Episode 105: "Necessary Discrimination" & Caster Semenya, Dr. Katrina Karkazis, and Women's Hockey Boycott
At the top of the show Shireen, Jessica, and Lindsay talk about Halima Adan on the cover of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue [2:16], the show features an interview from Episode 52 with Dr. Katrina Karkazis (7:40), they get into the decision to reject the appeal of South African runner Caster Semenya [29:14] and then the crew dives into the complexities about the women's hockey collective that is boycotting women's hockey leagues in North America. [42:77]
Then, of course, we have the Burn Pile, [1:01:48] BAWOTW, [1:09:04] and What's Good! [1:11:27]
HALIMA ADEN MAKES HISTORY AS FIRST WOMAN TO WEAR HIJAB AND BURKINI IN SPORTS ILLUSTRATED SWIMSUIT EDITION https://www.newsweek.com/who-halima-aden-model-makes-history-first-women-wear-hijab-and-burkini-sports-1409292
“Semenya loses landmark legal case against IAAF over testosterone levels” https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/may/01/caster-semenya-loses-landmark-legal-case-iaaf-athletics
“Court endorses discrimination, rules Caster Semenya must undergo medical intervention to compete” https://thinkprogress.org/highest-court-in-sport-rules-discriminate-against-women-caster-semenya-04b07bda4046/
“I was sore about losing to Caster Semenya. But this decision against her is wrong” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/01/losing-caster-semenya-decision-wrong-women-testosterone-iaaf
“The debate in sports over the definition of womanhood is paternalistic – and hypocritical” https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-the-debate-in-sports-over-the-definition-of-womanhood-is-paternalistic/
“The Decadelong Humiliation of Caster Semenya” https://slate.com/technology/2019/05/caster-semenya-testosterone-gender-appeal-ruling.html
“Fox News Completely And Predictably Botches Report On Caster Semenya” https://deadspin.com/fox-news-completely-and-predictably-botches-report-on-c-1834481354
“Women's hockey stars to boycott pro leagues” http://www.espn.com/nhl/story/_/id/26655231/women-hockey-stars-boycott-pro-leagues?sf212023089=1
Throwback: “Inside the boycott that could save women’s hockey” https://thinkprogress.org/inside-the-boycott-that-could-save-womens-hockey-83462d22512/
“Right-wing media group Sinclair Broadcasting to buy Disney regional sports networks” https://sports.yahoo.com/reports-rightwing-media-group-sinclair-broadcasting-to-buy-disney-regional-sports-networks-055107123.html
“Trieste half-marathon organizers spark outrage after banning African runners” https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/28/europe/trieste-marathon-african-runners-ban-scli-intl/index.html?no-st=1556901703
“Disgraced Former Fox Sports Exec Jamie Horowitz Completes Soft Landing At DAZN” https://deadspin.com/disgraced-former-fox-sports-exec-jamie-horowitz-complet-1834503355
“It Sure Sounds Like A Cubs Exec Was Trying To Influence Addison Russell Coverage” https://deadspin.com/it-sure-sounds-like-a-cub-exec-was-trying-to-influence-1834492342
“Valencia Condemn Fans' Nazi Salutes And Monkey Gestures Towards Arsenal Supporters” https://deadspin.com/valencia-condemn-fans-nazi-salutes-and-monkey-gestures-1834502159
Shireen: Welcome to this week's episode of Burn It All Down. It's the feminist sports podcasting you need. I'm Shireen Ahmed, freelance writer and sports activist in Toronto. On this week's panel we have the amazing Jessica Luther, weight lifter extraordinaire, my favorite PhD candidate/croissant maker, and author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape. She's in Austin. Then to round out our wonderful trio, we have Lindsay Gibbs. She's brilliant, indomitable, with the most beautiful laugh and the mightiest pen, and my best cuddling companion. She's a sports reporter at ThinkProgress in DC.
Before we start, we would like to thank our patrons for their generous support and to remind our new flame throwers about our Patreon campaign. If you pledge a certain amount monthly, as low as two dollars and as high you want, to become an official patron of the podcast. In exchange for your monthly contribution, you get access to special rewards. With the price of a latte a month, you can get access to extra segments of the podcast, a monthly newsletter, an opportunity to record on the burn pile only available to those in Patreon community.
So far we've been able to solidify funding for proper editing and transcripts and our social media guru, Shelby, but are hoping to reach our dream of hiring a producer to help us with the show. Burn It All Down is a labor of love, and we all believe in this podcast, but having a producer to help us as we grow would be amazing. We are so grateful for your support and happy that our flame-throwing family is growing.
We have an amazing show for you this week. We are going to re-air an interview with Dr. Katrina Karkazis from Episode 52 as we continue a discussion on Caster Semenya, discussing the CAS, the IAAF, and fairness and women in sport. Then we'll talk about women in hockey.
Before we do that, let's have a really fun conversation about something that is maybe one of my most problematic faves, representation and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. Yes, we talked about this on Episode 42, and I just wanted to mention, the reason I'm talking about this is, the most wonderful model, who is also a Black Muslim woman, and wears hijab, Halima Aden, was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in what was called a burkini.
Basically, she was covered. It's technically not a burkini, because that is a very specific, specific, piece of swimwear, but she wasn't wearing that. She was wearing tights, a long-sleeved shirt and these beautiful kaftan looking things with big earrings and a gorgeous turban, but she wasn't technically wearing a burkini. Yes, we in modest swimwear have very specific names. But it was Swimsuit Illustrated, Swimsuit Edition, like the Sports Illustrated. I don't know. Linds?
Lindsay: Look, this is always a tough subject to talk about, right? They recently had Ashley Graham, a plus-size model, and last year they had Aly Raisman, with motivational quotes all over her body.
It's clear that there are a lot of women who find empowerment in this. I don't want to diminish that. I think you want to see all bodies be celebrated and all races and all religions and all styles and all sizes. You want able-bodied and non-. You want all these variety. At the same time, this is a magazine that is for the male gaze, has always been for the male gaze, and has, it basically uses women's bodies and, let's face it, a form of exploitation of women's bodies, to fund a sports magazine that pretty much only covers men's sports. I have a lot of problems with it too. I don't want to, however, condemn anyone for seeing empowerment in this. I don't know. I'm confused, as always. I don't like to come down super hard against. I know some people do, but the whole enterprise makes me feel a bit icky.
Shireen: Yeah. Jess?
Jess: Yeah. First, she looks beautiful in these pictures, of course, right? That's why they hired her. I'm totally with you, Shireen, that there are feelings about this.
Lindsey, you're absolutely right about the overall context of when this image appears and where it appears. At the same time, and we've talked about this repeatedly, this is what we've got. We, the collective at Burn It All Down, are not going to be able to do anything about the existence of the Swimsuit Issue. It exists. If it's going to exist, at least they're being more diverse, and we get to see images like this. I think about all the young girls who are going to see this in the ether, it's going to be out there, and what that will mean to them to see themselves represented as beautiful in these pictures.
We should mention that ESPN Magazine is shutting down, and their last issue will be in September, which will be the body issue, which we talk about as sort of, we like that a lot better, the celebration of the sporting body. That's going away, and I keep thinking about that in conjunction with the fact that the Swimsuit Issue is still here. That's sad. But she does look beautiful and it is, again, even within the context, it is very exciting to see this representation in this space.
Shireen: I absolutely agree wit you there. I think that's a very positive spin, Jess. I really liked that.
Jess: That's as positive as it gets.
Shireen: Yeah. No, but I appreciate that, because, yeah, really. But when you said there's not a lot of us at the Burn It All Down collective can do, I'm like, "What do you mean? We'll just call up SI. Of course we will." No, but I was happy to see her because I love it. I love seeing Black Muslim women, especially ones in hijab, who are the most marginalized in our communities anyway, be there, be represented, be proud and say, "Listen, this is also what a woman on a beach looks like."
For me, it gets a little more political because of the stuff in France, with women not being able to go to beaches because France passed a law banning burkinis, which we also talked about on this show. So, her normalizing what a swimsuit person can look like. I think for a lot of people, they'll be like, "What is she wearing? Wait. Muslim women swim?" There's all these other things that can happen as a result of it. Not being uncritical in our celebrations because it's a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. I'm trying not to cringe, but anyways.
Linds, I agree with you. Jess, I agree with you. I think we'd all agree she looks gorgeous.
Jess: Absolutely, a hundred percent.
Shireen: For our next segment, what we're going to do is actually, we're going to re-air an interview that we had with Katrina Karkazis. Dr. Karkazis is an amazing friend of the show and a world-leading ethicist in sport. Jess, can you take us through?
Jess: Yeah. In late April, 2018, so last year, the International Association of Athletics Federation, the IAAF, this is the international governing body for track and field, they introduced new regulations for a specific small group of athletes: female athletes with a difference of sexual development, DSD, for short, which often means intersex athletes and/or athletes with hypoandrogenism, who run any distance between 400 meters and the mile, which includes the 400, the 800, the 1,500, and any equivalent hurdle races, and have a testosterone level above five nmol/Ls, which is the unit of measurement they use, so a very small targeted group.
It turns out that there's a very, very specific athlete who falls into this category. Caster Semenya, a Black South African runner, who's been dominant in the 800 meters for most of the last decade. The regulation was supposed to go into effect this past November, but Semenya challenged it, and the Court of Arbitration for Sport, or CAS for short, heard the case. This week, two of the three arbiters on a panel at CAS found this policy... stick with me here... to be discriminatory but a necessary form of discrimination and upheld it.
Quote, I want to just quote this, so we're all on the same page. Quote: "The panel found that the DSD regulations are discriminatory, but the majority of the panel found that on the basis of the evidence submitted by the parties, such discrimination is a necessary, reasonable, and proportionate means of achieving the IAAF aim of preserving the integrity of female athletics in the restricted events," which are those events I listed above.
Brenda: I’m thrilled to welcome back to the show, today, Katrina Karkazis, a senior research visiting fellow in the Global Health Justice Partnership at Yale University. This week, she, along with Rebecca Jordan-Young, wrote an incredible piece in The Guardian to try to explain to readers the pseudoscience and politics of new, or perhaps better said, revamped, IAAF regulations about testosterone. Katrina, could you please tell us a little bit about these new, or revamped, regulations?
Katrina Karkazis: Yeah, and thank you for having me, again. I love our conversations-
Brenda: Me, too.
Katrina: Me, too, exactly. We called it revamped because it’s essentially the 2011 regulation with a couple of differences. One of the differences is that they’ve restricted the events to which this regulation applies. It’s a regulation that basically says women with higher levels of testosterone, who are intersex, have a performance advantage over women with lower levels. And in order to keep competing in their category, they should lower their levels.
It used to apply across all track and field events, and now it basically applies from … Not yet, but as of November 1, from 400 meter to 1,500 meter. They also lowered the testosterone threshold. But in looking at the regulation, I think it broadly has the same contours as before. Obviously, there are gonna be differences, but the general argument about why it’s there and the general contours are the same.
That’s where we’re at. And just one more piece I think that’s important, is that when we last left this case, Dutee Chand, from India, had brought a case where she won her case. The regulation was suspended, pending further evidence around this idea that there was a performance advantage for women with higher T. This decision to limit the events to which it applies means that it no longer applies to the events that Dutee runs in, which effectively closes her case.
So what would’ve happened had it applied to her events is that the IAAF would have had to have returned to CAS to have this evidence evaluated. Once again, we have a regulation that’s been released in advance of impartial assessment of the evidence by interested parties.
Brenda: If I understand your piece correctly, the events which it doesn’t apply are actually the ones in which testosterone has been shown to have the most advantage. Still not conclusive, but more than the other events. Is that right?
Katrina: It is right. One of the paradoxes and the illogics here is that IAAF sat around doing its own study to prove and provide evidence for its regulation. And it looked at 21 track and field events, and found that there was a correlation between testosterone in pole vault and hammer throw, interestingly. And that … Sorry, that the performance advantage was highest in those events, according to their study. Those events aren’t regulated.
And alternatively, the lowest significant result that they found was 800 meter. That is included. And 1,500 meter, for which they found no significant advantage, is included as well. When I first read this and saw the mismatch between their own study and the regulation itself, I felt like that was really a window to revealing what some of the politics of this regulation are, and really have always been, but at least they’re more transparent now.
Brenda: When you take off the rose-colored glasses, that some of us may have had growing up, about sport and equity, what are their politics behind this?
Katrina: Well, I think there are longstanding politics. One of them is scrutiny of women athletes that has been in existence since women entered elite sport. What I think is happening right now, as well, is that there is an overlay here, or another piece to this, which is around the way this brings scrutiny and targeting to particular athletes from the Global South.
I’ve made an argument, in a very long paper that would be pretty impossible to summarize here, that that’s known and intentional. I think, even if we don’t read that long paper, I think it becomes evident when you consider the events that are being selected. In other words, hammer throw and pole vault are largely events that are dominated by women from the Global North, not so much with the events that are regulated. And certainly, the cross-section of … When you triangulate the 800 meter and the 1,500 meter, the person who has been excelling in those events is Caster Semenya. And so there’s been an issue, really, with the IAAF seeking to remove her from competition since 2009.
Brenda: This seems, the timing of this, given Caster’s performance in the Commonwealth Games, seems particularly painful. Do you think there’s a connection between those two, or is this just their longstanding desire to exclude her?
Katrina: It’s hard to know when you’re not in someone’s head or those decision-making circles. But I will say that on the eve of Semenya running in Rio, the IAAF made multiple statements about returning to CAS in order to reinstate a regulation. It’s not as though this is new, for it to come on the heels of the Commonwealth Games.
It does come on the heels of that and a pretty spectacular performance by her, but there’s another piece. Part of what the regulation says is that there’s a six-month window in which women’s testosterone levels have to be below the threshold. So when you take into account that this goes into November 1, we’re at the edge of that six-month window. My guess is part of the reason for the release now was to ensure that women complied for November 1.
Brenda: What would a person have to do? What would she have to do to lower her testosterone?
Katrina: There are two ways to lower testosterone. One is pharmacologically, with drugs, and the other is via surgery. It really just depends on the woman’s physiology about which way will effectively keep the testosterone level at a particular threshold. Lowering testosterone is not straightforward. It’s not quite like turning a dial. It’s a highly dynamic endocrine system. The levels fluctuate based on all kinds of things, including social context. Basically, they would need to find out which pharmacological agents can do that, or else, surgery.
I did an article in 2014 with my colleagues, where we pointed out the harms inherent to each of those ways of lowering testosterone, and they’re not benign. But even without going through those harms, I think the most important thing to remember is that it’s a regulation that requires women to undergo medically unnecessary interventions in order to continue competing in their own events, in the category in which they’ve been competing.
Brenda: Just is infuriating, infuriating to hear. I wanna react in an intelligent way and keep asking you questions, but the other part of me wants to just scream. [crosstalk] How can they continue to do this to these women? What do you say? And I hate to even put this question forward, because I see it on social media all the time. What do you say to people that present the argument that somehow this is making things fair for the rest of the field?
Katrina: Oh, my goodness. Well, I just sent out a really snarky tweet around this. [crosstalk]
Brenda: Sometimes, you can’t help it.
Katrina: Your timing couldn’t be better. I’m always struck by people who somehow think that because there are more women with typical testosterone levels that we should make this quantitative argument that their rights matter more. I can’t figure out how people get here, because the majority does not get to abuse its power to violate the basic, inalienable rights of the minority, right? That has been something that’s happened through history that has been a disaster repeatedly pointed out.
So even is there was only one intersex person, they would still have basic human rights. I never understand … But the other thing I think that is … In order to ask that question, you have to accept something that I’m not willing to accept. You have to accept that the women have advantage. So it’s kind of a two-part issue, right?
Katrina: Do the women have advantage? And then a separate, secondary question: is that advantage unfair? What the IAAF said is it’s not any advantage; that, in order to exclude women from the male … sorry, from the female category, they had to have male-typical advantage. And they were tasked with coming up with a percentage of advantage that approximated 10% to 12%, and they’ve not come near that.
Even in their latest evidence, they’re trying to make an argument about that, but they’re doing it through proxy measures. They’re not actually looking at performance; they’re talking about muscle difference. But that’s not performance and you can’t compare that. That’s also a little bit sneaky.
It’s not any advantage. And if we’re really gonna talk about any advantage, then we need to think about what we mean when we talk about fairness. The way that I like to explain this to people is this is a regulation that was created primarily, and overwhelmingly, by policymakers from the Global North, with their own understanding of what fairness might be. I can guarantee you that if we had a room full of policymakers from the Global South, their notion about what’s fair to female athletes would be completely different, and it would likely not center at all on testosterone levels, but any number of other things.
It’s a notion of fairness that I think ends up reflecting the worldview, if you will, of the policymakers, and ends up creating harm to a minority group of women that we should actually be trying to protect.
Brenda: It also seems to me, and this is an even more simplistic way to think about it, that every elite athlete has an advantage. I mean you wouldn’t ask someone to get shorter, or [crosstalk] their body in other ways. This is a naturally occurring part of their bodies, and their make-up that actually changes. All of our hormones, and other things, change throughout any given time period.
Katrina: Right. I think one of the things that’s interesting here is the notion that there is a level playing field. People have argued that this creates a level playing field, but that’s a fallacy, and even the policymakers have argued that that’s a fallacy. I think the reason they focus on testosterone, and they view it as different from height, is that there aren’t height categories in sport. They view testosterone as being sex-dimorphic, meaning that male levels and female levels don’t overlap, which is not true, but they make that argument.
For this particular argument, any muddying of that line, to them, creates a problem. They would rather that there be a sort of no man’s land between male athletes and female athletes. But you talk to any sports scientist, or anybody, and you say to them, “Do male and female testosterone levels overlap?” So I talked to a sports scientist from the Clippers, and he said, “Well, absolutely.” I said, “Give me a citation,” and he said, “I can’t. Everybody knows it. It’s like saying the sky is blue.” I talked to the head of U.S. doping for decades, and it was the very first question I asked him. He said, “Of course they do. We all know this.”
So male and female levels overlap. This is not a good criterion by which to separate where we use testosterone levels to differentiate between male/female. It’s not anywhere else. They will argue that that’s not what they’re doing, but if you don’t have the evidence for performance advantage, then what are you doing?
Brenda: Just to get back, and to close out, or come full circle to the question of race and the Global South, the two most famous cases have to do with South Africa and India. Is this also a case of their federations just not being strong enough to stand up to the IAAF? I remember that terribly painful photograph, and I’m sure you do, too, of the British white athletes after Caster Semenya’s victory, kind of huddling up against or away from her. I don’t know if you remember that visual? Is this to placate … [crosstalk]
Brenda: … those voices? Is this a combination of the weakness of those federations?
Katrina: I don’t think the federations are weak. I saw some pretty spectacular statements coming out of South Africa the last couple of days. And I was on a South-African radio program, where, whoa. The power of the South Africans’ analysis about what’s going on, I didn’t even need to be on that program. They knew what time it was. I’ve seen the sport minister and others … Now, the question is, sort of, are they in power positions in terms of policymaking. [crosstalk]
Brenda: Yeah, that’s what I kinda meant. The weakness vis a vis IOC and IAAF-
Katrina: Yes, absolutely, in terms of they’re not represented. Insofar as I’ve known, the policymakers have never included individuals from the Global South. Now I might be wrong in the latest conversations about this, but historically, that’s not been the case. I was told, through the grapevine, that there was resistance from countries, I don’t know which ones, in the IAAF council meeting, when this was being discussed. I think there’s resistance. I don’t know exactly where it’s coming from, from within the federations, but there are definitely public signs of it, as well. But they absolutely don’t have the power and they’re not represented on these decision-making boards and bodies.
Brenda: So, if we keep our eye on this story, where should we be looking?
Katrina: Well, I think we should be looking for a couple things. We should be looking for an athlete who wants to challenge it. That’s where we’re at right now. I think, originally, there was a thought that I had that this case would go back to CAS, and that won’t be the case now.
What’s required is for an athlete to go back and raise a complaint, and file a case that would go back to CAS. I think that’s where we’re at right now. It’s a very hard place to be, because for people who haven’t been following it, the case that I’ve been talking about has been playing out over four years, and has involved extraordinary scrutiny of the athlete who brought the case. So, this is not a small thing that’s being asked of an athlete.
The unfortunate piece of this is that the burden now, because of how this was done, the burden is on the athlete to prove that they have a right to run in their event and in this category, versus the IAAF having to prove that they have a scientific evidence in order to mount a regulation like this. That’s also deeply unfair.
Brenda: Katrina Karkazis, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down once again. You've enlightened us and enraged us in proper measure.
Katrina: Well, thank you so much for having me. It's always just a real treat to talk to you. One of these days it's going to be under better circumstances, I hope.
Brenda: Thank you for doing the work that you do. It's been inspiring and edifying.
Katrina: Thank you.
Shireen: That interview is so, so important and so, so necessary to hear over and over again. Linds?
Lindsay: Yeah. Look, I've been raging about this all week, as I know we all have. This is a ruling we've been waiting for, and it's one that is, was even I think more devastating than I even feared, the fact that they admit that this is discriminatory but say that that's okay, that in this case discrimination is acceptable. I think it just highlights the hypocrisy, the targeting nature of this, and the fact that this is about keeping a strong Black woman out of sports. It's absolutely sickening.
I have to say, though, one of the things that just continues to inspire me is the way that Caster Semenya has handled herself throughout all of this. She began being targeting by the IAAF in her very first world race in the 2009 World Championships when she won as an 18-year-old. They came out and publicly, they broke their own confidentiality ban, and said they were gender testing her. She's been dealing with this since the moment she burst out onto the scene.
For a long time, understandably, she wasn't comfortable talking about it. She didn't talk to the press about it. Everything was, there was so much talk around her, but we rarely heard from her. But in the past year, since she originally challenged these guidelines, she has turned into this fierce advocate.
Nike, once again, with all the context of how problematic Nike can be, Nike has put out some really inspirational ads around Caster. She's got so much support in South Africa, which I think is really, it's good to remember that that support does exist and that she is treated really well, for the most part, by her home country. Of course, there is still awfulness and racism. But just hearing her this week say that, no, she's not going to take any of this medication. She is going to keep fighting this. It's just going to give her more motivation to continue to fight not just for herself but for the future generations.
I'll read you the quote that she said after the ruling was handed down on Wednesday. She said, quote, "I know that the IAAF's regulations have always targeted me specifically. For a decade, the IAAF has tried to slow me down, but this has actually made me stronger. The decision of the CAS will not hold me back. I will once again rise above and continue to inspire young women and athletes in South Africa and around the world."
Shireen: I was also really upset about this particularly because of like Jess said, the "necessary discrimination," quote, unquote, just made me really mad, because it really points to the fact that, an example that we've been seeing of she and other, like the Indian runner, Dutee Chand, were discriminated against specifically and have had the privilege to have Katrina and be in a very small room, where Katrina presented this and talks about the misogyny and the racism directed at Black and Brown women, whereas other formidable athletes go through something like this, and let's just say, throw some names out there, like Leo Messi and Michael Phelps, who have had very different also experiences with their bodies that are celebrated for being different. We see the stark contrast. It's enraging. It was the one point I allowed myself to be really, really angry while I was on vacation.
Jess: Yeah. I have. I feel like I have endless amounts to say about this. It makes me so angry on so many levels. It's racist and sexist at its core. The idea that we have to punish her because she's too good. Women are only allowed to be so good at sports, and if you're too good and you're Black and you look like Caster Semenya, then we have to do something about you. It's disgusting.
I do want to talk about one, I have so many things to say about this, but I do want to talk about one specific thing, because I saw this going around, that there's this guy named Robert Johnson. He's the co-founder of this site called LetsRun.com. I don't know if Lindsay's ever had the pleasure of him emailing her to yell at her about writing about Semenya, but I have had that experience. He's obsessed on some level with Caster Semenya, and he wrote this piece that I've seen going around. He's obsessed with the fact that Semenya has XY chromosomes. He wants to focus on this as, "Why is no one reporting this?"
The reason is, and I just want to say this, because this is out there, because they tried years, decades. The IOC, the International Olympic Committee, the IWAF, tried to regulate male and female based on XX and XY, and they failed at it. We've already done that and decided that that does not work. I wanted to mention this, because there's an amazing piece by Ruth Padawer at the The New York Times in June 2016 titled, The Humiliating Practice of Sex-Testing Female Athletes.
It's a beautiful important piece if you care about this, but she talks about back when they first implemented using chromosomal testing to decide who was male or female, that scientists at that point in time, in the 1960s, this is what she said, that they argued, quote, "That sex was determined by a confluence of genetic, hormonal and physiological factors, not on any one alone. Relying on science to arbitrate the male-female divide in sports is fruitless, they said, because science could not draw a line that nature itself refused to draw. They also argued that the test discriminated against those whose anomalies provided little or no competitive edge and traumatized women who had spent their whole lives certain they were female only to be told they were not female enough to participate."
Here we still are. You could use all of that today to talk about what is happening to Caster Semenya, and certainly there will be other athletes affected by this at some point in time.
Can I just mention that the head of the IAAF, I found this out this week when I was looking into all this shit, his name is Sebastian Coe, I guess that's how you say it, and he is in the fucking House of Lords. He looks exactly like you think he does. We have to always go up chain to talk about who is at the top of these governing bodies and who are making these decisions.
Katrina talked about in the interview, global south versus global north. The three arbiters were all from the global north. Sebastian Coe's in the fucking House of Lords, and he runs the IAAF. It's just amazing and sad and infuriating.
Shireen: Exactly what you said about him looking like what— We know what they look like. I don't even know what he looks like, but I know. Now that you said he looks like-
Jess: He's in the House of Lords. He looks exactly like you think he does.
Shireen: He’s in the House of Lords! It’s astonishing to me that now they've gotten to a point where not to say, because sometimes when you say something, this is misogynist and racist, they'll say no, but they've come back and actually had the nerve. Talk about mediocre white man confidence to come back and say the discrimination was necessary. I don't think they understand how discrimination works. It's not necessary. It's an applied system of oppression, and it's like, it's almost like, I don't want to give up and be like, "I just can't with this," but sometimes you're like, "I just can't with this," because that's how much rage is building up in terms of the way that this woman is being treated.
I also wanted to change the direction of this conversation just a little bit to talk about the other athletes that are competing against Caster and some of their reactions. Particularly, I'm shadowing my Sauron gaze, the eye, on Lynsey Sharp. I was one of those people that was livid with her and her unapologetic racism. She came in ninth, and there's all these funny memes about it, but it's really not that funny when you get down to it. She's just blatantly racist and insulting.
She has argued that she's been caught in the crossfire, as Great Britain's star receives death threats, but she's not really caught in the crossfire. This really doesn't have anything to do with her. You can't center this about yourself, Lynsey Sharp. I'm sorry. You cannot, and you are horrible for doing this in the sense of showing less than zero solidarity with another runner, who's clearly being discriminated against in the most abhorrent of ways. I'm so pissed off about it.
Lindsay, what are your thoughts on this?
Lindsay: Yeah, I mean, look, there's just so much explicit racism being used here. I think the thing that always gets to me is that we need, every single person who succeeds in athletics has some sort of an advantage. You know what I mean? The people who are winning Olympic medals are anomalies by nature, right? They're doing things that the body is not, you and I, cannot do. My body, no matter how hard I train, it will not let me be as fast as Lynsey Sharp's body. You know what I mean? We just have very different bodies.
I think that's what gets me the most is, we break it down to who do we celebrate versus who do we condemn for their greatness. Caster's one we condemn, and everybody brings up the Michael Phelps' reference, but it's a good one. His body is genetically engineered to be great at swimming to the point where his lung capacity is different than everyone else's. His feet are different than everyone else's. His hands are different than everyone else's, and he gets glowing 60 Minute bios being how lucky is he and how lucky are we to get to watch this, whereas Caster gets debated in court for ten years.
Shireen: Yeah. Just for everybody who doesn't know, I should have clarified who Lynsey Sharp was. She's a runner from Great Britain, and she actually came, she lost in the Olympics to Caster and-
Jess: She was sixth!
Shireen: Yeah. Well, yeah. She lost to a lot of people, actually. She lost to five people, but her ire was directed at Caster. She finished ninth most recently, and we'll talk about this a little bit later. There was another meet of athletics in Doha, Qatar this past weekend, and she has been making other comments, but she lost.
There was a very sort of what I consider this photo that was forever embedded into my head. Caster went over to try to comfort her after she lost, and she was sobbing into the arms of another white runner, but it was just very, it just spoke volumes, what I'm saying, that photograph, is that she was angry and her anger at not being able to be the best was misdirected, in my opinion.
Jess, what are your thoughts about that?
Jess: Yeah. You know, the thing about Sharp too is that she wasn't even the most racist of the white women. She did the kind of like vague language that implied that, three Black women who won that race and three white women came in fourth, fifth and sixth in the Rio Olympics in the 800 meter. The fifth place person was Joanna Jóźwik from Poland, and she was just straight up racist. She said that the woman from Canada who came in fourth should have won and that she was very happy to be the second white woman and the first European to come in the race. It's clear to the athletes what's going on here, right? They're just speaking in very racist terms about all this stuff.
I do want to say one thing, and we've talked about this on the show before, and I just want to say it every single time that we talk about this issue, when we talk about trans athletes and we talk about intersex athletes and we talk about female athletes with high levels of testosterone, this very small group of athletes, important, their human rights are important, and we need to protect them, but also they're a very small group.
When you get people who are arguing that making sure that these women cannot compete makes everything fair, it's such bullshit language that totally shifts the focus of who keeps athletics for women unfair off of those people, which are basically these white men, cis white men who are in charge of all these sporting organizations, and they have been for years, right? For decades, for centuries, in charge, and they have banned women from competition. They're the ones who limit the resources. They're the ones who don't cover them in the media, all of these things that make women's athletics patently unfair across the board, have nothing to do with these women who want to compete.
We are just missing the entire forest on fairness for these few, very few, trees. It pisses me off that we do this and that it just so happens that a lot of these trees that we focus on end up being women of color. That's just so fucking unfair, and we're doing the work for these white men. That is just, ugh, at the same time that we are taking away the human rights of these athletes. Everything about this pisses me off.
Shireen: Moving on to our next segment, Lindsay, can you take us through this?
Lindsay: I can. This week about 200 women's hockey players from around the globe issued a statement on social media essentially announcing that they are going to boycott any pro hockey in North America until there's a sustainable league. I'm just going to read their entire statement, and they you can kind of get into these, a lot of intricacies here, because there certainly are plenty. First, let me read this statement that they issued.
"We are fortunate to be ambassadors of this game that we revere so deeply, and yet, more than ever, we understand the responsibility that comes with that ambassadorship. To leave this game in better shape than when we entered it. That is why we come together over 200 players strong to say it is time to create a sustainable professional league for women's hockey."
"While we have all accomplished so much, there is no greater accomplishment than what we have the potential to do right here and right now. Not just for this generation of players but for generations to come. With that purpose, we are coming together not as individual players but as one collective voice to help navigate the future and protect the players' needs. We cannot make a sustainable living playing in the current state of the professional game. Having no health insurance and making as low as 2,000 dollars a season means players can't adequately train and prepare to play at the highest level."
"Because of that, together as players, we will not play in any professional leagues in North America this season until we get the resources that professional hockey demands and deserves."
"We may have represented different teams, leagues and countries, but this sport is one family. The time is now for this family to unite. This is the moment we've been waiting for, our moment to come together and say we deserve more. It's time for a long-term viable professional league that will showcase the greatest product of women's professional hockey in the world."
They hashtag this, #ForTheGame. Whew. That's a statement. It is obviously I think a very powerful one. From what we know so far, Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield were two of the leaders of this movement, but it has involved players from across the world. This week I spoke with Liz Knox, former CWHL player, who was on the show a few weeks ago to talk about the closing of the CWHL. She said the CWHL Players Association and many CWHL players are very much behind this.
Let's start by giving a little bit of background. Then, Shireen, I'm especially interested in what you think, because I started out this week praising this decision and thinking this was so inspiring. I still believe that, but I have to admit, it's a little more complicated than it seems upon first looking at it.
As we talked about on the show, the Canadian Women's Hockey League abruptly announced on March 31st that it was shutting its doors, and the doors officially closed on May 1st. This leaves the National Women's Hockey League as the only pro option for female athletes. But the NWHL, since it debuted back in 2015, has alienated a lot of women's hockey players because of its lack of transparency, lack of clear vision for the future, and just the general lack of resources it has. At the same time, it has managed to have I think four seasons at this point, and this past season saw a lot of great successes, including the Buffalo Beauts, who really had a great team and really established a fan base.
Then we have the new team in Minnesota that really came onto the stage and dominated and won the championship. There were positive things, and there were plenty of players that got positive experiences out of playing in the NWHL. What this essentially is is a boycott of the NWHL, though these players aren't specifically saying that.
I talked to the Lamoureux twins, Jocelyne and Monique, a couple days ago, and they both kept saying, "Okay, so you're boycotting the NWHL, because that's the only pro league in North America," and they kept saying, "No, we're boycotting North American pro hockey. There's some really interesting semantics.
Let's be honest, not everyone is uniformly behind this. The NWHL Players’ Association was not really involved in this decision, and there are a lot of players that have questions, like, "What are our real asks," "What do we really want to get from this," and, "Is this a few really high profile players who are leading this movement with no clear direction on where we want to go." I think that's a legitimate concern too.
Shireen, what are your thoughts?
Shireen: Thanks Linz, that background is really, really important. I have a couple of thoughts. First of all, I'm just going to throw this out there. I don't think Hilary Knight is the leader of this movement. I think it was a collaboration. She's a leader from the US side, I guess you can say, because Marie-Philip Poulin is up there. We've got also people like Brianna Decker, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner, Melanie Desrochers, of the Canadiennes formerly... Oh, I hate saying that word. Formerly, these are all former CWHL players, a lot of them. A lot of the women who play for Team USA and just one played in the CWHL. This is really formidable. I don't think there's one standout leader.
Lindsay: No, I think Liz Knox specifically said it was Hilary Knight and Kendall calling her and doing that. That was from Liz Knox, so that's why I said that.
Shireen: Okay, I haven't heard that interview. From my perspective, I think that's, like I said, that's amazing. My issues with Kendall Coyne Schofield aside, which we've talked about on the show, I think Liz is great, and it was actually, I did a hot take with her about this. I think this strategically was very, very well-orchestrated. These players are a lot more, because it's not a small league, but because these players are very tight-knit, there were 6 teams. They were very, very connected. They probably have this incredible WhatsApp group that we don't even know about. This was my dream.
The thing is, is that I think that this is in response. The way that the National Women's Hockey League did roll out their announcement was on the very same day that this was announced, March 31st, that the CW would be no more.
Lindsay: You mean the announcement that they were going to expand to Canada?
Shireen: Yeah, that was on the same day as the CW announcement came in the morning. Dani Rylan did not make friends with that. I'm not even a player. I'm just a supporter. I'm a fan, and I was insulted at the lack of sensitivity and timing. I don't think that was well received at all.
This isn't a thing about US and Canada. That's not what this is. This is about women's hockey and what women want. I think that just like you said, Linds, they're not specifically going to say that they're boycotting the NWHL, because they have teammates and friends that play in that league, right? But they're going to say that we want better, and what you're offering is not what we want. There have been issues in the NWHL anyway.
It's almost like, they're going to set the bar, the standard now, and they're not going to take less. That's pretty much what I understood. Across the board, within the same five-minute period, and I just happened to have WiFi at the time, I saw this coming across. I saw everybody with #ForTheGame, and I thought it was really important. It had Jill Saulnier do it, Marie-Philip Poulin posted in two languages. I think this is also very important.
Now, the wording is very interesting, because if you notice, they said North America. They didn't say Europe, because some of the CW players also are national players who play in leagues in Sweden. This was really, really interesting that they specifically said North America, because we know who this is being directed to.
I think that it's also really interesting, the fact that Hilary Knight and Kendall Coyne Schofield are very much the center of organizing this is very interesting, because they also are American, so it just goes to show that this isn't like a Canada vs US thing. That's just a really important narrative to go through.
Lindsay: Hilary specifically chose to play in the CWHL last year because she wanted to send a message of how unhappy she was with the NWHL too. This has been brewing for some time.
Shireen: Yeah, absolutely, and I think that's really important. Hilary made no mistake about being very honest about loving being in Montréal. She loved playing there. She was happy to be part of the team, and that was very clear. She loved the way the CW worked. There's all those things.
The other thing I'm going to say was the response to this. It got caught on. I know TSN, one of the major sport networks in Canada, actually had an interview with Sarah Nurse, formerly of the Toronto Furies. I really hate saying formerly of, but anyway, she was on the show, which garnered a lot of attention. It got press in a lot of places. Even The Athletic had a story about it. I just want to point out at this time that places like The Ice Garden and The Victory Press, The Victory Press is an independent news source. They cover women's hockey. The Ice Garden is a sort of under the umbrella of SB nation. They cover women's hockey, and they've been covering these teams and everything ongoing. It's just now that these media outlets are starting to cover the story and say, "Well, wait a minute, this is what's happening."
Anyways, back to attention from other players, the NFLPA... Yes, I didn't misspeak. The NFLPA put out a statement in support before the NW and HLP did, so the NHL Players Association, who would be considered colleagues, men, male colleagues, of the women hockey players, put out a statement, then two days later, and I'm going to read this statement. Brace yourself for the impact here. I'm being totally sarcastic.
#ForTheGame, quote: "The NHLPA is encouraged that the players are taking an active role in the future of women's professional hockey. Their voice is important to ensure the continued growth of the game, and their judgments need to be respected." Isn't that the most staggeringly wonderful thing you've ever heard? No, it's not, absolutely not. It's ridiculous. The language is subpar in terms of support.
The NFLPA’s statement was stronger. Since then we've also seen Megan Rapinoe, because she's amazing, commented on this. She said she wasn't fully informed on everything, but she just said that this is sometimes what people have to do. The US Women's National Soccer team is no stranger to this. They've have to take stances on what they want to accept, nothing but respect.
Anyway, I could go on about this for a while, but I'm not going to. Jess, do you have some questions I think you said?
Jess: Yeah, I do. I mainly have questions. I don't totally understand what the end game is. I'm sorry to use that word at this moment in apocalyptic times, but I don't totally understand. I get that they want the single league and all of that stuff. I don't quite understand how that's going to happen.
I read Emily Kaplan's piece at ESPN about all this, and there was a lot of talk in there about the NHL coming in and taking a bigger role. Is that what this is about, is trying to get subsidized support from the NHL? How is all this supposed to work in the end? I also will say, I read Erica Ayala’s Friday email for the Nine, the IX, which which we recommend all the time. Lindsay writes for it on Tuesdays. Tennis Tuesday's my favorite, but I read Erica's thing on Friday about this, and it mainly made me more confused, because it seems like Erica, who I trust a lot on this, is also confused.
Sort of, I don't if, Lindsay, if you have any insight on where is this going. What are they trying to achieve here in the end?
Lindsay: I do think that's the problem, is it's not, they're still, and from the interviews I've done, and this piece will go up today, they're still really trying to get their exact proposal and their exact wants in a row, which I think is absolutely fine. You don't have to have everything figured out immediately.
But, look, there are tensions, and I think it's important in this conversation for us to recognize that within women's hockey, not every single player is happy about this. Some people feel like this is the wrong move, and we want to give voice to that confusion. I know, like you said, Jess, Erica Ayala has done a really great job of lifting up some of those voices in saying, we need some more specifics here.
One of the things that has been said and which the Lamoureux twins both said to me when I talked with them on Friday night was they're mentioning this idea that the WNBA is supported by the NBA. The NWSL is supported by US soccer. The most long-running pro women's leagues, most successful pro women's leagues that we have, have connections with strong men's leagues or strong federation support, and that that is probably what is needed.
The NHL has really dragged its toes when it comes to supporting women's hockey. A lot of that, the excuse they gave for that was that there was so much tension between the CWHL and the NWHL, and they didn't want to show favorites or pick one. They gave the generous gift of 50,000 dollars a year to each the CWHL and the NWHL.
Jess: That's insulting almost.
Lindsay: It's an insulting amount of money. Everyone cites it in stories like it's a legitimate amount of money, and it makes me want to throw things. But now, now that there is only one league, the NWHL, now they're giving the NWHL the 50,000 dollars from the CWHL, so they're giving the NWHL an entire hundred thousand dollars.
Anyways, I do think that people want to see both the NHL and USA Hockey step forward with sustainable business models and really truly invest in women's hockey, not act like it's a burden, not act like it's something - a charity case, but truly invest in it and give a league a chance to succeed in the long run and have a long-term viability future.
Look, the NHL has the money to do that. USA Hockey also has a lot of money and resources. I think those are the two main players that the players who are boycotting are hoping will really step up.
Shireen: Yeah. I think in terms of what the point is, I think they're just trying... This is my impression, is that, as someone who takes in a lot of women's hockey, the idea that the bar setting of what they want and they don't want, what's acceptable and what's unacceptable. The thing is, is that if a lot of the best players in the world who currently or who used to play in the CW are saying we're not going to play in North America, that leaves a lot less people to have team expansion. Pretty much the way it rolled out was that...
Lindsay: It's like who are they going to get to come from.
Shireen: That's the thing. Dani Rylan's announcement about the expansions for the National Women's Hockey League, the NWHL, she was really maybe thinking or advised or ill-advised, rather, that all those women would jump in on this opportunity, but that's not what happened. I think it's important to not just look at the result but to look at the process as well, to look at the process of what happened. It's not just what the end result is. It's more of what's happening in terms of the reactions to it and the way this is moving. These women hockey players are extremely connected, and they're moving forward as a collaborative force and a collective, which I think is so powerful.
Lindsay: For the most part, Shireen, for the most part.
Shireen: Not all of them, obviously, because not everybody made this announcement. To be honest, the ones who have the most exposure, the ones who have the most face in the sense of, like endorsements. Hilary Knight is probably one of the most visible and known. Kendall Coyne Schofield, as well, and Marie-Philip Poulin, Mélodie Daoust, Sarah Nurse, Natalie Spooner, they're also, and there's that level of comfort as well, the ones who have national team standing. That's also something that was very apparent, the ones who have that as well.
It's not one huge, it's not like everybody was swept up in this, but the ones that have the most, which is what you also did see in the US Women's National Soccer team, the ones with the most exposure are the ones that spoke out the most, and we saw this, and this is something that, it's not like it's a new thing. The one that might have the most financial security also did that, and that's something that we have to look at too.
Anyone want to add anything else?
Lindsay: Yeah, I will finish with one thing that Liz Knox said to me that really stuck with me, and I think it just kind of goes to how inspiring this is and the fact that this does have a chance to be successful. We should mention it's a great risk. A lot of these women, first of all, there's over 200 women who are involved in this right now. When there's a new hockey league, there are not going to be 200 spots overnight. There are more people announcing they're going to sit out than there will be spots when a new league is created, and I think that shows to the power and how convicted people feel about this, that they are not okay going back to the status quo, that they really want to fight for something better.
Liz Knox said that a dad of a player that she coaches said to her on Thursday, he said, "You've taught my daughter so much on the ice, but all that pails in comparison to what you taught her yesterday." That gave me full body chills.
Shireen: Whatever the result is of this particular movement, I just want to say, there's a lot of young girls who are watching. In addition to learning and having watched amazing women on the ice, they're learning as well this process of this can be part of the sports world, that this fighting, that this reaching for what you need and you deserve is part of that. I wish it wasn't something that young girls would have to learn, but it's there. I appreciate these women so much. We'll see what happens.
Next, one of our favorite segments, the Burn Pile. Lindsay, you want to go first?
Lindsay: Sure. I can talk about Sinclair, the right-wing media group, Sinclair Broadcasting, that just bought a bunch of Disney regional sports networks. Sinclair Broadcast Network, for those who don't know, is the nation's largest owner of local TV stations. It is also incredibly right wing. Right wing might not even be the proper way to put it. It is really a Trump propaganda outlet essentially.
If you might remember, last year, that there was a segment... They basically write out segments and have local news anchors all across the country read out these segments. You might have read something, seen last year, I think Deadspin had a video, where every single news anchor across the country in these Sinclair stations were reading out this prepared statement defending Trump and talking about how evil the media was, and it was just chilling.
Anyway, this group is now going to be producing all of your local sports coverage across the country. What could go wrong? The 21 networks that are now under the control of Sinclair Broadcasting Group are spread out in markets across the country. It includes the YES network that includes the Yankees, the Brooklyn Nets, Fox Sports West, Los Angeles area sports teams, including Clippers, Rams, Chargers, and Angels.
Whew, that is a lot. We all need to be paying attention to how this now impacts how we talk about athletes, how athletes are covered, and how athlete activism is covered, or probably not covered in these cases. I think it's really important that we keep remembering who is in charge of the messaging. Right now the people in charge of so much local sports messaging, those people just got a lot more dangerous, a lot more powerful, and they're people we need to be paying a lot more attention to. Burn.
Shireen: I'm going to go next. I just wanted to say that in the spirit of talking about athletics and stuff and running and how the racism against African runners, this suits that. Basically, we had this half marathon called the Trieste, which is an Italian half marathon, announced that they were going to ban all African athletes from competing in this. As, rightfully so, that announcement absolutely was engulfed in a lot of rage, because like, WHAT? What ended up happening was they took back that ban.
Their excuse, which I find so ridiculous, meaningless and vacuous, which, of course all excuses to justify racism and “necessary discrimination”, was that, we've decided, and I quote from CNN piece, "This year was decided only to take European athletes to make the point that measures must be taken to regulate what was currently a trade in high value African athletes." This is from Fabio Carini, who is an organizer. He added that, "African athletes are purely and simply exploited, which is something we can no longer accept."
Fabio's idea is to ban them. No, Fabio. No, Fabio. This is not what needs to happen here. I'm sorry. Italy is not this bastion of goodwill towards Africans in the first place. Enter commentary and history about colonialism. Anyways, that aside even, putting into context that you think banning African athletes... They didn't ban any other athletes. They didn't ban from anywhere else, just Conveniently, that place called Africa.
Let's do this. Let's torch this, because, I'm sorry, Fabio, you and your cronies, this was a really bad decision, and if you want to make sure that African athletes aren't exploited in the way that you said they were, you could do something to assist them, to show them solidarity, you should give them some resources, to give them some amplification. That would be a better route, Fabio. So, I'm going to burn this.
Jess: Yeah. This story might sound familiar to some listeners, because we talked about it way back in Episode 27. If you were listening to Episode 27, thank you.
Jamie Horowitz was the president of Fox Sports in July, 2017, when he was fired after two years in the position. His bio was stripped immediately from the site. While the company didn't explain publicly why he had to go and why so fast, the Los Angeles Times reported that his termination was the result of a sexual harassment investigation that found he had harassed multiple women. Jamie Horowitz is a sexual harasser.
Horowitz is best known for creating the insufferable shouty and sometimes racist and sexist EPSN show, First Take that made Skip Bayless famous and still exists with hosts Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman yelling at each other, though I will say the show did give Cari Champion a bigger spotlight, and for that only it gets a little bit of credit from me.
After his time at ESPN, he left for NBC's Today and only had that job for two months, because he was a disaster there. He then took over at Fox Sports, where he brought the shouty with him from ESPN. Horowitz then actually cut, actually, he cut reporting at the time and replaced it with debate. There was middling viewership.
Then a week before he was fired for harassing his employees, he decided to pivot Fox Sports' digital properties almost entirely to video, cutting all of their writing and editing positions, and the result of that, according to the website, Awful Announcing... Last year, they said that Fox lost 88 percent of its traffic due to Horowitz's decisions, so a total disaster.
Well, great news for sexual harassers, people who destroy the media entities they touch, and especially people in the middle of that horrible Venn diagram, Jamie Horowitz is back, baby. It hasn't even been two years since he torched Fox Sports and harassed female employees, and he's now the head of content for a site spelled D-A-Z-N, but is apparently annoyingly pronounce "Da Zone," which is a streaming startup run by John Skipper, who you might remember as the guy who was ESPN's president until December 2017, when he abruptly quit, fearing that his cocaine addiction would be revealed by someone who was attempting to extort him over the secret.
It's entirely possible. I really mean this. It's entirely possible that no women work at DAZN but what a message Skipper has sent to any current female employees and any future ones. This is yet another example of the White Boy Network at work, and yet another example of the lie that being a known sexual harasser matters at all, especially if you're a White man.
I want to burn this hiring decision and, more broadly, the systemic garbage fire that is White Boy Networks. Burn.
Shireen: After burning all that garbage, we're going to amplify some amazing people in sports. Badass woman of the week shout-outs:
First of all, to Native-American runner Jordan Daniel, who is raising awareness about indigenous rights through the sport. Great piece on her in Sports Illustrated this week that we'll link in the show notes.
We'd like to congratulate Olympique Lyonnais for winning the Division 1 Féminin title in France. This is their 13th consecutive win, and nobody is surprised that they won. They're an incredible team.
I want to congratulate West Ham ladies' player Rosie Kmita for being the first British South Asian ever to play in an FA Cup Final. Congratulations to you. Somewhere out there Jess Bhamra is applauding.
USA Women's Hockey player, Brianna Decker, is being inducted into the Wisconsin Hockey Hall of Fame.
UFC fighter, Brianna Van Buren, won the straw weight title at the Invicta Fighting Championship in Kansas City on Friday.
We'd like to congratulate Christina Picton and Raphaëlle Tousignant, who were the first women to play for Hockey Canada's Sledge Team on Saturday in the finals. Sledge hockey is actually hockey on small sleds, for people that don't know. It's also a parasport.
Team USA won the gold, three-two against Canada, so congratulations to Team USA.
Stéphanie Frappart became the first female referee to officiate a game in France's Ligue 1. Frappart officiated the game match between Amiens and Strasbourg on Sunday.
Katayoun Khosrowyar is the coach of the Iranian Women's Football Team, and now she is hired to be a trainer at Seattle Reign Academy. She is the first Iranian-American woman to coach at an academy in the United States.
Can I get a drum roll, please.
Group: (drum roll)
Shireen: I love my baby otters.
Our bad-ass woman of the week is South African runner phenomenon, Caster Semenya. Caster won the Women's 800 meter race at the Diamond League Event in Doha, Qatar on Friday. We stand with her in solidarity against the absolutely racist and misogynist rulings about her body. We love you, Caster, and congratulations on this incredible achievement.
What's good? What's good in the Burn It All Down zone? I had to say that. "DAZN" what a stupid name.
Jessica: "Da Zone."
Shireen: "Da Zone." Lindsay, what's good?
Lindsay: This week is easy for me. Tomorrow, starting on Monday, I'm going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, not California, Shireen.
Shireen: I thought it was in California. I don't know.
Lindsay: Yeah. Not where Dylan McKay surfed, but a desert. I've never been to this part of the country. I'm so excited. I'm actually going to be alone, and so if there are any flame throwers in the area who want to grab a drink or show me around, always game for that. But I'm mostly going to put the deadlines away and explore the desert. I am so excited.
Shireen: That's awesome. I just returned from Portugal. I'm completely, completely in love with that country. I met some phenomenal people, like it’s not just the pastéis de nata, the custard tarts, their orange juice. I'm a huge citrus fan, and there was just citrus and lemon trees everywhere, which made me extremely happy. I brought one back, so if you were the Canadian Border Services Agency, please ignore that.
I also want to think empathetic flight agents, because my trip back with my kids was really, really, really hectic. We missed our connecting flight, and then we were stuck in Frankfurt and then got rerouted to Munich, so it took us over 30 hours to get back. We met some really amazing, kind people at the Lufthansa that were very nice to us. I also want to thank Nespresso for having coffee available pretty much everywhere to get me through that ordeal.
I also, what's really good, and I want to say this, is my kids. My kids were super patient. I have flying anxiety, and it was really held under control, but they were fantastic, and I'm really proud of them, and I'm going to cry, because being stuck with Shireen Ahmed at an airport in stressful situations, it's not the easiest thing. It's not the easiest thing to do, and they were magnificent, and I'm very proud of my kids for doing that. It was just, they were just wonderful, and they're good kids, and I like them this week.
Last week, I just want to say, Ramadan Mubarak to everybody. Ramadan is starting on Monday. We're recording Sunday. I am absolutely not prepared at all. It means that Muslims observe, we'll get up before sunset, which in North America is around three in the morning, or before three, to eat, to make sure that we stop eating by sunrise, which is I think three-ish and the sun will go down around eight, so fast for about 16 hours.
If you know anybody that is observing Ramadan, if they're cranky or are kind of looking away from you, just keep in mind, and I'm going to tweet out some helpful reminders for people that could be really tired around two or three o'clock. They could be conscious that their breath might not be the freshest. Just sort of be aware of those kinds of things if you have any colleagues that are Muslim and might be observing Ramadan.
To all my other Muslim fans out there that are celebrating or observing or are not celebrating but just aware, just Ramadan Mubarak to you and me this month, be full of benefit and love and spiritual fulfillment.
Jess: Yeah. I mentioned last week that I was moving up on my bench press, and yesterday I did it. I did 50 kilograms. It was super hard, but I was able to do it, and that just...
Shireen: That's amazing.
Jess: Yeah, it's just a cool feeling. It made me feel really good yesterday. Then since we're on vacation themed, I am almost four weeks out from going to France, and I'm just really excited. I'm trying to get prepared. I don't know. I'm just really jazzed about it and thinking about it all the time, so that's what's good with me.
Shireen: Fifty kilograms?
Jess: Yeah. Yeah, like 110 pounds.
Shireen: You could lift Brenda.
Jess: Oh, I could, to bench press.
Shireen: Let's try that.
Jess: I could definitely deadlift, I could definitely deadlift her.
Lindsay: That would be a really great Patreon reward segment.
Jess: There you go.
Shireen: That's it for Burn It All Down this week. Although we’re done for now, you can always burn all day and all night with our fabulous array of merchandise, including mugs, pillows, tees for these bags. What better way to crush toxic patriarchy in sports and sports media by getting someone you love or getting yourself a pillow with our logo on it. Teespring.com/Stores/BurnItAllDown.
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On behalf of Lindsay and Jessica, I'm Shireen.