Saturday, April 6, 2019
Efe Obada is a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers. Unlike most NFL recruits, Obada did not come from the ranks of U.S. college players. He came from that most football-loving of countries... England.
In a feature on the Panthers' website called In My Own Words, Obada explains that he was born in Nigeria and moved to the Netherlands at a young age. Then, at the age of 10, his mother arranged for Obada and his sister to be brought to the United Kingdom.
Obada writes: "a stranger that was supposed to look after me and my sister. They did not. They abandoned us in the streets of East London and left my sister and I to fend for ourselves."
Obada and his sister spent years in U.K. foster care. Writing about his life as he got older, Obada notes: "I couldn't further my education or gain employment because I was undocumented. I was stuck."
Somehow, Obada found football. The American kind. And after spending time with the London Warriors, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, and the Atlanta Falcons, Obada has found a new home with the Carolina Panthers.
You can learn more about Obaba in this feature from the BBC.
Monday, March 25, 2019
It is almost time for the opening of the Major League Baseball season. As has been noted, the MLB has become increasingly Latinx, in no small part due to the pipeline of players from the Dominican Republic.
Rob Ruck on The Conversation looks at the pipeline of baseball players from the Dominican Republic. He notes that "Latinos will comprise about 30 percent of Major League Baseball rosters on Opening Day, in large part because MLB has systematized its recruiting and developmental programs in the Caribbean over the last 25 years." In his book Raceball, Ruck analyzed how this system operates:
"[P]rospectors scour the Dominican Republic for the next nuggets of talent, the way players are selected and groomed at a young age, and the way a signing bonus in the thousands of dollars can transform an impoverished family’s life. Few Dominican ballplayers, however, actually make it to the big leagues. Enmeshed in a system that encourages them to specialize in baseball at an early age, they’re left with little to fall back on when baseball doesn’t pan out."
The first generations of Dominican major league stars were players like Felipe Alou, Juan Marichal, and Manny Mota. And, as they say, the rest is history.
Basketball is now an international game. And the NCAA tournament has featured some excellent players from all over the world. One of them played in the epic game between Duke, the number one seed in the entire tournament, and the University of Central Florida. After an amazing last five minutes of play, Duke won the game by the thinnest of margins, 77-76.
Born in Senegal, Tacko Fall (and here) plays college basketball for the UCF. At 7 ft 6 inches, he is one of the tallest living people in the world. In the game against Duke, Fall had a huge impact and helped UCF almost pull off what would have been a huge upset.
Sunday, February 3, 2019
It is Super Bowl Sunday and many Americans will be watching the New England Patriots play the Los Angeles Rams. The ramp up to Super Sunday is a busy time for enforcement officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security? Earlier this week,
"U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced . . . that collaborative enforcement efforts led by its Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) component and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) resulted in the seizure of nearly 285,000 counterfeit sports-related items worth an estimated $24.2 million, and related investigations led to 28 arrests with 21 convictions.
The latest intellectual property enforcement statistics were part of Operation Team Player, an ongoing effort developed by the HSI-led National Intellectual Property Rights Coordination Center (IPR Center) to target the illegal importation and distribution of counterfeit sports merchandise, were revealed in Atlanta, Georgia, at a joint press conference with the NFL, CBP, Atlanta Police Department (APD) and Department of Justice (DOJ). . . .
“The Super Bowl is game on for criminals trying to scam unsuspecting fans,” said David Hirschmann, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber’s Global Innovation Policy Center. “From counterfeit tickets to fake, substandard jerseys and sports gear, fans could be cheated out of their money and have their private information stolen. These counterfeits also cause long-ranging harm to the American economy, jobs, and businesses. The only way to be certain that you get what you paid for is to shop from authentic retailers and vendors.”
Saturday, January 19, 2019
Many people hope to separate sports from politics but that is not always possible. Euronews reports on international intrigue affecting the National Basketball Association (NBA).
NBA basketball player, Enes Kanter, a Turkish citizen whose passport was cancelled by the Turkish government, decided to skip a game in London earlier this week because concerns for his safety. The New York Knicks player is a critic of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his human rights record. Istanbul's state prosecutor has sought an Interpol "red notice" to detain the basketball player and requested his extradition.
Asked by Euronews how he felt about the arrest warrant, Kanter said it was "very sad" because it stopped him from playing basketball. "I want to play basketball and I want to be known as a basketball player. Last year, he was indicted by a Turkish court of belonging to an armed terrorist group — charges which he denies.
Monday, December 10, 2018
It is hitting playoff time in the NFL season and here is an upbeat story.
Jonathan Jones for Sports Illustrated reports that, in his first-ever NFL regular-season game, Carolina Panthers defensive end Efe Obada had an interception, a sack, and had a sack-fumble overturned on review.
"Born in Nigeria, Obada was trafficked with his sister from the Netherlands (where he was living at the time) to London when he was 10 years old. We don’t know much else about his story—Obada has never fully shared it—except that at 22 he discovered American football and played in five games for the London Warriors of the BAFA National League. The Cowboys found him on an international scouting trip in 2015, and since then he bounced around four different NFL teams before finally getting a game jersey . . . with the Panthers."
Obada was "discovered" while playing American football for the London Warriors. The team’s defensive coordinator had been a coaching intern with the Dallas Cowboys in 2014. Obada participated in an unofficial workout for "America’s team" that year and the Cowboys signed him to their 90-man roster. Obada later was waived and unsuccessfully tried to catch on with the Kansas City Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons.
Obada ended up in Carolina. The NFL introduced its International Pathway Program for foreign players in 2017, and four players with potential were chosen to join a team’s practice squad and be given an exemption as the 11th player. The NFC South was drawn at random, and the Panthers got Obada.
Monday, November 5, 2018
Daniel Victor for the New York Times reports that, in the middle of “Sunday Night Football” broadcast, NBC aired an immigration-themed advertisement, approved by President Trump (see here), that CNN publicly declared to be racist and refused to air. The 30-second ad stirred fear of a migrant "caravan" of Central Americans that is in Mexico and still hundreds of miles from the United States border. It tied Luis Bracamontes, an undocumented Mexican immigrant who was convicted of murdering two Sacramento sheriff’s deputies in 2014, to the migrants fleeing violence in Central America, even though Bracamontes has nothing to do with the caravan.
As Dean Obeidallah put it on CNN.com, "Trump is trying to whip up fear about the browning of America."
Sunday, July 29, 2018
It is the weekend for inductions into Major League Baseball's coveted Hall of Fame. The ceremony at Cooperstown is later this morning. This year's inductees are Vladimir Guerrero, Trevor Hoffman, Chipper Jones, Jack Morris, Jim Thome, and Alan Trammell.
A two time Immigrant of the Day, Vladimir Alvino Guerrero was born in the Dominican Republic. Guerrero, who has been called "one of the most electrifying and unconventional hitters of his generation," hails from the Dominican Republic. Despite the prevalence of MLB players from the DR, Guerrero is just the third Dominican to enter the Hall of Fame. Prior inductees include Juan Marichal and Pedro Martinez.
Guerrero spent 16 seasons in Major League Baseball as a right fielder and designated hitter. He played for the Montreal Expos (1996–2003), Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (2004–09), Texas Rangers (2010), and Baltimore Orioles (2011). A nine-time All-Star, Guerrero was widely recognized for his impressive offensive production—regularly hitting for power and average—as well as his defensive range and strong throwing arm. In 2004, Guerrero was voted the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP). He helped lead the Angels to five AL West championships between 2004 and 2009 and was voted one of the most feared hitters in baseball in a 2008 poll of all 30 major league managers. Regarded as the game's premier "bad-ball hitter," Guerrero consistently hit balls thrown well outside the strike zone, a skill evident on August 14, 2009, when he hit a pitch after it bounced in front of home plate. With his aggressive batting style, he hit more than 30 home runs in each of 8 seasons and surpassed 100 RBI 10 times, though he had just 2 seasons with at least 65 walks. In the first pitch of the at-bat, Guerrero hit 126 home runs, believed to be the most ever, and put 1,780 balls in play.
On September 26, 2011, Guerrero surpassed Julio Franco as the all-time MLB leader for hits by a Dominican player. (Adrián Beltré claimed the record from Guerrero in 2014.)
Guerrero was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame on January 24, 2018, in his second year of eligibility.
Thursday, July 19, 2018
El Pais reports that Marc Gasol, a National Basketball Association star, this week helped rescue a migrant in the Mediterranean Sea. The center forward of the Memphis Grizzlies, who talked to EL PAÍS on the telephone from aboard the rescue ship Astral, has witnessed firsthand the daily tragedy of thousands of immigrants who risk their lives crossing the Mediterranean to flee wars and poverty in their countries.
Monday, July 9, 2018
Afshin Molavi, co-director of the emerge85 Lab and a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, in the Washington Post offers insights on the benefits of immigrants to World Cup Soccer teams.
While Kylian Mbappé is an unusual talent, his background as the son of first-generation immigrants to France makes him a typical French national team player. Indeed, 17 players on France’s 23-man roster at this year’s Cup are the sons of first-generation immigrants. Other successful European squads are also stacked with talent from sons of immigrants or recent migrants themselves, notably Switzerland and Belgium. Belgium and France will be playing in the semi-finals.
Friday, June 8, 2018
Thomson Reuters reported that worldwide sporting events have a high – and often hidden – human cost in terms of forced labor and modern slavery:
" The enormous amount of groundwork a host country must do to prepare for hosting the World Cup is an undertaking of daunting magnitude. Unfortunately, for modern-era World Cups, building venues and preparing cities for the deluge of fans has been accomplished with a dark and shameful resource: Exploited human beings.
The perception exists that major sporting events like the World Cup and the Olympics attract huge numbers of sex workers. This is true to some extent, but not to the degree many people believe. Less widely known is the exploitation of migrant workers and the use of forced labor."
The story summarizes how human trafficking played out, or is playing out, for 2006 host Germany, 2018 host Russia and 2022 host Qatar.
Monday, May 14, 2018
Born in the Dominican Republic, AAl Horford, born Alfred Joel Horford Reynoso, is a professional basketball player for the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association. He played college basketball for the University of Florida, and was the starting center on the Florida Gators teams that won back-to-back NCAA national championships in 2006 and 2007.
Horford led the Boston Celtics to a Game 1 win yesterday against the Cleveland Cavaliers. As ESPN reports, "Horford was brilliant . . . in Game 1, continuing his phenomenal play from earlier in the postseason to contribute 20 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists and 2 blocks in Boston's 108-83 thrashing."
Monday, April 23, 2018
Athlete and activist Colin Kaepernick received Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award. The award wasy presented at a ceremony in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on April 21.
“The Ambassador of Conscience award celebrates the spirit of activism and exceptional courage, as embodied by Colin Kaepernick. He is an athlete who is now widely recognised for his activism because of his refusal to ignore or accept racial discrimination,” said Salil Shetty, Secretary General of Amnesty International.
“Just like the Ambassadors of Conscience before him, Colin Kaepernick chooses to speak out and inspire others despite the professional and personal risks. When high profile people choose to take a stand for human rights, it emboldens many others in their struggles against injustice. Colin Kaepernick’s commitment is all the more remarkable because of the alarming levels of vitriol it has attracted from those in power."
In the San Francisco 49ers third preseason game of the 2016 season, Kaepernick was noticed sitting down during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" as opposed to the tradition of standing. During a post-game interview, he explained his position stating, "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder," referencing a series of events that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and adding that he would continue to protest until he feels like "[the American flag] represents what it's supposed to represent".
In the 49ers' fourth and final preseason game of 2016, Kaepernick opted to kneel during the U.S. national anthem rather than sit as he did in their previous games. He explained his decision to switch was an attempt to show more respect to former and current U.S. military members while still protesting during the anthem.
Kaepernick soon became highly polarizing as numerous people took public stances either supporting or maligning Kaepernick's actions.
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Bruno Sammartino, an immigrant from Italy who was heavyweight champion of the World Wrestling Federation (WWF) for a record 11 years in the 1960s and ’70s, died this week at age 82. His death was announced on the website of WWE, the organization also known as World Wrestling Entertainment, a successor of the WWF.
In his prime, Sammartino was one of the most popular performers in wrestling. He wrestled in Australia, Spain, Mexico, Canada and Japan, and often drew gates of 20,000 at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he had more than 200 matches.
Sammartino was born in Pizzoferrato, Abruzzo, Italy in 1935. When he was four, his father immigrated to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. During World War II, his mother hid Bruno and his siblings from German soldiers in a mountain called Valla Rocca. During this time, his mother would sneak into their German-occupied town for food and supplies.
When the Sammartinos later arrived in the United States, Bruno spoke no English and was sickly from the deprivation of the war years. This made him an easy target for bullies in high school. He turned to weightlifting and wrestling to build himself up. Bruno's devotion to weightlifting nearly resulted in a berth on the 1956 U.S. Olympic team.
Saturday, April 14, 2018
President Trump's immigration stands evidently are influencing the sports world. Earlier this week, American boxer Rod Salka threw in the towel in the sixth round of a fight against Mexican fighter Francisco Vargas. Salka entered the ring wearing trunks with “AMERICA 1ST” on them; the pattern on the trunks -- a brick wall like that which President Trump wants to build along the U.S./Mexico border.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
It is the culmination of March Madness. This weekend, we shall see who will play for NCAA Men's Basketball championship and a national champion emerging on Monday night.
The Kansas Jayhawks are in the Final Four and one of their stars, Udoka Azubuike, had a long journey from violence-torn Nigeria to the pinnacle of college basketball. It truly is an inspiring story and reveals that Azubuike is much more than just an athlete.
Azubuike's mother, who still lives in Nigeria, was issued a visa to visit the United States. She will see her son play basketball for the first time this afternoon.
It is finally baseball season! But, as The Guardian reports, there is a cloud over baseball. President Trump's immigration policies are on the mind of many Latino ball players. About one-third of all Major League Baseball players are Latino.
Baseball has long played a key role in conversations on racial equality in the United States. Jackie Robinson integrated the Major Leagues nearly eight years before Brown v Board of Education integrated public schools.
At a time when immigrants are under attack, “America’s pastime” could play a key role in helping to overcome barriers to racial equality for immigrants.
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
In February, National Basketball Association star Giannis Antetokounmpo was our Immigrant of the Day. Antetokounmpo plays professional basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks. Nicknamed the "Greek Freak," Antetokounmpo is an immigrant from Greece. His parents are from Nigeria.
Sunday, March 18, 2018
Monday, February 19, 2018
Giannis Antetokounmpo plays professional basketball for the Milwaukee Bucks of the National Basketball Association (NBA). In 2016–17, he led the Bucks in all five major statistical categories and became the first player in NBA history to finish a regular season in the top 20 in total points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. He is nicknamed the "Greek Freak."
Antetokounmpo was born in Athens, Greece on December 6, 1994, the son of immigrants from Nigeria. Three years earlier, his parents had moved from Lagos. Even though Antetokounmpo and three of his four brothers were born in Greece, they did not automatically qualify to receive full Greek citizenship. For the first 18 years of his life, Antetokounmpo had no papers from Nigeria or Greece.
The New York Times reported: "Like many other immigrants to Greece, his parents struggled to find work. Antetokounmpo and his older brother, Thanasis, helped out by hawking items such as watches, bags and sunglasses." In 2007, Antetokounmpo started playing basketball and by 2009 was playing competitively for the youth squad of Filathlitikos. Now he is an NBA star.
Antetokounmpo had a great game yesterday in a losing effort in the NBA All-Star Game.