Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia" now available as an audiobook

I have been asked many times the last decade-plus about an audio version of Black Brothers, Inc.: The Violent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia's Black Mafia.  I am thus happy to report the day has come!  Narrated by the great Mike Chamberlain, you can find it here.  Minor note: the text and narrative are identical to the print version, but the cover art for the audiobook looks like this:
Black Brothers, Inc. audiobook cover art

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

On Malcolm X and Philly's Black Mafia

Back when I used to lecture frequently about Philly’s Black Mafia, I would often get questions about Malcolm X and whether he had anything to do with the notorious syndicate.  The question on its face makes sense, of course, because of the role Philadelphia’s Nation of Islam Temple 12 played in the group’s murderous rise.  Furthermore, Temple 12 Minister Jeremiah Shabazz (formerly Jeremiah Pugh) was a key player in the underworld along the Eastern seaboard for decades.  Interested parties can read about Shabazz at length in my Black Brothers, Inc.: TheViolent Rise and Fall of Philadelphia’s Black Mafia (Milo 2005.07), and in a blog post here.  With the recent popular Netflix 6-part documentary Who Killed Malcolm X, the subject is popping up again.

Malcolm X, the flamboyant, headline-making spokesman of the NOI movement, moved to Philadelphia in 1954 to open NOI Temple 12.  As I write in Black Brothers, Inc:
Malcolm X found a loyal follower and a quick study in Jeremiah Pugh, and Brother Jeremiah soon rose to the rank of captain in Temple 12’s Fruit of Islam guard. Jeremiah and Malcolm became virtually inseparable, and roomed together at 2516 W. Nicholas Street in North Philadelphia until Malcolm moved to New York. “Malcolm lived in a room with another brother and me for a year. So I got to know him well,” recalled Pugh. “I woke up next to him every day, and went to bed next to him every night.”
Jeremiah Pugh soon began climbing the ranks within the NOI, including obtaining the name Shabazz along with a major location change to Atlanta.  After spending just over five years successfully establishing the NOI in the Southeastern United States, Jeremiah Shabazz was transferred back to Philadelphia in April 1964.   Of course, Malcolm X made his fateful pilgrimage to Mecca in 1964 and turned toward Orthodox Islam and against the NOI. 

On December 4th, Louis Farrakhan (then known as Louis X) wrote in Muhammad Speaks, “If any Muslim backs a fool like Malcolm … he would be a fool himself … Only those who wish to be led to hell, or to their doom, will follow Malcolm. The die is set, and Malcolm shall not escape … Such a man is worthy of death.”

Some will recall the damning cartoon published in Muhammad Speaks about Malcolm’s decision to turn against the NOI which featured his decapitated head tumbling in a graveyard toward a stack of skulls at the base of a tombstone marked with the names of history’s most infamous traitors:

Last on this from Black Brothers, Inc.:

When Malcolm and his bodyguards arrived at a Philadelphia radio station for an interview on December 29th, a crew from Temple 12 met them, and fought with Malcolm’s guards in their effort to get at him. A police detective happened to be in the area, and managed to break up the fistfight. The crew sent to attack Malcolm was led by Sterling X. Hobbs, a gangster who was usually called upon when the need for physical force was expected. Hobbs would make headlines a decade later, but for now his importance was tied to Jeremiah Shabazz. He was close to Shabazz and thus the attack on Malcolm suggested that Shabazz had allied with Elijah Muhammad against his former friend and roommate. Another article in Muhammad Speaks predicted that 1965 would be “a year in which the most outspoken opponents of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad will slink into ignoble silence.” Malcolm X took the threats seriously, and told anyone who knew him that his life was in danger. His concerns were validated on February 14th when his house was firebombed. Malcolm survived and continued to speak out against Elijah Muhammad. On February 21st, he was on the stage again, about to speak, when he was shot dead. Elijah Muhammad expressed no sympathy for Malcolm’s death, stating instead that “Malcolm died according to his preachings. He preached violence and violence has taken him away.”

So, while it is true people like Jeremiah Shabazz and Sterling X. Hobbs would play key roles in the history of Philly’s Black Mafia, and Malcolm X had an important and then troubling time in Philadelphia, there is no evidence the syndicate had any role in the slaying.  Given the complicated and controversial subject matter, I easily understand the confusion and the questions.


VICE Sports piece featuring Jimmy Battista on the NBA Betting Scandal

As I type in late February 2020, this VICE Sports piece featuring former pro gambler Jimmy Battista (of NBA betting scandal infamy) has been viewed 1,592,424 times on YouTube since it was posted in late November 2018.

I was aware of this project before and during its development.  There are reasons I wasn't involved and why I haven't commented on it since it aired more than a year ago.  Since it now has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube, and especially because I keep getting asked about it, here are a few quick points:

* Needless to say, quite literally every aspect of this piece is examined in far greater detail and with supporting evidence in my Gaming the Game: The Story Behind the NBA Betting Scandal and the Gambler Who Made It Happen (Barricade, 2011).

* I am sympathetic to the producers who attempted to do a complicated story in such an incredibly abbreviated format (12 mins)

* Seeing PI Flagg state Tim Donaghy has a "photographic memory" is rich - Donaghy has repeatedly said (starting with his sessions with the feds in 2007) he doesn’t even know what games he bet on during the scandal

* The editing, especially re Battista's regrets, is poorly done and misleading


Thursday, January 2, 2020

Why Former NBA Referee Tim Donaghy is Disreputable

In late 2019, I was asked if I “hated” Tim Donaghy following my ongoing criticisms of his media appearances.  I’ve engaged in hundreds of conversations regarding the NBA betting scandal over a decade and yet no one had ever posed that question to me about the former referee.  After quickly explaining I do not “hate” Donaghy (in truth, it never occurred to me to bother), I realized people apparently don’t know why he is disreputable.

Here, then, are the major problems with using Tim Donaghy as a stand-alone, unverified source.  There are two inter-related issues with Donaghy: he has a lengthy documented history of (1) telling demonstrable falsehoods concerning matters of importance and (2) troubling behavior.

Beyond the objective data (betting lines and records), there’s also a vast universe of informed people who explain there are many crucial Tim Donaghy assertions which are either incorrect or outright falsehoods about the scandal and related matters.

This universe of Donaghy detractors (on the NBA betting scandal alone) includes:
  • his co-conspirators
  • many pro gamblers (including some who cooperated with the govt)
  • FBI agents (including SSA Phil Scala, whom Donaghy loves to [improperly] cite)
  • prosecutors
  • Judge Carol Bagley Amon, etc.  
Anyone familiar with my years of work on the scandal knows how much time I have spent on this consequential issue (see., e.g., my latest commentary here).

There are also major longstanding personality issues with Donaghy…

Have you noticed that in a span of a decade you haven't heard people who know Donaghy say “I can’t believe what he admitted to/has been convicted of doing; that seems so unlike him” or “He’s such a great person” or “I feel so bad for him” and the like?  With that in mind, here is a sampling of issues involving Donaghy over the years (and please note, as I explain in Gaming the Game, some of these matters informed and influenced decisions in the federal NBA betting scandal investigation and prosecution):

·    Notorious for his temper and “short fuse” dating at least to high school straight through the NBA scandal when a federal official described him as “a fucking loose cannon”

·      Arrested for allegedly threatening a mail carrier (charges of disorderly conduct, harassment, and stalking were dropped when the carrier didn’t appear in court)

·      Sued by neighbors for harassment and invasion of privacy (suit was dropped, but Donaghy was suspended from his country club as a result of his actions)

·      Another neighbor said Donaghy “was so bad you can’t imagine…The guy had a personality problem from Day One, with 99% of people” with whom Donaghy came in contact. “Unless everything went his way…he just became a flaming maniac”

·      The Mayor of his township said Donaghy had “a very dictatorial personality, a very aggressive personality”

·      Donaghy’s off-court behavior so troubled the NBA they sanctioned Donaghy by prohibiting him from working a round of playoffs one season

·      Donaghy’s wife, soon after filing for divorce, requested a restraining order because he allegedly threatened to “knock [her] head off [her] body when he was “enraged, out of control” (matter was dropped when wife didn’t appear in court)

Please also consider what reporters looking into these circumstances have discovered when they reached out to former Donaghy teammates, classmates, colleagues, and associates...

·    "every teammate, classmate, or associate contacted…by the [Delco] Daily Times either chose not to comment on Donaghy or didn’t return phone calls…While there are those empathetic to Donaghy and his gambling-related plight, many others consider his a karmic downfall"

·    “several sources described him as fairly unpopular with his peers, past and present…From his Philly basketball roots to his peers in the NBA, Donaghy isn’t described with much affection”

Donaghy’s troubling behavior has continued and he has privately and publicly lashed out against many parties, making baseless claims in the process.  He also – unsolicited - publicly mocked his ex-wife’s appearance in response to a 2019 ESPN article about the scandal:

So, with the collective decades-long evidence of lies and falsehoods and frauds, along with an unreal history of troubling personal behavior*, you can hopefully understand why many people like me can’t understand the routine, often genteel, manner in which some media personalities treat the discredited and disturbed Donaghy.


*I haven’t humored above other issues such as Donaghy admitting having someone take his SATs for him, allegedly cheating on his wife, allegedly using prostitutes and drugs with co-conspirator Tommy Martino during the scandal (as Martino claims), in addition to repeatedly defrauding his employer, etc.