Ep. 111: Women's World Cup, NBA/NHL finals, and Ultimate Frisbee
This week, Lindsay and Amira hold down the fort and review the NBA and NHL finals (1:54), talk goal celebrations and phenomenal goalkeepers at the Women's World Cup (21:04), and then Amira talks to Eileen Murray about the brand new Premiere Ultimate League and discusses the ways in which they are striving for equity and inclusion in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee (36:55).
Lindsay: Hello, everyone, and welcome to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. This is Lindsay Gibbs, sports reporter at ThinkProgress, and we have a skeleton crew today. It is just myself and my lovely and in my same city co-host, Amira Rose Davis. How are you doing, Professor/Doctor Davis?
Amira: Hello. I'm good, and Gemini Gang. Gang, gang, we're taking over.
Lindsay: Oh, god. The Geminis are taking over. Maybe that's why it's 10:00 PM at night, and you were just locked out of your house. Maybe that's-
Amira: It was a mess. It's a mess.
Lindsay: This is what happens when it's the gemini takeover. It's a hot ass mess. Anyways, we are the two who are not seeing the World Cup live. Brenda and Jess are still in France. Shireen is recovering from her trip to France, which I understand you would need a few days to recover from because she was everywhere and schooling everyone, as she does. So, yeah, look. This is going to be a pretty straightforward episode here. We decided let's not overthink it. Let's talk NBA and NHL finals. Let's talk about what's going on in the Women's World Cup, and then, we have a really special interview for you all. Amira is going to talk to Eileen Murray about the brand new Premier Ultimate League and discuss ways in which they are striving for equity and inclusion in the sport of Ultimate Frisbee. So, something a little different for us. I haven't listened to it yet and cannot wait to hear that interview and yeah, look, Amira, should we just dive right in?
Amira: I think we better just dive right in.
Lindsay: Because anything else goes wrong! Okay. So, let's start. It feels weird, I have to say, to have this conversation without Shireen here.
Lindsay: But let's start with the NBA. So, we have an NBA champion. It is the Toronto Raptors. They beat the Golden State Warriors after injuries and fatigue and everything, beat the Golden State Warriors. We don't do asterisks here at Burn It All Down. Of course, I was thrilled for Toronto. I was thrilled for Shireen. I was tolerant of Drake and his excitement and Kawhi Leonard, who I just love, and my beloved, Danny Green, who ... Tar Heel all the way. But it was weird, right? Because you had in the final, you had Klay Thompson injure his ACL. When I woke up and saw that news, I just wanted to just ... I was actually sick to my stomach. Of course, the game before that, Kevin Durant had tore his Achilles. So, it's just like these are really terrible injuries to the best guys in the league. What are your thoughts, Amira?
Amira: Yeah. And it's always hard to watch people get hurt. My thoughts mainly are I don't ... The NBA and the ways that people just run with narratives and story lines are wild to me. And so, it was just a lot of people are now playing back all of these kind of media takes about Kawhi when he was leaving the Spurs. That looked terrible now. Then, in real time, you watch, everybody's like, "Oh, the Warriors' dynasty is over." And it's like, "No. They're still viable. I'm not one who thinks this puts them into a tailspin. It certainly could, but they've been to four straight championships. That's still dynastic. Is that the word? So, I just feel like we don't actually have-
Lindsay: They've been to five straight finals, five straight finals.
Amira: Five. There you go. Five. I even shorted them on one. But I think that there's a way where we don't know everything we think we know in the moment. So, I just-
Lindsay: I know everything, Amira. Stop telling them that I don't know everything.
Amira: I'm sorry. I should correct that but yeah. So, that to me was everything unfolding at the end. It was just injuries and this and that and what moves are being made, and I will tell you it exhausted me. It gave me fatigue. I was mostly just happy for everybody besides Drake in Toronto because it was just lovely to see. I think it's lovely when you haven't had that before, and I thought back to when they came out of the east.
Lindsay: This is so Boston of you. It was so cute to see them experiencing this for the first time.
Amira: It was cute, but I thought back to a few weeks ago, and everybody was like, "Is this really going to happen? They're really going to the finals," and it's just it's really dope to see, but we do have to L.O.L. for a second at Drake in his interview coming down the tunnel like he literally just came off the court actually playing.
Lindsay: And he wasn't even in the same city as the players were.
Amira: Right? It's wild.
Lindsay: But he really acted like he had just won it all. And did you see Steph Curry's phone call with him where Steph Curry's walking out of the arena, and he's calling to congratulate Drake on the win?
Amira: No. I missed that.
Lindsay: And it's being recorded for the cameras, and I'm just like, "You know what? There're really no winners here. There are just no winners."
Amira: Oh, my gosh. Why is that even a thing?
Lindsay: I don't know because these guys just are ridiculous. I don't even know. So, I know what you're saying about narratives, and look, I've listened to more NBA podcasts than I do watch NBA basketball because I don't have that much time, but I love the drama of it, and I also just love the sport of basketball. You get to know the personalities so well. So, I do really get sucked into all of the narratives, all the drama. I like listening to all the takes. I love the off-season stuff. We are going to have to talk free agency in just a second because there was a little bit of news there today, and I do want to hear how Boston's feeling-
Amira: Not good is the easy answer.
Lindsay: But to me, this entire series ... First of all, it's a reminder that there's a reason you're really not supposed to get to five straight finals. The wear and tear mentally and physically, that's why what LeBron did for so long is so inconceivable even now because it's an extra three months of basketball and much more intense basketball than regular season.
Amira: I mean, did you see Kawhi tried to sit down in the presser?
Lindsay: Yes. Okay. So, there's this great clip where Kawhi Leonard is sitting down on the podium, and he just groans as he's sitting down, and he goes, "Oh, shit," because he hurts. And someone on Twitter posted it, and I said, "All the 30 plus people know how he's feeling," and I had a very tough moment when my 20-something coworker sent that tweet to me and goes, "What am I missing?" I was like, "Oh, I have really bad news for you about your future, just the worst news."
Amira: Well, I did want to say the wear and tear is something that I think is a good point bringing up, but also just to say, we also got good basketball to just take it to the court for a second. It's nice to just also have good games, and I think that game six was a really good game. It had clutch shots, and it felt like everybody was playing their best, even with injuries aside. It just felt like everybody was trying to leave it on the court, and we've had other finals where they've been this news fest, or everything going on off the field or off the court is the bigger storyline than the play itself. And I think that one of the things I do appreciate about these games is that it was compelling and that especially on the Raptors, you had really unlikely heroes.
Lindsay: Fred VanVleet, I mean, who doesn't love Fred VanVleet?
Amira: Yeah, exactly. Did you call that one?
Lindsay: Call Fred VanVleet being a hero?
Lindsay: No. I did not call that one. Yeah. That was ridiculous. Yeah. No, and you know what? Okay. So, we all complain, and I do, too, about when a team dominates for so long. At times, it can get boring, right? At times, it does feel like everything ... nothing else matters, and there are moments where we all take greatness for granted or maybe there's some people who don't. I'm sorry if I'm looping you into the royal "we", but the cool thing about dynasties, the great thing about these super teams or these ridiculous runs is it gives everyone a target, right? It makes it more meaningful when they get knocked off. It gives everyone something to kind of swing for and pushes everyone to get better, and I think Toronto deserved this win. I don't think they would've won if it had been a completely healthy Klay and a completely healthy KD, but I think injuries always are a part of this, and I think, going back to the Kawhi stuff, one of the things that this should have ... This should end the conversation. It won't, but it should. If anybody ever questioning players when they want to sit because of an injury, or when they're having trouble with training staff, or they don't seem to trust the process, or they're taking longer.
Because I mean, honestly, I think you can tie both Kevin Durant's injury, the Achilles to the calf, those are connected, and when it comes to Klay, his hamstring and the ACL. Those are not necessarily disconnected. There's no way to tell 100% if one would happen without the other. That's not how things work, but both of them came back, and I do believe that they both wanted to come back because, of course, you want to come back and play in the NBA Finals, but it really did put what Kawhi did last year into perspective. He felt uncomfortable about the place his body was and about the people who were taking care of his body, and that for him was a deal breaker, and you know what? Good for him.
Amira: Yeah, and piggybacking off of that, I mean, I think, to me, that's just connected to the control over the bodies that they have, and I mean that in terms of both advocating for themselves around injury and around what their body can and cannot do, but also about where their bodies should and should not play. And that's a way to segue into the free agency conversation. Immediately within hours of the game being over, a lot of the media attention turned to if Leonard would or would not stay in Toronto because if you recall, when he was signed, the Raptors bet big. They bet that they would just go all in this year. They signed him with no guarantees, not to a multi-year contract, and they achieved exactly what they hoped to, but now, it's the next day, and they're facing down the fact that he's probably leaving.
And I think that when I was talking about narratives before, that's one of the things that I was speaking about when I saw a lot of people saying, "Oh, he's just a different kind of dude, or he's weird. He's a great player, but to not care one iota about the space that he's playing in or Canada or not having any allegiance to stay." And it's just, to me, the same shades of conversations we've heard time and time again that really kind of balks at when players take control or attempt to exert some agency over where they labor.
Lindsay: Yeah. Look, I do get it. We've had Shireen on this podcast talking about how she wants Kawhi to stay and how it's going to be really hard if he does leave, and it will change a little bit the way she feels as a fan, and I get that. I think that's the reality of it. We want these players to love our teams, but we also want them to be happy. And I think what Kawhi did coming in this year, in his post-game presser after winning the championship, he shared. He said, "The day I was traded, I texted Kyle Lowry, and I said, 'Look. I know your best friend,'" because we all know how close Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were, and DeMar DeRozan was traded to the Spurs for Kyle Lowry, and he texted. And he said, "I know how upset you are. I know you just lost your best friend, but let's do this. I'm here, and I want to win, and let's do this together." And I thought that was so cool, and that's what he did all year. He came, and no, he didn't squelch any rumors about his free agency, but he came and did work, and he cared. He did his job, and he did it well.
And from all things looked, it looked like the organization took great care of him, and no matter what happens next, what a special year this was and what a special player he is. I think, in the end, no matter what happens, it's going to be something that all Toronto and all basketball fans really look back on this year really fondly.
Amira: Yeah. Totally, and if I could just ... The two other things I want to leave the NBA conversation with-
Lindsay: Does one involved Anthony Davis not being a Boston Celtic? Because I would like to discuss that…
Amira: No, Lindsay. I was not going to talk about that. Thank you.
Lindsay: Okay. Well, we will have to talk about that, but keep going, keep going.
Amira: Well, we can talk about that later. The two things are, one, the first thing is to say there is a situation that happened at the end of the game involving the executive and the president of basketball operations and GM of the Raptors, Masai Ujiri, who was getting onto the court because, duh, his team just won. And then, there was, if you leave it to what the security guards, leave it to what they say, he shoved this person out of this way when they were trying to check his credentials. They said he didn't have his credentials handy, and therefore, when he was kind of moving past them to go celebrate with his team, rightfully so, that he didn't have the right credentials to be on the field or on the court, sorry. And it's ridiculous because he's on live TV. You can see at the moment, he has his credentials, A, in his hand.
Lindsay: Yeah. Right there.
Amira: And B, in a picture a second later with his credentials ... oh, where? In his hand. And it smacks of the same kind of similar situation if you recalled that happened with Michael Bennett at the end of the Patriots Super Bowl, two, three Super Bowls ago, where Houston PD basically did this whole press conference and accused him of pushing this elderly security guard and said that they couldn't locate him after. It was all this stuff, and it's like you can't locate him? He's on national TV giving an interview with his brother. A, we can see this but, B, it's just kind of a reminder of profiling and who should or should not be there, and the fact that this GM of the Raptors went to celebrate his own team and was essentially stopped and asked for his papers. So, that's something that was like a mini burn, but I wanted to put on the radar we haven't heard the last of it unfortunately because it's still unfolding. And the second thing is the narrative of everybody saying, "Ugh, no more basketball. The season's over." Just a quick reminder, WNBA's in season. Go watch that. Okay. Thanks. Bye.
Lindsay: And what a wild season it is. I have no clue what's happening. It's so weird. Okay. Really quickly, though, we also, today, found out that Anthony Davis is going to be in Los Angeles with Lebron, and now, pretty much every Laker that's not Lebron is in New Orleans. And I know Boston fans were in their feels today. Were you in your feels, Amira?
Amira: No, I'm not because as my friend Howard Bryant has pointed out, I love when he makes this point, is what is the highest profile black player in free agency that's chosen to come to Boston? And the answer is Al Horford. So, no, I'm not surprised. I don't think it's really surprising. I tend to think that people who come to Celtics will get drafted or traded there, or it's going to be a big thing like the big three, right? They pull off something like that. It needs to be a cluster hire to borrow an academic term about increasing diversity or targeting an area, and so, I wasn't in my feelings because I didn't think it would happen. I don't know why people thought it would. I'm also ignoring the Celtics until they get their shit together. So, that's also helping.
Lindsay: Yeah. I think that's fair. They're in timeout right now. Another Boston team, I'm sorry Amira, but I have to admit. I did not watch much of the Stanley Cup finals, but the Boston Bruins did fall in game seven to the Blues who won the first ever Stanley Cup in St. Louis Blues history, which is quite ... I keep forgetting because they've been around for so long that this is their first one. What went wrong? What happened to the Bruins that last game seven?
Amira: Yeah. Man, I was really upset. It was a frustrating game, and I was upset just because it had been a really good series, and then, I just ... The St. Louis Blues goaltender was amazing, stood on his head and hands down made the game even what it was, and it was a kind of peculiar game because the Bruins dominated the first period, and most of the first half of the second period, they had more shots. At one point, there was a wild stat where the Bruins had like 15 shots on goal. None of them had gone in. The Blues had three shots on goal, and two of them were goals, right? So, that kind of gives you a sense of how the game was. Bruins were attacking a lot. They had a lot of good looks, and there was amazing saves happening, and what happened was because they were pressing, it kind of went into this space where the Blues were able to get quick counterattacks, and they didn't have a lot of shots, but man, their shots were precise. And then, all of a sudden, you're staring at a 2-0 hole and at home, and the kind of air just kind of went out, and the energy went out of the garden. It just kind of disappeared.
And then, in the second period, it was really wild because it was really fast pace, really physical game. It has been a really physical series, and they were playing in a way that made you think, A, they're either going to rip off a million goals right now and take this cup and win, or the Blues are going to get more and more energy because their goalie is standing on his head and not letting anything in. And they are going to pop another goal in. It either is going to explode with goals, or the Bruins are going to go down like four, and they did. So, that was frustrating to watch. I turned it off because I just don't need to feel terrible. So, I just was like at the second period, I could just see. I was just like I know they're not coming back from this. The Blues are playing too well but yeah. So, the thing that I think was most frustrating to me out of this whole series really goes back to the game in which there was a missed penalty that everybody kind of stopped playing, and then, the Blues were able to punch it in.
Literally, the players were standing. They had stopped skating because everybody was for sure that this was going to be called, and it wasn't, and at the time, people were really mad about it, but Boston went on to win the next two games. So, it kind of went by the wayside, and I got frustrated all over again about that. But hey, at the end of the day, it was a really great series. Any time you can go game seven in the Stanley Cup finals, you are lucky because playoff hockey is one of the best things on Earth, and I'm really proud of the Bruins. I'm proud of their season. It was a topsy turvy playoff. So, they weren't even supposed to get this far, but man, this team was good. And congrats to the Blues. It's really great, like I said before, to watch teams celebrate their first thing. So, go for it. Live your best life. Now you know how it feels. It's wonderful, and we'll be back next year.
Lindsay: All right. It is time to move on to the Women's World Cup. I'm just going to dive right into it because there's been so much happening since we last recorded. Every single day, there's about 20 badass women of the week performances, and it's almost overwhelming. So, if you can, Amira, will you just start out, what is a game or a player that really sticks out for you, what we've seen in the last week of group play?
Amira: So, Sara Gama and the back line of Italy has been playing lights out, out-of-their-mind fantastic. There's been a couple of key saves and recoveries they come up with. They are a huge reason why Italy is kind of a surprise in this World Cup so far and has knocked off Australia, certainly, but also, it's just really good. And I think their back line has gave a lot of credit to them. So, that's been phenomenal to watch. I think that's one of the things that jumps out the best to me.
Lindsay: Oh, my god.
Amira: Endler, the Chilean goalie, put on an absolute show today actually versus the United States, even though the US won in a quite lopsided way, could've been so much worse. There were so many back to back brilliant saves that Endler made. It was fantastic to watch. It really was.
Lindsay: I completely agree. I thought that Endler just ... To me, I honestly believe that this is the performance I'm going to remember years from now thinking back to this Women's World Cup. I know we've got a long way to go. I know we're not likely to see Chile in the knockout rounds, but it was just goal after goal. She got into team USA's head, and I just feel like there's just really nothing to me like seeing a dominant goalie performance. It's just ... I just don't understand. I don't understand how any of these athletes do any of these things, but goalie in particular, I would just be in the fetal position. I just can't even fathom that amount of pressure.
Amira: I know, and it's like I was a striker. I'm much happier attacking and not just sitting and waiting for people to kick balls at my head. That is terrifying. So, I have the utmost admiration for goalies, and she just put on a clinic today. It was really wonderful to see.
Lindsay: Look. I hate that we have to discuss this, but I feel like this conversation could take us to some interesting places. So, earlier this week, last week now, team USA beat Thailand, 13 to nothing. Look, nobody really wants to see a score that lopsided in the Women's World Cup, and I've been open here about how much I love team USA, about how I am a homer when it comes to the World Cup. It's one of the few things, as I'll be writing about in the next couple weeks, that really does strike some patriotism in me, but seeing Thailand, the last few goals it got, it got really hard to watch. However, what came after this was a discussion where a lot of the media attention was on sportsmanship and on whether or not team USA were bad sports, not just for continuing to score, and of course it turned out where we know, score differential actually matters. It's not nothing but also their celebrations. They were big, exuberant celebrations for each goal, and a lot of people had a problem with that. So, Amira, what were your thoughts on this controversy, I guess I would have to call it?
Amira: It was very interesting because I fell asleep in the second half of the game, and I fell asleep when the score was like 3-0, right, at halftime. I missed the whole second half.
Lindsay: You missed a lot. You missed a lot.
Amira: And it was like ... Yeah. I woke up, and it was like 13-0, and I was like, "Wait. What happened?" And instantly, before I even saw a highlight or a goal, anything, I saw debates raging. And so, I actually had to go, and I re-watched the game, and I saw it kind of unfold, and the way that people had been talking about online, I was thinking that their celebrations were going to be more than what they were. I was prepared for them.
Lindsay: Or racist or something, that's how people were acting.
Amira: Right, or like screaming in their face. So, one of the things that really jumped out to me is how many people who never have cared or watched women's soccer before started weighing in particularly because it was trending, right? Then, it became a point of conversation, and I think that Shireen ... and I really wish Shireen was here because she had a very different kind of response to it, and she has a great Twitter thread that I recommend everybody check out for this, another perspective, in which a lot of what happened for her was that the chance of USA paired with the utter domination just underscored the lack of resources for other countries, other nations, but also because she was there in the stadium, and she heard those chants. She saw some USA fan in a USA camo jersey, and it felt really, I think, aggressive. And I think that I can totally understand. I can totally see how that domination paired with the US as a nation state, as aggressor, as an empire geopolitically outside, off the pitch as well as on it, can feel like a moment where it's not only hard to watch, but it also just reminds you of the general imbalance and power differential in the world, right?
It feels like the whole weight of the country is beating up on under-resourced areas that they've already extracted resources from, that they already oppressed. I totally get that, and I feel like that, oftentimes, during the Olympics or during these world tournaments, part of that is the nature of when you put these kind of global entities together on a stage. You can't divorce it from the political positions that these countries are coming out of. But I have to say for me in this scenario, I didn't have that feeling, and that was largely because I think we don't expect athletes to turn it off, and I think that I've watched so many times, I've watched the men's basketball team from the United States in the Olympics play under-resourced basketball team, and it will be like 120 to 47, and nobody's batting an eye. And I do come from a philosophy where it's disrespectful to your opponent to not play. What would it even look like to just turn the game into a game of possession? I find that to be strange, and I find the chemistry of the team, particularly in terms of celebrations, and one of the things they articulated afterwards was, "This is us as a team. We've waited. We have pent up excitement, and we were celebrating each other, and there were some people who played who are not going to see the field again."
There's people like Carli Lloyd who still feel like they have something to prove. Everybody has their own individual thing, but ultimately, they're doing their job, and they did it well that day. And I think that that's what kind of left me uncomfortable with the lecture I felt like they were getting about that, especially when the Thai players and the Thai coach themselves were saying how impactful the game was to them and how important their exchanges with the players were and how they felt on the pitch, which that it was an opportunity, and it was hard, of course, in the moment. But also, they had utmost respect for the game and for their opponents, and I think that was mutual. And the other thing that I was really quite happy to see was that Megan Rapinoe went on the show, whatever, the talk show-
Lindsay: Today Show? Or yeah.
Amira: ... part of the World Cup.
Lindsay: Fox Sports…?
Amira: No. It was the World Cup. I don't know what they're calling themselves, but she went to that little table in front of the Eiffel Tower, and she was asked about it, of course, and one of the things that I really appreciated that she did is she's like, "Listen. I get it. You want to have a conversation about the lack of resources. Absolutely, we should, but also, we should certainly take that up with FIFA." And she didn't stop there. She was like, "I've heard for instance that Chile didn't get to practice as a full squad until X amount of weeks ago. I've also heard that X, Y, and Z ... " She straight out called out FIFA and called out the federations that are lacking in resources, and I think that's really important because I think that there's a way in which they became conduits. They became the focus point for the unevenness of resource allocation in women's soccer, and I feel like that's really missing the target about these other federations.
And I think, at the end of the day, look, women's soccer, we've seen an enormous growth in it. We've covered on this show, a lot of the ways that we still have to go, but I think that in four years, maybe we'll even see a more competitive field, but the nature of these tournaments are especially in the group stages that you're going to have some of these lopsided moments. And while it's a shame, I think that the players themselves have demonstrated that they are aware of the issue and that they're also putting pressure on the place where the pressure really needs to be applied.
Lindsay: Yeah. I mean, look, I completely understand feeling the bully and the toxicity of the way United States patriotism and United States world domination exists, but that's also a lot to put on these women soccer players, right, for the United States. That's not their fault. They are here to do a job, and ultimately, them doing their job well is going to lift up the rest of ... It's going to help the sport as a whole, which will then help bring ... help life it all up. I mean, one of the things that really struck me was the New York Times did this huge spread the day after the game, but they had pictures from all 13 goal celebrations. And it's like if they don't get that big number, did they get that amount of attention? How many people only found out that team USA, that the women's World Cup was happening because of that, right? And that's ultimately like they went out there, and they did their jobs. And I understand if you think it's ugly American and all of that, and I get that, but I also really think that these women deserved to celebrate every single goal. Because look, there are a lot of people who have not picked them to win the women's World Cup. It's not like they're shoo ins to win everything this year.
It's not like they've had the easiest time in the fight. I mean, this is still going to be a really big battle. They have all this pressure on their shoulders. Like you said, I mean, for players for Sam Mewis, who people don't know who she is. She got to score a World Cup goal. She should celebrate that, right? Because that's a huge, huge deal, and for so many of these players, because women's soccer doesn't really get a spotlight, except for once every four years, this is a big chance for them individually, too, right, to get some attention, to help build their brand, to help kind of leverage their talents into more, and women don't get that spotlight that often. So, by all means, part of being an athlete is being selfish and taking that spotlight. And I just really didn't have a problem with anything that they did, especially because of how much fighting they're doing for the rest of women's soccer, because of how much you saw Carli Lloyd really comforting the Thai goalkeeper afterwards. Everyone on the Thai team did come out and say that they really felt respected by USA, and if you saw, so, Thailand, I believe it was on Sunday, got beat by Sweden five to one.
But if you see the reaction from the Thai players, and especially if they have a benefactor because they don't get much support from the federation. So, they have a benefactor, and the way they were celebrating after that one goal, you will sob. And you know what? They had to earn that goal. Nobody gave them that goal. They earned it, and their celebration, it just gave me chills. So, look, ultimately, there's a lot of imperialism and a lot of awfulness with the United States, and I want to dissect that and take that down. I want to see team USA challenged. I want to see global women's soccer get more competitive, but ultimately, I think people are projecting a lot onto a 13, nothing, onto one game that doesn't really deserve ... that these players aren't responsible for.
Amira: Right. Totally.
Lindsay: Did you see that Thai goal and that celebration, Amira?
Amira: Oh, I was so happy. It was lovely, and that's why I watch, honestly. Those are the moments. The other thing that you saw, right, is the USA trolling after their goals today, just doing golf claps or handshakes, right, as a kind of tongue-in-cheek to their critics. And also, I just want to say that I just saw this number, that viewing of the women's World Cup is up 310% on online streaming platforms than in 2015, right? And so, I do think that this also points to the fact that more people are tuning in. I feel like we're always playing this game of being able to say this is what growth looks like and then here are the things that are still really annoying about that and that we need to work on. And so, I think viewership is up as Brenda has noted online if you see her makeshift duct tape jerseys. It would be really great if we could get merchandise so that people can do that. I did see. I took a picture of it. I'll put it in the show notes. They started having USA jerseys in Target and stuff like that, although mostly they either say Lloyd, Morgan, or Mia Hamm. I'm just like, "What is that?"
Lindsay: My friend, who's a guy, said he couldn't find any men's. I think he was at Dick's Sporting Goods-
Amira: You can't find any men's. That's the other thing that's really annoying about it. But I did find this one shirt said USA on it, and it was like, "Ponytails, corner kicks, something, something, and championships," right? And so, you can tell that they're trying to do the female look book part of it, but there's dudes who support this team. Let's just get it to-fucking-gether, please. But other than that, I am super excited for this next week, this last week of group play, just a reminder for everybody tuning in. These are when the group stages are played simultaneously. So, there's going to be games on at the same time as group play wraps up. We have some really great matches to see who else is punching their ticket into the round of 16, and it's just we have so much soccer left, and I'm thrilled about that.
So, it is now my pleasure to talk to Eileen Murray from the New York Gridlock team in the Premier Ultimate League. Eileen has a storied career, right, in Ultimate, both at the national level and with various other coaching positions, but we wanted to talk in particular about the new Premier Ultimate League, which is in its debut season right now, and I believe wrapping up its regular season. So, Eileen, welcome to Burn It All Down.
Eileen: Thank you so much for having me.
Amira: So, let's start first just with Ultimate. So, I grew up in Amherst, Massachusetts. So, I am fairly familiar with Ultimate because it's a hot bed full of Ultimate there, but other people may not be as familiar. So, can you give us just a quick rundown of what the game of Ultimate Frisbee is like beyond, I think, the conceptions that people may have of the sport in their head?
Eileen: Sure. So, when I explain ultimate Frisbee to people who aren't super familiar with it, I tell them that it's a combination of soccer, American football, and basketball, and the reason why it's similar to soccer is because it's a continuous game that, at each point, ends in a score. So, teams can go from offense to defense fluidly, depending on who has possession of the Frisbee. It's like football, though, in that you score by passing into an end zone, and it's like basketball because there are some rules around picks and pivot foots and things like that that you need to be familiar with. But basically, it's a field sport where you play seven on seven. You pass. You advance by passing the Frisbee in any direction. Once you receive the Frisbee, you have to stop moving, and then, you get one point for a score by someone receiving it in an end zone. And then, each point is started with something called a pole, which is like a kickoff in football, and games typically go either to a certain time limit or to a certain point.
Amira: Yeah, and if you haven't seen an ultimate Frisbee game, first of all, you should, but second of all, it's so fast-paced. When people laid out to dive and get the Frisbee, it's exciting. It's has all the adrenaline and all the exhilaration of any sport. So, I highly recommend that you check it out. So, can you give us the landscape of what professional leagues look like for ultimate Frisbee, and then, tell us what brought you and others to start the Premier Ultimate League?
Eileen: Sure. So, eight years ago, there was a professional league started called the American Ultimate Disc League or AUDL. This was a men's professional league, and it was started by a group of men who were interested in turning the game into a professional sport. A year later, that league split into another league called Major League Ultimate. So, there were two professional men's leagues for six years. There was some disagreement about how the league was functioning and should it be a franchise or a central office model. Two years ago, though, the MLU folded, and now, we're back to one professional league, the AUDL. So, the AUDL was created for and by men, although there have been some women participating in that league over time, but interest very beginning of its inception, people were really excited for this advancement in the sport and just thinking about the ways in which professional visibility might promote our sport in positive ways. But it quickly became apparent that that model was problematic because it was showcasing only men in our sport and very few women.
So, a couple years ago, people started to think about how this was impacting our sport, probably in a negative way because what we started noticing was that, internationally, as well as youth in this country were now starting to identify the sport of ultimate Frisbee with the professional league. And so, what that does is then limit people's exposure to female athletes or non-male athletes. And so, people started to think that we should really reconsider this model because the exposure was then becoming so lopsided. So, three years ago, a group of ultimate Frisbee players got together and started to put pressure on the AUDL to increase its efforts for gender equity, and there was a boycott. So, a lot of players signed a letter saying that they would not support the AUDL unless they made specific intentional movements towards gender equity, and then, the year after the boycott started, another group of people started to just create professional women's teams before a league even started.
So, cities like Atlanta and Austin and Nashville, Indianapolis, Detroit, all just created a team and said, "We are professional ultimate Frisbee," and had some exhibition games. The year after that, so it was this year, so in 2019, the net group of people decided that just having random teams was not sustainable. So, they decided to create a league, and that was the inception of the Premier Ultimate League, and that's when New York hopped on board. So, I knew the people who were doing this and was in conversations because I was actually involved in the men's professional league. I had coached in the MLU for two years and coached in the AUDL for two years as well. So, I knew what was happening both sides, and when I heard that a group of people were creating this new league, I decided that that's where I should put my efforts and then decided to move over and start at the New York team.
Amira: That's wonderful. Now, there's something that you mentioned about equity that really jumped out to me in your mission statement where you guys are quite explicit about saying, "Our league strives gender, racial, and economic diversity," and particularly, you talk about values of gender being on a continuum and beyond a binary and talk a lot about being inclusive in your league. What are some of the ways that the league exemplifies that inclusion already, and are there other kind of strides you're taking to continue to be diverse and inclusive within the sport?
Eileen: Right. We really were very intentional in the language that we put up on the website and the language that we use to communicate what the league is about. And so, when the league was starting, we had a lot of conversations about what that would look like, and so, if you notice on our website, when we write women, we write it with an X. And the reason we do that is because we want to illustrate that we do recognize, like you said, that gender is a continuum, that there exists beyond the binary, and so, thinking about right now, it's difficult in sports in general because there is men's and women's. But then, where do all the non-binary people fit, right? And so, thinking about how we could open it up and really push people to think beyond that and think about there are athletes who do not identify in the binary, and so, we wanted to really intentionally open up a space for people to feel like they had a home to participate in a professional sport.
And so, as we were doing that, we were thinking about ... We looked at what other organizations did in terms of the eligibility requirements to enter into a team or in a league. So, we looked at the Olympic committee. We looked at other professional sports and things like that, and we decided that what we were going to do is try to push the boundaries as far as possible. And so, in our eligibility statement, we say specifically that there is no requirement for specific levels of estrogen or hormone replacement therapy prescription or gender affirmation surgery or anything like that. And so, really we're saying this. We're putting this out there. Having said that, it's still difficult to have people really believe that this is a safe space, and so, currently in the league, we do have non-binary players, but as far as I know, there are not trans players in the league right now. So, all we can do is make sure to continue to use this language, continue to do outreach and to invite people into the community moving forward. So, that's one of the things we think about in terms of gender dynamics.
And it's very similar with racial and social economic justice, right? And so, again, ultimate Frisbee is currently a pretty white sport. It's pretty white and middle class, and so, thinking about, again, ways that we can really show that we want this to be a diverse space, and so, paying players, making sure that they don't have any expenses during a season and then really opening up a space for us to say we care about this. We want people to understand that we are actively trying to do things to bring people in. So, one of the things that we did, for example, is this past weekend, my team, New York Gridlock Ultimate, went down to play Atlanta Soul. We went down a day early, and Saturday before our game, our game was Saturday evening, Saturday from 11:00 to 1:30, we participated in an intersectionality workshop with the other team where we talked about the spaces in between gender and race and class and what that looks like specifically around ultimate Frisbee and in our lives. And those are the kinds of conversations that our teams are having and will continue to have, and those commitments, I hope, will show people who are not in the league yet that we are committed to this, and that it is a space where we welcome and actually encourage people to come to.
Amira: Yeah. Totally. I remember seeing a post on Ultiworld on ultimate and race. I think it was published last year, calling for the sport to explore both subtle and not-so-subtle aggressions or micro-aggressions towards people of color who did play ultimate but also thinking about how to open up the sport, particularly at the youth level. And I think they were based in Philadelphia, but in cities, it seems like the cities that are involved in Premier League, they're great spots to start doing some of this work and have these discussions that you're mentioning. So, the other thing that caught my eye about the league is that you have a pretty explicit national anthem statement on your website, and I wanted to ask you how that came about and if you wanted to explain to folks what you guys were accomplishing there with that statement. It struck me as a pretty progressive move.
Eileen: Yes. Well, so, this actually came up because players asked what we were going to do. So, one of the things that, especially ... I mean, I can't speak for other teams, but what we did here in New York is when we were starting the team, I really wanted us to explore what it meant to be professional, to be a professional team and to be professional athletes and to think about we don't have to do what everybody else is doing. If we're going to do this thing, and we want to really push the boundaries of what it means to be professional, then let's go ahead and push them, right? And so, one of the things that someone brought up was, well, are we going to play the national anthem, and I said, "I don't know. Let's have a conversation about it." And so, our team had a conversation about how people felt about that, what they wanted to do, and what's interesting is we have players on the team who have members of their family that are either in the military or serve in police departments and things like that.
And then, we have other people on the team who didn't want any national anthems. So, again, it's us being really intentional to say we want to talk about these things and have these hard conversations, and it's okay if we don't agree, but let's come to something that we can all do together, something that we can all get behind as a team that we can value each other, commit to each other, and support each other in ways that feel good, and we wanted to make sure that all teams had the ability to do that. And so, when I was thinking about this with my team, I brought it up to the board of the league, and I said, "What is everybody else doing?" And some people were like, "We hadn't even thought about it." Some people were like, "Well, we have these conversations." And so, I suggested that maybe we just make a statement so that when someone came to a game, they weren't surprised if at one game, the anthem was being played. Another game, it maybe wasn't, and so really allowing people to make that decision and what felt good to them. Because as you read on our website, I mean, the history of playing the national anthem at professional sports, I mean, that started kind of as a fluke at a baseball game.
I think it was in Chicago, and it wasn't even before the game. It was in the middle of the game. The fans were kind of not into the game, and they played it. It was during World War I, and suddenly, everyone got super psyched. And so, then, over time, it became this institution, but the anthem wasn't officially adopted by Congress until 1931 anyway. And so, you think about why this was happening over time, and what does it actually say? And it seems like, a lot of times, when the anthem's played, it's mostly ramped up during times where we want to have national unity. But then, you think about why is a professional sporting event a place where we should have this sign of patriotism, right? So, we wanted to make sure that people felt comfortable with the decision and made sure that people could do what they wanted to do. And we've been at a game where they played the anthem, and we don't play it at our game. And we were in Atlanta this past weekend, they played the Negro National Anthem by one of their players. So, people are doing what they want to do, and we just wanted to have people just think about it. So, that's why we had that on our website.
Amira: That's great. So, this next weekend, June 14th and 15th, the Columbus Pride play at the Indianapolis Red, and then, the Austin Torch also are playing in Raleigh at the Radiance. If you go to the website, premierultimateleague.com, you'll find not only more information on the entire league, but you also can see live streams on the specific channels of these teams, and be on the lookout for championship weekend, which is Friday and Saturday, June 28th and 29th in Atlanta, Georgia in Silverback Park in Atlanta. So, you can also check out the website for more information about that should you be in that area and want to watch it live. And Eileen, what else can people do to be involved to highlight the PLU to hold it up and to-
Eileen: Well, yeah, I think going to the website, checking out the games online. We do almost all of our advertising on social media, and all the teams have Twitter and Facebook and Instagram accounts. Just checking those out, sharing things that you find interesting. We also have a team store through a company called VC Ultimate that makes all of our apparel, and each team has a team store. So, if you want to support the league or a specific team, you can go there, and a portion of the profits go to each team because the team is our franchise. So, we all are looking to raise money for these things. Currently, right now, we have a fundraiser happening for Pride month where you can buy Premier Ultimate League shirt with a modified logo, and all the profits for that fundraiser will be going to local organizations, LGBTQT organizations. You might want to fix that part. Organizations in each city, so yeah, that's a way to support not only the league but also local organizations.
And then, each team, also, on their websites typically has a donation link that you can go to, but just watch, share, and if you want and have the means, go ahead and donate. I did want to do a plug, though, for one other thing if that's okay.
Amira: Yes. Go for it.
Eileen: Yeah. On June 22nd, the Atlanta Soul is helping to host a Colors of Ultimate event, and it is exhibition game for all people of color, players of color, and it'll be on Saturday night, June 22nd, and it's going to be an amazing event. So, all of the players are going to be players of color that apply to go to this game. They're being funded to come in, and it's a mixed game. So, players of all genders will be on two teams playing. They have coaches of color, commentators of color. I mean, really a place for us to celebrate the diversity we have in the sport and also to increase visibility of players of color because, as we know, you've got to see it to be it, so really pushing that. That's going to be an amazing event.
Amira: Well, thank you so much, Eileen, for giving us a chance to chat about the wonderful things that PUL is doing and to put it on folks' radar. I hope you all check it out, flamethrowers, and Eileen, thank you once again for coming on Burn It All Down.
Eileen: Thank you so much.
Lindsay: Okay. It is time for everyone's favorite section, The Burn Pile. I'll go first and then throw it to you, Amira, if that works. All right. So, let's talk about Caster Semenya. As we know, Caster is involved in an ongoing battle to be able to run the way she was born, and she is fighting against the IAAF, against CAS, and now, her case is all the way to a court in Switzerland, which is kind of dealing with her appeal. It's called the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland. So, right now, she is technically able to run any event she chooses without altering her body, having to take drugs to artificially suppress her naturally occurring testosterone levels, but other women who compete in those events who might be intersect or have naturally occurring testosterone levels higher than the new limit in events between 400 meters and one mile, they are still subject to these new regulations, these racist, sexist regulations because Caster is the only one bringing the suit right now. So, the appeal, the stoppage, the temporary suspension is only for her.
So, Caster's continuing to fight, and she let ... There was a press release that was released last week after one of the decisions about the appeal, and buried to the bottom of this was something that I am really kind of still having a hard time stomaching. So, at the end of the press release, this is what Caster Semenya said, "I am a woman, but the IAAF has, again, tried to stop me from running the way I was born. The IAAF questions my sex, causes me great pain, and required me to take hormonal drugs that made me feel constantly sick and unable to focus for many years. No other woman should be forced to go through this in order to have the same right that all women have, to do what we love and run the way we were born." So, the reason this stopped me in my tracks is because, as far as I know, this is the first time that Caster has talked about the years between 2011 and 2015 when she was forced to take drugs in order to compete. She never talked publicly about this. There was never any direct confirmation whether she had or had not taken drugs during this time or the impact that it had on her, but because these rules were in place, and they were very targeted to Caster Semenya, then it was just kind of wildly assumed.
But the fact that she is now openly talking about the fact that taking these drugs for those four years made her feel constantly sick and unable to focus, and the fact that this is now what the IAAF is fighting to be able to do to not just her but other women, all of the women who want to compete in the races, I just think it really, for me, it puts into stark perspective how inhumane this is. They might say, "Oh. It's just taking a pill. We're not requiring them to undergo surgery. It's just they take a pill orally." But the truth is altering people's hormones does fucked up stuff to them. It messes people up to mess with people's naturally occurring hormone levels. That is not something to play around with, and so, I just want to throw again the IAAF onto the burn pile because this is not okay. This has to stop. Burn.
Lindsay: All right. Amira.
Amira: Yeah. So, this past week in London, Nike unveiled its first plus-size mannequin wearing athletic wear in their flagship London store, and there was a lot of appreciative reactions. Some people just carried on because it wasn't actually life-changing. And then, there was Tanya Gold who felt so compelled by this mannequin to pen a piece in The Telegraph, and I just want to read the opening paragraph to you. She goes to talk about this mannequin, and she says, "But the new Nike mannequin is not a size 12, which is healthy, or even 16, a hefty weight, yes, but not one to kill a woman. She's immense, gargantuan, vast. She heaves with fat. She's, in every measure, obese. She's not readying herself for a run in her shiny, new Nike gear. She cannot run. She's more likely pre-diabetic and on her way to a hip replacement. What terrible cynicism is this on the part of Nike." What, and I say this, I cannot stress this enough, the fuck, Tanya?
There's so many things wrong with this, but it irritates me so much. We have such a society that body shames and sends you messages after message about what your body should look like, and particularly, as somebody who is fuller sized, the feeling of being constantly contorting yourself trying to pull it in because you were seeing all these messages that you don't look good, right? Nevermind why or reason or whatever, but this way that all these assumptions that she's making about health, about viability, about attractiveness, all of these things. It's disgusting, and the fact of the matter is that all people of all sizes work out no matter what. You can't tell by looking at somebody what their health is, what their activity level is, and guess what. People who are big need to work out, too. I have double Ds. A little Nike little sports bra ain't going to do shit for me. That's why you need these things, but it just smacks me, the audacity to complain when people aren't fit or in health and wellness, and then, when people are going to the gym, they need workout clothes. And also, none of that even matters. Just mind your fucking business.
If that mannequin isn't shaped to your body type, then okay. Look at all the other 852 that are. She describes this as a glorification of obesity that's killing the world or whatnot, and I'm like, "But dude, she's literally in athletic wear." Just shut up. This made me so angry. I can't even, so angry. Mind your business. Oh, man. That makes me so angry. I don't even have more words to say other than this is clearly burnable. This was clearly an awful thing to do. The Telegraph should not have given space for it. I was happy with all the backlash received. It should receive all the backlash, and it should go right on the burn pile. Lindsay, I'm burning it down.
Lindsay: Burn. Burn, burn, burn. I felt that one. Let's talk badass women of the week. Let's start with Lindsay Gottlieb, the former head coach of Cal Women's basketball, who was hired as an assistant coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers this week. Love to see this train continuing and especially exciting to see this pipeline from NCAA basketball coaching to the men's game. That is exciting as well. I want to give a shout out to Thailand for scoring their first World Cup goal, as we mentioned. Go watch that video. It will show you what this is all about. Vivianne Miedema, who scored twice to become Netherlands' all-time leading goal scorer when Netherlands beat Cameroon on Saturday. I want to give a shout out to Alison Riske, the unseeded American who won the Libéma Open, defeating Kiki Bertens in the final, and Caroline Garcia, who beat Donna Vekić in a thrilling match to win the Nottingham Open, and of course, Christane Endler, who's goalkeeping performance I will remember for years to come as will, I'm sure, many others. And now, Amira, the drum roll's all on you this week, please.
All right. I want to give the Badass Woman of the Week award to Washington Mystics guard, Natasha Cloud. This week, Natasha Cloud decided to hold a media blackout, and instead of talking to reporters about the basketball game after the Mystics faced the Seattle Storm on Friday night in Washington DC in a rematch of last year's WNBA Finals, Natasha used her platform to talk about gun violence in ward eight in Washington DC. Now, this happened because the day prior, she was reading books at an elementary school to kids, and found out that their field day had been canceled because a bullet had hit the school. And not only that, but it was the third bullet in one month to hit that same school, and this school is located just a few minutes away from the Washington Mystics new home, the entertainment sports arena, which is in ward eight in DC. And just want to give Cloud a lot of kudos for using her platform for calling out leaders and for challenging people to take better care of our children, especially in underserved areas and especially our black and brown children. So, thank you, Natasha, for all you're doing.
All right. Amira, we did it. We made it through the episode. Can you think what's good, Amira?
Amira: We survived.
Lindsay: We did.
Amira: Yeah. I'm happy I'm in DC for the next few weeks. My oldest does a theater intensive camp, and so, I'm down here. I'm happy because it means I have so many food options. I get to see people like Marcia Chatelain, who is my mentor and all-around badass. I get to see Lindsay, hopefully. Maybe we'll actually make it to a Spirit game this year.
Lindsay: We’re gonna do it.
Amira: I'll drag you to when the Red Sox play the Nationals. I'm just really excited for summer to really be here. This past week, my kids finished school, and Samari graduated from elementary school, and I now have a middle schooler. So, if you're the praying type, pray for me.
Lindsay: Wait, Amira. We have to talk about those photos, which were my-
Amira: If you haven't seen, my daughter and her friends were insanely emotional during their fifth grade sendoff, despite the fact that 95% of them are going to the same middle school and also will see each other all summer. But every picture, they are simultaneously sobbing, not crying, legit sobbing, and laughing and heaving at the same time. So, every picture, they're crying in, and part of it is half of them are theater kids, and theater kids just give 110% to every emotion they're feeling. But it was hilarious because they would look at each other and burst into tears. It was wild!
Lindsay: That's amazing. You know what? Just that pure emotion just really got me. It was just so pure. For me, what is good? Sorry. It's been a rough week, but I would say what's good is I'm really enjoying this WNBA season. I'm planning my next trip home, which will mean I will get to be on the lake a little bit. So, I'm very excited about that, and selfishly I have to say, I love making it to WNBA games. I love covering the Mystics. They are on a long home stretch for the next 10, 11 days, and that might mean, though, that I have a little bit more of a social life. So, I'm a little bit excited. Yeah, and you know what? I'm glad that our friends and cohosts had such a great time and are having such a great time in France, and I'm not jealous at all. I'm totally okay, and look, just thankful for all of you for listening. Support us on Patreon, patreon.com/burnitalldown. If you want merch, teespring.com/burnitalldown. Follow us on Facebook at Burn It All Down, Gmail, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter, @BurnItDownPod. Twitter, that's our Twitter account. And yeah, I think our website is burnitalldownpod.com, and the gemini somehow made it through and thank you.