Issa Wedding! Issa Rae Marries Louis Diame in France

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Photos by Lauren Fair Photography.

By Terrance Turner

July 26, 2021

Issa Rae is married.

The actress, writer, and producer married businessman Louis Diame over the weekend in the French Riviera. The intimate ceremony took place in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, a commune in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in Southeastern France.

Rae shared stunning photos of the nuptials, captured by photographer Lauren Fair, on Instagram: “A) Impromptu photo shoot in a custom @verawanggang dress. B) My girls came to help me, but they all coincidentally had on the same dress! They were sooooo embarrassed. C) Then I took a few flicks with Somebody’s Husband,” she joked in the caption. “Big thanks to @whiteedenweddings for being so gracious and accommodating and making this feel so real and special.”

Rae wore a white, strapless custom Vera Wang gown; Diame was decked out in a red Dolce & Gabbana tuxedo. Details on the wedding are scarce, which is likely how Rae wanted it. Though the two have been together for nearly a decade, their relationship has been out of the spotlight. “I get so much feedback about everything,” she told Marie Claire in 2018. “The one thing I don’t need feedback on is who I’m sleeping with.”

News of the engagement broke in April 2019, when Rae appeared on the cover of Essence magazine with a sizable diamond ring:

But it was actually two of Rae’s Insecure co-stars who confirmed her engagement news. “We all found out in different ways because we’re all on different text chains. We talk at different times, so we all found out at different times in different ways,” Jay Ellis told Entertainment TonightYvonne Orji added, “The reaction was all the same, like, ‘You out here in these streets getting married, boo?!’ That was the reaction.”

Reaction to the wedding (and to those pictures!) was rapturous. Rae’s makeup artist Joanna Simkin commented, “Love you two so much. The most magical day, and so honored to witness all of the beauty and love. You two are the most beautiful.” Additionally, Ashley Nicole Black commented, “You’re always stunning, but that picture of you with that lady’s husband has the most glow. Congrats!”

“You make a gorgeous Bride ❤️,” wrote Tina Knowles-Lawson.

Indeed.

DaBaby Criticized For “Rolling Loud” Performance

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July 26, 2021

By Terrance Turner

This story contains graphic language and images.

Tonight, rapper DaBaby performed at the Rolling Loud festival in Miami. He performed directly after Houston rapper Megan Thee Stallion. And of all the people he could’ve chosen to bring onstage during his set, he chose the man who shot Megan just over a year ago.

“I’ll give somebody out here a million dollars if they can guess who in here,” DaBaby said to the packed crowd before the man inside a giant costume unveiled himself. Under the giant foam head was Canadian rapper Tory Lanez. DaBaby joined him for a performance of their song “Skat”, according to Complex. That came just minutes after he performed “Crybaby,” Megan’s hit song on which DaBaby is featured.

For context: On July 12, 2020, Megan and two others were riding in a car with Tory Lanez when an argument broke out. Officers received reports that shots had been fired outside a home in the Hollywood Hills. According to Variety, Lanez was arrested for possession of a concealed weapon. Lanez was arrested on felony charges at 4:40 a.m. Sunday and released on a $35,000 bond around six hours later. 

Three days later, Megan released a statement that explained the incident. She said, in part: “On Sunday morning, I suffered gunshot wounds, as a result of a crime that was committed against me and done with the intention to physically harm me. I was never arrested, the police officers drove me to the hospital where I underwent surgery to remove the bullets. I’m incredibly grateful to be alive and that I’m expected to make a full recovery,” she wrote. She added, “I was shot in both of my feet.”

Megan did not name her assailant, and the LAPD said that she did not report being a victim of any crime. However, Megan revealed in August that Tory Lanez had shot her. She said she hadn’t initially reported the shooting due to concerns about police brutality.

“Yes this n—a Tory shot me,” Megan says in an Instagram Live video. “You shot me, and you got your publicist and your people going to these blogs lyin’ and s–t. Stop lyin’. Why lie?” She added: “All this s–t goin’ on with the police? Police is shootin’ motherf–kers for anything. The police was literally killin’ Black people for no motherf–kin’ reason. Soon as the police tell us all get out the motherf–kin’ car, the police is really aggressive. You think I’m bout to tell the police that we, n—as, us Black people, got a gun in the car? You want me to tell the law we got a gun in the car so they can shoot all of us up?”

Lanez denied the shooting. In September 2020, he dropped a 17-song album called Daystar — which, according to Variety, references the shooting on nearly every track. “How the f–k you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons?” he asks on one song. Later, he adds, “I would never put you in no danger — and if I did, you would’ve said it when you seen the cops.”

In September, Lanez was charged in the shooting. The New York Times reported that Lanez was charged with one count of assault with a semi-automatic handgun and one count of carrying unregistered, loaded firearm in the vehicle. He faces up to 22 years and 8 months in prison if convicted. The judge issued a protective order against Lanez, according to Rap-Up. He must remain at least 100 yards away from Megan and not contact her. He must also surrender any guns he owns.

DaBaby has done several songs with Megan, including “Cash S–t” in 2019 and her hit single “Crybaby” in Nov. 2020. But he has also worked with Tory. Last month he released his song “Skat”, which features Lanez. That collab drew criticism online:

Around the same time, DaBaby retweeted a “joke” about the shooting, which also referenced DaBaby fatally shooting a man in a North Carolina Walmart:

Megan called DaBaby out via Twitter:

Now, Twitter is ablaze over DaBaby’s decision to bring out Lanez for a performance — after “Crybaby” and before “Cash S–t,” no less:

He’s also being called out for homophobia after comments he made onstage. “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two, three weeks, then put your cellphone light up,” DaBaby said. “Ladies, if your p—y smell like water, put a cellphone light them up. Fellas, if you ain’t sucking d–k in the parking lot put your cellphone light up. Keep it real.”

“Some of y’all n—as suspect as a motherf—er. Let’s be real,” added a man in the background (his DJ?).

UPDATE (3:04 pm): DaBaby has responded to the criticism. On Instagram.

“I’ma address this weak-ass internet s–t one time and then I’ma get back to giving my love to my fans,” he said. “What me and my fans do at the live show, it don’t concern you n—as on the internet, or you bitter bitches on the internet. It’s not your business… What I do at a live show is for the audience at the live show, it’ll never translate correctly to someone looking a little five-six second clip from they goddamn crib on they phone. It just don’t work like that.”

He then claimed that the Internet had “twisted up” his words. “All my fans at the show, the gay ones and the straight ones, we turned the f–k up,” he continued. 

NFL Issues New Memo on COVID-19

By Terrance Turner

July 22, 2021

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered a memorandum today that outlined the COVID-19 protocols and operating procedures for the 2021 NFL season. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the terms of the memo. Goodell is making headlines for language that sets firm rules — and strict penalties for those who do not abide by them.

“While there is no question that health conditions have improved from last year, we cannot be complacent or simply assume that we will be able to play without interruption — either due to COVID outbreaks that occur within our clubs or outbreaks that occur within the larger community,” Goodell wrote. “These principles are intended to help inform decisions, recognizing that, as in 2020, we will need to remain flexible and adapt to possibly changing conditions.”

“As of today, more than 75 percent of players are in the process of being vaccinated, and more than half the clubs have vaccination rates greater than 80 percent of their players,” he continues. “We know that vaccines are safe and effective and are the best step anyone can take to be safe from the coronavirus.”

“If a vaccinated person tests positive and is asymptomatic, he or she must isolate, and contract tracing will promptly occur. The positive person can return to work after two negative tests at least 24 hours apart. If an unvaccinated person tests positive, the protocols from 2020 will remain in effect. The person will be isolated for a period of 10 days and will be permitted to return to duty if asymptomatic.”

The memo makes clear that the NFL intends to play its new 17-game, 18-week season without a hitch. “The league will make every reasonable effort […] to complete the full 272-game regular season within the current 18 weeks and all postseason games as scheduled, in a safe and responsible way,” it says. “We do not anticipate adding a ’19th week’ to accommodate games that cannot be rescheduled.”

“If a game is cancelled/postponed because a club cannot play due to a Covid spike among or resulting from its non-vaccinated players/staff, then the burden of the cancellation or delay will fall on the club experiencing the Covid infection,” the memo states. “If a game cannot be rescheduled within the current 18-week schedule due to a Covid outbreak among non-vaccinated players on one of the competing teams, the club with the outbreak will forfeit the contest and will be deemed to have played 16 games,” it says. If a game is canceled and cannot be rescheduled, the forfeiting team will be credited with a loss, and neither team’s players will receive their weekly salary.

Players reacted to the memo on Twitter. Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins tweeted and then deleted his negative reaction to the rules. “Never thought I would say this, But being put in a position to hurt my team because I don’t want to partake in the vaccine is making me question my future in the NFL,” he wrote.

“The NFL is pressuring/ ‘influencing’ guys to get the vaccine. They are saying if there is an outbreak, the team will be penalized heavily,” Los Angeles Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey said on Twitter. “My point is no teammate of mine will feel that pressure from me because whether you are vaccinated or not, there is still a chance of getting covid.”

DJ Reader, Cincinnati Bengals defensive tackle, tweeted, “Talk about getting your hand forced smh.”

Bucks Celebrate First NBA Title Since 1971

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 (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

By Terrance Turner

July 20, 2021 (updated July 22)

The Milwaukee Bucks battled the Phoenix Suns tonight in a crucial Game 6. The Bucks led 3-2 in the series; they needed one more win for their first championship since 1971. The Suns had to win in order to force a Game 7 in their hometown. Game 6 featured wild wings in momentum and scoring, but the Bucks prevailed. With 17,000 fans inside Milwaukee’s Fiserv Forum and thousands more outside, the home team delivered a championship to a city that hadn’t seen it in 50 years. Giannis Antetokoumpo delivered a performance for the ages, dropping 50 points to power the Bucks past the Suns, 105-98.

There were turnovers by both sides early, but the Bucks were up 15-11 before Bobby Portis hit a three-pointer. On the next possession, he hit another three to make it 21-14. Antetokoumpo made back-to-back baskets, driving with a spin move to put his team ahead by 11. Phoenix would respond, but Giannis was fouled again. Free throws have been a consistent issue for him, but he made them both. Then, after his shot didn’t go, teammate Brook Lopez rebounded and scored. That cemented a commanding lead: the Bucks led 29-13 at the end of the first quarter.

Phoenix roared back, outscoring the Bucks 31-10 in the second quarter. Phoenix would race out on a 10-0 run, cutting Milwaukee’s lead to just single digits. Buckets by Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges and Chris Paul eventually erased the lead entirely. The Suns tied the game at 33 with 5:20 left. Then they took the lead. The Bucks had no answer for Suns guard Chris Paul, who outsmarted defenders to score one basket after another. They also struggled from the field (just 3-of-17, per SBNation). By the end of the quarter, the Suns had pushed their lead to five. It was 47-42 at halftime.

Buccaneers Visit White House, Receive Super Bowl Rings

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Photo from Buccaneers’ Twitter account.

By Terrance Turner

July 20, 2021 (updated July 22)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers came to the White House today to be recognized for their victory in February’s Super Bowl 51. It’s the first time since 2017 that the Super Bowl championship team has visited the White House. There were some notable absences: Bucs tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Mike Evans, wide receiver Antonio Brown, and linebacker Lavonte David. But in attendance was quarterback Tom Brady, visiting the White House for the first time since 2005.

Brady skipped the visit in 2015, after the New England Patriots beat the Seattle Seahawks. He also missed the visit in 2017, after the Patriots defeated the Atlanta Falcons. According to a Boston CBS affiliate, Brady cited family concerns as a reason for his absence. (His mother was being treated for breast cancer.) When the Patriots beat the Rams in 2019, scheduling conflicts kept the team from getting to the nation’s capital.

But today, under President Joe Biden, the tradition was renewed. President Biden mentioned the Glazer family (the team’s owners) in his remarks. “To the players, the coaches, and the Glazer family, my good friends, it’s an honor to have you here,” Biden said. (The late Malcolm Glazer purchased the team in 1995. Three of his sons became executive vice-presidents, according to the New York Times.)

“This Buccaneer team is a testament to the fact that it’s never too late to come together and achieve extraordinary things,” Biden said. “Three-quarters of the way through the season, they found themselves in the middle of the pack [at 7-5]. But this is a team that didn’t fold and always got up, dug deep. They won their last four games and stormed through the playoffs — winning on the road in Washington, New Orleans, and Green Bay — and capping it all off back home in Tampa, becoming the first team to win the Super Bowl on their home turf,” Biden said.

The president singled out Chris Godwin, the wide receiver who grew up in Biden’s home state. Godwin was born in Philadelphia, but attended Middletown High School in Delaware. “Born in Pennsylvania, raised in Delaware — where I come from, that’s a heck of a combination,” President Biden said. “Chris, you’re inspiring a whole lot of kids back home in Delaware.”

Biden, who at 78 is the oldest president to take office, praised Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians — the oldest quarterback (age 44) and oldest head coach (at 68) to win the championship. “You know, a lot has been made about the fact that we have the oldest coach ever to win a Super Bowl and the oldest quarterback ever to win the Super Bowl. Well, I’ll tell you right now, you won’t hear any jokes about that from me. As far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing wrong with being the oldest guy to make it to the mountaintop,” Biden said, to applause.

The president lauded Brady as “just about the best to ever play”, commending him for reaching 10 Super Bowls in the past 20 years: “That ain’t bad, man.” Then Biden revealed that he, too, played football. He recalled playing as a kid in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) in grade school. “I’ll never forget getting knocked out when I was in fifth grade, and my dad walked over and said, “Get up. Get up. Get up. Unless something’s broken, get up.” It was a lesson in resilience, one Biden would return to later on.

Biden also noted the impact of a team on a country ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. “You guys did it the hard way. And I hope you all know just how important it was,” Biden said, “after such a challenging year for the nation. In the middle of a long dark winter, every Sunday, people were able to sit down and watch you play. You created memories that helped folks make it through and believe that we could get back to normal again. And you did it as a team, trailblazing, including the first team with two women [in] full-time coaching positions.”

Assistant strength and conditioning coach Maral Javadifar and assistant defensive line coach Lori Locust are the first female coaches to win a Super Bowl. (Photo from Twitter.)

The president also pointed out that the Raymond James Stadium was an early voting center. (The stadium offered early voting from Oct. 19 to Nov. 1, according to the Bucs’ website). He also acknowledged the stadium for administering the Pfizer vaccine for Hillsborough County residents: “Your stadium also became a lifeline for families in Tampa Bay this season, administering nearly 200,000 vaccine shots.” Biden urged players to get a shot, if they haven’t already. He stressed the importance of getting vaccinated:

“Getting vaccinated is about staying healthy and realizing that no one is invincible, even if you’re young and you’re fit. It’s about looking out for the front-line workers out there, like the ones that played in front of us on Super Bowl Sunday. Those workers remind us of a quintessential lesson about sports and America itself: that no matter how much and how many times we get knocked down, we always get up.”

Bruce Arians later took the podium, choking up as he spoke. “I get emotional,” he began. “This is very, very special. I want to thank our coaches, our players, our entire organization, that did such a great job of coming together and banding together — not to beat the other team; we had to beat the virus first,” he said. “And you sacrificed more than any other team I’ve been around.” He thanked the Glazer family (“the best owners I’ve ever known”) and the “outstanding” players.

“We live by three words: trust, loyalty and respect,” Arians said. “One team, one cause. I hope the Senate and the House start helping you,” he told Biden.

Tom Brady also delivered remarks. “I think what’s behind me is an amazing group of players,” he said. “We bonded together, we worked really hard, we sat our individual agendas aside, and we came together as a team.” Though they are different ages and come from different backgrounds and different schools, Brady said, they are all committed to the team: “Sports has an amazing ability to bring people together.”

Brady threw in some veiled, teasing references to the 2020 election, which Biden’s opponent refused to accept. “Not a lot of people think that we could have won. In fact, I think about 40% of the people still don’t think we won…”

“I understand that,” Biden interjected, to laughs from the audience.

“You understand that, Mr. President?” Brady asked jokingly.

He continued: “We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me ‘Sleepy Tom’. Why would they do that to me?” Brady asked, making light of the ‘Sleepy Joe’ nickname that Donald Trump gave Biden during the debates.

“You know, we’re on the eve of football season. We start tomorrow — practice — and we’re going to do everything we can to work to achieve another one of those Lombardi Trophies,” Brady concluded. “We’re excited for the opportunity to compete and work hard and show everyone what we’re made of.”

Photo from Twitter.

UPDATE (July 22, 2021): Members of the Buccaneers team received their Super Bowl rings today. Each ring is designed with 319 diamonds — representing the 31-9 score by which the Bucs won Super Bowl 51. And for the first time in history, the ring comes with a removable top. Inside the ring is a hand-engraved stadium logo, commemorating the fact that the Buccaneers were the first team in history to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium.

Federal Judge Rules DACA Unlawful

By Terrance Turner

July 16, 2021

A federal judge in Texas has ruled the DACA program unlawful. Judge Andrew S. Hanen, of the United States District Court in Houston, ruled that President Barack Obama exceeded his authority when he created the program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) by executive order in 2012. But the judge chose not to immediately end the program, so the hundreds of thousands of immigrants it shields remain protected — for now.

In his decision, Judge Hanen addressed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which instituted the policy. Hanen ruled that the DHS violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which governs the process by which federal agencies develop and issue regulations.  “DHS violated the APA with the creation of DACA and its continued application,” the judge wrote. He partially granted a judgement to Texas and several other states that had sued the United States government over DACA. But he stopped short of completely dismantling the program.

While Hanen vacated the DACA memorandum and the program it created, he added: “Nevertheless, these rulings do not resolve the issue of the hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and others who have relied on this program for over a decade. That reliance has not diminished and may, in fact, have increased over time. Therefore, the order of immediate vacatur as it applies to current DACA recipients (but not the order of remand) is temporarily stayed,” Hanen wrote. He added: “DHS may continue to accept new DACA applications and renewal DACA applications,” but cannot approve them.

Simply put: immigrants already protected by DACA will remain so; they cannot be deported. Those who have already applied for the program will have their applications accepted by DHS. But while the Department can accept those applications, it cannot approve them.

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was created in 2012 under then-President Barack Obama. Under the program, immigrants brought to the U.S. as children could stay in the States temporarily. They could apply and file for a two-year “forbearance” that would shield them from deportation. They have to be within 15 and 30 years of age, with no felony convictions. They must also pass a background check. According to NPR, DACA recipients must also be currently in school, a high school graduate, or honorably discharged from the military. The fee to renew and apply is $495.

Obama was moved to create the program after activists staged sit-ins in congressional offices and protested outside the White House. DACA was launched after the DREAM Act, which had similar protections, failed to pass Congress. (It was blocked in the Senate by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Texas Senator John Cornyn.)

According to ImmigrationHelp.org, the bill would have made Dreamers eligible for a “conditional residency” status that would let them live and work in the U.S. for six years. After six years, they could get lawful permanent resident status, better known as a “green card.” Despite support from both Democrats and Republicans at the time, that bill never became law because it couldn’t get enough support in the Senate.

In lieu of Congress passing the legislation, Obama issued an executive order that directed the DHS to implement DACA. Since then, some 826,000 immigrants have received legal protection and work permits under the program. (NAACP’s website says that while over 80% of DACA recipients are Mexican, 36,000 Africans are also eligible for the program.)

After Obama left office, his successor worked to end the program. But last June, the Supreme Court ruled that the Trump administration’s 2017 attempt to end the program was “arbitrary and capricious”. Then, in December, a federal judge ordered the Trump administration to begin accepting new applications for DACA. This new ruling stops those applications from being fully processed. (CNN reported on Wednesday that roughly 13,000 renewal cases have remained pending for longer than four months, according to correspondence from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.)Those applications are now in limbo.

But the fight is not over. According to NPR, supporters of DACA will appeal this decision in the Fifth Circuit Court. That leaves the fate of the program up to the Supreme Court (again) or to Congress. President Joe Biden has pledged to protect DACA or place something similar in its place.On June 15 (DACA’s ninth anniversary), he stated: “I will continue to work towards passage of legislation protecting Dreamers and creating a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.”

Vice President Kamala Harris agreed. On June 15 (the ninth anniversary of DACA), Harris noted the uncertainty that Dreamers feel and called for a pathway to citizenship. “Even with DACA in place, we know that Dreamers live in a constant state of fear about their status and about their future,” Harris said. “It is critically important that we provide a pathway to citizenship to give people a sense of certainty and a sense of security.”

MJ Rodriguez Makes History As Emmy Nominations Are Announced

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Photo from NBC News.

By Terrance Turner

July 13, 2021

MJ Rodriguez became the first trans woman ever nominated for best actress when the Primetime Emmy Award nominations were announced this morning. Her portrayal of Blanca Rodriguez on the FX drama “Pose” earned her a nod for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

“I do believe this is a pivotal moment. There’s never been a trans woman who has been nominated as a leading outstanding actress and I feel like that pushes the needle forward,” Rodriguez told Variety. Her “Pose” co-star Billy Porter is nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his portrayal of ballroom emcee Pray Tell. Porter won the prize in 2019; he’s the first openly gay Black actor ever to win the award.

Rodriguez (left) and Porter in a scene from “Pose”. Photo from CNN.

For the first time, actors of color comprise at least half of the nominees for lead drama actors. Rodriguez is nominated alongside Uzo Adoba (“In Treatment”) and Jurnee Smollett (“Lovecraft Country”). Porter is recognized along with Sterling K. Brown (“This is Us”), Jonathan Majors (“Lovecraft Country”), and Rege-Jean Page (“Bridgerton”). Page is the son of a Zimbabwean nurse and an English preacher; Rodriguez is Afro-Latina, with a Black mother and Afro-Puerto Rican father.

Variety points out that “Pose” and “Lovecraft” are the first shows to have two Black leads nominated. The now-canceled “Lovecraft” made history in another way, per The Hollywood Reporter: “It’s also the first piece of visual art to have a Black actor nominated in every eligible acting category, with Michael K. Williams and Aunjanue Ellis also picking up mentions.” Both shows are nominated for best drama series, and “Pose” director Steven Canals — a self-described “queer Afro-Puerto Rican boy” is nominated for best director.

After its omission sparked outrage last year, the searing HBO series “I May Destroy You” has received 9 Emmy nominations. The drama about the aftermath of a sexual assault is nominated for Best Limited Series. Other nominations include best supporting actor (Pappa Essiedu), best casting, directing, writing, and music supervision for a limited series/movie.

Michaela Coel — a Black woman who created, co-directed, and starred in the show — is nominated for best actress in a limited series. She also wrote the show, based on her own experiences with sexual assault. (According to Rape Crisis, 20% of women and 4% of men have experienced some type of sexual assault since the age of 16 in England and Wales.)

Photo from BBC.

Coel is nominated alongside Cynthia Erivo (who played Aretha Franklin in the miniseries Genius: Aretha).

In the comedy categories, “Black-ish” stars Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross are nominated for best actor and best actress, respectively. In their categories are two double nominees: Kenan Thompson is up for best actor for his show “Kenan”; Aidy Bryant is up for best actress for her show “Shrill”. But both are also nominated for supporting actor/actress — both for “Saturday Night Live”.

Bowen Yang is the first Asian actor nominated for best supporting actor in a comedy (for “Saturday Night Live”). Puerto Rican actress Rosie Perez is up for best supporting comedy actress (for “The Flight Attendant”) — only the third Latina in history to be recognized in that category.

“Black actors represented three of five nominees in both of their guest categories. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Don Cheadle, Lovecraft‘s Courtney B. Vance and The Mandalorian‘s Carl Weathers will compete in drama,” according to the Hollywood Reporter. In comedy, Morgan Freeman is up for best guest actor for “The Kominksy Method”, alongside Dave Chappelle and Daniel Kaluuya (both for “Saturday Night Live”). For guest comedy actress, Maya Rudolph (SNL) competes with Yvette Nicole Brown and Issa Rae (both for “A Black Lady Sketch Show”).

This is a developing story.

Texas Democrats Walk Out, Fly To D.C. Over Voting Bill

By Terrance Turner

July 12, 2021

Democrats in the Texas Legislature walked out of a special session in Austin today over contentious voting right bill. Texas journalist Jessica Huseman reported this morning:

A quorum is “the minimum number of members of an assembly or society that must be present at any of its meetings to make the proceedings of that meeting valid,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary . The Texas State Constitution requires that two-thirds of legislators in the House and Senate be present for proceedings. According to NBC Austin affiliate KXAN, “The House must have two-thirds of its members, or 100 people, present. The Senate also needs two-thirds, or 21 members, present.” The Democrats have elected to break quorum, meaning that no bills can be passed without them.

They made the move in protest of controversial voting rights bills, HB 3 and SB 1. According to the Texas Tribune, the bills would ban drive-thru voting (offered last year by Harris County). They would also ban election officials from sending applications for a mail-in ballot, unless requested. (Harris County sent out proactive applications to 2.4 million registered voters; the new bill would make that a felony!) They would alter early voting hours, preempting the 24-hour voting sites pioneered in Harris County last October. And they would require voters to provide driver’s license numbers or Social Security numbers to vote by mail.

Democratic lawmakers walked out of session over SB7, a similar bill, in May. They left the Capitol. This time, they’ve upped the ante by leaving the state! The Tribune reports that 51 Texas Democrats boarded a bus to a private terminal at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Then they flew out, boarding two private flights to Washington, D.C. The flights left at around 3:10 pm Central Time.

NBC News says that the lawmakers plan to spend more than three weeks in Washington. They risk arrest by taking flight. Senate rules state that “Those for whom no sufficient excuse is made […] may be sent for and arrested.” A source told NBC News that the Democrats expect Republicans to request that the Department of Public Safety track them down. But Democrats remain unbowed. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said the lawmakers are advocating that Congress pass the For the People Act.

JUST IN (7:01 pm): A CNN reporter told Anderson Cooper just now that the first of the two planes landed at Dulles Airport in Virginia, just minutes ago; the other is expected to land momentarily. She told Cooper that the House Democratic Caucus is footing the bill for the flights.

UPDATE (7:30 pm): Texas House Democratic Caucus Chairman Rep. Chris Turner (D-TX) told Cooper that the mission is simple. “Our objective is very simple: to kill this bill,” he said. He added that they intend to deliver a message to Congress. “We need Congress to enact strong federal voting rights legislation to save our democracy, because these Republican attacks will continue to occur.”

Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) has vowed to arrest them. “I’ll tell you what the House of Representatives can do. What the speaker can do is issue a call to have these members arrested,” Abbott told Austin station KVUE. “In addition to that, however, I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session, all the way up until election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”

UPDATE (July 13, 2021): Just minutes ago, ABC 13 Houston ran a story on the Texas Democrats’ trip to D.C. They passed the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture. That caught the attention of Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-TX). She spoke to ABC 13.

”When I looked at the African American museum, I thought about the struggle of my people who fought in this country to get the right to vote. And that vote is sacred to my constituents that I represent back in Houston, Texas,” Thompson said. It is a right that was once denied to her own parents. They had to pay a poll tax — a flat-rate tax that charges people money to vote.

The Fifteenth Amendment prohibits denial of the right to vote based on race. After the 15th Amendment passed in 1870, states including Texas used methods like poll taxes to restrict minority voting. In Texas, eligible voters had to pay between $1.50 and $1.75 in order to vote. The poll tax disproportionately affected African-Americans and Mexican-Americans, but poor whites were impacted as well. The 24th Amendment, passed in 1964, banned poll taxes in federal elections. The 1965 Voting Rights Act authorized the Attorney General to investigate their use in state and local elections.

“I know what it was like when my parents had to pay and buy a poll tax. I know what it was like when the people were beat, dogs were leased on them, fire hose [was used] — and we were mistreated. And I know the struggle that came along before that bill was signed in 1965,” Thompson said.

Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (D-TX) explains her decision to leave Austin. (Photo from ABC)

Today, they met with Vice President Kamala Harris — all 57 representatives. Harris commended them for their “bold, courageous action”. And late this afternoon, West Virginia senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said he will meet with the representatives. Manchin is a key vote for any voting rights legislation that reaches the Senate.

UPDATE (July 17): Three of the Texas Democrats have tested positive for COVID-19, according to multiple sources including Axios. The House Democratic Caucus says that the three unnamed lawmakers are all vaccinated. One tested positive on Friday night; two more tested positive this morning, after a rapid test. The Caucus says it is following COVID-19 protocols:

Stephen A. Smith Draws Fire for Comments About Shohei Ohtani

By Terrance Turner

July 12, 2021

ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith is in hot water for his comments about Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani. Mr. Ohtani, who was born in Japan, has used an interpreter since his rookie season in 2018, according to the MLB. (His interpreter Ippei Mizuhara will serve as his catcher in tonight’s Home Run Derby.)

On today’s episode of ESPN’s “First Take,” host Molly Qerim, asked Smith and Max Kellerman if “it’s good for Major League Baseball that Ohtani is the top attraction” in the league. “Not to me,” Smith replied. He argued that Ohtani’s use of an interpreter “might have something to do with your inability to ingratiate yourself with that young demographic to attract them to the sport.”

“The fact that you got a foreign player who doesn’t speak English, that needs an interpreter — believe it or not — I think contributes to harming the game to some degree,” Smith said. “It needs to be somebody like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, those guys.” He added: “I don’t think it helps that the No. 1 face is a dude that needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he is saying — in this country.”

Needing an interpreter clearly hasn’t hurt Ohtani’s game: he leads the league with 33 home runs (per the New York Post) and 70 RBIs. He is batting .279 so far this season. He has a 3.49 ERA and 87 strikeouts. Shohei Ohtani is the first player in history to be selected to the MLB All-Star Game as both a designated hitter and a pitcher.

Smith’s comments were widely decried as xenophobic. Former ESPN host Keith Olberman called them “straight-up racism at a time of dangerous anti-Asian violence.” (A study by Cal State University said that reported hate crimes against Asians in 16 of the nation’s largest cities and counties are up 164% since this time last year.) USA Today writer Andrew Joseph wrote that “Smith crossed the line from bad sports takes into straight-up xenophobia.”

Joseph: “The unabashed xenophobia about Ohtani needing an interpreter is the kind of criticism that baseball needs to rid itself of — Asian and Latino players still face it even at the grassroots level.” He added: “It’s totally unfair to criticize Ohtani — or any player — for utilizing that resource.”

Twitter lit up with criticism of Smith’s comments:

It’s worth noting that just last week, Smith was criticizing the MLB for not marketing Ohtani well enough: Smith even compared him to the legendary Babe Ruth:


Smith has responded to the criticism, claiming he was misinterpreted. “People are misinterpreting what I’m saying,” Smith said. “Baseball’s a great game, a great sport. Some of the greatest players are the foreign players. … I’m talking about the marketability and the promotion of the sport. It’s exactly what Sports Illustrated essentially alluded to in their article last month when they said that 28% of the players in Major League Baseball are foreign players.”

UPDATE: Smith has, belatedly, apologized:

Social Justice and Stirring Speeches at ESPYS

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By Terrance Turner

July 10, 2021

Tonight’s ESPY Awards celebrated the best in sports. But the ESPYs tonight were about so much more.

Devonta Smith won Best College Athlete; LaMelo Ball won Best Breakthrough Athlete.

Naomi Osaka won Best Female Athlete.

The Jimmy V Award for Courage and Perseverance went to Chris Nikic, the first athlete with Down Syndrome to complete the Ironman triathlon. The punishing event requires competitors to swim 2 miles, bike 112 miles and run for 26. He accepted his award with a funny, inspiring speech that was closed captioned for viewers.

“My speech is on the screen because I have a Down Syndrome accent and I sound like I’m from the Deep South,” he joked. He thanked the Ironman, his family, and the ESPYs before adding another one-liner: “As you can see ladies, I am adorable, single, and available!”

Turning serious, Nikic spoke about the importance of perseverance and self-improvement. “People ask, How did I overcome so many obstacles? Easy,” he said. “I just got 1% better every day.” That’s one part of his plan. “I want to honor God by being the best I can be,” Nikic said. He shared a three-point plan to achieve that: “I get 1% better every day. I work hard. And as Jimmy V said, ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.'” He added: “I don’t do excuses. I don’t quit. People ask: why don’t you quit? Because my dream is bigger than my friggin’ pain.”

DeAndre Hopkins and Kyler Murray won Best Play for their unforgettable Hail Mary last season. (Hopkins accepted the award.) Simone Biles won Best Championship Performance for her achievements in gymnastics; she won a record seventh all-around title last month. (Biles is preparing for Tokyo and couldn’t be there.) But one of the standout moments of the night belonged to Paige Bueckers, who won for Best College Athlete (Women’s Sports).

After thanking God and her family, Bueckers noted, “I’m just a small-town kid with big dreams.” She wanted to show kids that dreams do come true, if you work hard and have faith, she said. Then she paused. “I just had ankle surgery; I’m out of breath, out of shape,” she admitted, to giggles from the audience. And then, Bueckers used the moment in a surprising way.

“As a white woman who leads a Black-led sport, I want to shine a light on Black women; they don’t get the media coverage that they deserve. They’ve given so much to the sport and the community and to society as a whole,” she said. She called for sports media to do a better job of acknowledging the achievements of Black women. At the WNBA awards, Black women won 80% of the awards but only received half the coverage that white players do, she said. “Sports media holds the key to storylines,” Bueckers said. “I think we should use this power together to also celebrate Black women.”

Tom Brady won Best Athlete for leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl championship. It was the first time ever that an NFL team has won a Super Bowl in its home stadium. Brady’s longtime teammate Rob Gronkowski had to present the award and accept it on his behalf; Brady was not in attendance at the ceremony. “Surprise, surprise. He didn’t show up,” Gronkowski cracked. He introduced a video in which Brady delivered an acceptance speech. Brady thanked his teammates, some of whom were at the ceremony. “Have fun in New York — but not too much fun, ’cause we start football in two weeks,” he noted.

Later that night, the Arthur Ashe Courage Award was presented to a woman who achieved extraordinary things both on and off the court.

She was a four-time WNBA champion with the Minnesota Lynx; she won gold medals in the Olympics. She was the only female basketball player to score in double figures in every single game, Robin Roberts said tonight. But at the height of her WNBA career, Maya Moore walked away from basketball to pursue criminal justice reform.

Moore’s uncle was involved in prison industry; through that work, she met Jonathan Irons. He had been locked up since his teens, when he was sentenced in 1998 to 50 years in prison for a robbery and assault that he denied committing. There was no DNA evidence.

Moore and her family investigated the case themselves, hiring lawyers. What began as an effort to overturn his conviction blossomed into a strong bond between Moore and Irons — and a new purpose. Moore stunned observers and teammates by walking away from basketball, skipping the 2020 WNBA season to focus on getting Irons’ conviction overturned. The effort worked. In March 2020, a Missouri judge vacated the convictions, citing evidence that was “weak and circumstantial at best”. Irons was released on July 1, 2020. Nine days later, he and Moore were married.

Moore’s work earned her the Arthur Ashe Courage Award — on what would’ve been Ashe’s 78th birthday, no less. “Thank you to so many people,” Moore began. “I could spend five minutes just saying thank you.” Though headlines focused on her courage in giving up her illustrious career, Moore said she wanted to talk about a different type of courage — “the courage to love when it’s hard.”

“I’m a creative being, lovingly designed in God’s image,” she declared. That, Moore said, meant she was made with a purpose. Part of that purpose dealt with her nonprofit; her “Win with Justice” campaign works to combat prosecutorial misconduct. She used her speech to remind the audience that they are more than just pro athletes: “We are more than athletes. We are complex, multilayered human beings.”

“As athletes, we have unique power and influence,” she said. “Power is not meant to be gripped with a clenched fist; it’s not meant to be hoarded,” she said. “Power is meant to be handled generously so we can thoughtfully empower each other to thrive in our communities,” she said, “championing our humanity before our ambitions.”

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won Best Team. Tight end Rob Gronkowski gave a rowdy acceptance speech to open the team’s remarks. He remembered what he thought on his first day on the team: “I was like, ‘Damn, s–t, we gt a s–tload of talent, baby,” he recalled. “Coach BA [Bruce Arians] kept saying all year, ‘If we play together, keep sticking together, no one’s gonna beat us. And when we were down, we all stuck together, and we bounced back. And he was right.”