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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Breaking News: Sterling banned for life

The NBA has banned Donald Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million, and will take action to force him to sell the Los Angeles Clippers basketball team. Timetable for Sterling's removal is being urged.

Sterling sends wrong message on "owning" a team

Is it o.k. to take a picture with a basketball player?
(Former NBA star Ben Wallace and Tomi Johnson)
Charles "Chuck" Cooper, Boston Celtics' Number 11, could probably tell you a thing or two about racism in professional basketball if he were still alive.  Cooper was the first black man to be drafted to play in the National Basketball Association (NBA) on April 25, 1950.

This small forward, who was 6' 10" and weighed 210 lbs. during his prime, played 409 games for the NBA. He died of liver cancer at age 57, the day before my birthday in 1984.

Sixty four years after Cooper's drafting, Black players make up 78 percent of NBA players. (African Americans were 13.1 percent of the U.S. population in 2012.)

But there's still trouble in the NBA locker room, a backstage mentality that keeps black players relegated in one place - as highly paid, athletic entertainers serving at the mercy of mostly white "owners" inside a culture of hidden inequality. Careers are short, injuries numerous, and egos often deflated.

Now comes one owner, Donald Sterling, caught in a racial rant with his "mixed" girlfriend, V. Stiviano. Sterling, in a taped conversation, said "his" Black athletes are paid, clothed, housed, transported, and fed well through his generosity. Sounds like what an 'ole slave massa would say... Also sounds like a rich old man trying to manage his lover's social agenda. It appears that Sterling also wanted his girlfriend to pass as white or Latino for some reason...

TEAM owners vs. ball handlers 
NBA owners are billionaires, the players are merely millionaires.
Paul Allen, owner of the Portland Trial Blazers, is worth $15.8 billion, making him the 26th richest man in the US according to Forbes Magazine. Kobe Bryant, the highest paid NBA player, had a salary of $30.4 million for the 2013-2014 season. Although there are some talented white players in the League, the NBA would be nothing without talented black players, coaches, and staff.

Do you suppose Kobe is listening to Sterling's remarks and will one day become an NBA team owner himself like Michael Jordan? Would Kobe and Michael not want to be seen with black folks? (I am human. Nothing human is alien to me!) Maybe a case of racism or classism. You decide.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Shan Cooper: Woman of Integrity

(From Cooper’s appearance at Aflac’s “Women of Integrity” Luncheon, April 24, 2014, Marietta Country Club. Digital images by Ilea Johnson)

At first glance, Shan Cooper, 45, appears wiser than her years, possibly because of the heavy weight of her responsibilities as VP of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company and GM of the company’s 6,300 employees in Marietta, Ga. 

Cooper is not a conservative celebrity but assumes that onlookers are watching where she eats, whether she’s on the company’s corporate jet headed to Capitol Hill, or if she curses when challenged. She's very conscious of image and purpose.

First and foremost, Cooper is a mom, a wife, a mentor, and a well trained businesswoman. She can get down and dirty, crawling through aircraft in the factory, or hold her own in a board meeting. These are perceptions of one virtuous Black woman working in today’s corporate “old boys” club.

“My natural leadership style comes from my dad,” Cooper said of her Pentecostal minister father. In the Anniston, Ala. household where she grew up, lying was forbidden and respect for people from diverse backgrounds was laudable.

Lessons learned from her parents: Be whatever you want to be while affirming the goodness in other people where ever you go.

Formerly Lockheed’s VP of Human Resources, Cooper said she looks for certain qualities when deciding to invest in human talent. Future employees must measure up to her standards of integrity, good judgment, ambition, drive, and creativity.

She says she needs people on her team that will tell her when "the baby is ugly." Two of her mentors were Connie Fisher and David Logan. Her strong arm is her administrative assistant.

Cooper often wrestles with decisions requiring employee layoffs and how cutting back can affect families. One of her worst days was July 8, 2003 when a worker at the Meridian, Miss. plant shot 14 of his co-workers with a shotgun, killing six of them before committing suicide. Her assignment: help with funeral arrangements; comfort the injured at the hospital; hold the team together.

Cooper is a woman of faith who starts each morning with prayer and ends each night with her husband in prayer when they are under the same roof. She continuously asks God for a spirit of discernment while making multimillion dollar decisions, for purity of thought, and the ability to listen.

Flag Barbie is in her office. Prayer is on her lips. Psalm 118:24 is in her heart. Along with company loyalty and patriotism, Cooper reminds listeners she serves at the pleasure of the Lockheed Martin organization and is all about keeping it real. "I tell my employees to pray, and then get back to work."