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Page 8 n THE ASIAN REPORTER
March 1, 2021
Lives Lost: Hawai‘i football coach who prepped kids for life
CARING COACH. This 2017 photo provided
by Ke’ala Aki shows from left to right, Farrington
High School junior varsity football coaches Vale
Masalosalo, Taleni Iiua, Kinohi Aki, and Willie
Talamoa, in Honolulu. The community remembers
the 36-year-old Talamoa, who passed away last year
due to COVID-19, as a mentor and father figure who
volunteered countless hours to give young people
opportunities he didn’t have. (Ke’ala Aki via AP)
By Audrey McAvoy
The Associated Press
ONOLULU — Honolulu football
coach Willie Talamoa bought his
players cleats, drove them to
practice, and often stayed late to talk with
those having trouble in school.
For Talamoa, his actions weren’t just
about football. They were about helping
the young people in the hardscrabble
neighborhood of Kalihi where he grew up
get the attention they deserved.
“His philosophy was, the more kids that
are at practice with us, the less kids that
are out on the streets of Kalihi,” said fellow
coach Kinohi Aki, who grew up with
Talamoa in Kalihi’s public housing
36-year-old, who passed away last year
due to COVID-19, as a mentor and father
figure who volunteered countless hours to
give young people the opportunities he
Talamoa played football at McKinley
High School in central Honolulu, then at
Dixie State in Utah where he was
recruited as a defensive lineman. His
interest in coaching grew after he injured
his knee in college and had to stop playing.
He worked as a security guard after
returning to Hawai‘i and started coaching
the Kalihi Disciples, a team with 8th and
9th graders that’s part of a church league,
around a decade ago. In 2015, he became
an assistant coach at Farrington High.
Most recently, he coached seven-on-
seven Pylon football — a form of touch
football played on a smaller field — taking
his team to Las Vegas to compete in
Aki said Talamoa offered kids an
alternative — sometimes the only one they
When he saw teens and pre-teens
hanging around, he would ask them what
they were doing and where they were
going. After hearing responses like “Ah,
nothing” and “Oh, cruise,” he’d invite them
to join his workouts.
“Next thing you know, the kid’s asking to
try out for the football team,” Aki said.
Randall Okimoto, head coach at
Farrington for 16 years until 2018,
including several with Talamoa as an
assistant coach, said it’s not easy for
coaches to establish strong relationships
with players in Kalihi.
Many are experiencing hardships
outside school, in some cases because they
come from single-parent homes or their
family is struggling with money, he said.
“It’s just tough. So our kids will put up a
defense mechanism where they’re not
going to let you in,” said Okimoto, who also
grew up in the neighborhood.
Talamoa began coaching many players
in youth leagues, giving him a head start
Olivia Munn says Asian woman, friend’s mom, hurt in shoving
NEW YORK (AP) — An Asian woman
standing on a New York City street was
violently shoved to the ground and police
were searching for the suspect, with a
spotlight being put on the case by actor
Olivia Munn who said she was a friend of
the woman’s daughter.
The New York Police Department said
the 52-year-old woman was outside a
bakery on Roosevelt Avenue in the
Flushing section of Queens around 2:00pm
on Tuesday, February 16, when the
suspect got into a verbal dispute with her
and pushed her.
The woman hit her head and was taken
to the hospital, police said, and the public
was being asked for help in finding the
On Twitter, Munn said “My friend’s
mom is a 5’3” 50+ Chinese woman and she
was attacked” and posted images of the
person she said was the suspect.
Munn said her friend’s mom needed 10
stitches in her head.
The woman’s daughter, Maggie Kayla
Cheng, in a post on Facebook, said her
mom was pushed “with such force that she
hit her head on the concrete and passed out
on the floor.”
Munn has been speaking out about an
increase in crimes against Asian
Americans across the country during the
pandemic. In early February, she said in
an Instagram post that she’s found herself
“at a loss for words at the rise of Anti-Asian
hate crimes,” which “have spiked since
Covid and continue to increase.”
“Hate crimes against Asians Americans
have become so bad that [during one week
last month] a 91-year-old Asian American
was attacked from behind as he walked
down the street in Oakland, an 84-year-old
Thai American was murdered in San
Francisco, a 64-year-old Vietnamese-
American woman was assaulted in San
Jose, and a Filipino-American man was
slashed in the face in Manhattan,” Munn
said in the post.
Sawamura guaranteed $3M by Red Sox, could earn $6.75M
FORT MYERS, Fla. (AP) — Japanese
right-hander Hirokazu Sawamura is
guaranteed $3 million over two years in his
contract with the Boston Red Sox and
could earn $6.75 million over three
seasons if he appears in 60 games a
The 32-year-old gets $1.2 million
salaries in both 2021 and 2022 as part of
His contract includes a $3 million team
option for 2023, and if that is declined
Sawamura could exercise a $600,000
player option for 2023. He would receive a
$600,000 buyout if both options are
If Sawamura is not released before the
2022 opener, the 2023 salary and buyout
would escalate by $600,000 each.
If he remains with the Red Sox through
opening day in 2022, the buyout could
escalate by up to $400,000 based on
pitching appearances in 2021 or 2022:
$100,000 each for 35, 40, 45, and 50.
Sawamura could earn $250,000 each
season in performance bonuses for
pitching appearances: $50,000 each for 35,
40, 45, 50, and 60.
Sawamura has spent the last 10 years
pitching in Japan’s top league, going 48-52
with 75 saves, four shutouts, a 2.77 Earned
Run Average (ERA), and 790 strikeouts in
88 starts and 264 relief appearances for
the Central League’s Yomiuri Giants
(2011-2016, 2018) and the Pacific League’s
Chiba Lotte Marines (2020).
He was the Central League’s 2011
Rookie of the Year.
on those relationships. He repeatedly
showed players he cared. Along with
cleats, he bought them mouthpieces,
gloves, towels, socks, and other equip-
He paid dues on their behalf, enabling
them to play sports. Sometimes he used his
own money, sometimes money from
Talamoa was “training me and coaching
me to become a better player and person in
18-year-old senior at Farrington and one of
the eight to 10 players Talamoa would
routinely pack into his SUV to take to
If Millare was slacking in school,
Talamoa prodded him to do better. He
reminded Millare to help at home and love
his parents and family.
“I can just remember him at the
stoplight at my house, listening to his
music,” Millare said. “I can hear him
honking his horn and that’s a sign for me to
know, ‘Oh, coach Willie is here. It’s time to
get to work.’”
Knowing how much players trusted
Talamoa, some parents asked him to talk
to their children when they struggled in
school. “The first thing Willie would say is
‘I got ’em. I got this.’” said Aki. Then, he’d
talk with the child well after practice
Talamoa’s mother is Native Hawaiian
and his father Samoan. Samoans and
other Pacific Islanders, not including
Native Hawaiians, account for just 4% of
the state’s population but 27% of those who
have tested positive for COVID-19.
That’s a larger share than any other
demographic. Officials say one reason for
the disparity is the fact that many Pacific
Islanders work in jobs that require them to
be in the community, like the food service
Other risk factors include large, multi-
generational families living in tight quar-
ters and inadequate educational outreach
to Pacific Islanders regarding the virus.
The city of Honolulu has lately
developed options for patients to isolate at
hotels away from their families if needed.
It has also launched education campaigns
in Samoan, Tongan, and other Pacific
Talamoa’s girlfriend, Leilani Legatasia,
said she believes Talamoa caught the virus
at a men’s homeless shelter where he had
been working as a guest services assistant.
The shelter was dealing with a coronavirus
outbreak when he got sick.
After testing positive last summer on
August 13, Talamoa immediately checked
into a hotel the shelter was using to house
infected staff. Talamoa’s cousin, Kainoa
Talamoa-Elderts, said he didn’t want to
pass it on to Legatasia and their
After his death, reminders of Talamoa’s
commitment to Kalihi’s children arrived in
the mail — cleats he ordered for his players
from eBay, Legatasia said.
Lives Lost is part of an ongoing series of
stories remembering people who have died
from the coronavirus around the world.
For timely updates and to read additional stories, visit
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