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ESPN’s Keith Olbermann Knocks Gay Jason Collins STRAIGHT!
Keith pays tribute to the first openly gay player in one of the four major sports. And it’s not Jason Collins. On “Olbermann”, Keith talked about Glenn Burke, the LA Dodger who was the first openly gay athlete in major sports over 30 years before Jason Collins, and he hits a sweet spot. It’s personal, rational and ends with a shocking twist.
Glenn Burke, the Real First Openly Gay Athlete in Professional Sports
“If I can make friends honestly, it may be a step toward gays and straight people understanding each other. Maybe they’ll say, ‘He’s all right, there’s got to be a few more all right.’ Maybe it will begin to make it easier for other young gays to go into sports.” Glenn Burke
Those are the words of Major League Baseball’s first openly gay player. While the national media covers Jason Collins‘ first minutes on the court as an openly gay professional basketball player and the NFL network constantly breaks down rookie Michael Sam‘s combine stats, we forget about the ORIGINAL sports pioneer.
Glenn Burke played 225 games in the majors as a Dodger and as a member of the Athletics, with 523 at-bats, a .237 average, two home runs, 38 RBIs and 35 stolen bases. While those numbers remain far from stellar, he contributed as a spirited member of the locker room, well liked by his teammates.
Dusty Hi 5 Glenn aft HRMajor League Baseball didn’t either know how to deal with his sexual orientation or chose not to. The media wouldn’t touch the story until years after he left the game. Glenn Burke was a trailblazer who arrived on the scene long before our culture knew how to embrace him.
Over the next few weeks, forgive me if I seem apathetic towards media reports about the progress of Mr. Sam or Mr. Collins in their Collins Big Herorespective sports. We live in 2014. A player’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have any bearing on how well they throw a ball or how much weight they can lift. While they may have overcome hardships in their quest to seek a career in professional sports while maintaining their authenticity as a person, it pales in comparison to Burke’s journey more than 35 years ago. Most of us have come a long way since then, although you wouldn’t know it by the actions of a few knuckle-draggers.
I would write more about it, but wordsmith and sports personality Keith Olbermann eloquently sums it up better in 5 minutes than most professional journalists could with an entire novel.
The next time you read or hear a story about a gay athlete, remember outfielder Glenn Burke.
If you have any interest in learning more about his journey, check out his story from the 1982 issue of Inside Sports chronicling Burke’s time as a professional baseball player. Heartbreaking, courageous, inspiring and tragic… all words to describe the tale of professional sports’ first openly gay athlete.
Watch “Olbermann” weeknights on ESPN2 at 11pm ET
EDITOR’S NOTE: Michael Silver wrote this piece after an exclusive interview with Marshawn Lynch last week, when the running back wasn’t sure if he would attend Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day. On Tuesday, Lynch did indeed appear at the event to briefly speak with the assembled media before spending some additional time with NFL Network’s …
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“How a Grieving Family Saved A Troubled City with A Martyr”
The year 2009 began with a tragedy at an Oakland BART station. Shortly after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day, BART police Officer Johannes Mehserle shot and killed 22-year-old Oscar Grant II, of Hayward, on the platform of the Fruitvale station after responding to reports of a fight on a train.
“Make no mistake about it Oscar Grant was Murdered, Executed by a BART cop!” That was the echoing sentiment boiling up from among the justifiably angry, restless community of Oakland and the surrounding communities that spread world wide as video of Oscar Grants execution was blared over and over on television screens all around the world. It had become the quintessential poster for the ultimate example of Police misconduct and abuse- a lawless execution as the Black victim lay face-down on the ground, hands behind his back, shot, then handcuffed as he dies- all caught on cameras for the world to see!
Also caught on camera for the world to see was the public reaction to the execution that led to violent protests, as the public “showed their outrage” with the costly destruction of property to areas around town.
The gunman police officer was allowed to go free, traveled outside the state of California until he was charged with murder and appended in Nevada after National public protest forced the District Attorney to file criminal charges. His attorney has argued he meant to fire his Taser gun when he shot and killed Grant.
In the early hours of Jan. 1, 2009, Oscar Grant III, unarmed and lying face down on a subway platform in Oakland, Calif., was shot in the back by a white Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer. The incident, captured on video by onlookers, incited protest, unrest and arguments similar to those that would swirl around the killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida a few years later. The deaths of these and other African-American young men (Mr. Grant was 22) touch some of the rawest nerves in the body politic and raise thorny and apparently intractable issues of law and order, violence and race.
Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan and Ariana Neal play father and daughter in this debut feature by Ryan Coogler, which opens on Friday in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Mr. Jordan plays Oscar Grant, who was killed by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer.
Those matters are hardly absent from “Fruitvale Station,” Ryan Coogler’s powerful and sensitive debut feature, which imaginatively reconstructs the last 24 or so hours of Oscar Grant’s life, flashing back from a horrifying snippet of actual cellphone video of the hectic moments before the shooting. But Mr. Coogler, a 27-year-old Bay Area native who went to film school at the University of Southern California, examines his subject with a steady, objective eye and tells his story in the key of wise heartbreak rather than blind rage. It is not that the movie is apolitical or disengaged from the painful, public implications of Mr. Grant’s fate. But everything it has to say about class, masculinity and the tricky relations among different kinds of people in a proudly diverse and liberal metropolis is embedded in details of character and place.
Before Jason Collins
The world is throwing a parade for Jason Collins, the 7-foot free-agent NBA center who came out last month. He was hugged by Oprah, celebrated by “Good Morning America,” and congratulated by President Obama.
But nobody seems to remember baseball’s Glenn Burke, who tried to come out nearly 40 years ago and was stuffed back in.
“How’s Jason Collins going to talk about being the first?” says Burke’s agent, Abdul-Jalil al-Hakim. “Glenn Burke was the first. And he wasn’t any free agent, either. He was in the lineup.”
Glenn Burke was a barrel-chested jokester, a singing, dancing, one-man cabaret. His teammates called him King Kong. In high school, the 6-foot Burke could dunk two basketballs at once, in street shoes. He roamed center field for the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland A’s in the late 1970s.
Burke was the pulse of the clubhouse. He wore a red jock. He’d jump in the backs of pink Rolls-Royces after games. He invented the high-five (with Dusty Baker). Oh, yes, he did.
He was as out as an athlete could be in the mid-1970s. It wasn’t that he was flaunting it. It was that he couldn’t keep it in.
“When we’d land at airports,” remembers Davey Lopes, the Dodgers’ second baseman. “There’d always be guys waiting for Glenn. We’d go our way and he’d go off on his merry way. We’d go to clubs and women would hand him their numbers. But he’d never call ’em. Didn’t matter to us. We loved him.”
In the famous 1977 Dodgers-Yankees World Series — starring Reggie Jackson, Thurman Munson, Steve Garvey, and Ron Cey — only one rookie cracked either starting lineup: Glenn Burke.
“Nobody tripped that he was gay,” says Burke’s longtime pal, Doug Harris, who produced the documentary “Out” about Burke in 2010. “The people who tripped off it were the Dodgers [management]. They didn’t want to talk about it. He was trying to tell the reporters, but they said they couldn’t write that stuff.”
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Detroit Kronk Boxing Icon and Legend Emanuel Steward Dies at 68
Emanuel Steward, the godfather of Detroit boxing and driving force behind the world-famous Kronk Gym, died Thursday, October 25, 2012 surrounded by his family. Steward died in Zion, Ill., where he had been treated at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
Steward, 68, the man who discovered and mentored the great Thomas Hearns, had fought for several weeks against a foe thought by many to be colon cancer — although his sister, Diane Steward-Jones, publicly described the ailment as diverticulitis.
“He has passed — he has gone home,” Steward-Jones told the Free Press by phone less than half an hour after Steward’s death. “He was in no pain, and we sang to him, as well as did the doctors present. He had loved ones around him.”
One of the greatest trainers in the history of boxing, Steward underwent surgery in the Chicago area in September and had not returned to his Rosedale Park home. He died peacefully at 2:46 p.m. Thursday, said Steward-Jones, who handled business matters and public relations for her brother. The body of the boxing icon was returned to Detroit.
Steward-Jones said that, toward the end, her brother still was trying to recruit male nurses and other medical staff at the hospital to box for him.
“They loved him,” Steward-Jones said. “He’d tell them to lose some weight and fight for him.”
As she spoke to the Free Press, Steward-Jones said she was trying to stay busy tidying up Steward’s hospital room.
“He gave it his all,” she said. “But he’s been called away now.”
Steward’s sister, Diane Steward-Jones, told the Free Press today that a memorial service tentatively has been set for the Hall of Fame fight trainer on Nov. 13 at Greater Grace Temple (23500 W. 7 Mile Road in Detroit). There will be visitation with family and friends at 11 a.m. on Nov. 13 at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit followed by a noon memorial service at the church. Manny was survived by his wife, Marie; daughters, Sylvia Steward-Williams and Sylvette Steward; and sisters, Diane-Steward Jones and Lavern Hestler
Steward, who lived in Rosedale Park, was training world heavyweight champ Wladamir Klitschko prior to falling ill several months ago.
Born in Bottom Creek, W.Va., Steward moved at age 12 with his mother to Detroit, where he became a street-smart kid with a short fuse and quick fists.
In a life-changing move away from street gangs, Steward joined the Brewster Recreation Center and began an amateur boxing career, where in 1963, 18-year old Emanuel Steward, fighting as a bantamweight, won the National Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions.
He looked forward to a career as a professional, but after failing to find what he considered to be honest management and with his family needing his financial support, Steward became a lineman with the city before he and his half brother, James Steward, began coaching at the Kronk, a hotbed for young amateur fighters on McGraw in Detroit. But he never wandered too far from the fight game.
In 1971 Steward accepted a part-time position as head coach of the boxing program at the Kronk Recreation Center. When his young team won the Detroit Golden Gloves team title that same year, the Kronk Dynasty was born. Steward took the Kronk to dizzying heights in the 1970s and ’80s, transforming a skinny neighborhood kid named Thomas Hearns into one of the most devastating punchers in the history of the ring.
In March 1972, Steward left Detroit Edison to become a full-time trainer/manager. Five years later, with the newly formed ESCOT (Emanuel Steward’s Champions of Tomorrow) Boxing Enterprises, Inc., he ventured into the world of professional boxing with an 18-year old slugger named Tommy Hearns. Hearns went on to win world titles in five different weight classes on his way to boxing immortality.
Steward’s reputation as a trainer grew by leaps and bounds after that, and with it grew the number of champions under his tutelage. In addition to the 50 plus world champions he has managed, he also developed six gold medal winners for the 1984 U.S. Olympic Team, including Pernell Whitaker, Mark Breland, Terrell Biggs, Jerry Page, Frank Tate and Steve McCrory. He mentored a gallery of supporting champs over the years, including Hilmer Kenty, Jimmy Paul, Duane Thomas, Dennis Andries, Steve McCrory, Milton McCrory, Michael Moorer, Lennox Lewis and present-day heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, whom Steward was training until he recently fell ill.
Klitschko, in a statement, said: “It is not often that a person in any line of work gets a chance to work with a legend. … I was privileged enough to work with one for almost a decade. I will miss our time together.”
Steward continued to work with the young fighters at the Kronk Boxing Gym, in which he has found a new home in Oakland County opening in 2009′ He is a welcome addition as expert commentator to HBO’s World Championship Boxing and HBO Pay-Per-View coverage.
Joni Mitchell was partially correct: We (sometimes) don’t know what we’ve got until it’s gone. This has been true with regrettable frequency this year with the deaths of multiple fighters and notable figures in boxing. In many cases we mourn people whose names might not have passed through our lips in quite some time, as befitting the nature of a sport in which those no longer in the spotlight are left to fade away quietly.
That does not mean their losses mean less.
We paid just tribute to Corrie Sanders, for example, whose imprint had been left on us following his brief ascent toward the top of the sport when he had summarily dispatched of Wladimir Klitschko in less than two rounds, and whose battles with Vitali Klitschko and Hasim Rahman had been valiant even though he was not victorious.
And we gave due respect to Angelo Dundee, the famed trainer who had been in the corner of two of the United States’ most acclaimed boxers in Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, who had worked with several others, and who had long been established as a piece of living history.
There was no mental separation with Emanuel Steward, however. He was here, and now he is gone. His death hits particularly hard. It’s not just because of how quickly he passed away, but also because we knew what we had with him — because of how long he had held such a strong and positive influence on the sport.
It is a big loss for boxing. He is being justly eulogized and canonized with every story, every recollection, every reflection.
It is only natural for many of these memories to be of the personal variety. That is the frame of reference that helps give a life full context. Steward’s 68 years on this earth did not just bring about his individual accomplishments. In that time he also left his mark on so many who knew him, be it for a moment or for decades, and be they boxers, his colleagues or the many in the media with whom he had corresponded.
There were the world champions. Taking a boxer to a title belt seems less of a feat in this era of four major sanctioning bodies. Take into consideration, then, his longevity and consistency. Steward brought his first contender to the top in 1980 with lightweight Hilmer Kenty and continued to do so for three decades, guiding Cornelius Bundrage to a claim of the junior middleweight division in 2010.
“In all, Steward managed over 50 world champions. “In that regard, Steward is the most decorated trainer in history; Freddie Roach has guided 25 titlists while [Eddie] Futch and Ray Arcel seconded 22 and 19, respectively, during their much more restrictive eras.” said boxing historian Lee Groves last week on RingTV.com.
He didn’t just groom talent, but attracted it, too, with boxers turning to Steward to make them better. His was an expert eye, a trusted voice, a guru who they believed could rebuild those who had been destroyed and who could cap off those who were nearly complete.
Boxing is a business. And so many of the tributes to Steward have noted how he became a “hired gun” for some boxers. Where he truly stood out, however, is in the men he groomed, both in the Kronk Gym that became synonymous with his name and in the relationships he forged with those fighters.
Andy Lee had lived with Steward since 2006, the middleweight told Dan Rafael of ESPN.com last week.
“He likes to keep an eye on his fighters,” Lee said. “I was going into a home environment at the house.”
For once, boxing wasn’t just about money or fame, but about men who became family. Thomas Hearns described Steward as “the father he never had,” while speaking last week to Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com.
“He helped me to become the man that I’ve become today,” Hearns said. “He taught me right from wrong, and he taught me about living. So with Emanuel Steward, our relationship wasn’t just about boxing to me.”
The truly great in this world earn such stature not just with the big things, but with the little things as well. Roy Jones Jr. spoke on HBO this past weekend of how he had turned down an offer to work with Steward when he first turned pro and opted instead to work with his father. Yet the fact that Steward had approached him left an imprint on the young Olympian. Now nearly 25 years into his pro career, Jones said he still carries a Kronk Gym bag with him.
Several journalists wrote last week of their relationships with Steward, of his responsibility in returning calls, of his generosity in the time he would give them, of the stories he would tell them. These were traits that writers do not take for granted.
These all were traits, professional and personal, that will leave a lasting legacy: He made Hall of Fame fighters. He had a Hall of Fame career. He seemed to personify an honor that is rare in what can be a brutal sport and a cutthroat business.
It pains everyone who knew him and loved him to have to speak or write the words that pay tribute to him. He deserves them all, but he didn’t deserve to die so soon.
The first public inkling of his declining health came in September, when the HBO commentator — another role in which he earned respect — missed two straight broadcasts due to an undisclosed illness. No one publicly disclosed just how serious Steward’s situation was. But the word began to spread about the grim diagnosis.
Less than two months later, he’s gone.
We knew what Emanuel Steward brought to this world. We know just how much we’ll be missing now that he has passed. It’s often said that you make your mark by what you leave behind.
Emanuel Steward left behind more than many — and that is why we are left with such sorrow in our hearts. His loss is truly our loss.
Here are some remembrances of Steward:
Thomas Hearns, a world champion in six weight classes, and his son, Ronald Hearns, were shattered by the news that Steward had died.
“Emanuel was like a daddy to me,” the older Hearns said. “The man literally changed my life. I loved him and respected him so much.”
Ronald Hearns, also a fighter, grew up around Steward and his father at Kronk Gym.
“It’s crushing,” the younger Hearns said. “Emanuel always made me feel like one of the family. Emanuel loved me. He always told me that God has a plan for you. I’m feeling so sad right now.”
Business Manager and friend Abdul-Jalil said “You were, are and always will be the BEST EVER!!! Even Ali will give you his title the “GOAT” Greatest of All Times! My heartfelt love to Marie, Sylvia, Sylvette, Anita, Diane and Lavern. I am truly honored to have had you all in my life with Manny!”
“Boxing has suffered a tremendous loss with the passing of Emanuel Steward. Vitali and I, along with the entire Team Klitschko, send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to Emanuel’s family and friends.
It is not often that a person in any line of work gets a chance to work with a legend, well I was privileged enough to work with one for almost a decade. I will miss our time together. The long talks about boxing, the world, and life itself. Most of all I will miss our friendship.
My team and I will carry on with the goals we had set while Emanuel was with us because that is exactly what Emanuel would have wanted. I know he will be with us in spirit along the way and we will accomplish these goals in his honor.
Rest in peace Emanuel. You will be greatly missed. Until we meet again my friend.”
“It brings me great grief and sadness to hear of the passing of one of the best and most respected trainers of this era, Emanuel Steward. I learned a lot from him during our professional relationship and I will be forever grateful for his help during that time. We were also friends and I know I am going to miss him as so many others will too. He was an important part of our boxing community.”
– Oscar De La Hoya
“I’m completely devastated by the passing of my long time friend, mentor and trainer Emanuel “Manny” Steward. Manny has helped me get through some of the biggest fights in my career and I only regret that I couldn’t return the favor and see him through his biggest fight.
We’ve maintained a close relationship and the last time we spoke he seemed his usual upbeat self so it was very disturbing to hear about his illness and rapid decline. It is with a heavy heart that realization of what I hoped were just rumors are now in fact true. Manny always told me I was the best, but the truth is, HE was the best and I’m grateful, privileged and honored to be counted among his many historic successes.
This has been a very tragic year for the boxing world, but today we’ve truly lost one of it’s crown jewels. Manny was giving, selfless, compassionate and stern. He always gave back to the community and never forgot where he came from. He was an institution unto himself and I’m proud to have had him in my corner for so many years.
I’m extremely grateful for the time that I was given with him and he will be severely missed by all who knew and loved him. I’ll miss his smile, his frank no holds barred truthfulness and our discussions on boxing and life. My prayers and condolences go out to his family at this very difficult time.
One of Steward’s longtime friends, is heartbroken by his passing. “Twenty-four hours have gone by since the passing of Emanuel Steward. It has been and remains an emotionally painful time dealing with this loss,” Buffer said. “I am still unable to actually speak without choking up. The comments and statements of admiration and respect, honoring and memorializing his life, legacy and career have been honest, beautiful and deserving. He was and shall always be true boxing royalty. But to those of us blessed to have been closer he was so very much more. As a fan and colleague, I mourn the loss of a legend, an icon. As a friend, I have lost a loved one and my heart is broken.”
-Ring announcer Michael Buffer
“There are no adequate words to describe the enormous degree of sadness and loss we feel at HBO Sports with the tragic passing of Manny Steward. For more than a decade, Manny was a respected colleague who taught us so much not only about the sweet science but also about friendship and loyalty. His energy, enthusiasm and bright smile were a constant presence. Ten bells do not seem enough to mourn his passing. His contributions to the sport and to HBO will never be forgotten. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.” -Ken Hershman, President, HBO Sports
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of the legendary Emanuel Steward today. Not only was Emanuel one of the most esteemed and accomplished boxing trainers in the history of the sport, he was also an incredibly generous and warm-hearted human being. In addition to his many professional pursuits, Emanuel served as a life coach to countless young men and women, particularly in his beloved adopted hometown of Detroit, and through them his legacy will live on. Those who were fortunate enough to have known Emanuel will remember him for his infectious enthusiasm, ever-present smile and seemingly limitless generosity. We extend our deepest condolences to the Steward family during this difficult time. He will be missed by everyone his spirit touched.”
– Stephen Espinoza, Showtime
“Steward and many of his Kronk protégé were fixtures in the infancy of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING in the late 1980’s. Over the years, we became close personal friends. He will be missed by all of us in the sport. Moreover, the sport will miss what he embodied in boxing–everything that is good and right about this business. It’s a terrible shame that his life was cut short. Men like Emanuel Steward are irreplaceable.”
-David Dinkins, Jr., Showtime TV
Emanuel Steward passing today is biggest loss to boxing in long time. he’ll be greatly missed. my thoughts prayers are w his family
– Freddie Roach, Legendary Boxing Trainer
Now that his sister has confirmed it we can say that Manny Steward has passed away. I am numb as are so many others who call him friend.
-Al Bernstein, Boxing Announcer