Wendell Hudson was the first African American scholarship athlete in The University of Alabama’s history. Last month, he made history, again, becoming the university’s first student-athlete to have his jersey retired.
But what about the unsung heroes whose stories are untold because they don’t have a storybook ending? Today, I want to reflect on the life of a forgotten pioneer.
Henry Harris was the first African American scholarship athlete at any SEC school in the Deep South (South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana) . In the book Remember Henry Harris: Lost Icon of A Revolution: A Story of Hope and Self-Sacrifice in America, he’s praised as “the pride of the people and the promise of a new day.”
Harris and his siblings were raised by a single mother in Boligee, Ala., where he attended Greene County Training School. He was the editor of the school newspaper and president and valedictorian of his senior class. He also averaged over 30 points per game in basketball.
He was the center of an Alabama-Auburn recruiting face-off for what would be either school’s first black scholarship student-athlete and basketball player. Auburn won the battle and Henry began his college career in 1968. He was team captain and an All-SEC player by his senior season.
Off the court, Harris was a mentor for other black athletes that journeyed in his footsteps; but, on the court, he suffered a knee injury during his junior season and played through the pain for the duration of his career. That injury changed the trajectory of his life. Continue reading “The Legacy of Henry Harris”→
De’Runnya “Bear” Wilson’s shooting death in January 2020 has bothered me as much as Chris Smith’s did, another former Mississippi State University wide receiver who was murdered in 2016.
In Wilson, we’re talking about a student-athlete with the following accolades:
three-time state champion in basketball at Wenonah High School in Birmingham (AL); Alabama’s 2013 Mr. Basketball; record holder for second-most touchdown receptions in a career at MSU; and a crucial member of the 2014 No. 1 ranked Bulldogs.
So for De’Runnya – who was a legend to family, friends, and the Wenonah and Starkville communities – to be killed, in the same area where he gained stardom, is disheartening.
He left MSU following his junior season to enter the NFL draft but wasn’t selected, although he did spend time on the Chicago Bears’ practice squad. Unlike their basketball counterparts, football players aren’t allowed to return to school after declaring for the NFL draft, even if they go undrafted. This rule should be changed to mirror that of basketball players; but, even if a player can’t return to school to play football, he should at least be given the chance to finish his degree – it’s not clear if Wilson was granted the opportunity to do so.
An excerpt from an AL.com article honoring De’Runnya’s life highlights an issue that many former athletes are dealing with, especially black male athletes, and that’s struggling to transition to life after sports. It stated that “Wilson, 25, struggled to find steady work since failing to make it in professional football… and he continued to work out while seeking another chance and had hoped to latch on to an XFL team this spring.”
Last month, the WNBA’s Players Union and the league settled a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) that will begin with the 2020 season and run through 2027. The biggest issue with the old agreement was that players earned less than 25 percent Basketball Related Income (BRI)
Under the new agreement, players will receive a 53 percent increase in total cash compensation, consisting of base salary, additional performance bonuses, prize pools for newly created in-season competitions, and league and team marketing deals. This means, the W’s top athletes will be able to earn cash compensation exceeding $500,000, with the maximum salary a player can earn increasing nearly $100,000.
The topic of whether or not college athletes should be paid has been an ongoing debate for years, and now it’s finally on the table.
In October, The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Board of Governors, which oversees college sports, voted unanimously to adjust rules that prevented players from earning money from their name, image and likeness.
The board’s decision was in response to the California governor signing the Fair Pay to Play Act. Under the new law, schools wouldn’t pay athletes but college players could hire agents to pursue sponsorship and endorsements, beginning 2023. It was a win-win for lawmakers in California because they knew the NCAA would have to respond, and that other states would follow suit, or risk losing recruits to colleges in California. In response, several other states have introduced similar proposals.
The NCAA had no choice but to make the next move. But before student athletes can start pulling in profits, the board has to consider exactly what adjustments should be made to its current policy, which restricts college athletes from monetizing their talent at all. The current system is set up like indentured servitude, where athletes sign a renewable contract and agree to play in exchange for a tuition-free education and modest stipend.Continue reading “How the NCAA Can Create an Equitable System for College Athletes to be Compensated”→
As the Players’ Association is negotiating to develop a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the focus should be on increasing the players’ slice of the league’s pie.
In an article in the Players’ Tribune, NBA player Bradley Beal wrote that all WNBA players are asking for is more Basketball Related Income (BRI), which includes broadcast rights, advertising, merchandising, and concessions.
Currently, NBA players receive 50 percent of their league’s BRI, while the women receive less than 25 percent. Fans pay their money to see the players – who are training in the offseason, practicing every day, and putting their bodies on the line, literally. The State of the WNBA, Part 1
So, the first demand of the players’ union should be that the W’s BRI be increased to 40 percent. An increase from less than 25 to 40 percent is a good start to significantly decreasing the number of players who play internationally, or year round, to supplement their income. Continue reading “The State of the WNBA, Part 2”→
About a week ago, the Washington Mystics won their first ever championship in franchise history. But the celebration didn’t last long because half of the team’s players are heading overseas for international play. Unfortunately, that’s the nature of the Women’s National Basketball Association and one of the reasons why players are asking for better pay.
In February of this year, Maya Moore, the WNBA’s most prolific player, announced she would sit out for the 2019 season to focus on herself, her family and her ministry.
To fans of the game, like myself, this may have seemed like the perfect setup for a Michael Jordan-like comeback.
In her eight-year career, Moore has already won four WNBA championships, two Olympic Gold Medals, two FIBA World Championship Gold Medals, a WNBA Finals and Regular-Season MVP, Rookie of the Year and achieved a host of other records and accolades. She’s always sported the No.23, the same number Jordan wore for most of his career; but, most notably, she was the first women’s basketball player to sign an endorsement deal with Nike’s Jordan Brand in 2011 at the beginning of her rookie season. So, if anyone could take a year off from the game and come back like she never left, it would be Maya… In an ideal world.
But, in reality, the face of the W taking off a year – in her prime – isn’t good news for fans or the league, especially knowing that Maya has shifted her focus to a laborious fight like criminal justice reform.
So you watched the College Football Playoff National Championship game about a week ago; the Alabama Crimson Tide trailed 13-0 at the half. The Tide’s offense was sub par, gaining only 94 yards off 24 plays against the Georgia Bulldog defense. Alabama’s defense wasn’t impressive either, giving up 13 first half points; however, I’ll give the defense the benefit of the doubt since it was on the field most of the first half due to the offense’s ineffectiveness. So when the offense can’t score points, who’s to blame? The quarterback of course. Tide starting quarterback Jalen Hurts completed 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards. That’s an average of seven yards for every completed pass and only one completion shy of connecting on half of his pass attempts. These stats aren’t terribly bad, but it’s the small number of stats that doesn’t help Hurts’ case much. During the first half, I saw a quarterback – who’s known for making big plays with his feet – really trying to wait as long as possible for an open receiver, and he made wise choices to throw away the ball when all else failed.
Now, let’s consider some other factors: Hurts doesn’t play defense, so he didn’t give up 13 first-half points, including a one-yard touchdown run with seven seconds left in the second quarter. Hurts also isn’t the team field goal kicker, who couldn’t connect from 40 yards in the first quarter. Considering these factors, the Tide could’ve entered the half down only 6-to-3 instead of the larger 13-0 deficit. If this was the case, does Saban still decide to bench Hurts even with the Tide getting the kickoff to start the second half?
But, trailing 13-to-0 to a former assistant in a national championship game many people felt your team didn’t deserve to be playing in, chasing your fifth national title in nine seasons, trying to tie Paul Bear Bryant’s record for most national championships, what do you do? You do the same thing you did in the 2016 season-opener against USC – replace your starting quarterback with a true freshman. Blake Barnett started the game but was replaced by Hurts who stole the show. He completed 6 of 11 passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for 32 yards in 9 carries while notching two touchdowns. But, Barnett did see the field again in the second half and connected on a 45-yard pass for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. However, he transferred later in the season which was the best option for him in my opinion. Continue reading “Replacing Hurts: Was It Really the Right Decision?”→
It was that time of year again when some of Alabama’s finest high school basketball coaches came together before official practices began primarily to raise funds for Midfield High School’s boys basketball program, but also to prove they can still ball… Lonzo.
For the sake of this article, I’m going to refer to the guest team as Thomas’ Tribe, since Midfield’s Charles Thomas has been the captain of the visiting squad since the inception of the Coaches vs. Coaches event. The home team will be referred to as Barber’s Bunch, since Darrell Barber is not only team captain but Midfield’s head boys coach and the mastermind behind the fundraiser.
In 2015, it was a battle of point guards between Barber and Minor’s Derrick Williams, but the x-factor would be Hoover’s Charles Burkett. Click link for recap of 2015 game http://wp.me/p4cFCW-iV
Despite the loss, Barber was still thrilled to put on a successful fundraiser and looked forward to the following year.
Although Williams didn’t play in the 2016 game, Burkett put the Tribe on his back, and with the help of teammates like Woodlawn’s Chuck Winters, carried the team to back-to-back victories. Click link for recap of 2016 game http://wp.me/p4cFCW-r5
After two tough losses, Barber and the Bunch were determined to enter the win column in 2017. With a Winters trade from the Tribe to the Bunch and no Williams or Burkett on the Tribe’s roster, a win for Barber and the gang seemed to be in the palm of their hands… enter new Tribe member, Pinson Valley’s Jeremy Bogus; he would be a new burden for the Bunch. Continue reading “Thomas’ Tribe Completes a Trifecta in Coaches Vs. Coaches Event”→