Episode 101: The CWHL vs. the AAF, Liz Knox of the CWHL on the CWHL, and abusive female coaches
On this week’s show, Amira, Shireen, and Jessica start by talking about Kelly Cates literally being left behind by her colleagues Jamie Carragher and Gary Neville. [4:56] Then they turn to the shocking shut down of the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, first comparing it to the short-lived and also now-defunct Alliance of American Football [17:30] before Shireen interviews Markham Thunder goalie and CWHL Players Association co-chair Liz Knox about the league folding, the reactions, and what's next. [36:50] Finally, the gang discuss abusive female coaches and how gender affects how we talk about them. [49:49]
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, [59:07] our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, starring the Calgary Inferno, [1:02:16] and what is good in our worlds. [1:09:51]
For links and a transcript…
*Petition to support football player Braeden Bradforth’s mother in getting justice for her son’s death: https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/justice-for-braeden
“Sylvia Hatchell accused of racially insensitive remarks, forcing UNC players to play hurt” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/colleges/sylvia-hatchell-accused-of-racially-insensitive-remarks-forcing-unc-players-to-play-hurt/2019/04/04/499eb824-56f4-11e9-814f-e2f46684196e_story.html?utm_term=.b6ac62344cf1
“Northern Kentucky Basketball Players Say Emotionally Abusive Coach Pitted Players Against Each Other” https://www.theodysseyonline.com/behind-closed-doors-what-really-is-going-on-with-the-womens-basketball-team-at-northern-kentucky-university
“Georgia Tech coach fired over alleged ‘toxic’ culture; coach disputes the dismissal” https://abcnews.go.com/Sports/georgia-tech-coach-fired-alleged-toxic-culture-coach/story?id=61980171
“Equal Opportunity Bullying” (from 2014) https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/03/13/are-reports-bullying-female-coaches-increasing-or-just-more-concerning
“Auriemma: Most coaches 'afraid' of their players” http://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/story?id=26425589&_slug_=most-coaches-afraid-their-players
“Female coaches say they got fired for speaking out against inequality” https://www.revealnews.org/blog/female-coaches-say-they-got-fired-for-speaking-out-against-inequality/
“Raheem Sterling calls Leonardo Bonucci's comments on Moise Kean abuse 'laughable'“ https://www.skysports.com/football/news/12040/11683048/raheem-sterling-calls-leonardo-bonuccis-comments-on-moise-kean-abuse-laughable
“Michael Bennett Cleared From Bogus Super Bowl LI Assault Charge” https://theshadowleague.com/michael-bennett-cleared-from-bogus-super-bowl-li-assault-charge/
“Grieving NJ mom on football player Braeden Bradforth death: College told me ‘go kick rocks’” https://www.app.com/story/sports/2019/04/04/grieving-nj-mom-says-kansas-college-told-me-go-kick-rocks-braden-bradforth-football-death/3351303002/
“Debbie Antonelli and LaChina Robinson join ACC network” http://theacc.com/news/2019/4/4/general-debbie-antonelli-and-lachina-robinson-join-acc-network.aspx
Karishma Ali, President of Chitral Women’s Sports Club and Aussie Rules Football player, was the first Pakistani person from that region to be named to Forbes Asia 30 under 30. https://www.forbes.com/profile/karishma-ali/#3e9e03866cb2
Reema Juffali: Saudi Arabia’s first female racing driver made her F4 British Championship debut at Brands Hatch https://www.bbc.com/sport/motorsport/47814192
Stephanie McCaffrey of the Chicago Red Stars write about having to walk away as a professional soccer player due to a neurological illness https://equalizersoccer.com/2019/03/22/stephanie-mccaffrey-blog-finding-my-silver-lining/
Melissa Borjas Pastrana, a ref from Honduras, will be the first woman to lead El Clásico between Olimpia and Motagua: https://radiohrn.hn/2019/04/04/melissa-borjas-arbitrara-el-clasico-nacional-entre-olimpia-y-motagua/
2019 Basketball Hall of Fame honorees: ://www.nba.com/article/2019/04/06/2019-naismith-basketball-hall-fame-announcement
“Fifty shades of white: the long fight against racism in romance novels” https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/apr/04/fifty-shades-of-white-romance-novels-racism-ritas-rwa
Amira: Welcome to Burn It All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it's definitely the feminist sports podcast you need. I'm Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and the women's gender and sexuality studies at Penn State. I am joined today by two of my awesome co-hosts, Jess Luther, freelance journalist and author in Austin, Texas, and Shireen Ahmed, journalist in Toronto, Canada.
Amira: Welcome to Burn It All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it's definitely the feminist sports podcast you need. I'm Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and the women's gender and sexuality studies at Penn State. I am joined today by two of my awesome co-hosts, Jess Luther, freelance journalist and author in Austin, Texas, and Shireen Ahmed, journalist in Toronto, Canada.
We have a great show for you today, first we're going to talk about what happens when leagues fail. Looking at the CWHL as well as the AAF, plus Shireen sits down with Canadian Women's Hockey League player, Liz Knox to get a up close and intimate take on what's going on in the wake of the CWHL announcement that it's ending. Lastly, we're going to talk about coaching yet again, this time we're looking specifically at recent allegations of abuse at the hands of women coaching, and asking what's different or perhaps the same when women coaches are the ones with power.
Before we get into all of that, I don't know, have you guys seen this video? I'm going to .... so there's this video of Sky Sports, and they're doing live coverage before Southampton, Liverpool game. Kelly Cates is talking and is asking a question about the match, and she's, she poses a great question to her co-hosts Gary Neville in Jamie Kroger. She asked the question and then they both walk away and answer.
They were like ... she just was standing there, and they walk away answering the question she posed, and but you could still see her in the background, and she's just kind of standing there with her microphone looking like. It's so awkward and later people on Twitter obviously were like, "What in the world? What is happening?" Obviously it's a really apt description for generally women covering sports. She took to Twitter later, but to clear it up and said, "They were going to interview in the tunnel, and it would've looked weird if they didn't have anything to say as they walked there." But what is happening here?
Jessica: It was to say the least to be the most charitable, it was just a very poor execution on the part of the director and people producing it. They clearly hadn't thought through the shot, but they didn't even, the men didn't even transition. They didn't say, "Thanks Kelly, we're headed to the tunnel," and then start ... there was no explanation. It is a hilarious ... I mean it's funny because it's just the perfect metaphor for women in sports, it just, the visual of it is spectacular, and it's wild. It's ...
Amira: People were like, "Is this like a sketch, like a parody about how it is for women covering sports?" It was like, "No, it was completely like a thing that happened."
Shireen: I totally appreciated Jess's comment, that the transition was terrible. All Gary Neville had to do was look over and say, "Thanks Kelly," and turn around. But it was just literally, it was so badly done, that's why Twitter went ablaze. Football Twitter was just like, "What's happening?" But what I really enjoyed out of this was the folks at MUNDIAL Mag actually used a spoof of it, and Amy who goes by @ThisFanGir1 on Twitter, she did an absolutely splendid spoof of it.
Shireen: Where somebody was speaking to her and then ... for their coverage of the FA cup, and just, she just turned around and started walking to prove a point at how awkward that is visually. You know what, I think that it makes us think about media training and people to understand optics of what they're seeing. But I felt bad for Kelly actually because everybody was coming at her and sort of saying, "What's going on here?" She had to endure a lot of that, it would have been nice to-
Amira: I kind of feel like also it was just the framing of the shot-
Jessica: But you could still see her the whole time.
Amira: You could see her in the background looking more and more like, sad. It was so awkward.
Jessica: Just the literal turning of the back, just ... oh man. Oh, sports media.
Amira: It was so awkward, exactly. Well, we will try our best to have non-awkward transitions into the show. This past week we heard news of two different leagues announcing that they were disbanding and ceasing operation. I wanted to place these two conversations with each other to talk largely about what happens when league fold, what are the narratives, what are the consequences?
I think that as many of you will know, there's also this kind of gendered element to it that we want to explore it. So Shireen, can you tell us a little bit about what went down?
Shireen: Sure, thanks Amira. As we know last Sunday, just exactly a week ago, we found out that the CWHL, the Canadian Women's professional Hockey League would be folding to what was called an economically unstable model, because the C-dub had actually set itself up in 2007 as a nonprofit. That sort of left the six teams and a bunch of players who were heading off to worlds, which are happening right now in Espoo, Finland left them literally with no time process.
The way it was executed was really, really rough. Particularly like a week pretty much after the Clarkson Cup finals. That sort of sent shock waves, and it was just really hard to sort of navigate all the feelings. I still have feelings, I'm in the angry phase now of my feelings. I think, I mean I was heartbroken for a good seven days, but so I think we'll get into a little more about that in my conversation with Liz Knox that's coming up on the show.
But I think to look at the idea of money and funding and investment, and why it's not sustainable. Then in the meantime the Alliance of American Football actually, also after 10 weeks of their season, 10 weeks. Within week number one, they were unable to pay players on time. They also said that they were folding, and I think it's really important to kind of understand ... and we'll get into this also, the money is certainly a central, is the central figure to this. Where it's not just about sport and the purity of sports and everything else.
I think the owner of the AAF, Tom Dundon is, he's actually also owner of the Carolina Hurricanes, and he had initially put in I believe $250 million for the league. But then ended up sort of saying that he wasn't going to be able to keep supporting it, and then that, it did so many things including leaving players who were in hotels stranded. Their belongings, I read were packed up and put in the lobby. Those with medical issues-
Jessica: Oh my gosh.
Shireen: It was really bad, those with medical issues, their bills would no longer be paid. They would have to, if they had were, like either nursing injuries or getting rehab or treating injuries or any type of condition or ailment, would have to do it out of their own pocket. It was just like leaving everybody in such a horrific lurch that it was just, it was sort of mind blowing, the extent of this. I know we'll talk about this because we do often talk about the actual people. There's people involved here, there's a lives involved here, and it's a lot to unpack.
Jessica: That's such a good point Shireen, because I actually thought that was one of the interesting parallels, and Amira, thank you for putting this in conversation. I actually hadn't been thinking of it that way this week, but in both leagues you had all these players who are like, "Oh my God, what has just happened here?" They both folded so fast and what that actually means to the athletes who are participating, and it was a really hard thing to watch.
I do think, I mean there's so much to say here, leagues are hard to get viable. That's one of the things that we learn over and over again, and how long was the CWHL, how long, how many seasons did they have?
Shireen: CWHL started in 2007, so this was their 12th year.
Jessica: Wow, that's really impressive, that makes me really sad for so many reasons. But that the AAF, eight weeks out of their twelve weeks or something like they barely made it. It's interesting that one of the other parallels is that they actually had similar models. Both of them, CWHL's nonprofit, the AAF was for profit, but they both had it where there were no team owners, that the leagues actually owned everything.
It's funny how much is the same, but I do, what I want to say that I find fascinating is one, that the AAF, their games were played on CBS. The initial game, which is kind of wild if you think about how hard it is to get women's sports ever on main channels. So much of the women's NCAA tournament has been on ESPN 2.
Just so difficult, and the fact that just from the jump, the AAF, but of course the two guys who started it, one was Charlie Ebersol, his dad is Dick Ebersol, who was a major TV executive in NBC sports for a long time. Served on ... and Dick Ebersol was on the board of the AAF, Bill Polian used to ... he was the GM for the Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers, Indianapolis Colts.
We think these guys have connections in a very white male world. The fact that they were able to make these deals to get their players and their teams, and their league on CBS from the jump is remarkable if you think about it. Then the other thing that's interesting is that I saw some headline with the CWHL about "What's the future for women's hockey?"
No one is wondering what's going to happen to men's football, and the fact that women and female athletes are always carrying this burden around with them. That if there is any kind of failure, whatever the reason for that failure, that everything around their sport will come crashing down. The viability of the sport itself is dependent on constant success, whereas men just have to remember, they just don't have that. They are so, so lucky that that is not, that they don't carry that with them all the time. No one is worried about men's football, it will be fine.
Shireen: I think that one of the things, just jumping off what Jess is saying is the idea of the C-dub players, many of them, the coaches, the volunteers always feel this obligation and duty to set the tone for the future. So much of, not just the marketing but their interviews and the way they speak about how young girls can see themselves as professional hockey players.
You never hear that conversation from football players or athletes in general. There's just this understanding that they'll always be a place to inspire them, it's never in question that there won't be. That's something that I'm sort of thinking about and on that note as well, one thing that the AAF and the CWHL have in common is, in a way the C-dub is like one of the highest levels of women's professional hockey in the world. But it's also a league in which in between worlds and in between Olympics, they develop, they keep progressing.
There's a place for those athletes, so it's not like we can just look at our teams at worlds or at Olympic time, which Canada has a tendency to do. Then, but what happens in between leagues like this or when that happens, there's continuity, there's play, there's competition. At the AAF, from what I understand, was also very much like a development league where those players needed training. They didn't quite make the NFL, but they were getting opportunity, they we're getting coaching. They were getting literally chances to play, and when you take that away, you take away so many opportunities.
It's not just like the big leagues and nothing, there are development needs all along the way, minors, whatnot. I'm not saying that the C-dub was minor, it wasn't, it was like the pinnacle of women's hokey. But, and it's almost like the women who are not on the national teams won't have that opportunity. Someone said something, it was really sad for me to hear, women ... I think it was Dr. Ann Pegoraro and when I was in Boise last week, she says, "A lot of women will just walk away from the game, they'll just stop." That really pained me.
Amira: I think that a really good point Shireen, there's a piece by Nate Jackson about the promises that the AAF makes. He talks about ... this is on Deadspin, he talks about, there this way where you have played in the NFL or you're not quite there, whatever, but you want to keep playing. This is the UFL, there's been other attempts at this and nothing will be sustained.
One of the things he says, he says the NFL's brand is so tied to those NFL teams, and that's been synonymous with American football. It's like "You have the New York Giants pajamas as a kid, you didn't have Birmingham whenever the fuck it is," That's his quote. He goes, "It may be too late for a new football hero costumes, but it won't stop people from trying."
That AAF tried to take a crack at it, next to it will be the XFL and someone else, all of them will have ex NFL coaches, ex NFL players and the promise of being signed to NFL rosters. And the ever present optimism of a football team with opponent on the schedule. There's something comforting in that no matter how dark the clouds overhead.
I think that again though is the way we talk about it, so the guys playing in the AAF are trying to play in UFL or whatever. They're just football players who want to play football, and there's this kind of romanticism to it. I think my students always like glob onto our discussions about the Lingerie Football League. We watched documentary where it ... no, I'm sorry, now they're called the Legends Football League. But we watched a documentary that follows a group of these women around,~ and a lot of them get into really heated debate about, is it worth it?
They don't, they have to have insurance, but it's not provided, they barely get paid, they mostly pay to be in the league. They're objectified, all of this stuff. They have other jobs, and so people will say, "Well, why is it worth it?" Your love of this ... I know that you've a love in this sport, well take a football and go play in the backyard." I feel like that gets applied to women professional athletes in general.
"I know you have a love of this sport, but it's not worth it. You don't have the infrastructures, so just go kick around a ball in the backyard and not try to make these leagues institutionalized and viable, et cetera." I find that a lot of the rhetoric around all the kind of attempts to start up an alternative to the NFL, A, romanticize the desire of men to play sports and are perfectly legitimized by their continued attempts to institutionalize something. But also driving a lot more critiques about the NFL as a monopoly and these kind of larger systemic issues, where when you talk about women's sports and it's like nobody can see an institution, nobody can see a systemic issue.
It's just like, it's all about pathologies, about women don't care about sports, or it's not market, whatever. It's really pathologized, instead of talking about actual structural inequities. That all of a sudden when we're talking about the AFF, we can all of a sudden critique the NFL as a corporation and monopoly. It's like, "Oh, now you have systemic critique? Now you have arranged to do that?" That's been really, I think interesting as well.
Shireen: It leaves me wondering what happens next. I'm wondering in a lot of ways like what is it, where do the players go? There's discussion ... and just I'll add this because it's relevant that the NWHL came out with a possibility, in my opinion, that was badly timed. Just because it was literally the day of the CWHL announcement was made to partner up with the NHL and Gary Bettman has pledged money, et cetera, et cetera.
It also must be said that the NHL has donated $100,000 to the CWHL to make sure that players are paid. This is what we're talking about in terms of money and in terms of people are getting paid, being able to pay their bills. It just makes me think where we can go here, but again, it gets back to in terms of the systems Amira that you talked about, to making sure that the financial one is in place so it doesn't have to subjugate in other areas. People need to live and the hockey players are no different.
Amira: Next up, Shireen interviews Markham Thunder goalie and CWHL Players Association co-chair Liz Knox about the folding of the CWHL and the reactions, and what's next.
Shireen: Hi flame throwers, Shireen here, I'm so, so honored to have Liz Knox on with us to talk CWHL, the league, #noleague, and where we are going, and what women's hockey deserves. Liz, for those of you that don't know her, is a goal tender with Markham Thunder, the 2018 Clarkson Cup champions. She's also a gold medalist, she is an incredible person and she's also co-chair of the CWHL Players Association. Liz, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down.
Liz: Wow, that's quite an intro, thanks very much for having me.
Shireen: Let's talk about this and jump right into it. First of all, you just finished the season, March 24th was the Clarkson Cup final. It was watched by like over 170,000 people across three networks, which was a first, was aired in US and Canada. Did you have any idea at all or an inkling that the league was going to fold?
Liz: No, no, I had no clue, I went to the game on Sunday, probably half a dozen, maybe 10 of our teammates, and that was great hockey. Everyone's, the spirits were high, we already talked about next year. In Markham, we just love hockey, so sometimes you get that lull after the season like, "Oh, you need a break." But we were keen to get back in the dressing room and get back on the ice with each other. It was, that was really shocking to have a week later, obviously the announcement come out, but it did, it was crazy.
Shireen: I will have to ask forgiveness, because I actually thought it was an April Fools day joke a little early.
Liz: I saw that on Twitter a couple of times and I was like, "Man, I guess that's what we get for that timing." That's a little bit of payback I guess.
Shireen: Let's talk about timing because at least like 24 players from the C-dub are actually at worlds right now. Not just that it's an injustice generally, but to try to get out of that and then get into the mindset, you're a national team player formally, how is that possible? They won today against Switzerland, but how difficult is this for anybody? Then to be expected to go and represent your country, that must be impossible?
Liz: I have kind of like two takes on it. The first is that, I don't want to say it was a good thing. It definitely was not a good thing, but it's widely known obviously that the World Championships puts a huge spotlight on women's hockey and for people that aren't hockey fans, that might be one of the times this year, maybe the only time this year that they catch some of the action. That they see these women on TV and that the women are given a voice to say, "This is what's happening and this is how we feel about it."
In some ways maybe it was timed that way. The other side of it, which is like a sad reality is that as tough as I know it is for these girls to refocus and set their sights on their goals for the World Championship, it's what we do. You know what I mean? We fight so hard for everything, every little inch that we get in women's hockey. Certainly this is emotionally a heavy time for those players. But at the same time it's like, they will refocus and they will play their best hockey because that's what women's hockey players do.
We don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for ourselves or whatever it may be. It's, you got to show up, and you got to put the best product on the ice, because if you don't, somebody is waiting there to tell you it's not good enough. Like I said, it's kind of a sad reality, but it's what they do. They're the best players in the world mentally and physically.
Shireen: So Hayley Wickenheiser, her tweet about how it's one step back, two steps forward possibly, and it could be a good thing. What do you think about that?
Liz: Hayley's got a very interesting resume to back up her point, and I think it's one that we should take very seriously. It's a hard one to see right now, obviously, like you say, it's a very emotional time for us and we're dealing with a huge loss. We're grieving not just for ourselves but for our teammates and their futures in the league.
But Hayley knows the game, she's been in all worlds of it. She's been on the men's side, she's now in the NHL. She's been obviously very heavily in the women's side. She's kind of achieved all the goals and benchmarks that she set out for herself. For her to say that ... I'm not reading into it, but at the same time she's been around, so maybe she's seeing something that, or trying to guide us at least into seeing the bigger picture here.
Shireen: No, that's totally fair, she's like the hockey profit of Canada, I guess in a lot of ways. But I think the positivity there, and you're right about the experience, I totally understand that. From a perspective of players, what had some of your teammates, what were some of the reactions that we didn't see? Because from where I was sitting, it seemed as if a lot of the C-dub players we're finding out from social media. Is that how many found out?
Liz: Yeah, so all the players were invited onto the call on Sunday morning. The PA and the GMs hopped on a call at 9:30 AM where we were read the script that the CWHL was going to cease operations. Then at 10:00 ... so only half an hour afterwards, all the other players were invited to join the call. But of course we only got the notification on I think Friday.
So some girls, you know, we’re right after season, girls are going away and girls have other commitments to their family, what not. Not everybody was able to get on the call. Those of us that were on the call got the information there, and then it was actually, as we were on the call that the CWHL had posted to their Twitter, basically the announcement.
I think that's where a lot of that overlap came to for girls that weren't able to make calls. It was like, we're still in the middle of it now. It's all over social and then they jumped right to the media.
Shireen: Then this Jenna Heyford comments of how to the C-dub which started off as a nonprofit in 2007, was an economically non-sustainable model. What did that feel like when there's so many other ways we could gauge success?
Liz: You make a great point honestly, I think the league was successful, I truly do. My first year was 2011 I could have named everybody in the stands and like our jerseys were ... we didn't even have team names at the time, we were ... I was in Brampton at the time, before we moved to Markham and our jerseys were just brand new-
Shireen: I remember.
Liz: It was a pretty bush league, but it was tough to get fans out, it was tough to get people knowing who we were, what we were doing. I don't think that it's a matter of the league being unsuccessful, I think we were very successful. We've reached a much larger market than we did in my first year. Saw a lot of more investment from different spheres of the hockey world. But in terms of being economically unsustainable, I unfortunately don't really get to see the books.
Anything I say right now is obviously speculation, but if I had to guess, we're not for profit and so people automatically assume that means like we can't make money. Well we can make money, but we just weren't, so I kind of see where they're coming from in that regard. Do I think we could have made it another year or another five years? Honestly I do.
I think there's people who are willing to invest in women's hockey and they're out there. But I think that maybe ... and especially because I know Jenna, maybe the thought was that we're just not seeing the growth that we want to, and we're not a not for profit like the NCAA. We're not generating millions of dollars, we're barely paying our gas money right now. It's tough to say, I guess it depends on what your idea of sustainable is.
Shireen: The interview that you did for The Current with, Courtney Szto, Dr. Szto's been on our show before, she's a friend of the show. We will link to our show notes, because that was really important, it was a really, really, really fantastic interview. But also you all talked about the idea of how, and I think Courtney mentioned this specifically, that you have to invest in something to make money.
It's not as if women's hockey cannot be profitable, and it's not that we can only get away with supporting the national team once every four years and possibly at Worlds. It's the development that goes into it. I've been coming to C-dub games for a while, even though I'm admittedly a Les Canadiennes fan, when they they come to watch the Toronto Furies play or come to Markham, I’ll watch them there. I know you broke my heart, Liz in 2018-
Liz: I didn’t-
Shireen: But I have seen the growth, I have seen with my own eyes. I was fortunate enough to take my kids, I have three boys and a soccer player, and so I take my four kids with friends to go watch. The boys were totally riveted, the level and caliber of this hockey is incredible and then also the opportunity to talk to the players, to meet with them. They're always, you're always doing autograph signings, taking photos, inspiring, like the amount of kids. Even at the All Star game that I went to this year, it was incredible. It was, there was boys teams there as well, but just the amount of people had grown so much, and to given the opportunity to grow as well.
The NCAA women's basketball competition, it's in its 22nd year, which is why it is right now the way it is. Do you think the C-dub got a fair shot even?
Liz: It's tough to say because if you look at where the CW started, the CW as we know it. It was 12 years ago, 2007 and it was basically because the people that were investing at that time didn't believe in it. They basically, for lack of better terms, they gave up on it, was like "This isn't profitable, we're not making money, so we're out." It's a very different situation than where we're at right now, which is that the people that are investing in the game actually do believe in it. But we don't have something in place to really flourish those investments. I think that we're in a whole demographic of people that the NHL can't touch, that pro men's hockey can't touch, because it's not inclusive.
That's the thing about the women's hockey demographic is that, we are very inclusive. We are a very LGBTQ allied and oriented and so you're reaching a whole new market that the NHL is trying. They have their hockey's for everyone and they have their girls' hockey day or weekend, but no, we're doing this every day. It's incredible to see the fan base where it's come from, and at Markham home games, we have young boy’s teams, we have young girl’s teams.
We have, I would say at least half the stands is just people of our age who are like they're friends of ours or they're fans of ours, and it's totally different than what it was 12 years ago. Were we given a fair shot? It's like we're doing the best with what we got. You know what I mean?
I don't know who the fair shot would come from. I think the league truly did work hard to give opportunities to us, but it was a little bit of a dollars and cents game and we weren't seeing the investment from sponsors that we were hoping.
Shireen: That's fair, onto another ounce of culpability, media, Canadian sports media, U.S media has been all over the story. How do you feel about them not being there before? "Hey guys ..." and I'll say guys, because the majority of sports media in Canada are guys. "Where have you been before this?"
Liz: It's funny, I saw ... I can't remember who it was now. Somebody had tweeted out like, popular sports media on women's sports, and it was like small story about the formation of a league. Crickets throughout its existence, massive story when it fails. I kind of do feel that way, but it is a story, and people want to know why did it fail?
It is a little bit ironic, but at the same time it's an opportunity for us to tell them, "You want to know why it didn't work? Well, they don't see us. Families don't see us, young girls don't see us. They do if they come to a game, but they have to know about the game to come to it, and they don't see that." That was another huge obstacle to CWHL, is that we're doing the best we can with our marketing dollars to promote ourselves. And the players are certainly going out of their way to promote ourselves. But if they don't know you're there, then they're not going to come buy a ticket and put their butts in the seats.
On The Current the other day somebody ... one of the women brought up the point of broadcasting, and I think it was Courtney actually. Putting it on the CBC-
Shireen: Oh, yeah, she called them out on the CBC.
Liz: Nothing like calling you out on your own show and, "Oh, sorry your mic just cut out. Oh, it's weird, it looks like we've lost Courtney." But no, and she's right, there is no broadcasting, and in this day and age with the way that we consume our sports and all of our media. If you can't see it, if it's not in your face, you're not going to go out seeking it. There's so much media on your screens and on your phones and everywhere. If we're not consistently seeing women's hockey they're people won't seek it out themselves.
Shireen: In terms of next steps, in terms of the NWHL, you did mention a really good point just we were chatting before we started recording about the proposition to have Detroit and Montreal's expansion teams in the NWHL. It's not a new idea, it's something that was suggested a couple of years ago. Do you think that maybe Dani Rylan should have waited a little while for it to sink in as opposed to coming out?
I can't even with Gary Bettman, so I don't even want to, I just cannot. But just maybe they should have waited, and maybe I say this as a grieving fan, I don't know.
Liz: I think there's like some ignorance there and I don't mean that in a derogatory term. I just mean that, because you're in Ontario and you understand the climate of like the sense of loss that hockey fans, and women's hockey fans are feeling right now. I say ignorance in the fact that they're south of the border, they've got their own thing going on. It's going well for them from what I can see, they saw us as an opportunity. "Yup, let's jump on it, let's get in those markets right now."
I think it's, it was a little, almost insensitive maybe just to not give us the time to be like, "I haven't even cleared my stall out yet, and now you're jumping in and saying, well it's okay, we got a new home for you here," and putting two teams. Like we said, this was part of their plan all along, this was part of their three year plan, five years ago.
I understand that's part of it is strategic, It's not, I don't know if it's malicious, but it is part of their business strategy. But it's really tough right now for us players, and there's 150 of us, 120 of us and two teams, it doesn't really help us.
Shireen: Not to mention that Inferno who are the reigning Clarkson Cup champions also are not part of that expansion. It's like, there’s a team China, there's like two in the GTA, Greater Toronto Area, there's just.
Liz: We have these emotional connections to our teams.
Shireen: Oh, God yes.
Liz: I was fortunate enough to be on the team when Markham moved and we rebranded, and we were all part of that. That was not something like ... the nice thing about the CWHL is it's very intimate to its players. The original slogan was, "For the players, by the players."
We had a say in what the logo looked like, We had a say on what the colors we're going to be. We had a say in what our dressing layout was going to be like. This is something that we've literally built, and it's all gone, so it's a very difficult time. It's not, you can't just throw a bandaid on it and we're all good.
Shireen: No, but I love what you just said about the league being built by the players for the players. That's really important, and Canadian women's hockey culture is something else. It is its own thing, and I totally agree with you. There's a lot of people and not just in Ontario that are really heartbroken, and looking and trying to be optimistic. I think it's okay to hang on to that, and I will certainly do that.
I just wanted you to just mention one thing, I saw on Twitter today and today is Thursday that Markham Thunder is actually auctioning some of their jerseys. That was like a punch in the gut to me, so I can't even imagine what that was like. Was that something that the players talked about as well?
Liz: You know what, it's something that our GM decided on and it's something actually that we've done every year. We get to keep one jersey and then one jersey goes to auction. The act of actually selling them was not something that was that shocking, but honestly, when I saw that today, I literally started to cry.
I was like, I'm so heartbroken for the players that we're kind of forced into this. It's such a privilege to think that you could choose when you're ready to walk away from the game. And for some of these players this will be the thing that means they don't play pro women's hockey. That's gut wrenching to me, it's hard to think of the people that committed their time and their days to me, not having the chance to choose when they want to walk away.
Just the image of seeing all the jerseys hung up, and it really brought it home, and I've been so overwhelmed and busy with media and stuff like that the last few days, and happy to do it. But that was one thing that I was like, "Wow, like this is going to change forever."
Shireen: I hear you and I again, I just want to reiterate how much everybody in the C-dub, from volunteers, to coaching staff, to trainers, to players. Obviously how much we saw you hustle, how hard you worked and how much joy you gave all of us. I don't even know how to ... how do I send a thank you card out to everybody? How do I do that other than just tweeting that, "I stan you all."
I hope there is some type of resolution and some type of opportunity for everybody, particularly the sacrifices the players have made personally, financially for the love of the game. I also want to thank you for being on Burn It All Down today because this has been incredibly insightful and really, really important. You have fans and friends in us, so if we can ever do anything. And just wanted to say I was very serious about you coming to my birthday party. I wasn't kidding about that at all, I wasn't kidding.
Liz: Awesome, well I'll leave January open but you hit the nail on the head there and it's, the players do work so hard, and I look around the league. Actually Mel Desrochers kind of retweeted when I put the link up, about our jerseys going up. You see players from other teams realizing, "This is it." If I could leave on a positive note, it would just be that I hope that your kids' generation or my kids' generation one day will grow up in a world where it's not such a grind.
I read the, a Ted Lindsay article last night actually, and the climate of the NHL at the time when Ted Lindsay stepped in and formed the NHLPA. Reading that article was so similar to some of the things that we're going through. The quote, "For the love of the game," was something they used back then and it was like, these guys are sacrificing their lives and their families, and they do it because they love it, and we're no different. But women's hockey was first in the Olympics in what 1998?
Shireen: In Nagano I think.
Liz: Yeah, so our history is very young, but at the same time we're living in a different generation. We're in 2019 and I really do believe that there's better for us.
Shireen: Awesome, thank you so much for being on the show was awesome Liz.
Liz: Awesome, thanks for having me.
Amira: This week we also saw a number of headlines in a variety of places about coaches behaving badly. We've talked about this on our show before. We've talked about abusive coaches and power dynamics within coaching, but one of the things that we noticed with the stories emerging this week is that a lot of the coaches seem to be women.
We wanted to take a second and have a conversation on what is the coaching dynamic between women coaches, and what happens when it's women's coaches who are being abusive? Jess.
Jessica: I apologize for, this is going to be a bit of a long introduction, but I want to make sure it is, be clear about what Olsen said over the last month or so. This week, UNC, the University of North Carolina suspended their women's basketball program, the coaches. After a large group of parents of the players told administrators that head coach Sylvia Hatchell made racist remarks to her players and forced them to play through serious injuries.
According to the Washington Post, at one point, Hatchell suggested quote, "Her players would get hanged from trees with nooses at an upcoming game if their performance didn't improve." Another time tried, quote, "To get her players to engage in a war chant to honor the native American ancestry of an assistant coach."
As to playing through injury again from the Washington Post, quote, "One player later learned she needed corrective shoulder surgery. Another learnt she had a torn tendon in her knee. A third said Hatchell had cast out on whether she had suffered a concussion." This comes on the heels of two other reports of abuse of female basketball coaches. Last month, a player for Camryn Whitaker, the head coach of the Northern Kentucky Women's basketball team, wrote a lengthy piece about the quote, "Verbal aggression, intimidation, manipulation and humiliation Whitaker lobbed at her players."
According to the player, Taryn Taugher who wrote a long piece at Odyssey, Whitaker called her lazy, attacked her physique, threatened to take her scholarship away. She would physically isolate players from the team, if she was unhappy with them, like force them to sit at the end of the bench kind of thing. Once humiliated a teammate for having Crohn's disease. One player lodged a title IX complaint against Whitaker in December and Whitaker responded, quote, "I don't know who's trying to ruin my life, but I want to let you know that I am invincible and I'm not going anywhere. I am your coach, I signed a contract and I'm not going anywhere."
Both UNC and Northern Kentucky are investigating. Then there's Michelle Joseph, the now former head coach at Georgia Tech who was fired last month after a completed investigation in which quote, "Players described feeling insecure and nervous, anxious and scared at various points in the season and in their careers. Others described the environment is toxic, suffocating, draining and miserable and unhealthy." The players describe coach Joseph's conduct is bullying and emotionally, mentally and verbally abusive.
Joseph though says she was fired because she was advocating for gender equity at Georgia Tech and that these allegations are manufactured to get rid of her and shut her up. What's happening at Georgia Tech is where this gets really sticky. In 2016 revealed that a deep dive into inequality and women's sports, and in that reporting found quote in the past decade at least 29 female coaches and eight female sports administrators had filed retaliation lawsuits against their universities.
These lawsuits follow a similar storyline. A woman witnesses some discrimination in the athletic department, she speaks up to a superior, then she gets fired or receives a negative performance evaluation. Then in nearly half of those retaliation cases, 13 of the 29, the coaches say they were accused of mistreating or verbally abusing their players.
Here we are again, a rush of reports of female coach as being abusive, and I believe that female coaches are as capable of being abusive as male coaches. Because I believe the line between coaching and abuse is razor thin a lot of the time. I also believe that we are harsher on women, report them for being harsh and that administrators, administrations would use this to get rid of whistleblowers. I believe all of that, so I find this to be just a complicated topic where I want to honor all these possibilities without diminishing any of them. What are you guys thinking at this point? Of course women can abuse, I mean, of course I believe that that is totally possible and that's happened.
Amira: I really like how you set that up because I think that there's always a lot of things in operation. I think 100%, this idea that women coaches are motherly or caring or whatnot. Belies the fact that exactly what you said, that there's power dynamics at play, and power can always be abused. It doesn't matter whose wielding it.
I think that, obviously I work here at Penn State where we had a huge historic case of abuse at the hands of Rene Portland. So certainly I think that, and I think your point is interesting about ... your second point is interesting, brings up things I haven't really considered. But as you said it, I was like, "Yeah, totally." That there is a way that women behaving in same ways as their male counterparts will be viewed more harshly and can be used as a way to discipline whistle blowers, or unruly women or whatever.
I think that that is really compelling to hold simultaneously and think about these kind of boxes that women have to fit into. That means that the policing on either side, it's kind of muddled. Shireen?
Shireen: I think that when I was just listening to Jess, you intro particularly about what happened and the comments that were made and they're not micro aggressions.
Jessica: No, no-
Shireen: Sylvia Hatchell saying, "You're going to hang from a tree ..." it's not a micro aggression, it's like actual violence. I'm not stunned, but I also think that there's this very gray area where women will say, "Okay, we're going to talk about the amplification of women because women in coaching positions is really important." But not talk about the underlying issues, which is why we sort of have to look at something to what Amira says and not do an uncritical celebration.
Let's just be really happy that like people like Kim Mulkey at Baylor are doing this, and not look at the negativity and the toxicity that she propelled herself or she has propelled in the past, whatnot.
I know very little about a lot of things, but I found myself engaging into needless Twitter battles with people because of just, it's like, and hear Baylor and I'm just like, "Go read Jessica Luther and don't talk to me," kind of thing is like literally where I am now. But I think it's sort of like, very much white women I see here in the positions of power that we're talking about. That are using that, "Well, I'm a woman, ergo rely on me," that thing of I'm a woman and people are coming against me.
But when they're engaging in homophobic or transphobic or racialized aggressions, it just gets muddled and they use the shield of I'm a woman. Does that make sense what I'm saying?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely.
Amira: Yeah, totally, totally. I think it's, especially in the Hatchell case, obviously things are still coming out. We'll figure out where it all ends. But you can tell even by her lawyer, they're using a very old playbook, to borrow from Jess's apt analogy about things. She's like, "Oh, I've coached so many African Americans, I don't have a racist bone in my body." Nobody has racist bones, bones are bones, that what are you? It's just so tiring, it's so tiring already, Jess.
Jessica: That's so interesting because just yesterday I was talking to Dan Solomon, the guy that I reported with a lot about Tommy Tuberville. He's going to run for Senate in Alabama, as a Republican, he's a former head football coach at lots of different places. He's running, in his announcement tweet, he had MAGA hashtag and I think about Bobby Bowden stumping for Trump. Just the idea that white people are, that their racism is softened somehow or cured or whatever the right word would be, by being around a lot of black people is totally, we can put that lie to bed by looking at these football coaches.
This idea that Sylvia Hatchell because she's coached black woman and somehow can't be racist is just whatever. One of the things I wanted to bring up, and we've talked about this before and we will talk about it again, is that, sports are so gendered and they're gendered as male.
Anytime that women are participating they're somehow upsetting the natural order of things and we're trying to fit them into this very gendered idea, and of what we think sports are. What does it mean for a woman to look tough, for a woman to be a tough coach? I do think it's always going to look worse, It's easier to see them as abusive in the way that we have these things framed.
Again, I think they're probably being abusive because I think coaching in general and the way that we've done it for a really long time tends to lean that way. But I was thinking a lot in prepping for this about Joni Taylor, and we talked about her at the live show in episode 97. She was the one who returned to coaching immediately after having a baby, and we talked about how she felt, she probably felt pressure to do that.
Just this idea of like what women are up against in order to prove that they should be there, but then they're tiptoeing in a way that men just don't have to. Nothing's going to happen to Tom Izzo even though everyone got really mad at the head coach of Michigan State for the way that he yelled at Aaron Henry, and I think we talked about this on one of the episodes.
Do you know, Geno Auriemma was out here defending Izzo this week and talking about how players are too sensitive these days, and that he's worried about how easy it is to say that a coach is abusive. Nothing's going to happen to Tom Izzo, no one thinks that anything is going to happen to him for what we've all actually watched happen on television. It's just so fucking complicated, and it'd just be nice if gender wasn't ...
Jessica: This is the problem here.
Amira: It's interesting Jessica, I generally agree with you, but I also think that there's women coaches who've become so embedded in their institution that they get to that level of protection. One historically-
Jessica: No, I agree too, no, I totally, totally agree with that.
Amira: When I think of Rene Portland here and it wasn't that she was just kind of, she was protected by Paterno. Or I think of people like Kim Mulkey who.
Jessica: I was thinking Mulkey too, the other day and the intro and one of the pieces they did, they were, they wanted to tell us about her grand baby and how she softened because of the grand baby. In order to get us there, they had players talking about how terrifying Kim Mulkey is. I was like, "Are you celebrating this?"
Amira: We've seen what Brittney Griner says, we know. I ... no comment, but have seen her up close and in various interactions with players and have my own kind of a personal experience with her in that way. I think, but what is true is that she's so embedded in that institution that she gets afforded all the protections of that. Baylor's women basketball sells out, their crowd is amazing.
It's one of those spaces that operates very similar to how we envision male sports operating. I think that there's pockets of that around the country that, and then in those cases-
Jessica: I think Hatchell's going to get that protection at UNC, she's her own kind of institution there. I think this is going to be really interesting to see how the school actually handles this because I think she's a big deal there. This is a big deal and I wonder-
Amira: It's a big thing-
Jessica: Institutional protection because it's North Carolina, it's racism on top of everything else. But I agree with you that these women get that same sort of protection, certain women at certain schools and I worry that Hatchell's one of them.
Amira: I'm interested to see because it's six people and not one.
Jessica: It's a lot, you're right, you're right.
Shireen: But the odds of them like literally wiping out the coaching staff and then bringing in more ... I just don't think that's going to happen. I think it's a lot easier to do this public. We're working with cultural sensitivity in this and then have the rudder while she's ... I mean I find that, "I've coached black players before," as the coaches, "I have a black friend."
That doesn't ... and people are not even taking into consideration the power dynamic that lies there. It's unbelievable that this could even be used, but it's not unbelievable because it's going to be, it's part of the way the system was set up. It wasn't set up to benefit athletes or black or brown bodies, it just wasn't. It won't surprise me if absolutely nothing happens. Jess like you said, if she's an institution there, then you know how seldom institutions crumble.
Amira: All right, It's time for everyone's favorite time of the show where we take up all of the things that is burnable this week and we toss them on our burn pile and set them aflame. Shireen, what are you burning this week?
Jessica: Everything. She's burning everything.
Shireen: I thank you both for your patience, literally listing in Slack all the things I was angry about this week. This is a tough one, there's a lot of things that I wanted to burn, but definitely the situation with Juventus' Moise Kean being verbally abused by Cagliari fans in Serie A. But then, it's not enough, the monkey noises weren't enough. But then being publicly chided by his own captain Leonardo Bonucci was the pinnacle.
Yes, this is Juventus, this is the Serie A champs. Yes, the ones who have been protecting, my absolute thorn in my football side, Cristiano Ronaldo, and throughout everything. They're basically going to say, and what Leonardo Bonucci said, and I'll just give you some context here, is Moise Kean was literally being racially abused as he was playing.
His response to that was to score. He's 19 years old, absolutely brilliant, brilliant player, and he went and stood arms open facing the crowd, and his Instagram posts later was, "This is how you respond to this kind of abuse." He didn't say anything, can you imagine being 19 years old? Then what Leonardo Bonucci said in an interview later was that, "Well, it was 50, 50, he shouldn't have reacted that way."
I'm sorry, I'm not down for Leonardo Bonucci telling young black men how to respond to racism. It's almost like you can't do anything, if he had reacted in a different way, like Blaise Matuidi did, his teammate was far more visibly upset and said to his captain, he was going to walk off the pitch if that ever happened again.
Because Matuidi was probably triggered by this because it's happened to him. But then for that to happen, and then Juventus to be like, "No," Juve to say, "Well ..." and even the coach Allegri was like, "Well, it could have gone either way." No, it couldn't have gone either way, there's only one position you have to take on racism, is that it's bad. This really is not complicated Juventus-
Amira: Right. The bar is so low, just roll over it.
Shireen: The bar is on the floor. And nobody's looking at Juve to be our moral compass of fucking anything. Nobody is doing that, but this is not what this is. What happened was, Raheem Sterling, who we all love, came out publicly and supported Kean, Eniola Aluko came out, because she plays on Juventus' women's side and said very publicly she supported him.
That was important too. So again, the work is being done by black athletes to support black athletes. Meanwhile the rich people and the white so called allies are doing nothing. That whole thing, that whole Juve train of whiteness, and you should've done it this way, the Bonucci, the club, that whole racism, the monkey chants, all of that, I want to torch.
Amira: I really wanted you to say, "So, yes Raheem, it's laughable, but it's also burnable."
Shireen: Oh gosh, Raheem, It's laughable, but it's also burnable.
Amira: I want to burn this week, I don't know if you guys remember. We talked about it in this show last year almost. There's a case against Michael Bennett that came out under weird circumstances from the Houston PD, where they accused him of pushing past a quadriplegic elderly woman.
Jessica: Oh yes, that's right.
Amira: You remember this, and we talked about it because it came.
Jessica: It was the Super Bowl was that what it was?
Amira: It was on the Super Bowl but they didn't bring charges for like six months later, and it was curious timing because it was like right before Things That Make White People Uncomfortable came out. Like literally right before, and they held this whole press conference where they called him ridiculous things. The police chief of Houston, Art Acevedo, he basically held this huge press conference and he called Bennett morally corrupt and morally bankrupt.
He just engaged in all sorts of defamation, and they had a very public presser for seven months old charge, that they didn't have any video evidence for despite that fact that they had him in video celebrating everything else.
It was at the same time because literally at the same time, the same police chief has a long history both in Houston as well as when he was a police chief over in Austin. Where there has been ridiculously cases of police brutality and racialized police brutality. He has just never had that kind of moral outrage, he's never had the kind of presser to condemn anything, he just doesn't do it.
This was a circus back when this happened, and so this week they quietly announced that all charges were dropped. That they had nothing to support the case, and that they want to be proceeding with it. It really irritates me that you get very loud and you get very vocal, and you want to hold pressers, and you want to call people names. You want to defame and you want to do this, seven months after this allegedly took place, and just mere days before Michael and Dave's book, when, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable drops.
You want to do it in a moment to try to discredit his activism, and you want to be super loud when you do that. But all of a sudden now you want to be whispering. What's sad about it is it does its job. It's denigrated Michael, it's, there's many people who won't see this update. There's many people who don't know that the charges are dropped, they're just going to remember the police chief calling him morally bankrupt and that's all they need. They just need that soundbite to further disparage and denigrate players who dare to be vocal and speak out.
This effort to kind of discipline black bodies and it's just really annoying because it's not ... I'm just annoyed. I'm genuinely annoyed, that you want to be loud then fucking be loud all the time. Be just as loud when you're correcting your mistake. It's dumb, I'm glad that Michael is not dealing with these charges anymore, and I'm just over it. Burn it down.
Amira: All right Jess, take us home.
Jessica: Well since I have the opportunity right now, I just want to point out to everyone that Art Acevedo who is the police in Houston. That when he was in California trying to go for the head of the CHP, the California Highway Patrol, he was sued at the time by a woman who said that he was showing nude photographs of her. She was a fellow CHP officer, to other high ranking officers while on duty. He is just garbage, and has been for a long time and keeps going up the ladder they do.
Amira: Some might even call him morally bankrupt?
Jessica: Yeah, I know. All right, here we go. We have talked multiple times on the show about Jordan McNair, the University of Maryland football player who died a preventable death from heat stroke after a spring training last year. Well last August, Braeden Bradforth, a football player at Garden City Community College in Kansas collapsed and died from heat stroke after a grueling workout.
He'd only been on campus for two days at that point, his coach Jeffrey Sims, said that the 19 year old's death was most likely due to a blood clot, and of course had nothing to do with the teams practice. An autopsy result in December, proves Sims wrong. Now Braeden's mother Joanne Atkins-Ingram wants the school held accountable.
In December, she told the Asbury Park Press, quote, "I hold the whole school liable. It's bittersweet. I'm glad to know the truth, but it doesn't bring him back." The school has done an internal investigation but won't tell Bradforth's family the results. Surveillance footage from where he was found on campus has been deleted. The Kansas Attorney General's office has rejected a lawmaker's request that they step in and investigate because they say it's out of their jurisdiction. In March, this past March, the U.S Rep Chris Smith, a Republican from New Jersey, wrote a letter to Garden City Community College president Ryan Ruda and requested an independent investigation.
The school gave a brief reply that said, "Inquiries should be made to the school's insurance carrier." The family is considering suing because what other option is left to find out what exactly what he happened to Braeden? There's a petition that you can sign to join a chorus of voices trying to put pressure on Garden City Community College to be transparent about what happened, and we'll link to that in the show notes.
Oh, and Sims, the head coach who tried to say, "This was a blood clot and nothing to do with practice." Well, he was moved up the ranks from coaching community college ball to being the head football coach at Missouri Southern State University. So burn all of this. Burn.
Amira: After all that burning, it's time to highlight some bad ass women of the week. First honorable mentions, it was recently announced that LaChina Robinson, and Debbie Antonelli will be women's basketball analyst on the new ACC network, congrats. Also more women's football fans, this time in Sweden where 25,882 people packed the Friends Arena to watch Sweden and Germany play. Also shout out to Megan Gustafson from the University of Iowa who was voted the AP player of the year this year. Congrats to you.
Karishma Ali, the president of the Chitral Women's Sports Club and Aussie Rules football player, was the first Pakistani person from that region to be named to Forbes Asia 30 under 30 list. Congrats to you. Reema Juffali, Saudi Arabia's first female racing driver made her first F4 British championship debut at Brands Hatch this weekend. The 27 year old will drive for defending champions, Double R Racing alongside Louis Foster and Sebastian Alvarez.
Also Stephanie McCaffrey of the Chicago Red Stars who had to walk away as a professional soccer player due to a neurological illness, but she wrote a beautiful piece in The Equalizer about her journey called Finding My Silver Lining. Happy trails Stephanie. Kylie Masse, the University of Toronto female athlete of the year is competing at the world trials and is now ranked number one in the world in the 200 backstroke. Melissa Borjas Pastrana, who's a ref from Honduras, she will be the first woman to lead The National Classic ... do we know when this is?
Jessica: It's coming up-
Amira: Coming up. Shout out to the Arizona Wildcats who recently won the women's NIT tournament, and also a shout out, a historical shout out to the Wayland Baptist universities basketball team who was the kind of team alumni, women's alumni induction into the basketball hall of fame recently. And the drum roll please.
Jessica: Is it just me? Okay.
Shireen: No, I'm drumming.
Amira: Well, drum roll there, this weeks badass woman of the week goes to Teresa Weatherspoon. Teresa was the five time WNBA all star, a two time WNBA defensive player of the year. She's an iconic player who played for the New York Liberty. She was the first player in the WNBA to get to 1000 points and 1000 assists. She had an illustrious international career, a six time Italian League all-star, a two time Russian League championship and Olympic gold medalist to boot. She's a Texas girl, played for Louisiana Tech where she was on the all American team multiple times.
And of course in 1988 ... which is the best year on earth, she led her team to the NCAA championships and won the Wade Trophy there. She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall in 2010, and this week she became a member of the National Basketball Hall Of Fame. She's going to Springfield. Congrats to you, Teresa, you are our badass woman of the week. All right folks, what's good in your life, Jess?
Jessica: Well, women's basketball final four, at this point, we've only had the semifinals. We're hours away now from the final, but the semifinals were spectacular. I'll just say it though, the women's final four is better than the men's. I do want to shout out, there was a spectacular article at The Guardian this week by Lois Beckett and anyone who knows me at all knows that I love romance novels.
But, and Lois did this amazing article about race and racism in the romance genre. It's called 50 Shades Of White-
Amira: Yes, yes, yes it was good.
Jessica: The Long Fight Against Racism, it is so, so good. Everything about it, it is really well done. She worked on it for 18 months. She talked to all these spectacular authors of color. It really gets that what has been going on in the genre for decades, but really specifically in the last few years is, all of this have come to a head.
I just, I love the article, I've read it like three times, and then I have really been into Maggie Rogers album. Which is new and I just find it to be very listenable, very good listenable pop music that I can sing along to, so I've been enjoying that.
Amira: Shireen, what's good for you?
Shireen: Okay, so as of Thursday, my life was taken over by a fabulous 20 month old little girl named Pearl. My best friend Catherine was visiting with Pearl. They live in Nova Scotia and I was really excited, and some of our flamethrowers might remember, I was a bridesmaid at Catherine’s wedding in the summer. It was a really big deal for me, because it's all about me.
Pearl came over and just, she's just incredible. I was live-tweeting her stay with me but not like continuously because she takes ... you need like five hands for a 20 month old. It's so funny because I've had that experience-
Shireen: Four times and I’m just sort of like, "What is going on?" Then all my kids were home, my eldest was even back to come and visit Katheryn and Pearl, and there was so many of us. At one point I said to Catherine, "Why don't you go and get your nails done or whatever and we'll take care of the baby." It was just like all hands on deck. By 10 ... we had planned to put Pearl down, she sleeps pretty early, and then play board games. But by 10 O'clock we were all passed out.
I ended up missing the second half of the Notre Dame, Yukon game, which they lost, and I'm so, I'm so sad about it, but-
Amira: This is the one time where Shireen's reading interests are not the popular one. We kind of, I was like, aha, how does it feel?"
Shireen: This is ... I stan Yukon, I stan them, and speaking of happiness, the Habs won last night, it was their last game of regular season. They did not make the playoffs, but they won in shoot outs against the Leafs. It was really fun, and my mom is kind of ... I think Amira mentioned in the beginning. My mother was so happy and they went into a shootouts, my mother was Whatsapping her reaction. She was like invoking Allah and prayers, and everything possible, my mother gets really religious during hockey games
Jessica: It was her, she was the reason then that they won? So good for your mom.
Shireen: She was so happy, yeah, she's pretty great. And there's this one thing I wanted to draw everyone's attention to. Hopefully we can put it in the show notes. There's this really great story from a Winnipeg reporter named Melissa Martin, and it's a real, I tweeted, I RT’d her-
Jessica: Oh yeah.
Shireen: Basically a bunch of dads of synchronized swimmers, got together to create Manitoba's only men synchronized swimming team. She got video of it, and they're completely not in sync, but they're just trying to bring attention to their daughters' sport. I just thought it was so great, like in an era when we struggle with toxic masculinity and whatnot. It was just, it's a wonderful story. It's a really interesting video, so I just, that was brought me a lot of happiness, it was great.
Amira: There's adorable pictures that Shireen put up of Pearl and her BIAD swag. My what's good, our college friends, specifically Alanna and Marcely, I had a conference in Philadelphia this weekend, which is weird to be back in the city you've lived in. I love seeing all my academic friends and my mentors, and my advisors and stuff like that. But because it was in Philly, I also had the opportunity to go see some of my loves from that chapter of my life.
I popped over and saw Alanna and Marcely who've been in our lives now for decade, over a decade, which is why Marcely and Michael are frat brothers. When I think about the village I had around me to help me get through school after I had Samari, it was, they were integral to that.
I talk about this all the time because it's completely possible to have a kid as a teenager and still do what you want to do, if you build resources and pull them and get community around you. What that looked like for us was a whole bunch of college kids who babysat and let me ... took her every Thursday so I could go to night class, and just were always there to watch her or come sit with her while I studied. Or, nobody, none of us knew what we were doing. Sometimes I look now and I'm like, "I can't believe I left my child with you." But generally it's still, I can't look at them and without saying like "This is, I'm here, I'm where I'm at because of people like you." Marcely and Alanna have been good friends for so long and they are funny.
Marcely does improv, and he also does outpatient therapy. Alanna is amazing, amazing health and wellness person who's Instagram is just like a reservoir of therapy. She's a therapist as well as an instructor at various kind of workout spaces. She's just such a light in this world, and she talks very openly about a very harrowing experience in her life a few years ago. Where when she was running the Broad Street marathon, she actually had a heart attack and she wasn't yet 30.
Jessica: Oh gosh.
Amira: She's also become a spokesperson for the American Heart Association, and she's just absolutely incredible, so anytime I get with them is wonderful and we just had the best time. Yesterday I stayed in Philly way too long, I drove back way too late, so I'm very tired this morning, but it was really worth it to see my good friends.
Lastly, the other thing that's good is Country Trap, I don't know if anybody has been following Lil Nas X-
Jessica: How could you not.
Amira: And Billy Ray Cyrus, it's literally the best thing. Not only because black people are totally and have been part of country for you know ever, except that the infrastructure has not supported that. I love Beyonce, Daddy Lessons, not being included in that way. But-
Jessica: Can I just say that after Notre Dame won the other night, that Muffet McGraw did like-
Amira: Muffet McGraw was dancing to it.
Jessica: A little dance on the floor and someone put it to, what is the name of Lil Nas X's song?
Amira: Old Town Road.
Jessica: Country ... Old Town Road, and so I retweeted that the other night-
Amira: It's the best.
Jessica: Because that was like the perfect combo of these-
Amira: It really is.
Jessica: Meme song and Muffet.
Amira: My favorite is ... I don't know if people know this in pockets of the country there's like all these like black dudes who just like ride horses and you can go in West Philly and Detroit. My favorite thing now is all the videos that people are posting up of like black people doing like country ass shit and listening to this song.
Shireen: I entertained Pearl with a lot of Muffet McGraw with that trap, country trap actually, and now that I think about it-
Amira: It's literally the best thing.
Shireen: It's so good.
Amira: Old Town Road. Thank you for joining us, you can listen or subscribe to Burn It All Down, you can do so on Apple Podcast, Spotify SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play. Tune in wherever you get your podcasts, you can rate the show, please rate the show wherever you listen to it. It helps us reach new listeners who might not know that we exist, but definitely need this or the podcast in their lives.
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