Monday, December 28, 2015

R.I.P Meadowlark Lemon: Athlete; Entertainer; Evangelist

Meadowlark Lemon on Athletes

Basketball legend Meadowlark Lemon died at age 83 in Scottdale, Arizona on December 27, 2015.  Lemon was the court jester of the Harlem Globetrotters for 22 seasons before venturing off to play for the Bucketeers, then later with the Shooting Stars and in 1988 starting "Meadowlark Lemon's All Stars".  In 1994, Lemon played 50 games for the Harlem Globetrotters while still playing for his own touring team.

In Meadowlark Lemon's prime, he played 325 games a year. After missing one game in Germany after a bad meal of goulash in 1955,  Lemon played  7,500 consecutive games for the Harlem Globetrotters, which was the equivalent of 92 NBA seasons. But Lemon was known for more than his perfect attendance on the courts.   

Wilt Chamberlain played with Meadowlark Lemon for the 1958-59 season on the Harlem Globetrotters.  Wilt Chamberlain lauded Lemom shortly before his Wilt's death in 1999:  “Meadowlark was the most sensational, awesome, incredible basketball player I've ever seen.  People would say it would be Dr. J or even [Michael] Jordan. For me it would be Meadowlark Lemon.”  Lemon could make unbelievable behind the back half-court baskets and was known for his long range hook shot. 

Supplementing his superior skill set at basketball fundamentals, Meadowlark Lemon was a showman.  He enthusiastically embraced being the "Clown Prince" of basketball, by doing a regular shtick of throwing a bucket-full of confetti and pulling down the pants of referees.  Meadowlark Lemon was inducted into both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the International Clown Hall of Fame. 

Aside from being an athlete and an entertainer, Meadowlark Lemon had a spiritual side.  Lemon became an ordained minister in 1986 and a Doctor of Divinity in 1988 from Vision International University.  Along with his second wife Dr. Cynthia Lemon, he founded  Meadowlark Lemon Ministries with a mission "Changing lives to change the world" by   leveraging his books, media, evangelical outreach along with Camp Meadowlark basketball camp as inspiration to stay focused and finish strong message aimed at keep kids away from the path of substance abuse. 

Meadowlark Lemon Ministries has a special outreach to youths in detention facilities and prisons.  Meadowlark's message to these troubled souls is that you are not alone, you are uniquely special, God has great plans for you and you are forgiven. 

Through his excellence on the courts and comedy, Meadowlark Lemon could entertain and elevate his fans.  Parlaying his successes on the court to his ministry, Meadowlark Lemon helped elevate himself and others to a higher level. Rest In Peace Clown Prince of Basketball. 

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A Favorable First Amendment Slant Should Save the Redskin's Trademark

For several years, there has been a politically correct effort to force the Washington Redskins to change their name.  In fact, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was convinced with withdraw the NFL franchise's trademark protection in 1999 and 2014, citing that "the term redskin" as derogatory and offensive even though the USPTO had approved the mark over 80 years before. Washington Redskin's owner Daniel Synder appealed claiming that case law and the weight of the evidence had been ignored.  A federal district court agreed with the Patent Office's withdrawal of the trademark in July 2015. 

However, a Federal Appeals court handed down a ruling which may well be a game changer.  The Portland Oregon dance rock band "The Slants" won a Federal Appeals Court case which began in 2011 over their provocative moniker.  The Slants are composed of Asian Pacific Island band members and pride themselves as taking on racism presumably by embracing a name which many consider to be ethnic slander. 

The Slants

In a December 22, 2015 decision, the Federal Appeals Court ruled:

“Many of the marks rejected as disparaging convey hurtful speech that harms members of oft-stigmatized communities. But the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech...
The government cannot refuse to register disparaging marks because it disapproves of the expressive messages conveyed by the marks."
That ruling ended The Slant's legal Misery, but also serves as a strong indication that the Redskin's ruling will not stand. The Redskins were stripped of trademark protection because of "hurtful speech".  In addition, the Redskin's case is even stronger as the USPTO had already approved the trademark years before and then sought to yank it away.  However, because the Redskin's appeal is in another circuit, the Slant's ruling is not automatically set a precedent.  And the US Supreme Court could also overturn the Slant's First Amendment trademark protection.

But until then..

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Midshipmen Alternate Football Uniforms-- Damn the Torpedoes!

During the annual Army Navy game, the Midshipmen will be donning their alternate uniform helmets which are replete with meaning.  Each of the seven types of hand painted helmets depict the player's position. 

• Linebacker: Cruiser- Provides anti-air defense and packs the biggest punch of Naval surface ships representative of the linebackers on the Navy football team.

• Defensive Back: Destroyer- Known for significant fire power, speed, and anti-missile defense as are Navy's defensive backs.

• Wide Receiver: Submarine- Predominantly utilized as blockers, wide receivers play a key role in driving the Navy rush attack, taking on a stealth-like persona as they blend into the rhythm of the offense but bring significant fire power when called upon, just like a Naval submarine.

• Lineman: Amphibious Assault Ships- Just as a lineman's job is the create a hole for a running back or linebacker, these ships are utilized to establish the "beach head" that enables the invading force to gain access and ultimately accomplish their objective.

• Quarterback: Aircraft Carrier- The QB of the Naval Fleet, the aircraft carrier is the ultimate decision maker; the "quick strike" weapon of the Naval fleet.

• Running Back: Littoral Combat Ship- Like running backs, these fast and nimble ships can navigate through both crowded shallow and deep waters.

• Kicker/Special Teams: Minesweeper- Much like the specific task of the Navy special teams, this small ship has a unique mission of identifying and eliminating mines.

In addition, the rally cry "Damn the torpedoes!" from Admiral Farragut's victory in the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864 is featured on the player's gloves. 

Roger Staubach on "The Extra Mile"

Roger Staubach on "The Extra Mile"

The annual Army-Navy game is the last game of the college football regular season.  It is an over a century old rivalry between two military academies.

During the first half of the 20th Century, the Navy Midshipmen and the Army Black Knights were in contention for the national championships.  However, nowadays the five year commitments which academy athletes make to their armed service makes professional sports players about as rare as a rocking horse's manure. Yet players give their all for this annual match-up.  They are inspired to go the extra mile.