Category Archives: NFL Jerseys

E.J. Junior Jersey Sale

(CNN)A year after a Hoover, Alabama, police officer killed Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr. at a mall on Thanksgiving, Bradford’s family is E.J. Junior suing the yet-to-be-named police officer for wrongful death.

Bradford’s mother, April Pipkins, filed the lawsuit against the unnamed policeman and the city of Hoover Friday, alleging that the officer did not follow his training, violated department policy by not turning on his body-worn camera, failed to issue verbal commands before opening fire and did not verify whether Bradford posed a threat before killing him.
The slain 21-year-old’s family says he was at Riverchase Galleria in the Birmingham suburb with his cousin and friends the night of Thanksgiving 2018 when, police allege, Erron Martez Dequan Brown began shooting. Possessing a permit to carry a weapon, Bradford pulled out his gun and was helping people escape when the unnamed Hoover police officer working as mall security shot him, they say.
The suit, which also alleges Fourth and 14th Amendment violations, excessive force among them, seeks a jury trial and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages and attorneys’ fees.
City confident there’s no wrongdoing, it says
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall issued a report in February calling the shooting “justified” and saying he would not be presenting the case to a grand jury. It was his understanding, he said, that the US Department of Justice had no plans to initiate a civil rights case against the officer, either.
The city has repeatedly stood by the officer and issued a statement last week through city attorney Phillip Corley saying it would continue to defend him.
Man killed by police was shot from behind

Man killed by police was shot from behind 01:14
“The many allegations made against the city of Hoover in the days and weeks following the incident are false. After all evidence is presented, no wrongdoing by the city or any of our officers will be shown,” the statement said.
Responding to the family’s complaint that prosecutors had withheld certain evidence from the family — a matter about which the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union in March joined the family in suing the city and Marshall — the city said it has produced all the information it can produce.
Because of the investigation into Brown, who is charged with attempted murder in the shooting, neither the city nor Marshall can release the other requested records, the city statement said.
Did officer tell Bradford to drop gun?
Upon learning in February his son’s killer would not be charged, Bradford’s father, a former law enforcement official, vowed that the case was not over.
“You think I’m going to let it go?” he asked reporters at the time. “As a black man, it’s wrong.”
One key to the case will be whether police at the mall identified themselves as law enforcement and ordered Bradford to drop his weapon.
Marshall’s report quoted two unidentified witnesses, both employees of stores in the mall, saying they heard police tell Bradford to put down his gun.
Father of man mistaken for shooter speaks out

Father of man mistaken for shooter speaks out 01:59
One said she saw Bradford take an “aggressive stance” and heard an officer tell him “literally three times” to drop his gun, while another witness said she heard the officer say, “Drop your weapon, drop your weapon sir, put your weapon on the ground.”
The officer, however, didn’t relay this information in two statements, one taken minutes after the shooting, the second a week later, the report said.
“I observed an armed suspect quickly moving towards the two males standing near the railing,” the officer said in his second statement. “The suspect was advancing on the two males and had a black handgun in his right hand. I fired my duty weapon at the armed suspect to stop him.”
The report concludes the officer “was unable to provide verbal commands to E.J. Bradford before firing his weapon due to the quickness of the event and the immediate threat Bradford posed.”
The lawsuit filed last week claims that the officer “admits that he never gave Bradford any verbal warnings or commands from which he could further assess and verify Bradford’s status as either (a) an innocent civilian and/or first responder, or (b) a credible threat.”
Lawsuit cites officials’ shifting accounts
Another key will be the changing narrative that authorities delivered to the public following the shooting. At first, police said an officer killed Bradford after he shot Brian Wilson, 18, and fled. Later, officials said witnesses and forensic tests indicated Bradford may have been involved in an altercation but had not likely fired the shots that injured WIlson and 12-year-old Molly Davis.
Officials again changed the story to say Bradford had brandished a weapon, only to recant the word brandish. They corrected the statement to say that Bradford had a gun in his hand, which “immediately heightened the sense of threat to approaching police officers.”
Bradford went to the mall with his cousin and two friends, his family says.
Bradford went to the mall with his cousin and two friends, his family says.
The family’s lawsuit emphasizes that Alabama is an open carry state, meaning residents are permitted to carry visible guns in public, and that Bradford had pistol and concealed carry permits, which allowed him to carry a handgun obscured from public view.
Still, the lawsuit says, Bradford was shot three times, with the bullets landing beneath his ear, at the base of his neck and above his buttocks, an independent medical review commissioned by the family showed.
Erron Brown, 20, was arrested in Georgia days after the incident and charged with attempted murder in Wilson’s shooting, police said. Brown’s attorney has said video will clear his client. No charges have been filed in the shooting of the 12-year-old.
Attorney, ACLU say race a factor
The officer who shot Bradford was placed on administrative leave after the shooting, but once he was cleared by Marshall, Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said the lawman was in the process of returning to work and that the city would pay for his legal defense in any civil proceedings.
“We will defend our city, and we will defend our police officer,” he told reporters in February, adding that he would not identify the officer because investigators determined he had committed no crime.
Witnesses describe shooting at Alabama mall

Witnesses describe shooting at Alabama mall 01:03
Bradford family attorney Ben Crump has said the officer shot Bradford because he was black — “In this case, it looks very much like the officer’s reasoning was ‘black man plus gun equals shoot'” — while the ACLU has suggested race was a factor in Marshall’s investigation.
“The decision to evade a grand jury mimics the (darkest) patterns of injustice woven throughout Alabama’s sad history of race relations,” Crump said.
Added ACLU policy analyst Dillon Nettles, “The attorney general’s characterization of E.J. Bradford as a ‘threat’ that needed ‘eliminating’ reveals how little regard the attorney general has for the life of this black man.”

Xavier Cooper Jersey Sale

The Hancock College men’s basketball team has scored points at a spectacular clip this young season.

It did not take the Bulldogs long Friday night to show why.

Nailing shots from all over Victor Valley back court, the Bulldogs had 15 points in the first five minutes. The Bulldogs eventually beat the over-matched Rams 100-70 in the 5th annual Home Motors Tournament that the Bulldogs are hosting this weekend at Joe White Memorial Gymnasium.

Hancock is 4-1. Victor Valley is 0-3.

112219 AHC Victor Valley Basketball 02.jpg
Hancock College’s Bryce Craver gets airborne as he goes in for the layup during Friday night’s 5th Annual Home Motors Tournament. The tourney continues through Sunday at Allan Hancock College.

David DuBransky, Contributor
The Bulldogs, Hancock sophomore center Mayowa Akinsanya said, work fast but they are also willing to make the extra pass.

“That’s what makes our offense so special,” he said.

“When you make the extra pass, good shots can turn into great shots. We have guards who can make the outside shot, and we have consistent bigs.”

All 12 Bulldogs who played Friday night scored, and four were in double figures.

112219 AHC Victor Valley Basketball 03.jpg
Hancock College’s DJ Searcy takes a tumble over Victor Valley’s Keionte Reese during Friday night’s 5th Annual Home Motors Tournament.

David DuBransky, Contributor
Freshman Pioneer Valley graduate Nick Chapman, a reserve guard, scored a game high 17 points for Hancock. Chapman was 6-for-11 from the field and he made half of his 10 3-point tries.

Mike Mensah, another Hancock reserve, finished with 15 points. Starters Grant Johnson and Xavier Cooper had 13 and 11 points respectively.

Jacob Hatch had 16 points for the Rams, who actually scored at a decent rate after not getting a basket until the 12:36 mark of the first half.

Tryvon Rome had 12 points for the Rams. Eric Figueroa and Keionte Reese finished with 11 and 10 points respectively.

The Hancock margin reached 40 points, 90-50, at one point in the second half.

Kyle Harding, a 6 foot 2 freshman who graduated from Our Savior Lutheran in Long Island, New York, is Hancock’s starting point guard. He said directing Hancock’s swift offense doesn’t faze him.

“I’m used to playing for teams that play fast,” said Harding. “All the teams I played for growing up in New York played fast.

“We have a lot of versatility on offense. All our guards can dunk.”

Tyson Aye is in his sixth year as Hancock’s coach. His teams typically play fast. But not THIS fast.

112219 AHC Victor Valley Basketball 04.jpg
Hancock College’s Mike Mensah goes in for the dunk during Friday night’s 5th Annual Home Motors Tournament.

David DuBransky, Contributor
“We have a very talented group of players who can score from a lot of places on the floor,” he said.

“It’s fun to coach. It’s exciting to watch.”

Hancock will play Yuba at 5 p.m. Saturday in another tournament game. In early games Friday, Yuba beat Las Positas 94-86 and Cypress edged Santa Barbara 59-57.

Girls Basketball
Nipomo 50, Santa Maria 33
Makennah Simonson led three Nipomo players in double figures, and the Titans ran their record to 4-0 with a 60-33 win over former Ocean League rival Santa Maria at Nipomo Friday night.

Simonson scored 14 points for the Titans. Kat Anderson had 13 and Leah Miller added 11.

Nipomo shared the Ocean League girls basketball title with Pioneer Valley last year. Both have since been moved up to the Mountain League.

Grace Gutierrez scored nine points for Nipomo Friday night. Honnalee Kennedy put in eight. Alyson Cramer had three points, and Shantille Simonson scored two.

Jerone Davison Jersey Sale

PHOENIX — A group of students is suing the Maricopa County Community College District after it eliminated the football program from its schools.

The lawsuit alleges that canceling the football program amounts to racial discrimination because the majority those affected are minority students.

“Growing up, I didn’t have much, but I had football. That’s kind of the only thing that helped me stay in school, and want to do good in school,” Jerone Davison, a player for Mesa Community College.

Community college was a step to something bigger—Division I football, maybe the NFL.

“So taking this away from me—it’s going to be hard because I don’t know what I’m going to do after this year. I haven’t talked to any schools, no schools have talked to me,” said Darius Glover, who also played for MCC.

But to some players, it’s way more than money.

“My dad’s in jail. I don’t want to go to jail and…it keeps me in school and keeps my head in a good place and keeps me in the right mindset,” said MCC player Stevie Maddox.

“My brother’s in prison and I don’t want to go that route,” said Andre Adams.

Adams played one year at Phoenix College and planned to go to Howard in two years.

Then, last year, the Maricopa County Community College District decided to cut all junior college football programs, saying they couldn’t afford them.

“We were just in the room, we had a team meeting and they just told us they’re cutting the program,” Adams said.

Now, Adams says he’s worried he’ll follow his brother to prison.

“He played football too. He was a good athlete too, but, you know, he kept getting in trouble and—like he’s my older brother—usually his life Jerone Davison planned out how mine was going,” Adams said.

Attorney Phil Austin said there is a disproportionate impact on African-American students.

“African-American students are 10 times more likely to be negatively affected than non-African-American students. This kind of disparity cannot stand and is illegal,” Austin said.

Maricopa Community Colleges issued a statement saying in part:

“We understand the disappointment of these young men with our decision to eliminate our football programs. We have great respect for the nearly 350 student athletes impacted by this decision, including these eleven. We believe our decision in this matter was necessary and in the best interest of our students and system.”

Theron Sapp Jersey Sale

Football-wise, the Georgia Bulldogs have it all – except a national championship of recent vintage, and that could be subject to change. They’re great at recruiting. They’re great at banking donations. They’ve again gotten good at winning games. Heck, they’ve got Jeremy Pruitt’s precious indoor practice facility, though that hasn’t helped Jake Fromm in the rain, has it?

The Bulldogs have become serial overdogs. They’ve lost six games over three seasons, two in overtime. They’ve won the SEC East three years running. They’ve been favored in every game this season. They’re favored by four touchdowns against Georgia Tech. Sometimes, though, the team that has nearly everything doesn’t get enough credit for doing a small thing. Today we attempt to right that tiny wrong.

When it comes to Clean Old-Fashioned Hate, the Bulldogs almost never trip over themselves. A Georgia team ranked among the nation’s top 15 has never lost to an unranked Tech. A Georgia team with an Atlanta game awaiting the week after it plays the Yellow Jackets has been made to sweat in the battle for the Governor’s Trophy only once. (Speaking of which: Couldn’t they have thought of something with a bit more pizzazz? The Chattahoochee Shootout? The Old Oaken Peach?)

Seven times the Bulldogs have faced Tech knowing they’re bound for the SEC championship game. (This will make eight.) The margins of victory in those games – 44, 17, 7, 14, 32, 31 and 24. That’s an average spread of 24.1 points. And how, you ask, have the Jackets fared against Georgia when they were headed to the ACC title tilt? Lost by three, lost by six as a 9.5-point favorite, lost by 32.

In contemporary times, Tech-Georgia has come to mean far more to Tech. When Paul Johnson’s 2009 team, probably his best, was beaten by a 6-5 Georgia that had just lost to Kentucky, he harrumphed that his program “had bigger fish to fry.” (Those Jackets would beat Clemson, a title later vacated.) Johnson’s claim was something of a tough sell, given that the song “Ramblin’ Wreck” includes the cheery sentiment: “To hell with Georgia.”

Indeed, that’s Tech’s little saying. One son/daughter of George P. Burdell asks, “What’s the good word?” Another responds: “To hell with Georgia.” (Which is technically four words, but never mind.)

The enmity, at least in latter days, isn’t quite mutual. Among Georgia’s rivals, Tech lags Florida and Auburn, though the Jackets might have drawn ahead of Pruitt’s Tennessee. We say again: Tech folks stew about Georgia every day of every year; Georgia folks stew about Tech only in those years when they deem the Jackets a clear and present danger.

No, it wasn’t always thus. Tech under Bobby Dodd beat Georgia so often that, after the Bulldogs won 7-0 in 1957 to snap an eight-year losing skid, the touchdown-making Theron Sapp was christened “The Drought-Breaker.” (A huge photo of Sapp’s touchdown graces the Sanford Stadium press box.)

Vince Dooley, whom Techies cannot abide, changed everything. He went 19-6 against the Jackets. Ray Goff didn’t beat many teams, but he was 5-2 against Tech. Mark Richt was 13-2, the losses coming by three points and in overtime. Kirby Smart is about to be 3-1. The only Georgia coach since Dooley to have a losing record versus the Jackets was Jim Donnan (2-3). He was fired because of it.

Conventional wisdom has long held that Tech alums would be satisfied to beat Georgia once every three years. The Jackets have gone 14-41 against the hated mutts since 1963, which means they’ve averaging a win every 3.9 years. (A loss Saturday would make it a flat 4.0.) With Georgia in the ascendancy under Smart and Tech beginning a rebuild under Geoff Collins, it’s tough to imagine when the Jackets’ next win will arrive. Maybe 2022?

Chan Gailey worked six non-losing seasons and went 0-for-Georgia. (He was fired because of it.) Paul Johnson, fryer of fish, did better, winning three times in 11 seasons, which was one win per every 3.6 years. Tech hasn’t beaten Georgia at Bobby Dodd Stadium this century, which sounds wrong until you tick off the games in your head and think, “That’s really true.” (If you ask Georgia fans, who still turn purple at the mention of 1999 and the unseeing Al Ford, Tech hasn’t beaten the Bulldogs in Atlanta since 1989.)

This is supposed to be a rivalry, but many years – most years – it doesn’t feel like one. In a rivalry, you’re supposed to Throw The Record Book Out The Window. The ledger of Clean Old-Fashioned Hate sits undisturbed on its dusty shelf. Bulldog old-timers who recall the Drought and its Breaker still take nothing for granted, but to everyone else it has become Georgia’s game to lose. It mightn’t lose it again for a while.

Stephen Gostkowski Jersey Sale

FOXBORO, Mass. — Stephen Gostkowski hasn’t appeared in a game for the New England Patriots since late September, but he’s still found ways to help the team. The veteran kicker has remained involved with Patriots as he recovers from season-ending hip surgery, assisting however he can as New England continues to search for a reliable replacement. This guidance has been especially beneficial for rookie punter/holder Jake Bailey, who, along with long snapper Joe Cardona, has worked with three different kickers this season. That number will reach four Sunday night when newcomer Kai Forbath makes his Patriots debut against the Houston Texans. “I can’t say enough good things about Joe,” Bailey said after Friday’s practice. “And Steve’s been around, too, to help me out with all that stuff. I’ve got a lot of good specialist leaders in this room — along with Matt Slater and a bunch of the other guys — and they’re just helping me stay comfortable and stay calm. If anything, they’re just helping me out in practice. That’s where we get all of our mental and physical reps for the week, and that’s where we build confidence.” Gostkowski, who hosted the 22-year-old Bailey for Thanksgiving at his Wrentham, Mass., home, appeared in the New England’s first four games this season before landing on injured reserve. Mike Nugent initially replaced him but was cut a month later after missing three field goals and an extra point in his four appearances. Nick Folk — like Nugent, a well-traveled journeyman — was kicker No. 3. He performed relatively well in his first three games as a Patriot (7-for-9 on field goals, with his two misses coming in a driving rainstorm) but underwent an emergency appendectomy Thursday morning, rendering him unavailable for Sunday’s game. Folk reportedly is expected to make a quick recovery and could be back with the team as soon as next week, but he was released Friday to make room for Forbath, who kicked in just three games last season and hadn’t been on an NFL roster since February. This is unfamiliar territory for the Patriots, who utilized just three kickers (Adam Vinatieri, Gostkowski and injury fill-in Shayne Graham) over the previous 23 seasons. “We’ve been fortunate,” Patriots coach Belichick said. “We’ve had a lot of continuity through the years where we’ve been able to keep a snapper, holder and kicker together for multiple years at a time rather than switching them out every year, back and forth. Now, we’ve had some transition, I’m not saying that, but we’ve had sustained periods of four or five years where there hasn’t been a lot of change. “Unfortunately, there has been this year, but I think those guys (Bailey and Cardona) are doing a great job in minimizing the amount of movement and change. Certainly, having those two guys being consistent makes it a lot easier for the kicker to come and execute.” Belichick had especially high praise for Bailey, who’s already earned two AFC Special Teams Player of the Week awards and has handled kickoff duties since Gostkowski went down. “They’ve been great,” the coach said. “Joe’s got a lot of leadership, obviously, and more experience, but Jake’s mature beyond his years. He’s handled everything as well or better than I could imagine anybody at his age and his experience level handling it, from the punts to the field goals to the holding to the kickoffs. He’s done a great job for us. They’ve both played great.”

Read more at: https://nesn.com/2019/11/how-stephen-gostkowski-has-helped-patriots-amid-kicker-turmoil/

Verdi Boyer Jersey Sale

NEW YORK, Nov. 7, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Continuing to augment its storied creative reputation, the New York-based advertising agency DeVito/Verdi announced today that it has hired Preeya Vyas as its chief strategy Verdi Boyer and innovation officer, where she will be instrumental in building integrated experiences for brands that drive business outcomes and growth.

Vyas joins the agency from Saatchi & Saatchi New York, where she most recently served as chief experience officer. At Saatchi, she handled such clients as Walmart, P&G (multiple brands), American Student Assistance and others. Other past clients of note include United Airlines, GSK, Mondelez, JP Morgan Chase, Levi Strauss, and IBM. She also developed an adtech product in the contextual search space that launched in 2001.

Named one of Adweek’s “Top 50 Indispensable Players in Media, Marketing & Tech” (2018), and Campaign US’s “Digital 40 over 40” (2019), Vyas will look to continue creating business-building, fully-integrated work, while providing strategic expertise, leading the agency to create impactful experiences based in modern approaches to media and data. In addition, she will drive opportunities for product and platform development.

“There were a few important elements I was searching for in my next move: the first was a strong creative DNA; the second was an agency that is unencumbered to create broadly with bold ideas across media, data and tech; and thirdly, the opportunity to assemble the best talent and solutions to bring those ideas to life,” said Vyas.

Voted a record six times as “Agency of the Year” by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, DeVito/Verdi has made several recent moves to expand its strategic solutions and creative output, and broaden its talent base.

This marks the second major hire in recent weeks. Last month it announced the hiring of Erin Boyer as chief marketing officer. In his new role, Boyer is melding the agency’s operations to support the broader goals of existing and prospective client partners.

“We’re continuing to find solutions for expanding our creative offerings to be perpetually in tune in an ever-changing world,” said Ellis Verdi, president of DeVito/Verdi. “Preeya will certainly accelerate our ability to bring the best solutions to solve client and category challenges.”

About DeVito/Verdi

DeVito/Verdi, a privately held company, has been recognized as one of the most exceptional creative agencies in the industry. It has been voted “Best Agency” six times by the advertising industry group, the AAAA, and has created some of the most memorable ad campaigns of the past 25 years. Its lengthy list of industry awards includes the top prizes at the Clios, Radio Mercury, Cannes, Andy, Addy and One Show award ceremonies. The agency has had a rich history of success with radio advertising, including its campaign for the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, which was recently inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame.

DeVito/Verdi strives for excellence and maintains a unique level of prestige within the advertising industry, as evidenced by its work for such clients as Kohl’s, The National Association of Broadcasters, BayCare Health System, Five Below, BevMo!, 7-Eleven, New York Institute of Technology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Sony, Canon, Duane Reade Drug Stores, BMW, 84 Lumber, Esquire Magazine, Men’s Wearhouse, TimeOut Magazine, Mount Sinai Medical Center, Scripps Health, Grey Goose Vodka, UChicago Medicine, eCampus, Reebok, Legal Sea Foods, Office Depot, Appleton Rums, Pepsi/SOBE, Fallon Community Health Plan, Tribe Mediterranean Foods, Empire Kosher Chicken, Acura, CarMax, Sports Authority, Campaign for Freedom Post 9/11, Pro-Choice Education Project, Hillary Clinton for Senate, and others.

John Duff Jersey Sale

In his 2018 debut music video “Girly,” singer-songwriter-director John Duff is seen imitating some of music’s biggest pop icons, replicating the shot-by-shot choreography of Madonna’s “Hung Up” video and Mariah Carey’s gesticulations and eyelash-batting in “Heartbreaker.” It was impressive, like Duff had been practicing his whole life. And, well, basically he had been. In the case of Britney Spears’ “Stronger,” he’d been mirroring Spears’ choreo since grade-school summer camp.

For the hip-pop mid-tempo “Rich,” his follow-up to “Girly” released in September, the 30-year-old performer created a satirical and celebratory commentary on pop culture’s love-hate obsession with the rich and famous, in part by impersonating Kim Kardashian’s internet-breaking, butt-exposed cover shoot. Duff, who graduated with a B.F.A. in musical theater from Syracuse University, also currently stars in “Cubby,” his film debut that its director, Michael Blane, describes as a story about “three different generations of men looking for acceptance and love.”

When I connected with Duff recently, he had just gotten acrylic nails and was feeling “very Marilyn Monroe-Mariah Carey, like helpless, like I can’t pick things up with this hand.” He clanked his nails on a table for me to hear over the phone while we talked about making a place for himself in the music industry after believing there wasn’t one for him, experiencing homophobia from Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on “The X Factor,” and being understood.

How did you end up here? Is this what little John Duff envisioned for himself?

I started as a talent show kid because there aren’t really outlets for an artist when you’re in third grade, but I think my idea was to always be a performer. Growing up in a suburb of Baltimore, there weren’t many opportunities to really be on a stage, so I did get into public speaking, I did get into musical theater, and those became my main outlets. Then, of course, I went to college for musical theater, graduated, did shows in New York for years and then found my way to Los Angeles to write music. The rest just made sense to me. I like the big imagery of the old days, and people who really were doing something, not just … well, I don’t know what the other people are doing, honestly. (Laughs.)

Who are the other people?

(Laughs.) Just, you know, all the other artists that I’ve kind of been a little bewildered by. For the generation that uses the word “iconic” more than anything, I think we have some of the least iconic imagery that’s existed in pop music in the last couple of years.

Growing up, you were a Janet, Madonna and Mariah fan, and so you do seem to have an appreciation for an era when real artistry flourished.

Well, it’s not just real artistry, it’s also budget that they put into everything. My sisters are 43 and 45, so I had them in high school driving me around when I was in first grade, second grade. And my sister had (Mariah Carey’s) “Fantasy” CD single and I stole it from her.

Did you start imitating Mariah and other pop icons in your youth?

Yeah. I spent most of my time in my basement, and I had Janet Jackson’s video collections and Michael Jackson’s “HIStory” video collection, and I had Mariah’s live Thanksgiving special and I was an “American Idol” kid, so I had all these things on tape and I would just watch and watch and imitate. When it came to start performing in talent shows, I think I wanted to do Britney Spears just because I could really dance then, but my parents were very insistent that I stick to the classics, so I did Elvis and Frank Sinatra. Michael Jackson was the first time I was allowed to bend a little. I mean, I didn’t have friends until junior year of high school – that was the first time I had any semblance of a social life – so it was just me, by myself. So I know the words to every song. I’m like a savant.

In 2018, you posted a video of you singing a song you wrote called “Thoughts and Prayers” to YouTube, and I think I was surprised to find out that you can actually sing, only because I don’t expect much from gay Instagram.

Oh yeah. I kind of had fun with that when “Girly” was just coming out by letting people think I was going to do something stupid and then once it came out I think a lot of people wrote it off as a fluke, which is like, go off. You can totally do that. Because I know what I am. With “Rich,” we’d done the video a while back and the song is like – god, my manager’s gonna kill me for saying all of this, but it was never my favorite song, but the imagery made such sense to me. So it was sort of supposed to follow up “Girly” right away, but we were having some issues with the original producers of the song because not everyone in Hollywood is nice, I don’t know if you knew that.

So I’ve heard.

(Laughs.) They’re not all in it for the art of it, that’s for damn sure. And so we had a lot of issues, and it took some time, but I ended up getting to work with Alex Delicata, who’s a great producer and has created songs that are some of my favorite songs, and he really turned that one around. So in terms of production, I love it. Very happy. But I’m really happy for everything that’s to come.

What’s to come? Is there a full album on the way?

At this point I would say that I can genuinely look at my playlist of songs that I’ve created and we have about 30 that I think are good enough to stand in their respective realm. We’re trying to hone in on what exactly the introductory sound is, and “Girly” and “Rich” have kind of set that up. But I think the next moves get a little more specific in terms of who I am and what my inspirations are and what I want to be.

Are you still figuring that out? And as a pop artist, is authenticity important to you?

Well, that’s the thing: I’m a very, very layered human being like everybody else is. I guess I am actually a very deep-feeling and -thinking person, so that’s kind of a hard thing to cover off the bat. I think I’m being very authentic to my ideas, my wit and parts of myself in terms of the next couple of things we’re putting out, and there is sincerity there. But it’ll be a minute before I get to really give you some of the depth of my humanity.

Well, it took seven years before we got Mariah’s “Butterfly” album, where she went her deepest musically.

Sure, yeah, and we know that some of Mariah’s really great, serious, deep works were written long before they came out or had been in the works for years, and so I’ve got three songs on here that I’m like, “Oh my god, these are game-changer.” They’re so important, but they’re not for right now. It doesn’t make sense to lead with them. And my parents really don’t understand that. Because they heard all of my music and they’re like, “What about this one?” There’s this ballad that they just – it’s about death and I’m like, “How the hell am I gonna put out a song about death after ‘Girly’ and ‘Rich’?” It’s just not gonna happen.

What does your mom and dad think about the video for “Rich”?

My dad told me this: “We like the video.” They prefer “Girly,” though. “Rich” is melodically cocky and hip-hop-y and their generation just doesn’t understand that at all. Like, swag doesn’t process for them and that’s fine.

You’ve expressed some frustration with the industry. Is it hard to convince these industry heads which songs you think should be out at this current moment in time?

Absolutely. I say it all the time and we know this is common talk around town: Nobody knows what is going to work now. Now, 10 years ago? Sure, they knew. Twenty years ago? They definitely knew. But no one could’ve ever predicted (Lil Nas X’s) “Old Town Road” would’ve been the biggest hit of all time. So there’s a lot of people whose literal job it is to try to predict what’s gonna happen.

Does being an out gay artist add to the challenge?

It’s really weird. It’s weird because we just all get compared to each other. We’re looking to get on the same public interviews and the same whatever and that’s probably how you end up getting compared is the same people are promoting you. So being an out gay artist, I don’t personally think it helps or hurts me. I don’t know about everybody else. And I don’t even know what I mean by that (laughs). I can only speak for myself, I guess, is what I mean.

Have you ever experienced any kind of homophobia in the industry?

Absolutely. Look, in 2011, I was on “The X Factor,” Simon Cowell’s show. And of course this was not aired on television, but within three seconds of being on stage he asked if I would’ve preferred to have been born into a female’s body. This was 2011, so there was no representation. I think Sam Smith had just come out with a single, and I don’t think he was gay. It was super hard for me to go on a show that’s run by the same people who are selling those records and have no comment on my talent whatsoever. Paula Abdul called me “strange.” What was strange about me? That I was gay.

Did you challenge her on that?

No, I didn’t because I had just graduated from musical-theater school, so the whole training is, “OK, thank you,” “OK, thank you.” Looking back, I would’ve been like, “You know what, Paula, this is a singing competition. Why don’t you come up here and we can sing ‘Straight Up’ and we can see who’s better, me or you? Because you calling me strange is a high compliment, because if I’m strange to your whack-ass… .” I mean, the strange thing is that she sang flat on her records. (Laughs.)

Being a Paula fan, this seems like something that must’ve been difficult for you to hear.

Especially standing on stage in front of an audience of 4,000 with your family watching. Everything about it was mortifying.

I’ve read that you were told that you would fare better in this industry if you played up your masculinity. At what point did that happen?

We shot this music video that’s about to come out, and I’m not playing a girl in it but I’m very androgynously behaved. I don’t know, it’s just the mannerisms I wanna give. It’s a little diva energy. And we went back and added another scene to play up masculine whatever because I think the song is the most mainstream I’ve done, but is it just so we can make it easier for other people to digest? Sure. Sometimes it’s like, “Oh, you’re handsome so you should be doing it this way.” I’ve been told by other people, “I see you being like a Sam Smith,” and it’s funny because they bring up a gay person. Well, Sam Smith is already doing Sam Smith.

There are also a lot of people who say I shouldn’t be playing up my gayness in my videos. I view it like drag, sort of. It’s just who I am when I’m performing. Not that there’s not elements of it in my life. Like, I’m standing next to a giant Mariah Carey portrait in my living room; I’m not pretending that I’m a jock when I’m off the field. I’m the one walking around with acrylics. Had ’em for two weeks. So all the other girls using their press-ons can have fun, but, you know, I’m committing to this.

Also, we can’t be more complex that just one thing now?

What it is, and I’ve talked to my therapist about this: There’s this desperation currently to find identity within separation rather than within what makes us similar. People are desperately clinging to anything that keeps them misunderstood, and for me, I would be happy to be understood. I’m happy for people to see me and say, “Yes, I relate to that.” For me, it’s been the most rewarding part of being who I am. And some days I wanna put on a pink shirt. That I wanna do the Mariah Carey “Heartbreaker” video doesn’t mean anything more than I wanna do the Mariah Carey “Heartbreaker” video.

Art Strahan Jersey Sale

HALLSVILLE — East Texas ladies looking for a fun night of fellowship and shopping in one of the area’s most scenic venues can take part in the upcoming second annual Le Femme II: Ladies Night Out event set for Nov. 22 at Walker’s Mill Vineyard in Hallsville.

Hallsville’s winery and event center, Walkers Mill Vineyard, hosted the first Le Femme ladies night event last November and this year’s event is set to have more than triple the number of local vendors for the Christmas shopping extravaganza.

The ladies not only get to shop some of the best local businesses and vendors in East Texas, they get to do so in one of the area’s most picturesque settings.

“This event is going to be much bigger than last year’s event,” Walker’s Mill Vineyard Special Events Coordinator Hayley Smith said on Thursday. “We wanted to make this year’s event bigger and really maximize the space we have here in our event barn. We also wanted to give our customers a variety of local vendors to choose from so it will be a true, one stop shop event for Christmas.”

Smith said vendors from Deep Relief Massage, Edible Art, Defining Grace Boutique, Street Licious, Blissful Baskets, and many more will be on site for the event, offering holiday gifts for men, women and children.

“You can get stocking stuffers, presents for teachers, gift baskets for men, women or children,” Smith said. “We will also have raffle drawings throughout the event for a free massage, gift cards, and the top raffle prize is a four hour venue rental of the event barn at Walker’s Mill Vineyard for an event scheduled Monday through Thursday. The prize is valued at $3,000 and excludes other fees.”

There will also be a complimentary bar at the shopping event offering up three delicious drinks, including martinis, frozen margaritas and sangria.

DJ Ben Weinert of BK Entertainment will be on the outdoor porch area with music.

“Our biggest goal is to get people out to the venue to let people know we are there and we are also very big on supporting local vendors,” Smith said. “It’s a win-win for everyone.”

Tickets to the event are $15 each and include one raffle ticket. Additional raffle tickets are available for purchase at $1 each with a limit of five additional tickets per person.

The vineyard, owned and operated by Hallsville couple Adriana and Art Strahan, was originally constructed for their daughter’s wedding in 2016.

The couple now run the vineyard and event venue and have it open to the public.

In addition to the two story barn, complete with a kitchen, restrooms, deck and two balconies, the property also boasts a scenic walking trail through East Texas’ towering pines and a pond.

“Our event center is here for more than just bridal rentals,” Adriana said. “We also host corporate events, birthdays, family get-togethers and events like tonight. We’ve hosted a team building event for LeTourneau University, an event for East Texas Credit Union, and we had the debutantes here. The barn has a capacity for 350 people.”

Adriana said the Hallsville community has embraced the vineyard, but she and her husband want it to be so much more than just a business.

“Before anything, this is a ministry for us,” Adriana said. “We want our faith to shine through in everything we do here.”

For those interested in enjoying dinner or brunch at Walkers Mill, the vineyard is located at 13983 FM 449 in Hallsville and can be reached by phone at 903-619-0012.

Jimmy Smith Jersey Sale

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Ravens cornerback Jimmy Smith has worked his way back from so many injuries that he’s become the resident expert on the subject in the Baltimore locker room.

It’s a title Smith could do without.

Only twice in his nine-year NFL career has Smith played all 16 games. He’s had to rebound from a torn Achilles tendon, a sports hernia, at least three concussions and a strained lower back.

“Those injuries, they weigh on you a little bit,” Smith said Wednesday. “But you just keep fighting.”

The Lisfranc foot surgery that Smith endured in November 2014 enabled him to provide insight and advice to rookie receiver Marquise Brown, who arrived in Baltimore while recovering from the same operation.

“Jimmy went through what I had so he was always encouraging me and telling me that it was going to get better,” Brown recalled. “He let me know what I was going to feel next.”

Smith sugarcoated it. In truth, it’s an injury that keeps on hurting long after the recovery process has been completed.

“I know what he’s going through as far as every time he wakes up and it’s cold outside that thing hurts,” Smith said. “I’ve been in his ear, letting him know he’ll get over it eventually.”

Brown played in the opener against Miami, a game in which Smith sprained his right knee. As Smith was nearing his return, Brown sustained a high ankle sprain — an injury Smith endured in 2011 and 2016.

Again, Smith was in position to share his knowledge on the subject.

“Just having someone like that you can talk to is very helpful,” Brown said.

The 31-year-old Smith entered this season hopeful to put his injury-riddled past behind him, but his optimism was buried in the first half of the first game. While he had every right to groan ‘here we go again,’ Smith ended up thankful that he would be back in 2019.

“I was kind of nervous it was an ACL or something really serious,” he recalled. “I knew how much it would impact my career, just being an older guy and all that and my history. But finding out it was a strain and I could come back, it definitely boosted my spirits.”

Smith missed six games before coming back last week to help the Ravens beat the previously unbeaten New England Patriots. He chipped in with three tackles and knocked away a pass.

“It felt great for a number of reasons,” Smith said. “I hate being in the training room, obviously. But it just felt good to go out there and play and help win a game against a good team.”

Just another rehab with a happy ending. Seems like Smith has been doing it forever.

“Jimmy has done a great job of fighting through those things,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “He’s had some misfortune with some of that stuff and he’s always done nothing but battle back. It’s commendable.”

Smith’s most notable return came in 2012, after he interrupted his season to have sports hernia surgery.

“I tore one side and just kept playing through it, but when the other side went it was a little too painful to twist and run and all that,” Smith said. “We had a real shot at going to the Super Bowl that year. I really didn’t want to get that surgery but I needed it to perform well.”

He returned in mid-December after missing five weeks. Not long after that, Smith had a tackle and knocked away two passes to help the Ravens beat the 49ers for the championship.

“Thank God we ended up going to the playoffs and making it that far because I think the really only game I impacted when I got back from that was the Super Bowl,” he said.

The Ravens might have a shot at winning it all this season, and Smith is in position to play a role.

At least for now.

Notes: The Ravens signed receiver and kicker returner De’Anthony Thomas to the 53-man roster. Thomas returned 13 punts and seven kickoffs for the Kansas City Chiefs this season. “We anticipate him having a lot of possibilities for roles,” Harbaugh said. Cornerback Maurice Canady was released.

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Riley Walton Jersey Sale

The Florida teachers’ union has endorsed state Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, for re-election to his Pinellas-Hillsborough seat.

The Florida Education Association Riley Walton endorsement could be a setback for former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, who is considering challenging Rouson in a Democratic primary, and to Tampa Democrats who would like a senator from their side of the bay. In the minority-heavy district, the Democratic primary should decide the race.

In a news release, FEA President Fedrick Ingram called Rouson “a warrior on our behalf,” citing his opposition to a proposed pro-charter school constitutional amendment.

Joyner also opposed that amendment, however, and has a career-long pro-public education record, while Rouson has often voted for voucher and charter programs opposed by the union, citing their benefits for low-income families.

Former state Sen. Arthenia Joyner is considering challenging state Sen. Darryl Rouson in a Democratic primary.
“I know we’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with him,” said FEA spokeswoman Sharon Nesvig. But in the most recent legislative session, “His voting record was 100 percent on our issues,” including opposing a major voucher expansion Rouson considered unconstitutional.

Nesvig said the group wanted an early endorsement and acted “based on who’s running now” — but could reconsider, possibly issuing a joint endorsement, if Joyner runs.

FEA endorsement committee member Eric Riley said a dual endorsement would have to be at the instigation of the district’s county FEA branches.

Rouson, citing his parents’ involvement in public education, said, “I have lived public education and know it is the silver bullet for our state and community.”

But Joyner responded, “One good session (by Rouson) does not equate to a lifetime commitment that I have to public education,” and criticized campaign financial support for Rouson from charter and voucher interests.

GOP dinner focuses on Gaetz

The struggling Hillsborough County Republican Party drew a crowd of around 300 to hear firebrand Trump defender Rep. Matt Gaetz at its main annual fundraising event, the Lincoln Day Dinner, Saturday.

The crowd was energized and excited, though smaller than such events in the heyday of the local GOP a few years ago.

Gaetz, of Fort Walton Beach, was scheduled as warmup speaker for Kayleigh McEnany, a South Tampa native and Trump 2020 campaign press secretary. He became the keynote speaker after she went into labor the night before the event, giving birth to a baby girl.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., leaves Longworth House Office Building,in Washington. Gaetz spoke at the Lincoln Day Dinner for the Hillsborough Republican party on Saturday. [JULIO CORTEZ | AP]
One speaker after another called Democrats socialists and denounced what Gaetz called “this phony impeachment.”

Gaetz hurled insults and taunts at 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, predicting Elizabeth Warren will be the nominee and that Democrats plan “a Bernie Sanders drum circle or a rain dance with Pocahontas,” a reference to Warren’s claim of partial native American ancestry.

Gaetz repeated the dubious Republican claim that Democrats “would give free health care to illegal aliens while rendering illegal employer-based health care that covers half the country.” He said Democrats want to invite in illegal immigrants including criminals and drug gangs and “send you the bill for their health care, child care, transportation and cell phones” and “tuition wasted at some liberal university where every illegal alien can get a degree in America-sucks.”

Rep. Gus Bilirakis told the crowd Gaetz may be “the most powerful man in the state” because of his friendships with Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantis. State GOP Chairman Joe Gruters speculated that Gaetz could be the state’s next senator if Secretary of State Mike Pompeo quits to run for the Senate from Kansas and Sen. Marco Rubio is chosen to replace Pompeo.

The crowd cheered, but Gaetz coyly responded, “I will proudly be a candidate — to coach the (Florida State) Seminoles.”

The GOP’s antipathy to “fake news” as one speaker after another called it, was obvious.

Reporters had to sign an agreement under which they were banned from the VIP reception, prohibited from speaking to attendees during the banquet and required to remain in a press area — three chairs against a back wall — on pain of being ejected.

Good gets Emily’s help, faces tough fight

Emily’s List, the national fundraising organization for pro-choice Democratic women, has endorsed state Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota, in her challenge to Congressman Vern Buchanan, R-Longboat Key.

Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good of Sarasota believes she can unseat six-term GOP Congressman Vern Buchanan in 2020. [Photo courtesy of Margaret Good]
That will help Good’s fundraising, but political analysts still rate the Sarasota-Manatee-Hillsborough district Republican-leaning. Politico calls it “likely Republican,” citing Donald Trump’s 11-point win there and Buchanan’s 9-point 2018 win.

Emily’s List solicits contributions to endorsees from a nationwide list of sympathetic donors. It backed Good when she won the seat in 2018.