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Liam Neeson Says The Backlash Against Jar Jar Binks Unfairly Hurt The Career Of The Actor Who Played Him

It’s long been fashionable to diss the Star Wars prequels, but it’s worth noting that each film at least opened to decent reviews and boffo box office before their reputations plummeted. But there’s one element that was never, ever popular: Jar Jar Binks, the Rastafarian-esque alien who was intended as comic relief and was instead greeted as a distracting annoyance. You won’t find too many Jar Jar defenders — that is, with the noted exception of another prequels star, Liam Neeson.

As caught by IndieWire, the Oscar-nominated actor recently appeared on Andy Cohen’s SiriusXM radio show, and he spent some of his time defending The Phantom Menace, in which he played Jedi master and mentor Qui-Gon Jinn. He saved some of that energy for Ahmed Best, the actor who played Jar Jar in cinema’s very first all-motion-capture performance. The furor over the character — which was such that his role in the sequels was greatly reduced — drove Best to consider suicide. That was deeply unfair, Neeson said, and it may have even robbed us of a great and diverse career.

“I know a lot of fans and critics didn’t like it and my lovely friend Ahmed Best, who played Jar Jar Binks, came in for a lot, a lot of criticism. To the point where it really hurt his career,” Neeson told Cohen. “And I have to say when I was making that film, he was probably one of the funniest guys and talented guys I have ever worked with. I remember calling my old ex-agent at ICM and said, ‘I think I just worked with the new Eddie Murphy.’ I still believe that.

“Truly, he is one of the funniest guys,” Neeson added. “He had all of us in stitches — including George Lucas. And then bam, the film comes out and he’s attacked, personally attacked by fans and critics for whatever reasons.”

Neeson added that he remains “very proud” of The Phantom Menace, adding, “I got to be a Jedi, got to play with those wonderful lightsabers and stuff, it was terrific. It really was. I liked the movie. I’m proud of it. I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

Anyone who would like to give The Phantom Menace — and its two follow-ups, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith — can do so on their current home on Disney+. Surely they’re a better watch than the instantly disliked The Rise of Skywalker, which didn’t even enjoy the luxury of decent initial reviews.

(Via IndieWire)

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Jalen Rose And Jay Williams Gave Maria Taylor Flowers After A Radio Host’s Derogatory Comments About Her

ESPN’s Maria Taylor is a rising star in the sports media world, with a prominent role in the network’s college football coverage and host duties for NBA Countdown. On Monday evening, Taylor worked alongside Kirk Herbstreit and Chris Fowler in ESPN’s annual Week 1 Monday Night Football doubleheader, doing quality work as a sideline reporter.

During ESPN’s broadcast of Steelers-Giants, Dan McNeil of Chicago’s 670 The Score sent out a now-deleted (and horrific) tweet criticizing Taylor’s choice of outfit. Many came to Taylor’s immediate defense in the aftermath, with Taylor also responding in kind.

Just one day after the tweet came to light, McNeil was fired from his radio post.

“For each one of us our words have power,” Rachel Williamson, senior vice president and market manager of Entercom Chicago, said in announcing the decision. “For our brands and on-air personalities that is amplified and brings increased responsibility in how we chose to use our voices.”

“Last night’s tweet, and its degrading and humiliating tone to a fellow female broadcaster, was unacceptable,” she continued. “We have the best teams in Chicago, and we must hold ourselves to high expectations to continue to be leaders in our organization, our industry and our community. We apologize to all who were offended by Dan’s words, especially Maria.”

This was the correct action from Entercom, as McNeil’s comment was deplorable in nature. On Tuesday evening, Taylor’s colleagues on NBA Countdown stood alongside her with a public display of support, including the presentation of flowers by Jalen Rose and Jay Williams.

Taylor then acknowledged and thanked her colleagues, choosing to look to the future in uplifting fashion.

Sadly, this likely won’t be the last time that a misguided person attempts to tear down a woman in the sports media world but, in this instance, McNeil got what he deserved in the form of a pink slip and Taylor continues to shine.

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Meek Mill Rapped Over A ‘Meek Mill Type Beat’ In His Latest Freestyle

Meek Mill is currently hard at work on his upcoming fifth album, the follow-up to his 2018 release Championships. That project became his second No. 1 album and gave him his second-highest first-week sales total with 229,000 units. The Philly rapper recently went on YouTube to hype his forthcoming album, freestyling over an Othellobeats-produced beat for little over 90 seconds. The beat is filled with soul and Alvin and the Chipmunk voice samples, both of which are very fitting for the Philly rapper’s sound.

Meek’s freestyle is one of a number of releases he’s shared throughout the year. He began 2020 by joining Roddy Ricch for their Nipsey Hussle tribute track, “Letter To Nipsey.” Soon after, Meek returned with “Believe,” his first-ever collaboration with Justin Timberlake. And in the heat of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this summer, Meek sampled Donald Trump for his politically-focused single, “Otherside Of America.”

Outside of music, Meek took to the big screen for the Will Smith-produced film, Charm City Kings. He also co-signed a pair of open letters which called for police reform.

Check out the freestyle in the video above.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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Kanye West Calls For Drake, Kendrick Lamar, And J. Cole To Join Him And ‘Get Free’

The past week has been quite eventful for Kanye West. The rapper discovered a “fake employee” on his payroll, claimed Bernie Sanders refused to meet with him, and revealed he is considering legal action against Sony and Universal. Now Kanye has taken to Twitter to call on three of hip-hop’s biggest heavyweights to join him to “get free.”

“We need Me J Cole Drake Kendrick all in a room 2gthr … it’s time to get free,” West wrote in his tweet. “We will not argue amongst each other while somebody we don’t know in Europe is getting paid and putting that money in a hedge fund.” His tweet comes less than a day after he claimed he was “the new Moses” while calling the NBA and music industry “modern day slave ships.” In another tweet, he also proclaimed that his children would own his masters.

This is not the first time Kanye has mentioned J. Cole and Drake in tweets in the last few days. He recently retweeted two videos of Drake, one that showed him rapping The Fugees’ “Ready Or Not” as a child and another from the OVO Festival in 2016, which found the two rappers performing “Pop Style” together. Kanye also demanded an apology from Cole and Drake in a now-deleted tweet. “I need a public apology from J Cole and Drake to start with immediately,” he wrote. “I’m Nat Turner… I’m fighting for us.”

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‘Succession’ Star Sarah Snook Is Going From Shiv Roy To Jane Austen

We’re in the midst of another Jane Austen revival but with a twist: The movies based on the pre-Victorian novelist’s works really lean into how funny they are. Unlike the tonier adaptations from the ’90s (the Emma Thompson-led Sense and Sensibility, et al.), these new ones — 2016’s Love & Friendship, this year’s Emma. — are lighter and sillier, comedies first and period pieces second. So it’s good news that Sarah Snook, one of the breakout stars of the funny-dark Succession, will get to star in her own, hopefully also super funny Austen outing.

As per Deadline, Snook — who plays sly and sarcastic Siobhan “Shiv” Roy on the much-loved HBO show — will headline Persuasion, the last Austen novel published and the second of two released posthumously after her untimely death. It was previously filmed in 1995 in a version featuring the likes of Ciaran Hinds and Fiona Shaw. Here’s Deadline’s description of Austen’s plot:

The novel tells the story of Anne Elliot (Snook) who, many years after refusing the proposal of young naval officer Frederick Wentworth, finds herself navigating the waters of English society when Wentworth returns from war a wealthy and decorated Captain. As Anne ponders missed opportunities, she must consider her own regrets and unwavering, possibly unrequited love.

There’s no word yet on who will be joining Snook, but it should be nice, albeit a touch surreal, to see her playing someone who deserves to do well romantically and otherwise. Will it wind up as funny as watching Snook watch Jeremy Strong rap? You’ll have to wait god knows how long to find out. Then again, you only have to wait a handful of days to see whether or not she wins an Emmy.

(Via Deadline)

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Ja Morant And Zion Williamson Headline The NBA All-Rookie Teams

The 2019 NBA Draft sent a good deal of talent into the NBA, most notably a pair of budding stars from the top two picks in Rookie of the Year Ja Morant in Memphis and Zion Williamson in New Orleans.

While those two made the most headlines, they certainly weren’t alone in having an impact in their first year in the NBA, and on Tuesday, the league announced the 10 rookies that earned All-Rookie team honors. Morant was a unanimous selection to the first team, while Kendrick Nunn from Miami followed closely behind with 98 first team votes, and Morant’s Grizzlies teammate Brandon Clarke at 92 first team votes.

First Team All-Rookie

Ja Morant
Kendrick Nunn
Brandon Clarke
Zion Williamson
Eric Paschall

Second Team All-Rookie

Tyler Herro
Terence Davis II
Coby White
P.J. Washington
Rui Hachimura

Herro fell just one point shy of Paschall for the fifth spot on the first-team All-Rookie, but the Heat swingman will surely settle for a second team spot and being the only member of either All-Rookie squad still battling it out in the playoffs. R.J. Barrett and Matisse Thybulle were the two rookies that fell just shy of a spot on the second team, 13 and 19 points behind Hachimura respectively.

There will certainly be some debate about who should’ve ended up where — P.J. Washington, in particular, had a strong case for a first team spot — but overall the 10 players seem to be the right ones, even if the ordering has room for conversation.

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A historian accidentally discovered how our history textbooks openly taught white supremacy

Harvard historian Donald Yacovone didn’t set out to write the book he’s writing. His plan was to write about the legacy of the antislavery movement and the rise of the Civil Rights era, but as he delved into his research, he ran into something that changed the focus of his book completely: Old school history textbooks.

Now the working title of his book is: “Teaching White Supremacy: The Textbook Battle Over Race in American History.”

The first book that caught his attention was an 1832 textbook written Noah Webster—as in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary—called “History of the United States.” Yacovone, a 2013 recipient of Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois medal—the university’s highest award for African American studies—told the Harvard Gazette about his discovery:

“In Webster’s book there was next to nothing about the institution of slavery, despite the fact that it was a central American institution. There were no African Americans ever mentioned. When Webster wrote about Africans, it was extremely derogatory, which was shocking because those comments were in a textbook. What I realized from his book, and from the subsequent ones, was how they defined ‘American’ as white and only as white. Anything that was less than an Anglo Saxon was not a true American. The further along I got in this process, the more intensely this sentiment came out. I realized that I was looking at, there’s no other word for it, white supremacy. I came across one textbook that declared on its first page, ‘This is the White Man’s History.’ At that point, you had to be a dunce not to see what these books were teaching.”

Yacovone went on to explain that white supremacy preceded the founding of the United States—it wasn’t born from our history of race-based, chattel slavery—and that white identity dominated every social interaction in the 1700s and 1800s. Even many abolitionists didn’t believe in true racial equality—Africans weren’t generally viewed as equals; they just didn’t deserve to be enslaved like animals. Yacovone explained:

“Even people who opposed slavery believed that African Americans could never be absorbed by white society. Samuel Sewall, who wrote the first antislavery pamphlet in 1700, condemned slavery, but he also characterized people of African descent as ‘a kind of extravasate Blood,’ always alien. His idea remained central to the American mind for the next 200 years.”

Yacovone said textbooks began to change a bit—briefly—just after the Civil War, when African Americans finally began to be included. But it didn’t take long for white supremacy to dominate education again, this time through positive depictions of slavery as a benevolent institution and dismissal of slave narratives as “propaganda”:

“For the most part, the textbooks from the pre-Civil War period through the end of the century followed a basic format: They would go from exploration to colonization to revolution to creation of the American republic, and then every succeeding presidential administration. Anything outside of the political narrative was not considered history and was not taught.

During the brief period of Reconstruction (1863-1877), the story emphasized the fulfillment of democracy, and the ideology of freedom suffused many books. This was a dramatic change. I even came across a couple of books that contained pictures of African Americans, and I was flabbergasted when I discovered one that had a picture of Frederick Douglass — that was unheard of. Prior to Reconstruction, textbooks had a few pictures, some engravings. But they disappear pretty quick once we get into the 20th century, because the ‘Lost Cause’ mythology takes over academia and white supremacy reappears with full force.

During the 1920s, the 1930s, and the 1940s, it was astonishing to see positive assessments of slavery in American history textbooks, which taught that the African American’s natural environment was the institution of slavery, where they were cared for from cradle to grave. There was a legacy of African American writing about freedom, but the white power structure simply wouldn’t accept it as legitimate. They dismissed the slave narratives as propaganda, downplayed the history of Africans before slavery, and ignored the work of African American scholars such as W.E.B. Du Bois and others.”

Yacovone said textbooks began to improve after the Civil Rights movement. Today, the issue is not so much about the materials available as the collective will to teach it. We are no longer bound by limited texts—we have online curriculums that provide a broader picture of the true history of race and racism in the U.S.—but teachers have to be willing and able to teach that history.

“In the mid 1960s, textbooks began noticeably to change because attitudes and scholarship were changing in the wake of the Civil Rights Movement…There was a gradual reintroduction of the African American element in history textbooks. And now, many history teachers don’t even use textbooks. They’re using online resources. Some of the best work is being produced by the Zinn Education Project, the Gilder-Lehrman Center, and the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But even when textbooks are accurate, teachers have to be willing to teach it. We know there are many white teachers who are afraid of doing it. And you have to have school systems, both public and private, committed to doing this work and not to punish teachers for doing so, which is happening…”

Let’s pause for a moment think about the impact of generation upon generation, right up until our current Baby Boomers, being overtly taught white supremacy in their school textbooks. That generation taught the next, who is teaching the current young people. While the materials have vastly improved in the past sixty years, there’s a long legacy there to overcome.

And what happens when we ignore our legacy of teaching white supremacy? What happens when we don’t acknowledge that that’s how Americans were taught for most of our country’s history? What happens if we don’t teach the full history of slavery on our soil?

Yacovone addresses that too:

“If America is to be a nation that fulfills its democratic promise, the history of slavery and white supremacy have to be taught in schools across the country. We need to acknowledge that white supremacy remains an integral part of American society and we need to understand how we got to where we are. The consequences of not doing so are lethal. White supremacy is a toxin. The older history textbooks were like syringes that injected the toxin of white supremacy into the mind of many generations of Americans. What has to be done is teach the truth about slavery as a central institution in America’s origins, as the cause of the Civil War, and about its legacy that still lives on. The consequences of not doing so, we’re seeing every day.”

You can read Yacovone’s entire Harvard Gazette interview here.

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He promised to die ‘broke.’ $8 billion dollars later, the world is a better place for it.

On September 14, Charles “Chuck” Feeney signed the paperwork to shut down Atlantic Philanthropies. The ceremony was attended via Zoom by the philanthropies’ board which included former California Governor Jerry Brown, Bill Gates, and Nancy Pelosi.

While most would think the shuttering of a philanthropic endeavor would be a sad event, it was just how Feeney planned. It marked the competition of four-decade mission to give away almost every penny of his $8 billion fortune.

Feeney has saved $2 million to live on for the remainder of his life.

“We learned a lot. We would do some things differently, but I am very satisfied. I feel very good about completing this on my watch,” Feeney told Forbes. “My thanks to all who joined us on this journey. And to those wondering about Giving While Living: Try it, you’ll like it.”

Feeney was one of the first signatories on the Giving While Living pledge that encouraged the super-wealthy to give away 50% or more if their fortunes while still living.

His generosity was the inspiration for Bill Gates and Warren Buffet to sign their giving pledge in 2010. “Chuck was a cornerstone in terms of inspiration for the Giving Pledge,” Warren Buffett told Forbes. “He’s a model for us all. It’s going to take me 12 years after my death to get done what he’s doing within his lifetime.”

Feeney co-founded retail giant Duty Free Shoppers in 1960 which now operates in 11 major airports and 20 Galleria stores. In 2017, nearly 160 million travelers visited Duty Free Shopppers locations.

In 1984, he secretly transferred his entire stake in the company to Atlantic Philanthropies which he started two years earlier.

Not even his business partners knew that he no longer owned a portion of the company.

From there he began donating his massive fortune completely anonymously with the plan of giving it all away before he died. His cover was blown in 1997 when a lawsuit required him to reveal his charitable donations.

Feeney was able to amass even larger sums of cash because he was incredibly frugal.

“Until he was 75, he traveled only in coach, and carried reading materials in a plastic bag,” a New York Times feature read. “For many years, when in New York, he had lunch not at the city’s luxury restaurants, but in the homey confines of Tommy Makem’s Irish Pavilion on East 57th Street, where he ate the burgers.”

He currently lives in a modest apartment in San Francisco with his wife, doesn’t own a car, and wears a $10 Casio watch. On a table in his apartment he has a small, Lucite plaque that reads: “Congratulations to Chuck Feeney for $8 billion of philanthropic giving.”

Feeney gave nearly half of his fortune to education, including $1 billion to his alma mater Cornell. He has given $860 million to social change and human rights causes, $700 million to promote global health, $62 million to abolish the death penalty, and $76 million on a campaign to support the passage of Obamacare.

He has personally supported Sinn Féin, a left-wing Irish nationalist party.

“I see little reason to delay giving when so much good can be achieved through supporting worthwhile causes,” Feeney said. “Besides, it’s a lot more fun to give while you live than give while you’re dead.”

The super-rich are often rightfully the target of criticism for having ungodly wealth while others struggle to get by. But Feeney is a fantastic example of the power of wealth and how industriousness and greed don’t necessarily have to go hand in hand.

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Kim Kardashian Will Suspend Her Instagram And Facebook To Protest The Spread Of Hate And Misinformation On The Platforms

While Kanye West tweets seemingly-indiscriminately about… whatever the hell he’s tweeting about these days, Kim Kardashian West continues to use her platform to bring awareness to serious modern-day issues — from wrongful imprisonment to the spread of disinformation, propaganda, and hate that has found a home on platforms like Facebook. In a tweet posted today, Kim announced that she’d be freezing her Instagram and Facebook accounts tomorrow as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, joining other celebrities like Sasha Baron Cohen, Orlando Bloom, and Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda, and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart,” tweeted Kim to her 66.7 million followers. #StopHateForProfit is a coalition with support from over 1,200 businesses and non-profits, as well as consumers, that are attempting to make Facebook accountable for the way it handles racism, disinformation, and hate on its platform.

This year brought increased calls to boycott Facebook from both users and advertisers, as the platform continues to grow as a breeding ground for misinformation and hate speech. Just yesterday, Buzzfeed News reported that Facebook either ignored or was slow to act on evidence that fake accounts on its platform had been working to undermine elections and political affairs around the world, according to a 6,600-word memo written by a former Facebook data scientist.

While some Twitter users congratulated Kim Kardashian West on the move, a few noted the irony of Kim’s call in the face of Kanye’s presidential run, which many see as a distraction meant to benefit Trump’s reelection.

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Report: Allen Robinson Asked For A Trade And Removed The Bears From His Social Media Accounts

We’re one week into the NFL season, and after one game, a prominent player has apparently asked for a trade. According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson — who is in the midst of contract talks with the team — has requested that the franchise sends him elsewhere.

Robinson is in the final year of his contract, and negotiations have occurred between 27-year-old pass catcher and the franchise. But on Tuesday — two days after Chicago won its Week 1 tilt against the Detroit Lions and he caught five balls for 74 yards — something seemed amiss when Robinson removed all mentions of the Bears from his social media accounts.

Soon after, Biggs bought word that Robinson “has asked about a possible trade” from the team, which he joined during the 2018 offseason as a free agent following four years in Jacksonville.

Via Chicago Tribune:

How far apart the sides are in negotiations on a new contract is unknown, but it’s highly unlikely Robinson would inquire about the possibility of being traded if they were anywhere near an agreement.

Robinson is in the final year of a three-year, $42 million contract, and typically the Bears have been able to complete extensions for their top players before they begin a contract year. Despite that precedent for avoiding in-season negotiations, general manager Ryan Pace said last week he wasn’t opposed to continuing to work toward a deal.

The team’s top receiver and a Pro Bowl selection back in 2015, Robinson caught a career-high 98 balls for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Some of his teammates have been campaigning for the Bears to pay the star receiver on Twitter in light of his frustration.