Though many people are familiar with Colin Kaepernick and his refusal to stand for the National Anthem, many may not know about Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, a rising star in the NBA who did the same thing 20 years earlier. Abdul-Rauf (whose name was Chris Jackson before converting to Islam), missed his prime playing years in the NBA (after being drafted third pick in the 1990 draft). After refusing to stand, citing the flag as a symbol of oppression and racism, he was suspended by the NBA. A compromise was reached, but he quickly faded into the stats book after his playing time dropped and he was let go after one more season. He was 29, and his professional career moved overseas.
Rise Up! Here are a few frames from my coverage last Sunday of the NFC Championship, between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. I covered the game for the Falcons, who I’ve worked with for several years on a number of projects.
What made this game special, among many other things, is that it was the last game played in the Georgia Dome. Ever. The Dome, built in 1992, and where countless football games, concerts, and other events have been held, will be demolished this summer. The Falcons will start the 2017 season at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which is currently being constructed about 100 feet away from the Dome.
I had the opportunity a few weeks ago to photograph a few Falcons players in the new throwback uniforms, which will be worn this Sunday (Oct. 23) against the Chargers, and again on Dec. 18 against the 49ers. I had about 4-5 minutes with each player, and the goal was to capture the uniform from several different angles, so the Falcons could use the images in composite (below) to announce on their website and social media. A big thanks to Michael Benford for making it all happen, and for donning Devonta’s helmet for light tests :-)
A couple of weeks ago, I had a first in my photography career: covering professional video gaming. I photographed the finals of the first week of ELeague, a partnership between WME | IMG and Turner Broadcasting. It was absolutely electric in there! Fans, many of whom waited hours for a seat in the studio, cheered and hissed at the humongous LED screen as the two teams battled each other in the game Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. In the photo above, Epitacio de Melo, whose gamer name is TACO and plays with Luminosity, is shown on the screen as the crowd cheers.
Back in January, I traveled to Mobile, Ala., for Sports Illustrated to cover the circus that is the Senior Bowl. For most folks involved, it’s not about the game on Saturday, it’s about the week leading up. Players meet with NFL agents, coaches, financial planners, sales people of all sorts, including suit tailors peddling their services. It’s also where scouts and coaches find out as much as they can about players, including using written personality and temperament tests. It can be a dizzying few days for these players. To start if all off, players are measured, weighed, and sized up on stage in front of a few hundred folks, all while wearing only underwear while scouts and coaches fill out spreadsheets. Above, players head to the stage for the weigh-in.
Last year was unbelievable. It was my fourth year as a full-time independent photographer, and definitely my most exciting and rewarding. I worked for clients that I used to dream of shooting for, and I got to cover some of the biggest stories of the year and meet some incredible people along the way. I am forever grateful to the folks who hire and trust me to tell stories with my camera, whether it be The New York Times covering the Charleston shootings or the Atlanta Falcons to show a behind the scenes of what it’s like to be a professional football player. I also got featured (twice!) by Instagram and blogged by them, helping me gain over 90k followers! It has been a great year for sure, but I definitely have a long way to go.
I made the short drive over to Talladega this weekend to cover the races. You can’t always count on the racing to be entertaining, like this weekend, but people and sights always deliver. Here is a selection of my favorite images from Saturday and Sunday.
A few months ago, I had one cool assignment, courtesy of Sports Illustrated. I got to hand out with the famous/infamous Don King for a fight he was promoting. The fight, between Eric Molina and Deontay Wilder, was held at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, Ala. The story was part of SI’s annual “Where Are They Now?” issue. I’ve assisted SI photographers on stories for this issue in years past, so it was a real honor to be shooting this assignment.
At every Falcons game, you can easily spot the photographers stacked on the sidelines, capturing each play, hit, touchdown, tackle, and dog pile. They’re the ones wearing the brown NFL vests and holding thousands of dollars worth of equipment, hoping to be in the best position possible when the Big Play happens. After all, the action is what game day is all about … without that, there would be no fans, no Georgia Dome. But there’s also a ton of action surrounding the game … the fans, the excitement, the pyrotechnics, the dancing. And while photographing the action is extremely fun and rewarding, I absolutely love shooting all the peripheral elements. To me, it’s what brings color to the game.
There were a lot of upset Braves fans yesterday, as they learned that hometown player Jason Heyward would be traded to the Cardinals. Since the Henry County, Ga. native started his professional career with the Braves in 2010, he has been a fan favorite and a lot of fun to watch. As a tribute to Heyward’s time with the Braves, I’m posting a few of my favorite frames of him.