Episode 18: Jemele Hill, Briles and second chances, and Sharapova’s return

On Episode 18 of Burn It All Down, Julie DiCaro, Lindsay Gibbs, Brenda Elsey and Jessica Luther talk Art Briles and second chances, and Maria Sharapova’s return to the grand slam stage.

Then Jessica interviews Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN’s SportsCenter at 6pm, aka The Six. They talk about being political in public these days, the role of sports in moments like this, and Hill’s Michigan State fandom in the wake of multiple sexual abuse/violence scandals in the athletic department.

As always, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and What’s Good in our worlds.

For links and a transcript of the episode…


Lindsay’s piece: ‘Disgraced former Baylor coach who was fired amid sexual assault scandal has a new job’ – https://thinkprogress.org/art-briles-new-job-nothing-matters-8619bfef7658/

Jessica’s piece: ‘Art Briles Got a Coaching Job’ – https://medium.com/@scATX/art-briles-got-a-coaching-job-c9948db19678

‘Report: Letter of support from Baylor one of the reasons Art Briles was hired by CFL team’ – https://sportsday.dallasnews.com/college-sports/collegesports/2017/09/01/report-letter-support-baylor-one-reasons-art-briles-hired-cfl-team

Liberty Shocks Baylor – https://www.yahoo.com/news/liberty-shocks-baylor-48-45-rhules-debut-bears-030743391–spt.html

Lindsay’s piece: ‘Maria Sharapova’s Two-Year Ban From Tennis, Explained’ – https://thinkprogress.org/maria-sharapovas-two-year-ban-from-tennis-explained-46bfdbd68eb5/

‘I doped like Maria Sharapova’ by Caitlin Thompson – http://deadspin.com/i-doped-like-maria-sharapova-and-it-was-actually-pretty-1798352480

‘LatAm’s female tennis players lack discipline, Mexico’s Gavaldon says’ – http://noticias.alianzanews.com/309_hispanic-world/4638450_latam-s-female-tennis-players-lack-discipline-mexico-s-gavaldon-says.html

‘Media Roundtable: Talking Social Media and Interaction in the Age of Trump’ – https://www.si.com/tech-media/2017/08/20/media-roundtable-talking-social-media-and-interaction-age-trump

‘UPDATE: Larry Nassar To Go To Trial In Sexual Assault Case’ –http://wlns.com/2017/06/23/larry-nassar-back-in-court-as-hearings-continue-in-sexual-assault-case/

“A long offseason is about to end for Michigan State, but the sexual assault issue isn’t” – http://www.mlive.com/spartans/index.ssf/2017/08/a_long_offseason_is_a_about_to.html 

‘Football Favoritism at F.S.U.: The Price One Teacher Paid’ –

‘Colin Kaepernick Blackball? NFL Team Executives Explain Why That Theory Doesn’t Stand Up’ – https://www.si.com/nfl/2017/08/31/colin-kaepernick-nfl-blackball-national-anthem-protests

‘NBA Legend Bird Reflects on Journey of Becoming All-Time Assist Leader’ – http://storm.wnba.com/news/wnba-legend-bird-reflects-journey-becoming-time-assist-leader/

‘How a WNBA star saved the life of a man she’d never met’ – https://sports.yahoo.com/wnba-star-saved-life-man-never-met-212426292.html

‘Thursday Night Lights: The Story of Black High School Football in Texas’ by Michael Hurd –

‘Nocturnal Animals review – Tom Ford’s Deliciously Toxic Tale Of Revenge’ – https://www.theguardian.com/film/2016/nov/03/nocturnal-animals-review-tom-ford-amy-adams-jake-gyllenhaal

Zina Garrison Tennis Organization – http://www.zinagarrison.org/

Donating locally in Houston – https://docs.google.com/document/d/1eLvsRpADADP94rTccrlKXcO6xd4nwHPpyy1KiQxukrE/edit


[0:00:16.1] Lindsay Gibbs: Hello, welcome everybody to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast that we hope by this time, you both want and need. I’m Lindsay Gibbs, sports reporter at ThinkProgress. I’ll be steering the preverbal bus today. Joining me is Julie DiCaro, sports reporter and radio host extraordinaire from Chicago. Brenda Elsey, Associate Professor of History at Hofstra in New York and Jessica Luther, freelance sports writer in Austin Texas.

We have an incredibly exciting show for you all today. We’re going to start it off, well, by talking about something not super exciting which is the Hamilton Tiger Cats and Art Briles, but then we’re going to pivot to the US Open, and then our friend Jessica Luther sat down with the incomparable Jemele Hill. We will bring you that interview and finally we’ll have the Burn Pile and the Badass Woman of The Week as always.

A lot to get to today friends so shall we jump right into it?


[0:00:20.1] LG: Brenda, what’s been happening in Canada?

[0:01:24.7] Brenda Elsey: Well, no sooner had we discussed the problems with sexual assault and coaches power on last week’s show. The former coach of Baylor football, Art Briles who had been fired last year for his failure to respond to a shocking number of sexual assaults committed by dozens of his players, received a job offer from the Hamilton Tiger Cats of the Canadian football league, to join the coaching staff as the Assistant Head Coach.

In their announcement, the team made no reference to Briles dismissal from Baylor last year. Nothing about the reasons why that occurred, but sometimes it snows in April and social media is good for something because 12 hours later, the team resent the offer. Our resident Baylor expert, Jessica, was not surprised by Briles hiring. Jess, do you think Briles will resurface?

[0:02:14.2] Jessica Luther: Yeah, I mean, well, okay. I think it’s more complicated now. There was a moment sometimes in the last year where Houston, when they were looking for a new coach because their coach had jumped to Texas. He used to coach at Houston, he was beloved down there, Art Briles was.

They passed him over and I thought, okay, that’s a sign. I mean, they had to publicly say they were not interested in him and I thought, okay, this is a good sign that he probably won’t coach college ball, at least for a long time. I wasn’t surprised to see him on the professional level and I guess it’s still possible but the fact that he couldn’t get an assistant position in the Canadian football league, makes it seem like he’s a pretty toxic asset at this point for teams.

The whole thing was – we have an explicit rating on this, the whole thing was a cluster fuck up in Hamilton. I mean, it was really gross to watch how the team responded, like Brenda mentioned. That they didn’t say anything when they actually did the press release and then when the CEO went out and did his defensive interview that he did, he said this – it was all so centered on the team and on Briles and it kept telling us and I’d love to hear your guys thoughts on this.

They kept saying he deserved a second chance and I’ve been thinking a lot about. What it means and why we think people just deserve one. They never told us why he would deserve one. Outside of a very passive statement about Briles being a good man who was caught in a very bad situation.

The so called situation that Baylor happened to Briles – as if Briles wasn’t a central part of why it happened. It was really hard to watch but yeah, I don’t know, there’s a part of me that thinks some point in time, he’ll show up somewhere on the professional level.

[0:04:05.1] LG: It’s hard not to believe that that will happen eventually. Julie?

[0:04:08.5] Julie DiCaro: Yeah, you know, Jessica, I agree with you completely. I Tweeted this week that I’m so sick and tired of having to explain why this shit matters to people, you know? It’s just like the stuff at Penn State, you know, with Joe Paterno, you’re responsible for all the winning, you get all the kudos when everything goes right but when something goes wrong, it was everyone else and the head coach had no idea.

[0:04:32.3] JL: Yes, exactly. Yes.

[0:04:34.8] JD: It is just so maddening and as I said on this Twitter rant, it just boggles my mind the way that men treat rape differently from everything else. It’s like not as serious, doesn’t matter as much, you know, I don’t know what to say other than it’s just absolutely maddening. But this idea that you know, a man who is in charge of everything, who gets all the kudos and all the money – had the wool completely pulled over his eyes for this kind of thing. Because he just couldn’t possibly know what was happening. When we’ve seen the texts and we’ve seen everything that happened at Baylor behind the scenes.

It’s been documented very carefully. My head just absolutely exploded and then there was this additional stuff about the same team wanting to sign Johnny Menzel. Who of course washed out of the NFL and has been accused of domestic violence. The whole thing just makes me mad.

[0:05:27.5] LG: Yeah, mad is the word I keep coming back to, just mad and frustrated. I always want to make sure that we – I feel like lots of times, I do this too, we just say like the Baylor scandal or what happened to Baylor?

I just want to be specific so little trigger warning, I’m not going to get too specific but between 2011 and 2014, there were at least 52 alleged acts of rape, including five gang rapes by at least 31 different football players at Baylor. According to reports, two of those gang rapes allegedly involved 10 or more players, some were recorded. A former title nine investigator at Baylor said:

“The football program was responsible for nearly one third of the sexual assault cases that were reported to her office. Despite the fact that the football program made up less than 1% of Baylor’s student population.” Okay, just always feel like that’s important to get in the context of what is actually going on.

One more thing, it also came out, not only did they work out Johnny Manziel this week and they’re apparently still interested in bringing him in at some point. That’s not completely closed. But it also came out of Eric Tillman who has been with the team since 2013 and was promoted to general manager in March of 2016, actually pled guilty to sexually assaulting a teenage baby sitter in 2010. I don’t know what you guys are doing up there Hamilton but it’s not great. Jess?

[0:06:54.6] JL: Yeah, I wanted to mention one more thing. It came out after Briles didn’t get the job with the CFL that he had gotten a letter in May of this year from Baylor. That he was then allowed to give out as kind of his recommendation letter from the University that basically said he didn’t do anything wrong.

It was signed by their General Council and one of the things that has been really frustrating about the last two years, this has been about two years since we all found out about all of the beginning of all of this. I don’t know what the Baylor’s are doing a lot of the time and they are so confusing. I mean, they fired him – they suspended him with the intent to fire, eventually settling with him. They were adamant about their decision to part ways with this man.

Earlier this year, Julie just mentioned it, there were text messages that came out in a legal filing that was brought by a former athletic staffer who since dropped his suit. I mean, these were damning text messages. That Briles and other on staff sent about protecting players from accountability in regards to all kinds of incidents.

I mean, there have just been lawsuit after lawsuit, survivor after survivor coming forward. And then, there’s this letter. I can’t for the life of me figure out what Baylor gained from writing that letter, why they made the choice to do that. I just think this is such a frustrating part because they never released the full investigation document that the law firm Pepper Hamilton did, the internal investigation.

We don’t have any of those details still two years later. It’s just hard to wrap your mind around what’s going on in wait go and what went on in Hamilton.

[0:08:31.0] LG: Yeah, Brenda?

[0:08:32.3] BE: Well, I think the confusing part is also, it’s somewhat intentional in the sense that there’s a message that they’re sending to alumni and to donors and people who they think are wink, wink still going to tolerate this culture of rape on campus. Because it’s tradition and it’s college football and this is important to that community.

And yet, they’re going to appease people who recognize the victims in this situation. I feel like the confusion is actually – they’re not confused about what they want to do. They want to appease a certain section of donors and alumni that they think are attached to the football program.

This is just me saying in general, right? I don’t know everything about this case but I feel like it’s very common, we’re seeing it again and again in college programs. They’re sort of wink, wink we’ll take care of this. But we also are sort of with these players and we want to continue to have your donations and we still all secretly support this.

That’s my feeling, I don’t have the evidence for that but it just happens again and again.

[0:09:42.3] JL: Yeah, that makes sense to me. I do want to say that yesterday, Baylor played their home opener, they have their new coach, Matt Rhule who is actually to his credit said, the right things around sexual violence. But they lost to Liberty who is not even, I don’t think they’re a D1 school, they’re an FCS. You know, the sort of tie the bow together here, Liberty actually hired the athletic director who was…

He was actually just put on probation but then chose to leave almost immediately after everything happened in spring of 2016. You know, he’s part of those damning text messages in that legal filing and he’s now their new Athletic Director at Liberty and he beat his football team, beat Baylor yesterday at home.

[0:10:25.2] LG: You really can’t make this stuff up like you just like, it’s too much. Just a couple more notes I think are important to stress here. When this news first came out to me, it was like, the old boys network strikes again, one of the things was the coach of the Tiger Cats, it came out in the – I believe both the press release and the statement from the CEO that they went back decades. They had known each other and been coaching for years, so it’s one of those things where once again, you just want to give your friend another shot, another chance.

Even though he showed no contrition and done no work towards actually redeeming his reputation. Then you also have, I thought to really just take things the next level that the day they announced the Tiger Cats, announced that Briles was hired and then later fired, it was the day of the annual football clinic for women at the type at Hamilton. It was called Huddles and Heels and once again, I’d like to say you don’t need to pander to us, just maybe don’t hire people convicted of violence against women or who have enabled violence against women. Maybe that will help you reach out to more women.

Moving on to something I think a little happier, the US Open, you know, we’ve got some big tennis fans here on the Burn It All Down podcast, including myself. It’s been quite a week at Flushing Meadows, it’s been an unexpected tournament for both the men and the women.

The men’s draw has been decimated with injury. In the bottom half of the draw, we don’t know what’s going to happen except that there’s going to be a finalist that nobody could have ever predicted.

In the top half of the men’s draw, we still have Nadal Federer on track to meet in the semifinals. Though, I should note we’re recording this on Sunday morning by the time you listen to this, who knows. In the women’s draw, we got some champions like Venus Williams, Garbine Muguruza, Petra Kvitova and number one, Karolina Pliskova all hanging around.

Then you have a wild card who’s made quite a splash here at the US Open. Wildcard called Maria Sharapova who upset, I believe the number two seed Simona Halep in the first round in what was I believe, one of the best first rounds I’ve ever seen in grand slam history. It was really phenomenal. But there has been some controversy about Sharapova.

A quick recap, the last major she played was the 2016 Australian Open. A drug test that she had at that tournament revealed that she had Meldonium in her system which was a drug that had just been banned at the start of 2016. She was initially suspended for two years and then she appealed that and had it reduced to 15 months.  

She came back on tour in April I believe but she hasn’t played a whole lot because she’s been plagued with injuries. There has been a lot of controversies surrounding whether or not Sharapova should be granted Wildcards. 

She was not given a Wildcard into the other majors this year but the US open did give her one. So far, she’s played all of her matches on Arthur Ash Stadium which is the biggest tennis stadium. Coco Vandeweghe, an American tennis player has said that the USTA should have given the Wildcard to an American and Caroline Wozniacki, former number, said in press after her loss to a Ekatarina Makarova in the 2nd round” 

“I think putting out a schedule were the number five in the world is playing on court five. Fifth match after 11 PM. I think that is unacceptable. When you look at center court, I understand completely the business side of things but someone who comes back from a drug sentence and you know, performance enhancing drugs and then all of a sudden, gets to play every single match on center court. I think that is a questionable thing to do.” 

Okay, all that context. Jess, I know you’ve been following this story closely, what do you think?  

[0:14:38.0] JL: Yeah, I’ve been following it closely because I’ve been watching tennis. So much fun, I think the US Open has been great this year. You know, one of my favorite things about this is that ESPN’s response which they’re showing the entire grand slam. 

Their response to, especially with Wozniacki’s comments but also Vandeweghe’s was to have a little sit down where there’s like four of them talking to each other for 10 minutes about why their media decisions are the right ones. Which I just find so funny. You guys are controlling this and then you’re having a conversation about why you’re right. 

You know, I find all the righteousness around doping, exhausting in general. Almost all of it is so arbitrary and the definition of doping is so narrow, like why one drug and not another? Why is this type of performance enhancement bad, when simply having you know, way more money than almost anyone else on tour and being able to pay for a team of people to keep your body in a particular shape, is good. 

I mean, I don’t get any of that. But I do get that there are rules and since these are the rules, people got to follow them because if you don’t, what is sport? Sport is just made up after all and Sharapova did break the rules. She got caught and in her return to the grand slam stage has been heralded. 

They love her. As if her going away wasn’t of her own making which I think is a big part of this. I can see why other players are bothered, I’d be pissed to. I mean Wozniacki had just lost so she was you know. I think Mary Joe Fernandez said on ESPN the other day, “She was probably not in a good mood when she made her statements.” But I don’t think she’s wrong, not necessarily. 

I also do understand why the media is putting her on ash. It has been a joy to watch her play tennis if I’m being honest. That hell match was so good, that was just so much fun to watch. I don’t really know what to make of all of this but I mean, I get why everyone feels the way they do in this situation and why the choices have been made. But I don’t really know what to do beyond that. 

[0:16:33.2] LG: Yeah, I think that’s pretty much where I am. I mean, in my opinion, you know, she got punished, she spent 15 months off the tour and that is a long time and what is pretty much the prime of her career towards the end of her career. Of course you never know how long the players are going to play these days. 

I really do feel like you know – that she’s done her time and she’s earned her reputation, I mean, it’s not – I know that Sharapova gets a lot of attention because she is a very pretty white woman. I understand that that is – she probably gets a disproportionate amount of attention because of that but she’s also a five-time major champion and she’s one of the best players in the game. 

She’s earned the right to have a little bit of special treatment, she’s earned that right in my opinion. Julie? 

[0:17:24.8] JD: I have opinions or Sharapova that I don’t really feel the need to go into. But I just wanted to point out that there was a great piece on Deadspin by Caitlin Thompson who plays – she used to be a pretty serious tennis player and now she plays sort of in a racket league but she did a piece called ‘I Doped Like Maria Sharapova And It Was Actually Pretty Great.’ So she took Meldonium for her rec tennis league and then talked about how she felt afterwards and what affect it had on her. 

It was actually pretty funny and I think your conclusion was that you know, taking meldonium, she was never sore at any point and she recovered really quickly and stuff like that. She kind of came to the conclusion that everybody playing sports should take meldonium, it was pretty funny and definitely worth a read.  

[0:18:07.5] LG: Yeah, I mean, I think there’s also a lot of cultural things here, right? Like meldonium is a drug that’s – it’s an over the counter drug in Russia and a lot of places in eastern Europe, you know what I mean? It’s not that big of a deal and I think what happened is a lot of –   

It seemed like a lot of Russian athletes were taking it, which is why it ended up on the banned list because there was you know, some sort of study. But the rollout of this meldonium man was very poor. I mean, look, Sharapova was negligent, she did not check the list. 

I do not believe that if she had checked the list and realized that it had been banned, that she would have still been taking it because it’s not like she was really trying to hide it. It was just in her system at this major tournament, you know what I mean? It’s not like they called her on one of the offseason dates or something like that.  

You know, she was incredibly negligent which is really frustrating. Look, I understand also, I mean, I would kind of love to hear your thoughts on Sharapova Julie. I love her because she is just like, she’s not that nice, she’s ridiculous. One of my favorite things is like, just alps in the deer eventually but her quote after the people had told her about the Wozniacki comment. It was, “All that matters to me is I’m in the fourth round. Yeah, I’m not sure where she is.” I just loved that.  

[0:19:34.4] JL: Villain.  

[0:19:34.8] JD: Yeah, she is kind of like the Ice Queen Russian villain. I have issues with her for political reasons before the Tokyo Olympics, she did this thing about Sochi where she walked around and talked about going there with her family and what a great place it was and how great Russia is and everything. You know, it was just very privileged and very, like I’m part of the in crowd in Russia so everything’s great for me. Even though it might suck for like tons of other people you know?  

My issues with her really have nothing to do with tennis, that was sort of my point. 

[0:20:01.7] LG: Got you, I totally understand. Look, there’s a lot of other tennis talk we could have. I know Brenda, our Latin American expert here, wanted to talk a little bit about these struggles over in the Latin American tennis community, Bren? 

[0:20:15.5] BE: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I was thinking to myself during this Open. Wow, there’s really no Latino or Latin American players. I mean, because Garbineis really coming out of Spanish system, right? I was thinking to myself, there’s this really long history since I’m thinking back Maria Esther Bueno who was a Brazilian partnering with Althea Gibson in the 60’s to Gabriella Sabatini or even you just mentioned Mary Joe Fernandez who is Latina Dominican.  

Even in the Latino community, in Latin American community. I feel like women’s tennis has sort of taken a nose dive in recent years and there’s been a spade of articles blaming their lack of discipline which is that typical thing you’re going to do. Is make these huge cultural assumptions but I was just really interested in not seeing it. I don’t have any answers but it just sort of feels empty right now in that department.  

I’m going to do a little bit more poking around.  

[0:21:15.5] LG: Yeah, this might be a dumb question, I apologize but do we consider, is Puerto Rico considered part of Latin America?  

[0:21:21.0] BE: Yeah, Latin Americans aren’t going to give that up. I think –  

[0:21:25.7] LG: Which is totally fair. I just want to make sure but you did have of course Monica Puig  winning the gold medal last year. 

[0:21:30.4] BE: True.  

[0:21:32.1] LG: Which is super exciting and she struggled a lot since then. I think like that kind of outlier result for her, that was her playing above her normal route but we’ll see her again, she’ll have some good moments again. She’s still very young. 

I’d agree, yes, overall it’s not a booming industry right now.  

[0:21:54.2] JL: There’s like at least three Argentinian men still in this I think. If I’m counting correctly. 

[0:22:00.2] LG: Del Potro. 

[0:22:01.5] JL: Yeah, Del Po. Yeah, Schwartzman and I guess Mayer was yesterday. He lost. I mean, they did a pretty good run. That’s interesting that there’s a discrepancy here. 

[0:22:12.3] BE: Yeah, especially in Mexico. I sort of see a complete lack of the Mexican Women’s Game compared to the 80’s and 90’s where you felt like there are all these young people coming up and a lot of them really excited about tennis. They still are but I think there’s something going on with the federations. 

[0:22:31.8] LG: Yeah, isn’t there always something going on with the federations? 

[0:22:34.1] BE: Everywhere in all sports.  

[0:22:43.9] LG: Moving on to I think one of the most exciting moments so far in Burn It All Down history. Jess, please tell us about your interview this week?  

[0:22:52.9] JL: Yeah, this week I talked with ESPN’s sports center host Jemele Hill, we chatted about being political and public right now, you should follow her on Twitter everybody. The point of sports in a moment like this and how she feels about being a Michigan state fan this year in the midst of two major sexual violence scandals, the one involving gymnastics physician Larry Nassar who was reportedly abused dozens of women across multiple decades. She actually had some really interesting stuff to say about that. The other involving four now former football players who have been charged in two different sexual assault cases. We commiserated  because I’m in FSU alumni, Florida state alumni’s – sort of how we deal with all of this as fans. She’s awesome and it was an honor to talk with her.  


[0:23:35.9] JL: Welcome Jemele Hill to Burn It All Down, thank you for being here. 

[0:23:40.1] JH: Thanks for having me, I appreciate it.  

[0:23:42.4] JL: You’ve recently participated in a round table for Sports Illustrated about being publicly political in this moment and in that, you said, “When you’re under the leadership of a president that refuses to condemn Nazis and racism, how am I supposed to function the rest of the day and pretend as if I give a shit about Blake Bortles losing his job?” 

Jemele, how do you do it? How do you give a shit?  

[0:24:06.3] JH: I have to say, like some days, it’s a struggle and it doesn’t just apply to the presidential leadership. When you look at what happened in Houston and these events that go on and when you’re at sports, everybody’s like, “Oh but sports is an escape.” I’m just astounded by that concept. Because yes, sports is what I do for a living but I’m also a citizen of this world and in this country and there are days, it’s really hard to focus on sports. 

Last summer was another perfect example between what happened in Dallas and Orlando Castile. It was tough, there were days where Mike and I came in to work where it just felt like either we were in some alternate universe or we shouldn’t be there. 

It was just really hard, so, maybe I’m envious of the people who can say like “stick to sports” or “sports is my escape.” I’m just like, I just am not really built that way. Yeah, I mean, I try my hardest to obviously focus on the job and the task at hand but it’s just not always very easy, especially given our current climate.  

[0:25:09.7] JL: In a moment like this, something I think a lot about at this point like what is the role of sports? For me, I’ve been watching the US Open this week, tennis is my favorite sport to watch and it does feel like escapism. Then at the same time, I get on social media and I am inspired by what Kaepernick and other football players are doing. What do you think is the role that sports can or should play in moments like this and maybe culture at large? 

[0:25:37.5] JH: We just talked about what’s happening in Houston and I’ve been extremely inspired by what a lot of professional athletes have done in terms of deciding among themselves and not like they have some kind of secret meeting. That they were going to really lead the way in terms of donations and getting the word out and even seeing some of the videos that don’t necessarily make mainstream media. 

Like Gerald Green who you have to be driving around in a truck, looking for both. I’m inspired by that, I’m inspired by the fact that they feel this need and obligation to be active and you take that as you said, Kaepernick, what he’s done, what he sacrificed it’s hard not to be moved by that. 

Michael Bennett. What Michael Bennett has done. I mean, the fact that he has kind of taken the baton from Colin Kaepernick and decided that he was going to be a voice and the fact that he’s writing a book and doing all these different things. I am constantly in awe of their movement. 

Because I think we went through a dead period in sports where athletes weren’t encouraged or didn’t feel obligated or didn’t feel like they needed to do that. Now, it feels like there’s a different wave, a different momentum among them. Where they really feel like we need to be more than just people that entertain you.  

[0:26:56.7] JL: I wanted to ask you about being a fan. I think you know and most people that know me know that I’m a Florida State alum and I have had a rough go with my relationship to the school over the last five years and the athletic department and making sense of the choices that they’ve made, right?  

You’re pretty famous for your fandom of Michigan State. Michigan State, back in the spring, there were two big simultaneous sort of scandals, abuse scandals that came out, right? One is still ongoing in the courts of Larry Nassar. He was a sports physician who has reportedly abused dozens of women over multiple decades. He worked for Michigan State, some of these women have said they reported to the university and nothing happened. 

Then simultaneously to this, there were four different football players at Michigan State who were involved in two different sexual assault cases, three players in one. One in the other. All of them had been dismissed, there was an athletic department – or football staffer who got involved in the middle of the one with the three guys and the police. Said that he interfered. 

I mean we were just rolling it out. I just saw that there was an article going into the season, sort of like where are we know with sexual assault and football at Michigan State? It’s so much. What advice do you have? I get asked this a lot, what advice do you have for people who it’s their school that is in the spotlight or their team, right? We see this on the professional level too, how have you as a fan made sense and what are you thinking going into this season for Michigan State?   

[0:28:28.8] JH: I think despite whatever fandom I have and obvious sentiment I have for my university. I still believe stars like they need to be held accountable. I would look at any university. You mentioned both of the scandals and Larry Nassar was a little different because I felt like as a university, as a school, that was very disappointing. Disappointing doesn’t even do it justice with how we handle that. What made that even tougher for me is the gymnastics coach, Kathie Klages.  

I know her very well. Me, Kathie and another friend we were friendly. We socialize together a lot. I was stunned, it wasn’t even the word to describe it but her level of being tone deaf and I haven’t spoken to her since. Not because it was on purpose, but I am still trying to process the fact that somebody that I socialize with on a regular basis, could undermine and turn her back on women who were constantly telling her that this was happening.  

That was much tougher to process than what happened on the football team. Only because and we don’t deserve a cookie for this or a pat on the back. At least with the football team it was handled and dealt with in a way that made me have confidence that there was not something Baylor-esque happening there. Once that they discovered that the staff heard, as you mentioned the assistant had been involved, had interfered, he was dismissed.  

My one dissatisfaction with that is that one of the players involved was somebody who already is coming to university had a history of sexual assault. Yes, sure you could go with the whole second chance vibe, but the second chance doesn’t have to be you, okay? And I just felt like it was completely unnecessary for him to be even be at the university and low and behold, he did what was in his past and what was in some way very predictive.  

So from that standpoint, I was very disappointed that Mark Antonio, even had somebody like that on the football team. Does it diminish what this season is? For me no because look, I’d rather us go 0 and 12 with nobody on the team that is sexually assaulting women. I am fine with that as long as I feel good about the players that are on the team, about the direction of the leadership, I am completely okay with losing. Even though this season from a purely football perspective, is going to probably be not so good.  

Because those players were significant starters for us that were basically dismissed. I am fine with that because I don’t want to look out there in the field and feel some kind of angst or feel dirty about rooting for my own team knowing that there is a player on the team that I feel like has abused a woman. I can stop through this season but yeah. I hope our entire administration they realize the gravity of this and for people out there everywhere.  

It was fine for a lot of people to point at Baylor and have this self-righteousness about what happened there. Like Michigan State much like what kind of state you went through, it will happen at your university. It does happen at your university. It just maybe hasn’t reached a point where it becomes some kind of public scandal but this happens everywhere. This is not unique to certain universities.  

[0:31:52.9] JL: There’s a big Florida State football game coming up this weekend. By the time this airs, it would have played out and my husband and I had already the discussion of like, “Are we going to watch it?” And we are. 

[0:32:03.0] JH: Did you take the time out for Florida State football for a while? Did you continue to watch?   

[0:32:08.0] JL: So I used to be die hard where I would have this season memorized. I know when we were playing Miami, nothing is scheduled that weekend because we need to watch the game stuff. It was more like I would watch it if I had the TV on and it was on but I couldn’t. I just couldn’t. I still struggle with it because so much of what we found out about Florida State was systemic within the athletic department and a lot of those people are still there.   

And that’s the kind of thing I think about, I have that angst, Jemele, when I am watching. I just think it’s sort of you make do with what you can. Every kind of pop culture is problematic right?  

[0:32:44.1] JH: There are certainly, movies, there are certain music that we were listening too now. It’s definitely some people that I can’t listen to or go see because it just is so problematic you know? Somebody like R. Kelly comes to mind. I can’t with R. Kelly. Which is almost just really interesting just because he is such a big part of when I grew up, like everybody was listening to R. Kelly. I can’t stand the sound of his voice now.   

But yeah, you’re right. In pop culture we all make these choices and we make these deals with ourselves and there is a part of me that’s like, “Okay, well why does one kind of?” I am constantly evaluating like why does one strike me one way and another one doesn’t? So I just implore all of my favorite actors and musicians, please God don’t do anything but I will quit you. I don’t want to but I will.  

[0:33:36.6] JL: Yeah, I think that one too. Whenever I like one of that, I’m like, “Come on Kevin Durant” like come on.  

[0:33:42.5] JH: Yeah, oh you’ve got to come through with me man.  

[0:33:46.3] JL: Thank you so much for being on, Jemele, and I just really appreciate you all the time and I love watching you on Sports Center every day. You always look so good, I know that is not the most important thing but –  

[0:33:57.7] JH: I try.  

[0:34:00.3] JL: Well thank you so much.  

[0:34:01.8] JH: Well thank you Jessica.   


[0:34:09.9] LG: All right fellow flame throwers, which I would like to announce officially is the name we have decided to call our listeners. It’s time for the Burn Pile. Brenda will you start us off?  

[0:34:20.7] BE: Sure, I’d love to but it’s not a happy story. It’s a flaming story. The New York Times ran a story this week that broke my heart about a doctoral student named Christina Suggs at Florida State. She was running some courses in hospitality while getting her PHD and the article mentioned her as a single mom. But Suggs made the mistake of actually trying to teach asking the same thing from all the students including the football players.  

And when she reported the pressure she was getting from her supervisor and players to inflate their grades, the administration of Florida State did nothing to support her. In fact, very quickly she found herself out of a job and out of the program. The New York Times actually published some of the students plagiarized work and it’s this cut and paste job from Wikipedia that is if you’ve ever been in a college setting where your teaching or are privy to this, it’s is a classic device, right?   

Suggs ended up without the PHD but with lots of debt and stress and shortly thereafter in 2014, she died of an accidental overdose of prescription medications for pain, anxiety and depression. So I just want to burn, burn, burn the FSU administration and the whole practice of asking teachers to bow down to college athletics.  

[0:35:39.2] LG: That is awful, burn it. Oh my god.  

[0:35:43.1] BE: It’s killing me this week. I can’t get it out of my head. So thank you for that cathartic burn.  

[0:35:50.4] LG: Oh geez. Alright Jess, you want to take it from there?   

[0:35:53.6] JL: Yeah, sure. I do want to just say going of what Brenda, there is a new book. Mike McIntire who wrote that article that’s actually from a book that’s coming out this weekend. As an FSU alum, I have already ordered it and I will be reading it and probably crying through it. Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated sites, Monday morning quarterbacks Albert Breer published quotes from three NFL executives and one coach, all anonymously on their thoughts on why Colin Kaepernick, the kneeling quarterback has not yet gotten a job.  

All without ever explaining why they are anonymously sourced. There aren’t even interviews, they are just quotes. There’s no pushback from Breer or even a conversation to contextualize these four anonymous sources thoughts. They are published as standalones and Breer called them quote “facts” in a Tweet then read on the heels of this sporting news’s Christian Dire publish an anonymous NFL general manager thoughts on Kaepernick again without it ever explaining why this person is granted anonymity.  

Whenever you hear or read a media report where sources are anonymous, you must ask yourself what this person did to deserve anonymity? Is their job or their safety in danger if they speak out? Is something gained from their words that would be lost without them? Something otherwise unknowable? Does the media outlet explain to you why they choose to grant anonymity to this person? Because let me tell you, in my reporting on much more sensitive topics, any potential use of anonymity is a major editorial discussion that is not entered into lightly.  

This is lazy and to be frank, cowardly reporting. I want to burn this useless anonymous sourcing. Burn.  

[0:37:35.4] LG: Wow, burn it yeah. Yeah and I like to add to that really quickly that anonymous sourcing should be used to protect the vulnerable not the powerful, you know? This is the exact opposite of what Breer is doing. I would like to burn staying on the NFL beat just this entire Ezekiel Elliott domestic violence appeal and case and public battle. I know we’ve talked about it on and on and on again on this program and look, we’re going to have to keep talking about it.  

Because this thing is shaping up to be one of the ugliest court battles between the NFL and the NFLPA that we’ve seen. This is not going to go away. The NFL PA has appealed the suspension, we’re supposed to know I believe Tuesday, the answer to that whether or not it will be reduced or what’s going to happen, if it will stick at six games. They are also asking to have everything just nullified is just another thing that the Union is saying that the NFL had a league orchestrated conspiracy against Ezekiel Elliot.  

All of the court documents have been released. We now have the full NFL investigation that they have given us. There’s transcript to the hearings. I have been combing through it all this weekend and it’s really horrible when you are reading about people fighting over things that involve a woman’s allegations of being beaten and also intimate details about her life such as a miscarriage and an abortion and you also have Ezekiel Elliot.  

A lot of his past is coming out, his drug use, just his entire lifestyle. It’s really ugly all around. It’s really ugly to see two huge organizations using these people’s personal lives as these maneuvering game – chess pieces in this ongoing battle. Like I said, it is not going to go away unfortunately. We’re going to have keep talking about it and we’re going to keep thinking of victims everywhere and making sure that we’re centering the right people in these conversations but for now, I just want to burn it all. Burn. Julie, finish us up.  

[0:40:01.5] JD: Alright, this week a SB Nation site manager named Sheryl Bradley filed a law suit against SB Nation. She’s the manager of the Colorado Avalanche Site called Mile High Hockey, who I’m pretty sure has blocked me on Twitter but that’s neither here nor there. She said that she worked 30 to 40 hours a week for SP Nation and was paid a $125 a month as a stipend. She’s suing them claiming that she and other site managers that worked nearly 40 hours a week are employees and therefore subject to wage and hour protections.  

Minimum wage, benefits, stuff like that. Obviously SB Nation is far from the only site that’s getting content by paying writers, basically paltry sums of money. I am really hopeful that if this case goes forward that it will force a lot of sites to start paying a decent living wage for people who produce their content. I have my doubts. I think it’s probably much more likely to throw the industry even further into chaos and see more sites just dispense with everyone and pivot to video kind of thing.   

But potentially, if everyone were going to do the right thing it has the potential to make sites like SB Nation and Fan Sided and a whole bunch of other places have to actually pay people money that they could live on. When they spend 40 hours a week producing content for their site. So you know my co-host here in Chicago, Maggie Hendricks made a great point yesterday that being a journalist used to be a really solid middle class good job.  

And now, it has become something that we are constantly scrambling and scrabbling to try to get paid from people. I would really, really like to see it return to that. So while I have my doubts about whether or not it actually will, I am grateful to see this law suit and I want to burn not necessarily the sites themselves but this culture that is created, free content and content at really low prices for all the websites out there. So burn it.  


[0:42:06.8] LG: Alright, it is not time for our Badass Woman Of The Week Award. I like to start out with a few honorable mentions. First we have Sue Bird of the Seattle Storm who this week became the all-time WNBA assist leader in a game where she actually got 13 assists in one game and that was incredible. What a way to make a record. We also have Jonquel Jones, a sophomore from the Connecticut Sun in her second year who is about to have the best rebounding season in WNBA history if she can just get six rebounds tonight in her game. 

Aand you also have Serena Williams who gave birth to her baby girl. So congratulations Serena.  

But the winner is Tina Charles. WNBA player but I don’t want to talk about her on court work. Tina Charles literary saved a life this summer. Charles’s late aunt, Maureen “Hopey” Vaz, who suffered multiple organ failure in 2013. What would have saved Charles’s aunt was an automated external defibrillator which was an AED.  

So at that time, Charles started the Hopey’s Heart Foundation to her aunt and raise awareness of the need for AED’s. So starting 2013 to today, she has donated her entire WNBA salary to her foundation and has placed 300 AED’s all around the country. One of these AED’s happen to be in Austin, Texas where a man named Dan Carlson went into cardiac arrest in July and because his AED was around and that people around him have been educated on how to use it, his life was saved.   

He would have literary died if Tina Charles had not had this AED placed in the place where he worked. Yahoo Sports did a fantastic story on this and actually, Tina Charles got to meet Dan Carlson this week and it was really emotional to watch and I think this is only the beginning for really great things in her foundation. So I don’t know how you top that. Thank you Tina for all that you do.   

[0:44:19.5] BE: Lovely, oh that’s amazing.  

[0:44:21.4] LG: I know, isn’t it? It’s a really, really cool.  

[0:44:24.7] BE: It makes me feel so much better.  

[0:44:26.8] LG: I know. I know it’s a very tangible thing like literary a life was saved because of the work that she’s done, you know? That’s just really cool.  


[0:44:44.0] LG: Alright, we’ve got a little listener mail today, Julie?  

[0:44:46.5] JD: We do. We love hearing from our listeners and this one comes to us from Erica who says she’s a long time listener, first time emailer and she says, “I wanted to share some thoughts about the latest episode” so this is I believe two episodes ago. In the conversation about Ezekiel Elliot’s appeal:  

“The comment was made that I found off putting in relation to domestic violence. I wish a different language has been used to convey the frustration the client may cause an attorney to try to DV case while they honor the attempt to be real. Any implication about re-victimizing the survivor of domestic violence I find worrisome. In that moment, the language used did not feel in step with the purpose of the podcast. I share this feedback with love and perhaps a different perspective that may be valuable.” 

So I will fall on my sword here, I am the one who in our conversation with Ezekiel Elliot was talking about less than perfect victims. I said that there were times when I said that I was going to beat a victim myself because they were frustrating and it was an attempt to be honest and be real and be a little self-deprecating at the same time and didn’t come off that way. So obviously Erica is exactly right. She and I had a conversation offline about this and I appreciate her bringing that to my attention.  

It was one of those things that the minute it came out of my mouth I wanted it back. So I appreciate her calling me out on that and forcing me to confront the things that come out of my mouth when I am being flip.  

[0:46:06.9] LG: Absolutely. Always call us out friends, we are here to learn and to get better and to figure all these out together. So we love our listeners so much.   


[0:46:24.6] LG: Let’s end on a positive note, what are you guys looking forward to this week? Brenda.   

[0:46:28.7] BE: I’m looking forward to the qualifiers in the South American Kumi Ball for the 2019 World Cup. It’s crazy. Few of the best teams in the world are within one point of each other, Argentina, Chile, Columbia and Uruguay are all within two points. Brazil qualified months ago because… Brazil. This Thursday though they all play what I call spoiler games. They play against a team not going to qualify or have already qualified.  

So Chile – Bolivia, Columbia – Brazil, Paraguay – Uruguay and Argentina versus Venezuela. So everyone is playing someone who isn’t in contention which makes it even wilder. Ah! The game is overlapped so look for me to barely survive on Thursday.  

[0:47:16.8] LG: Jess?  

[0:47:19.5] JL: Sure, so I recently read Houston based reporter, Michael Herd’s new book, Thursday Night Lights. It’s about the history of black high school football players and coaches in Texas specifically during segregation. My review of it is going to be published sometime soon at the Texas Observer and I do recommend it. It’s important history that has barely ever told despite the significant level of coaching and playing talent that came out of black high schools in Texas for many decades.  

And so it’s interesting because I just read this book and what I am looking forward to this week and what’s been good in my life, I am re-watching Friday Night Lights because two of my friends at Texas Monthly are participating in a roundtable for the next month where they write about watching the show now in 2017. One of them has never seen it and one is watching it for who knows what time, what repeated viewing this is.  

 It is weird to watch Friday Night Lights, a decade after the show first aired and when I first thought I would never see it again. My relationship to football is so different now but I love it so much and so comparing Friday Night Lights and thinking about Thursday Night Lights, it’s fun.  

[0:48:24.2] LG: I love that show. It’s my favorite show and I can’t wait to read that review. Alright, Julie?  

[0:48:30.1] JD: Mine is more of a what’s good than what I am looking forward to. I finally saw Tom Ford’s, Nocturnal Animals which was the darling of the Oscars. In a lot of ways, it is one of the most thought provoking layered psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen. It was one of those movies that you watch it, it kind of ends, you are not sure how you feel about it and then a week, two weeks later you are still thinking about it and trying to unpack it.  

So it really sort of inspired me to listen to this podcast with Tom Ford talking about how he put the layers of the movie together because he is dealing with three different time frames, plus a book that is being read. They’re showing you what is happening in the book at the same time. It is one of those things that sort of inspires you to get creative, or at least me, to get creative again and to sit down and to try to write one of those or finish one of those novels I’ve got kicking around that I’ve had for 10 years.  

So I think if you haven’t seen Nocturnal Animals, I highly recommend it. The first half is extremely intense but it’s very much a thinking person’s mystery movie and I really, really enjoyed it.  

[0:49:30.9] JL: I want to read your novel, Julie. 

[0:49:32.8] JD: Yeah, it’s like 400 pages with no end in sight.  

[0:49:35.5] JL: Alright, I can’t wait.   

[0:49:37.0] LG: Those are my favorite types of models so perfect.  

[0:49:40.5] BE: Opus.   

[0:49:41.8] LG: I am looking forward to, I’m sure you can guess it, the WNBA Playoffs which start this week. The first two rounds of the WNBA Playoffs are single elimination games which is the most stressful and cruel thing you could do to a WNBA fan and probably I guess the players too. But anyways, they did this so that the semifinals and the final can be longer which I do appreciate. But please friends, tune in to the WNBA Playoffs and we will have much more WNBA Playoffs talk in the future coming forward.  


[0:50:20.5] LG: I think that’s it everybody. Our podcast lives on SoundCloud. We can also be heard on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Google Play and Tune In. We love reviews and feedback so please subscribe and rate and tell us what you’re thinking. This week instead of our Go Fund Me, we really love you to donate to a Go Fund Me that is going directly to relief in Houston for the flood victims there. There’s a lot of organizations, I am going to shout out the work that Zina Garrison, who is a former tennis champion who really paved the way for a lot of African-American tennis players between Althea Gibson and Serena and Venus Williams. She was a two-time US Open semifinalist and a Wimbledon finalist. So she is from Houston, she has a tennis foundation there where she works with a lot of local kids. She does a lot of fantastic work. If you go to her website, zinagarrison.org. She is trying to raise one million dollars to help the Houston kids in need.  

She wants to make sure not only can she provide direct assistance but she also wants to provide tennis lessons and opportunities for these kids to get back to sport and get back to fun daily things, which I think is so important in these times. So we are going to have that link in our show notes and we will also Tweet it out as well as a list of other local organizations in and around the Houston area that I think are worth your time and money if you are feeling the need to donate.  

 And if we have any listeners in Houston or surrounding areas, we are definitely thinking about you. We hope you’ll continue to follow us on Twitter we are @burnitdownpod and on Facebook, we’re @burnitalldown. Our website is burnitalldown.com and you can go to our website to find the show notes and thanks to your amazing donations and help, we do have transcripts right now. They are usually up a day or two after the episode comes out. We’ll always Tweet when they’re live so thank you all so much for making that possible and email us. Once again, we love listener mail, burnitalldownpod@gmail.com for Brenda Elsey, Julie DiCaro, Jessica Luther, I am Lindsay Gibbs, thank you guys so much.

Shelby Weldon