Warriors’ Rick Welts reflects on his journey as a leader in sports Golden State’s president and chief operating officer, the first prominent sports executive to acknowledge he was gay, shares stories from his NBA career

SAN FRANCISCO – A nervous Rick Welts knocked on Bill Russell’s door in Seattle 10 years ago to ask a huge favor. The longtime NBA executive wanted the Hall of Fame center to do a rare interview on his behalf regarding the news that he was coming out as gay.

While Russell is known for disliking media interviews, the 11-time NBA champion said without hesitation that he would help his old friend.

“I remember walking up to that front door and was like, ‘I have no idea what I’m going to say,’ ” Welts told The Undefeated in an interview this week. “He opens the door with his Boston Celtics hat on. Bill takes me into his little den where there are two chairs and there’s a table in between us. There is a framed picture of Barack Obama on the table with an inscription that read, ‘To Bill. You are my inspiration.’ There is nothing intimidating about this at all.

“I say to him, ‘I don’t know what you know or don’t know, but I am gay. I am going to ask you to do the one thing you hate to do more than anything in your life, which is talk to a reporter. He was like, ‘Yeah, of course. Sure.’ And then the next hour all I heard was that amazing cackle laugh about something that happened way back when or talk about people or players we can make fun of. It was incredible. It was such a weight off me.”

Welts, who became the first prominent executive in American sports to be openly gay, took another weight off of himself on Thursday with his announcement to retire as president and chief operating officer of the Golden State Warriors at the end of this NBA season.

A Basketball Hall of Famer, Welts is one of the NBA’s most respected executives having worked for the Seattle SuperSonics, Phoenix Suns and Warriors over the course of nearly 50 years. Welts worked with the Sonics when they won a championship in 1979 and with the Warriors when they won three titles last decade. He also oversaw the building of the state-of-the-art Chase Center in San Francisco.

Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts becomes emotional as a 47 seasons commemorative banner is unveiled after the Golden State Warriors defeated the LA Clippers at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, on April 7, 2019.

Jessica Christian/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The Seattle native also worked for the NBA, playing a major role in marketing the league, including promoting “The Dream Team” and the WNBA, and developing the idea of NBA All-Star Weekend.

The Warriors expect to name a new president within a week.

“One of the things I’ve always been good at is knowing the right time to leave a position I’ve been in,” Welts, 68, said. “For me, the time is perfect. When we were having the [retirement] discussion, nobody saw a pandemic. If it would have been a year ago, I think I would have struggled with that, just because we were a total mess. We would have no idea how to find our way out of this. That would have not been a good look for me and the organization.

“Now, just this week, we have state guidance to maybe have fans in the stands hopefully before April is over and a path, hopefully, towards normalcy next year. I’m ready. The organization is ready. We’re not going to miss a beat. … I’ve done the big things that I can do. It’s time to pass that on to somebody else.”

The following are reflections from Welts on his Hall of Fame career, as told to The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears.

On his first NBA job …

The Sonics came to Seattle in 1967 and I became a ball boy in 1969. This is my only great career break. At Queen Anne High School in Seattle, the coolest kid was Earl Woodson because he was a ball boy with the Sonics. And I was obsessed with the Sonics. We’d sit in the back of our English literature class together and I’d be like, ‘Give me the scoop. Tell me about this guy. Tell me about that guy.’

He came in one day and had this look like he lost his best friend. I said, ‘Dude, what is wrong?’ He said, ‘My family is moving out of town.’ I said, ‘Earl, you got to take me downtown and introduce me to whoever hired you with the Sonics.’ I got to get my shot.

​He introduced me to a trainer named Jack Kern, who went on to be a Lakers trainer after the Sonics. And I got hired.

I got to see Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell play in person.

I got a big promotion my first season to assistant trainer at 16. All that meant was I knew how to use the washers and dryers and had the right uniform in the right lockers before the game. I had to be really good at it. At the end of high school, I thought that’s it. And then a guy named David Watkins, who ran marketing and public relations for them, said, ‘Hey, you want a part-time job in the office?’ So, I did that through college. When I graduated from college, they wanted me to work full time.

There is no sports management class in the world that could teach you what I got to observe as a ball boy. I learned a lot about the NBA, but I learned a lot about people, too.

African Americans were my bosses and heroes. I had role models that were supersuccessful.

Hall of Fame basketball player Bill Russell (left) speaks with Golden State Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts (right) on March 26, 2013, at McClymonds High School in Oakland, California.

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

On his friend, Bill Russell …

Bill Russell is the ultimate champion. Eleven championships in 13 seasons. He’s also a fascinating evolution of a human being. Just to see how he’s been willing to change over time has been really incredible.

I wasn’t important enough to have a desk in an office at the Sonics for most of my career. So I was in the opposite end of the hallway from where his office is. He is a notoriously early riser who would get in really early. And I would be the only one in the office. We went through about three months where he’d walk out of his office and be like, ‘White boy down the hall, give me a cup of coffee.’ ‘Yes, sir, Mr. Russell. I can do that.’

He still calls me, ‘White boy down the hall.’ I don’t know why, but one day he just opened himself up and he has been a friend ever since.

On the time he heard an NBA coach say the team needed more white guys …

I never told this story before. We had a coach, Tom Nissalke with the Sonics. The teams have gotten out on the court. And we weren’t playing that well. And he’s talking to his assistant coach in the locker room and I’m in there. Nissalke says, ‘We need some more white guys on this team.’

I’ll never forget that. That was the first time I ever heard something like that. OK, we need more white guys on our team? And this is coming from a head coach. It startled me. I’ve been there for a while. All my favorite players were Black. It didn’t make sense to me. Why would that make us a better team? I didn’t understand that.

On what he learned from his mentor, the late NBA commissioner David Stern

By far the biggest thing that I learned from David Stern, and I don’t think there will be anyone who will ever do it as well as him, was the value of intellectual curiosity. The way he approached every day was, ‘I’m going to learn something today that I didn’t know yesterday, that’s going to be valuable to me for the rest of my life.’

He approached it in a way that you were willing to challenge what you thought was probably the right way to do something or the right idea. To be able to say, ‘We’re doing it this way, but they are doing it that way. What do they know that we don’t know?’ Force yourself to think, put yourself in that person’s shoes and think all the way back. Sometimes you think you’re right. Sometimes you’ll think, ‘I can change that.’ It’s such a discipline to live each day that way. But you get better every day. You do. Other people are really smart. I’ve never learned anything when I’m talking.

I had some good mentors in my life. But he stuck with me the whole way. … Always when there was a life decision to make, that is who I would call.

Soccer star Megan Rapinoe (center) and WNBA star Sue Bird (right) are given Golden State Warriors jerseys by Warriors president and chief operating officer Rick Welts (left) during a timeout of their game against the Phoenix Suns at the Chase Center on Oct. 30, 2019, in San Francisco.

On coming out that he was gay …

I got hooked up with a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer still at the [New York] Times named Dan Berry. Dan flew out to Phoenix. We tried to hatch a strategy over two or three days on the best way to tell my story about being a gay sports executive. He gave me a very honest assessment like, ‘Dude, with all due respect, nobody knows who the hell you are.’ But everybody knows the people that you’ve come in contact with over your life. If we could get them to tell the story, it would be so much more relatable to people through their eyes.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, for sure.’ So then the hard part. First one on the list is Bill Russell. …

The story was to be posted online at noon and be in the paper in a story edition the next day. I’m at SFO with Todd [Gage]. We’re flying to New York the next day because I have interviews with Time magazine, CNN, PBS, the New York newspapers and on and on timed with the day I was going to publish. But I had a BlackBerry at the time, and I had written an email with a list of about 100 people I wanted to send it to, to say, like, ‘I’m taking off at 10 in the morning, like somewhere over Kansas, you know, my life is going to change and this story is going to post.’ There is no Wi-Fi. So it’s so weird.

The story posted while I was in the air somewhere over the Midwest. I’m freaking out on the plane. We land at JFK, and I reach for the BlackBerry. I turn it on. It was almost like it exploded with messages. It was crazy.

I literally, to this day, have binders that have printed out copies of every email. I got thousands of emails. People sought me out. I will look you in the eye and swear on the Bible, there was no one that took the time to actually find out how to send me an email or write me a letter who sent one that was negative. There was not one negative email over 1,000.

On the day he heard about former New Jersey Nets center Jason Collins becoming the first NBA player to reveal that he was gay

I get up one morning getting ready for work to go to the Warriors [San Francisco office], and my phone rings and it’s Casey Wasserman. Casey, at about 8 o’clock in the morning, says, ‘You sitting down?’ Yeah. ‘I just want to call you and tell you that Jason Collins was going to come out today.’ What? Really, an NBA player, really, it’s going to happen.

This is just freaking amazing. So I couldn’t wait to get dressed, get in my car. I called friends and family. And I’m getting on the on-ramp to get on the Bay Bridge. And right next to me is a cop, and I’m talking on my phone with it to my ear. The lights go on. And I have to go the whole drive of shame across the whole Bay Bridge with a cop whose lights are on me and is going to pull me over.

And I just said, ‘You got me.’ I said, ‘But do you want to know why?’ I told him about Jason. He goes, ‘Really? You’re not kidding. Is this really true?’ Yeah. The cop says, ‘I grew up in San Francisco. So that’s awesome. Get out of here.’ I thought it was going to cost me a lot of money. But it turned out it got me out of a ticket.

On being a mentor for other gay people in sports …

Probably a week doesn’t go by where somebody doesn’t reach out that is in a situation where they want me to connect with somebody. That is what I didn’t have. I wish I had that person.

I didn’t regret the timing or anything. It’s worked out all amazing for me. But there were a lot of years that might have been spent a little bit differently if there was somebody out there that was visible, gay, and in sports and successful.

It will be great when others in real positions of success will feel comfortable enough that they can come out and be successful at doing what they’re doing. And that’s NFL, NBA, Major League Baseball players. That’s owners. That’s coaches. That’s all the people in the ecosystem who just don’t feel like it’s their time, or it’s comfortable and what they would have to deal with.

On being the Warriors president during the pandemic and the social justice movement …

When we got together last March and sent everybody home due to the pandemic, honestly, I was not optimistic that we’d be able to culturally keep us together and work as well as we’re working. So I made a decision at the beginning of this, that every employee is going to hear from me every day. So, that was going to be a part of how we were going to stay connected. I started doing this daily email. I sent an email [Monday] talking about the Major League Baseball All-Star Game moving out of Atlanta. So, we share kind of stuff people have to know about coming to work, then hopefully, I can add some context to what’s going on.

I didn’t realize I’ve been doing that for over a year. It was focused on trying to figure out what was going on with this pandemic and George Floyd. And so, it changed everything. But by then we were doing some town halls, you know, we had Adam come on, Steph did a town hall for all the employees. Great programming. And it just morphed into something completely different to focus on social justice. And the thing I’m proudest of is how safe our employees felt about sharing their incredibly personal stories, especially about the experience of growing up Black and what they have actually gone through in their lifetimes that they had never shared with us co-workers sitting at a desk next to them. We gave them a daily platform.

When it all happened, I thought I had a pretty sophisticated grasp on the subject of being Black in America. It’s the most humbling thing I’ve ever been through in my life to find out you had no clue even though you thought you did. And to get these employees together to share their personal stories or what they dealt with in life, and what they dealt with there in San Francisco, we became closer. We created a seven-week anti-racism course that was voluntary and more than half our employees went through it.

On working with Stephen Curry

I just could have never imagined the blessing that having Stephen Curry as the face of your franchise brings. It defines everything. It give us an opportunity to be great and better than any organization has ever been.

He never disappoints. That is the part about him that I just marvel at every day. He’s got Tara VanDerveer on FaceTime after she’s won the [NCAA] championship. How does he do that? He got Dr. [Anthony] Fauci [on social media] when nobody could get a hold of Dr. Fauci. He’s wearing black and yellow sneakers this week for anti-Asian violence. How can anybody be this good? To have that as the cornerstone franchise is unbelievable.

On the game of basketball …

The game of basketball is just joy. Everything about the game and what it comes to mean in our world just brings me joy.

​On what’s next …

I want to use my passport but I can’t go nowhere. Seriously. I can’t wait to go back to Barcelona or Paris. I just can’t wait to do that. … It’s going to be amazing. I don’t know when that is going to be. Obviously, no time soon. …

This is my 46th NBA season. To be good at this, you have to work hard always. I’m ready not to do that.

Features — The Undefeated

New York To Give Thousands To Undocumented Workers Hard Hit By Coronavirus


Undocumented workers who lost jobs or income due to the coronavirus pandemic will be eligible for payments of up to $15,600 in New York, thanks to a bill passed by state lawmakers this week. 

Money from the $2.1 billion Excluded Worker Fund will go to workers who have been ineligible for unemployment insurance due to their immigration status, and have also been excluded from all three stimulus payments. It’s the largest such fund in the country.  

The legislation passed after weeks of hunger strikes by undocumented organizers in New York. It was negotiated with Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), who hasn’t yet signed it into law.

Nearly 300,000 workers could potentially benefit, according to the Fiscal Policy Institute.

Undocumented immigrants are among those hardest hit by the pandemic and its economic fallout. They are overrepresented in fields that have seen massive layoffs due to COVID-19 restrictions, including the restaurant and hotel industries. Undocumented workers also make up significant portions of those deemed essential on the frontlines of the pandemic ― including grocery workers, farmworkers and cleaners — who are risking their lives to work while millions of others in the U.S. are able to stay home. 

As the virus’s death toll passes 559,000 in the U.S., Latinx and Black people have been about three times as likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 as white people, and are twice as likely to die

In February, California passed smaller-scale relief for undocumented workers in the form of $600 one-time payments to those who pay taxes.  

To be eligible for the new relief in New York, undocumented workers would have to qualify for “Tier 1” by showing official employment forms or their individual tax identification numbers — which many undocumented workers use to pay federal taxes, since they don’t have Social Security numbers. Funds in “Tier 2,” which only provides $3,200 in relief, would go to those who don’t have proof of employment, The Intercept reported. Some immigrant advocates have raised concerns that requiring too much documentation for eligibility will block some who are owed funds from receiving them. 

Undocumented immigrants contribute about $1.1 billion in state and local taxes in New York, per a 2017 Fiscal Policy Institute report. 

“To the hunger strikers: I am grateful for your leadership … today is a day of victory, a historic day,” Marcela Mitaynes, a New York Assembly member, wrote in Spanish on Twitter. The lawmaker joined the hunger strike for 12 days. “Celebrate today because tomorrow we keep fighting.”

A HuffPost Guide To Coronavirus


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Former NFL Player Phillip Adams Kills 5 People in South Carolina, Turns Gun on Himself


San Francisco 49ers cornerback Phillip Adams sits on the sideline during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco.

San Francisco 49ers cornerback Phillip Adams sits on the sideline during the first quarter of an NFL football game in San Francisco.
Photo: Paul Sakuma (AP)

These are the exact type of stories I hate to hear about, let alone report on, but since The Root is in the business of news, here we go.

The Associated Press reports that former NFL player Phillip Adams committed suicide shortly after midnight on Thursday. But as tragic as his loss is, it’s the details surrounding his death that are far more shocking than you can imagine.

From the Associated Press:

The gunman who killed five people including a prominent doctor in South Carolina was former NFL player Phillip Adams, who killed himself early Thursday, according to a source who was briefed on the investigation.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, said Adams’ parents live near the doctor’s home in Rock Hill, and that he had been treated by the doctor. The source said Phillips killed himself after midnight with a .45 caliber weapon.

Adams’ NFL career, which included stints with the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Raiders, was marred by a multitude of injuries. It’s unclear of the extent to which Dr. Robert Lesslie treated Adams, but Lesslie was among those pronounced dead at the scene at his own Rock Hill, S.C., home on Wednesday. Others pronounced dead at the scene include his 69-year-old wife, Barbara Lesslie, and his grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5.

Outside of the Lesslie’s home, James Lewis, 38, was found shot to death, and a sixth person who has yet to be identified has been hospitalized with “serious gunshot wounds,” according to Trent Faris, a spokesperson for the York County Sheriff’s Office.

For decades, Lesslie was a popular ER doctor in Rock Hill who practiced both emergency and occupational medicine. He had served as an emergency department medical director for nearly 15 years at Rock Hill General Hospital, per his website.

“Dr. Lesslie was my doctor growing up,” Faris told the Associated Press. “Dr. Lesslie has been one of those people that everybody knows. He started Riverview Medical Center in Rock Hill and it’s been a staple in Rock Hill for years.”

“Many people have asked questions. We certainly understand,” Riverview Medical Center said in a statement. “There are still many questions to be answered. For now, we ask that you keep the Lesslie family and our office in your prayers.”

Per Faris, deputies were called to the Lesslies’ home at approximately 4:45 pm ET on Wednesday and spent hours searching for the suspect.

The investigation is ongoing.


HBCU combine gives 42 players a spotlight to impress the NFL Two dedicated organizers, with the NFL’s help, are making the two-day event happen in Alabama

Rico Kennedy still can hardly believe he got the call. One of his former teammates at Morgan State was telling him that one year after the inaugural HBCU draft combine was canceled by COVID-19, he and several of the invitees were going to get another chance to audition for the NFL.

“I didn’t ever envision it,” Kennedy said last week from his South Florida home. “I’ll be 100% honest with you. I thought football was over for me.”

It isn’t. Not for Kennedy, or the ex-teammate who called him, DuShon David, or another teammate from Morgan, Ian McBorrough, or any of the 42 players invited to a combine for players from historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) on Friday and Saturday in Birmingham, Alabama.

Twenty-six of the invitees had been scheduled to gather in North Miami in March 2020 in the initial group of 51, for an NFL-organized combine solely for those HBCU prospects chronically overlooked and uninvited to the national combine.

When the NFL called off the combine due to the pandemic, many of the players were deprived of their best opportunity to go to the next level – or, as Kennedy believed, their only opportunity. With the support of his parents, Art and Yolanda, and his wife Destinee, who is expecting their third child this fall, Kennedy spent the past year training and staying ready for a call from a football franchise anywhere.

“It’s been like I took a redshirt year,” he said.

Now, thanks to the determination of a group who believed in those HBCU prospects, and a few strokes of good luck, another combine for those players and some prospects in this year’s draft class is less than two weeks from coming to life.

As was the plan last year, it will have all the elements of the regular combine, from the 40-yard dash to physical measurements to the Wonderlic test. It will also have strict COVID-19 protocols, organizers say, just like the on-campus pro days that are serving double duty as part of the NFL’s reimagined combine with draft-related travel and gatherings still prohibited.

The University of Alabama-Birmingham will host the combine on the same weekend it’s holding its own pro day and its spring game, and its collaboration with the organizers was the biggest hurdle to clear.

UAB’s assurances that it could host a safe combine saved the day, said Ulice Payne Jr., the combine’s chief financier, a Milwaukee-based businessman and former president of the Milwaukee Brewers.

“It could be a superspreader event, potentially,” Payne said, adding that finding a location that was available and safe was what worried him most. But, he said, “If you do things for the right reasons, usually things will work out.”

He recalled a Zoom meeting with several of the invited players as plans were being finalized, in which one invitee said, “I want to say thank you to you guys for not forgetting about us.”

“No, brothers, you’re not forgotten about,” Payne said.

The idea of reviving the combine came from Charles “Yogi” Jones, Bethune-Cookman’s assistant head coach and Payne’s cousin, as well as his former client when Payne was a player agent and Jones was still playing.

Jones had seen up close how the pandemic had derailed the hopes of HBCU players. Just one HBCU player, Tennessee State tackle Lachavious Simmons, was drafted in 2020 (in the seventh round by the Chicago Bears), and only a handful of others managed to make an NFL roster or practice squad during the season.

Then three of the four NCAA HBCU conferences (the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) canceled football. The fourth, the Southwestern Athletic Conference, had its defending champion Alcorn State opt out after Bethune-Cookman was one of the first programs anywhere in the country to abandon the season.

Just two of the 323 players invited to take part in this year’s version of the main combine are from HBCUs: cornerback Bryan Mills of North Carolina Central (who chose to opt out even before the school canceled the season) and guard David Moore of Grambling. Last year, there was just one out of 337 at the full, pre-pandemic combine in Indianapolis.

Jones told Payne that he didn’t want two entire classes of HBCU players to get erased in this way.

Payne didn’t hesitate, in the spirit of a similarly bold move with an HBCU athlete from his days as a baseball executive: drafting Rickie Weeks out of Southern second overall in the 2003 amateur draft. Weeks became an All-Star and played in the majors for 14 years. “There were people [involved in the draft] who said, ‘We didn’t even know they played baseball there,’ ” he said.

The lesson: “Just because you’re not from the Power 5 conferences doesn’t mean you don’t exist,” Payne said.

The NFL’s restrictions on in-person scouting – which wiped out the traditional national combine it holds every February – made it impossible for it to oversee one for the HBCUs. But league officials have been in on the planning the entire way, for the same reason they supported the combine last year: There was no other way for those players to get exposure.

Whether every team will send scouts to the site remains to be seen, but holding it at the site of UAB’s pro day increases those chances.

Scouts from the CFL and the European pro leagues – and, presumably, the XFL, which is negotiating a possible merger with the CFL – are also expected. Organizers said video of the workouts also will be made available to everybody, as is the case with player workouts elsewhere.

The need to pull the combine together in a short time – Jones and Payne first talked about the idea in late 2020 – and the uncertainty of the NFL’s ability to take part convinced Payne to pick up the full tab. Making sure the workout would be up to the standards of NFL scouts was a priority, so they went to the league’s regional combine directors to join the effort.

Phillip Blackwell, an NFL regional combine director since the concept’s inception in 2015 and a recreation center director in Baltimore, quickly agreed when Jones and Payne came calling. And, Blackwell emphasized, it really was just those two putting everything together from scratch. “It has steamrolled into something that has become really huge,” he said.

The number of invitees will not only make it possible to put the players through a full combine experience and do it safely, but emphasize this is a selective group, just like the one planned for last year and the annual national combine.

“It’s not as much the size, it’s the quality,” Blackwell said. “It’s not just somebody walking in off the street. It’s a great representation of the quality of player at these schools. These are the players the NFL wanted last year, and it’s also the players the NFL and CFL and others had on their radar for this year. We can tell them, ‘These aren’t the players we say you should look at, these are the players you say you want to look at.’ ”

Payne also made sure to include educational sessions on career counseling, mental health, personal finance and adapting to professional life. There also will be an awards dinner, with longtime NFL writer D. Orlando Ledbetter as head speaker. Two players will be honored for community service. The award will be named for Payne’s uncle, the late Ernest “Pappy” Ross, a former Morris Brown football player who became a successful businessman and earned a doctorate from Georgia.

“With these brothers, I want them to know, ‘I don’t know you, but I value you, and I’m going to help you,’ ” Payne said.

Everybody involved emphasized this is a legitimate opportunity for the players. It isn’t a publicity stunt, they said, or a way to cash in by selling tryout spots. Players are only required to get to Birmingham on their own – and, organizers said, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has provided a travel grant for players who need it. Once there, everything is paid for, Payne said.

The UAB program, meanwhile, made room in the middle of a busy football weekend to accommodate dozens of players unaffiliated with the school.

“We’ve all had our fair share of challenges through this pandemic, some much more than others, but pulling together and fighting through the challenges is the trademark of football players and teams,” said Randy Pippin, UAB’s director of player relations under head coach Bill Clark.

“I say all that to say, these HBCU guys certainly deserve a shot to get a fair evaluation, and fortunately our whole campus, starting with Coach Clark, is on board to help make that happen, along with the Blazers.”

After tracking down many of last year’s invitees and finding players in this year’s class with pro potential, there should be little doubt that this is a serious tryout.

“If anyone asks about the authenticity,” Payne said, “you’ll find out.”

A few of the invited players themselves had their own doubts.

Kennedy had spent the past year training and staying ready for a call from a football franchise anywhere. But when he got the call from David (who had transferred from Morgan to Bowie State and became an all-CIAA tight end in 2019), he wasn’t sure what to think.

“I was kind of shocked and taken aback,” Kennedy said. “I was like, ‘Is this real?’ ”

“I didn’t get my hope up immediately,” McBorrough said, adding he wasn’t ready to trust it until he saw something in writing. When that arrived, he said, “OK, this is legit.”

Asked how he felt when he saw the official invitation to the combine, he laughed and said, “You already know the answer to that.

“The whole past year was full of uncertainty. Did they forget about us? Is the 2020 class just gonna get passed by?”

It won’t be.

Features — The Undefeated

How racism prevented Lee Elder from being among golf’s Big Three The golf pioneer’s arrival at the Masters as an honorary starter with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player is a reminder of an era in a game that didn’t promote great Black players

Shortly before 8 a.m. on Thursday, Lee Elder will join Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player on the first tee of the Augusta National Golf Club as an honorary starter for the 85th Masters Tournament. Honorary starters have been a tradition at the Masters since 1963, but Elder will be the first African American to play this role at golf’s most prestigious event.

Elder’s first visit to this tee box came when he broke the color barrier at the 1975 Masters after years of fighting for his rights as a Black man to compete alongside the game’s elite. By then, Nicklaus, Player and Arnold Palmer had long been considered the Big Three — defining for a generation the rivalries and popularity of the game. For several years until Palmer’s death in 2016, this trio of Masters champions served together as honorary starters at the tournament.

The Big Three was the invention of IMG founder Mark McCormack, who saw it as a clever way of marketing his clients as the top three players in the world. Fred Corcoran, a legendary tournament promoter of the PGA Tour in the 1930s and ’40s, considered the trio the “third great cycle of golf.” The first great cycle, he said, had consisted of Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and Gene Sarazen, and the second was Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson.

Lee Elder, seen here on April 11, 1975, is the first African American to play in the Masters.

Eric Schweikardt/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

In the parallel world of the all-Black United Golfers Association (UGA), where the best Black players shined before the PGA’s Caucasians-only clause was struck down in 1961, Elder might have formed a big three with fellow Black golfers Charlie Sifford and Pete Brown. Before them, there were Ted Rhodes, Bill Spiller and Howard Wheeler. Had racism not kept these Black players off the PGA Tour in the prime of their careers, they might have formed their own triumvirates to shape a century of golf in America.

Since the Masters Tournament announced in November that it was making Elder an honorary starter, I have felt a certain ambivalence about the gesture that arose out of the upheaval in the summer of 2020 over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and many other African Americans at the hands of police. It’s worthwhile to honor Elder and to use the moment to call attention to racial disparities in our society and the game of golf. However, the whole notion of honorary starters is a fierce reminder of the Black golfers who did not have a chance because of their race to build reputations in the mainstream game to warrant this lofty perch. In other sports, I saw examples of Black athletes helping to shape the character and culture of the games. Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell and Oscar Robertson unintentionally fashioned a big three in the NBA. For baseball, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron formed a big three with Mickey Mantle.

Lee Elder (left) and Arnold Palmer (right) share a laugh during a tournament.


Like Elder, Aaron was born in 1934, the year of the first Masters, to a poor Black family in the Deep South. When Aaron died in January, 45 years after his retirement in 1976, he still held MLB records for RBIs (2,297) and total bases (6,856). For a better part of the ’50s and ’60s, Mays, Mantle and Aaron formed a trio of the most dominant sluggers during baseball’s golden era. Even as segregation ruled the South, Mantle appeared on baseball cards with Mays or Aaron signifying the trio’s stature in the game. While we may remember most how Aaron endured death threats during his chase of Babe Ruth’s home run record, it’s also important to know that Aaron made his major league debut as a 20-year-old in 1954 and was able to amass record-setting statistics over a 23-year career.

When they were both in the prime of their careers, Elder toiled on the UGA circuit for $ 500 purses while Aaron blossomed into one of the most recognizable names in sports. In one stretch in the early ’60s, Elder won 21 of 23 events on the UGA circuit, a dominant record by any standard. Yet he’s most discussed for breaking the racial barrier at the Masters and less for a playing career that included four PGA Tour wins, eight Senior PGA Tour Champions titles and a Ryder Cup appearance in 1979.

In Aaron’s New York Times obituary, his career was compared with those of Mays and Mantle because they were the big three who helped define the game for a generation of baseball fans that transcended race. For legions of adults and kids, they were to baseball what Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were to golf in the formative years of televised sports. With these three octogenarian men at Augusta — Elder, Nicklaus and Player — we have players of a generation who harken memories of segregation and racism. The same racist systems that made Elder’s pilgrimage to Augusta very rocky are the same systems that made the passages for Nicklaus and Player a lot smoother. These two white men are no less important than Elder to understanding the powerful racial symbolism of this moment in Masters history.

The Augusta National Golf Club and Masters tournaments can’t erase their pasts of keeping Black people in largely servile roles and out of the tournament field. … But what the PGA Tour can do is recognize the records of Elder, Sifford, Rhodes and so many other pioneering Black players as a part of its official record.

Nicklaus was raised in Upper Arlington, Ohio, an affluent white suburb of Columbus. One of the earliest settlers of Upper Arlington was Pleasant Litchford, a freed slave who migrated from Lynchburg, Virginia, to the area with his family around 1832. Litchford became a successful blacksmith and one of the largest landowners in the settlement with 227 acres. He was active in the anti-slavery movement and allowed his property to be used in the Underground Railroad. He donated land to build a school for Black children. Litchford died at 89 years old in 1879 with his obituary notice in the Daily Ohio State Journal describing him as a man of “iron constitution.” In his will, Litchford designated a half-acre of land for a family cemetery that would also be the final resting place for his family and friends, including his 11 children and their many offspring.

In the early 1950s, the city of Upper Arlington bought a large tract of land that was once owned by Litchford to build a new Upper Arlington high school. During construction of the school in 1955, workers found the half-acre Litchford Cemetery underneath what would become the science wing of the school, a portion of the parking lot and a sports field. The school district moved 10 bodies to another cemetery in town. In 2017, an archaeological team returned to the site and found one fully intact grave with a complete set of remains, two partially exhumed graves and three fully exhumed graves. A planned new high school will include a memorial to the gravesites.

By winning the Monsanto Open Tournament in Pensacola, Florida, Lee Elder became eligible to play in the Masters in 1975.

Two years after the Litchford Cemetery was first discovered, Nicklaus graduated from this new Upper Arlington High in an all-white senior class. This was not by accident. In 1970, an Upper Arlington homeowners association was forced to disband by court order for restricting African Americans from buying homes in the suburb for more than 20 years. Owners were forbidden from selling, leasing or renting “to a person or persons of any race other than Caucasian.”

In both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Nicklaus was a vocal supporter of Donald Trump, who along with his father, Fred Trump, faced charges from the civil rights division of the U.S. Justice Department for discriminatory housing practices in the 1970s. “In my opinion, [Trump] has been more diverse than any president I have seen and has tried to help people from all walks of life — equally,” Nicklaus said on his social media a few days before the election.

On Jan. 6, Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol, where a joint session of Congress was voting to formalize the election of Joe Biden as the next president. Yet in the same endorsement of Trump before the election, Nicklaus asked voters to look past the president’s words. “You might not like the way our president says or tweets some things … but I have learned to look past that and focus on what he’s tried to accomplish.” Less than a week after the attack on the Capitol, the PGA of America terminated the agreement to play the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey.

Lee Elder (left) and Gary Player (right) together on the golf course.

PGA of America via Getty Images

One person who did not change his plans with the president was Player, who accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam, in a private White House ceremony on the day after the Capitol riots. “This is the greatest honor that I have ever been bestowed to me in my 70 years of playing golf around the world,” Player said during the ceremony.

Player had gone through an evolution with his political beliefs from early in his career when he made apologies for South Africa’s apartheid regime to challenging the system principally through his role as an international golfer. In America, he was the focus of the anti-apartheid protesters during tournaments. During the 1969 PGA Championship at the NCR Country Club in Kettering, Ohio, protesters threw ice and telephone books at him and shouted obscenities in the middle of his shots. Player was in the group with Nicklaus when a protester charged them on the green. Nicklaus kept the protester at a distance by threatening to hit him with his putter. “I wasn’t bitter about it,” Player told Golf.com. “I mean, our country practiced the most terrible system, as America did.”

Player had become synonymous with apartheid to Americans and, for many years before South African Black activist Nelson Mandela was released from prison in 1990 after 27 years, the golfer born in Johannesburg in 1935 was the most visible South African athlete in the world. Four years before Elder first entered the field at the Masters, Player invited him to play in two tournaments in South Africa in 1971. Player convinced South Africa’s prime minister, John Vorster, to allow Elder to play in the events at a time with apartheid laws placed severe limitations on the mobility and freedoms of the country’s Black people.

Each of us is born into stories that we didn’t start. The question isn’t so much about whether Nicklaus and Player are racists or what responsibility they have for racial inequities in their communities. But Litchford is as much Nicklaus’ story as it is mine or Elder’s. The Black cemetery underneath his alma mater is rooted in the systematic uprooting of Black bodies and families for centuries that made his life possible. Player and Nicklaus cannot claim on the one hand to profess great admiration and respect for Elder, and on the other hand support leaders and policies that would challenge his fundamental place in society.

In 1994, Nicklaus was asked by a reporter why there were so few Black golfers in the professional ranks. By then, dozens of African Americans had played on the PGA Tour. Nicklaus had famously beaten Elder in a five-hole playoff in the 1968 American Golf Classic in Akron, Ohio. But still he could say, “Blacks have different muscles that react in different ways.” The 18-time major champion later tried to qualify his statements.

“I said the kids today are gravitating to the sports that best fit their body and the environment where they’re growing up,” he told Sports Illustrated. “The white society to a large degree is becoming nonfunctional. Whites are spending time in cars, they’re sitting behind desks, they’re not out exercising, whereas the young Black kid is in an environment where he’s exercising.

“His muscles develop and they develop to the degree of that type of sport. I think the opportunity is there for young Black kids to play golf, just like the opportunity is there for young white kids to play basketball. But I don’t think they’re gravitating to the same level.”

Nicklaus can’t erase these statements or the historic roots of his hometown. The Augusta National Golf Club and Masters tournaments can’t erase their pasts of keeping Black people in largely menial roles and out of the tournament field. The club can’t award Elder a winning record at the Masters to rival the other honorary starters. But what the PGA Tour can do is recognize the records of Elder, Sifford, Rhodes and so many other pioneering Black players as a part of its official record. In December, MLB announced that it would include the statistics and records of the Negro Leagues as a part of MLB history. If Elder’s UGA wins were included as a part of his PGA Tour record, he would have a great case for inclusion into the World Golf Hall of Fame alongside his fellow honorary starters.

When Elder steps on the first tee at Augusta National on Thursday morning, it will mark the 47th anniversary of Aaron hitting his 715th home run to break Ruth’s record. “A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol,” Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully said on his call from Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on April 8, 1974. “And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”

Almost exactly a year later, Elder arrived on the first tee for his first Masters to “polite applause.” This time around he will get Hammerin’ Hank’s standing ovation in the Deep South, not for any records he set, but for his role in changing the game — an achievement worth a place at the table with any big three in the sport’s history.

Features — The Undefeated

Brewers’ Devin Williams isn’t your average baseball star ‘I think I’d like to see like more freedom in the game … More freedom to be yourself, to express yourself’

NoCo is what they call it. Technically, it stands for North County, as in, the upper side of St. Louis County, where a few years back, the world had its eyes on America because of what was happening in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was killed by Darren Wilson in the street, which touched off America’s reckoning with itself as a police state unsafe for Black people.

That’s where Devin Williams grew up. 

The Milwaukee Brewers reliever with a vicious fastball and an even more devastating changeup is heading into his second season after racking up a solid amount of silverware in the offseason as both rookie and reliever of the year for the National League.

From a baseball standpoint, the 26-year-old is a phenom. After dialing hitters up with his 95 mph-plus fastball, he’ll drop an off-speed pitch on you that will change your life, whether you’re in the batter’s box or not.

They call it the airbender. It’s the best pitch I’ve ever seen.

But to understand what makes him tick, you’ve got to understand where he comes from beyond geography. His mom, like so many humans on earth, was just trying to make ends meet with three children. And he was just trying to grow up, be happy and play sports.

While most people call him Devin, the guy on the mound who embarrasses batters left and right actually goes by another name: Dave.

Raising Black children in America is a difficult task. Whether it be the mental energy one has to extend worrying about their safety around authorities, never mind peers, or the constant stress of making sure that happiness is even an option in the complicated matrix of their young minds trying to grow.

If you’re a single white mother doing so while trying to hold down a job, it doesn’t get any easier. Angela Norton, however, is a bundle of joy with a solid dollop of reality mixed in. The hours and days she spent on the road, just her and Devin, trying to fulfill his dream are incalculable and invaluable, as she sees it.

“I can remember like driving him to Minnesota and in this little red car,” she recalled, thinking about a trip to a showcase event. “We drive up there, I think we stayed one night, and we didn’t know what time he was going to throw. But he ended up throwing at night, and I did not take off the next day. So I literally drove back from Minnesota, through the night, and then I went to the gym to teach my spin class at 10 a.m.”

Real life means that real effort will reap real rewards. She knew her son was going to be a star and was willing to do whatever it took to make that happen. Including ignoring haters who didn’t have her same interest in mind. Mother and son went to the same middle school, but when recruiters got ahold of him, he ended up in a private school.

“They gave me a little bit of grant money for being a single parent, but it wasn’t that much,” she explained. “So, and here we are in white America, in a reputable school, that’s old white money. We run into some obstacles, like a lot of the kids of color that I talk to. I remember my last meeting being in the dean’s office with him and him telling my son that he would never play professional baseball. And I was like, ‘Oh, you’re never coming back here again.’ ”

Because “the rules” state that you can’t transfer from private to public and play in the same year for fear of potential shenanigans regarding so-called educational ethics, there was a concern that he might be forced to sit out one of the most critical years of his high school career. Instead, she just did the thing that most decent people do when they need help. She told the truth.

She wrote a letter to the powers that be explaining that her son had a magic arm, she was raising three kids by herself and that he flat-out needed to play. It worked. Norton protected her son as best she could and, in 2013, he signed with the Brewers with a $ 1.35 million signing bonus.

He bought her a house, which meant no more moving every two years, and Williams’ mother and sisters could live safely, and together. Only downside? They miss him dearly. When she put him on the road, alone, to go play baseball, it was an emotional experience to see her only son go off into the world.

“I was crying my eyeballs out, like, ‘My soonnn,’ yanno?” she said only half-jokingly but adorably. “He’s home for a short period of time and then he’s gone.

“He just bought a condo that he moved into before he went to spring training. And so my daughter and I, we were like, ‘Well, can’t you just stay here with us?’ He’s like: ‘I am 26.’ ”

In basic terms, Williams isn’t your average baseball star. Besides the fact that he’s Black, his style is more akin to an NBA player than a big leaguer. He loves Prem League soccer and playing FIFA. He goes overseas to cop luxury streetwear and his playlists include Lil Baby (“a staple, of course”), Young Dolph and Jack Harlow. He is not your father’s bullpen setup man, from a personality standpoint.

But just like so many other young Black players in this game, the path was tough sledding. He missed all of 2017 after Tommy John surgery, an experience that almost broke him mentally when it came to playing one of the many sports he loves.

“We were in Zebulon, like right outside of Raleigh. That was the worst year I’ve ever had playing baseball. ‘Cause I was terrible. There was one point where like, I just, I couldn’t even, I couldn’t throw a strike,” he said last month from his spring training home.

“There was one game I gave up a home run. And the next guy came up and it wasn’t even intentional. I was just pissed off. I’m like, all right, I’m throwing it right down the middle, as hard as I can. It didn’t go right down the middle. It went right over the dude’s head. Umpire ejects me immediately,” he recalled from his days with Bob Milacki, Williams’ pitching coach for the Carolina Mudcats in 2018, the Brewers’ high-A affiliate. “I was just, I was done with it. I walked off the field, there was a kid down the line. I threw my glove, told him he could have it. I was ready to go home at that point. I didn’t even want to play.”

It was a make-or-break moment for a kid who passed up a chance to play and study at the University of Missouri, a big-time program, to live with a host family in minor league towns while his mom worried about his living situation back in St. Louis. After that year, he would have been in a relatively dreaded purgatory after not being on the Brewers’ 40-man roster: a minor league free agent.

Thankfully for all of us who love seeing batters getting corkscrewed trying to hit off-speed pitches, Williams comes from strong enough stock and didn’t give up.

One of the people the Williams family credits for his fortitude is Kerrick Jackson. He was the coach at Missouri who recruited him and furthermore was simply a dependable friend in life. Williams even lived with the Jackson family for two offseason stints while he worked on himself.

“I think what it comes down to is understanding that specifically when we’re dealing with our young Black males, I’m tending to you as a young Black male, first and foremost, take baseball out,” said Jackson, who used to manage the historically Black Southern University’s baseball team, was a pro scout and now is president of MLB’s Draft League.

“I told him when we were going through the recruiting process … I said, ‘Listen, make sure you understand, regardless of whether you show up on campus or whether you signed in the draft, I’m going to be with you for life. Unless you tell me to go someplace else.’ I said, ‘I have a sense of obligation to make sure that you become the man that I think you can be. And I’m not worried about the baseball part.’ ”

Thankfully, that worked itself out. His fastball is high 90s, and again, we cannot emphasize this enough, his changeup is from another planet. Oh, and he’s working on a slider.

He figured out his fastball was best when he just threw it as hard as he could and nobody could touch it. He learned that in Pensacola, Florida, where according to Williams, the radar gun is legit accurate, unlike many minor league parks.

“There was a little scoreboard, like right behind home plate where it had the velo as well. And I just went out there with that same mindset. It’s just a place that I go to now,” he explained of his process. “I just said, here it is. I threw the first one 97. I was like, OK. … Let me see if I can get a 98. It was 97 again. I’m like, all right. 98, boom, 98. I’m like, all right. Let’s just keep going. Let me see a hundred. I can go. And I struck out three guys that didn’t even, uh, with nothing but fastballs.

“That’s where Dave came from.”

The minor leagues of baseball are a tough slog. Bus rides, not-great living accommodations, pay below living wage – none of it is easy. The argument, functionally, is that paying one’s dues in the bush leagues is what makes a player ready for the bigs. In practice, it means that while you might not be living the life of Kevin Costner in Bull Durham, you come across a lot of quality instruction as a baller that helps one figure out if Major League Baseball is a realistic dream.

Milacki realized the dream, even if briefly. You might remember his work from the complete game shutout he threw against the Minnesota Twins in 1989 where he faced the minimum 27 batters. (He allowed three hits and two walks in that game – meaning his fielders behind him did work.) What you’d more likely recall is his participation in one of the strangest no-hitters in baseball history in which he was pulled from a game after a line drive hit him in the arm. The out was still made and then three other pitchers combined to blank the Oakland A’s – on the road, no less. There was a baseball card with all four guys on it, which was both weird and dope at once.

In Wake County, he saw Williams mature as a human, not just a thrower during his time with the Mudcats.

“It was fun to watch him grow into being a man,” Milacki said. “It has nothing to do with me as much as him and who he was hanging around. You know, we kind of guide them the right way. We lead a horse to water. We can’t make him drink it, but he was hanging around some pretty good guys in the bullpen. And they’re all hungry to get to the big leagues and they’re all talking and they kicked him on the straight and narrow.”

As a young man in the toils of pro ball, what clearly kept him motivated was that Williams can do something that no one else on earth can. The quality of his fastball alone is enough to put him on a major league mound. Once you add the cambio? Forget about it.

“The spin rate on his changeup is just off the charts,” Milacki said. “If you look at [other pitchers], they’re in the low two thousands, like 2,100 or whatever. You look at him? Like 2,800.”

It’s a pitch he’s been throwing since he was a kid, when he was often the only Black kid on the team and understood full well what that meant in America.

“We were catch partners for years, man,” said Jared Fosdick, his boy to this day after the two met at 12 years old. “That changeup, that came out the womb.”

Fosdick, also a pitcher, hung up his cleats after playing college baseball and now is a family man. But he recalls growing up in Missouri with Williams. Fosdick, who is white, knew that being a friend meant more than being nice. It meant being an ally.

In the world of travel ball and competitive showcase tournaments, never mind high school sports, the world can be cold, even among teammates. But Fosdick was raised better than many. It wasn’t just the overt nonsense, it was the microaggressions that he knew to flag.

“Those statements that necessarily weren’t supposed to, you know, for them, they weren’t meant to be racist, but were very racist. A lot of it was just kinda like, hey, man, that was too far,” Fosdick said, recalling the days of him and Williams repping NoCo, even though they played at Hazelwood West High School, more colloquially known as Hazelhood.

“We played in a conference where we were playing a lot of inner-city teams. We were playing teams that were predominantly Black. And so for me in high school, I got to see firsthand schools that really didn’t put the same amount of, whether it be funding or time or money or coaching resources, whatever it was, at the school level.”

Nowadays, besides polishing his awards on his mantle, Williams thinks about what it is to be him. The odds were stacked against him on quite a few fronts. But after growing up and figuring it out, he’s doing pretty well. And is still serving plenty of Blackness if you need it.

When he etched the letters BLM into the mound before pitching on Aug. 24, 2020, life was completely different. The Milwaukee Bucks had yet to decide not to play a playoff game to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. His Brewers teammates had yet to join their city’s fellow pro athletes in solidarity, leading several other MLB teams to do the same.

“What really opened my eyes was Mike Brown back in the day, back in 2014,” Williams said. “He’s a year younger than me. Lived 10 minutes from where I lived. At that time like that, that just really shook me. You know what I mean? And then to see him, essentially, the guy just got off scot-free, you know, for shooting an unarmed kid in the middle of the street. It really just kinda hardened me in a way, honestly, you know, because that’s just something that you have to deal with growing up in this country.”

Black child, white mom, whatever. Family is family.

“My mom is supersupportive. You know, she’ll back me up in anything and that’s, especially if I feel that powerfully, you know, that strongly about something, she would always have my back.”

This season, his approach to life is not changed, but matured and evolved. He wants a little more emotion in baseball, but then again, don’t we all.

Devin Williams of the Milwaukee Brewers pitches in the seventh inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Miller Park on Aug. 9, 2020, in Milwaukee.

Dylan Buell/Getty Images

“I think I’d like to see like more freedom in the game. You know what I mean? More freedom to be yourself, to express yourself. I don’t have a problem with a guy pimping a homer off me, but when I punch you out, don’t say nothing. When I pump my fist and I yell into my glove either. So that’s how I feel about it. You know, it goes both ways, but I think that that is good for the game.”

You can expect to see plenty more changeups this year for the Brewers, including perhaps, the new slider. From a pitch approach standpoint, his repertoire could go from untouchable to lethal.

“Honestly, I’m getting really comfortable with it, so I think I’m going to have to break that out. The metrics on it are like really good. It’s like creating a triangle, essentially,” he detailed with hand motions. “Fastball’s here, changeup here, slider’s there. So yeah, just locking that down. Just keep them off balance. Like they can’t expect one or you can hope for one, but you might get the other, no matter the count.”

As far as his pitches, it’s simple. It’s just like his identity as a Black man in life and his will to win on the field.

“I have confidence in both of those.”

Features — The Undefeated

LaToya Ali’s Knotless Braids & Style Moments


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LaToya Ali, love her or hate her, has played a very purposeful role on Real Housewives Of Atlanta this season. The Trinidadian personality, who gained popularity on Youtube, brought the drama with her mean-girl antics that injected some much-needed entertainment sans NeNe.

In a recent interview, Toya revealed she suffered verbal, emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her estranged husband Adam Ali. Despite her impending divorce and difficulties in her personal life, Toya never missed the opportunity to show up and show out with her style and long knotless braids.

Since we like to uplift our fellow Black woman when she needs it most, we’re spotlighting the Canadian cutie’s fashion.

Check out 5 times she served us a lewk on the ‘gram.

Melanin Poppin’

Who said you need sun for golden hour? Toya is serving us a melanated glow in this satin canary two-piece by Revolve.

Style On Set

Yes, hunty; give us a dramatic sleeve moment! Complimented by her beach wavy lob and flawless makeup, we’ll say this is a look.

Reunion Fly

While she originally claimed she wouldn’t be attending the reunion special, Toya came dressed to slay at the season 13 reunion wearing a sinfully delightful dress by Naomi.

Red Hot

If we were going to get knotless braids, we’d show our stylist Toya’s flawless locks as inspiration. Whoever braids sis’ hair has blessed hands.

Holiday Fly

Toya also showed she can easily switch up and rocked this sleek hair look around the holidays.

In other Toya news, the fiery ‘RHOA’ star made headlines when she accused her co-star Drew Sidora’s husband of cheating. The banter between Latoya and Drew kept us locked in this season. We’ll have to see what the reunion show brings.


Toya And Her Mean Girl Antics Got Played

The ‘RHOA’ Ladies Come Dressed To Kill In All-Black At The Reunion

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Still Afraid Of COVID-19 After Getting The Vaccine? You’re Not Alone.


It’s hard, if not impossible, to comprehend just how difficult the coronavirus pandemic has been. With an invisible yet deadly virus shooting through our communities, we were told the best way to protect ourselves was to stay home, layer on masks, and isolate from friends, family and colleagues indefinitely. And so we did.

Over a year later, many of us are still living in fear — even, in some cases, after being vaccinated. The science tells us that the vaccines are highly effective and the chances of contracting COVID-19 after vaccination are slim. But shaking off trauma isn’t an easy task, especially while the news is focused on variants and a potential fourth surge.

The challenge for vaccinated people now is to step away from fear-based thinking and arrive at a place where they are willing to live and take risks again. Here’s why it’s so hard to stop living in fear after getting the vaccine, and how to readjust to life once you’ve had the shot.

Fear lingers even when the threat is reduced

After a traumatic event, it’s normal to be fearful and on high alert. Human beings are wired for survival and built to run from danger, said Lucy McBride, a practicing internal medicine physician in Washington, D.C.

“We are naturally fearful and afraid and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19,” McBride said. After the threat passes, the fear can linger.

We see this play out with various traumas. Take, for example, people who were recently in a serious car accident. Survivors might develop post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, and it could take some time before they’re ready to get behind the wheel again. Similarly, survivors of domestic abuse may hesitate before jumping into a new relationship.

The same concept applies to COVID-19. After more than a year of sustained trauma, it’s not going to be easy to pivot from a hypervigilant state of fear to a place where we are willing to live life and take risks again, McBride said. When the fear is gone and when the threat is minimized (through vaccination), it will be OK to let go and move on. But that’s often easier said than done.

“We are naturally fearful and afraid and vulnerable when there is a threat like COVID-19.”

– Lucy McBride, internal medicine physician

There’s also confusing messaging about what’s safe to do post-vaccine

One of the reasons it’s so difficult for vaccinated people to transition out of that fear mode is the broad, muddled public health messaging on what is and isn’t safe after vaccination.

“There are so many megaphones and there are so many conflicting pieces of advice,” McBride said.

Take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest guidance on travel. The CDC has released recommendations on what’s safe to do once you receive the shot, saying there’s little risk if you’re fully vaccinated (meaning it’s been two weeks since your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna, or since your Johnson & Johnson shot). The guidance also says that vaccinated people ― who’ve been advised to keep wearing masks and social distancing in public ― don’t need to self-quarantine after travel or after an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 (as long as they don’t have symptoms).

Then, however, experts from the CDC went on to say that nonessential travel should still be avoided, without much further explanation. (It’s basically because we’re still in a pandemic and COVID is still spreading like crazy, so we should all continue to be mindful and respectful. But it can be very confusing!)

The science is out there and it’s clear: It’s really hard to get COVID-19 if you’ve been fully vaccinated. “You’d have to try hard,” McBride said.

Clinical studies show that the shots are incredibly effective, but the real-world evidence is even more compelling. According to Monica Gandhi, an infectious diseases specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, real-word data shows the actual risk of getting COVID-19 after vaccination is about 0.05% — and that’s during a surge when you are around a lot of people.

Going to the gym, dining indoors, going to a movie theater or a hair salon — all the activities deemed unsafe for unvaccinated people — don’t carry the same risk for vaccinated people. Vaccinated people can safely do “all of that and more,” Gandhi said.

Now, the real-world data can’t possibly apply to every single person on the planet, McBride said. There will be rare breakthrough infections, and we will hear about vaccinated people testing positive. But by and large, after vaccination, death and severe disease are virtually off the table. There have been very few failures after vaccination, and the vast majority of breakthrough infections are likely to be mild if not asymptomatic.

All that said, it’s not time for vaccinated people to throw out the masks just yet — mainly out of respect for the majority of Americans who are still not fully vaccinated and remain susceptible to COVID-19. The latest evidence says fully vaccinated individuals are very unlikely to get sick, carry the virus or spread it to others, but as long as most of the population is unvaccinated, masks will likely be the social norm.

“Do be polite in public and maintain the restrictions that are imposed because we’re not all vaccinated,” Gandhi said.

“It’s like getting your feet wet. After any trauma, slowly stepping into the water will make things better.”

– Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco

How to get reacclimated to life after your COVID-19 vaccine

Human beings are wired for survival, but we’re also wired for connection. There are tons of studies highlighting how social relationships improve our mental and physical health and cut our risk of mortality. Having meaningful interactions with others is vital to our well-being, which is why health experts are starting to tell vaccinated patients to loosen the reins.

McBride recommended first finding someone you trust, like a primary care doctor or a therapist, who can help break down the broad public health messaging and provide nuanced guidance for your unique physical and mental health needs. The risk assessment for vaccinated people who are severely immunocompromised may differ from that which applies to the general vaccinated public.

It will take time for vaccinated people to break through the trauma, and everyone should go at their own pace. Start slow. If you’re still feeling fearful after being vaccinated, don’t jump right to eating at a crowded indoor gathering. Have a picnic with a friend who is also vaccinated, and if you feel good about it, do it again or try something else. Practice socializing and going out. Gradually, it will feel less scary.

“It’s like getting your feet wet,” Gandhi said. “After any trauma, slowly stepping into the water will make things better.”

Experts are still learning about COVID-19. The information in this story is what was known or available as of publication, but guidance can change as scientists discover more about the virus. Please check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the most updated recommendations.


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‘Pose’ Final Season Trailer Promises Tears, Triumph And Billy Porter


Audiences got their first glimpse at the final chapter of “Pose” with the release of the Season 3 trailer this week. 

Set to debut May 2, the FX drama’s new season moves the action to 1994, when Pray Tell (played by Billy Porter) is reflecting on his legacy as he grapples with HIV-related health issues. Meanwhile, Bianca (MJ Rodriguez) is facing some professional challenges as she balances her work as a nurse’s aide with motherhood and a budding new relationship.

It isn’t all gloom and doom, however, as evidenced by snippets of the House of Evangelista strutting their stuff to the tune of Aretha Franklin’s “A Deeper Love.” 

Created by Steven Canals, Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy, “Pose” dramatizes New York’s ballroom scene of the 1980s and ’90s. The show broke fresh ground for queer representation upon its 2018 premiere by featuring television’s largest-ever cast of transgender actors in series regular roles, as well as the largest LGBTQ cast for a scripted series. In 2019, Porter became the first gay Black man to win an Emmy for lead actor in a drama for his portrayal of Pray Tell, a designer and ballroom emcee. 

Canals announced on social media last month that Season 3 of “Pose” would be the show’s last, and consist of seven episodes. 

“This has been an incredible journey and we have told the story that we wanted to tell, the way that we wanted to tell it,” he said at the time. “I, along with my incredible collaborators, never intended on changing the television landscape. I simply wanted to tell an honest story about family, resilience and love.” 

Murphy echoed those sentiments. 

“We got to tell the exact story we wanted, as we wanted to tell it, and I’m incredibly honored and grateful,” the six-time Emmy winner said on Twitter

Catch the Season 3 trailer for “Pose” below. 


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Johnny Juzang’s leadership and scoring have propelled UCLA’s Final Four run Now the LA native and the Bruins face unbeaten Gonzaga

A bright orange sky begins to form over the mountains and palm trees.

It’s 6 a.m. in Los Angeles, and David Rebibo arrives at Harvard-Westlake School, ready to begin his morning activities. Rebibo is the head basketball coach, winner of both the state title in 2016 and CIF Division I title in 2017. Mornings are a chance for Rebibo to have some time alone, mapping out his plans for the day. The school is mostly empty, but not this day. Rebibo notices someone running on the track.

That person is Johnny Juzang, Rebibo’s star player on Harvard-Westlake. This wasn’t just a random occurrence. It’s an entrenched morning routine for him, waking up early, watching the sunrise and getting to work. The obsession to be the best, the drive to be great, have fueled Juzang from his days at Harvard-Westlake to now as a starter with the UCLA Bruins.

“I’ve always been someone with really big goals and expectations,” Juzang said. “With that, comes big dedication and commitment.” 

For the first time since 2008, the Bruins are in the Final Four. A program steeped in historical excellence became the Cinderella story of this year’s NCAA tournament, becoming the second program to go from the First Four to the Final Four. Juzang is a critical part of his team’s tournament success, providing the prolific offense (21.6 points per game, 48% field goal percentage), and the competitive spirit.

UCLA guard Johnny Juzang (left) and guard Jaime Jaquez Jr. (right) celebrate after an Elite Eight game against Michigan in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 31 in Indianapolis. UCLA won 51-49.

Darron Cummings/AP Photo

It’s everything Juzang’s dreamed of since he was a little kid growing up in Los Angeles, a focal point for basketball talent.

“It’s something growing up you dream about,” Juzang said after UCLA’s 51-49 victory over Michigan to advance to the Final Four. “To do it with such an amazing group of guys, such incredible staff, such incredible coaches, makes it just so wonderful.”

Hard work, determination and success are foundational pillars in the Juzang family. His older brother, Christian, played college basketball at Harvard University before competing in the Vietnam Basketball Association. Younger sister Lauren is a musician who already has a debut single, “High School Dreamers,” on Spotify. Father Maxie is a successful entrepreneur who has run Healthcare Staffing Professionals since 2006. Hanh-Payton, Juzang’s mother, is a financial adviser with Morgan Stanley.

As someone who is of Creole/Vietnamese descent, Juzang embraces his cultural background. The values his parents instilled in him are very much apparent in the player and person he is today.

“The way they brought me up is to have good values,” Juzang said. “A common theme was to have a strong work ethic and a desire to succeed. It definitely applies to basketball. Having good habits in life will apply to basketball.” 

Juzang’s early basketball memories are of watching the Los Angeles Lakers, admiring those slick purple and gold jerseys. The 2010 NBA Finals, featuring the Lakers and Boston Celtics, sticks out in Juzang’s mind. Seeing his childhood idol Kobe Bryant continue to make plays to help his team win inspired Juzang to play basketball.

“That was such an amazing series,” Juzang said. “I remember watching in my living room with my family, going crazy. Kobe’s work ethic and mentality inspired so many people. I’ll always remember that moment.” 

The Juzangs wanted their son to attend a school that valued academic and athletic excellence. Harvard-Westlake fit the bill as a university preparatory school, boasting several athletic alumni, including baseball players Jack Flaherty and Lucas Giolito and former NBA player Jarron Collins. Juzang’s freshman year at Harvard-Westlake came after the team won the state title.

The young guard didn’t care about the high expectations of his team. Even as the team started slow, Juzang cared about being the best teammate possible.

“He always wanted to bring energy in the locker room,” Rebibo said. “A very humble kid who had a switch. When the ball went up and the clock turned on, he turned into an incredible competitor.” 

Juzang was never satisfied with his current play. He always desired to improve on various aspects of his game. Rebibo recalls Super Bowl Sunday in 2018 when the Philadelphia Eagles defeated the New England Patriots. Instead of hanging out with his friends, watching the big game, Rebibo saw Juzang in the gym, perfecting his jump shot late into the night. His work ethic apparent, Rebibo challenged Juzang to inspire his other teammates to invest time in the gym away from the game. Soon after, several players were in the weight room or using their free periods to practice their shots in the gym. All thanks to Juzang.

“His work ethic, his desire to compete, has carried on for our program to this point,” Rebibo said. “There’s a standard of work for our program that has to be met because of Johnny Juzang. He’s a great leader and an incredible worker. I couldn’t be more proud.” 

Juzang’s greatest accomplishment at Harvard-Westlake came in the 2019 Mission League title game. Before the Mission League tournament, Harvard-Westlake played Mater Dei High School, one of the storied programs in Southern California. On the bus ride home, Juzang approached Rebibo, saying if the team plays up to its potential as it did against Mater Dei, nobody would beat them. 

“It all starts with me,” Juzang said. “I can’t rest. I can’t take any possessions off.” 

In the championship game, Harvard-Westlake squared off against its rival Loyola. Before the game, Juzang told Rebibo, “We leave nothing on the floor.” His intensity in the locker room before the game translated on the court, as Harvard-Westlake was up by 20 points in the second quarter. Juzang’s 25 points propelled Harvard-Westlake to its first Mission League title since 2011, defeating Loyola 53-44.

It was at that moment that Rebibo knew Juzang was different.

“At that moment, I knew he was a special player. I was blown away by how competitive he truly was.”

Harvard-Westlake School coach David Rebibo

“At that moment, I knew he was a special player,” Rebibo said. “I was blown away by how competitive he truly was.” 

At 18 years old, Juzang left Los Angeles to play college basketball for the prestigious Kentucky Wildcats. However, in his freshman season, Juzang received limited playing time, averaging 12.3 minutes a game. Before going to college, Juzang had an interest in UCLA. But when Bruins coach Steve Alford was let go, the opportunity didn’t happen.

In the transfer portal, Juzang reconnected with UCLA, wanting to play for a program with 11 NCAA titles and compete in the city where he grew up. His conversations with current UCLA coach Mick Cronin convinced him to move back home.

“I always knew it was a high-level program,” Juzang said. “I feel like he [Cronin] was not only going to push me but bring the best out of everyone. He was a guy I wanted to play for. I wanted to be a part of that.” 

UCLA guard Johnny Juzang (right) hugs Jaime Jaquez Jr. (left) after beating Alabama 88-78 in overtime in a Sweet 16 game in the NCAA men’s college basketball tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis on March 28.

AJ Mast/AP Photo

This season wasn’t without its challenges. The Bruins lost Daishen Nix, one of Cronin’s recruits, to the G League Ignite team. Chris Smith, UCLA’s lone senior, tore his ACL during the team’s 65-62 victory over Colorado on Jan. 2, knocking him out for the season. Despite these injuries, the Bruins found a way into the NCAA tournament, competing in the First Four. Not many believed UCLA could advance very far after the team lost its last three games in the regular season and the first round of the Pac-12 tournament.

The Bruins began with an overtime victory over Tom Izzo and Michigan State, with Juzang scoring 23 points. They followed their First Four win with an upset victory over the sixth-seeded BYU Cougars, this time Juzang led scoring with 27 points. The Bruins could’ve folded against the Alabama Crimson Tide after Alex Reese hit a buzzer-tying 3-pointer to send the game into overtime. Instead, UCLA raised its performance, outscoring the Tide 23 to 13 in overtime with an exclamation point 3-pointer from Bruins guard Jaime Jaquez Jr.

Against the No. 1 seed Michigan Wolverines in the Elite Eight, Juzang came out with a blazing 18 points in the first half. Early in the second half, Juzang injured his ankle after falling awkwardly. He left the game briefly, getting some treatment before returning. It speaks to Juzang’s leadership, which has grown over the past year. It takes a lot for him to leave the game and not return, demonstrating the warrior spirit the Bruins sophomore brings.

I knew for us to get here, I was going to have to let him play through things and teach him shot selection,” Cronin said. “He’s more of a scorer than a shooter, and I think that’s what he got labeled at Kentucky and I wanted him to get rid of that mindset. We really worked hard on his midrange and him going to the basket. He’s grown immensely,”

“The biggest thing for me was bringing leadership vocally but also energy and spirit to the team,” Juzang said. “Coach pushed me in all aspects of my game, whether it was defensively or being a better playmaker.” 

As UCLA prepares for its national semifinal matchup against undefeated Gonzaga, the team is relishing the moment to play on the national stage. It’s a testament to the belief the players have in each other and the culture Cronin is building at UCLA.

Juzang is the breakout star of this NCAA tournament. He isn’t satisfied with playing in the semifinals – winning is the ultimate goal.

The kid from Los Angeles who ran on the Harvard-Westlake track at 6 a.m. will now get up early Saturday in Indianapolis with a chance to play in the national championship on the line.

Features — The Undefeated