Skip to main content

“A Drug Kingpin and His Racket, The Untold Story of Freeway Rick Ross"- .@VICE Sports

by. Nate James (VICE)

VICE Sports contributor Tal Pinchevsky writes: “Before he was moving cocaine by the ton across the United States. Before he was making as much as $2 million on a good day. Before the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department started a corrupt task force named after him. Before all of that, "Freeway" Rick Ross was Ricky Donnell Ross, a small, wiry kid just trying to get out of South Central. And it wasn't drug dealing that was going to help him do that. It was tennis.”


Before he was moving cocaine by the ton across the United States. Before he was making as much as $2 million on a good day. Before the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department started a corrupt task force named after him. Before all of that, "Freeway" Rick Ross was Ricky Donnell Ross, a small, wiry kid just trying to get out of South Central.
And it wasn't drug dealing that was going to help him do that. It was tennis. Even through his infamous career as one of the world's foremost drug kingpins and then through his inevitable fall and subsequent self-reclamation, tennis has always been there. It's been there since the day he first picked up a racket.
"We were in the park one day playing roller derby and this guy named Richard Williams offered us an opportunity to win a quarter by hitting the balls into the box," Ross remembered. "It didn't start that day, but it started a short time afterwards."
The Richard Williams that guided Ross and countless other African-American kids through tennis is not Venus and Serena's dad. Yes, that Richard Williams did get his daughters involved in tennis after moving to South Central, but the Richard Williams who Ross met as a child was an L.A. tennis pioneer who would change the lives of countless neighborhood children.
Having moved to South Central with his mother when he was three, Ross fully committed himself to tennis by the time he entered his teens. He wasn't blessed with height or strength or reach, so he'd never play a power game. But he did find his style, one defined by a refusal to give up on any ball. Opponents might outpower him, but they would never outwill him on the tennis court.
"I was a baseline guy. I liked the back end. I wasn't really strong," Ross said. "I was more consistent. I was really quick."


Having studied auto upholstery in trade school, Ross applied those skills when he took on work at a local chop shop. It was there he first learned about cocaine.
Almost overnight, Ross was slinging crack. That endeavor escalated dramatically the day he met Oscar Danilo Blandon, a Nicaraguan expat and large-scale drug distributor who was using part of his profits to fund the Contra rebels in his home country. Through this partnership, Ross gained access to an almost-unlimited supply of cocaine at a time when the crack epidemic was about to overwhelm the country. He had been in the perfect place at the perfect time.
But Ross's rise, which eventually involved wearing a bulletproof vest and carrying a 9mm revolver at all times, was built on a certain set of principles. Principles originally developed on the tennis court.
"Tennis helped me in the drug business, without question. I saw in tennis when I practiced hard how my game improved. When I took to the drug business, I took that same mentality," Ross said. "It's not over until it's over. Even though it can be match point, you can go from match point and turn the whole thing around."
Ross's exploits as one of the country's most powerful drug dealers eclipsed any of the success he ever had in tennis. As the head of a million-dollar-a-day empire, Ross's life had completely changed. For the first time, the dreams formulated during daytrips to Beverly Hills were being realized. He had more money than he'd ever be able to spend. Not that he didn't try.
He took care of his mother, who he'd been reunited with after her incarceration. He bought countless cars and properties, eventually losing track of exactly how many houses he owned. He bought a house from a liquor store owner for $250,000 cash. When the business owner mentioned he relied on small denominations for his store, Ross paid him in dollar bills.
Still, tennis remained on his mind. So much so that he sponsored some of his old high school teammates who had gone pro, including Larry Barnett. But one of Ross's proudest achievements as a multi-millionaire was the youth tennis program he established in his old neighborhood. Spearheaded by Ross's financial investment, the program kickstarted the local tennis factory he had been a part of years earlier.
"He would bring us out to the tennis court and teach us right from wrong. What to do and what not to do," said Le George Mauldin, Ross's nephew and one of the top-ranked youth players during the program's heyday.
Mentored by his uncle, Mauldin became one of the country's top-ranked tennis players at age 10. At the same time, a young girl from the neighborhood named Venus Williams was the top-ranked girl in the same age group. It may have seemed unusual coming from the kingpin known as Freeway, but the importance of education was the prevailing message to these young tennis players. Almost every child he encountered was told the story of how his college dreams had been dashed.
"That was the main reason why he told us to stay in school," said Mauldin, who today coaches youth tennis in Los Angeles. "To this day, that's what I tell my students. If you don't' know something, just say you don't know it and the teacher will take his or her time to explain it to you. Don't be too shy or nervous to ask for help."
It was a remarkable story during a dangerous time in South Central. It wouldn't last.

By the mid-1980s, Ross was being investigated by the DEA and law enforcement groups across the country. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department was spending countless hours on the Freeway Ricky Task Force, but Ross was proving to be a teflon don; no less slippery as a drug lord than he was as a tennis player.
While the corruption that plagued the task force helped Ross remain a free man, the heat bearing down on his operation was enough to make him consider getting out of the game.
That was until September 28, 1988, when police in Carlsbad, New Mexico seized nine kilos of cocaine from a bus traveling from Los Angeles to Cincinnati, one of the main satellites in Ross's network, where he was known as the "Six Million Dollar Man." That drug bust ultimately led to the indictment of 10 individuals, including Ross. He would eventually plead guilty to cocaine trafficking charges.
By then, 35 deputy sheriffs and six related individuals had been prosecuted by the Los Angeles U.S. Attorney's Office in 11 trials over corruption charges ranging from beating suspects to planting evidence. Ross seized the opportunity to testify against the corrupt police force that helped raze his empire. He spent three days on the stand describing in great detail the intricacies of his drug operation. In exchange for his testimony, Ross's sentence, originally 121 months, was reduced to 51 months.
Upon his release, Ross struggled with debt caused by his lavish spending. Desperate for a solution, he was convinced by his old partner Blandon to broker one final drug deal. On March 2, 1995, Ross was busted by federal agents beside a Chevy Blazer packed with 100 kilos of cocaine. Blandon, who had become a full-time paid informant for the U.S. government, served Ross up to the DEA on a silver platter. Originally sentenced to life in prison, his sentence was reduced to 20 years. Without Ross's money and mentorship, the young tennis players he sponsored in South Central Los Angeles were left in the lurch.
"I was in shock. I would go to school, to the tennis courts, and home to do homework. Then it was basically just going to school and coming home to do homework," Mauldin said. "I saw guys winning tournaments that I was beating. That was definitely a big-time blow."
Aged 14 and with his tennis career suddenly at a crossroads, Mauldin's story got the attention of staff at the famed Bollettieri Tennis Academy, which invited him to train in Bradenton, Florida for two weeks. But many of the players Mauldin grew up with didn't enjoy the same fate.
"A couple of them took the wrong path. Once in a while I would call them and we would talk about it. They just kind of wished they had tried to stay with tennis," Mauldin said. "Some were gangbanging. Some started a family. But they could have done a lot more if they had an opportunity to stay on the tennis courts."
Meanwhile, Ross spent much of his time while incarcerated in the library. It was in that prison library that he would overcome the illiteracy that ended his youth tennis days, reading close to 300 books during his time in prison. In between reading business and self-help books, Ross learned that the Texas federal penitentiary he'd been imprisoned in had a tennis court. From that moment on, Rick Ross began rediscovering the baseline.
"I think that I may have peaked in prison, as far as tennis goes. I probably became the best that I've ever been while I was in prison. Tennis became my hustle," Ross said. "I was teaching guys how to play and they would pay me $10 to $20 per hour. I would build these guys' games up so well that they would challenge me. We started doing some of the same drills I had learned in school."
Ross was a new man in a new world upon his release in 2009. He even found that a former correctional officer named William Roberts had co-opted his name, turned it into a hip-hop persona, and become a successful rapper. Freeway Rick Ross sued the rapper known as Rick Ross in 2010, the case was ultimately dismissed on First Amendment grounds.
But Ross's dreams of a new—and legit—empire never relied on the lawsuit. He's pursuing a clothing line, a rap label, an energy pill, and a film based on his life. And of course, there's still tennis. Shortly after being released, he began sponsoring young tennis players again, providing a few hundred dollars here and there to help them attend tournaments. But his biggest tennis project remains in its infancy.
"I have two babies right now who are swinging a racket. I have a son who is four years old and I have a daughter who is two years old. I think right now they are probably two of the most advanced people in their age groups," Ross said. "They've been swinging the racket. They do 100 swings every couple of days. Nothing really hard. I believe that muscles train themselves to function a certain way."
His greatest hope for his two youngest children, son Bricen and daughter Jordan, is that they pursue tennis further than he ever did. That likely means college, a dream for his children motivated by that lost tennis scholarship to Long Beach.
More than 30 years later, he still dwells occasionally on how his life may have changed had he played tennis in college. He'll keep thinking about it, wondering how life may have been had Freeway Rick Ross never existed.

Comments

Most Popular Post

Man Missing the top half of his Head Appears in a Mugshot

This is inmate #100087196, also known as Carlos Rodriquez, who was recently charged with Prostitution/Solicit another to commit. The mugshot which can still be found at miami.whosarrested.com/inmates/214613-carlos-rodriguez, a database of Florida arrests, has being stirring up allot of controversy because of the fact that the pictures look like a fake. It looks as if the picture is real, as we found a previous arrest mugshot that show Rodriquez with a beard. The police report, posted on the Miami New Times website, shows that cops wrote “half a head” in the form’s “unique physical features” box, after the man was arrested for trying to purchase “street slang for vaginal” for $80 from an undercover detective. Rodriquez has been arrested many times during his young 25 years of life for disorderly intoxication, solicitation of a prostitute, possession of weed, and burglary. "Can u really blame a man who has half a brain"

Mouthwatering Food and Drink Trends at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo // .@gfwe

Mouthwatering Food and Drink Trends to Keep an Eye Out For The Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is back, celebrating its 23rd year

The world is coming to Toronto this November, as beer drinkers, food lovers, and wine connoisseurs come together to experience the best in each industry, at Canada’s biggest food and drink event.
“As creators of this fantastic show, we’re always on the lookout for the best new bites and beverages from across the world,” says Melanie Klie, Sales and Event Manager of the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo. “This year is all about those delectable cheeses, craft beer and homebrews, roses and sparkling toast, and innovative new whiskys. 
Running from November 16-19 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, the Toronto staple will be back with more than 1,500 wines, beers, spirits and gourmet foods to experience. Journey around the globe with cooking pros, talk one-on-one with industry experts and taste the newest dishes, drinks and foodie trends everyone is raving about. Che…

EPIC RECORDS RISING ARTIST .@JEZDIOR SHARES "LATE NIGHT" | NEW EP DUE THIS FALL

DEBUT EP FOR EPIC RECORDS, VICES BY MIDNIGHT, SET FOR RELEASE THIS FALL
Today, rising Epic Records artist Jez Dior shares his newest track, “Late Night.” The song is taken from his upcoming EP Vices By Midnight, which is set for release in Fall 2017. The laid-back earworm of a track, which interpolates Ghost Town DJ’s seminal “My Boo,” is currently available across all platforms and can be streamed below.




LISTEN TO “LATE NIGHT” iTunes: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/itunes Apple Music: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/applemusic Spotify: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/spotify Google Play: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/googleplay Amazon Digital: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/amazonmusicbuy Deezer: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/deezer Soundcloud: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/soundcloud Tidal: http://smarturl.it/LateNightJD/tidal
In the lead-up to the release of Dior’s highly anticipated new EP, the rapper/singer recently shared the track and music video for the EP’s lead single “Sober,” as we…

True Religion Launches The Great Revolt Capsule // .@TRUERELIGION

True Religion Launches The Great Revolt CapsuleTrue Religion launches The Great Revolt Capsule, a limited-edition military-inspired streetwear collection today on their website.  True Religion will host 3 concurrent exclusive global launch events for this collection in Hong Kong (10/16), London (10/18) and New York City (10/20). The world-wide celebration will conclude with a 2-day consumer-driven pop up in SoHo (10/21-10/23)
The 30-piece unisex collection balances a refined street aesthetic with militaristic uniformity. Armed with a lineup of limited edition wares including an oversized parka, reversible Sherpa jacket, and a wide leg cargo pant, the collection uses tactical design elements, such as muted color palettes, exaggerated pocket details, and raw edge hems to deliver a modern spin on conventional utilitarian. Prices range from $89 - $499 and will be available on True Religion's website from 10/16 until it sells out (http://www.truereligion.com/military.html)








True Religion …

.@adidas Originals | Winter AF 1.3 PK & AF 1.4 PK | Launch Pack

adidas Originals | Winter AF 1.3 PK & AF 1.4 PK | Launch Pack
 Inspired by the unpredictable weather conditions of winter, adidas Originals introduces two new silhouettes this season designed to stand up to whatever the colder season has to offer, without sacrificing visual effect.
 First up is the AF 1.3 PK, a high-top silhouette inspired by Germany’s elite tactical police unit, the GSG 9. The shoe blends modern aesthetics with a range of technical elements to create a striking silhouette with practical considerations. The shoe’s full Primeknit upper is structured by coated overlays for waterproofing, reinforced by a weather-resistant lining for protection against the elements. This is strengthened further by an insulation sock-liner and full-length lacing system, finished with embroidered 3-stripes marks and essential branding details. This is then placed atop a rugged hiking outsole for a perfect heavy-duty look.
 Accompanying the high-top iteration, the AF 1.4 PK translates th…

Rap Season presents MAJID JORDAN + SPECIAL GUEST at REBEL #TORONTO

Rap Season presents MAJID JORDAN With Special Guests Wednesday April 4th, 2018
REBEL
All-ages
Doors open: 8 p.m General Admission Tickets $34.50* and are available at ticketmaster.ca
Rap Season pre-sale available Wednesday October 18th at 12 p.m. until Thursday October 19th at 10 p.m.
Tickets for April 4th will go on sale to the public on Friday October 20th at 10 a.m Rap Season is proud to present Majid Jordan, at an all-ages event at REBEL on Wednesday April 4th. Majid Jordan is a Canadian R&B duo composed of Majid Al Maskati, 25, and Jordan Ullman, 21. In 2011, the Bahrain-born Majid met the Canadian-born Jordan while attending the University of Toronto. Bonding over a mutual passion for music, they started recording under the name GOOD People, releasing the afterhours mix tape.  Their chemistry yielded a powerful dynamic, with Jordan handling instrumentation and production and Majid assuming mic duties. Producer Noah “40” Shebib heard their music on Soundcloud in 2013 and invited them …

Exclusive Jewellery Event by Anne Sportun Fine Jewellery

M For Montreal announces full line for 2017 // .@MFORMONTREAL

M For Montreal announces its final round of programming for the 12th edition of the festival this November 15-18. Newly added acts include Oakland MC, producer and Gorillaz collaborator Del The Funky Homosapien (Deltron 3030, Hieroglyphics, Souls of Mischief), Toronto indie-art rockers Absolutely Free, psychedelic noh-wave Yamantaka // Sonic Titan, Poet Laureate and Polaris nominated Cadence Weapon, alternative post punk Casper Skulls and more. For full list of artists see below.

Once again, the event will welcome hundreds of music industry professionals from over 15 countries, showcasing artists over the four- day festival. The festival provides a meeting place for music industry professionals and artists to exchange ideas and generate solid opportunities for their businesses and careers to grow.
2017 Artists:
 Absolutely Free
Aliocha
Alvvays
Anemone
Atsuko Chiba
Bad Nylon
Ben Shemie of SUUNS (dj set)  Beyries
Blurry Eyes
Boniface
Boundaries
Boyhood
Cadence Weapon
Casper Skulls
Caspian…

Love and Hip Hop: Hollywood's .@LyricaAnderson Album "Adia"

DB11 Volante: return of the ultimate convertible Sports GT

DB11 Volante: return of the ultimate convertible Sports GT