Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Book, Sugar Ray Leonard Says Coach Sexually Abused Him

The opening segment of a forthcoming autobiography by Sugar Ray Leonard runs counter to the cunning style the former boxer used in winning championships in five weight divisions more than a quarter century ago. It is more like hearing the bell, rushing to the center of the ring, and getting hit between the eyes with a roundhouse right.

Most fans of Leonard remember him for his sweet smile and lightning-fast hands, as a transcendent and breakout celebrity in a brutal profession. But by Page 36 of “The Big Fight: My Life In and Out of the Ring,” to be published next month by Viking, Leonard has mentioned his cocaine use, growing up in a home with alcohol abuse and domestic violence, luckily surviving a car wreck with his mother at the wheel, almost drowning in a creek as a child who was unable to swim, and fathering a son at 17.

Two pages later, Leonard delivers the book’s bombshell, while indirectly addressing a growing concern in the sports industry at large. He reveals publicly for the first time that he was sexually abused as a young fighter by an unnamed “prominent Olympic boxing coach.”

Leonard writes that when the coach accompanied him as a 15-year-old and another young fighter to a boxing event in Utica, N.Y., in 1971, he had the teenagers take a bath in a tub of hot water and Epsom salts while he sat on the other side of the bathroom. They suspected “something a bit inappropriate” was occurring but did not want to question a strong male authority figure.

Several years later, Leonard describes sitting in a car in a deserted parking lot across from a recreation center, listening intently as the same coach, said to be in his late 40s, explained how much a gold medal at the 1976 Olympics would mean to his future.

He was flattered, filled with hope, as any young athlete would be. But he writes: “Before I knew it, he had unzipped my pants and put his hand, then mouth, on an area that has haunted me for life. I didn’t scream. I didn’t look at him. I just opened the door and ran.”

He adds that when he first decided to discuss the incident in the book, which is co-authored with Michael Arkush, he offered a version in which the abuser stopped before there was actual contact.

“That was painful enough,” Leonard writes. “But last year, after watching the actor Todd Bridges bare his soul on Oprah’s show about how he was sexually abused as a kid, I realized I would never be free unless I revealed the whole truth, no matter how much it hurt.”

Through his publisher, Leonard, who turned 55 on Tuesday, declined to comment for this article, saying that he will begin doing publicity for the book in June. But several people who were close to him when he was routinely banking multimillion dollar purses for title bouts with Roberto Duran, Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler were taken aback when told of what he has revealed in the book.

“This is the first time I’ve ever heard that, and I’ve known Ray since he was just a kid,” Dave Jacobs, who was Leonard’s first trainer as an amateur and later served as assistant trainer for many of his professional fights, said in a telephone interview. “He never talked about that to me and no one in the group ever mentioned it, so I assume he never talked about it to them either.

“But if that incident did happen, I feel sorry for him in that part of his life and for having to carry that around with him.”

Angelo Dundee, who achieved fame as Muhammad Ali’s trainer and later became the head man in Leonard’s corner, said he knew very little about his fighter’s personal lives and preferred it that way.

“Ray never mentioned anything but I never mingled with anything to do with a fighter except fighting,” Dundee said from his Florida home. “You never wanted personal stuff getting in the way when you sent a kid into the ring. And as far as I could see, Ray was as mentally tough as they came.”

As president of HBO Sports, Ross Greenburg was involved in the television negotiations for many of Leonard’s fights and employed him as an analyst during Leonard’s retirements, which turned into sabbaticals. Greenburg said he was only aware of Leonard’s drug and alcohol use — which was made public in 1991 when Leonard responded to a report in The Los Angeles Times culled from records of his divorce from his first wife, Juanita.

“During his semiretirements Ray would fall apart, slip into the drugs and drinking,” Greenburg said. “He really needed the prefight routine, all the stuff in the gym. He was working for us but he was way too young to be in semiretirement.”

In addition to his boxing triumphs, Leonard’s book details his travails with drugs, alcohol, infidelity and domestic problems. In certain respects, he describes the instability as a reprise of his life growing up as the fifth of seven children born to Cicero and Getha Leonard.

According to Leonard, his parents’ relationship was loving and lasting but filled with turbulence unfit for a child’s eyes. He recounts an instance in which his mother stabbed his father in the back with a switchblade he had shown her how to use, sending him bloodied into the street in search of someone to remove it.

Leonard admits that his relationship with Juanita and their sons, Ray Jr. and Jarrel, suffered similarly. But his story ends happily with him remarrying, starting a second family and finally admitting he was an alcoholic. Greenburg speculated that it was counseling that helped him finally come to grips with the sexual abuse episode of his youth.

“Having to hide a situation like that made it worse, I would think,” he said. “You have these dirty little secrets and you feel as a man and one in a tough-guy world like boxing that you can’t share it with anyone. I would think that would probably affect every aspect of his life.”

Almost four decades after Leonard’s professed incident, the United States Olympic Committee is grappling more openly with the subject of coaching predators. Last year, the group responded to an ABC News investigation that found 36 swim coaches had been barred by USA Swimming after allegations of sexual misconduct by forming a task force to study the problem.

When Nina Kemppel, a four-time Olympian in cross-country skiing, was appointed to chair the task force, she received numerous calls from athletes, parents and coaches who had experienced or had knowledge of sexual abuse. Last September, the U.S.O.C. agreed to implement the task force’s recommendations to centralize and standardize ways for sports to run background checks on the coaches they certify, and to take a leadership role in emphasizing safe training environments.

In a telephone interview, Kemppel said sports often create an environment where “there is a relationship of intimacy and closeness and where coaches and athletes spend an unusual amount of time together.”

That seems to be what Leonard describes, a belief that the unnamed coach held his future in his hands. Later in the book, he speaks of haunting flashbacks and believes that the experience, along with a volatile home life as a child, contributed to his misadventures as an adult.

Compared with fighters not as fortunate in their boxing afterlives, Jacobs and Dundee still view Leonard as a blessed man, floating above the fray. Both had falling outs with the Leonard camp along the way but maintain an affection for him, they said, happy to see him in recent years on a boxing reality show and on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“I was never worried about Ray going over the deep end,” Jacobs said. “Since Ray was 14, I always saw him as someone who would get the best out of life.”

According to Greenburg, rare is the champion who was safeguarded as well as Leonard was by his friend and lawyer Mike Trainer, who guided his business interests from the beginning.

“Whatever is in the book, he is no sad boxing story, and no one can ever turn him into that,” Greenburg said. “He’s got his money. I lived it, negotiated it, and I can tell you that there’s no manager who ever did a greater job for a fighter than Mike Trainer.”

Greenburg speculated that Leonard’s inclusion of the sexual abuse in the book was a sign of strength and growth after all he has been through.

“Most people wouldn’t even write a book like this, much less admit to something as personal as sexual abuse,” he said. “But knowing Ray, I’d bet he’s thinking that if one person reads this and says, “Oh, that happened to me, too, and I need to get help,’ then he’ll think it was worth it.”


The New Acting Leader Of Al Qaeda Is Egyptian Saif al-Adel

The choice of Egyptian Saif al-Adel may not sit well with some Saudi and Yemeni members of al Qaeda, one expert says.

Egyptian Saif al-Adel Now Acting Leader Of Al Qaeda, Ex-Militant Says -- CNN

(CNN) -- An Egyptian who was once a Special Forces officer has been chosen "caretaker" leader of al Qaeda in the wake of Osama bin Laden's death, according to a source with detailed knowledge of the group's inner workings.

Al Qaeda's interim leader is Saif al-Adel, who has long played a prominent role in the group, according to Noman Benotman. Benotman has known the al Qaeda leadership for more than two decades. He was once a leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), a militant organization that used to be aligned with al Qaeda, but in recent years renounced al Qaeda's ideology.

Read more ....


Woman Kicked Off Train For Talking Loudly On Mobile Phone

TO Oregon, where Lakeysha Beard’s loud talking on her phone has caused other passengers in the “quiet zone” carriage on the Amtrak service to complain. They want her to reduce the volume. They say she has been talking loudly on her mobile for 16 hours – ever since the train left Oakland, California.
A heated exchange results. The train is stopped and police remove Beard.
She says she felt “disrespected” by the entire incident.

Do you agree? Is being forced to listen to one side of a phone conversation played loudly in your ears the height of social wrongness? Or do you have some sympathy for Beard, knowing that ever since trains became hermitically sealed metal tubes, and the chugger-chugger of the steam age ebbed away, any noise in the carriage is magnified?

THE ILLEGAL BEANER MOTHER LOAD: Mexico police find 513 US-bound migrants in trucks

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico – Police in Mexico's southern Chiapas state found 513 migrants on Tuesday inside two trailer trucks bound for the United States, and said they had been transported in dangerously crowded conditions.

Some of the immigrants were suffering from dehydration after traveling for hours clinging to cargo ropes strung inside the containers to keep them upright as the trucks bounced along from the Guatemalan border, and allow more migrants to be more crammed in on the floor.

The trucks had air holes punched in the tops of the containers, but migrants interviewed at the state prosecutors' office said they lacked air and water. The trucks were bound for the central city of Puebla, where the migrants said they had been told they would be loaded aboard a second set of vehicles for the trip to the U.S. border.

"We were suffering, it was very hot and we were clinging to the ropes," said Mario, a 23-year-old Honduran migrant who identified himself only by his first name, for security reasons. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says thousands of undocumented migrants are kidnapped and held for ransom by drug gangs in Mexico each year.

None of the migrants would say whether any drug gang had been involved in the mass smuggling scheme broken up early Tuesday when Chiapas state police discovered the migrants while using X-ray equipment on the trucks at a checkpoint in the outskirts of city of Tuxtla Gutierrez.

The migrants said the smugglers were charging them about $7,000 apiece to get them into the United States. A Guatemalan migrant who identified himself as Juan said remaining in his hometown in Guatemala was not an option, noting "a lot of us are Indians, and we can't stay in our homes. There is no work, and there's nothing to eat."

An agent for the National Immigration Institute who was not authorized to be quoted by name said it was the largest shipment of migrants detained in Mexico in recent years.

Police also arrested four people accused of smuggling the migrants, who are from Central and South America and Asia, Chiapas state prosecutors said in a statement.

The alleged smugglers tried to escape police but were chased down and captured, prosecutors said.

The immigration institute said in a statement that 410 of the migrants were from Guatemala, 47 from El Salvador, 32 from Ecuador, 12 from India, six from Nepal, three from China and one each from Japan, the Dominican Republic and Honduras. There were 32 women and four children among them.

In January, Chiapas state authorities discovered 219 migrants squeezed into a trailer truck.

Most of those migrants were from Central America but six were from Sri Lanka and four from Nepal.
by Det. Shaved Longcock

SIDE-EYE POST OF THE DAY: French Socialists: "America's Treatment Of Dominique Strauss-Kahn Is A Disgusting Lynching That Offends Human Dignity"

Mon dieu! He had to do the perp walk. He's unshaven & look at his clothes!
I guess the dignity of the West African maid that the IMF chief and French presidential candidate allegedly raped in a New York City hotel doesn't count. And comparing this situation to the lynching that black Americans went through is double foul. Y'all can go pound sand, especially after you've harbored pedophile Roman Polanski for 30 years. From Reuters (hat tip: "French Socialist politicians voiced outrage on Tuesday at the parading of IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn handcuffed and unshaven in the United States before he has a chance to defend himself on charges of attempted rape. Arrested on Saturday and charged with sexually assaulting a chambermaid at a luxury New York hotel, Strauss-Kahn was made by police to walk manacled in front of cameras on his way to a courthouse, and his appearance before a judge was televised."

1930: what a real lynching & degrading, inhumane image looks like
The article continues: "Former Culture Minister Jack Lang described the treatment of the Socialist presidential frontrunner -- whose political career is now in tatters -- as a 'lynching' that had 'provoked horror and aroused disgust. The U.S. justice system, he said, was 'politicized' and the judge appeared to have been determined to 'make a Frenchman pay' by denying the head of the International Monetary Fund bail even though his lawyer had offered to post a $1 million bond. To many Americans, the handling of Strauss-Kahn reflected an egalitarian tradition that all crime suspects get the same treatment, regardless of their wealth or power."

More whining from French leftists: "Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry denounced 'degrading images' and said France was lucky to have a law on the presumption of innocence that bars media from showing defendants in handcuffs before they are convicted. Former Justice Minister Elisabeth Guigou, who drafted that law, called the pre-trial publicity 'absolutely sickening.' 'The power of these images of a Dominique Strauss-Kahn who hasn't been allowed to shave, tired, and not dressed properly, all that offends human dignity,' she told Europe 1 radio."

By  Booker Rising

Dr. Boyce, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Prof. Michelle Alexander Discuss Mass Incarceration

In the conversation at the link below, Dr. Boyce Watkins speaks with Rev. Jesse Jackson and Attorney Michelle Alexander, author of the book, “The New Jim Crow.”  They are also joined by others, including Dr. Marc Lamont Hill, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, Tavis Smiley and others.  Alexander, Watkins and Jackson all believe that now is the time for a movement to stop the devastation arising from mass incarceration.

Click here to listen

Dr. Boyce: Attacking Cornel West Does Not Resolve the Black Political Problem

by Dr. Boyce Watkins,

If a man is offered a piece of stale bread for dinner, he’s probably not going to want to eat it.  If you were to then say, well, “stale bread is better than horse manure,” this won’t make the stale bread taste any better.  When given the choice between bad food and horrible food, some people would just rather not eat or try to eat someplace else.

But this is what black America is being fed when they are told that they should passionately support the Democrats simply because the Republicans are going to be worse.  The meal is being fed, in part, by elitist liberals like Melissa Harris Perry at Tulane University (formerly Princeton), a darker-skinned staple in the white liberal establishment and fully-indoctrinated member in the Barack Obama fan club.   In a recent article where Perry works diligently to dismiss the political and scholarly relevance of Dr. Cornel West (a huge mistake on her part, since West earned his stripes when Perry was still in high school), she reproduces the same rhetoric that Ivy Leaguers utilize to somehow convince rank-and-file black folks to start seeing things that simply don’t exist.  The same political magic trick was used when the administration got a tiny militia of black Harvard Law Professors to campaign on behalf of Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court in spite of her undeniably racist hiring record – this is how Harvard and Yale folks take care of one another.  Notice that our entire Supreme Court is full of Ivy League graduates; the elite protect their power by manipulating the minds of poor and working class Americans.

Let’s be clear, I am no fan of the disposition against President Obama taken three years ago by Tavis Smiley.  I took Tavis to the carpet for his very personal assault on Obama, which I speculate might explain why he hasn’t ever spoken to me (I could actually care less, to be honest).  I am neither an Obama critic nor am I a super fan.   My agenda is simple:  I want to see leading politicians address massive black unemployment, mass incarceration, rampant racial discrimination in the workplace and the dysfunctional educational systems that are destroying black children and families.  To date, politicians are not standing strong on nearly any of these issues, and given that our surveys show that these problems affect the vast majority of the black community, this should be a concern.

What disturbs me most about the calls I’ve received from the White House and others who somehow believe that we are helping the president by resigning our right to free speech, is that the political types in Washington are more concerned about who gets blamed for the problem than they are about solving the problem.  After Dr. Wilmer Leon and I spoke about the seemingly unproductive relationship between the Obama Administration and the Congressional Black Caucus, most prominent critics of that conversation could only ask, “Why are you blaming Valerie Jarrett for canceling meetings with the CBC?”  Most interesting is that I spoke to Dr. Leon because he could provide an objective opinion on political strategy without any of the selfish agendas that drive those who either reject or support the president outright.  Dr. Leon makes it clear that if you spend all of your time either hating the Obama Administration for no reason or popping champagne bottles because you think we’ve hit Juneteenth Part II, you are not using your political voice in an effective way.

I don’t care if the responsibility for Washington’s political apathy falls on Valerie Jarrett, Barack Obama, the CBC or the pet chicken in the front yard.  All I know is that I just talked the daughter of a formerly incarcerated man who told me that none of his five children graduated from high school because their father was not there to guide them.  I am not sure why any black person on the planet would have any incentive whatsoever to vehemently support an administration with a black male attorney general who has not lifted a finger to reform a justice system that is undeniably racist.

So, perhaps those who are quick to implement the “stop snitching on Obama” policy on Cornel West should stop trying to counter his argument by telling West to remain silent.  Instead, he should be silenced with relevant and meaningful action on the part of the Obama Administration.  Spinning, twisting and reshaping the conversation means nothing when black unemployment continues to rise, mass incarceration decimates our people and our children are not being educated.  You can either get angry at someone for calling you fat, or you can take your fat butt to the gym.  Unfortunately, it’s easier for Washington types and elitist liberals to use political double-speak than it is for them to point to concrete evidence that working and middle class black people (the bulk of whom experience rampant and unregulated discrimination in the workplace) have a reason to be excited about the next election.  Whether they should reject President Obama vs. his Republican counterparts is debatable; but whether they should reject all of Washington is undeniable.

The bottom line is simple:  Giving black folks a choice between stale bread and horse manure is not going to make them want to eat at your restaurant.  It’s time for some political courage and action, instead of asking us to submit to a system that clearly isn’t working.  Whether one agrees with Cornel West or not, he must ultimately be given credit for guiding the conversation back to poor, black and brown people.  Attacking West for pointing out the obvious is nothing more than a counter-productive distraction.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition.  To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

Been There, Done That

By Richard A. Lee

Don't be surprised if the news that former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger fathered a child with another woman while he was married to Maria Shriver is greeted with a collective yawn in New Jersey.

We’ve seen a sitting Governor come out of the closet, a rabbi charged with selling a human kidney on the black market, and a prominent political donor hire a prostitute to seduce his brother-in-law and then send a video recording of the encounter to his sister. So you’ll have to excuse us if our response to the latest headlines is: “Been there, done that.”


Well, as anyone who ever has sat in traffic on a New Jersey roadway knows, we are the most densely populated state in the nation. One of the consequences of this dubious distinction is that issues of all types emerge here before they affect the rest of the country. Likewise, New Jersey is among the first to react and respond to them.

For example, when the automobile became affordable in the 1920s, thousands of New Jerseyans purchased cars. In fact, New Jersey had 718,000 registered cars by 1930 – a staggering figure considering the fact that the car had just become affordable a decade earlier.  All of this helped lead to construction of the state’s basic roadwork years before other parts of the nation had the traffic volume to necessitate such actions.

Similar scenarios have taken place with environmental issues. In the mid-1980s, New Jersey began running out of landfill space for its garbage while states in the Midwest and elsewhere still had plenty of room. New Jersey responded with mandatory recycling – long before similar initiatives took place in other parts of the country. Along the same lines, the state’s many pollution and contamination problems eventually resulted in New Jersey becoming a national leader in identifying and cleaning up toxic sites.

More recently, the state enacted health care reform two years before President Obama signed a bill into law that contained many of the same provisions included in the New Jersey’s legislation.

Personal issues, scandals and outrageous behavior always will get people’s attention. But for New Jersey, the shock value of such items is starting to wear thin. Think back to the 2009 gubernatorial race when Chris Christie’s driving record and weight became frequent topics of discussion. Exit polls conducted on Election Day showed that such inconsequential matters had little impact on how New Jerseyans cast their votes. Instead, it was the economy, jobs, and property taxes that determined which candidate voters supported.

And that’s the way it should be. There are daunting challenges confronting our state in the 21st Century. The best way to address them is to focus on serious public policy issues, not the personal matters and tabloid headlines that grab our attention, but have little impact on our quality of life.

Our focus in New Jersey is not yet fully where it needs to be, but as long as we keep heading in the right direction, we should once again find our state a step or two ahead of the rest of the nation.

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Richard A. Lee is Communications Director of the Hall Institute. A former State House reporter and Deputy Communications Director for the Governor, he also teaches courses in media, politics and government at Rutgers University, where he is completing work on a Ph.D. in media studies. Read more of Rich’s columns at richleeonline and follow him on Twitter.