Joy Benedict reports from USC, where she spoke with The Cardinal Divas, the university’s first ever majorette dance team. Normally a staple of HBCUs, the group of students has brought their culture to football games and received a positive outpouring from the student body.
In the latest clip, Faizon Love offered his thoughts on Las Vegas Raiders coach Jon Gruden resigning after racist emails from a decade ago were exposed during the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team’s work environment. The comedian questioned if the emails made Gruden racist, questioning if he himself would be considered racist if he made the exact same remarks. To hear more, view the clip above.
A Serbian volleyball player has been suspended for two matches after she was caught on camera stretching her eyelids — a racist gesture used to mock people with Asian heritage — during an international competition between Serbia and Thailand.
Sanja Djurdjevic violated the sport’s disciplinary rules on June 1 while competing in the match in Italy, according to a statement given Tuesday from the FIVB Disciplinary Panel Sub-Committee.
In addition to the suspension, the independent body, which is responsible for imposing disciplinary sanctions within FIVB competitions, fined Serbia’s volleyball federation the equivalent of $22,000. According to the panel, the FIVB will donate the money to a cause dedicated to tackling discriminatory behavior and/or to fund educational programs on cultural sensitivity.
Posting on her since deactivated account, Djurdjevic apologized for her actions. “I am aware of my mistake and I immediately after the match apologized to the whole Thailand team.”
“I only wanted to address my teammates with the message: ‘Now, we will start playing defense like them,’ I didn’t mean to disrespect anyone,” she added.
The Volleyball Federation of Serbia also posted a conciliatory message on Facebook saying they “apologize sincerely” to the Thailand team, but asked people, “don’t blow this out of proportion! Sanja is aware of her mistake and she immediately apologized to the whole Thailand team.”
“She didn’t mean any disrespect. Of course, it was unfortunate. It all ended up as a simple misunderstanding, in a friendly atmosphere between the players of the two teams,” continued the team statement.
Attached to the written apology was a video shared by one of the Thai players, and an image of teammates from both sides standing together.As screenshots of the incident were widely shared on social media, thousands signed a petition calling for greater accountability.
“An apology is the bare minimum as a human being. But Djurdjevic and the National Volleyball Team represent their country in an official sport with official FIVB rules and those rules need to be upheld to maintain credibility and set the standard for the world,” the petition said.
A global reckoning
Djurdjevic’s actions come as the world reckons with a global spike in anti-Asian racism. From the UK to Australia, reports of anti-East and anti-Southeast Asian hate crimes have increased in Western countries as the pandemic took hold over the last year.
Athletes continue to speak out about violence towards Asian people, highlighting the role that social media plays in illuminating these incidents. Earlier this year, former NBA star Jeremy Lin encouraged spectators to “watch these videos to see this is actually happening.”
The FIVB confirmed that Djurdjevic’s sanction is “final,” adding that they are “committed to fostering understanding, solidarity and unity against all forms of discriminatory behavior.”
“The FIVB will continue to work tirelessly with all of its National Federations to ensure that these values are reflected across the whole community,” they added.
A former employee of a Panda Express in Santa Clarita alleges she was required to strip down to her underwear and hug a partially clad co-worker during a “cult-like ritual” at a 2019 training seminar sponsored by the company as a prerequisite to promotion.
The 23-year-old woman is suing Panda Restaurant Group, headquartered in Rosemead, and Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy in Pico Rivera for sexual battery, a hostile work environment and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
She is seeking unspecified damages in the lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Although the woman is named in court documents, the Southern California News Group does not identify suspected victims of sexual assault.
‘Horrific psychological abuse’
“We are looking forward to presenting this case to a jury so that a clear message can be sent to Panda Express — which owns and operates over 2,000 restaurants — that it must put to an end to its practice of requiring its employees to undergo horrific psychological abuse and harassment to be promoted,” Oscar Ramirez, the woman’s attorney, said in an email Monday.
Officials with Panda Restaurant Group said the company takes the woman’s allegations seriously and has conducted an investigation.
“Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy is a third-party organization in which Panda has no ownership interest and over which it exercises no control,” says a statement from the company. “While we always encourage personal growth and development, Panda Restaurant Group has not and does not mandate that any associate participate in Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy nor is it a requirement to earn promotions.
“We are committed to providing a safe environment for all associates and stand behind our core values to treat each person with respect,” the company said. “We do not condone the kind of behavior (the plaintiff) has alleged took place at Alive Seminars and Coaching Academy, and we would not intentionally allow it to occur within or on behalf of our organization.”
In an emailed statement, Alive Seminars said its training sessions are presented with respect and dignity.
The victim says she began working for Panda Express in 2016 and was told in July 2019 by then store manager Matthiu Simuda she needed to complete a self-improvement seminar conducted by Alive Seminars.
“Eager to improve her skills and advance within the company, plaintiff signed up and paid out of pocket to attend a four-day program,” the lawsuit says. “Panda Express pushed its employees in the Los Angeles region to complete Alive Seminars training. In many cases, it was a prerequisite to promotion.”
The seminar was held in a warehouse in East Los Angeles and attended by 20 to 50 Panda Express employees from throughout Southern California, Ramirez said. Those who attended the seminar were required to provide their employee identification numbers and received intake materials with the Panda logo.
“Alive Seminars served — in essence — as an extension of Panda Express’ own Human Resources department,” says the lawsuit.
Participants isolated, treated as ‘terrorists’
The complaint alleges the seminar was bizarre and quickly devolved into psychological abuse.
At the start, attendees were told to sit down and not talk, and were left in isolation for a full hour before a man stormed in, yelling in Spanish and berating them for sitting there and doing nothing, when that is exactly what they had been instructed to do, says the complaint.
The man, an Alive Seminars employee, loudly proclaimed that the attendees were “nothing” and “don’t matter,” and berated them individually, the suit says. “The overall effect was that of a particularly nasty drill sergeant.”
Seminar participants were prohibited from using their cellphones, there was no clock in the room and the doors and windows were all covered with black cloth.
“The atmosphere resembled less a self-improvement seminar than a site for off the-books interrogation of terrorist suspects,” the complaint alleges. “The sensory isolation and intimidation was reinforced by constant yelling and verbal abuse by seminar staff, creating an atmosphere of fear in the room. Nevertheless, most attendees, including plaintiff, felt that they had no choice but to remain because they were sent to the seminar by Panda Express and told that their opportunity for promotion would depend on completion of the seminar.”
Participants required to strip
When the seminar continued on July 13, 2019, the woman allegedly was forced to strip down to her underwear under the guise of trust building.
“Plaintiff — stripped almost naked in front of strangers and co-workers — was extremely uncomfortable but pressed on because she knew it was her only chance at a promotion,” says the lawsuit. “Meanwhile, Alive Seminars staff were openly ogling the women in their state of undress, smiling, and laughing.”
The exercise culminated when the victims and other participants had to stand up to yell about their inner struggles until everyone else in the group believed them.
“The last male participant had some difficulty ‘convincing’ the others and, as a result, broke down in tears,” the suit says. “Plaintiff was told to stand up and go to the middle of the room with the male participant, where they were forced to ‘hug it out,’ wearing nothing but their underwear. Plaintiff was humiliated but did as she was told.”
Seminar resembled cult ritual
As time went on, the seminar more and more resembled a cult ritual, the complaint alleges.
“Alive Seminars staff proceeded to dim the lights,” says the suit. “Plaintiff and the other attendees were instructed to stand up and close their eyes, pretending that a light from above would come down and take all the ‘negative energy’ out of them, then pretend that a hole opened up in the ground and swallowed the ‘negative energy.’ While this was happening, one of the Alive Seminars staff had a cell phone with the light on, recording plaintiff in her state of undress.”
Attendees, the lawsuit alleges, were confined in an atmosphere of fear and intimidation.
“If plaintiff wanted to use the restroom, someone from the Alive Seminars staff would stand outside the restroom door,” says the suit. “When another participant ran into the restroom to throw up, Alive Seminars staff ran after her. Another male participant was only given a small trash can to throw up in and was forced to do it in front of all the other attendees.”
During the July 13 session, the victim made an excuse of a family emergency and left the seminar.
The victim went to the seminar hopeful and optimistic about her future with Panda Express but left three days later “scarred and downtrodden.” Soon after, she quit her job because of emotional distress.
The suit alleges Panda Express “did not care about plaintiff’s experience at Alive Seminars or that she had been humiliated in front of her co-workers. Her chances of promotion were destroyed. plaintiff’s working conditions had become intolerable and Panda Express had no interest in addressing the situation.”
There was a time in the US when you could get a great job if you earned a bachelor’s degree in “anything.”
The catch is that JFK was president at the time.
Most parents (and their students) are oblivious to how college really works today.
In some ways it is hard to blame them. Colleges and universities have a powerful public relations team, pushing the message 24/7 that “college is for all.”
The team is made up of educators, guidance counselors, financial aid officers, politicians, pop culture, special interest groups–like the College Board, and college administrators—who are the biggest beneficiaries. Their influence is everywhere.
Many, many years ago, my “anything” degree, Philosophy, was from a state university in fly-over country, better known for its football team than scholarship. (As I vaguely remember, my GPA wasn’t that robust either.)
However, I had a successful career in IT, and retired as an executive from a Fortune 100 company.
The bad news is that college doesn’t work that way anymore.
Years ago very few high school grads (7%) went on to college. (They tended to be the “smart kids.”) If you graduated with a degree in anything, i.e. English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc., you could get a good job.
Over the years a greater and greater portion of high school grads answered the call,
“You have to go to college!”
We are now at 45%. Probably half these teenagers don’t have the “academic firepower” to handle a serious, marketable major.
Back in the day having a college degree was a big deal. By the year 2000, the quality of a college education had deteriorated significantly, and college grads were a-dime-a-dozen. There were too many graduates, but not enough suitable jobs.
Then we got hit with the Great Recession of 2008.
In the US almost anyone can find a college or university that will accept them and their parent’s money.
You might even manage to graduate with some degree or another.
The problem comes when you try to find a real job. Employers aren’t stupid. They are going to sort through that gigantic stack of resumes and find the smart kids.
Today college is a competition for a relatively few (1,100,000) well-paying, professional jobs. Every year colleges and universities churn out 1,900,000 graduates with shiny new bachelor’s degrees. We don’t know the exact number, but a heck of a lot of minimum wage jobs are held by young people with college degrees in stuff like English, Gender Studies, Comp-lit, Philosophy, etc.
Given the high cost of college, that just doesn’t make any economic sense.
The “Anything” Degree
Two decades ago in his book, Another Way To Win, Dr. Kenneth Gray coined the term “one way to win.” He described the OWTW strategy widely followed in the US as:
“Graduate from high school.
Matriculate at a four-year college.
Graduate with a degree in anything.
Become employed in a professional job.”
Dr. Gray’s message to the then “academic middle” was that this was unlikely to be a successful strategy in the future. The succeeding twenty years have proven him inordinately prescient and not just for the “academic middle.”
The simple explanation is that it comes down to “supply” (graduates) and “demand” (suitable jobs).
Fifty years ago only seven percent of high school graduates went on to college. In post-WW II America our economy was booming while the economies of many European and Asian countries were–only slowly–being rebuilt. The “Law of Supply and Demand” strongly favored the freshly minted college graduate.
Parents and students noticed how college really paid off, and the “great gold rush” to the halls of higher learning began.
Today my local, Midwest run-of-the-mill high school sends eighty percent of their graduates on to college.
After 105 years, the Ohio-based baseball team is changing its name, which has been criticized for being racist, the team confirmed in a statement provided to PEOPLE.
“In our statement in June 2020, we acknowledged the importance of taking a leadership role in diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts across the community and enhancing our support for underserved and under-represented groups,” the statement said. “As part of that commitment, we heard from individuals and groups who shared a variety of views and opinions on the issue. We are deeply grateful for the interest and engagement from Native American communities, civic leaders, leading researchers, fans, corporate partners, players, and internal teammates devoted to these formal and informal conversations.”
The statement said, “After reflecting upon those discussions, we believe our organization is at its best when we can unify our community and bring people together – and we believe a new name will allow us to do this more fully.”
The team said the change will be a multi-phase process, and that “future decisions, including new name identification and brand development, are complex and will take time. While we work to identify a new and enduring franchise name, we will continue using the Indians name.”
The name change comes after the Cleveland team removed the Chief Wahoo logo from game jerseys and caps two years ago. The league said that the logo, which features a smiling Native American, is not appropriate for field use.
“Major League Baseball is committed to building a culture of diversity and inclusion throughout the game,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement at the time. “Over the past year, we encouraged dialogue with the Indians organization about the club’s use of the Chief Wahoo logo. During our constructive conversations, [Indians owner] Paul Dolan made clear that there are fans who have a long-standing attachment to the logo and its place in the history of the team.
“Nonetheless, the club ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course,” Manfred added.
Earlier this year, the Cleveland baseball team announced that they would look into the changing of the name, hours after the NFL’s Washington Football Team announced a similar move in July. Similar to the Washington team, Cleveland has faced pressure for years to change its name.
“We are committed to making a positive impact in our community and embrace our responsibility to advance social justice and equality,” a statement from the MLB team said on Twitter at the time. “Our organization fully recognizes our team name is among the most visible ways in which we connect with the community.”
Chinese-Canadian NCAA division one basketball prospect Ben Li has received all the Asian-related racist jibes under the sun.
“I’ve heard all the names right when I step onto the court. From the players it’d be all comparisons to any Asian thing – soy sauce, Jackie Chan, Yao Ming, small eyes. Like I’d be shooting free throws and another team would be standing right there saying ‘can you even see the rim?’ and all that,” the 19-year-old Lehigh University, Pennsylvania first-year said.
Born in Toronto to native Chinese parents, Li defied the odds, stereotypes and stigma to make history as the first ethnic-Chinese player to make the All-Canadian game last year. It is but only the beginning of the forward’s mission to reach the NBA and the Chinese national team.
Already touted as the “Chinese Zion Williamson” by adoring media, Li hoped his unconventionally large physical presence on the court would help rid the arena of any prejudices. Otherwise he will have to take into his own hands.
“It’s definitely annoying but over time, their words didn’t matter to me. Most of the time they were trash-talking and all that, they were usually down. So any time they’d say anything, most of the time I don’t say anything back and just point at the scoreboard,” said Li, all 1.98m, 105kg of him.
“It’s actually pretty fun to get to prove people wrong or when they expect me to not really do anything. Then I showcase my game. Sometimes they start talking trash and I’d get my stuff going and dominate the game. That’s pretty fun sometimes.”
Li regularly seeks advice – be it basketball or identity related, or both – from hero-turned-friend Jeremy Lin, the Taiwanese-American who famously graced the NBA with the “Linsanity” era of 2012. That he is now exchanging texts with the man he watched on TV is another “pinch me” moment in his fledgling career so far.
“I definitely want to shout out Jeremy Lin,” said Li, who he featured alongside on a Chinese basketball TV show in 2019.
“This year, he gave me his number and offered me an outlet to ask questions if I’m struggling or need any advice. I look up to him like a bigger bro. That’s kind of surreal to me because he was my role model.”
“When I first met him, I told him I was just trying to get scholarships and play division one basketball so my parents wouldn’t need to pay a cent for me at university. I think that’s where it kicked off because he could relate to me and had to go through a lot of things. He’s even been kind enough to offer to get a workout in together. That’s surreal. That person you watched, that got you into the sport I’m in now. Now I can just to talk to him. It’s just crazy.”
No racial slur is justifiable, but the ignorance may be partly to do with the lack of Asian faces in the game. That applies throughout all age groups, from little leagues to the NBA, where you could count the number of Asian players on your fingers.
Li’s athletic talent had grown to the point that he would need to head south from his native Canada. The path to a division one scholarship offer was meticulously planned and it was only a matter of time before calls came flooding in.
“I had to do what was best for me and expose myself to more schools and coaches. When I got to Virginia, my coach started calling schools in to come watch. Over time, my stock grew and my coach even told me that people were calling asking ‘is the big Asian guy still available? Can I come watch him work out?’” he said.
“I do this for the younger generation looking for knowledge from anyone in my situation. They’ll read this as the next Asian guy who wants to play division one basketball. My goal on top of playing in the NBA and the national team is to inspire the next generation of Asians to break out of their comfort zones.”
“I feel like there’s a stigma that we’re less than other people in a sport just because of the colour of our skin – and I think that’s kind of bulls***. If you just put in the work and screw what other people think, you can go wherever you want to go in your sport. I don’t want other people thinking they can’t get past something if they’re Asian.”
San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich acknowledges the challenges ahead of the NBA this season as teams reports to training camp, explains how he plans to approach coaching the Team USA Basketball team at the Summer Olympics and shares how the Spurs will maintain the up-tempo style they experimented with in the Disney bubble.