Episode 15: NCAA student-athletes, Ezekiel Elliott, IAAF, and Andrea Kremer

On Episode 15 of Burn It All Down: Brenda Elsey, Julie DiCaro, Shireen Ahmed, Jessica Luther, and Lindsay Gibbs talk about back-to-school for student athletes, Caster Semenya commentary, and the NFL suspension of Ezekiel Elliott. We catch up on the highlights from the IAAF world championships in London, where Usain Bolt reminds us that athletes are only human after all. Julie also interviewed the amazing Andrea Kremer about the industry’s double standards and her journey from a ballerina to badass sportswoman. We then take rape cases, xenophobia, and ICE to the burn pile and celebrate some of the bad ass women (and girls) in sports.

For links and a transcript of the show…


On Josh Rosen and Student Athletes:

Domestic Violence and the NFL

IAAF World’s and Caster Semenya


Bad-Ass Women/Girls of the Week


[0:00:14.9] BE: Welcome to this week of Burn It All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want but it’s the feminist sports podcast you need. The gang’s back together again today, I’m Brenda Elsey joined by sports writers Shireen Ahmed, Julie DiCaro, Lindsay Gibbs and Jessica Luther.

It’s been a pretty turbulent week in the world of sports so we’re going to talk about back to school for student athletes, the NFL suspension of Ezekiel Elliott, we interviewed the amazing Andrea Kremer and talk to the IAAF world championships in London. We’ll then visit the burn pile and celebrate some badass women in sports.

[0:00:58.5] BE: I want to start with students and student athletes as we gear up for back to school and of course my heart really goes out to those at UVA starting this year amidst Neo Nazi demonstrations in Charlottesville.

For those of us dealing with more mundane back to school stuff, this week, UCLA quarter back Josh Rosen dared to point out the obvious this week when he discussed the difficulties of being a student athlete. Jessica, how did people take it?

[0:01:27.7] JL: The way that you would expect. Rosen did this Q&A with Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes and in the interview, Rosen told Hayes, “Look, football and school don’t go together, they just don’t, trying to do both is like trying to do two full time jobs. There are guys who have no business being in school but they’re here because this is the path to the NFL.”

He then went on to add, “It’s not they shouldn’t be in school, human beings don’t belong in school with our schedules. No one in their right mind should have a football player schedule and go to school. It’s not that some players shouldn’t be in school, it’s just that universities should help them more instead of just finding ways to keep them eligible.”

So, inevitably, instead of taking Rosen’s point seriously and addressing issues like the way big money football is prioritized over and above player’s educations. Or the ways that universities as Rosen said, find ways to keep players eligible that have nothing to do with getting those players good educations – people from sports commentators to fans, they began to whine about the whiney, lazy players right?

There’s a lot to say here, but I get to kick this off. I want to start by challenging the very basis of so many people’s claims about this right, that everyone keeps saying that these players are lucky. Because they’re going to get a free education that will set them up for life. What are they whining about right?

This assumes that the educations that these guys are getting are good. In preparation for talking about this this week, I was reading a book called Cheated. Which is about UNC’s academic scandal which was extensive and probably kind of normal. The authors of Cheated, Jay Smith and Mary Willingham write, “Through shadow curricula, eligibility tricks, deceptive rhetoric and warped scheduling priorities – too many athletes are forced to pursue a poor facsimile of an education. The athletes aren’t even getting the one thing that we promised them which is a good education.”

They go on to say in Cheated that many of the athletes defrauded in an education are, this is so righteous I’m going to read the whole thing, that these athletes are “Disproportionately from socioeconomically disadvantaged positions and they are also disproportionately African American.”

“The beneficiaries of the business model that their labors propel meanwhile are disproportionately wealthy and white. Universities in disregarding their moral obligations to all students have become complicit in perpetuating social injustice.”

“Unfair hierarchies of power and corrosive racial stereotypes. By systematically neglecting the true educational needs of some of their most academically challenged students, precisely so as to facilitate their own pursuits of profits and wins, universities carry out the greatest of all scandals and big time college sports.”

But sure, Rosen, he’s just a whiney millennial. I’m so excited to talk to you guys about this, what are your thoughts about what came up this week around Rosen’s comments and the reaction to it?

[0:04:36.2] BE: I’m just looking for where’s the whiney badge? Where do you get a kind of suffering medal for doing that? I kind of thought that the whole point of the education and of teaching was to try to make things better for students going through the system now or that we would somehow see it as, “Wow, just because I suffered like that, we don’t want young people today to have to go through that.”

I guess I’m just sort of tired of that argument like, “I did it, you should have to do it.” It’s like, “Why? If it sucked then, doesn’t it suck now?”

Shireen? Did you want to add to this?

[0:05:11.4] SN: Just, I think the idea of people accusing him of being whiney is really interesting because he’s criticizing the system that a lot of people have before. I think that you know, when athletes and students, student athletes rather, are talking about their experiences, the rest of the society is like, “You’re getting a free ride and all you have to do is throw a football or all you have to do is kick a ball or all you have to do is just run a little.”

They don’t realize the physical and emotional and psychological drain on those athletes and then, I mean, I think it’s really important to have student athletes criticizing the system because they are the other ones who are immersed in it. I’m happy to see student athletes speak up and talk about it, you know, I’d love to see more female student athletes talk about it as well. I think that’s really interesting.

I’m not surprised that the reaction was salty.

[0:06:00.7] BE: Yeah, just to add to Rosen’s eloquence, his quote, he was quoted as saying, “It’s a crime to not do everything you can to help the people who are making it for those who are spending it.” About the money of college football. I thought it was so profound, it could really apply to a lot of different areas of the university. Lindsay?

[0:06:22.3] LG: Yeah, I just want to say, one of the things that impresses me about this is that Rosen is recognizing his privilege and trying to use it to help others. In an interview last year, he said, “People say you’re just being an ignorant rich kid. I understand I come from affluence and a privileged family. But no one who is at risk is going to speak out.” What he is doing is knowing that he has a privileged platform both as a quarterback, as a white man, as someone who comes from a rich family and he’s saying look, “I see this system harming those around me and I’m not going to just be quiet.” You know? “I’m going to speak up” and I have to admire that from a 20 year old kid because that’s pretty young.

[0:07:03.2] BE: Absolutely.

[0:07:04.0] LG: And another element we have to add to this is that in football, you’re putting so much of your health at risk too, your physical and mental health. And one of the things that Rosen said, talking about those who go pro because that’s what everyone says, “Well these guys go pro and they make millions.”

He says, “What about those who don’t? What did they get for laying their body on the line? Play after play, while universities make millions upon millions.” It’s this element of all the things that we know could happen from football. You know, the brain damage, long lasting damage to your body and your brain for not a good education and a very small chance of going pro.

[0:07:45.2] BE: And a very small chance of graduating as well right? If they even are able to graduate, really, look at the baseball programs, I know we’re focusing on football and I think you make a good point about the risks to the body but also baseball programs scoop up talent from community colleges. Basically, what they do is they wait for baseball players to mature.

Then they offer them only a two year scholarship, not only are they coming in as student athletes but they’re transfer students. It’s really difficult for them to even graduate. Julie, do you want to wrap this up?

[0:08:17.9] JD: Yeah, I just wanted to say that there is a great piece on Vice Sports from June, it’s called ‘The Plot to Disrupt the NCAA with Pay for Play HPCU Basketball League.’ Right now it’s only applying to college basketball but it is an idea that is starting to gain some traction of trying to get players to go to historically black colleges and universities, pay them like the employees that they are, allow them to have endorsements, allow them to make money off their fame. It’s a really interesting article, we can put a link to it in the show notes but you know, it’s starting to gain traction. Whenever I hear something like this now, I think about this piece and I think that this may actually be the answer to sort of breaking the strangle hold that NCAA has on all this kids.

[0:09:06.5] BE: That’s so interesting. Okay, speaking of football, this week, Cowboy’s running back Ezekiel Elliot received a six game suspension this week. I read a wonderful piece by our own Lindsay, do you want to talk about this a little bit? What are your thoughts?

[0:09:30.0] LG: I had many. As Brenda said, this week, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliot was given a six game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. This is more than a year after his ex-girlfriend Tiffany Thompson accused him with domestic violence. In a letter addressed to Elliot, Bita Jones who is the chief disciplinary officer of the national football league said that, “There is substantial and persuasive evidence supporting a finding that you engaged in physical violence against Ms. Thompson, on multiple occasions during the week of July 16t, 2016. The league’s investigation included according to them – more than a dozen witnesses, including the victim, Ms. Thompson, also, they examined the evidence, which included photographic and digital evidence, thousands of text messages and other records of electronic communications. Also, two medical experts were consulted regarding the identification, causation and ageing of certain injuries to Ms. Thompson and they were depicted and relevant photos and provided written reports that were shared with the NFL’s investigators.

We have every reason to believe that the NFL does not actually care about domestic violence. The way they are investigating these crimes is suspect at best. Diana Moskovitz on Dead Spin has done a lot of great reporting about how they often circumvent systems that are in place, try and garner power that they probably shouldn’t have to see photos and videos and things that should be private. They try and use their clout to often abuse the process.

Additionally, their punishments about domestic violence have been very inconsistent. Six games is supposed to be the minimum for domestic violence and yet, this is one of the few times since that was enacted in 2014 that a six game suspension has been handed down. However, all that being said, when I was reading through this letter, when I was looking at this information, my overwhelming take away was that a woman was believed.

I don’t mean that she was just believed and they took her at her word and case closed. I mean, they believed her enough to do this deep investigation. I must admit, that meant something to me but it’s complicated. Julie?

[0:11:59.8] JD: Well, I think you’re right you know? I do think they’re of course is plenty of room for criticizing the way the NFL has handled this stuff in the past. The Josh Brown case is one that kept coming up when I was on the air yesterday.

I feel like this time, they actually kind of sort of got it right. I’m hesitant to give them a lot of credit for this but you know, I think that on the heels of the Josh Brown case, with all the criticism they got for the way that it was handled and the lack of investigation that they did – that they sort of double downed and decided that that wasn’t going to happen again. Or at least that’s the way it appears.

The idea that they not only believed this woman but believed her in light of evidence they had that she had lied on at least one occasion. That they understood that domestic violence victims are not always perfect. That sometimes they do things out of desperation to get help.

I said, I have had many clients who lied on one occasion about domestic abuse because at that point they were ready to get some help, where they hadn’t been in the past. I think for the NFL to have understood that and to have believed her anyway was a huge watershed moment in their investigations of these. Now, the fact that they had a cooperative witness and a witness who had piles and piles of evidence, they checked her meta data, she had dates and times matching up with her story, she had witnesses to match up with her photographs and her stories. That was hugely helpful, if they go back to being terrible about this when they have a witness who is not – or a victim who is not cooperative next time, then we know this didn’t really mean anything to them. I think that we should give them credit when they get it right and I think this is one of those times.

[0:13:44.3] BE: Wow, that is quite a statement from you Julie, it’s very heartening actually. Anybody else have some thoughts on this?

[0:13:50.9] LG: I just want to say that I hope that now, Tiffany Thompson is given the support she needs going forward, we know that Cowboys fans are extremely angry, we know that there is a lot of hate out there for women who come forward and there are a lot of people who don’t believe her.

I just keep thinking back to her original Instagram post when she started this and I’m going to read this. I’m going to give a trigger warning but this was an Instagram post where she first put the pictures of the bruises, this was July 22nd last year.

I just think we need to hear her words, it says, “Just for every woman out there getting abused, it’s time to put a stop to it. This has been happening to me for months and it finally got out of control to where I was picked up and thrown across the room by my arms, thrown into walls, being choked to where I have to gasp for breath. Bruised everywhere. Mentally and physically, it’s not okay. I want each and every one of you girls to step away now from domestic violence, you’re worth so much more. I got told it was tough love. I’m sorry if you love someone, you don’t touch your loved ones.” I just thought we should hear from her.

[0:14:59.7] BE: Definitely. Jess, would you like to wrap it up?

[0:15:02.6] JL: Yeah, I would. I would like to say that the Cowboy fans need to calm down, when I read the letter, that the NFL road to Elliot, I was like, “How are people going to be mad about this now?” Which of course is me being naïve, which I shouldn’t be at this point. People need to calm down. The prosecutor in this case, who didn’t press charges, which is its own thing, we don’t have time for that today but the prosecutor has said that overall, he believed her. The NFL has said, all of them, they’re experts, they believed her right? They had to choose who’s credibility. Cowboy fans need to calm down, it’s six games of a sport right? I mean, that’s the thing I want to leave people with.

[0:15:41.9] SA: Yeah, but they’re a team built on character remember?

[0:15:46.4] BE: Dumpster fire character.

[0:15:46.9] LG: Thank God, they don’t have Lucky Whitehead on that team anymore.

[0:15:57.8] BE: Okay Shireen, I want to move on and hear you on the IAAF. The International Association of Athletics Federation in London is holding their world’s tournament. What’s interesting this week?

[0:16:11.6] SA: Well, interesting is a lot of things. I think that it was so exciting to watch Mo Farah when he came in second yesterday in the 5,000 to Muktar Edris of Ethiopia but his initial double gold wins were amazing last week, everybody – who doesn’t love Mo Farah? And particularly when the event is being hosted in the UK? It’s fantastic to see. A couple of other really cool things is the 4 x 100 relay was won by the United States, which is wonderful.

The 100 meter hurdles was actually really interesting, it was won by Sally Pearson of Australia and I think that that is really interesting considering the previous wins where Australia and USA were not even on the podium. Previously in 100 meter, when we had Jamaica, Germany and Belarus so then we see the shift to Australia, USA and Germany. That, I always find really interesting.

Another thing that was pretty exciting and I just – it was unexpected. The 3,000 meter steeple chase was actually won 1 and 2 by team USA. Emma Coburn and Courtney Frerichs won and third was won by Kenyan runner, Hyvan Jepkemoi. I think that that’s really interesting because people keep talking about how they USA in this particular category only had two runners but in different categories had multiple runners. The 100 meter hurdles, they fielded four athletes and they didn’t – and not all of the medal in that way. Just – I find this really interesting. I also really enjoy watching, things like shot put, the final – we’ve only gone through heat one and two but I like watching stuff like that and you know, sports that aren’t necessarily as famous as like the hundred meter and what not. I think that we talked about this just before we started recording, that Usain Bolt’s last race was last night and he cramped up in the final leg of the four by 100.

He fell, there was like this collective gasp at the stadium because this is his last race and it didn’t end up the way we want. But I think in another way, I think it’s really honest to recognize that athletes aren’t infallible. They will fall, they won’t win and sometimes we forget that. You know, we love watching Usain Bolt. I’ve always loved watching him but you know, I’m excited to see what he does next. Maybe he’ll play soccer professionally which is what I’m hoping for but you know, we’ll see.

That’s kind of – that is interesting. Now, one thing that we have talked about on this show before and we are big fans of Caster Semenya on Burn It All Down. The way that not only, she’s competed with grace and dignity and just in tremendous power – the way that she’s been written of. Caster came third in the 1,500 meter and she’s going to run the 800 meter this semifinals one Saturday. The discussion about her not even discussion, I will call it vacuous commentary on her is still sickening and frustrating.

In preparation for just this segment. All you have to do is Google “Caster”, that’s all you actually have to do. I think that what ends up happening is you get articles like ‘Is Caster Semenya playing fair?’ And you know, the controversy over that and I found that really frustrating. But what I’ll do is just, a friend of our show and an expert who has been on Katrina Karkazis actually sent a link to an article and all she said was, “This is how you write about Caster Semenya.” It was such a really profound piece and it was so respectful to Caster and you know, the way she runs and the kind of person she is and there was one particular part of this that was just really touching and I’m just going to read a really poignant piece of this on how to write about her, that really moved me.

“On pure athletic ability, she is unrivaled. Her versatility to adapt to different distances is exceptional and her dedication to her training – she never misses a session and never complains – sets her apart from other runners. That dedication has earned her plenty of accolades and her coach Jean Verster has nothing but praise for her dedication to the cause.”

“It is really off the track where Semenya is really beyond compare. Semenya is gentle and engaging and yet she doesn’t owe anyone any of this. With the way she has been mistreated, both by professional bodies that are supposed to protect her, and some of her fellow athletes, nobody would begrudge her at all if she – well, held a bit of a grudge. Yet, she doesn’t.”

“Instead, she is impeccably polite, whether that’s congratulating every single one of her competitors after her race. Whatever they might have said about her before, or simply greeting everyone on the track. Semenya embodies the spirit of sport.”

I don’t know, I thought that was beautiful and that was written by Antoinette Muller from the Daily Maverick in South Africa. I just thought it was beautiful.

[0:21:30.9] BE: It is, there’s just not enough beautiful stuff that can be written about Caster Semenya, she really does deserve better. Okay, thanks Shireen. This week, our own Julie Di Caro had the opportunity to interview legendary Andrea Kremer. Julie? Do you want to tell us a little bit about it?

[0:21:54.8] JD: I’m really lucky that Andrea Kremer is someone who reached out to me maybe a year ago about appearing on a panel that she was going to be hosting and since then, I’ve gotten to be friends with her. I look up to her tremendously as a mentor, she’s someone who has been dealing with what a lot of us deal with as women in the world of sports, for 30 years. It was really interesting for me to get her take on a lot of questions I had about the industry and what she’s done to get where she is today.

[0:22:21.3] BE: Awesome.

JD: Andrea, thanks so much for spending time with us today on Burn It All Down. I wanted to ask you, because I know you started off as a dancer. How did you find your way into sports?

[0:22:33.1] AK: Well, I loved sports my whole life and I would sit in my rehearsals, especially in a weekend with my – what were they called then Julie? You’re probably too young. The Walkman?

[0:22:46.1] BE: I remember Walkmen.

[0:22:48.0] AK: I’d have my headset on listening to the games and things like that. Yeah, I just always loved sports since I was really young. I was lucky that my parents were very supportive of that that they didn’t think that cute little Andy should only play with Barbie dolls or anything like that.

But they supported my love of sports and they would buy me books and we would go to games and we went to – I grew up in Philadelphia so we had season tickets to the Philadelphia Eagles from the time Veteran’s Stadium opened. I just had a lot of support with my family but I never thought once that I’d make a career out of it because very simply, I say this to people and they look at me quizzically. And then they think about it and it’s true.

When I was growing up, I didn’t exist. It wasn’t as though I hear what I hear from a lot of young women today, “Oh I want to be you when I grow up and I want to do what you do.” I didn’t think that way because there wasn’t anybody to emulate or to aspire to.

It was just about loving sports and I dance ballet, I played three sports myself and I had a pretty active life but I would never have foreseen that this is what my career would have become.

However, all the friends I grew up with, none of them are surprised so it’s kind of cool.

[0:24:02.3] JD: How was it going from a career that I think is pretty, I mean, I think of the dance world and if I’m correct, I think you were a ballerina right?

[0:24:10.4] AK: That is correct, I did classical ballet.

[0:24:13.2] JD: Going from something that’s, at least in my mind, pretty female dominant to an industry that is completely male dominated and still is very male dominated today.

[0:24:22.2] AK: Right. Well, the one thing that I’m always harking back to this, that ballet really taught me was discipline and how to compartmentalize. Which are vital skills and attributes in for anybody I think but they certainly shaped – I know they shaped my work ethic and I think that they were just really helpful. I also, at one point, I was also teaching ballet and I was company manager of a small company in Philadelphia. It was one of the former principal dancers from the Pennsylvania ballet who had started his own company and I was teaching for him and dancing for the company and also writing NEA grants as the company manager.

I was always really sort of super busy with it and then, when I got my first job in sports which is a whole other issue but when I got that first job, when it was offered to me and I was the sports editor of the largest weekly newspaper in Pennsylvania. The Main Line Chronicle in Ardmore Pennsylvania. It was the best first job.

I was writing five to six columns, I would literally go down to the production plant in Oxford Pennsylvania and I would lay out the paper. Physically lay it out, that’s what we had to do back then and I was writing and editing. But before, when I was initially offered the job by the managing editor, he knew that I danced and things of that nature.

He said look, I’m going to be real with you, this is a 24/7 job. You’re not going to be able to dance and you have to figure if this is the time you want to make this commitment. Not to sound like a snob but there had always been a big part of me that said, Ivy League graduates don’t necessarily become ballet dancers and with ballet, you also have to be very realistic and know how good you are or how not good you are.

I was okay but I wasn’t making a career out of this long term and I finally found something that I was passionate about that could make me stop dancing and I stopped cold turkey. It was very difficult, I had long hair down to my waist, I cut my hair which was a sort of a symbolic thing and that’s where my career in sports started. And as you said, yes, I went from one profession which I think dance is always extremely under rated as how athletic it is.

I think Misty Copeland of American Ballet theater has proven how athletic it is and how terrific an athlete you need to be but yes, I then got into a completely different profession full of all men.

[0:26:56.1] JD: Yeah, when I look at women like you Andrea who have been so successful in this. I think that obviously, there had to be challenges for you along the way. You seem to have always have your shit so together whenever I see you. What challenges have –

[0:27:11.9] AK: Burn It All Down, we can use profanity. Cool, okay.

[0:27:13.9] JD: Absolutely we can, yeah. I mean, there have to have been challenges that you’ve overcome and so, what challenges did you face? What was hard for you and how do you think it’s different for women in sports today?

[0:27:26.6] AK: Well, The first, I remember one of the first interviews that I did when I was at the newspaper. Now we’re talking 1982, 1983 when most of your listeners were probably not born but hey, I’m experienced instead of being old. Let’s put it that way. Anyway.

[0:27:43.8] JD: You’re the youngest people I know.

[0:27:45.5] AK: Well, thank you, I appreciate that. I was doing a story with Mike Quick, the pro bowl wide receiver for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was going to his first pro bowl and I was coming in the day after the season ended to sit down and do an interview with him and write up a story on him. In those days Julie, I had to get special dispensation from the team to go into the locker room on non-game days.

[0:28:15.1] JD: Wow.

[0:28:16.0] AK: They wouldn’t let you go in so I got my special dispensation. I could go in. And there’s all the players and they’re cleaning out their lockers and Mike is sitting in his little stall and I sit down next to him and I’ve got my little recorder there and we’re just sort of talking and obviously we were talking about football and all of a sudden, he looks at me and he goes, “Wow you really know what you’re talking about.”

And I sort of had one of those, “Uh yeah? Why do you think I’m in here” type of moments. But it was complimentary and he meant it that way but I understand what he said and that was a moment for me, where of course I felt nice and validated, but I realized that you are going to be judged on what you know. It’s just that simple and that was the first taste of understanding the double standard that exists, which sadly I still think exists to this day.

Which is that men can make their mistakes or misspeak or things of that nature but women just can’t there’s more of a premium of being right. I’ve always joke, Chris Berman could make a mistake but it’s Boomer but if Linda Cohen makes a mistake, “Oh see? She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.” And you know what? The only way we change that is just by continuing to be right. Continuing to do our best, everybody makes mistakes, but continuing to own it.

To do our best, to be right and understand that the double standard exists. You can’t fight City Hall, you can just do your best to try to change the culture and change the mindset of the idiots that exist, I’m sorry, who still don’t accept that they can get their sports news from women.

[0:29:55.2] JD: You know Andrea whenever I go and speak to college students, they always ask me “What advice do you have for young woman getting into the business?” I almost don’t know what to say because I don’t want to scare them off but at the same, I want to tell them how hard this is going to be and how thick of a skin you’re going to have to have and how much you’re going to have to fight for yourself.

And I feel like a lot of us feel like we’re still dealing with imposter syndrome ourselves and how do you give advice to someone else when you’re still trying to make it yourself and you are still trying to fight for your own space. So what do you tell young women who want to get into sports?

[0:30:29.4] AK: Well number one, I always start off by saying that I am not in the business of destroying dreams and if this is something that you really want, I am not going to be in a position, I will never sit there and say to you, “You can’t” or “You won’t.” Because I know that I would never have wanted somebody to say that to me. That’s my overall overriding thing. Then I’d basically tell them that you’ve got to try to keep the blinders on and understand that all the outside chatter does you no benefit.

And the easiest thing is for people to say no because when they say yes, they have to take the next step. Now I don’t want to say that people are inherently lazy but hey, I think people are inherently lazy and they don’t really want to take that next step. They don’t really want to help you. I always say to people, “When you go in and if you interview with someone, if you talk to someone at the end of your talk always know what the next step is”.

And if they say to you, “Hey, we don’t really have anything right now” then “Well who else might you be able to recommend I speak with?” or “What other thoughts you might have about where I could look” or nothing else, “I’d like to stay in your radar, how can we stay in touch?” whatever it is. Never accept no for the answer. You can always politely be able to further whatever it is that you are looking for and also don’t rule out, there are so many different jobs right now.

I think a lot of people they look at someone in my position, perhaps someone in your position, as well who’s on the air albeit potentially in a different medium and that’s all that they want to do. I’ve always thought that there are two different kinds of women that are in sports. There’s those that grew up and they love sports. They just love sports and oh by the way, I talk about it on TV or radio or I write about it, I opine them or whatever it is.

And then there’s the people who, “I just want to be on TV” or “I just want to be on radio and oh sports looks like a cool thing.” I really believe, Julie, that the audience knows the difference and so you want to understand that there’s so many different jobs that are out there and just because it’s the person behind the mic or behind the camera – or excuse me, in front of the mic or in front of the camera, there’s so much more beyond that and you might find another job that you never even knew existed that might be better for you that might satisfy your creative cravings more than just the one that you went in there for. There’s so many different jobs and learn as much as you can about the business. So yeah, it’s hard to break into but there are more opportunities than ever. The whole “multiplatform” things that exists give so many more opportunities and I think that yes, there’s more people applying but there’s more jobs that are potentially out there.

[0:33:17.8] JD: You and I met because I was appearing at a summit you had at Boston University about gender and about race. I get told very often in my job to stick to sports. You probably do as well although I feel like real sports is a platform where you get to not stick to sports or at least take sports, sort of a couple of steps beyond just sports but why was talking about issues of gender and of race and sort of not sticking to sports important to you?

[0:33:42.0] AK: Well with respect to real sports, we always say that we’ll pretty much take anything on there just sort of needs to be a tangential connection to sports and I hear this all the time from both men and women. “I don’t really like sports but I love your show.” That’s what we want to hear. I’m not sure that I agree with you that issues of race and gender are tangential to sports. Look at Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick is a crossover character if you will.

He fits in the political realm, in the activism realm and oh by the way, he’s a quarterback. So I think that these issues are completely germane to the sports world. In terms of politics, straight out politics, I don’t know if I care to share my politics with people and part of it is it’s I feel very strongly and if anybody knows me, I think they pretty much know which way I lean and I don’t like lean, I am a building. I am a leaning tower of… leaning, you know?

I feel very strongly one side of the aisle or another but I don’t know that that’s something that I need to share with people and part of it also is the whole social media thing, where you know what? I don’t want to be criticized. You can agree to disagree with me but you are not permitted to badger me, to insult me or my fans or anything like that. So on social media I steer clear of that stuff. I steer clear of all personal stuff. There is a reason it’s called personal. I don’t need to share it with you.

I know that is antithetical to Facebook and this generation of oversharing but that’s what works for me and that’s the life that I choose to lead for myself and my family.

[0:35:23.4] JD: Yeah and I think it’s really interesting because at least in my industry, we’re being asked to wear so many different hats. So part of the time you’re a reporter, other times you are a columnist and then I’m on the air giving my opinion on things and so I think it’s really difficult for people to sort of distinguish when you are speaking out of your opinion and when you are just straight up reporting but I don’t know that –

[0:35:42.4] AK: I couldn’t agree with you more.

[0:35:43.4] JD: Yeah and I don’t know that the industry is going to change because as it’s shrinking everyone’s being asked to do more and more things.

[0:35:49.0] AK: I completely agree with you. I work for three networks and I pretty much have three different jobs. Real Sports, I mean I am biased and people call it, “The 60 minutes of sports.” We call it 60 minutes of the real sports of news. To me Real Sports on HBO is the consummate platform for investigative journalism and as I mention before, “Oh by the way it has to be about sports.” So that’s the show that really allows me to get my journalism fix and that’s very important to me.

NFL Network which obviously is run by the NFL. I get to do stories for them, stories that I will never… for me the idea of a puff piece is kind of a bad word that even on Burn It All Down, I don’t want to use the word. But to me, it’s an opportunity to tell stories and certainly in a shorter venue. But hey, look last year a terrific producer and I, I think you met Anthony Smith at Prime NFL Network, he and I did a really interesting story taking Warrick Dunn, the former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons running back and we took him to meet the family of Alton Sterling, the late Alton Sterling who was murdered by police as well as one of the police officers who had been gunned down, his widow. When I was telling people about the story the first thing they said is, “Oh that is for Real Sports?” and I said, “No, it’s for NFL Network” and they said, “Really?” So yeah, there are some stories that we do tell on NFL Networks which are “meatier” or they might be a little bit more socially aware.

Hey in the past I’ve done stories of the culture in the locker room. I did an interview with Jonathan Vilma, the former linebacker for the New Orleans Saints where he talked openly about feeling homophobic in a locker room. It made CNN, it was all over the place, the New York Times. So we are able to take some of those things on but then for CBS, I’m very proud to be one of the cohost of We Need to Talk, the only all-female sports show on television and that’s where you get to put an opinion out.

And I agree, to go from objective journalist to all of a sudden opinionated journalist, it’s definitely switching roles and it’s difficult sometimes. But to me and this is just how I view it, I can offer my opinion if it’s an informed opinion and if it’s not, just something based on something willy-nilly that I am pulling out of the air, no, no, no it’s got to be based on fact whether it’s talking to someone, whether it’s my years of experience, covering a sport. It’s what I call informed opinion and to me, that feels more comfortable than just throwing something out there to be controversial.

[0:38:22.7] JD: Given how important journalism is to you and you are talking about telling stories whether it’s on NFL Network or on Real Sports, are you concerned with what’s happening in media right now with everybody sort of pivoting to video? Obviously you work a lot in video but for someone like me who is primarily a writer, it’s terrifying to see all of those methods of storytelling going away.

[0:38:43.1] AK: Absolutely and yet it’s very funny because I just got an email from one of the head guys at nfl.com who said, “Hey when you do this upcoming story you’re doing, would you write a companion piece for us? It could be as long as you want” and I’m sort of like, “Yeah, absolutely.” So it’s interesting at NFL Network for one, they really do like to have a written accompaniment and I’ve done that for a number of stories that I have worked on.

But yes especially seeing what Fox has done in terms of getting rid of a lot of their writers, ESPN cutting back on a number of their writers. Look maybe I’m a dinosaur and I fully admit that a lot of the times but I still feel sort of like, “If you build it, it would come.” If you write something good, people are going to find it and there’s room for both. Of course video journalism and what you see online on television, it’s a unique opportunity to tell stories because you are showing, you’re not just telling.

However, the written word enables you to get into so much more detail and it enables you to really immerse people in a subject potentially, that you just can’t do in a five minute story and sometimes you can’t even do it in a 12 minute story. But the visuals have their benefit and I think the written word has its own as well and maybe I am in denial but I want to really hope that there’s always going to be room for both.

[0:40:10.6] JD: I hope so too. Andrea Kremer of NFL Network, of Real Sports, of We Need to Talk, thanks so much for your time.

[0:40:16.3] AK: It’s been great talking to you Julie and listen, I think that what you do in Chicago generally on the radio in particular is vital and keep up the great work and you know you’ve got a fan in me.

[0:40:28.2] JD: Thank you.


[0:40:36.2] BE: Okay, now it’s time for everybody’s favorite part of the show, The Burn Pile, where we metaphorically set aflame what’s made us furious in sports this week. Lindsay do you want to start the fire?

[0:40:46.5] LG: Oh sure, I’d love to. My favorite part. Alright I’d like to throw on to the burn pile Bo Pelini and the Youngstown Student University football program and Youngstown President Jim Tressel for allowing convicted rapist, Ma’lik Richmond to be on their football team. Ma’lik Richmond was one of the Steubenville rapists, where it’s now been five years since that trial went down. He was convicted, he spent 10 months in jail and he is now out.

He graduated from Steubenville High School, he’s been to a few schools and then he showed up at Youngstown University. Youngstown State University which is 71 miles north of Steubenville. Let me just give you the quote that Pelini said: “The kid is humble and wants to put his past behind him. I gave him some stipulations and some things he has had to be able to do and if he lived up to them, he’d be able to come out and see if he could be a member of our football team. He does those things and continues to do those things right now and he’s done a nice job for us.”

So this is Pelini’s explanation for why Richmond is permitted to be a walk-on on the football team. There is zero specificity on that statement. There is really zero accountability in that statement and it’s just frustrating that we continue to see football as a given right as opposed to a privilege and that is very frustrating to me. On the same note, I just like to add Bob Hill over at the Sporting News whose intro to a story about Richmond read:

“The Youngstown State Student has started a petition to remove Ma’lik Richmond from the football team because of his involvement in a rape case in 2012.” Ma’lik Richmond was not “involved” in a rape case. Ma’lik Richmond was convicted of rape so I just like to state that.

[0:42:40.9] BE: Burn it. Okay, Julie you’re up next.

[0:42:44.2] JD: This week my contribution to the burn pile came from the guy on Twitter named Craig Mack who send it to me specifically for the burn pile, so I appreciate that. This is MLS Club FC Dallas’s tweet: “@ezekielelliott after the news of his suspension came down, they said, “Yo Ezekiel Elliott, we’ve got six games left for you.” They’ve apparently got six home games left and they tweeted that out as a joke I guess but it was incredibly bad taste, incredibly poor timing and to every sports team out there, stop putting bros in charge of your social media. Burn it.

[0:43:20.7] BE: Burn it. That is a very good policy right there. Okay Shireen.

[0:43:26.6] SN: So this week, I am burning a ban on a burkini in Marseille, France. I know that this is something I’ve read about and talked about but this particular instance really bothered me. It was a woman swimming in a public pool and they deemed her “burkini” which for those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a swimsuit, swimming costume, whatever you want to call it that’s full sleeved, has a matching head piece to go with it.

It’s full length and that women choose to cover while swimming this is what they wear. Now it was deemed unhygienic or not hygienic. I don’t even know what that means because it’s certainly not an outfit that you’d walk around in, it’s specifically for water. In addition to being told she couldn’t be in the water and participate in this community space, they also gave her a 490 Euro cleaning bill for the pool which means they might drain the water or clean it.

I don’t even know what that means. It was so offensive on every level. So I am burning that local pool that metaphorically, that policy from this local pool and just get over yourselves and your absolute xenophobia and Islamaphobia.

[0:44:37.5] BE: Go, burn it. Burn the cesspool. Jessica.

[0:44:41.5] JL: Burn, yeah so Lizandro Claro Saravia is a 19 year old who was brought here as a child without documentation from El Salvador in 2009 along with his older brother. They were fleeing violence in their home country. Saravia is a very good soccer player who was supposed to play for Louisburg College in North Carolina this fall but he will never have that chance. From the Washington Post quote:

“The brothers were detained by Ice Agents in Baltimore after a regular check in. Lizandro Claro Saravia told the agents that he was planning to attend college on a scholarship said Nick Cats, the lawyer representing the pair. The Ice Agents told me they were deporting the kids because Lizandro got into college and that showed they intended to stay in the US, Cat said. ICE’s spokesman says it’s because there’s a year’s old final order of removal from an immigration judge that Ice finally decided to act on”.

“Lizandro’s hometown soccer team has protested outside of the Department of Homeland Security and is planning a fundraiser to help the brothers get settled in El Salvador. Quote: This is about so much more than soccer now said Foster McHune who played with Saravia for four years. We want our friend back.” Kudos to his soccer team for their support but burn everything that this administration is doing and that this government has always done.

[0:45:57.6] BE: I’ll round out the burn pile this week. I am burning the White Supremacist Group for using the Detroit Red Wings logo for their hateful demonstration in Charlottesville this week. I was really heartened to see that the Red Wings and the NHL had stronger statements actually naming this demonstration as a Nazi white supremacist demonstration which is a little bit stronger than even the president’s statement on the event but the point being: fuck off my Red Wings, Nazis.


[0:46:36.5] BE: Okay, after all that burning we’re going to move on to celebrate some wonderful badass women. This week our honorable mentions include I.K. Kim. Five years ago after missing a so-called “gimme one foot putt” that would have made her a major champion, I.K. Kim finally won her first major at the Women’s British Open last weekend by two strokes over the field. Way to go.

Another honorable mention, three athletes from Pakistan, Football captain Hydra Khan, Basketball captain Sana Mahmoud and Olympic swimmer, Kiran Khan have partnered with UNICEF to educate girls about menstrual hygiene management. Periods obviously way taboo of a subject, way too long a taboo of a subject in sports. So it’s wonderful to see their work in this and can I get a drumroll please.

This week, the Madison Centennial ran a story on the Wisconsin under 11 girls’ soccer team, The 56ers, who have experienced discrimination beginning last spring for several of their player’s short haircuts. Initially a lot of the games ended in tears because the immature parents, uneducated parents refused to believe the girl’s gender identities and they asked the families for passports and other types of proof. Different referees also sided with the parents and questioned the girls.

This season is about to get rolling and guess what? The short hair cuts are firmly in place. The team has even gone further and made shirts that read “try and keep up”. They’ve sent letters to Millie Hernandez, who we featured on the show earlier who underwent a similar situation when her team was banned from a Minnesota tournament. So for sticking to your guns and sticking up for fellow girls, congratulations The 56ers, you are this week’s badass women. In this case, girls, future women of the week. Yehey, I want that t-shirt!

[0:48:42.9] SA: I love that.

[0:48:44.7] BE: Okay friends so let’s put on our forward thinking optimistic goggles. What’s going to be good for this week? Okay Jessica, what are you looking forward to this week?

[0:48:54.8] JL: Oh I’m probably going to do the same thing that I did last week, which is I’ve been listening to the Indigo Girls self-titled album from 1989 on repeat this whole week. Most people know this album because of its most perfect song, “Closer to Fine”, but it’s the beautiful “Secure Yourself” that I have been playing over and over again because it soothes my soul to hear it and I just think going into this week I know that we’re all going to need a little soul soothing right now. So I’ll probably continue to play this album.

[0:49:25.4] BE: Ooh, that’s a good plan. Lindsay?

[0:49:28.0] LG: I am excited because Brittney Grinner is back from injury so she came back last night for the Phoenix Mercury. They lost but within 21 minutes, she scored 19 points, had three blocks, seven rebounds. Before she got injured a month ago, she was on pace for an MVP season. Sylvia Fowles is probably a shoo in for WNBA MVP right now but as the playoff race heats up as the Phoenix Mercury try and find some momentum and as WNBA, the spotlight on the league gets even bigger going into playoffs.

You’ve just got to have Brittney Grinner in the mix. She is so much fun to watch and if you haven’t been watching her this season, she is somehow better than ever. She’s so good. So I’m excited.

[0:50:14.7] BE: That’s a good one, okay Julie what about you?

[0:50:17.5] JD: Everyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I am a huge fan of Missed in History Podcast. I’m always talking about it, the full title is actually called Stuff You Missed in History but you can find them on Twitter and everywhere else under the title Missed in History. They go back and talk in depth about historical events, historical people, things that are really interesting and now, they’ve started replaying some of their more popular episodes from the past.

They’ve got something like 900 episodes. They’ve just replayed the Jane Austen episode, they did a great one on Frederick Douglass and his role in the women’s suffrage movement. So I’ve been listening to that non-stop for the past week and I am looking forward to digging into some of their episodes.

[0:50:55.7] BE: Oh that’s so cool. I’m going to continue to do a history nerd out right now and tell you that this week I’m going to read Professor Louis Moore’s, I Fight for a Living: Boxing and the Battle for Black Manhood, 1880-1915. I’ve been really excited. I’ve had it for a while and I’m really excited to pick it up. Shireen what about you?

[0:51:16.8] SA: Thanks, in addition to my usual viewings of Bend it like Beckham which get me through and are my self care. I’m actually prepping to go on a huge trip. So I’ll miss you all. I’ll be gone for about three weeks and I’ll miss the listeners. I’m going on a spiritual journey to Mecca and Medina which is called the Hajj and I am really excited about it. I have not started packing but I’m very, very excited about that and nervous, so.

[0:51:42.7] BE: We’re so excited for you, we’re going to miss you. Okay, so that’s it for this week of Burn it All Down which lives on Sound Cloud but can also be heard on Apple Podcast, Stitcher and Tune In. We always appreciate reviews and feedback. So please feel free to subscribe, rate and tell us what you like or didn’t like about the show. We hope you’ll follow us on Twitter @burnitdownpod and on Facebook at Burn it all Down.

Check out our website where you can head on over, burnitalldown.com, that’s where you’ll find all of our show notes and links to all the topics that we discussed and please take some time to go check out our Go Fund Me page and consider making a small donation. We really want to improve this podcast and make it a sustainable endeavor and we’d like to say thank you. We are grateful to all of those who have contributed thus far.

For Shireen Ahmed, Julie DiCaro, Jessica Luther, Lindsay Gibbs and myself, Brenda Elsey, we’ll see you next week.

Shelby Weldon