the halftime show. Some high-profile artists, including the rapper Cardi B, said they would not be willing to perform, in a show of solidarity with Kaepernick. Last year, Jay-Z rapped in one of his songs: “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.”

Earlier this week, the N.F.L. announced the halftime acts would be Maroon 5 and the rappers Travis Scott and Big Boi. Scott’s decision to participate, in particular, received backlash, including from prominent African-Americans like Al Sharpton. Variety reported that Kaepernick and Scott spoke before the announcement and described the conversation as “cordial and respectful.” But on Wednesday, several posts critical of Scott appeared on Kaepernick’s Twitter account.

Perhaps anticipating the criticism, Scott announced on Sunday, in conjunction with the halftime billing, that he and the league were teaming up on a $500,000 donation to Dream Corps, a social justice group.

How Radio Is Dealing With R. Kelly in 2019

In the aftermath of the Lifetime docuseries Surviving R. Kelly, listeners everywhere are rethinking their relationship with R. Kelly and his music. Music business institutions are also facing pressure to cut ties with the singer as he faces investigation and possible criminal charges for the alleged behavior outlined in the program.

Kelly’s label, RCA Records, still lists him as being on their roster, though they have not sent out a press release about him since October, 2016. The label has faced public pressure for years to drop Kelly—pressure that is only ratcheting up in recent days.

As important as his future with RCA is, equally crucial is the way some people still hear R. Kelly’s music in 2019: on the radio.

The amount of airplay Kelly has received has been in a free fall since Surviving R. Kelly began. According to Billboard, the number of all-format radio impressions of his music dropped nearly 85 percent between the first night the series aired and the Monday following its conclusion.

This is the continuation of a longer trend: his spins fell roughly 40 percent over the course of 2018. But Surviving R. Kelly seems to have given additional momentum to the movement to get him off of radio. Stations across the U.S., from Seattle to Atlanta to Los Angeles to Savannah to Dallas, have removed R. Kelly’s entire catalog from their playlists. And iHeartMedia, which owns over 850 stations, is the subject of a new campaign to remove Kelly’s music from all of them.

The #MuteRKelly movement, unsurprisingly, has heard plenty of similar stories from DJs—both the radio and live performance variety. “#MuteRKelly has received countless emails from DJs around the country who are joining us in boycotting R Kelly’s music,” they say in a statement to Complex. “Many shared their stories of having not played him in years, or arguing with clients about why they wouldn’t play R Kelly despite audience requests.

“What’s more impressive to us, however, are the stories from DJs about playing R Kelly in the club and immediately being booed until they turned it off. The masses are waking up, and it’s in MASS action that we see real and lasting change.”  

READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/music/2019/01/how-radio-is-dealing-with-r-kelly-2019

Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan Compare Notes on Boxing, Acting Naked, and Harley Quinn vs. Killmonger

Margot Robbie and Michael B. Jordan seem to effortlessly check all the movie star boxes: Megawatt charm? Check (those smiles!). Actor clout? No problem (having Martin Scorsese and Ryan Coogler launch their respective careers can’t hurt). Lucrative blockbuster movie franchises? Yep, that too (Robbie in Suicide Squad and Jordan in Creed, with a memorable detour into Wakanda). So, as it turns out, they have a lot to talk about—and not just about fame and their good fortune. Here, as part of our annual Best Performances portfolio, Robbie, who starred in the recent palace-intrigue period drama Mary Queen of Scots, and Jordan, who returned in Creed 2 and dominated the screen in Black Panther this year, sit down with W‘s Editor at Large Lynn Hirschberg to share not only how it is they make morally questionable villains like Harley Quinn and Killmonger into magnetic antiheroes, but also their totally embarrassing early email addresses, their most memorable red carpet fashion faux pas, and their frankly amazing first kiss stories.

So Michael, what’s the first album you ever bought?

Michael B. Jordan: First album? Ah, man, that’s a good one.
Margot Robbie: Oh, that is a good one.
Jordan: I want to say, on cassette tape… um, Usher’s My Way.
Robbie: That’s a good answer.
Jordan: You’re taking me back. I want to say I rode my bike to the music store that was, like, down the street.

What was the first album you ever bought, Margot?

Robbie: I think the first album I bought was, um, AFI’s Sing the Sorrow. I was in a bit of a heavy metal phase. But I think the first single I bought was Blink 182, “All the Small Things.”
Jordan: Okay. So the heavy metal. Are you still in that phase or did you pass that?
Robbie: Occasionally.
Jordan: Occasionally?
Robbie: Occasionally.

Have you ever gone through a heavy metal phase, Michael?

Jordan: I have not.
Robbie: [Laughs.]
Jordan: But electric guitar solos are my thing. Like, I love, the Ernie Isleys of the world, the “Who’s That Lady” solo is pretty incredible. [Michael Jackson’s] “Dirty Diana” is pretty good.

Do you play air guitar?

Jordan: Air guitar? All day. [Laughs.]
Robbie: I can air guitar. That’s about the extent of my musical prowess, really.

Michael, did you box before Creed?

Jordan: I never officially boxed but karate, martial arts, and stuff like that. And then I kinda segued into boxing.

And you, Margot, have you ever boxed?

Robbie: I’ve done a bit of boxing, yeah—mainly to prepare for fight training, like stunt work. And I really, really like it. I have stupidly long arms, like, they’re too long for my body. So actually it’s kind of good when you’re boxing.
Jordan: The reach is incredible.
Robbie: An extra long reach. And it looks good on camera. Having long limbs on camera makes your punches—
Jordan: Your punch is a little wider, yeah, yeah, yeah. She knows what she’s talking about.

What I love about both of your performances in different movies is that although you kind of play superheroes in both Suicide Squad and in Black Panther, you’re also kind of antiheroes at the same time. There’s a kind of dichotomy to the characters.

Robbie: A lovable rogue.
Jordan: That’s right. I like that. I mean, those are the most interesting characters to me sometimes, like when I’m watching films that, on screen, are the ones that you can empathize with. Like, they want you to root against ’em. They want you to not like them. But somehow you can still understand where they’re coming from and that’s important.

Do you have a favorite villain? Other than Killmonger.

Jordan: Yeah, because he’s tough. I mean, honestly, it’s between [Michael] Fassbender’s Magneto and Heath Ledger’s Joker. Honestly. Those two are pretty up there for me. [To Robbie] What about you?
Robbie: I’m totally stealing someone else’s answer. I’ve heard someone else say this, but I do truly think this is a genius villain: HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Jordan: Ohhh. Man.
Robbie: It’s just such a cool villain. That was genius.

But it is also kind of weirdly sympathetic.

Robbie: Totally. The best villains are sympathetic.

With both these characters, you act with very little clothing on. Is it difficult to act when you are basically naked?

Robbie: Uh …
Jordan: I’m always naked, actually.
Robbie: Honestly, for me, as Harley at least, the more skin showing the longer it takes in hair and makeup ’cause she’s got, you know, white skin and a million tattoos. So if anything outside, god, the scenes where I don’t even have the jacket on, that’s an extra 20 minutes in the makeup trailer.
Jordan: Yeah, same here. Killmonger, all the scars and stuff like that, the makeup, it took a long time to put the prosthetics on.
Robbie: Yeah, you want to be more covered up.

So, Michael, what was the very first thing you ever auditioned for?

Jordan: Ooh.
Robbie: Hmm. I’m trying to think of the first thing I auditioned for.

Let’s say the one you got.

JordanThe Sopranos. I don’t know what season it was, but Tony [Soprano] was having a flashback. And I played a bully in his childhood who bullied him on the boardwalk on his way home one day.

Really?

Jordan: Yeah, I was Bully #2, I think.

Was it a speaking role?

Jordan: It was, but we were just yelling shit at him. I don’t know. I was improv-ing, actually. I was living in the moment—
Robbie: (Laughs.) I was so present
Jordan: I was…
Robbie: —that I now can’t remember.
Jordan: … locked into Bully #2.

READ MORE:https://www.wmagazine.com/story/margot-robbie-michael-b-jordan-harley-quinn-killmonger

Petition Calling for Adidas to Cut Ties With Kanye West Sees Spike in Signatures After Controversial Weekend

Screen Shot 2018-10-02 at 5.02.38 AM

After videos surfaced online of Kanye West’s cut pro-Trump speech during his Saturday Night Live performance, followed by a Twitter rant calling for the 13th amendment to be abolished, a Care2 petition calling on Adidas to cut ties with the rapper spiked to 26,000 signatures.

The petition was initially created back in May after Ye spoke a slew of controversial comments on TMZ, noting in particular that slavery was a choice. “Kanye West continues to show disregard for the influence of his role as a public figure with his support of Donald Trump’s policies and his confused Twitter rants on slavery, while the rest of black America is continually marginalized and subject to unjust laws and treatment,” the petition reads. “West has a right to free speech, and he has the right to spout lies and misinformation and misplaced opinions — but Adidas should not stand idly by and, effectively, condone his behavior and revisionist history.”

West’s SNL speech, which did not make it to air followed the theme of racism in America as the rapper sported a “Make America Great Again” hat. “It’s so many times that I talk to a white person about this, and they say, ‘How could you support Trump? He’s racist.’” he announced. “Well if I was concerned about racism, I would have moved out of America a long time ago. We don’t just make our decisions off of racism. I’ma break it down to you right now: If someone inspires me and I connect with them, I don’t have to believe in all they policies.”

SOURCE OF THIS STORY: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8477897/petition-adidas-to-cut-ties-kanye-west-signature-spike

The College Recruit and the Downfall of a Hall of Fame Coach

Should a high school star be prevented from playing college basketball because his father was accused of taking a bribe?

collegeBrian Bowen Jr. was one of the top high-school basketball players in the senior class of 2017. He grew up in Saginaw, Mich., an economically depressed Rust Belt city with one of the highest rates of violent crime in the nation. It is also a basketball hotbed, where players take pride in their scrappy, physical style of play. Draymond Green, an intense, sharp-elbowed All-Star with the N.B.A. champion Golden State Warriors, is among the pros who have come from Saginaw.

Bowen, however, was not hardened by either his city or its tough-edged basketball tradition. There is a sweetness about him, a shy smile, an engaging manner. He was given the nickname “Tugs” as an infant because he pulled on his mother’s hair with his tiny fingers, and that is what his family, friends, teammates and coaches have called him ever since. His mother chauffeured him around, fed him and made his schedule. Even after he reached high school, she could sometimes be seen kneeling or sitting at the bottom of the bleachers as she laced up his sneakers before a game, like a figure-skating mom tightening the laces of her child’s skates. In his free time, he liked to build elaborate Lego structures. The worst that was said about him, an only child, was that he could seem a little sheltered.

His father, Brian Bowen Sr., a former high-school player, groomed him for basketball almost from birth. When Tugs was just 9 months old and holding onto furniture for balance as he began to walk, his father made sure he alternated between his right and left hands — while rolling a ball with the opposite hand — so he would be able to dribble and shoot a basketball with both. A few years later, the family moved into a house with a basketball court in the backyard. The court was where Tugs would begin to learn the game, and as he got older, it attracted serious players in Saginaw. They came to work, not play. Brian Bowen Sr., a former police officer who had retired on medical disability, stood watch on the sideline, offering instruction and keeping the games as clean as he could.

The surface was originally concrete, but he covered it with VersaCourt, a softer synthetic material that came in sections fitted together like puzzle pieces. “He was looking ahead even back then,” his son told me last fall, the first time we talked. “If it would have stayed cement, I would have wrecked my knees, and I wouldn’t have been able to amount to anything.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/18/magazine/college-basketball-recruiting-bribery-case-rick-pitino.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=The%20New%20York%20Times%20Magazine

Why Is College in America So Expensive?

The outrageous price of a U.S. degree is unique in the world.

college ripoffBefore the automobile, before the Statue of Liberty, before the vast majority of contemporary colleges existed, the rising cost of higher education was shocking the American conscience: “Gentlemen have to pay for their sons in one year more than they spent themselves in the whole four years of their course,” The New York Times lamented in 1875.

Decadence was to blame, the writer argued: fancy student apartments, expensive meals, and “the mania for athletic sports.”

Today, the U.S. spends more on college than almost any other country, according to the 2018 Education at a Glance report, released this week by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

All told, including the contributions of individual families and the government (in the form of student loans, grants, and other assistance), Americans spend about $30,000 per student a year—nearly twice as much as the average developed country. “The U.S. is in a class of its own,” says Andreas Schleicher, the director for education and skills at the OECD, and he does not mean this as a compliment. “Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.”

Only one country spends more per student, and that country is Luxembourg—where tuition is nevertheless free for students, thanks to government outlays. In fact, a third of developed countries offer college free of charge to their citizens. (And another third keep tuition very cheap—less than $2,400 a year.) The farther away you get from the United States, the more baffling it looks.

This back-to-school season, The Atlantic is investigating a classic American mystery: Why does college cost so much? And is it worth it?

At first, like the 19th-century writer of yore, I wanted to blame the curdled indulgences of campus life: fancy dormitories, climbing walls, lazy rivers, dining halls with open-fire-pit grills. And most of all—college sports. Certainly sports deserved blame.

On first glance, the new international data provide some support for this narrative. The U.S. ranks No. 1 in the world for spending on student-welfare services such as housing, meals, health care, and transportation, a category of spending that the OECD lumps together under “ancillary services.” All in all, American taxpayers and families spend about $3,370 on these services per student—more than three times the average for the developed world. One reason for this difference is that American college students are far more likely to live away from home. And living away from home is expensive, with or without a lazy river. Experts say that campuses in Canada and Europe tend to have fewer dormitories and dining halls than campuses in the U.S. “The bundle of services that an American university provides and what a French university provides are very different,” says David Feldman, an economist focused on education at William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. “Reasonable people can argue about whether American universities should have these kind of services, but the fact that we do does not mark American universities as inherently inefficient. It marks them as different.” READ MORE:https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2018/09/why-is-college-so-expensive-in-america/569884/

America’s Invisible Pot Addicts More and more Americans are reporting near-constant cannabis use, as legalization forges ahead.

The proliferation of retail boutiques in California did not really bother him, Evan told me, but the billboards did. Advertisements for delivery, advertisements promoting the substance for relaxation, for fun, for health. “Shop. It’s legal.” “Hello marijuana, goodbye hangover.” “It’s not a trigger,” he told me. “But it is in your face.”

When we spoke, he had been sober for a hard-fought seven weeks: seven weeks of sleepless nights, intermittent nausea, irritability, trouble focusing, and psychological turmoil. There were upsides, he said, in terms of reduced mental fog, a fatter wallet, and a growing sense of confidence that he could quit. “I don’t think it’s a ‘can’ as much as a ‘must,’” he said.

Evan, who asked that his full name not be used for fear of professional repercussions, has a self-described cannabis-use disorder. If not necessarily because of legalization, but alongside legalization, such problems are becoming more common: The share of adults with one has doubled since the early aughts, as the share of cannabis users who consume it daily or near-daily has jumped nearly 50 percent—all “in the context of increasingly permissive cannabis legislation, attitudes, and lower risk perception,” as the National Institutes of Health put it.

READ MORE: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/08/americas-invisible-pot-addicts/567886/