‘Black excellence’: Gymnast Nia Dennis blesses the internet with another stunning floor routine

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Last February, UCLA’s Nia Dennis went viral for a flawless, swaggering floor routine set to a Beyoncé medley. So how do you follow that? By adding Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, and Tupac, apparently.

Dennis helped take her team to a win over Arizona State on Saturday with this joyous, confident celebration of Black excellence, opening with Kendrick’s defiant “DNA” and (ahem) rounded off with “California Love” — which obviously went down a treat with the hometown crowd. 

“This routine definitely reflects everything that I am today as a woman,” Dennis told the Los Angeles Daily News, “and of course I had to incorporate a lot of parts of my culture. I wanted to have a dance party because that’s my personality and of course I had to shout out LA because we out here, UCLA.”

Missy Elliott, as well as fellow internet-beloved star gymnasts Simone Biles and Katelyn Ohashi, shouted out Dennis’ star power on Twitter. 

And that was just the season opener. With more to come — not to mention the pandemic-delayed “2020” Tokyo Olympics, where Biles will compete — it’s already shaping up as a great year for watching these incredible athletes defy gravity.

Human mattress dominoes: The dumb collaborative fun we missed in 2020

Stuck at home with more time on our hands, a lot of us went down weird internet rabbit holes in 2020. The one I’m most grateful for stumbling upon was filled with oddly soothing videos of people literally falling down. They seemed to represent everything we lost this year, and the hope of everything that could come again: Thousands gathering IRL in close quarters for silly, innocent, massively collaborative, and globally competitive fun. 

I speak of a relatively new entrant in the global pantheon of sports: human mattress dominoes. 

The idea is so simple, it’s a wonder that it took humanity until the 21st century to invent it. Take a bunch of people, attach them to mattresses, stick them in a line like dominoes, and push the first one. 

The only limitation is the scale, and this is where we spent a decade pushing back the boundaries of human endeavor, from a few dozen to a few thousand participants. If in our post-pandemic world you can gather 2,020 or more people to topple each other successfully — as someone surely would have done this year, but for COVID-19 — then you, my friends, will be the world champions. 

And if that’s not a vision of a bright future just around the corner that can inspire you to get through our hard and lonely coronavirus third wave winter, I don’t know what is.

The first to fall 

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There have been anecdotal tales of human mattress dominoes on U.S. college campuses. Yet the clearest origin of human mattress dominoes as a competitive global sport was — you may have guessed it — a promotional stunt for a mattress supplier. 

On July 29, 2009, Bensons For Beds in Gloucestershire, UK lined up a mere 41 workers in its warehouse and filmed the result. They were the first to discover one of the chief delights of this sport: perfectly-timed intervals between screams. 

The Bensons video went viral around the world that summer, and we do mean around the world. The first human mattress domino record sanctioned by Guinness World Records followed in Australia that August, on Channel 9 in Sydney. In 32 seconds, 81 humans were toppled.

Here were more firsts for the fledgling sport: first live audience; first awkward presenter participation; first producer who thought it would be neat to play Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumper” over the action replay. 

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New Zealand couldn’t let that lie. The world record reportedly fell to 121 Kiwis on national TV the following month, live from a furniture store car park in Auckland. But back in the UK, a children’s show called Blue Peter blithely ignored that, claiming its own Guinness World record with a mere 100 tumblers

There was more confusion as the Americans entered the picture that October. A store in Bowling Green, Kentucky felled 150 (perhaps this was the source of the “Bowling Green massacre” Kellyanne Conway invented in 2017), but that number already appears to have been achieved in New South Wales the previous week, if the YouTube archive is to be believed. Regardless, a Pennsylvania college team seems to have grabbed the lead at the end of the month. 

In November, an Alaska furniture store recorded 193 down, including the first use of double domino rows…

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…but in a sign of the sport’s growing international strength, that record was toppled the very next day by 244 players in a stadium in Algarve, Portugal. You can see the slower, more distanced, and dare I say more graceful form, of European mattress dominoes, already clashing with the brash American style. 

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The dominoes took a break that winter and came back with a vengeance in March 2010, where the record was smashed in Dubai (344) and smashed again in Australia (374). Despite the entry of the first Chinese team in May (269), the year’s apparent winner was a 769-strong team in Germany

That record held until 2012, another banner year for human mattress dominoes. A New Orleans team got 850 in February. A Shanghai team was the first to cross the 1,000 line in July. But a German team fired back the following month, claiming the gold medal again with 1,150.

There the record remained for four years; some may have imagined it was impossible to topple more humans. But Aaron’s, an Atlanta-based electronics store, put the U.S. back on the map with 1,200 human dominoes in March 2016. 

This was, incidentally, the record attempt where my rabbit hole research began. Long story short: My wife called me upstairs to see our cat once again sleeping on her face. I posted an Instagram of the incident, added the hashtag #humanmattress, then curiously clicked on it. The Aaron’s attempt was the first non-pet related video to show up.

Little did I know how dark the research hole was about to get. 

The Wuhan connection

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I’d just relaxed into the hypnotic, happy music, high-speed video of the next world-record winner, in August 2016, where some 2,016 mattresses tumbled in 14 minutes, 41 seconds. Then the Guinness World Records casually revealed the location: Wuhan, China.

Talk about a metaphor turning on a dime. What had just before felt like an example of the sort of joyous nonsense we used to enjoy pre-pandemic had specifically taken place in the city where the COVID-19 pandemic was first detected. Now the video seemed to represent the way this infection spread around the world this year, apparently as unstoppable as dominoes. 

It felt a little like that moment you discover the origin of the nursery rhyme line we all fall down: You can never hear it, or see kids acting it out, the same way again. That’s 2020 all over, the year when even innocent internet rabbit holes were not the escapes from reality you thought they were. 

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The Wuhan record was not the last word in human mattress dominoes. For now, that official accolade goes to the August 6, 2019 exhibition of 2,019 human mattress dominoes at an indoor arena in Rio De Janeiro, above. 

The Rio dominoes tumbled in incredible time — 11 minutes, 13 seconds — thanks to a spiral design that just makes the video even more hypnotic. That’s just the kind of three-dimensional innovation this sport is going to need when it resumes its second decade of operation, post-pandemic. 

One suggestion: If we could skip straight to a world record attempt to 2,021 people, that would be an appropriate way to mark a year when millions of us chose to tumble down on our mattresses alone for the good of all our health. 

LeBron James, other NBA players support walkout over shooting of Jacob Blake

Kneeling wasn’t enough. So NBA players walked off the court. 

The Milwaukee Bucks boycotted their game with the Orlando Magic on Wednesday to protest police violence after the shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin. 

The teams were set to play Game 5 of the first round of the NBA playoffs. Soon after the Magic players left the court, the NBA announced the Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Portland Trailblazers, and Los Angeles Lakers would not play their Wednesday games as well. The Magic later released a statement in support of the boycott. 

For Bucks forward Sterling Brown, it’s personal. Two years ago, after coming out of a Walgreens, Milwaukee police officers stepped on his ankle and tased him over a bad parking job. One of the officers on the scene later joked about it on Facebook

After video of the arrest was released, he refused to settle with the city. 

“I want more than just money,” he wrote last month in The Players’ Tribune. “I want cops to show respect and to be held accountable when they step out of line, especially in the neighborhoods they are supposed to serve and protect every day.”

Bucks and Magic players did not comment on the protest. Alex Lasry, SVP of the Bucks, tweeted in support of the team’s players.

Current and former NBA players, including LeBron James, shared their frustration and support on Twitter. 

The walk-off came a day after Los Angeles Clippers head coach Doc Rivers shared an emotional message about police violence with the press. The NBA said the Wednesday games would be rescheduled.

ESPYs hosts Russell Wilson, Megan Rapinoe, and Sue Bird urge people to stand against racism in powerful video

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“It’s great that sports are back,” said WNBA’s Sue Bird during the opening of the 2020 ESPY Awards. “But George Floyd won’t be there to see them.”

On Sunday, the annual ESPY Awards were held to honor the achievements of professional athletes. This year’s ceremony was a bit different though, and not just due to coronavirus social distancing. Hosted by Bird, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and soccer star Megan Rapinoe, the ESPY Awards’ began with this segment acknowledging the ongoing conversation regarding racial injustice, and urged players and fans alike to act. Not just in the name of groundbreaking Black sports stars like Jackie Robinson and Serena Williams, but for ordinary people like Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.

“Our country’s work is not anywhere close to done. We need justice. We need true leadership. We need a change, and we need it now,” said Wilson, reflecting on his fears as a Black father. “To my white teammates and friends: We need you to lead too. Don’t just listen. Help.”

“For centuries, there have been fights for justice and equality in this country, led by Black people. This movement is no different. But as white people, this is the breaking point. This time we gotta have their backs,” said Rapinoe. “So will it be uncomfortable? Yes. In speaking up when we make mistakes, yes. That cannot stop us from trying.” 

“And not just for a few days, or a few IG posts,” continued Bird. “This is our moment to prove that we know a better world is one where Black lives are valued.”

Watch these Italians play rooftop tennis during quarantine

The coronavirus has us all social distancing, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep our game sharp. 

Two women in the Italian comune of Finale Legure made that (match) point loud and clear in video posted Saturday by the AFP News Agency. In it, you can see two neighbors playing a friendly game of tennis. And while the exhaust vents jutting out of the roof make for an atypical hazard, the enthusiastic returns harken back to a pre-pandemic time.

Just don’t expect a ball boy to clear the court.

Get a Sky Zone x Vuly 14-foot trampoline on sale for $299 at Walmart

Just to let you know, if you buy something featured here, Mashable might earn an affiliate commission.
With a self-closing door and higher nets, your kids — and you — will stay safe.
With a self-closing door and higher nets, your kids — and you — will stay safe.

Image: Sky ZOne X VUly 

TL;DR: You can bring the fun of a Sky Zone trampoline park into your own backyard with a Sky Zone x Vuly 14-foot trampoline on sale for $299 at Walmart — a savings of $380 off its usual price of $679. 

Having spent many afternoons of my youth repetitively jumping up and down on a trampoline for hours with no regard for the well-being of my equilibrium —  it’s a pastime I deeply respect. 

In a world ruled by smartphones and the newest tech, it’s comforting to know the gravity-defying recreational activity is still a fan-favorite among kids of all ages and parents alike. A big part of the trampoline’s staying power is due to the 200-plus locations of Sky Zone Trampoline Parks that bring aerial action to the masses, tbh. 

This Prime Day, you can snag an official Sky Zone x Vuly 14-foot trampoline for $299 at Walmart to bring that same fun into your own backyard. With a savings of $380 on the trampoline, it’s a pretty jump-worthy deal (sorry, it had to happen). 

If summer vacation with the kids is becoming a lot less easy to keep up with, you can send them out into the great outdoors knowing the Sky Zone x Vuly trampoline is designed with top-notch safety features in mind, like a built-in safety door and the tallest safety enclosures on the market. 

Designed with double galvanized steel, dual layers for maximum air, and plush safety padding, you’ll get the most bang for your buck without sacrificing safety. Plus, it features no-nut-and-bolt assembly, so taking it down is a breeze — or you could leave it up to do this in the winter. 

Head to Walmart to elevate your backyard’s fun with the Sky Zone x Vuly 14-foot trampoline for $299. 

Serena Williams’ daughter’s doll Qai Qai is the real star of the Australian Open

One of the biggest moods of 2018 was a doll. 

But not just any ol’ doll – it was Qai Qai, the rather witty and cynical companion of Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., daughter of tennis champion Serena Williams and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

Between engaging in memes and generally pondering life, Qai Qai has embarked upon many an adventure with her human guardian, often sitting courtside at Williams’ many matches — all of it posted to the doll’s total 106K followers on Instagram and Twitter. 

And she’s made her most recent splash in Australia, at the Australian Open and Hopman Cup tennis tournaments in January, where the G.O.A.T. has been playing.

When Williams faced off against fellow tennis superstar Roger Federer when Switzerland took on the U.S. in the Hopman Cup mixed doubles in Perth, Qai Qai was there.

Arriving later in Melbourne for the Australian Open, Qai Qai left her hotel in to do a little sightseeing:

And getting that sweet sunset #content:

Travel snaps aside, Qai Qai was quickly was back in the game, even jumping behind the camera at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena:

Gearing up:

And cheering on Williams in her show-stopping, badass green romper and fishnet tights, which she donned playing Germany’s Tatjana Maria on Tuesday.

After winning the match, Williams talked about Qai Qai to reporters.

“I wanted her to have a black doll,” she said during a press conference. “Growing up, I didn’t have that many opportunities to have black dolls. And I was just thinking, like, I want her first doll to be black. And her heritage, obviously she’s mixed, she’s Caucasian and black, but I feel like that was her first doll and I said her second doll would be Caucasian.”

“I definitely want to always teach her love and teach her just basic human — humans should always have love for each other, no matter what colour they are.”

Qai Qai’s jubilant posts on tour in Australia signal a shift in mood for the characteristically nihilistic doll — for a full rundown of Qai Qai’s evolution, read our feature. 

Exactly who runs the doll”s social media accounts has been debated, but Qai Qai’s grandad and Reddit founder Ohanian basically admitted to being behind it on Twitter Wednesday, responding to a New York Post article.

Qai Qai wasn’t having a bar of it though.

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Twitter rages at a high school referee who forced a wrestler to cut off his dreads

A high school wrestler from New Jersey, facing the threat of a forfeit, had his dreadlocks cut at a wrestling meet on Wednesday, sparking outrage across the internet against the white referee that gave him the ultimatum.

A video of 120-pound Beuna Regional High School wrestler Andrew Johnson getting his hair cut was posted to Twitter by SNJ Today News sports director Mike Frankel. Johnson can be seen being consoled by his teammates and appears visibly upset after his overtime victory over his opponent.

While the video doesn’t show the conversation that happened prior to Johnson’s hair being cut, SNJ Today reported that the referee in question, Alan Maloney, told Johnson that the cover he had over his hair was non-compliant and that he either had to cut his dreadlocks or forfeit the match. Not wanting to give the opposing team six free team points, Johnson elected to have his hair cut above his neckline by a trainer.

Maloney has been accused of racist behavior before, having previously been called out for using a racial slur at a social gathering attended by other wrestling officials. Maloney said he didn’t remember using the slur, but never denied that he said it.

Frankel reported that coaches argued with the referee for several minutes, and only once the referee signaled for injury time to start did Johnson decide he would get his hair cut rather than forfeit.

Immediately, people who saw the video posted by Frankel began criticizing Maloney’s decision to have Johnson cut his hair as both humiliating and racist.

The ACLU of New Jersey pointed out that Maloney’s decision as a referee was discriminatory.

After the video spread, the New Jersey Interscholastic Athletic Association said in a statement that Maloney has been temporarily suspended from officiating any events while the association reviews the incident.

“As a precautionary measure, given the degree of attention being focused on this matter, the NJSIAA will recommend to chapter officials that the referee in question not be assigned to any event until this matter has been reviewed more thoroughly in order to avoid potential distractions for the competing wrestlers,” the association said.

Fellow wrestler Jordan Burroughs shared his own reaction to the situation on Twitter, outlining his own feelings about Johnson’s decision to cut his hair for his team, but also how much it sickened him to see this display of power unfold.

Reactions online have raised questions about the referee and many other adults in the room that allowed this situation to transpire as it did.

Many took issue with the framing of the original video, in which Frankel called Johnson a team player instead of focusing on the larger social issues at hand.

Some even pointed out that other wrestlers with long hair have competed in matches with no problems. 

There are regulations for hair length and hair covers that are laid out by the National Federation of State High School Associations, but they are vague at best and only note that a legal hair covering is one that fits snugly and doesn’t prevent any legal holds.

Meanwhile, rules set out by the NJSIAA specify that hair covering should be worn at weigh-in to ensure that they are legal. Either the officials at the weigh-in didn’t properly assess Johnson’s hair cover, they decided to ignore it, or found it to comply to the regulations.

The timing of Maloney’s decision for Johnson to cut his hair or forfeit is especially interesting because this was at least a month into the regular high school wrestling season, and Johnson had already wrestled two matches without any problems. Why now?

Maloney has not been reached for comment by any publications.

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Canadian Football League player chugs a cold one in sudsy touchdown celebration

While the NFL has recently relaxed its stance on touchdown celebrations, leading to some terrific antics, the Canadian Football League still found a way to one-up its U.S. counterpart thanks to an Ottawa Redblacks player.

On Friday night, after scoring a touchdown to increase Ottawa’s lead over Toronto, Red Blacks lineman Jon Gott ran for some the stands and grabbed a beer, handed to him by his girlfriend, for one heck of a Stone Cold Steve Austin-esque celebration.

Tremendous. Take that, Lambeau Leap.

In an interview after the game (Ottawa won 24-9), Gott said he’d been thinking about doing something like this for years before adding, as a joke aimed at any league officials who may decide to fine him for the celebration, that it was just water. 

Fans on Twitter were quick to react, showering approval on Gott’s unique jubilation display.

Reports Saturday afternoon were that he would not be fined by the CFL which is a good call.

Of course, if an NFL player ever did this during a game, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s head would explode, Donald Trump would tweet about it, and the country would spend weeks consumed in a flame war about what constitutes “sportsmanship” and appropriate public behavior. 

May the light shine forever on Jon Gott’s fortune and may every beer he has be crisp and cold. 

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Red Sox fan somehow hits Yankees player with his own home run ball

Yankees power hitter Giancarlo Stanton hit multiple home runs against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park this weekend.
Yankees power hitter Giancarlo Stanton hit multiple home runs against the Boston Red Sox in Fenway Park this weekend.

Image: Maddie Meyer / Getty Images

The Boston Red Sox should consider signing one of their fans that got ejected from Fenway Park on Saturday.

After New York Yankees power hitter Giancarlo Stanton blasted a home run to the top of Fenway Park’s infamous Green Monster at the top of the seventh inning on Saturday, a Red Sox fan took that ball and whipped it back onto the field in protest, hitting Stanton in the arm after a hop as he rounded second base. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

Stanton, who didn’t seem to be hurt in the slightest by the ball, was impressed himself, looking up at the fans on the Green Monster and giving them a smile and a salute as he trotted his way to home base to put the Yankees up 8-2 in the second game of the teams’ final series of the regular season. The Yankees ended up winning the game 8-5.

In a post-game interview, Stanton smiled when asked about getting hit by the ball, saying that he didn’t think the fan meant to hit him and noting that home run balls from opposing teams get thrown back onto the field at Yankee Stadium all the time.

In fact, it’s not unusual for Yankee Stadium to erupt in chants of “throw it back” after someone catches a ball that the opposing team hit into the outfield stands.

After the game, Stanton posted a video on Instagram that cut the footage of the Red Sox fan with footage from the 1993 movie Rookie of the Year, which was about a child who had an unnaturally strong throwing arm after getting a freak injury.

Whether the Red Sox fan meant to hit Stanton or not, Fenway Park security later told ESPN that the fan was ejected.

The final game between the Red Sox and Yankees of the 2018 regular season kicks off on Sunday before the respective no. 1 and no. 2 teams of the American League East division head into the playoffs.

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