Episode 22: The NHL and anthem protests, and athletes respond to Hurricane Maria
On this weeks show Shireen Ahmed and Jessica Luther talk about the NHL’s response to #takeaknee and the anthem protests, the role of race, and our utter exhaustion with people being purposefully ignorant about why people are kneeling. Lindsay Gibbs interviews professional baller Kelsey Bone about the anthem protests and her career.
As always, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and What’s Good in our worlds.
And as promised, here are the relief efforts that athletes have set up to help those affected by Irma and Maria in the Caribbean:
Carmelo Anthony’s: www.youcaring.com/puertorico-956698
Karina LeBlanc’s with UNICEF: https://secure.unicef.ca/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1672&ea.campaign.id=47130
For links and a transcript…
Shireen’s article on why Sidney Crosby’s Penguins are blowing it by visiting the Trump White House: https://sports.vice.com/en_ca/article/j5gjd4/sidney-crosbys-penguins-are-blowing-it-by-visiting-trump-white-house
Lindsay’s interactive database tracking the Kaepernick effect: https://thinkprogress.org/kaepernick-effect-database-b2f50ca7277f/
Georges Laraque Calls Out The Penguins’ Decision To Visit The White House: https://deadspin.com/georges-laraque-calls-out-the-penguins-decision-to-visi-1818860205
It’s lonely living among hockey’s silent majority: Arthur: https://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/2017/09/28/its-lonely-living-among-hockeys-silent-majority-arthur.html
The NFL has officially whitewashed Colin Kaepernick’s protest: https://www.vox.com/first-person/2017/9/28/16379618/nfl-take-a-knee-protest-colin-kaepernick
Local high school football players kicked off team after protest during anthem: http://www.chron.com/sports/highschool/article/High-school-football-kicked-off-team-anthem-kneel-12242713.php?cmpid=twitter-desktop
Detroit Lions’ Akeem Spence Says His Anthem Protest Cost His Father Work: https://deadspin.com/detroit-lions-akeem-spence-says-his-anthem-protest-cost-1818976839
Why the NBA’s long-standing anthem rule tests league’s reputation: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nba/columnist/sam-amick/2017/09/30/nba-adam-silver-anthem-rule-tests-leagues-reputation/719498001/
This Is What It’s Like For Thousands Trying To Find Food And Water In The Hurricane-Hit US Virgin Islands: https://www.buzzfeed.com/briannasacks/this-is-what-its-like-for-thousands-trying-to-find-food-and?utm_term=.ptLNNyVl6#.psPjj31z4
Dawn Staley: Champion South Carolina hasn’t been invited to White House: https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/ncaaw/2017/09/30/south-carolina-womens-hoops-coach-no-white-house-invite/106152336/
“Hear Christiane [sic], a GREAT Brazilian player, on not having the strength to fight the system anymore:” https://twitter.com/JulieFoudy/status/913823281244803072
Marta to stay on Brazil’s national soccer team despite firing of coach Emily Lima: http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/20860037/marta-remain-brazil-national-soccer-team-firing-coach-emily-lima
The Lynx-Sparks rivalry is the gift that keeps on giving: https://www.sbnation.com/2017/10/2/16394920/lynx-sparks-rivalry-wnba-finals-forever-please
Lindsay Whalen buys 300 tickets for youth to attend WNBA Finals: http://www.excellesports.com/news/lindsay-whalen-tickets-wnba-finals/
Female referees Joy Neville and Alhambra Nievas to officiate men’s internationals: http://www.bbc.com/sport/rugby-union/41406237
Shireen Ahmed: Welcome to this week’s episode of Burn it All Down. It might not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it’s the feminist sports podcast you need. This week’s panel is Jessica Luther, independent writer, general slayer, and author of Unsportsmanlike Like Conduct, College Football and the Politics of Rape. She’s in Austin, Texas. I’m Shireen Ahmed, a freelance sports writer, cat lover in Toronto, Canada. It’s just Jessica and I this week, and we’re excited to get started. On this week’s show, we’ll be discussing white supremacy, the NHL, and how protests are continuing to ripple through the movement. Lindsey interviews Kelsey Bone, and we’ll be discussing athlete efforts to campaign to raise funds for the tragedies post storm in the Caribbean. Let’s get started.
This week we’ve seen NHL players come forward and admit that they are going to the White House for the Stanley Cup celebration. I actually wrote an article for Vice this past week, detailing the ups and downs of what happened after the Penns released a statement, Pittsburgh Penguins released a statement, in fact, declaring that they were going, and then Sydney Crosby stating that going to the White House was an honor. Now, I’ve ranted and raved quite a bit about there’s nothing honorable about the White House under the current administration, or even Donald Trump. But this sort of blew up into something else, and we’ll talk about it a little bit. Immediately, the Pens were pushed back by former NHLer and former Penguin Georges Laraque, and he calls out the decision.
We’ve seen other hockey players, and let’s keep in mind, there’s less than 30 hockey players who are black in the NHL currently, and a few of them actually spoke out. I wanted to get a little bit into this, and talk to Jess about the unraveling of sort of the discussion around how to protest and why to protest, and the conflation of what is being protested, particularly in a very, very white space like the NHL. What do you think?
2:27 Jessica Luther: Yeah, I mean, I was struck by the stat, like you just said, that there are only less than 30 black NHL players, and there’s 700 NHL players. So to think about what’s going on in NHL versus, you know, the NFL or the MBA where we’ve seen a lot of vocal players and a lot of protesting, you know, those are, the players are predominately black men in those two leagues. This is a totally different dynamic. It reminds me of what’s going on in Major League Baseball. We finally had our very first protest in Major League Baseball with Bruce Maxwell, you know, that’s been, we’re deep in MLB seasons here, before we got anything.
Again, you can’t deny that, you know, the racial makeup of these leagues is playing a huge role in people’s ability to speak out. It’s really hard to be the only one, I think it was Devante Smith-Pelly, he is a Washington Capital, and he was in an article that Bruce Arthur wrote this week about all of this. He talked about being the lone black player on an NHL team, and he said, “Yeah, there’s a little bit of a lonely feeling. I mean, all of us are on our teams, by ourselves. There’s not two of us together, or three of us together. So if one of us were to do this, and nobody else on the team jumped in, you’re really by yourself.”
I think, just even trying to imagine what that would be like, I don’t know. To do it at that platform, within that conservative league, I don’t know. I don’t have anything brilliant to say about it, I just am struck by what this conversation means in the NHL versus in some, in the other leagues where we’re seeing it.
4:15 Shireen: I think, too, that there’ve been players like J.T. Brown in the Tampa Bay Lightning who has sort of mobilized and tried to, he spoke out and said he hasn’t yet, but he’s not willing it off. Then what ended up happening was Joel Ward, and I found this out just yesterday, released a statement on Thursday saying that he would actually not be kneeling at all. You know, he was supported.
Before this I was a bit salty because Don Cherry, who is known to be an incredibly sexist and racist irritating figure in Canadian hockey with these absurdly loud, and I’m okay with loud clothes, like I’m fine with that. I’m not one to criticize what people wear, obviously. But, this guys is just, he’s, you know, oh my goodness. He’s just insufferable as fuck. He comes out and he’s giving Joel Ward basic instructions on how to protest and what he should be doing. This privileged white man, with this history of obnoxiousness is telling, like you said, the only black player on that team what he should be doing, it just, I found, was so frustrated about it. I think I’ve raged sufficiently this week. Well, I don’t know, I don’t know if there’s ever enough rage to lash out about racism in the NHL.
I mean, Bruce Arthur’s piece was harrowing in some regards, in the way that he described, but that also gets to the next point, which I’m always going to say, that it was an article written by a white man, about the loneliness of black hockey players. So, the irony of a white man writing about the loneliness of people of color in white spaces was actually funny to me. I thought it was incredibly ironic that he was writing about this. I’m like, really? There was really no black writer or person of color that they could give this to? It had to come off his desk? So, you know, I’m forever salty about that situation.
6:05 Jessica: Well, I mean, as we’ve talked about repeatedly, there is nothing, there is really no space whiter than sports media. So, it’s like, of course not surprising to see it. But, yeah, I don’t know. It’s this idea, I’m just so over so much of this. I feel like that’s probably true for so many of us at this point. But this idea of telling anyone how to protest, and like, what makes an effective protest, and when to do it, and how to do it right. I mean, I know much smarter people, people who actually do this work, are in the streets doing this stuff, you know, much smarter than me, honest.
Like, the point isn’t to make you comfortable. Like, everyone wants this to be like a comfortable conversation, they want to link arms, and during the anthem, they want to stay in the locker rooms so they don’t have to show any divisiveness. Like, it’s not supposed to make you feel better. Like, you are supposed to feel bad, or not necessarily bad, but uncomfortable when you see this stuff. It’s supposed to make you question basic ideas that you don’t want to question. That’s the entire point. So this idea of, like, if you just did it the right way, then I would consider what racism means in your life, and the life and death issues around how racism plays out for people of color within America, even though, you know, there’s been this discussion of like, should Canadian players care about this, which like, Canada’s got its own shit.
Shireen: Thank god. Thank god I just, I wear a hijab, because I would have pulled all my hair out this week.
Jessica: Yeah, it’s just-
Shireen: Hearing that vacuous argument, and particularly ’cause, why I wrote about this, like I said, for Vice-
Jessica: It’s a great piece, by the way everybody.
Shireen: Thank you, but I was, people were like, you don’t know. I’m like, I’m Canadian. I’m also from the exact same place as Sydney Crosby is. So, I mean, it’s also that I was so frustrated, because he comes from Cole Harbor, which is absolutely has been dealing with racial tension at the high school level. This isn’t even, these are kids that are out there so frustrated with the inequality, the racial injustice, that they were rioting in schools. He knows this. He’s from there. So to be like, oh, it doesn’t effect us. This is the other thing, J.T. Brown, actually, I believe it was him that came out and said that it doesn’t matter. I don’t think it was J.T. Brown, actually. I think it was like you said, Smith-Pelly, who said that it’s actually-
Jessica: Yeah he did.
8:39 Shireen: It’s not about Canadian versus American, it’s not like that. It’s not like white supremacy doesn’t lend a hand, like the American version doesn’t help out in Canada. I mean, they’re all inextricably linked to these systems and these organizations, what I call terrorist organizations. So it’s, and getting back to your point about discomfort, this is a PSA for all white people. Protests about racial injustice are not meant to make you feel happy. They’re just not.
9:08 Jessica: Yeah. I don’t know, so I’ve just been listening to that conversation about, this is how you should do it. That, I’m over the other thing, I’m over the idea that this is disrespectful to the military, where I think it was ThinkProgress just had a piece where they just interviewed a bunch of members of the military about how this isn’t disrespectful to them. It’s just such a, that’s such a perverted reading of both the act of kneeling, to begin with, which is often a very sacred thing that people do, it’s very honorable all the time. But, also, just a perverted idea of what the national anthem represents in this, in the US, and it’s about rights, and equality, in theory. The point of the kneeling is to draw attention to the fact that it doesn’t operate like that in the real world. I don’t know. I’m just, I’m so tired of so much of this. So, like, in Houston, which is not too far from here, two high school players who, one of them, they’re cousins, one of them raised his fist during the national anthem, another one knelt, they were both immediately, as soon as the anthem ended, their head coach instructed them to take off their uniforms, and then kicked them off the team-
Shireen: Oh my god.
Jessica: Because he’s a veteran, and they were disrespecting him and the military, and he wasn’t going to stand for it. Of course, of course, they’re two black guys doing this. I don’t know. Like, what is happening here that this is where we are, that high school students are being punished, now, for this. It’s all just based around this perverted idea of what the national anthem is, and what the protest itself is for. The NFL is not helping, they’re diluting it with this unity shit that they’re doing. I don’t know.
I just want to go back to one thing really quickly, where we talk about, like, yes, you know, this is so much about the United States, and it’s gotten, you know, people want to talk about Trump, no one actually want to talk about Trump. But, like, they want to make this somehow about Trump, and conservatism, and da da da. But, like, you do have players from other places in the world who are, you know, that’s a weird position, I would say, to be in, if you’re dealing with, like, the US government and the national anthem.
At the same time, the things that lead to Donald Trump being elected in this country, are playing out in other parts of the world right now. Right? Germany just had an election and the horrifically xenophobic and racist organization, the AfD, got a huge, like, they were the third most votes in that election, in a terrifying way, in a terrifying way. We’re seeing it, of course, we saw it in England, we saw Marine Le Pen in France, like, I’m sure that there are plenty of other examples. So, like, the idea that this is just about this one space, and like we talked about, white supremacy is everywhere. I don’t know. It’s just, it’s gotten so hard to take it all in and just, the distortion of all of it.
12:15 Shireen: I just wanted to add two things to what you’re saying about the white washing and the corrupting of the message. We’re big fans of Professor Lou Moore on this podcast, and he actually wrote a piece for the Vox about exactly that, the white washing, and we’ll link it to the show. The piece is called The NFL has Officially White Washed Kaepernick’s Protest.
Jessica: Oh, that’s Lou’s piece. I didn’t realize.
Shireen: Yeah. Also, getting back to the fact that this week we should also link this, because Eric Reed of the San Francisco 49ers, he wrote what I thought was one of the most compelling pieces of sports writing that I’ve seen this year. He wrote specifically why he joined Kap and the movement to kneel, and why they chose that specific gesture. Right away, you had people saying, well they don’t even explain what they’re doing and why. You’re like, yes, can you not read the fucking New York Times?
13:08 Jessica: They have explained it so many times. Like, that is just like-
Shireen: At this point they’re just not listening.
Jessica: That is like purposeful ignorance at this point, in a way that makes me so angry. Ugh. I’m sorry, go ahead.
Shireen: No, no. I think it’s important … Yeah, we can just rant about this. I feel you. I’m sorry, you’re coming back from vacay, I don’t mean to jump right into this bullshit. But, you know, something that Louis Moore wrote, and was really, like, it was really, really important. The whole thing was important, but that really struck me, he said, “The truth of Kaepernick’s protest,” I’m reading now, “drew the ire of white fans. For two minutes, they had to confront systemic racism and police brutality, something most fans don’t want to acknowledge, especially during a football game. In short, Kaepernick took a page from Bill Russell’s activist athlete playbook, as Russell noted in 1964, we have got to make the white population uncomfortable, because that is the only way to get their attention.” So, I think that’s pretty, it’s important, and it’s really, if 1964, I mean this is a long time ago, and we’re still doing the same thing here.
I just, we both wanted to add this, that our cohost, Lindsay, who is off this week, Lindsay Gibbs, at ThinkProgress, has done this absolutely incredible thing, that I’m in love with, like, we just love your work Lindsay, it’s been amazing, about a database, tracking the Kaepernick effect, all over the United States. I believe there’s one or two in Canada, I’m not sure, I have to check that. But, about the rate-
14:50 Jessica: It’s four countries. So they tracked more than 200 protests in 41 states, and 4 countries. Isn’t that amazing?
Shireen: Yeah. It’s so, it’s incredible, because it goes all the way down to middle school, so it’s not just professional level athletes. We’re talking about students, we’re talking about kids who are doing this because it matters. It’s not difficult for kids to understand what’s happening, and having these conversations with your kids about it. This is not something they can avoid and grow up and pretend that they can, you know, like you said, purposeful ignorance. It’s not, if we want sincere change.
Getting back to our, you know, we’ll just finish off on this, the idea that in the NHL, they don’t have to, people don’t talk about things that they don’t actually struggle with. So the idea is maybe most NHL players have never had to deal with systemic oppression, so they don’t acknowledge it. It would have been nice, for me, to see, in addition to the players that are being asked, like P.K. Subban came out and said that he wouldn’t kneel, but he’s also, like you mentioned, the only black player on the National Predators, why didn’t anybody ask Mike Fisher? Why didn’t anybody ask somebody else? How come they’re always pointing to black players, instead of asking other players what they think, to put them on the spot and make them uncomfortable. These are conversations that need to be had, and sports media needs to do better by pressing people, all people, if we really want change.
Next is Lindsay’s interview with Kelsey.
16:15 Lindsay Gibbs: All right, hello everyone. I am here with Kelsey Bone, former WNBA all star, 2015 most improved player, fifth overall pick, I believe, in the, was it the 2013 draft, Kelsey?
Kelsey Bone: That’s right.
Lindsay: Okay. I wrote 2015 in my notes, and that’s definitely not right. So I had to check. Kelsey was also one of the first, if not the first, I believe, WNBA player last year to actually take a knee, and kneel during the national anthem. Kelsey, I just wanted to take you back to last summer, mid summer, you got traded from Connecticut to Phoenix. I believe right around that time was when there were two really high profile police shootings, and players in the WNBA began wearing Black Lives Matter T shirts. What was that time like for you, and what conversations were you having in the Phoenix locker room with your new teammates?
17:12 Kelsey: Well, it was a very, very interesting time for me, because you walk into a team such as the Phoenix Mercury, you have all these great players, you have this great tradition, you know, this one of the original organization, one of the, you know, organizations. There’s all this greatness that you’re surrounded by, and then, real life happens. While you’re trying to fit in into all this greatness, things that really mean something to you, and things that really matter, you kind of have to speak up.
I have a younger brother who is 16. My brother is, today, he’s 6’6″. I remember the shooting of Terence Crutcher, in Oklahoma. I remember those cops sitting in the helicopter, looking down, and saying, “Oh, whoa. That’s a big, bad dude.” I remember thinking, “How do you know that?” It’s funny, because I’m sitting here, and I’m back in that moment, and you talk about a big, bad dude, and you talk about what does that look like? You know, my father is 6’5″, my step dad is 6’3″, my brother is 6’6″, I have two uncles that are 6’7″ and 6’8″. I mean, I’m 6’4″ myself. So, what makes you big and bad? Then I fast forward to this summer. I get a phone call from my mother, that my brother is calling her from the mall to come pick him up because he’s been apprehended for shoplifting.
Lindsay: Oh my god.
19:05 Kelsey: Now, if you know my brother, that’s how you respond. That’s how you respond. I literally just landed back in Las Vegas, I had just flown from Houston back to Las Vegas when I got this phone call. The emotion that I felt in getting that phone call, what could I do? I was stuck. My brother is a junior in high school. He just turned 16. He has a 3.8 GPA, varsity Basketball player, number seven ranked kid in the city. He was racially profiled in Saks Fifth Avenue.
Why did I kneel? What was going through my head when I knelt? I didn’t care about who was going to be the president. I didn’t care about who felt what. I cared about Donovan Kennedy Williams. I cared about the little boy that is my little brother, because I felt that, in my heart, that it is that easy for it to be my brother. A year later, it was my brother. Now luckily my mom is savvy enough, and my mom works for the school district, and she can go and get a lawyer, and she can go and get my brother out of this situation. If I never had this conversation on your podcast, no one would ever know that this happened to my brother, because my mom is that good.
But everybody’s mom is not. Kalief Browder’s mom couldn’t go get him a lawyer. She couldn’t get her son off of Riker’s Island. It killed the both of them. Everybody is not privy to the things that I’m privy to. So I kneeled for the people who don’t have anyone speaking for them. I kneeled, Colin Kaepernick is right, we need to talk about this. How do we tell these black men how to live, and how to thrive, and how to become successful parts of society if all we do is show them images of them being gunned down, no matter if you’re right, no matter if you’re wrong, no matter if you’re good, no matter if you’re bad. You’re all susceptible to the same thing. Death.
Lindsay: Did you talk with your teammates about it before you took a knee? I know that you guys had obviously had, there had to be some sort of conversation about the black lives matter movement earlier in the summer, is that correct? When you wore the shirts?
Lindsay: How did that go? I know, ’cause that was when you had just gotten there.
21:48 Kelsey: Well, actually, my teammate Mistie Bass, who was a big part of our player’s association, and was very vocal and having conversations with the rest of the teams in the league on, you know, the stance that we were going to take, and the type of voice we wanted to have in the communities that we serve. Phoenix, D.C., New York, Minnesota, a couple other teams, you know, we did the shirt thing, yes. Mistie and I, we were two of the people who were very vocal in the fines, you know, you’re going to fine us 5,000 dollars a team, 500 dollars a shirt. That was something that, even in that happening, and that being something that Mistie and I pushed very heavily, our teammates were cool with that. No one was upset about the fines, we all talked about it. Everybody was okay with it. The fines were rescinded.
I didn’t tell anyone that I planned on kneeling. My mom didn’t know, my girlfriend didn’t know, no one knew. I told no one that I was going to kneel, because I didn’t want anyone to, one, try to stop me from doing it. And for two, I just didn’t want anybody’s opinion about it. You know? I didn’t feel that I needed to explain myself, and I wasn’t in the place where I really wanted to hear, well this might be the consequence of, or anything like that. Because I was going to do it regardless, so I might as well not even listen to that part.
Lindsay: Right. What was the reaction from your teammates and from fans?
23:22 Kelsey: You know, for a very long time, no one kind of even noticed, because I lined up at the very end of the line, because I was new there, so I just got in where I fit in, at the end of the line. So a lot of times, I remember someone interviewing my coach, Sandy Brondello, and asking her about it, and she had no idea that I had been kneeling. This was like, game four at that time. Like, she didn’t even know. I’ll say this about my time in Phoenix, the best organization ever. I mean, no one made me feel any type of way about it. They were very supportive. No one asked me to stop. It, no one even ever mentioned it to me.
Actually, I remember being at Penny Taylor’s retirement dinner, and Sue Bird saying something to me about, good job kneeling, Kels. Sandy, you know, she tells me the story of, yeah, I didn’t even know you were doing it, and so they asked me the other day, good job Kels. That was it. You know, the fans, I got a lot of support from fans on Twitter in the beginning. Then, right around the playoffs, a lot of backlash started to become, you know. I think our first game was Indiana versus the Phoenix Mercury, and we, you know, it was either Penny’s last game, or it’s [Tamika Catching’s] last game, and there was this whole big thing about, you know, if I were to kneel, it would be the most disrespectful thing I could do to such legends in the game. Then, the entire Indiana Fever team takes a knee. So, it’s like, eh.
You know, I was told that I was looking for attention, you know, I was doing this for this, and all kinds of stuff. No. That was never my agenda, that was never my motive, that was never, I never had anything other than I, there’s a young black boy in this world that belongs to me.
25:14 Lindsay: Obviously the anthem protests have been reignited, there were some players who were still continuing them, but with Trump’s comments, they were reignited. I saw you post on Instagram a picture of you kneeling last year, and you said “they told me I was just looking for attention, 365 days later, everybody’s awake.” What has it been like seeing this movement reignited, and do you think that the conversation is getting away from where it started and where it needs to be?
Kelsey: You know, initially when I initially saw the clip of Trump saying, you know, what he said, calling the players SOBs and things like that, my initial knee jerk reaction was, I hope every player of color kneels tomorrow. But, I do understand, I’m a big component of do what’s for you. Everybody’s not comfortable with kneeling. Some people might want to lock arms, some people might just can put their hand on your shoulders, and show support in solidarity for your cause. But, the issue I have with the situation is that the narrative has completely shifted. We’re no longer talking about the social injustice and the inequalities of people of color being shot at and killed by the police, and the police getting away with it at alarming rates. We’re not talking about that anymore. We’re talking about Donald Trump. I know that I can’t be the only person in this country that is tired of talking about what Donald Trump has said.
Lindsay: You’re definitely not. There’s another one right here. Yeah.
26:52 Kelsey: It’s literally driven me to a headache the past few days. Like, I don’t want to have conversations about it anymore. That’s not what it was about to begin with. There’s no disrespect to the flag. You know, when you protest something, the best way to do it is, you do it in a way that’s going to get people’s attention. Colin Kaepernick just wanted people to start talking. He just, he wasn’t being disrespectful to the military, to vets, to anybody, to the flag. He wanted to spark a conversation. He didn’t say he was going to kneel forever. He just wanted to spark the conversation. Now this man doesn’t have a job anymore. We can kind of all say what we want to say about it, but he doesn’t have a job because his caused all this trouble. Okay, he’s okay with that. When you step out, and you lead the charge, there’s a lot of consequences that come with that, and I’m pretty sure that Colin Kaepernick weighed those consequences before he took a knee. But I feel like, we’ve definitely gotten away from what this was about.
Lindsay: How do we get back? How do athletes get that conversation back?
Kelsey: When you, because, you know, we’ve all seen the, you know, every athlete that kneels just about, that’s done something has made a post on social media. You have to push that narrative. You can’t talk about inclusiveness, and we’re all doing this together, and we’re united, because this is not a united front just yet. We are not united, unfortunately. We are not united. We are, this is not a movement of unity. This is a movement of alarm, hello, wake up, do you see us? Do you hear us? We are not trying to go back to where we’ve come from.
Lindsay: Just to finish things up, we’ve got about a minute, but you weren’t in the WNBA this year, I know, and I just want to ask, why didn’t we see you this year? Are you okay? Are we going to hopefully see you again back in the states next year?
Kelsey: You know, I am definitely still a basketball player first. I did not play this summer, I got a chance to start my own hair company, Halo Hair. It’s an extension company. You know, after being traded last year, going through a couple of situations and bouts with the Connecticut Sun, you know, hmm, maybe I want to be traded, you know. I know in my good year, with most improved, and being an all star, Chiney Ogwumike was hurt. I knew her coming back, that was another body that would clog the paint. I knew there was going to be, you know, a log jam.
I’d asked for a trade at the end of that season, only to be told, you know, we’re going to do some things different, got a new coach coming in, just give it a chance. You know, I tried that. It wasn’t something that, you know, Coach Miller wanted a post player that shot the three. He wanted one that could space the floor. That’s just not my game. We parted ways, and I was okay with that. I thought they were okay with that, I thought everybody, you know, would live happily ever after. Shortly thereafter, the rumblings of, you know, well, now the chemistry is so much better, and the locker room is such a better place to be in. I was confused, because I wasn’t the only person unhappy or disgruntled. I just might have been the only person who was willing to say, hey, I am.
Lindsay: So you’re saying once you were in Phoenix, you started hearing that everyone in Connecticut was happier with you gone, essentially? That the chemistry was better?
30:19 Kelsey: I mean, essentially, that was the narrative that was being pushed, you know, that I had been a cancer in the locker room, and all of those things. I’ll be honest, I’ll be the first to say that I was hurt by that. Those are things that are career ending, in a lot of senses. It was something that was just downright not true. So, in understanding, you know, what the Phoenix Mercury were doing, and moving forward, and hey, Brittney Griner is their post player, and unfortunately for myself, we play the same position, and you know, they needed me to be looking to be more of a Four. That’s a very, very, very hard position to play in the WNBA, if not the hardest. That wasn’t something I was willing to just walk into blindly, having never done it before. So, you know, I took my chances and I was under the impression and hoping that free agency would work for me. It didn’t, because of the rumblings and the things that had been said. I understood that, and I was okay with going and working on myself as a person, as a basketball player, and stepping away from the game, and just falling back in love with me and basketball all over again, so that I can be the best player that I can be for myself, moving forward.
Lindsay: So, hopefully you’ve gotten a summer of rejuvenation under your belt, I know you’re going back overseas now, and then, I hope that we’ll see you next summer, back in the league. Maybe still taking a knee, and still taking a stand, and I know you’ll keep speaking up about social justice and holding people accountable, ’cause that’s what we’ve got to do.
Kelsey: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Lindsay: Well, listen, thank you so much for joining us Kelsey, it was a pleasure to talk to you. Hopefully we’ll talk again soon.
Kelsey: Thank you Lindsay, you have a good one.
Lindsay: You, too.
32:10 Shireen: As many of you know, the Caribbean has been hit with tremendous tragedy, Jess, do you want to take this away?
Jessica: Yeah, there’s a lot to say here. Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, which is a commonwealth of the United States. The island now has no electricity; they may not have it for months. I think we should all just sit with that. Like, for four months, the island may not have electricity. Much of their water is undrinkable, there’s putrid water just sitting in the streets. About 80% of the crop value is gone, and you know, they’re losing millions of dollars, like, hundreds of millions of dollars. More than 3.4 million people live in Puerto Rico, but only a slim majority of Americans even realize that Puerto Ricans are actually Americans too. Being part of a commonwealth means that Puerto Ricans have no representation in the electoral college, so they can’t vote in general presidential elections unless they have residency in another state. Most people in Puerto Rico don’t pay Federal income taxes, but they do pay social security, Medicare, import export and commodity taxes. Their Federal tax bill adds up to more than three billion a year. They do have a delegate in the House of Representative, but that representative can’t vote on the house floor.
So, Maria also devastated other Caribbean islands such as Dominica, and the US territory, the United States Virgin Islands, which of course, were also hit very hard by Hurricane Irma. According to a recent report from BuzzFeed news, the US Air Mobility Command says it’s flown in 11 hundred tons of aid and supplies to the region, including pallets of water and FIMA support. Quote, “The National Guard and army have erected ten cities on two large fields on St. Thomas, and massive ships are floating in docks visibly loaded to the brim with crates and supplies.” But, quote, “BuzzFeed news did not see a military or local authority presence while touring most of the neighborhoods in St. Thomas or parts of St. John, and residents say it’s because of a lack of communication between local leaders and Federal reserves.”
So there’s this discussion happening right now, about, like, what these islands need and what the government says it’s doing, and what people on the ground say is actually happening. Of course, the response to the damage in the Caribbean has been different than what happened in response to the devastation in Texas and Florida, with Puerto Rico in particular, it’s gotten really nasty this week, as does anything that relates to Trump at this point. So, last week the acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke said she was, quote, “Very satisfied with the government’s response.” That led to the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, saying, quote, “This is, damn it, this is not a good news story. This is a people are dying story. This is a life or death story. There’s a truckload of stuff that cannot be taken to people story. This is a story of devastation that continues to worsen.”
Okay. So then Trump decides he’s going to manage this, by taking to Twitter to trash Puerto Rico and it’s citizens. The President of the United States did this, he wrote, quote, “The mayor of San Juan, who was very complimentary only a few days ago,” I feel like we should have, like, a really nasty voice when we read these out, “Has now been told by the Democrats that you must be nasty to Trump. Such poor leadership ability by the mayor of San Juan and others in Puerto Rico, who are not able to get their workers to help. They want everything to be done for them,” talk about dog whistle here, “When it should be a community effort. Ten thousand Federal workers now in island, doing a fantastic job.” As Kim Kardashian noted on Twitter in response to this, quote, “They don’t have power to watch the news. Please stop tweeting and golfing while people are dying. Please step up and help.” Okay. Kim Kardashian owned Trump about Puerto Rico.
So, we are talking about all this and running it all down today because one of the groups who has responded with compassion and pushes for relief, are athletes. So before Maria hit, Tim Duncan, who some of us on this podcast like.
Shireen: We won’t mention any names.
Jessica: Shireen is swooning. Shireen is swooning right now. You know, all around good guy, Tim Duncan, he launched a relief fund for the US Virgin Islands, which is his home. He’s raised more than 2.8 million. Monica Puig, the gold medalist Tennis player from Puerto Rico wrote a piece for Sports Illustrated to her fellow Puerto Ricans, she’s also started a fund. NBA star Carmelo Anthony wrote a piece for the Player’s Tribune, in which he said, quote, “I’m half Puerto Rican, and I’m proud of it. Puerto Ricans are my people, but this is about more than that. Puerto Ricans are our fellow Americans. Puerto Ricans are our fellow man. They need our help.” He also has a fund.
Jorge Porsada, he’s a former MLB catcher, who played for 17 seasons, currently lives in Miami, he also wrote about this. It’s a really impactful piece, because he wrote about the devastation in Puerto Rico, as told to him by his parents, who live there. So, quote, “As he was driving, my dad kept telling me about the detours he had to take, because a bunch of roads were blocked or covered with debris, or just completely flooded. Every few seconds, I’d hear this gasp. Sometimes it would be him, other times my mom. Then he’d tell me about some building with half it’s walls missing, or a car that was completely underwater, or some other level of destruction that he never thought he’d experience in his lifetime.” Porsada also has a fund that he’s created.
Then there’s former Canadian National Soccer Team goalkeeper, Karina LeBlanc, who grew up on Dominica. She’s partnered with UNICEF, because there is now an estimated 20 thousand children who are at risk in the aftermath of Maria. On Dominica, over 90% of the structures, 90% of the structures have significant damage. We’re going to put all the links to their fundraising efforts in the description of the show, and in the show links. But you know, I don’t know Shireen, I just keep thinking, god bless the athletes.
Shireen: No, absolutely. For them to do this, and to speak so personally. I mean, not just because he’s Tim Duncan, but Tim Duncan is actually not on social media. He’s not on Twitter, he’s not on Facebook, for specific reasons.
Jessica: That’s not his thing. He’s very private.
Shireen: We talked about his previously on another episode, about his piece for the Player’s Tribune. Coming out is not his thing, it’s not easy for him to do. But this is such a crisis, this is unbelievable. And Karina LeBlanc’s tweets last week, and just a couple of days ago. She hadn’t heard from her grandmother, like, I’m getting shivers just, and she’s tweeting this. Like, I haven’t heard, and every day I’m like, did she hear from her grandma? Like, did she hear from her yet? Finally, I believe it was Friday, she did get a chance to talk to her grandmother.
These are athletes who have platforms, and have privilege, but they’re so, they bear themselves in their emotion and their sadness, and their worry, and their anxiety about their homes, and their family, and their friends, and their communities. It’s really incredible, the amount of stuff that’s happening. I really, really hope that people, you know, take heed and understand these crisis, and it also draws attention.
I mean, I can’t even, I don’t even know how to begin addressing, and Jess already such a great job of it, talking about Trump. He’s just exhausting. The press conference of the mayor of San Juan, I watched it, and she’s crying in it. Like, she can’t even contain her emotions. So for him to criticize her, it’s just, it’s almost, it’s staggering to me that he has no idea what she’s going through, at all, and has no compassion or empathy. Like, this is the President. He has no empathy at all for these people. The narrative that I find really upsetting, is that constantly, you see fights on Twitter, or fights back and forth in media, about who is considered an American.
Jessica: I know.
Shireen: That, for me, is really upsetting. One of my friends-
39:43 Jessica: Yeah, of course, it’s all steeped in this horrific history of, you know, of empire, and colonialism, and you know, we got is, talk about captive language of Puerto Rico back in the late 19th century from Spain, and we’ve left it as a commonwealth. They don’t have the rights of, I mean, it’s, the legal stuff with Puerto Rico, like, where the Constitution counts and when it doesn’t, is a gray area, because of their legal status. I don’t know. There’s just so much about it that’s horrible. But specifically, that it’s still being treated like a lesser version of this country. Like, and then Trump keeps saying something about it’s hard to get stuff there because the ocean is so big. I just, like, I don’t know man. I don’t know.
Shireen: Gina Rodrigez, who’s one of my favorite actresses, like, I love this show, Jane the Virgin, she’s Puerto Rican. She tweeted, retweeted, or quote tweeted, a tweet of, it’s unbelievable Carmen Yulin Cruz, literally, waist deep in water with the bullhorn, going out trying to find people.
Jessica: Yeah. Like, sewage water.
Shireen: Yes. He’s saying, oh she’s not a great, she’s not a great leader. Um, that’s exactly what a great leader does. Like, I just, I saw that, and it brought tears to my eyes, because the effects, like you said, of devastation, of flooding, the amount of bacteria, and viruses that travel through water, there’s children, there’s vulnerable, there’s aged who are at risk. This is a huge crisis, like, one of epic proportions. You know, and in the meantime, in between, going after athletes, and chasing down Jerry Jones to make sure the team is standing. He’s barely got time to deal with it. It’s just, it’s ridiculous.
Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite segment, and ours, the burn pile. Jessica, do you want to start us off?
Jessica: Yeah. I mean, it’s hard at this point to even pick, and then I will just say, like, you know, there’s such big things I feel like they should be burning all the time. I don’t know. So I was out of the country for most of this week, and I only was king of paying attention to what was happening, because I could, so I took the advantage of that. But this one just sort of struck me. So Dawn Staley, who I love, she’s the head women’s Basketball coach of the champion South Carolina team. She told the Associative Press this week, quote, “We haven’t gotten an invitation yet,” to the White House, she’s talking about, “That in itself speaks volumes. We won before those other teams won their championships. I don’t know what else has to happen.”
So, the South Carolina Women’s Basketball Team has not been invited to the White House. Famously, Trump has invited lots of other teams, he has rescinded the Golden State Warriors invitation, after Steph Curry said he would be voting to not go. Clemson, the college Football champs, the New England Patriots, who won the Super Bowl, the Chicago Cubs, who won the World Series, they’ve all gone, already. As we talked about earlier, the Pittsburgh Penguins are planning on going. The North Caroline Men’s Basketball Team, they said they won’t visit the White House, but that’s because of a scheduling conflict. A team spokesman said the Tar Hills were willing to go, but the University and White House tried eight or nine dates, and none of them worked.
The Office of United Nations Ambassador, Nikki Haley, who’s a former South Carolina governor, and she and Staley seem to have a pretty warm relationship, she says that an invitation will come later this fall. The White House hasn’t said anything about it. You know, Staley has said, she’s not sure the team would go, if they got an invitation. But that’s not even the point. This administration, and the campaign that preceded it, it’s just an ongoing example of misogyny in action and all of the overt and subtle forms that that can come in. The NCAA Women’s Basketball Champions have been invited to the White House for 33 years. Staley shouldn’t have to say these comments in order to force the issue. I know in the scheme of things, like this is a really small one. But it just feels like that death by a thousand paper cuts thing, at this point. It’s all so exhausting, and I just want to burn it. Burn.
44:08 Shireen: We have talked about the immense sexism and struggles of the Brazilian Women’s Football Team on this podcast, and you know I defer usually to Brenda, who is not here this week. But I did want to mention, in my addition to the burn pile, is sexism and struggle that is forced upon those players in that federation. Just a couple of days ago, Cristiane, she’s the Brazilian Women’s legend, left a message on YouTube, and it was retweeted by Julia Foudy. She said that she’s quitting Football because she’s absolutely exhausted by the system. I watched her video, which is about nine minutes, and it’s in Portuguese, but there’s subtitles. She’s shaking a little, because she’s nervous. But she’s also unbelievable poised in a different way, because she’s speaking her truth.
It’s so hard, because she’s part of a legendary system of women, that have had to constantly had to fight against sexism, lack of support, lack of financial, and this was triggered by the recent firing of Emily Lima, who was the first woman to be a coach for the team, for the Selecao, the women’s side. It was, she was hired in 2016, and I know that we talked about her, and Brenda had mentioned her as the badass woman of the week, I believe, or an honorable mention, and she was let go.
Part of Cristiane’s critique was that, and I’m quoting her in English from the video, was that, “It felt like a bucket of cold water was thrown on the team” And out of the athletes on the team, 26 of the players signed a request to keep the coaching staff there, because they were just tired by it. Following Cristiane, who was about three days ago midfielder, Fran, and defender, Rosana, they also left the team. At this point, Marta, who is like, the legendary Orlando Pride player, she played in Europe, she’s, you know, been labeled as, and I believe, probably one of the greatest women’s players of all time, she is still with the team. She left an Instagram video saying that she would stay there, and she was saddened by her teammates leaving.
But when you listen to what Cristiane said, she was talking about, and addressing the fact that Emily Lima was let go, she says, was it because she was a woman? You know, and she said that she felt like the request that she and her teammates had, they were never heard. She also criticized the fact that women’s team jerseys are not for sale anywhere in Brazil. The men’s side are. I remember, because I was there two years ago, and I looked specifically for a Martha jersey, I couldn’t find one anywhere.
Jessica: That is, that, okay.
Shireen: No, so it’s like, exactly. It was, it’s so frustrating to see this, and to see her say that she just, she can’t fight anymore, she can’t do it. Hopefully, as a former athlete, she’ll be able to change. Because, for 17 years, Cristiane has been with this team, and she’s pushed back, and she’s tried, as have former coaches, it’s to no avail. To exhaust an athlete with so much passion and talent, to push them away from the beautiful game, and the women’s game, the exquisite game, is so upsetting. I just want to torch it all.
Jessica: Burn it, burn it, burn it.
Shireen: After all that burning, it’s time to celebrate some remarkable women this week, with our badass woman of the week segment. Jessica, you want to take this one?
47:44 Jessica: Yeah, the badass women of the week are the Minnesota Lynx and L.A. Sparks, the two WNBA teams playing in the finals. They’ve put on another truly spectacular series this year. The Sparks beat the Lynx 85-84, in game one. The Lynx beat the Sparks 70-68 in game two. The Sparks beat the Lynx 75-64 in game three. So now the Sparks only need one more game to have back to back championships. That could happen tonight, we’re recording on Sunday. If the Lynx pull out the win, though, game five will be on Wednesday night. We want to give an honorable mention to the Lynx, Lindsey Whalen for buying hundreds of tickets, so young people could attend the finals for free.
48:22 Shireen: It’s amazing. Another honorable mention to Alhambra Nievas of Spain and Ireland’s Joy Neville, and they’re set to officiate two matches in October, and as such, will make history as Rugby’s first ever female referees to take charge of men’s international matches. So, we’re really, really looking forward to that, and congratulations to them.
Jess, what are you looking forward to this week, and what’s good?
48:55 Jessica: Yeah, well, what’s good is that I just spent a week in Berlin, Germany, and I loved every second of it. Berliners eat a bunch of bread for breakfast, which is so great. So, like, you can find pastries everywhere. The city is remarkable, just, like, all the history that’s there. We walked so much, we had so much fun just walking around the city. We ended up, by accident, in Oktoberfest celebration in Alexanderplatz, and it was amazing. It was such a good week. One of the things that was really good was we, I had downloaded all these shows to watch while we were there, at nighttime, and we got totally into this show called Poldark, which is a PBS, a Masterpiece Theater series, I think it’s actually a British show that they bring over. So, I’m 100% obsessed with Poldark, and season three actually starts tonight. So I’m like obsessively watching season two, so I can get ready.
The last thing that I wanted to mention, especially ’cause I get to go first, on the what’s good, is that I just got in the mail, when I got home from Berlin, in the mail, was Lou Moore, who we’ve already mentioned, he has a new book, you can get it right now. It’s called, I Fight For a Living, Boxing and the Battle for Black Manhood, 1880 to 1915. I want to humble brag right now, that I was lucky enough to read pieces of this book while he was drafting it. Those pieces were fantastic. Every time he asked me if I would be willing to just read through something, I was so thrilled, ’cause it’s such an interesting topic, and he’s such a good writer. So I’m looking forward to reading Lou’s new book.
50:25 Shireen: That’s awesome. I have been getting, it’s been a bit of a busy week, and to help sort of battle all the sort of barrage of Islamic, lovely Islamophobic misogynist comments that I’m used to getting on everything, I happened to write a piece criticizing hockey’s golden boy, Sydney Crosby, and then wrote a piece on consent, and talking about rape and sex with my kids. So you can imagine the pushback. So I got kitten pictures. I’m a lover, I did. And there’s a couple of kittens that’s up for adoption, and I’m hoping my husband doesn’t listen to this particular part of the podcast, ’cause I’m really, actually underground, trying to negotiate, like, trying to get a kitten. So, this is kind of what’s happening for me. He’ll be like, no, ’cause we lost our beloved Tuna a couple of months ago. I’m not even telling my kids, at this point. I’m just going to sort of make this executive decision about getting a beautiful little kitten. So if you’re out there, keep sending me baby animal pictures, ’cause I love them, and Jess and I actually have a corresponding what’s good. Lou Moore’s other book, ’cause he’s amazing and has two, another one is called, We Will Win the Day, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Athlete, and the Quest for Quality is also out today. We’ll tweet that.
Jessica: Is it really?
Shireen: It is, and you can preorder, actually. So when I mean it’s out, it’s out to purchase, open preorder that. So, we both have Lou Moore books on our what’s good that we’re looking forward to.
Jessica: I’m kind of annoyed at Lou for being that productive.
Shireen: I know, right?
Jessica: It’s kind of annoying. He’s also a professor.
Shireen: Right? It’s not like he’s not doing anything in the meantime, he’s writing amazing articles.
Jessica: That’s exciting.
Shireen: That is really exciting. I didn’t know you preread the book, that’s kind of awesome, Jess.
Jessica: Only little pieces of it, but they’re all good.
52:22 Shireen: That’s it for this week in Burn It All Down. Burn It All Down lives on SoundCloud, but can be found on Itunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Tunein. We appreciate your reviews and feedback, so please subscribe and rate to let us know how we did, and how we can improve. You can find us on Facebook at Burn It All Down, on Twitter at Burn It All Down Pod, and check out our new Instagram at Burn it All Down Pod. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and check out our website, www.burnitalldownpod.com, where you’ll also find a link to our Go Fund Me campaign. We would appreciate any consideration for contribution, so we can keep doing the work we love, and keep burning what needs to be burned. On behalf of Jessica Luther and myself, thank you so much for joining us, we’ll see you next week.