Monday, December 29, 2014

No Gut In The New Year

The New Year is approaching and declaring fitness goals are very popular.  What is going to make 2015 different than 2014 or previous years when the declaration was made?  As fitness professional one of the most popular requests from clients is their desire to get rid of belly fat.

The simple answer is the lack of proper nutrition and exercise over an extended period of time is how a gut develops.  One component of your diet that can be a major contributor is beverages.  From juices, sodas, and your favorite adult beverage.  They are loaded with sugar, carbs, and calories which all contribute to belly fat.

Any kind of calories -- whether from alcohol, sugary beverages, or oversized portions of food -- can increase belly fat. However, alcohol does seem to have a particular association with fat in the midsection.

"In general, alcohol intake is associated with bigger waists, because when you drink alcohol, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat," says Michael Jensen, MD, an endocrine expert and obesity researcher with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that staying up late led to weight gain as well as unhealthy food cravings. Their findings, which were published in a 2013 edition of the journal of Sleep, suggest that night owls who slept four hours per night for five consecutive nights consumed up to 550 extra calories per night than subjects nabbing 10 hours per night.

A survey from the American Psychological Association found that 40 percent of high-stressed people deal with their issues through emotional eating. The increase in appetite also comes with a greater production of the hormone cortisol, which can slow metabolism.

Using food from time to time as a pick me up, a reward, or to celebrate isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But when eating is your primary emotional coping mechanism—when your first impulse is to open the refrigerator whenever you’re upset, angry, lonely, stressed, exhausted, or bored—you get stuck in an unhealthy cycle where the real feeling or problem is never addressed.

It is important going into the New Year to do a self-evaluation of habits and stresses that are contributors to weight gain.  Look at your refrigerator and cabinets, survey your food choices and determine if they are contributing to a healthier lifestyle.

If you want to lose weight, get rid of a gut, build muscle, get leaner, or whatever your fitness goals are don’t enter 2015 with 2014 habits.  Learn how to grocery shop and make better foods choices, find out what fitness programs are best suited for you, and most importantly make a decision to make a change and eliminate the excuses.



Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer
www.piperpersonaltraining.com 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

UNC's Academic Scandal Addresses The Fruit Not The Root

The University of North Carolina completed their investigation regarding student-athletes who were pushed to sham classes over an 18-year period involving over 3,100 students.  The report, released Wednesday, says academic advisers in North Carolina's athletic department colluded with a manager in the African and Afro-American Studies department for student-athletes to take classes to boost their GPAs and keep them eligible in their respective sports.

The classes, in place from 1993 to 2011 as reported by espn.com allowed a student to write a paper of at least 10 pages rather than attend lectures or meet with professors. Academic advisor Deborah Crowder, who was not a professor, graded the papers. They typically earned an A or B-plus grade.

According to the report, one former head football coach, John Bunting, admitted to knowing of the paper classes and his successor, Butch Davis, also admitted some knowledge. Current men's basketball coach Roy Williams is steadfast that he did not know.

This all came to light when former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants revealed to told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in June that tutors wrote his term papers, he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible.  McCants made the dean’s list in the spring of 2005.  The same year he was part of a National Championship team at UNC.

I’m an avid sports fan, especially college sports.  My late father was a high school teacher and coach, university administrator and athletic director.  My family on both sides is full of current and former educators and coaches.  Many friends/classmates participated in college sports, graduated, and have gone on to have careers in a variety of fields and own their own businesses.  The revelations from the UNC investigation stimulated many thoughts on a personal level.

There is enough blame to go around with the revelations at UNC.  What is not discussed enough is why academic counselors and student-athletes would go the route that UNC did to help students stay eligible.  Unfortunately many student-athletes education K-12 did not prepare them adequately for higher education at an institution such as University of North Carolina.

UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham, who questioned the literacy level of Tar Heels athletes and said UNC, had committed academic misconduct before leaving the job in 2010.   Universities are not held accountable enough for pushing student-athletes toward majors that have a lighter workload and don’t develop skills that will be marketable when they pursue employment after graduation.  Some universities Liberal Arts degrees are a fancy way to say General Studies. 

This story made me reflect on a conversation my late father had with me in the car over 16 years ago when he was the athletic director at his alma mater Grambling State University.  To paraphrase, he admitted that the NCAA has antiquated rules and are making millions of dollars from basketball and football.  A student-athlete cannot change the rules while they are in school, what they can do is maximize the platform that it gives them.

Student-athletes are first in line to register for classes and schedules.  Have unlimited access to academic tutoring and support.  Travel and meet people from all walks of life.  Instead of focusing on what the university or NCAA is getting out of the deal, focus on what you can control and maximize that opportunity and leave school debt free and receive a quality education.

I am a proponent of student-athletes getting compensation, especially when it pertains to their likeness.  That is another issue.  The education they receive is independent of any additional money.  Another point my father made was that in many instances parents get caught up in the hype.  They do not push their child to focus on education or they were not fortunate enough to receive a quality education during their formative years.  In both instances it creates a quandary with attempting to keep the student-athletes eligible.

I’ve stated many times before that sports are a microcosm of society.  In August 2012 The Washington Post op-ed from Darryl Robinson, who was a freshman at Georgetown University and not an athlete addressed the difficult transition from high school to college academically.  He attended some of Washington, DC’s best schools and still was unprepared for academic rigors of Georgetown. 

Robinson stated, “But after arriving on campus before the school year, with a full scholarship, I quickly felt unprepared and outmatched — and it’s taken an entire year of playing catch-up in the classroom to feel like I belong. I know that ultimately I’m responsible for my education, but I can’t help blaming the schools and teachers I had in my early years for my struggles today.”

Robinson worked everyday to improve.  He went to tutoring twice a week, and routinely attended his professors’ office hours. He was able to express any frustrations and the professors could understand that he valued his education.

Darryl Robinson is like many student-athletes that step onto a college campus and face challenges adapting to the academic challenges whether their high schools prepared them or not.  Some, like Robinson push through the initial struggles to have academic success; others take short cuts as over 3,100 student-athletes did at UNC.

There is enough blame to go around.  How about education reform so every high school student is not in the position Darryl Robinson was in when he enrolled at Georgetown.  Parents need to be held accountable for getting caught in the hype machine of thinking their child will not need an education and will make millions of dollars as a professional athlete. 

Academic counselors and advisors not addressing the root of the problem and just want to keep a player eligible so they will push them toward courses and majors that will not help them later in life.   Finally, the student-athletes, even though they are young (18-23) there is some accountability on their part.  They agreed to choose this route, but the reason it gets to that point is because adults failed them on many levels before they stepped on a college campus.

UNC will be made the poster child for this issue, they are not alone.  My hope is that it will begin a conversation and change for all parties involved in a student-athletes life.

Monday, October 6, 2014

It Has Nothing To Do With This

Establishing a consistent routine in the effort to be “healthy” can become challenging.  Finding work/life balance tends to create excuses such as I don’t have time.  I don’t feel like it.  I don’t know how.  I can’t do that.  It is too hard.  I’ll just accept the way I am.

These reasons are not enough to stop you.  What tends to happen is that people get into their normal routine and find it difficult to include exercise and change their eating habits.  When I hear those excuses there are two points I make to people, you plan everything else, you need to plan how you take care of yourself.

Individuals with clinical depression tend to be less active than healthy average adults. Therefore, from a general health perspective, physical activity should be encouraged.  Studies have shown that acute exercise bouts (single sessions) as well as chronic exercise training programs (over a period of time) have a positive effect on those with clinical depression. 

The Mayo Clinic reported that physical activity helps to bump up the production of your brain's feel-good neurotransmitters, called endorphins.   Regular exercise can increase self-confidence and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. Exercise also can improve your sleep, which is often disrupted by stress, depression and anxiety. All this can ease your stress levels and give you a sense of command over your body and your life.

Society is more health conscious than ever.  There are numerous exercise facilities, infomercials, professionals, and plans at your disposal.   But poor choices are still an option.  Junk food is still in the grocery store.  Your favorite fast food restaurant is still in business and your bed or couch is an option instead of the gym.

With all of the access to better choices it still comes down to making a decision to wanting better.  If your schedule is busy are you doing push-ups, sit-ups, and squats at home until you can get back to gym?   There have been times when I have had conversations with clients showing them when they have time in their schedule to exercise when they think it is not there.  How they can prepare a healthy meal in a short period of time.  How to meal prep so proper food choices are accessible instead of going to the vending machine.

Stop letting excuses and feelings get in your way.  If you have doubts consult with a professional on how a healthy lifestyle can fit into your schedule and budget.  It can be done!  Instead of letting feelings and emotions get in the way of being healthy use a healthy lifestyle to assist you to deal with the trials of life that we all go through.   Don’t let anything get in your way!


Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer
www.piperpersonaltraining.com

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

2014 Redskins and NFL First Quarter Review

Redskins and NFC East

Week Four of the NFL season is complete and the Washington Redskins are 1-3.   I can’t say that I am surprised.  I really did not have high expectations this season coming off a 3-13 campaign.  I expected the team to be more competitive than last season and was hopeful Robert Griffin III could put 2013 behind him.  After playing a subpar game in Week 1, he looked impressive early in Week 2 vs. Jacksonville before going down with a dislocated ankle.

Kirk Cousins filled in admirably for the remainder of the game for the ‘Skins lone win and played well in a close loss to Philadelphia the following week.  Then the second half on Thursday night vs. NY Giants happened, four interceptions.

I mentioned in my preseason blog there has been intrigue about how good a quarterback Kirk Cousins will be.  Fans and media can be prisoners of the moment and praise him as the franchise quarterback and ready to move on from RGIII and the next moment question if he is just a backup with a couple of good performances because of his struggles against the Giants.  My take is the jury is still out.  We have seen highs and lows in the three games he has appeared in this season. 

There are five games remaining until the bye week.  That is when RGII could be ready to return from his injury.  Seven starts should be enough to evaluate whether Cousins is a quarterback to consider moving forward with or not.  Let’s wait and judge the entire body of work…and we may see enough before then.   For argument’s sake let’s say he plays poorly and or is inconsistent.  ‘Skins fans should still be very concerned about the future of the position.

Griffin has not demonstrated that he can perform at a high level over a consistent period of time.  I have put 2012 behind me.  That was lightning in a bottle.  The read option and play action from that formation caught defenses off guard.  Other teams around the league with mobile quarterbacks were copying what Washington was doing.  In 2013 those same defenses caught up.  Griffin coming off knee surgery would have to beat teams from the pocket, read defenses better, and use his legs only when necessary.  In addition his offseason development was impacted rehabilitating and he returned in 2013 too early without appearing in a preseason game.

In 2013 Griffin started 13 games going 3-10 and did not look like the same quarterback in 2012.  Cousins could turn into the next great backup filling in for a starter and have a great career such as Tom Brady, Brett Favre, Steve Young, and Kurt Warner or he could be the next Kevin Kolb, Rob Johnson, or Matt Flynn who filled in for a short period and had success, then when given the job full time struggled.  With the investment made in Griffin the team will most likely move on with him if Cousins does not perform well.

Besides the quarterback position the defense did not perform as well in Week 4 as it did in the previous three weeks.  Eli Manning looked like he was playing catch in the backyard during the Giants game moving down the field with ease.   Cornerback DeAngelo Hall is out for the season with a torn Achilles' tendon and was missed vs. NY Giants.

The Philadelphia Eagles still appear to be the class of the NFC East even though the Dallas Cowboys and NY Giants have played well the last two weeks.  Philadelphia’s offensive line has struggled with injuries and suspensions, but they are still in first place in the division with a 3-1 record.

The Eagles have not played the Cowboys or Giants yet.   The schedule will be challenging for all of the NFC East teams with the NFC West teams on their schedule.  The Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, and Arizona Cardinals all look very formidable.  I still see the NFC East only sending one team to the playoffs.

Rest of the League

Speaking of the Seattle Seahawks they still appear to be the team to beat in the NFC.  The NFC North should be very interesting because the gap between the top three teams Detroit, Green Bay, and Chicago seems to very small.  Minnesota has turn the reigns over to rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater who played well in beating Atlanta in his first start and should not be looked over.

The Denver Broncos led by Peyton Manning look like they will be right back in the mix to return to the Super Bowl.  The San Diego Chargers are picking up from the momentum from last season including beating Seattle at home this season.   Philip Rivers is playing at a MVP level.

Will the New England Patriots be relevant?  I don’t think so.  Tom Brady can only do so much.  It is amazing what he has accomplished in his career playing with only one Hall of Fame caliber receiver in his career in Randy Moss from 2007-10.  Their defense is not as strong as years past.  They still will probably win the division because the AFC East is mediocre.

Buffalo has benched the struggling EJ Manuel for Kyle Orton, Miami is inconsistent, and the Jets do not seem formidable.  The Indianapolis Colts and Cincinnati Bengals are leading the AFC South and North respectively as expected.  I am interested to see how the AFC North plays out.

Baltimore and Pittsburgh could be battling for one playoff spot if the Bengals win the division.  The Cleveland Browns have been competitive in every game as Brian Hoyer holds off Johnny Football with his play.

The NFL is a week-to-week league.  Opinions can drastically change just after one good or bad performance by a player and/or team.  After the first four weeks Denver, Philadelphia, Seattle, Indianapolis, and Cincinnati are living up to expectations.  The trendy pick of the Arizona Cardinals are 3-0 even with their starting quarterback Carson Palmer missing two games.  The next four weeks should give us more answers.




Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Protein and Fish Oil


I am often asked what are the best supplements.  First keep in mind that supplements are meant to compliment your diet, not BE your diet.  Normally, you should be able to get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet. However, taking supplements can provide additional nutrients when your diet is lacking or when certain health conditions cause you to develop an insufficiency or deficiency.

Risks

In the United States, dietary supplements are not regulated as strictly as drugs; manufacturers do not have to prove that their use is either safe or effective.  Supplement manufacturers are prohibited from selling unsafe products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) maintains a list of tainted drugs. The worst offenders are usually weight loss aids, "natural" sexual enhancement pills, and supplements targeted at bodybuilders.

Here are two supplements I recommend taking regardless if you are trying to lose weight or increase your muscle mass:

Fish Oil

Fish oil contains the omega 3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are the very best fats.  The omega 3 fatty acids found in fish oil have been scientifically proven to reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes, lower blood pressure, decrease inflammation and joint stiffness, and treat various mood disorders. Fish oil has also been shown to either help improve or prevent Alzheimer's disease and dementia, depression, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, diabetes, hyperactivity, ADHD and more.

Protein Powder

The majority of your protein intake should come from high protein foods (chicken, fish, turkey, lean meats, egg whites, etc.), protein powder is a quick, simple, convenient way to ensure you get enough protein each day.   Protein shakes are enable you to control your fat and calorie intake, which is beneficial to weight management. Portion control is a major problem for many people, and since many protein powders have controlled portions of calories, fat, protein and carbohydrates.

One of the main benefits of making and consuming protein shakes is the opportunity to add a multitude of other nutrients along with the protein powder. In one drink, you can enjoy the benefits of protein, fruits, flaxseed oil, aloe vera gel, coconut oil, milk, greens, natural peanut butter, plus any other foods or supplements you may want. Experiment with different combinations to find a taste to your liking.




Monday, September 15, 2014

Sports Can Be A Catalyst

The last two weeks sports has been in the news for all of the wrong reasons.  I have followed sports closely since I can remember.  Usually for fans sports are an escape for the cares of the world.  But when we turned on our televisions or went online it was full of disturbing stories.  From Ray Rice, NFL competence, Adrian Peterson, Danny Ferry, and other stories.  The beauty of social media is that it allows us to express our opinions on a variety of topics.

Some of are the opinion as to why should we care about sports so much.  I’ve stated many times before sports are a microcosm of society.  They expose the best and worse of our society and can be a catalyst for change on issues that are larger than the game.  That is what we witnessed the last two weeks.

Ray Rice’s video being released just gave us a visual of what we suspected took place between him and his then fiancĂ© in the elevator.  San Francisco 49ers Ray McDonald and Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy have pending domestic violence cases.  The developments Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings discipline of his four year old is just another mess the NFL has on its hands.

What became a bigger story with Rice is how the Baltimore Ravens and NFL mishandled the situation and whether McDonald and Hardy should be playing without due process being completed.   Did the NFL see the Rice video or not, etc. etc.  As Bill Simmons Grantland stated, “Doesn’t this feels like Nixon all over again?” How can the same scandal blow up in someone’s face THREE DIFFERENT TIMES? It’s impossible!

A lot of good will come from the events of last week pertaining to Ray Rice.  The seriousness of domestic violence is being discussed.   Law enforcement is being forced to revisit how they handle domestic violence.  Society is doing a self-examination on how it has not been discussed enough. 

The NFL is heads and shoulders the most popular sports league.  Over 40% of their fans are women. 

Then handling of the situation reveals what tends to happen in big business when it is booming.  It is easy to get complacent about processes and competence.  A recent poll done by ESPN had over 50% of fans desiring for Commissioner Roger Goodell to resign or be fired.  The problem is the NFL owners are his bosses.  They are pleased with the job he is doing because he stays on the front line and takes all of the criticism that they do not have to deal with. 

Football fans have the right to complain about the competence of the person who oversees a multibillion industry they support.  Not only do fans come to the games, but we also support the sponsors that fund the NFL.  That is why they are willing to pay such a high price for advertisements in stadiums, events, and commercials.  Goodell’s salary has increased to $44 million/year.  With the responsibilities that come with being Commissioner competence should not be continuous question.

This is not new from how he handled the New England Patriots Spygate, New Orleans Saints Bountygate, fines, suspensions, and other issues.  Goodell has overseen the growth of the NFL, but I do not think much credit should be given to him for it.

It is like President Bill Clinton getting too much credit for the economy’s boom in the 1990’s.  Part of it was he was President at the right time…and he is brilliant.

Leadership Author and expert John Maxwell states, leadership is focused on developing the organization for future success. Leaders tend to focus on long-term growth, and they set challenging goals for themselves and for their businesses. Innovation is therefore key to leaders, who are always asking themselves "How can we make this business better?"

Another Maxwell position that applies to Goodell from his Five Levels of Leadership (People, Permission, Production, People Development, Pinnacle) is Position Leadership, the lowest level.  People follow because they have to.  That is where Goodell appears to fall.  He seems overwhelmed by the many facets that come with the job.  Communicating with fans, players, and media about the NFL and reasoning behind major decisions.  His former position as COO did not require the same responsibility.  With all the recent developments and controversies he has cancelled recent public appearances.

Then there was Danny Ferry’s comments regarding then free agent Luol Deng, "has a little African in him” that were on a conference call with the audio tape released this week.  Ferry claimed he was reading from a report.  Listening to the audio it did not appear he was reading.  Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo stated they belonged to him because they belonged to a culture within the Atlanta Hawks where one of his underlings didn't think twice about inputting them into the Hawks' database. That person didn't fear the general manager's response. The words belonged to Ferry because no one else studying and re-studying the Deng intelligence report – a player with whom they would offer a $10 million-a-year contract – thought it necessary to delete from the file.

The comments were unfortunate to say the least.  What good came out of it was a part owner of the franchise demanded that it would be investigated.  Whether their motivation was because the Donald Sterling fiasco was still fresh or knowing that it was wrong, they knew that an insulting reference should not be tolerated.  Ferry has taken an indefinite leave of absence.

So what did I take from the last couple of weeks?  Sports can start the process on social change.  Competence can be compromised for profits and greed.    I agree with what Mark Cuban stated in March in reference to the NFL, "Just watch.  Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I'm just telling you, when you've got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That's rule No. 1 of business."

The recent events will not hurt NFL profits in the short term because fans are suckers for Sundays.  We just want to watch the games and it is an escape from our troubles and even those within the NFL.   I was reminded that the tolerances for insensitive remarks towards individuals are no longer being tolerated in a corporate setting.  Sponsors do not want to be associated with those thoughts and the public is responding swiftly.  Sports cannot solve the world’s problems.  We have issues with ISIS, Ferguson still looming, crime, and continuous discrimination on all levels.  But we can thank sports for being the catalyst to many of the issues in the past, present, and future.

Football was the same sport that was a catalyst for history with Doug Williams winning a Super Bowl to help change the perception of black men being able to lead a diverse group. From being the lowest paid starting quarterback in Tampa Bay earlier in his career and less than a dozen backups to Super Bowl MVP.

The Jackie Robinson Little League United States Champions inspired conversations on race, but also illustrated how when a community is invested into what can be accomplished.  The team is a beneficiary of Major League Baseball’s RBI program, reviving baseball in inner cities.   More than baseball needs reviving in many cities.  This program is an example of when resources are invested into communities what children can accomplish.  The same can be said for education and job training.

Sports, with their impact and influence, have always had a place in society. There can be many instrumental development objectives and lessons realized through sports. Their value is sometimes underestimated, but as anyone knows who has ever been to any sporting event, it can literally reshape the foundation of a community. 


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

View Your Body As A Sculpture

Let’s be honest, we all would like to look in the mirror and be pleased with what we see.  We stare at body parts and would like for them to look bigger, smaller, more muscle or tone, slimmer waist, etc.  In order for that to happen discipline and consistency will be required.  There must be a plan of action for you to see the results you desire and avoiding resistance/strength training is not the answer.

Are you a cardio king or queen?  The majority of your fitness activities involve cardio vascular activities such as running, zumba or the elliptical machine.   Cardio is a great way to burn fat, calories and build endurance.  Cardio exercises keep our heart and respiratory system in good working condition.  What resistance and strength training allow you to do is be very intentional about which body parts you would like to focus on.  It allows you to treat your body like sculpture.  A sculptor shapes and molds with precision.  That is how you have to view your training sessions.

The process is trial and error, especially the first time you attempt to increase your strength training to build the physique you desire.  Certain body parts may respond faster or slower than others.  You will constantly need to evaluate your program and make adjustments.  For example, your quadriceps might respond faster than your hamstrings.  Instead of doing legs one day/week it might require two days and increased volume of exercises that focus on your hamstrings such as dead lifts and reverse lunges.

Let’s say that you’re eating the proper diet to reach your goals.   Remember, you can not out train a bad diet.  Now you are evaluating your physique and would like to see changes in certain areas.  For example, if you would like more definition in your back, or  glutes to have more shape resistance training will be needed over an extended period of time to build the muscle.  Women don’t worry, you will not develop a bulky or heavy physique.  Women don’t produce anywhere near as much testosterone as men do which makes it essentially impossible to attain.  

Be careful comparing yourself to someone who has been utilizing strength training for many years or genetically their body responds faster than yours.  They have put their bodies through routines for months and years causing the muscles to become accustomed to strenuous activity as the body ages. The body becomes more refined and the muscles contract harder because they have the experience to back them.  Maturing muscles come with time, training, dedication, consistency and patience. You must learn exercises that target certain body parts and their purpose and what ultimately you to accomplish from doing them.  Foundational movements such as push-ups, pull-ups, squats, deadlifts, and shoulder presses are stable of building a physique.  Isolation exercises such as bicep curls, shoulder flies, and triceps extension variations fine tune the physique.

You want a well-balanced and proportioned body.  That means that some body parts may need more attention than others, but it should not come at the cost of neglecting the body parts that are your strong suits.  Your body will respond to what you pay attention to.   For example, a sculptor uses clay and carving tools.  View your body as the clay and weights, resistance bands, and body weight exercises as the carving tools to shape the body you desire.

Jamaal Piper
Health and Wellness Consultant/Personal Trainer
www.piperpersonaltraining.com


Monday, September 8, 2014

Sometimes It’s Just About Business, Racial And Not Racist

Atlanta Hawks owner Bruce Levenson
After reading Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson’s email from 2012 that was labeled, “racially insensitive” in many headlines I was puzzled to why he felt the need to sell the team.  His choice of words could have been better, but I wasn’t personally offended by his remarks.  The email came off as a ramble.  It doesn’t negate the observations and concerns he had owning a team. 

According to Hawks CEO Steven Koonin, the Hawks held a meeting in early June to discuss potential free-agent targets. General Manager Danny Ferry cited a background report that included an "offensive and racist" remark about a player.  Yahoo! Sports and the Journal-Constitution reported in subsequent reports Monday, quoted Ferry as saying of Deng: "He is still a young guy overall. He is a good guy overall. But he is not perfect. He's got some African in him. And I don't say that in a bad way."


After the meeting, one of the Hawks' stakeholders called for an internal investigation based on the remark being in the team's research of a player, which lead to Levenson’s email being discovered.


Many business' use words such as “demographics” to justify their approach.  Whole Foods grocery stores and 4-5 star restaurants are one end of town and liquor stores and checking cashing establishments on the other side for a reason.  These business owners want profits, they will pick locations to customers that their respective businesses are convenient for and will support, like it or not.  In many instances those reasons touch on class and race and when it is publicly revealed it touches on the sensitivities we have. 

The Atlanta Braves announced in November 2013 they were moving to Cobb County, GA outside of Atlanta bucking the trend of building stadiums downtown.  The Braves claim their fan base is out in the suburbs. They claim there’s “nothing around” [Turner Field, current stadium] that people want to go to.  Atlanta said no when the Braves asked for hundreds of millions of dollars to make improvements or build a new stadium. So, the Braves found a place that would give them their $392 million.  They made a business decision.

Levenson states in the e-mail in reference to season ticket sales being low:

“…I was told it is because we can't get 35-55 white males and corporations to buy season tixs and they are the primary demo for season tickets around the league. when I pushed further, folks generally shrugged their shoulders. then I start looking around our arena during games and notice the following:
— it's 70 pct black
— the cheerleaders are black
— the music is hip hop
— at the bars it's 90 pct black
— there are few fathers and sons at the games
— we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel.
Then I start looking around at other arenas. It is completely different. Even DC with its affluent black community never has more than 15 pct black audience."

He mentions further in the email that he is not threatened or heard any incidents at the games, but knows that white southerners may not have a comfort level.  He raised the issue of disposable income that differ in the black and white communities in Atlanta.  I live in the Washington, DC area, which has an affluent black middle class.  The difference is that Atlanta, GA is a southern city and state and race relations there are much different than a transient city like DC.

This is coming off the tail end of Donald Sterling and the Pandora’s box it could open that Mark Cuban was concerned about.  "I think there's a [league] constitution for a reason, right?" Cuban said before Game 4 of the Mavericks-San Antonio Spurs series. "Because this is a very slippery slope. What Donald said was wrong. It was abhorrent. There's no place for racism in the NBA, any business I'm associated with, and I don't want to be associated with people who have that position.  But at the same time, that's a decision I make. I think you've got to be very, very careful when you start making blanket statements about what people say and think, as opposed to what they do. It's a very, very slippery slope.”

These are discussions that every business owner has especially when offering entertainment, product and/or services.  That is why when you turn on a program like “The Voice” on NBC they always make sure they have a black male and white female as judges along with Adam Levine and Blake Shelton whether it was Usher, CeeLo Green, Pharrell Williams or Christina Aguilera, Shakir, and Gwen Stefani.  They desire to appeal to a broad audience and those respective artists represent different genres.  Is that racist or sexist or a thoughtful business decision?  I would say the latter. 

I watched CNN drill the mayor and Police Chief in Ferguson, MO regarding the lack of police officers in the city coming off the tragic death of Michael Brown.  They both explained the lack of black applicants.  St. Louis, MO is only 20 minutes away and their police force offers better opportunities.  The residual affect of that impacted Ferguson not having police offers that could relate to the community they serve.  The Michael Brown tragedy as been well documented and discussed ad nauseam.  But the issue of black officers in Ferguson speaks to the issues of those who run the city and police department have to face and think of ways to solve that involve race.

As Kareem Abdul-Jabbar stated in his piece for Time magazine, business people should have the right to wonder how to appeal to diverse groups in order to increase business. They should even be able to make minor insensitive gaffs if there is no obvious animosity or racist intent. This is a business email that is pretty harmless in terms of insulting anyone — and pretty fascinating in terms of seeing how the business of running a team really works.

Unfortunately for Levenson a scouting report about a player resulted in an investigation that revealed his email.  The comments in the scouting report are offensive, Levenson’s email context was not the same but somehow the two got lumped together and now he felt forced to sell the team.  I am hoping we can get to the point that when a comment or issue is racial it doesn’t make it racist. 

It is easy to get intellectually lazy and not look for context behind comments.  The majority of commentaries I have seen in reference to Levenson appear to see the difference.    Levenson was addressing the issue that was affecting the profits for his business, the NBA with a predominately black league and marketing to a broad audience and corporate sponsors.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

2014 Washington Redskins and NFL Outlook

Football season is finally here.    Before the season begins fans of all 32 teams have high expectations of their respective teams season.  It is no different in the DMV for Washington Redskins fans.   Last season’s 3-13 season was very disappointing coming off a division title and the excitement of Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III's rookie campaign.    The drama with Head Coach Mike Shanahan and Griffin recovering from his knee injury casted a shadow over the season.  Shanahan is gone, Jay Gruden comes in, and Griffin is healthy.
           
2014 Redskins Season

Robert Griffin III
Much of the talk this preseason has been about Griffin’s struggles and backup Kirk Cousins performing well.  This is a critical season for Griffin.  The coach that he did not connect with is gone.  It appears Cousins has improved since last season.  Other quarterbacks such as Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers and Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons struggled in their second seasons after successful rookie campaigns and broke out with very good performances in their third season.  That is what ‘Skins fans are hoping for Griffin.  Newton and Ryan did not have another highly touted quarterback in their same draft class serving as a backup.  As confident as Griffin comes off he knows Kirk Cousins is a young developing quarterback like himself who still has intrigue around the league on how he would perform as a full time starter.
            I am hoping that the ‘Skins let the season play out with Griffin at the helm and Gruden not get tempted to go to Cousins too early if things do not go well.  By the end of the season we should have an idea of what kind of quarterback Griffin will be.  Was 2012 an anomaly with Washington’s read option and a rookie running back Alfred Morris because opposing teams did not have film on them?  After two seasons there will not be any surprises.  Griffin has to evolve and make all the progressions and throws from the pocket.   I do not think he has slowed down from his knee injury.  It appears even in preseason games teams have schemed knowing his tendencies and in position if he runs.  He’ll have to beat teams with his arm and Morris continuing to gain yards in the running game. 
I was never a fan of Shanahan, but it does not mean his assessment of Griffin and Donovan McNabb was incorrect.  He just handled the situations poorly.  McNabb was washed up and it showed when he went to Minnesota the following season.  On what Griffin and Shanahan clashed over on what Griffin needed to do to become a better quarterback might be accurate as well.  Griffin’s comments to the media and on social media have impacted the perception of him that he just doesn’t “get it”.  Especially when quarterbacks in his draft class such as Russell Wilson of Seattle Seahawks and Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts do not have the same issues and in just two seasons have more playoff success.  Is Griffin a know it all?  Is he coachable?  Is he relying too much on his success in the past and rookie season?  When I listen to him he appears to say the right things without coming off as to understanding why he needs to.  The quarterback is judged differently and we are all watching.  I don’t anticipate the team making the playoffs, but an improvement from 2013 with 7-9 wins. 

New Stadium           

Owner Dan Snyder recently announced plans for a new stadium.  This was exciting news to me.  I have never been a fan of FedEx Field.  It was built in a bad location with terrible traffic concerns to and from games.  The stadium does not have any character and didn’t have the same atmosphere as RFK Stadium, something was must missing.   Snyder was coy about the new stadium’s location.  My feeling is for two reasons; one I think he would like to have the new stadium constructed in the District.  Washington, DC is about to elect a new mayor and this would not be the appropriate time to discuss a move back into the city until after the election.   
The site at RFK would be ideal.  The soccer team, DC United has plans for a new stadium on the waterfront near Nationals Park.  The RFK site has direct Metro access and easier access in and out of the stadium by car.  It just makes sense.  Secondly, there are 13 years remaining on the lease of FedEx field.  I am sure by the time a new stadium is constructed a buyout of the lease could be negotiated.  Teams in all major sports have or are planning to move into their respective cities and not build stadiums in the suburbs.    Virginia could come into play because many of the ‘Skins fans travel from Virginia and Montgomery County, MD to games and a stadium there would be more accessible to the majority of season ticket holders.  The Atlanta Braves plans to move outside of Atlanta are for similar reasons.  Again, we’ll have to wait and see.

Playoff Predictions
NFC
Division Champions
Philadelphia Eagles-East
Green Bay Packers-North
New Orleans Saints-South
Seattle Seahawks-West

Wild Cards
Arizona Cardinals
Chicago Bears

AFC
Division Champions
New England Patriots-East
Cincinnati Bengals-North
Indianapolis Colts-South
Denver Broncos-West

Wild Cards
Pittsburgh Steelers
San Diego Chargers

I need to see games before I start talking Super Bowl, let the games begin!