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Hall of Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke accused by former players of abusive behavior

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Cooper-Dyke is being accused by former players of abusive behavior, using demeaning sexual language

Women’s basketball icon and former Texas Southern coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke used abusive and sexual language, endangered players’ physical and mental health with excessive punishments, and avoided a Title IX hearing on complaints by retiring ahead of it, The Athletic reported Thursday. It reportedly followed a pattern of Cooper-Dyke leaving programs for other jobs after allegations were made to school administrators.

The Athletic’s Chantel Jennings and Dana O’Neil detail more than a decade of alleged abuse during Cooper-Dyke’s time coaching at Prairie View A&M, UNC-Wilmington, Texas Southern, USC, and again at Texas Southern where she retired in March. The announcement was made March 17, the day before the NCAA women’s basketball tournament was set to tip the first round of action. Texas Southern praised her work and wished her success in the future.

It did not mention that the four-time WNBA champion and Naismith Hall of Famer was scheduled to attend a Title IX hearing on April 6 to investigate allegations of abusive behavior, per The Athletic. That hearing was cancelled because, per Texas Southern policy, a complaint can be dismissed if “the Respondent is no longer enrolled or employed by the University.’’

The university was set to introduce new basketball coach Vernette Skeete, who most recently worked as an assistant for Gary Blair at Texas A&M, on Thursday morning. Texas Southern announced late Tuesday night it was postponed. It did not give a reason.

The Title IX hearing was the culmination of months of alleged behind-the-scenes actions by Texas Southern personnel to protect the women’s basketball team. On Jan. 20, the school reportedly issued a limited-contact order stipulating players could not have one-on-one meetings or communicate in any way with the coach as the school went through a “safety-risk assessment.” On Feb. 16, it was reportedly extended to include assistants and prohibited any contact outside of strictly scheduled practices and games.

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke allegedly used inappropriate sexual language while coaching at UNC-Wilmington, USC and Texas Southern. (Photo by David Dennis/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Allegations of abuse against Cooper-Dyke

Cooper-Dyke reportedly used vulgar and sexual remarks consistently when talking to players, per The Athletic. Many players found it inappropriate, demeaning and degrading.

Some alleged incidents included in The Athletic report:

  • Cooper-Dyke was told one of her Texas Southern players who had a previously known mental health diagnosis was depressed and said, “No, she will be all right, she just needs some d***, that’s all.” She called the same player a “sorry-ass virgin.”
  • In a different instance during 21-22, she told a staffer who made a suggestion, “Get the f*** out of my gym, go home. You’re a sorry-ass bitch. You’re a nobody.”
  • While a player was doing squats, Cooper-Dyke came up behind her and said, “Ooh, your hips are big, you got a fat ass and I can tell you like to ride some d***.”
  • At UNC-Wilmington in 2010-11, she would say “wet, wet” after a shot was made and then motion to a player adding, “I bet that’s what [name redacted] was last night.”
  • At Texas Southern in 2012-13, a male assistant complained of having no social life because of early practices. Cooper-Dyke “proceeds to get in front of him on her knees and pretty much act like she’s giving him oral sex,” a player said.
  • When one player was slow running a drill, Cooper-Dyke told the team it was because she was “getting d***ed down” all the time.
  • At most schools where she coached she called at least one play “hot sex” and often called players “retarded,” “Black-ass child,” “bitch,” “p****” and “dumbass.” She also pressured players to practice despite not being cleared by doctors after injury.

A player at USC, where Cooper-Dyke won two national titles as a player, told The Athletic the coach “mentally and emotionally terrorized us.” Players said she ruined basketball for them and they bonded together to “protect each other’s sanity.”

One player with the USC program told The Athletic:

“I was a mess and not a day went by that I didn’t think about taking my life and even had an idea to do it at Cynthia’s house so she could understand what a devastating impact she had on me.’’

Cooper-Dyke, who turned 59 a week after the scheduled Title IX hearing, was able go from school to school without any allegations coming to light, per the report. Each announcement included words like “tremendous impact” and “real good shape to continue our goals” while wishing the coach the best. Even while school officials reportedly knew of serious issues.

Former Texas Southern coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke accused by players of  abusive behavior

Cooper’s ‘GOAT’ status impacted complaints

Many of the players The Athletic spoke to cited Cooper-Dyke’s standing in the sport as the reason they didn’t come forward or tell anyone about their experiences. A former USC player said she wrote a letter about all of the transgressions she saw and experienced, but never planned to do anything with the letter.

“How could I?” she said, via The Athletic. “She’s Cynthia Cooper. She’s goated — the GOAT. And I’m me.”

Cooper-Dyke (then using her birth name, Cynthia Cooper) won two national titles at USC and was a four-time Finals MVP (1997-2000) for the iconic and dynastic Houston Comets franchise. She also has an Olympic medal in the trophy case and was named to last year’s “The W25” list for the WNBA’s 25 greatest players in history. She is one of 10 women’s players to have a signature shoe and players she coached grew up hearing of her as a legend.

From ‘hero’ to ‘manipulator’

Julia Finlay, then a rising junior at UNC-Wilmington in 2010 who watched the WNBA star growing up, said she gasped when the Hall of Famer entered the room for a coaching interview Finlay was asked to participate in. Per The Athletic, she and a teammate “practically begged” to hire Cooper-Dyke.

Finlay’s views changed amid alleged emotional and verbal abuse that included the coaching staff designing a punishment drill in which she did log rolls the length of the court over and over for 20 minutes, per the report. She repeatedly puked and experienced skin scraping off her knees and shoulders. A reporter for the Wilmington Star-News happened to be in the gym and reported on it. It was largely swept under the rug and Cooper-Dyke reportedly had teammates choose her or Finlay, citing the player as the problem.

Finlay quit before the season started and told The Athletic she was “extremely suicidal at that point. All I wanted was to play basketball and to have her like me. She’s my hero.’’ She said Cooper-Dyke manipulated her into losing confidence.

“There’s a quote I think of when I think of her,” Finlay told The Athletic. “‘If you don’t transform trauma, you will transmit it.'”

Harassment in coaching

The Athletic pulled information from Cooper-Dyke’s book, “She Got Game: My Personal Odyssey,” to detail her childhood struggles and views on life and basketball. Jennings and O’Neil include a run-in Cooper-Dyke wrote of in her book while playing in Italy. A coach didn’t like the player’s constant need for information and would shout “shut up” increasingly louder at her, it said.

Via The Athletic:

She confronted him, thinking he didn’t understand the negative tone of the wording. Instead, he used it again and when she sassed back at him, he sometimes threw her out of practice.

At USC, players recalled that Cooper-Dyke similarly sometimes responded to questions from players or her assistant coaches with “shut the f*** up.” In the middle of some games, she sometimes shouted them down with lines such as: “Do you think you’re smarter than me?”

The allegations against Cooper-Dyke might be the highest profile because of her name and status, but they are far from the first to come up.

The list includes allegations of toxic mistreatment by women’s basketball coach Cameron Newbauer at Florida that were made public last October. Newbauer resigned due to “personal reasons” months prior in July. Syracuse head coach Quentin Hillsman issued his resignation last August less than a week after meeting with investigators looking into allegations of harassment and abuse. Twelve Orange players had entered the transfer portal, triggering questions about the program.

The NWSL is still reckoning with alleged abuse by coaches within its ranks. The abuse had reportedly been going on for years and even decades spanning different leagues and levels in some cases. They were able to move to different players, including upward mobility, even as people in power knew of the allegations.

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Texas Southern partners with IgboFest to promote education, culture, and diversity

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IgboFest Houston, a cultural entity and festival that showcases the African heritage and Igbo culture to the great city of Houston has partnered with the Texas Southern University (TSU) to promote, embrace, and encourage culture, and diversity education in the community.

TSU will be visibly present at this festival to showcase their potentials as an inclusive, equitable, and welcoming institution for all members of the community. Internationally renowned TSU’s Debate Team will also be at this event to perform the “Igbo Landing Mass Suicide of 1803”, a rendition of one of the largest mass suicides of enslaved people that took place when Igbo captives from what is now Nigeria were taken to the coast of Georgia.

According to Dr. Chris Ulasi, TSU’s acting Dean of the School of Communications who also chairs the Houston IgboFeast, “This partnership is highly needed and most importantly, would reflects the mission of the IgboFest in building cultural awareness, linguistic diversity through teaching and learning of critically endangered languages, and youth cultural literacy.”

Texas Southern University welcomes new president

Texas Southern University President Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young. Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), possesses an impressive array of undergraduate and graduate programs, a diverse faculty, and 80-plus student organizations.

IgboFest Houston has reigned for decades in the City, bringing in performers from across the United States and globally. The 2022 IgboFest will showcase the  Ijele Masquerade, classified as the biggest masquerade in Sub-Saharan Africa. Group performances will range from traditional to acrobatic dancers, whereas other displays will involve very rare masquerades from the Igboland. Expected at this event are; Government representatives including Houston’s Mayor, Sylvester Turner, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Congressman Al Green, Texas Hour Rep. Jarvis Johnson, and others.

This colorful carnival which also is the largest African cultural festival in the City will hold at the Discovery Green – 1500 McKinney on Saturday, July 16, 2022. Admission is free. Bringing the African heritage and indeed the Igbo culture to the most diverse city in America is traditionally motivating and spiritually authentic.

Texas Southern University, one of the nation’s largest HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), possesses an impressive array of undergraduate and graduate programs, a diverse faculty, 80-plus student organizations, and an alumni network comprised of educators, entrepreneurs, public servants, lawyers, pilots, artists, and more, many of whom are change agents on the local, national and international stage.

For more information, please call 281-788-8133  or  832-452-7784

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Houston’s Emancipation Park Bubbles with Juneteenth Festival Excitement

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Saturday, June 18, and Sunday, June 19, 2022.  Sizzling temperatures rising to triple digits, humidity at its highest, and this spectacular Juneteenth festive celebration is on in Houston, Texas. Just the kind of vibe Houstonians needed to balance the heat.  From memory lane to everyday sing-along lyrics, be it cultural, social, historical, or contemporary, Kool and the Gang, The Isley Brothers, Sheila Escovedo, aka Sheila E., and Maze, featuring Frankie Beverly all projected a dynamic type of energy and synergy that surpassed the heat.

Multi-colored flashing stage lights. Action begins with the world renown R&B group Kool and the Gang entering the main stage showing off their funky and jazzy appearance—old school/new school.  Horns playing softly in the background, lead singer proudly welcomes the audience, then gives a brief historic account of their humble beginnings. Being the longest performing R&B group in history, and the most sampled R&B band of all times; JT naming each player as an original with the group, dating back to 1969 when they officially assigned their name as Kool and the Gang; group, album, and song all called Kool and the Gang.  This high energy performance certainly reflects the message in their music. “Celebrate good times! Come on! It’s a celebration. Everyone around the world . . . Come on! Cel-a-bra-tion!”  This signature line had the audience on their feet, rocking to the beat, and echoing every word.

Congress Woman, The Honorable Sheila Jackson-Lee, and Houston’s Mayor Sylvester Turner dancing to Kool and the Gang while celebrating good times on the VIP pavilion.

Like a shepherd with his staff tending to his sheep was Ron Isley with his cane entering the stage, capturing the crowd, singing their 1978 classic, Groove With You. And the audience swinging side-to-side, singing along, and . . . grooving.  This epic old-schooler slows it down, calling out the “Choosey Lovers.”

Day 2—Sunday, June 19, 2022

But Houstonians were not only grooving with the musical artists, among many others was one political rock star, Beto O’Rourke -candidate for Texas Governor immersing in all the festivities at the Juneteenth Celebration at the Emancipation Park 150th Anniversary.

This multi-ethnic, multi-talented diva is ‘multi’ with a sense of ‘purpose’ from all angles; she sings, plays, and dances to multi-genre music. With the mic in her hand, rocking to the background instrumentals, Sheila educates the audience of her Mexican Indian father and Creole mother.  Soaked in a medley of instrumentals, she signaled to the musicians to halt.  She then commands the keys, and each musician strikes accordingly.  As a woman of the Christian faith, not only did she sing, danced, and played the guitar and drum to secular and gospel music, she also gave a chilling testimony about surviving childhood molestation at the age of five.  Her statement shows in her performance: “Music is love, God is love and God is music.”  She talked about her faith in God.  Being a believer who sings secular music, but loves Jesus, she said, “I bring church to the people. My ministry is ‘Abuse’.”  She uses her voice to bring out the best in people. At 64 plus, going non-stop about 70 minutes in her performance decided to take the guitar off stage to engage directly with the audience.  It was just about sunset and the temperature was cooling down when she asked everyone to stand in solidarity with her in ‘passing the love.’  In obedience to Sheila’s request, the audience stood up, and as instructed, each person telling as many around them, “I love you.”  This sacred moment was followed by Sheila passing the love with the song “What the world needs now is love sweet love.”

Maximum security. Houston Police Department standing at attention at work.

Frankie Beverly greeting Houston with his favorite line: “Long time nuh see!”

The grand finale! With the volume pumped up, stepping on stage in style is the distinguished legend, Frankie Beverly starting off with one of his greatest hits, ‘Laid Back Kind of Girl’, then he serenades the ladies with “Southern Girl”, followed by “We Are One,” and the rest of the show was a rap.  Pausing, Frankie in his rhythmic posture, dancing from within, points the microphone to the audience, drums, keys, strings, and chords on medium sound, and the audience on one accord becomes the loudest voice, singing to Frankie’s all-time classics.  So then, what do you say about this artist who enters the stage with such an effect? Yes! Vintage, classical, and mystical is Maze/Frankie Beverly with countless recordings, performances, and awards on the global stage for more than 50 years.

______________________________________

Interesting facts about Emancipation Park.  November 7, 2007, a remarkable act took place when the Houston City Council declared the park a historic landmark after it voted unanimously.  On April 24, 2019, United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Emancipation Park as a UNESCO Site of Memory.

Mission of Emancipation Park—To enhance Emancipation Park by preserving its integrity and enriching its heritage as a local, state, national, and international landmark. (For more information visit https://epconservancy.org)

In a brief conversation with Ramon Manning, Chairman of the Board of Directors, I asked, “What is the ‘Why’ behind this celebration?” Ramon responded, “This festive event goes beyond food, fun, fellowship. There is an educational aspect that educates generations about historic, cultural, and social issues that are embedded in American history. Often, there are stories about the struggles that the slaves encountered, but there were also countless untold victories, one of which is about the group of former slaves who pooled together the funding and purchased the property where the park is located.”  Another question I asked was, “And what value does this all bring to the community?” He answered, “This community park is an asset to Houston, Texas, and American history.  It stands significant to recognizing and acknowledging culture, history, and continuing education.”

♦The Guardian News would like to express sincere thanks to Michelle Kelly and Tara Hanney of Kelney Communications for such remarkable hospitality and accommodation

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OMG—Houston selected to host 2026 FIFA World Cup matches

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The city of Houston, Texas was selected by FIFA as one of the host cities for the 2026 FIFA World Cup that is being hosted by the United States, Mexico, and Canada. NRG Stadium, the home of the Houston Texans and the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, will be the venue in Houston for the world’s largest sporting event. Details are still to come on what games and how many will be held in Houston. We won’t know for a few more years who will be playing here.

Houston joins the cities below as hosts for the 2026 World Cup. The United States will have most of the tournament games with matches also being held in Canada and Mexico.

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