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Who Is The 2012 NBA MVP?

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 6, 2012

valuable: adjective; of considerable use, service, or importance.

Earlier this week, ESPN showcased four teams and four contenders for this year’s NBA MVP Award. Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder took on LeBron James and the Miami Heat. Then, the late game, featured Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers versus Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers in a inner-city battle for dominance and the Pacific Division lead. All four players are doing incredible things for their respective clubs; however, Paul is the one and only true MVP this season.

While LeBron James (left) and Kevin Durant (center) have been getting more attention, the true NBA MVP is Chris Paul.

Now, before everyone gets that puzzled look on their face, let me explain.

First, let me remind you this is the Most VALUABLE Player Award. It’s not for the best player in the league. It’s not for the player who can put up the best stats. It’s for the player who matters the most to their team.

Lets refer to the definition of valuable above. According to, for something to be valuable is has to be of considerable use, service or importance. Importance being the operative word, which brings me to my second point.

To gauge the importance of a player, I rely on an old question: If you take the player off the team, how far would its competitiveness fall in the league?

Lets start with James and the Heat. Take James off the Heat and they would still have Dwyane Wade (the 2nd best SG in the league), Chris Bosh (one of the top ten players in the league) and the best bench of any of the four teams mentioned. No doubt they would still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference and be a contender to win a title. What James does is great, but it only adds to a team that would be a contender without him.

Importance level of James to the Heat: Extremely low.

Now, lets look at Durant. Durant and starting PG Russell Westbrook are the two best offensive threats on the Thunder. With that being said, if Durant were taken off the team, Westbrook could still carry the load offensively for the team; and they would be successful. There’s precedent for such a situation and it wasn’t too long ago.

Last season, Derrick Rose (another super-athletic PG who was a streaky shooter and not that great at passing the ball) led an offensively challenged Chicago Bulls team, not only to the best record in the East, but to the best record in the league. All the other players had to do was play great defensive and hit an occasional shot.

I’m feel very confident in saying Westbrook could do the same thing with the numerous defensive minded players on the Thunder.

Importance level of Durant to the Thunder: Low.

Okay, now lets take Bryant off the Lakers. I know the thought is unfathomable, but for this situation it has to be done. If you take him off the team, the Lakers would still have the best offense front court in the league with Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, both of which can score 30 points on any give night.

However, they would have a major hole in the backcourt that couldn’t be half-way filled with anyone on the bench. Also, Gasol has fatigue issues and Bynum has injury issues, so the extra workload of carrying a team would probably way to heavy on them.

They would still make the playoffs; however, it would probably be a very low seed between the sixth and eighth spot. Their title hopes could still be there but it would seem more like wishful thinking.

Importance of Bryant to the Lakers: High.

Now, take Paul off of the Clippers. They wouldn’t even make the playoffs and would probably be in the NBA cellar at this point in the season. One word would sum them up: terrible. They’ve had only one playoff appearance in the last 20 years! Now with Paul’s arrival, they’re the fourth seed in the Western Conference and two games behind the Lakers for the division lead.

They would still have an all-star in F Blake Griffin, but he’s not at that point in his career where he can carry a team offensively or defensively. Plus, of the four teams, the Clippers have the worst bench with the least amount of scoring options.

Importance of Paul to the Clippers: Extremely high

To often in sports we mix up a player’s value level with their statistical production; but,I hate to break this myth, numbers always lie. They only tell a portion of the value the player has to a team. I hope the people who vote for this award get it right. There’s hope because the last three years they did, with Rose winning last year and back-to-back wins for James before him.

Of course, some people are still going to want stats to validate Paul being the MVP. Here’s a statiscal reason why him winning shouldn’t rely on statistics.

When Steve Nash won the award for the 2004-05 season, he was averaging less points, steals and more turnovers than Paul is this season, but he had two more assists per game. The numbers for the two player’s are similar; and, just like Paul this season, there were plenty of players with better stats than Nash.

So, why did Nash win?

He won because he came to a franchise, the Phoenix Suns, that had a losing record the previous season and made them relevant in the league the very next season. The same thing Paul has done this year with the Clippers.

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Who should win the 2012 NBA MVP Award?
Kobe Bryant
LeBron James
Chris Paul
Kevin Durant
Other free polls 

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 5,2012

The highly anticipated sophomore album from Nicki Minaj is finally here. Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded sets to destroy any notion that her overwhelmingly successful debut album, Pink Friday, was just beginners luck and truly establish Minaj as a mainstay in hip-hop. However, Minaj hits the common sophomore slump with this one.

Honestly, PF:RR is not a good album; and, I can say that because, in comparison to her debut, it doesn’t measure up. Everything that made PF great she went away from on PF:RR.

It relies on too many techno-inspired beats, too many gimmicky voices, too many features and not even lyrical content.

I take that back. Even though PF:RR has more features than PF, it’s not a hindrance to the album; however, the quality of the features are a hindrance. While PF featured Eminem, Kanye West and Will.I.Am, PF:RR has Cam’ron, 2Chainz and Beenie Man. Why? I don’t know. Neither of them add substance to the songs they’re featured on and bring the quality of the album further down than it would’ve been had they not been on it.

The best song on the album is “Champion,” which features Drake, Nas and Young Jeezy. Minaj gets semi-deep on her one verse trying to inspire up-and-coming girls. I guess to achieve their dreams? The overall message wasn’t exactly clear; but, then again, the message of the whole album isn’t clear either.

It really is confusing. The album is called Roman Reloaded, so I figure the majority of the songs would be starring Minaj’s crazy, delinquent alter ego Roman Zolanski (a la Eminem with The Slim Shady LP). It could’ve been great. Minaj could’ve expanded on the craziness of Roman, fleshing out the character a little more, while displaying the great lyricism that was on “Roman’s Revenge” from PF.

However, only the first six songs (which aren’t great in either content or performance) have Minaj rapping as him, while the rest of the album is full of Minaj love ballads and techno-club rapping.

At the end of the album, Minaj proclaims to be “the female weezy”(weezy being her boss/mentor Lil’ Wayne). Well, in a lot of ways, PF:RR proves this to true, and it’s not a good thing. She shows low lyrical ability, with little to no substance behind it; and, the only people that will like PF:RR are her die-hard fans, who could care less about quality as long as new music from her is coming through their speakers.

Sounds like “the female weezy” to me.

I really wanted to PF:RR to be great. Unfortunately, Minaj didn’t channel the same hunger and determination she had on her debut. As I mentioned earlier, it is common for an artist to make a great debut and then fall very short on their sophomore effort. The question now is, how will she come back from this? Will she continue down this path techno, dance, love songs; or will she get back to showcasing her rhyming skills and connecting more to her fans, which is how she got to this point in the first place?

Hopefully, she’ll choose the latter.

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Was “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” a worthy successor to “Pink Friday”?
No free polls 

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 3, 2012

Heavy rains are frequent, flowers are getting ready to bloom and pollen is covering everything everywhere. This can only mean one thing: spring is in full effect; and, with spring comes the start of the MLB season.

Jose Reyes is one of the main reasons all eyes will be on Miami this season.

The first pitch of the 2012 season is set to be thrown tomorrow, and with that pitch, teams will get all their questions answered. Was this player the right guy to add to the ball-club? Should we have hired that other coach? Did we do enough to win it all? Questions like these and any other executive decisions will be answered in due time.

However, I have my own questions that I can’t wait to be answered about this upcoming season. Even though I’m a die-hard New York Yankee fan, I’m also a fan of the game; and, this season, I have other topics I’m going to follow alongside New York.

Here are three storylines everyone will be talking about throughout the 2012 MLB Season:

  1. Can the Miami Marlins live up to expectations?
  2. This past off-season was huge for the Marlins. Not only did they get the brand-new stadium they’ve been trying to get for the last couple of years, they also got the star power to bring people to the stadium. Jose Reyes led the National League (NL) in batting average in 2011 and was the best free agent on the market. Mark Buehrle is an All-Star, Gold Glove, World Series (WS) winning starting pitching, who can bring leadership and a winning attitude to a franchise that desperately needs it. Heath Bell has been one of the best Closers in the game, winning the Rolaids Relief Award two out of the past three years.

    So, now that you have one of the best hitters in the game, a starting pitching to lead your rotation, a closer who can come in and seal a win for you at the end of the game, new uniforms and the new stadium, what are you going to do with them Marlins? No doubt, receiving all these riches, in a limited amount of time, comes with a win now mentality or else it would all seem pointless. The heat will definitely be on the Miami this season (where have I heard that before?).

  3. Can Albert Pujols thrive under the bright lights of L.A.?
  4. After ten years of service, nine All-Star appearances, three NL MVPs, two WS titles and multitude of batting awards, Pujols left his nest with St. Louis Cardinals to sign a ten-year $240 million contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Pujols has consistently played well his entire career, so the St. Louis media never picked on him. Even when he went through slumps and it seemed like he was over the hill, they stuck by him, waited it out and eventually he turned it on and started hitting like he usually does; but, will he be able to still play that way with a huge L.A. media judging his every move?

    L.A. is not going to coddle him like St. Louis. How is Pujols going to handle all the media attention when he goes through his slumps? What if the Angels don’t win at a high rate and the media starts questioning his contract? Or, what about when he commits a fashion faux pas on Rodeo Drive? The off-the-field media can be just as, if not more distracting. I hope Pujols thought about these things before signing to a big market.

  5. Will adding an extra wildcard spot mean anything to the playoff run?
  6. This year, MLB executives decided to add an extra wild-card spot to the playoffs. You can thank the Boston Red Sox and Atlanta Braves for this rule. They set new standards of losing last season, when they both lost division leads by the end of September after coming into the month win a substantial lead. So, to help out the teams who play in the same division as powerhouses, as they both do, they put in this rule.

    I have mixed feelings about this rule. One thing that’s different in MLB versus other sports is that only four teams from each league get in the playoffs. That’s three division winners and one wild-card team. It’s harder and a little more meaningful to get in the playoffs in MLB compared to other sports. So, I don’t like rule for that aspect; but, MLB needed to do something drastic to get different teams in the playoffs. I would’ve preferred if they took my idea on how to improve the league but we’ll see if their idea adds excitement and helps up-and-coming teams get into the playoffs.

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Which is the more interesting storyline?
Miami Marlins possibly having a winning record?
Albert Pujols playing in L.A.?
Two new wild-card teams added to the playoffs? free polls 

Top 2012 NBA Free Agents

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: April 1 ,2012

Remember last summer in the NBA? There were two main topics of discussion. The first was the NBA Lockout, which stopped all league activity until a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) was signed. The second was the 2012 free agency, which featured super-star Center Dwight Howard in a starring role.

Deron Williams (No. 8) will be the biggest fish to catch during the NBA free agency period.

Since that time, a new CBA has been signed and Howard decided to pass on free agency this year for next year. So, now that Howard is not on the market, who are the the top names in this year’s free agency?

To be honest, there aren’t many. There are some big names, but most of them have their better days behind them. Other free agents are young, but have the possibility to be great, in the future, based on what they have shown so far in the league.

Below, are the top 2012 free agents.Half are *unrestricted, and the other half are **restricted.

Unrestricted Free Agents

1. Deron Williams PG; New Jersey Nets: Williams, the top overall free agent this year, has made it very clear that he would be playing somewhere else next season. With Howard not being traded to the Nets, expect Williams to be in a different uniform next year.

2. Steve Nash PG; Phoenix Suns: I would have never thought Nash would leave the Suns; but, judging by some recent comments of his, he isn’t happy with how things are going there. Even at his age, he is still leading the league in assists per game (APG) and will be much sought after this off-season.

3. Ray Allen SG; Boston Celtics: This season will be the last hurrah for the original Big 3. Yes, unless the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made takes a huge paycut to stay with the Celtics, Allen will be leaving. Although, the biggest question remains; do the Celtics want him back, or are they going into full rebuild mode for the future? At his age, he’s still deadly accurate from behind the arc, runs around the half-court (usually tiring out his defender) and has one of the prettiest releases in the game; so, if the Celtics don’t want him, another team will be sure to pick him up.

4. Jason Kidd PG; Dallas Mavericks: Kidd has said he wants to play at least two more seasons, at which point he’ll be 40 years old; but, those two years probably won’t be with the Mavericks. By letting key players (Tyson Chandler, Caron Butler, J.J. Barea) from their 2011 title winning team sign with other teams in 2011 free agency, billionaire owner Mark Cuban has made it clear that he is looking to retool the team around NBA Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and get younger in the process. Kidd will be one of the next players to go.

5. Tim Duncan C; San Antonio Spurs: Duncan isn’t what he once was, but he still averaging 15 points per game (PPG) and 10 rebounds per game (RPG); and, he’s a major reason why the Spurs have the second best record in the west (35-14). The chances of him leaving the only franchise he’s ever played for and led to four NBA titles are slim, so don’t hold your breathe; but, as we know with NBA free agency, anything is possible.

6. J.R. Smith SG; New York Knicks: Smith could become a free agent if he chooses. He has a ***player option next season and could use it to stay with the Knicks. Whether he stays or goes, depends on how far the Knicks go in the playoffs. If they make it to the second round or deeper, he’ll stay. If they have an early first round exit, expect him to have an early exit out of New York.

7. Kevin Garnett C; Boston Celtics: Much like Allen, Garnett’s time in Boston is more than likely over; and, he would have to take a huge paycut to stay. Also, much like Allen, it becomes a question of whether the Celtics even want him back because they’re going to be one of those teams after Howard next season in free agency. The answer is probably not. Injuries have slowed the former NBA MVP down in recent seasons, so Garnett will be playing somewhere else next season.

8. Jameer Nelson PG; Orlando Magic: To me, Nelson is the most underrated PG in the league. People forget that he was an all-star three years ago; and, if it wasn’t for an injury keeping him out the playoff run, the Magic could’ve had a better chance at beating the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2009 NBA Finals. Sure, he’s not Chris Paul or Derrick Rose, but he’s still effective at running the offense. He does have player option, so he could stay with the Magic if he wants. Since Howard decide to stay, he’ll probably also stay to make one final run at a title in Orlando.

9. Steve Novak SF; New York Knicks:I know many of you don’t know this player. Heck, I didn’t know who he was before the season started either. However, this season, he has turned into one of the top 3-pt shooters in the league and is a huge reason the Knicks are in playoff contention. Becuase of his shooting ability, there will be a lot of teams after him, but I don’t think the Knicks will let him go so easily.

10. Spencer Hawes C; Philadelphia 76ers: Another relative unknown by the masses, but Hawes has been doing some good things for the Sixers. He can rebound, can post-up and can make a tight pass to cutting teammates. At 23-years-old, he’s only going to get better.

Restricted Free Agents

1. O.J. Mayo SG; Memphis Grizzlies: Mayo will more than likely sign with another team this off-season, without much fuss from the Grizzlies. The day before the trading deadline last season the team actually traded him to the Pacers; but, due to paperwork issues, the trade was never finalized and he stayed with the Grizzlies. This summer, expect nothing to stop him from moving to a new city.

2. Brook Lopez C; New Jersey Nets: The Nets are a team with domino pieces. Howard didn’t land there, so Williams is leaving; and, since Williams is leaving, Lopez is probably going to want to leave too. However, with the Nets moving to Brooklyn next season, they need a talented player to bring fans to the stadium every night, so they’ll match any offer for Lopez. Their hopes will be to either sign one of the top guards in the 2013 free agency pool to play along side him (Yes, Paul could still land in New York), or use Lopez as a centerpiece to finish a trade with Orlando that would bring Howard to Brooklyn next season.

3. Roy Hibbert C; Indiana Pacers: Ever wonder why the Pacer are the fifth seed in the East right now? Here’s one of the main reasons. Hibbert is a true big man of the game. He plays with his back to the basket, rebounds at a high rate, and defends the rim with the best of them. He showed signs of life towards the end of last season after the Pacers fired Jim O’Brien (who publicly belittled Hibbert for his play), and this season he has shown his true potential. With a shortage of big men in the league, expect a lot of teams to be going after him, but also expect the Pacers to match any offer.

4. Jeremy Lin PG; New York Knicks: Where would the Knicks be right now if they hadn’t found this gem at the end of their bench? For a brief stretch in February, Lin was all the talk in New York City and the NBA. His former teams, that had cut him, all said they knew he had talent; but, there just wasn’t any room on their roster for him. Well, this summer, I’m sure those teams, as well as others, will make room to acquire Lin. However, with the Knicks finally getting the PG they’ve been looking for, don’t expect Linsanity to leave Madison Square Garden anytime soon.

5. Ryan Anderson PF; Orlando Magic: This has been Anderson’s breakout year. His ppg and rpg are way above his career averages, and he’s one of the best 3-pt shooters in the league. If the Magic want to keep Howard long-term, keeping Anderson in the fold would be a good place to start. Of course, with their salary cap issues, they may not have enough to keep him around.

6. Nicolas Batum SF; Portland Trailblazers: Batum is one of the few bright spots for a franchise that seems to have a dark cloud hanging over the arena. He consistently plays hard at both ends of the floor; and, even though he’s small for his position, his long wingspan makes him a hassle to deal with. I’m sure the Blazers want to keep him in Portland to play alongside Lamarcus Aldridge for years to come. However, one thing I’ve learned about the Blazers franchise, its future is never written in stone.

7. George Hill SG; Indiana Pacers: Hill has starter talent, but has been the sixth man of the bench for his entire, although brief, career. When he was with the Spurs, he played behind Tony Parker and now with the Pacers, he plays behind Darren Collison and Paul George. I think Hill wants to prove he can be a starter in this league; and, since the Pacers have two young talented starting guards already, I don’t see them spending starter money for a player to come off the bench.

8. Landry Fields SG; New York Knicks: Fields has been a good young player for the Knicks. He is an okay defender, can drive to the basket (although sometimes it seems like he’s out of control) and has a nice mid-range jump-shot. The Knicks will want to keep him for the foreseeable future in the starting two-guard position.

9. J.J. Hickson PF; Portland Trailblazers: I’ve always liked Hickson; but, things haven’t worked out well for him early in his career. He was traded by the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Sacramento Kings, then waived by the Kings and then picked up by the Blazers recently. I can’t understand why he can’t find a home because he has a nice offense game, can rebound the ball, has tons of athleticism and hustles on defense. Well, he skills were on full display against the Los Angeles Clippers recently, where he started in place of the injured Aldridge. He scored 29 points, grab 13 rebounds and shot 68% from the field. If he keeps putting up numbers like this, he will definitely land somewhere for a long time.

10. Jodie Meeks PG; Philadelphia 76ers: Meeks was playing very well as a starter at the beginning of the season, when the Sixers jumped out ahead of everyone in the Atlantic Division. Then, Evan Turner, the 2nd overall pick from the 2010 NBA Draft, moved ahead of him in the rotation and his numbers dwindled a little. Even though, he can still contribute to the team, if another team decides to sign him, I don’t think the Sixers will match the offer.

*Unrestricted Free Agent: A player can sign with any team he chooses.

**Restricted Free Agent: A player can talk to other teams and agree to a deal; however, the player’s current team has the option to match the offer. If the team doesn’t match within seven days, the player can sign with the other team. If the team does match the offer within seven days, the player will stay with the current team for the offer that was matched.

***Player Option: The player has an extra year on the original contract he signed with the team. He has the option to either stay for that year or forgo the year and become an unrestricted free agent.

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Will 2012 free agency be better than previous year’s free agency?
Maybe free polls 

By: Martin Rand, III
Date: March 28, 2012

It has been a month since 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was fatally shot on his way home from the store to watch the NBA All-Star events. George Zimmerman, his murderer, was a self-appointed neighborhood watch chief who hasn’t been arrested for the murder because he claimed self-defense provoked him to shoot.

Signs like the one above have been seen a lot lately. But are the signs battling the right issue?

I’ve heard the 911 tapes of nearby neighbors reporting what they were hearing outside; and, the most apparent piece of evidence I hear is young Martin yelling “HELP! HELP!” right before a bullet is heard and his cries come to a screeching halt.

Did Martin deserve to be murdered? No. Should Zimmerman be in custody for the murder? Yes. While both action and inaction are confusing to me, there’s one thing about this whole situation that really perplexes me.

Why are people rallying for Martin? Is it because he’s a black person who was murdered by non-black person? Is it because he was a young adult and was murdered by a half-white half-Hispanic older adult? Is it because Zimmerman wasn’t arrested initially? Is it because his father lived in a rich housing community? Is it because the national media decided to follow the story? Are any of these the reason or is it something else because I can’t figure it out?

Everyone in this country and (thanks to social media) the world, knows about the Martin case. However, many have no idea about another young black male who was shot to death without just cause. His name is Marlon Riley.

I first read about Riley in a New York Times article earlier this year. Riley was visiting his girlfriend in a Brooklyn neighborhood, when he was stopped on the street by a gang member and asked if he was affiliated with a rival gang. Riley, who wasn’t affiliated with either gang, had no idea what the gang member was talking about and had a confusing look on his face. When the 21-year-old looked perplexed, the gang member shot him in the face, killing him.

I read about this in January, but when I looked into the situation, Riley had already been dead for months. He was killed July 2011.

But I never heard about. There were no protest, no rallies, no national news media and no trending topics on Twitter for Riley, like there was for Martin. I’m guessing most of the country, and (despite all the social media) the world never heard about Riley.

So, why no rally for Riley? Is it because he’s a black person who was murdered by another black person? Is it because he was a young adult and was murdered by a black teenager? Is it because his murderer was in a gang? Is it because he was killed in a low-income neighborhood? Is it because the national media decided not to follow the story? Are any of these the reason or is it something else because I can’t figure it out?

Derrek Asberry, a good friend of mine, Georgia Southern University Senior Journalism Major, guest writer for The George-Anne Daily and editorial writer for the Savannah Morning News, wrote a piece on the Martin case. In it, he proclaimed “this is not an African-American issue; this is an American issue. Any American, regardless of race, should be able to look at the facts and be able to say, ‘That’s not right.’ This is not a time for minority groups to rally for Trayvon.”

Initially, I agreed with the statement; but after giving it some thought, I can only half-way agree. This isn’t a time for people to rally for Martin, however, this IS a black issue.

Black people should be rallying against the issues and the injustices, not for the people. Here’s why. Riley is gone, Martin is gone but the injustices that killed them are still alive. Even if Zimmerman gets convicted and sent to jail for years or life, there is going to be another black kid killed for no reason at all.

Martin’s Case also brings to mind another black male who was killed unjustly. Troy Davis (remember him?). People held rallies, protested (all the way to the Supreme Court) and even made him a TT on Twitter. Then, all their rallies failed and he was put to death by lethal injection. Now, do you hear anything about Davis, his plight or the injustice that killed him? The answer is, an unsurprisingly, no.

The reason is because when people die, over time, we forget them. The same way people forgot about Davis, they’ll forget about Martin. When they do, another slain black person will arise and people will rally for them and the cycle will start all over again.

But, if black people rally against the issues on a consistent basis, rather than for any given person every once in a while, then maybe we have a chance to save an innocent person in the future.

I’m not a very political person. I don’t rally or protest issues. So, I don’t like to judge people who do; but when I see people rallying for one person (just because a cop or a non-black person killed them), when hundreds of others, like Riley, are also being killed, that’s when I feel like I need to say something.

What happened to Martin is a shame, but people need to stop focusing on Martin and start focusing on the issues of the black community. Gang violence and racism are still major enemies against black people in America. So, you can either rally and yell “STOP GANG VIOLENCE” or “NO MORE RACISM,” or just wait for the next black kid to be murdered and yell “JUSTICE FOR ___(insert name here)____.”

The choice is yours.

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Why wasn’t there any marches held for Marlon Riley like there was for Trayvon Martin?
Is it because he’s a black person who was murdered by another black person?
Is it because he was a young adult and was murdered by a black teenager?
Is it because his murderer was in a gang?
Is it because he was killed in a low-income neighborhood?
Is it because the national media decided not to follow the story? free polls