Kenneth Walker Deserves Full Exoneration

The United States of America holds its first two amendments near and dear to their collective hearts. Some would say that freedom of speech and the freedom to bear arms are intertwined. In the case of Kenneth Walker, his second amendment right to bear arms is thrust to the forefront. But first, let us work backwards.

On March 13rd  at 1am, Louisville, Kentucky Metro Police Department (LMPD) officers Myles Cosgrove and Brett Hankinson, along with Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly, entered the home of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old EMT. The officers had previously obtained a no knock warrant because of unfounded claims that Taylor’s apartment was a den for drug activity. The officers shot eight rounds into the apartment, killing Taylor on the spot. Walker and Taylor were dating, and were in the apartment together. When Walker heard the commotion of the officers’ entry, he fired one round from his own firearm, wounding Mattingly in the leg. Walker was promptly arrested and charged with attempted murder of a police officer.

Most law enforcement officers are solid citizens that abide by their sworn oaths to serve and protect all citizens. Then there are others that fall abysmally short of that promise. The three officers involved in the Taylor shooting have questionable incidents in their collective files that make it hard to give them the benefit of the doubt here.

And let’s put to rest notions that Taylor deserved her fate because of allegations that she ran afoul of the law. She was a law abiding American whose talents as an EMT should have been praised during the current COVID-19 pandemic. LMPD needed proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were breaking into the correct apartment to break up any alleged drug activity. And spare us all the “Mistakes happen” jargon. Law enforcement is held to a higher standard. Such lapses in judgment that result in the death of innocent people deserves harsh punishment to serve as a deterrent for future scenarios.

Walker, a legal firearm owner, is to be commended for trying to protect himself and Taylor. His firing at the officers was a reasonable response, considering Cosgrove, Hankinson, and Mattingly did not announce they were officers. They just barged into Taylor’s apartment and started discharging their firearms, which initiated Walker’s natural response. How did Walker know who they were? It is reasonable to conclude that any innocent human being would shift into self defense mode when an invader wantonly bursts into your home during early morning hours and starts shooting. That’s what happened here.

Notably quiet are feminist groups, who apparently aren’t interested in Taylor’s death. If they’re so interested in protecting women’s rights, they should be screaming for the LMPD officers involved to be arrested, tried, convicted, and face stiff punishment for Taylor’s death. Breonna Taylor did nothing wrong. Kenneth Walker did what any human being would do in a similar situation. And for that, he needs to be fully exonerated.

 

Washington’s release of Adrian Peterson solidifies commitment to rebuild

On Friday, the Washington Football Team shocked its legions of fans by releasing veteran running back Adrian Peterson. Peterson has amassed a Hall of Fame career during his thirteen year NFL career, and he still was playing at a reasonably high level during his two years in Washington. Apparently that wasn’t enough for Washington, who released the 35 year old running back.

The move signifies the team’s commitment to younger players. Earlier this summer, Washington released running back Derrius Guice, who was thought to be the future at the position for the franchise. However, Guice’s injury history, as well as his recent off field allegations, made him expendable. Peterson’s departure leaves the door open for a new crop of running backs to make their respective marks.

Veterans J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber signed with Washington during the 2020 offseason. The team drafted Antonio Gibson in 2020. Bryce Love has been on Washington’s practice squad, and has yet to play in an NFL game for Washington. McKissic is mostly a reserve running back and can’t be expected to be thrust into the featured back role. Barber’s best year was 2018 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he rushed for 871 yards in 16 starts. It’s possible he might become the featured back. Gibson and Love are unproven and will have to show they can handle the workload when their opportunities are presented to them.

Head coach Ron Rivera and team president Jason Wright have been entrusted with rebuilding Washington. Releasing Peterson shows their commitment to giving opportunities to young and unheralded players. That said, Washington’s offense could be one of the worst in the NFL in 2020. The only proven offensive commodity is second year wide receiver Terry McLaurin. If opposing defenses double team McLaurin, there aren’t many proven offensive options for quarterback Dwayne Haskins. Nevertheless, Washington fans will have to grin and bear the loss of Peterson, and the offensive struggles that will come with it.

Jacob Blake shooting should only reinforce resolve of Black Lives Matter movement

Unfortunately there has been another police involved shooting of an unarmed black American citizen. Kenosha, Wisconsin is a city located almost equidistant between Chicago and Milwaukee. On Sunday night 29 year old Jacob Blake was on a Kenosha street breaking up a fight between two women. Kenosha police were alerted to a domestic violence in the area. They arrived on scene, and that’s when the incident escalated.

Blake was shot in the back seven times after he was seen walking away from police towards his own car. The bullets severed Blake’s spinal cord and shattered his vertebrae. As of press time, the officers involved have not been charged. But the most heartbreaking aspect is that the incident allegedly took place in front of Blake’s children, aged 8,5, and 3, who were in the car.

There’s so much to unpack here. This latest incident has sparked yet another night of civil unrest that’s become common since the George Floyd murder. The “Blue Lives Matter” crowd will of course support law enforcement’s version of the incident. They’ll say “If Blake would have complied with the officers’ orders, he’d be alive today.” Blake’s non compliance did not constitute his being shot seven times.

Make no mistake: those officers meant to kill Blake. You don’t shoot an unarmed person in the back seven times without any intent to kill. Those officers weren’t in any danger. At worst, Blake’s non compliance should have resulted in a safe apprehension by police. Instead, those officers meant to make Jacob Blake another hashtag of another dead Black citizen that ran afoul of police. And if this incident really occurred in front of Blake’s young children, that only exacerbates the savagery of the officers involved. Those seven shots could have hit any of those children.

There’s no convincing that those officers meant to kill Jacob Blake. By the grace of God, Blake will survive the shooting. Unfortunately, he will be paralyzed from the waist down, unsure if he’ll ever be able to walk again. Hopefully this incident will lead to the indictment, charges, conviction, and harsh sentencing of the officers involved. There’s no justification for what happened in Kenosha that day. Now let’s see if the Kenosha district attorney’s office will do the right thing and bring about charges, an eventual conviction, and the harsh punishment necessary.

Washington president hiring is not about tokenism

Washington’s NFL team has taken another step towards revamping its frayed image. The franchise hired Jason Wright as its team president. Wright becomes the first black NFL team president in league history. It can be reasoned that Washington’s franchise hired Wright to distance themselves from the team’s previous nickname. However, that is far from the truth.

Wright was a former NFL player with three teams from 2004 to 2010. He earned an MBA from the University of Chicago, and was a partner at consulting firm McKinsey & Company. Those facets of Wright’s resume transcend his race and qualifies him for Washington’s team president position.

Even if the Wright hiring was racially motivated, it wouldn’t matter in Washington’s case. The franchise is currently devoid of respectability due to its mediocre status. Washington needs something to liven things up and drive the franchise in the right direction.

Wright has an uphill battle facing him. The 2020 season has Washington rebuilding with young players like quarterback Dwayne Haskins, wide receiver Terry McLaurin, and rookie defensive end Chase Young. Further complicating matters is the cancer diagnosis of head coach Ron Rivera. Rivera says the cancer is in its early stages and can be treated in time to not interfere with his coaching duties.

Turning Washington around won’t happen overnight. However, the hiring of Wright as team president shows a commitment from team owner Daniel Snyder to turning around the franchise. Washington’s fans hope the Wright hiring moves the franchise back towards respectability.

Alex Smith’s return should be a bigger story

Washington Redskins’ quarterback Alex Smith was removed from the NFL’s physically unable to perform (PUP) list last week. Smith’s career was believed to be finished after suffering a spiral and compound fracture to his right tibia and fibula during a November 2018 game against the Houston Texans. Smith had 17 surgeries on his right leg, and was even close to having his leg amputated. He is now cleared to participate in team activities, completing a comeback that is nothing short of miraculous.

For any other team, Smith’s return to the Redskins would be the lead story on SportsCenter. However, this is the NFL team with the formerly detestable nickname. Therefore, such accolades will never be afforded to them. Smith’s return is a special case. His career has been a testament to resiliency. A former number one overall pick by the San Francisco 49ers in 2005, Smith was eventually replaced by quarterback Colin Kaepernick (yes, that Colin Kaepernick) in 2012. Smith went to the Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, and was replaced by Patrick Mahomes before the 2018 season.

It can be reasoned that replacing Smith with Kaepernick and Mahomes respectively were the correct decisions. Kaepernick led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after the 2012 season. Mahomes led Kansas City to their first Super Bowl title in 50 years after the 2019 season. Smith eventually signed with Washington before the 2018 season after quarterback Kirk Cousins left Washington to sign with the Minnesota Vikings.

Many forget that Washington was 6-3 and in first place in the NFC East at the time of Smith’s injury in 2018. If Smith hadn’t been injured, Washington would have made the playoffs that year. Smith provided stability to the quarterback position. His nearly 2 to 1 touchdown to interception ratio solidified the Redskins’ offense. After he went down, Washington won only one of its remaining seven games while missing the playoffs for the third straight year.

Fast forward to 2020. Washington’s quarterback position is firmly in the hands of second year starter Dwayne Haskins. Smith would surely solidify the team’s depth behind Haskins and veteran Kyle Allen. It would be best if Smith never saw the field in 2020. That means Haskins is healthy and is contributing to Washington’s on field improvement. In any case, Smith should be commended for taking the necessary steps to get back on the field, as well as live a normal life again. And that’s the true definition of resilience.

Symbolic nomination not enough in Presidential election

The suspense is over. Presidential candidate Joe Biden has chosen his running mate in his quest for the White House. He has selected California junior governor Kamala Harris as his running mate in the upcoming Presidential election against incumbent Donald Trump on November 3.

Harris began her own campaign for the presidency in January 2019 before ending her bid later that year due to insufficient funding. There was some apparent bad blood between Biden and Harris during a June 2019 Democratic presidential candidate debate. Harris prefaced her statement with “I know Joe Biden isn’t racist.” She then criticized the former vice president to President Barack Obama of opposing a 1970s busing program that would prevented her from attending racially segregated schools. Harris made it personal by saying “That little girl was me”. It was a moment meant to pull at the heartstrings of America’s psyche.

Whether or not that was accomplished is irrelevant now. Harris becomes the first black woman to run for vice president within the two major political parties. Such a symbolic gesture isn’t enough in current society. Barack Obama became the first black man to become President in 2008. Yet black Americans were being wantonly killed at the hands of law enforcement and private citizens with impunity during the Obama administration.

A premium has been placed on going out to vote. However, getting out to vote makes no difference if the candidates don’t stand on a platform worth voting for. The Biden/Harris ticket has refused to grant reparations to the descendants of black American slaves. Black America sees that as a collective disrespectful slap in the face.

The Biden/Harris ticket is pro law enforcement, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The question now remains what is their stance on prosecuting cops that wantonly kill private citizens? As of this writing, the Louisville police officers involved in the death of Breonna Taylor have not been charged. And accountability is nowhere near enough. These cops need to be charged, convicted, and sentenced to either lengthy prison sentences or the death penalty.

There needs to be a standard set that officers will be punished for wantonly killing private citizens. It will be interesting to hear how the Biden/Harris ticket responds to this particular concern.

But I digress. The 2020 election, like any other election, is about core values. Americans vote based on personal interests. Whichever candidate vows to give tangibles to a particular voting block will receive that block’s vote. Voting Biden/Harris because Harris is black is not nearly enough. Where does this ticket stand on the issues that matter most is enough. Black America has less than three months to find out.

Veterans and rookies get chance to shine after Derrius Guice debacle

Washington’s NFL team released running back Derrius Guice after he was arrested amidst domestic violence allegations. Head coach Ron Rivera said it was a tough decision considering Guice’s role in the organization. The plan was to make Guice the team’s starter and franchise running back. He has a seductive blend of power and speed that offenses crave, and would have fit well into Washington’s plans.

That plan never materialized. Guice suffered a torn left ACL during the preseason of his rookie year in 2018. The injury forced Guice to miss the entire season. In 2019, Guice suffered a sprained left MCL during a game against the Green Bay Packers. Injuries have limited Guice to only five games in two years. That sample size is too small for Guice to establish any sort of presence in Washington’s backfield.

It’s unclear if Guice’s injury history or these current allegations led to his release. None of that matters as Washington moves forward with their current crop of running backs. Veteran Adrian Peterson will be the team’s unquestioned starter. Peterson is a future Hall of Famer who’s rejuvenated his career in Washington. At 35 years of age, Peterson can’t be expected to fit into Washington’s long term plans at running back.

Supporting Peterson in the backfield will be veterans J.D. McKissic and Peyton Barber. Both are expected to provide depth at the position after signing as free agents during the offseason. Bryce Love and 2020 draft pick Antonio Gibson will also figure prominently at running back as well. Love has breakaway speed that can translate into big play potential. Gibson can also play wide receiver, providing versatility that can keep opposing defenses on their toes.

Guice’s release won’t hurt Washington as 2020 is a rebuilding year under a new regime. Washington fans hope McKissic, Barber, Love, and Gibson will be able to take advantage of the opportunities presented behind Peterson. If they can, the team’s offense will be that much improved.

Alex Smith may figure prominently into Washington’s quarterback scheme

Editor’s note: For editorial purposes, the NFL team residing in Washington, D.C. will continue to be referred to as the Washington Redskins until the franchise officially settles on a franchise nickname.

The Washington Redskins appear to enter 2020 with quarterback Dwayne Haskins entrenched as their starter. That decision sounds rational since the franchise selected Haskins in the first round in 2019 to become the long term starter. Haskins showed signs of progress late last season, providing hope that he will become a solid starter in Washington for the foreseeable future.

Haskins’ status as the starter isn’t guaranteed in 2020. Redskins’ head coach Ron Rivera inherited Haskins from the previous regime; therefore he has no professional attachment to Haskins. That theory has been reiterated with the offseason acquisition of quarterback Kyle Allen, who played under Rivera when both were with the Carolina Panthers.

Further complicating the Redskins’ quarterback position is Alex Smith. He was the team’s starting quarterback before suffering a career threatening knee injury in 2018. Few remember the Redskins had a 6-2 record in 2018 before Smith suffered his injury against the Houston Texans. Subsequently, Washington struggled as they went 4-20 after Smith’s injury.

2020 training camp has shown Smith participating in drills in his quest to return to the field. His efforts have drawn praise from Rivera, hinting that Smith could figure prominently in how the Redskins choose to handle the quarterback position.

Washington is a long way from making that determination as Smith has not been cleared by the team for full contact drills. It would be a remarkable story if Smith were to return, earn a roster spot, and play a pivotal role for the Redskins in 2020.

Return to sports will always be worth the risk

Major League Baseball opened its 2020 season last week with many compelling cases for and against the sport’s debut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those against baseball’s debut found vindication after multiple members of the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals tested positive for COVID-19.

Series between the Marlins and the Baltimore Orioles, as well as the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Phillies were canceled as a result of these developments. The Cardinals’ weekend series with the Milwaukee Brewers was canceled as well.

Despite these developments, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has maintained that the abbreviated season will continue as scheduled. Despite protests from those believing sports should be canceled altogether, Manfred made a wise decision in maintaining that the season continue.

We shouldn’t place a premium on athletic competition over player safety. Economic consideration will always remain a given in these decisions to playball. Team owners and Commissioner Manfred work hand in hand to achieve their main objectives: making money. While MLB stadiums will remain empty during game play, MLB will still make billions of dollars in broadcast and ad revenue during these games.

Manfred’s decision allowing game play to continue does have one bright spot. It allows teams like the Marlins to promote players from their minor league farm system to play in the majors. Miami must play at least nine players for each game despite having a combined 20 positive tests amongst players and coaches. The Marlins weren’t expected to be playoff contenders during normal circumstances in 2020. The COVID pandemic presents opportunities for young players to distinguish themselves.

It’s unfortunate for athletes to get an opportunity to play in this manner. Then again, Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Tom Brady got his opportunity to distinguish himself in an almost identical manner. These games will go on with or without our blessing, which is why playing sports in this climate will always be worth the risk.

What we can learn from John Lewis

Longtime Democratic congressman John Lewis passed away from pancreatic cancer on Friday at age 80. Lewis was inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to help organize civil rights protests in the 1960s. In 1965, Lewis was beaten by officers during a voting rights protest on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama. This incident became the catalyst for the civil rights movement of the 1960s. It also turned Lewis into a civil rights icon.

Many consider Lewis’ ability to forgive others a teachable moment. He has been especially forgiving toward those that have transgressed against him personally. Lewis’ stance on forgiveness isn’t particularly admirable by any stretch of the imagination.

Make no mistake: Lewis is perfectly within his rights to offer forgiveness. It should be noted that missing from Lewis’ stance on forgiveness is his advocacy for actual punishment for those that have transgressed against him. Forgiveness without actual punishment is unreasonable since there would be no deterrent from those acts continuing.

Lewis was an advocate for protecting the rights of illegal immigrants and members of the LGBTQ community. Advocacy for these particular groups isn’t noteworthy, as human decency dictates this should be a given. Where is his advocacy for policy that punishes law enforcement and private citizens that wantonly kill black people in America? Surely if such policy existed and were actually enforced, there would be no protests for black racial equality.

Lewis’ death can be a teachable moment. There was no mention of any punishment administered towards Lewis’ perpetrators in the 1960s. We can learn how to enact punishment against those that have transgressed against us. Lewis was an advocate for nonviolence. He can teach us to be violent in self defense. And we can forgive: only after the perpetrator has been actually punished. That would be the greatest lesson of all, worthy of getting into “good trouble”.

Forgiveness just isn’t enough

It appears the ultimate resolution has been reached in the saga of Amy and Christian Cooper (no relation). Calls to penalize citizens that misuse the 911 system have been long overdue. It appears that incidents like this will finally result in harsh punishment and eventual deterrent from future incidents. Right? Wrong!

Yes, charges were brought against Amy Cooper for her part in the incident involving Christian Cooper. Those charges won’t be pursued because of non cooperation with the investigation. Ironically that non cooperation isn’t coming from Amy Cooper. It is coming from Christian Cooper.

Christian Cooper has decided that Amy Cooper has suffered enough embarrassment through social media backlash and loss of employment. He has decided to forgive her and wants to move on without prosecuting her for misusing the 911 system.

This piece isn’t about to discuss whether or not anyone should forgive anyone else because that isn’t the issue. Forgiveness is an intangible entity that only soothes your psyche. It’s the aftermath of forgiveness that becomes the only issue of importance. By not pushing for consequences, Christian is letting Amy off the hook when she was actually trying to get Christian not only arrested, but possibly lynched by the New York Police Department (let’s not pretend like that isn’t a possibility).

Forgiveness and stiff consequences are not mutually exclusive. I can forgive someone’s transgressions against me after they’ve been properly punished. Christian Cooper’s threshold to forgive is infinitely higher than anyone could imagine. This incident could serve as a guideline for future incidents, as no one can say something like this won’t happen again?

Laws that punish abusers of the 911 system for non emergency incidents exist as a deterrent from these incidents happening again. While Christian Cooper is within his rights to forgive, let’s hope his stance won’t serve as the catalyst for future incidents.