Episode 25: Eni Aluko and racism & sexism in soccer, ESPN & Barstool Sports, and the World Series
This week, Shireen Ahmed, Brenda Elsey, Lindsay Gibbs, and Jessica Luther discuss Eni Aluko and the disaster that is the Football Association in England, and ESPN choosing to partner with Barstool Sports. Then Jessica interviews Sports Illustrated’s Emma Span about the World Series, bat flips, and #takeaknee in baseball.
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…
Audio of Eni Aluko is from https://twitter.com/newnewspage/status/920668405593788417
Twitter thread from Dan Taylor of the Guardian about FA’s “apology” https://twitter.com/DTguardian/status/920644029976473601
“Mark Sampson: FA sorry over race remarks to Eniola Aluko & Drew Spence” http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/amp/football/41617223
“Eni Aluko “relieved and vindicated” after FA admit Mark Sampson DID racially abuse her and England teammate” http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/eni-aluko-relieved-vindicated-after-11363817.amp
“Jill Scott defies criticism of England players’ hugs for Mark Sampson” https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/oct/21/jill-scott-england-women-hugs-mark-sampson-eni-aluko-football
“Ex-England footballer Lianne Sanderson: FA bosses ‘not sorry enough’ over race row” http://news.sky.com/story/amp/ex-england-footballer-lianne-sanderson-fa-bosses-not-sorry-enough-over-race-row-11087710
Jay Smooth, “How To Tell Someone They Sound Racist” (VIDEO) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc
“ESPN Host Sam Ponder Slams Barstool Sports for Sexist Remarks Calling Her a ‘Slut’ as Site Joins Network” http://people.com/sports/espn-host-sam-ponder-slams-barstool-sports-sexist-essay-calling-her-slut/
“ESPN Wanted Barstool Sports, But Without The Stench” https://deadspin.com/espn-wanted-barstool-sports-but-without-the-stench-1819664413
“ESPN Cancels Barstool Sports Partnership After One Episode” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/23/sports/espn-barstool-van-talk.html
“Sports Illustrated MLB preview: Dodgers will beat Indians in the World Series” https://www.si.com/mlb/2017/03/21/world-series-prediction-dodgers-indians
Sports Illustrated article from June 2014 about Astros https://www.si.com/vault/2014/06/30/106479598/astromatic-baseball-houstons-grand-experiment
“With bat flips and fly balls, Yasiel Puig puts on a swaggering Game 1 show” http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-dodgers-plaschke-20171014-story.html
“Dodgers’ Roberts becomes 4th African-American manager to reach World Series” https://www.thescore.com/mlb/news/1402262-dodgers-roberts-becomes-4th-african-american-manager-to-reach-world-series
“A’s Bruce Maxwell first MLB player to kneel for anthem” http://www.sfgate.com/athletics/article/A-s-Bruce-Maxwell-first-MLB-player-to-kneel-for-12223798.php
Arthur Lynch’s tweet about the NFL and ACA https://twitter.com/alynch1788/status/919618038357544960
Jane McManus’ tweets about the NFL and ACA https://twitter.com/janesports/status/919921498852347904
“British Swimming: Bullying claims by Paralympians are investigated” http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/39368319
“Para-swimming: New details emerge from confidential report into ‘climate of fear'” http://www.bbc.com/sport/disability-sport/41629365
“USWNT wins against South Korea, but loses on turf… again” https://sports.yahoo.com/uswnt-wins-south-korea-loses-turf-033003820.html
“UEFA charges Roma with racist behavior after fans are heard making monkey noises” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2017/10/20/uefa-charges-roma-with-racist-behavior-after-fans-heard-making-monkey-noises/?utm_term=.860589d94360
“WWE signs first woman wrestler from Arab world in global push” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-emirates-wwe/wwe-signs-first-woman-wrestler-from-arab-world-in-global-push-idUSKBN1CK0GT
“I achieved this position because of my family’s support: Kavita Devi, first Indian woman to be signed by WWE” http://www.timesnownews.com/sports/article/i-achieved-this-position-because-of-my-familys-support-kavita-devi-first-india-women-to-be-signed-by/109358
“Olympic champion gymnast says she was drugged, molested by Team USA doctor” https://thinkprogress.org/fierce-five-gymnast-team-usa-799c816bade2/
“Mario Balotelli posts adorable picture holding newborn son Lion” http://www.espnfc.com/blog/the-toe-poke/65/post/3232161/mario-balotelli-posts-adorable-picture-holding-newborn-son-lion
Jessica: Hi, Burn it All Down listeners. Jessica here. We wanted to remind you all at the top of this episode that we recorded this on the morning of Sunday, October 22. During the second segment, as you’ll hear, we discuss ESPN choosing to air a weekly program called ‘Barstool Van Talk’, a show as its name suggests, associated with Barstool Sports. If you’ve never heard of them before this, we’ll explain who they are in the segment. Suffice it to say, we were not fans of ESPN’s decision to partner with them.
But before we were able to even get this episode up, on Monday, October 23, ESPN President John Skipper, announced that he was canceling Barstool Van Talk effective immediately. “While we had approval on the content of the show, I aired in assuming we could distance our efforts from the barstool site and its content.”
Welp, there ya go. Now, enjoy the show.
1:06 Shireen: Welcome to this week’s episode of Burn it All Down. It may not be the feminist sports podcast you want, but it’s the feminist sports podcast you need. On this week’s panel, we have Jessica Luther, independent writer, general slayer, and author of ‘Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape’. She’s in Austin. Brenda Elsey, associate professor of history, and undeniable genius at Hofstra University. She’s in New York. And the indomitable and amazing sports reporter at Think Progress, Lindsay Gibbs. She’s in Washington. I’m Shireen Ahmed, freelance sports writer and cat lover in Toronto.
This week on Burn it All Down, we will be discussing Eni Aluko and the disaster that is the Football Association in England. We will go through Barstool Sports vis-a-vis ESPN and that basic awfulness. And then Jessica interviews the fabulous Emma Span to talk about baseball, the World Series, and a multitude of other wonderful things.
2:12 Eniola Aluko: There’s a huge question around a male player with 102 caps, Wayne Rooney, these top players who have got over 100 caps for their country, if they were to send a complaint like that, itemized written by a leading QC, would he respond like that? This, for me, is a separate issue. Are the issues of female players in this country, whether you’re playing for the League or whether you’re playing with an England shire, are they taken seriously enough? At all levels of the Football Association. I would suggest that email says that they’re not.
Shireen: Eniola Aluko, affectionately known as Eni, was vindicated for the racial abuse she suffered by the then coach Mark Sampson. Mark Sampson has since been let go for “inappropriate behavior” towards a player. Aluko testified in front of a parliamentary inquiry after the report of the third investigation regarding her claims was released. The initial investigation was done by the FA itself, and it concluded that there was no wrongdoing on the part of Martin Glenn or Greg Clarke, chairman and CEO of the Football Association.
In addition, Kick It Out and Women in Football took it great lengths to support Eniola in her struggle against the FA. Now, as an England national and Lioness, Eniola was not selected for the 2015 Euro Squad, instead she presented on television. Now this battle has been going on for, from what we understand now, for more than a year.
I spoke with my good friend Anna Kessel, who is part of Women in Football Association, and Anna had some very poignant thoughts to share on this issue, and I’ll just read quickly what she said to me yesterday,
“Eniola Aluko spent 18 months of her life fighting for the truth to be recognized. Last week on the FA after the third investigation, it finally ruled that she was on the receiving end of racist and discriminatory language. And at last, she was vindicated. The relief and jubilation lasted less than a day with the governing body at the helm of the truth was being forgotten, rewritten, revised. Sampson was “not a racist”. The comments were merely “mistimed jokes”. And those in charge of the whole bungled affair need not resign. The regime responsible for the appointing a manager who’s behavior with players was concerning enough to warrant investigating, who was sent on a training course to understand the boundaries between players and a coach and World Cup year is the same regime that will now seek to appoint the new England’s women manager. Has anything changed? At least the world knows what a shero Aluko is and whatever the governing body’s response, we hope that Eni’s shining example will inspire others to also stand up for what’s right.”
Now in summation, Anna mentioned to me, “The whole thing is fucking infuriating.” And I think that’s probably the best summary of this whole thing, and we wanted to discuss this because we felt it was very important. Jess?
Jessica: Yeah well, one of the things I kept thinking about with Aluko is that she sits at this really precarious intersection, right? As we’ve seen in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, the unraveling that’s happening in Hollywood, and the Larry Nassar case in gymnastics, many women don’t come forward to report harassment and abuse at the hands of men in particular because they fear they’re not gonna be believed. And, as we all know, like they have a right to fear that.
But we also know that when it comes to racism, many people of color don’t say anything for the same exact reason, and if they do speak up, they’re the ones who are supposed to provide evidence for their abuse. And this made me think back to May when we recorded Episode 1 of this very podcast, we talked about Orioles outfielder, Adam Jones, facing racial slurs in Boston and how the response from many people, including white people in sports media, was, “I don’t believe because I haven’t ever heard a racial slur at Fenway.” Or, “Where’s your proof?” Aluko, as a black woman as a person who many people won’t believe from the jump, because we see women as untrustworthy, and we don’t believe racism actually happens.
And then on top of all of that, she’s a female soccer player, and we just talked last week that female athletes aren’t worthy of concern in a lot of places, and I just … good for her. I can’t believe it took three investigations to even get to this point. Like, that alone shows sort of like how much we don’t trust the experiences of both women, people of color, and especially women of color. Yeah.
Shireen: And I mean for her to take on the FA who are essentially the selection and hiring committee. So, she’s basically taking on her employers and probably derailed her own career in the process.
7:01 Shireen: And she’s a high capped player. She was one of the highest scoring in the league last year, and I know I mentioned it was a 2015, it wasn’t, sorry, it was 2017 Euro’s that we just saw. She wasn’t on that squad list, and I think we, on the show, have burned this case a couple times. I think Brenda, you burned it, right? In the burn pile.
Brenda: Yeah, we burned it a couple of months ago when it first came out, and one of the most frustrating aspects at that time and through until just this past weeks is that many of the … her fellow women players didn’t believe her. And, I mean, it’s not that women can’t be sexist or have the same prejudices or racist, but it is painful to think that she not only had to deal with this FA, but then she had to deal with her fellow teammates not supporting her. And I hope it’s like a lesson for women who doubt women, especially.
Lindsay: Yeah, I think one of the most frustrating things when I was researching this, I came across a lot of headlines that were approximately … after Mark Sampson fiasco, “we need to understand the subtleties of racism”. And I mean, there’s a lot there. But, this wasn’t subtle racism.
Like, what do we think racist is? I think that a lot of white people need to really reexamine what their line of racism is. Like, is just calling someone the N-word the only thing that you think of as being like explicitly racist? Is everything else like a debate?
There was a comment. It was Newton and Sampson’s comments were discriminatory on grounds of race within the meaning of Equality Act 2010, but that was not the same as concluding Sampson is a racist. So that was in the official kind of conclusion of this. But what does that mean? Why are we so hung up on whether or not this person is in all accounts a racist if we’re agreeing that they said discriminatory racist things that deserve punishment? So, I just … I feel like there’s so many spitting hairs, and this is certainly not just with Sampson.
This is with many issues across many races across many … the entire world. And I just think, look, this isn’t subtle. And, we’re … people look for any reason to excuse people making these comments, but we need to stop and just listen to the people who are offended and they people who are discriminated by these comments.
9:25 Shireen: Among some of the allegations that Aluko testified to in front of the inquiry was that the goal keeping coach actually used to speak to her in a fake Caribbean accent. And I mean, it’s just [crosstalk 00:09:36] like that. It’s Sampson making jokes with her and with other players on the team, Drew Spence.
Lianne Sanderson actually flew in from the U.S. to support Aluko during the inquiry and also Anita Asante.
So I mean, Aluko’s been tweeting. She was fairly quiet about this because she’s also a trained barrister. She’s a lawyer, so she knows. And her 114-point document that she provided with the FA and she provided with the committee, that was very detailed. Like she knows what she’s doing. And I think it was just … to see this unravel and to see her not be believed and she mentioned she felt really isolated as well within the team, and Bren, you alluded to that.
And even just yesterday, there was a piece by Louisa Taylor, I believe, for The Guardian, talking about how Jill Scott, current player on team, on the Lionesses said that we shouldn’t have been criticized for hugging Mark Sampson after he coached the last match that we won. She’s like, “We don’t like our integrity being questioned.” I’m like, are you fucking kidding me? What integrity?
Lindsay: Yeah, I was just gonna say on top of all of this, she said that she hasn’t received this 80,000 pound settlement fee in full from the FA, and she has claimed that Martin Glenn, this is her quote, “Martin Glenn said if I wrote a statement saying the FA were not institutionally racist, he would release the second tranche of the money. I felt like that was bordering on blackmail.”
So, this just like circles back to what I was saying before of like, we are so caught up on like as opposed to just listening to the people who are hurt, figuring out why they were hurt, claiming to be better, and taking it from there, we’re just so caught up on these labels that we can’t make progress.
And, I mean, that is blackmail. She … like that’s blackmail. They’re not giving her her settlement money until she will release a statement saying they’re not institutionally racist? Like, what?
<laughter>. Ugh, sorry.
Jessica: Yeah, I was just gonna add like when Lindsay’s talking about especially that quote. I mean it’s really something to read the thing that says, “Sampson said these racist discriminatory things, but he is not racist,” is like part of the official line.
It made me think, Jay Smooth, who’s this amazing guy who does a lot of videos about things that we talk about in our culture, especially around race, has this great video from a couple of years ago that I’ll dig up and we’ll put in the show notes about differentiating between when someone does a racist thing and then the attempt to label them as racist. And how the second thing is useless and the first thing is much more useful.
And so, on the one hand, like they did the thing where they said he did this racist thing. It was bad and discriminatory and then immediately shifted to saying he’s not racist, which is so useless in this discussion. And Jay just like really … that’s something that I’ve returned to a lot ’cause it’s just such a smart way to think about actions versus identifying people as like one whole thing ’cause then you can have a discussion about that that really doesn’t say anything about their actions, which are much easier to label.
Shireen: Lindsay, you wanna start us off on the next segment?
12:41 Lindsay: Yeah. More fun things to talk about here, friends. <laughter>
So, by now, most of our listeners have unfortunately probably heard of Barstool Sports, which is a sports and culture website that was founded in Boston and I think it’s safe to say it was built on the backs of sexism and bro-culture and is most probably infamous, especially among women in sports, for the way its fans, which call themselves by choice, Stoolies, harass non-stop anyone who criticizes them particularly women.
Well, Barstool has been going mainstream for a couple of years now, and it’s been pretty successful at this transition. It basically has launched this incredible following it got when it was being this unabashedly sexist barrel of horrific-ness, and now, with that large platform, been able to parlay that into much more high profile partnerships.
One podcast, which is by two of Barstool’s personalities, stick with me here, Big Cat and PFT Commenter. The podcast is called ‘Pardon My Take’, and it, a lot of people consider that it to be a little bit different from the rest of the Barstool brand. And that podcast has been at the top of the iTunes charts.
ESPN has now partnered with Big Cat and PFT Commenter for a weekly show at 1:00 a.m. Tuesday night or Wednesday morning depending which way you like to view the world. And their show is called ‘Barstool Van Talk’. So this launched this week, and as you can imagine, while a lot of people like to consider Big Cat and PFT Commenter separate from the Barstool brand, that is a very hard separation to make when the name of the show is ‘Barstool Van Talk’. They get their money from Barstool.
So this partnership raised some eyebrows, and there were particularly some women within ESPN that were incredibly unhappy with the network’s decision. This week, Samantha Ponder, who has been with ESPN since 2011 and currently works in a very high profile position as the host of Sunday NFL Countdown, she went after Barstool publicly with a tweet that started, “Welcome to the ESPN family Barstool Big Cat, and welcome to all your minions who will respond to this so kindly.” Attached to the tweet, she included screenshots from a blog post at Barstool from 2014 where David Portnoy, who is the President and founder of Barstool, wrote, and I’m just gonna use all the language here you guys so … close your children’s ears that are listening, but it is, “Fuck Sam Ponder that Bible thumping freak. Seriously, you sound like a KO Barstool freak, not a chic that has a job where the #1 requirement is you turn men on. So give it a rest with your righteous indignation. Your entire career and livelihood is based on appealing to guys like me and blogs like ours. Bottom line is guys thinking chics are hot is natural.”
There was also a segment that Ponder referenced in her tweets where Portnoy, once again the President of Barstool, called her a slut repeatedly. Now Ponder initially said that Big Cat was the person who said all these things, but it was actually Portnoy. That is a sticking point, but it should be said that Big Cat was beside Portnoy and laughing along with Portnoy during his rant where he called Ponder a slut repeatedly.
ESPN’s response to all this was very lacking and said, “The comments about Sam Ponder were offensive and inappropriate, and we understand her reaction. She’s a valued colleague, but as we stated previously, we do not control the content of Barstool Sports. We are doing a show with Big Cat and PFT, and we do have final say on the content of that show.”
So, ESPN is trying to really draw this line between Barstool as a whole and what they’ve done in the past versus what this new show is. Women at ESPN are … a lot of them are very frustrated. They feel very overlooked, and they feel very letdown, I think, by the people who are in charge.
There’s a lot more to get in here to. Brenda, I’m gonna throw it to you.
Brenda: Well, for me, Barf-stool is … Cats and Portnoy are like kids who got picked on in school, and then grew up to be monsters like repeated the behavior. And the main banner they hide behind is Humor, like with a capital H. it’s all for humor. Like humor’s a person who needs to be protected or a cause or some shit that’s in danger. Telling a professional woman she needs to sex it up and be slutty is in itself disgusting. And I don’t understand how ESPN can hire them and not be creating a hostile workplace for those who have been attacked by them in the past. I really don’t know.
And to make it worse, I just feel like they revel in telling her to go fuck herself. Like, there’s some glee that is expressed in that. And I don’t … I can’t quantify it. I can’t. But it’s done in such a … cavalier way, and it’s so aggravating to me that Barstool holds up the most traditional things … racism, sexism. And yet, they present themselves as these rebels. And it’s like, are you kidding me? They actually cite Darwinism a lot. Like, “Well, men will be men, and that’s Darwinism.” Like, wow, you guys are super rebels. I mean when you’re a pillar of patriarchy, you’re not a rebel. You’re an asshole. And, I mean I just … like right?
And I was reading the psychology papers about humor, this Loyola University does … this woman Robin Mallett is her name, and she writes with a team. And basically, what they’ve discovered is what we know anecdotally, but they’ve got more evidence and methodology and stuff like that. And they basically say, “Look, humor is a way in today’s world that sexism becomes socially acceptable.”
And so, for me, Barf-stool is that … is actually a way in which it becomes … because also Portnoy’s Jewish. He sort of presents himself as, “I can’t be anti-Semitic, so I can just spew jokes about Jews.” Stuff like that. And it’s Humor with a capital H, which is basically a way to make sexism comfortable.
Shireen: I just … I find that very interesting because it’s almost like saying people who are Muslim can’t make Islamophobic jokes because we know that every community has prejudices. It’s like saying because you’re from a marginalized community, you can’t be an asshole. Of course you can be an asshole. Like that’s ridiculous.
Brenda: Like the Lionesses.
19:18 Shireen: I mean … the perfect segue into this thing, and I mean I wasn’t really gonna add, but I’m getting all fiery enraged. I was just gonna continue with like vomit noises that’s like through the whole of this whole piece. Like I was just like I’m gonna need so many pictures of fuckin’ kittens after this. It’s just … oh my God. Sorry. Lin?
Lindsay: Yeah, I mean, look. I’ve been writing … I’ve been working on a piece about a lot of this, and going to Barstool site, they have a tab devoted to chics. They have a … I mean it’s literally their only regular segment with women is called ‘Chicks in the Office’ where two of their female interns do a video series. And the comments underneath that post are just horrific. And what gets me about Barstool is they like to make up these kind of invisible lines.
Like, Big Cat wants to separate himself. And look, a lot of people who are fans of the Big Cat and PFT Commenter show, and say that that show itself is really good and really fun. I followed PFT Commenter before he went to Barstool, and I liked his stuff. But that’s all fine and good, but it’s no good unless they’re speaking out against what the rest of the people in their company are doing. It’s not good if they’re building on that audience, and they’re using that audience that was built on the backs of these horrible things. It’s no good if they’re just there and not saying this horrible, racist, sexist stuff.
We need them to speak out against that. That’s how you change your culture, and that’s how you actually become a rebel.
Jessica: Wow. I don’t even know … yes! What Lindsay said!
I don’t really have much to add. I mean it’s really hard to like even know what to say about this anymore. I feel like it’s just every week they go up the ladder one notch, and we’re all just screaming into our pillows about it. But, I just wanna echo what Brenda said, like, there’s nothing original about what they’re doing. I mean it is just the same shit that we see all the time where, I just don’t even know. It’s just so unoriginal. And horrible. Like that both of those things are happening, and they’re making all this bank off of it makes me so angry. Like they’re adding nothing that we haven’t seen before. That we won’t see again. That people are just blogging. I wanna be like, they’re blogging from their basements, right, ’cause it’s like that kind of stuff that we see out of their site and what they’re making.
And it’s just such a … I don’t know. I just wanted to add my voice and say it’s frustrating and it makes me angry.
Shireen: I mean for me, one of the most … one of the complex issue is their CEO is a woman. And we know that women uphold toxic patriarchy. I mean they’re put in situations. I mean they have women working for them, and then that’s also exploited that, “Oh look we have women. We can’t be sexist.” I mean like it’s like ughh. So like … ughhh. See, I can’t even articulate my anger properly.
Lindsay: I mean it’s really hard that like for a lot of people that bought into this. A lot of very powerful people in sports media have bought into this “rebranding” of Barstool especially since they brought in Erika Nardini, I believe her name is, to be the CEO. And that’s just frustrating because once again nobody is speaking out against the way. In fact, they continuously say that they’re proud of their unapologetic brashness and things like that. And that they built their “empire” from being so non-PC and not giving in to all that stuff.
So you just … I just go back to what I said before. You can’t draw all these lines unless … I’m all for growth. I’m all for not having to be completely judged 100% by something you said in a blog post years ago, but only if you acknowledge that that was horrific and wrong and talk about the ways that you’re working to change.
Shireen: Next, Jess interviews Emma Span.
23:09 Jessica: Okay, so the World Series is all set. The L.A. Dodgers will meet the Houston Astros. I know very little about baseball, so today on the showing joining me is Emma Span, senior editor at Sports Illustrated and author of ‘90% of the Game is Half Mental: And Other Tales from the Edge of Baseball Fandom’, and as her title of her book suggest is a huge baseball fan. So, she’s gonna help walk us through everything that’s going on.
Okay Emma I wanted to just start by asking like what have you enjoyed about this postseason of baseball?
Emma: There’s a lot of fun teams in it this year. I mean the Dodgers are just a fun team with a lot of talent and a lot of personality. The Astros are the same way. It’s fun to see guys like Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa doing their thing.
I grew up a Yankees fan, so this is also the most likable Yankees team in a long time with Aaron Judge and all these young players. Yeah just … the Cubs too. I mean everyone … I was a little sick of the Cubs because we covered them so much last year when they broke the drought and won the World Series, but there’s nothing about them that’s not likable despite my personally being a little bit tired of them. So like, even they were a good option, so just a lot of … a lot of fun players and a lot of … I think that people play with a lot of joy and flair this postseason.
Jessica: So, I guess let’s start here. We’re recording on Sunday. This will run on Tuesday. It’ll be the first game of the World Series, and so, I’ll just throw this out … So who do you think is gonna win this thing? Like and who should we be looking for? So someone like me who’s a fair-weather person that might show up for the World Series. Like, you mentioned some of the players from the Dodgers and the Astros. Like who should I be looking for?
Emma: So yeah, first of all, I think these are two great teams, two 100 win teams. It’s been a long time since two 100 win teams …
Jessica: Oh okay
Emma: faced off in the postseason. It’s really anyone’s series, especially in baseball, a short, like a small sample size of anyone can win, but I’m gonna give the edge to the Dodgers who are also my preseason World Series winning pick.
Jessica: Oh, nice.
Emma: Yeah if I get that one right, it’ll be the first time that SI has predicted the World Series winner correctly since 1999, so I’m very excited about that. They just … I think so these teams both have great lineups and really good pitching. The Dodgers have the edge for me because their bullpen is better. So I think … and you saw that with the Astros and the Yankees series where the Yankees would come back a couple of times in the late innings against the Astros’ bullpen. I think that’s a danger for the Astros this year.
If the Dodgers are gonna win, I think it’ll be that way. They’ll kind of work the count, get the starting pitchers out of the game in the 6th or 7th inning, and then kind of go to town on the relievers. And that used to be the Dodgers problem every year, but this year they seem to have figured that out a little bit, and their bullpen’s actually been great. It’s really shut down all their opponents this fall.
So, my prediction is, I’ll say Dodgers in 6.
Emma: But obviously …
Jessica: That’d be a good Series.
Emma: Yeah, it should be a good Series. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Astros did pull it out and of course it would be … it’s always fun to see a team succeed that hasn’t won in awhile. The Astros have never won a World Series.
Emma: The Dodgers haven’t won since 1988, so either way, they’ll be a lot of people getting to experience this who haven’t experienced it before. And that’s always fun to see.
Dodgers-wise, obviously, Clayton Kershaw, he’s the best pitcher in the world.
Jessica: Okay, okay
Emma: He has previously struggled in the postseason. He’s been kind of tired and overworked and just hasn’t been the same guy then. He’s been good this postseason, and it would be great … It’s always great to watch someone that talented succeed on the biggest stage, so he’ll be fun to watch.
Yasiel Puig, who’s … Dodgers outfielder, is just like ridiculously fun to watch. Not everyone likes him, but I find him delightful.
Justin Turner, who’s the guy with the enormous bushy red beard and hair.
Jessica: Okay yeah, I’ve seen pictures. Sure.
Emma: Yeah so he was a scrub for the Mets basically. He was like a backup player that they released a few years ago and then he just went on to become this crazy superstar in L.A. So that’s a fun story unless you’re a Mets fan in which case it’s not that fun.
Yeah just … I think I mentioned a couple of the Dodgers … of the Astros players, they also have Dallas Keuchel, who won the Cy Young a couple of years ago and then struggled last year but is back in full form this year. So watching him and Kershaw face off is like if you like good pitching. And you never know in the playoffs like maybe that’s a game that ends up being like 8-12, but should be good matchup and a lot of fun to watch.
Jessica: Okay so you mentioned that both the Astros and the Dodger have 100+ wins seasons, but the Astros, back in 2013 had their third straight 100 loss season. And then, in June of 2014, SI ran a cover story titled, ‘Your 2017 World Series Champs’. And that team was the Astros like right after this sort of horrific series of seasons. How did your reporter … is it Ben Reiter?
Emma: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Jessica: Is that how you … how did he know that this was possible?
28:09 Emma: Yeah so, I mean even Ben I think … that cover idea was actually our editor’s pick. Chris Stone. He decided to make this like bold move. I think even Ben wouldn’t have like guaranteed this season. But basically, he did big story on how they were planning to rebuild, and it was a little bit controversial their strategy. I mean they basically were just terrible for a bunch of years, and then they got all these high draft picks and used that to really rebuild the farm system. People thought they were tanking and that it … they were a tough team to watch for awhile, but they felt like they had this long term plan.
From their perspective, their thinking was, “There’s no benefit to us getting one or two good players and winning like 70 or 80 games. Like we want to be good.” But you know if you were a fan of the Astros and you were sitting through these 100 loss seasons, it was rough. So, they lost some fans. They had some rough attendance seasons, and people … they got some criticism. Whether you think it’s worth it or not, now that they’re in the World Series is sort of up to the individual, but …
Emma: They … basically it worked. Whatever happens in the World Series like obviously the rebuild was successful, and they should be good again next year. I didn’t think they had quite enough pitching this year. That’s why I didn’t actually pick them this year to win the World Series, but then they traded for Justin Verlander, who’s been amazing for them. That was sort of what they were missing was that Ace. But yeah, you know it’s funny, we were sort of … we didn’t even really mean to that cover that literally. It was like … you can’t really have a cover headline of like ‘The Astros, They’ll Probably be Better in a Few Years’.
Emma: So they just like really picked a year and went with it. So even we are like a little bit surprised that it’s like, oh!
Jessica: But now you guys were right no matter what. Either your prediction
Jessica: from the beginning of the season is, right? Or from your June 2014 cover, you guys’ll be right, so …
Emma: Yes. It’s either win-win or lose-lose. I’m not sure which but …
Emma: Definitely one of those
Jessica: Yeah. That’s great
30:07 Emma: Yeah, it’s fun. We’re sort of … Ben and I have a rivalry going over who’s gonna be right, so that should be … add an extra little layer of fun.
Jessica: Nice. So one of the things that I wanted to ask you about as someone who like … I read a lot about sports but I don’t know much about baseball and so one of the things I wanted to ask you about is the bat flip. So, Puig who you mentioned before, the right fielder for the Dodgers, he’s known for this, yes?
Jessica: So there’s a chance that we might see one of these in the World Series, and this seems to set people off. Like what is the deal with the bat flip?
Emma: Yeah so there’s sort of an old school mentality in baseball. I would say baseball’s a little bit conservative. Not just politically, although sometimes also politically, but as far as, there’s a sort of play the game the right way idea where you keep your head down and you don’t draw attention to yourself and you kind of go about your business. It’s the Derek Jeter style of you just do your thing. You don’t be flashy about it, and when players don’t do that, which is happening more and more often, especially because the way baseball is played in Korea and Latin America is a little bit different and has more of that flair, so some pitchers and some players will take offense if the opponent, obviously having a lot of fun, they’ll see it as kind of showing off, showboating …
Emma: Yaseil Puig will not bat flip not just on like a homerun but like on a double or like a in-field single or like … he just kind of like, “Woo!” Right now, it’s fun because he’s also playing really well. For awhile, when he was playing less well, it … especially it rubbed people the wrong way ’cause it was like, “Hey, you think you’re so great kind of an attitude.”
I personally love watching people play with emotion and with flair. I think it’s entertaining. I think it’s fun. I think baseball needs to reach younger viewers. And that’s something that connects more with younger viewers. So I have no problem with it. It’s kind of like … I would say it’s similar in dynamic to football with like the big touchdown celebrations. Like how some people got annoyed at that when it was Cam Newton or whoever else.
Jessica: Yeah. Think of the children.
Emma: Right, exactly. And other people defend it. But it’s a similar dynamic at work in baseball.
Both of these teams play with I think a fair amount of emotion, but especially the Dodgers. I mean … watching Yasiel Puig this postseason has been a ton of fun, and he is not just been bat flipping everything, but like, he’ll slide into third base and do this like tongue waggle you might have seen online.
Emma: That whole team is just sort of like … has really embraced that this year. And it helps that again he had been struggling for awhile and now he’s doing better both in a clubhouse and on the field. He’s really been integrated into that team. I think some of the credit for that goes to the manager, Dave Roberts, whose worked really well with him compared to the last manager Don Mattingly who kinda clashed with him more often. They were very close to trading him.
Jessica: Oh wow.
Emma: And it’s probably a good call for everyone that they didn’t.
Jessica: Nice. That was a perfect segue ’cause I wanted to give a shout out to Dave Roberts. A lot of the stuff we focus on in the show is sort of the intersection of sport and culture, and he’s the son of an African American father and Japanese mother, and he became the first minority manager in Dodgers history when he was hired back in December of 2015. And now that they have made it to the World Series, he’s only the fourth African American manager, and he’s the first Asian American manager to take his team that far. With four more wins, he would become only the second black manager to win a World Series.
It’s interesting, and I mentioned Adam Jones and the Red Sox stuff in the show today ’cause we were talking about racism in sport. One thing I wanted to ask you about since you’re here, like can … Bruce Maxwell has become the only MLB player to actually kneel for the anthem. And what was the reaction to that, and do you think he’ll be the only one in the end to actually do it?
Emma: You know it’s starting to look that way. We did an interview a few weeks ago with Bruce Maxwell’s mother actually that was really interesting on SI.com. Like I said, baseball is a conservative sport, not just politically, but as far as drawing attention to yourself or standing out.
Emma: It’s a culture where it’s very hard for players to do that. It’s generally considered like if you’re making the media ask your teammates questions about you like for anything other than playing or like maybe some very non-controversial charity work, like that’s bad. That’s even like bat flips or wearing your hat to the side instead of straight ahead or like whatever.
So especially something like this and for a rookie to do it, which Bruce Maxwell is, in a culture that’s very much about veterans, it took a lot of guts. I was pleasantly surprised to see him do it, and I think … I don’t know if it helps, but he’s the son of a military father, grew up on a base, has a lot of military family members, so you can’t say, “Oh, he doesn’t respect the troops.” Like his father is a troop. So I think that gave him some standing to do it. But yeah, I mean the fact that no one else joined him, including older veteran players who would have more security in doing it, I mean there’s no guarantee that he’ll make a roster next year, Bruce Maxwell. I hope he does.
Emma: I think the A’s are supporting him. I didn’t see a lot of hostile criticism of him from other people in the game. People were saying, “Well, I don’t agree, but I respect his right to do it for the most part.”
Emma: That’s what they were saying, but the fact that there’s only one person doing it on a team that doesn’t get a ton of media attention, I actually think there’d probably be more push back if more people did it. There was some support. The A’s supported him. He had the support of his teammates. And like the Orioles owner issued a statement supporting him, but no Orioles players did it. So I’m not actually sure that I … that first night when he kneeled, I thought maybe we’ll see a few other players doing it, but that really hasn’t materialized and now I’m not sure that it will.
It’s also the fact that baseball, while it has a lot of players of color, the majority of them are from Latin America or other countries which is … so it’s a bit of a different dynamic than the NBA or the NFL where you have a lot of African American players. Baseball, I think right now, it’s something like … it’s between 10 and 15% I believe. It might even be … yeah, somewhere around 10%. So it’s not … it’s a different environment in a number of ways.
Jessica: Okay well thank you so much. I really appreciate you bringing your baseball knowledge to Burn it All Down. We definitely needed it. Thank you Emma for joining us.
Emma: Thank you for having me.
36:35 Shireen: Now moving on to our favorite part of the show. The Burn Pile. Jessica, would you like to start us off?
Jessica: Sure. So, Arthur Lynch was a tight end who played football for the University of Georgia from 2009-2013. He then spent a not uncommon couple of years in the NFL. He was drafted by the Miami Dolphins, but Lynch sustained a back injury before the season started. He ended up jumping from team to team for a couple of years never actually playing a down of football.
The Falcons cut him in August 2016, and he’s since moved on from the sport. Last week, Lynch took to Twitter in the wake of Trump announcing that he was going to cut cost sharing reduction payments to health insurers participating in the Affordable Care Act a/k/a Obamacare. This move could make the ACA unsustainable financially as insurers might opt out once those payments stop and that’ll drive up all the costs.
Here’s what Lynch tweeted, “After I was cut by the Falcons, I was dropped from NFL insurance. My back was broken with no insurance. I had two back surgeries. Obamacare is why I am not in debt. This is sad. Barack Obama, thank you.” He followed up with, “They put a clause in my contract where if I injured my lower back again with the Falcons, they weren’t liable to pay for surgery or give me a settlement. I was cut, then slipped disc, two surgeries.” He wrote, “The concept of Universal Healthcare is something I firmly believe in. Let’s fight to keep it. Let’s work together to improve it.”
Jane McManus, former ESPN journalist…I’m still burning over the fact that she’s a former…had similar thoughts on Twitter about the intersection of the NFL and the ACA. McManus wrote, “Odds are the NFL players will not be able to get affordable healthcare if Obamacare ends. Just think about that. They are walking pre-existing conditions. In the past, former NFL players got five years of coverage after they retired. Knowing what we know do about long-term effects, not an option. If Obamacare ends, the NFL and the NFLPA, the Players Association, will have to negotiate to see how funds to cover former players will be found. Multiples of millions. The last CBA, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, negotiated knowing that universal healthcare was coming. Negotiations were still acrimonious, but Obamacare saved the NFL and the NFLPA millions.”
So the impact of the erosion of the ACA, it’s gonna be great, right? And especially on vulnerable populations. Former NFL players are just one small pocket, and if you … feel like you wanna understand this better, just Google ‘former NFL players wives … wife’ … something like that. And the articles that come up will just break your heart as they talk about what it’s like to care for these men as they get older.
So while they are just one small pocket of the people who are gonna be affected, they highlight the hell that’s in front of us.
Let’s just burn it all.
39:20 Lindsay: Yeah so on Thursday night, the U.S. Women’s National Team, soccer team, beat South Korea 3-1 in a friendly held at the 73,000 seat Superdome in New Orleans. While it was a really exciting match and it’s great to see the U.S. Women’s National Team get a victory as always, it’s worth noting that there were only 9,371 fans there.
So, this is a big deal because the Superdome in New Orleans is held on turf, and not good turf, very, very … turf that the women very nervous about playing on. Now you might be thinking to yourself, didn’t the U.S. Women’s National Team fight to get to be able to play not on turf? To be able to play on grass. Why yes, they did.
In April, the U.S. Women’s National Team signed a collective bargaining agreement with USA Soccer saying that the women were supposed to be consulted by USA Soccer on stadium selections. Now they specifically didn’t ban turf stadiums in their CBA because there are a few good markets, namely Portland, which has actually really good turf, and they don’t wanna limit … they don’t wanna keep from going to these markets where they have established bases.
However, they had specifically asked not to play the Superdome because the quality of the turf, and according to Yahoo and the New York Times, the women had provided several alternative stadium options to no avail.
Now, every time USA Soccer does this, they always quote things like the growth of the game, and we need to be flexible with our venue choices so we can go to markets where there’s a fan base. But I don’t see how holding a friendly in a 73,000 seat Superdome, when you can draw less than 10,000 fans, helps grow the game in any way, shape or form.
I mean it looked horrible on TV. It was cavernous. It was horrific. And this isn’t about how many fans the US Women’s National Team can draw because we know they can draw quite a few fans. They can draw a lot more fans than 10,000, but clearly this wasn’t the market or the time of year or the friendly in order to do that. So then, it’s just … there’s just absolutely no excuse.
Four of the final nine games U.S. Women’s National Team played this year are or are playing this year are on turf. In a September New York Times piece, Megan Rapinoe said, “We just finished the negotiation process, and this was something that was very important to us. We finished the deal and felt good about it. And then we turn around, and we have three games at the back end of the year on turf. That doesn’t signal to us that the progress we wanted and talked about with the federation is being made.”
USA Soccer is still putting the Women’s National Team, by far the most successful team and might I say the only team that has any chance of getting a national spotlight … I mean an international spotlight in the next few years, in situations it would never put its men’s team on, and it seems to be looking for ways to up end this collective bargaining agreement in good faith already. Burn.
42:21 Shireen: I’m gonna go next, and one of the things that I actually wanted to talk about this. And I know I’m setting my sights on England a lot. And much love to our listeners in the UK, but I gotta burn this. Last March, the UK, or sorry, the British Para-Swimming Association announced that they would actually be investigating claims into reports of what’s called, and this is terrible, “A Climate of Fear” that was experienced by the athletes themselves against a culture and one of the coaches. So they actually said that.
And this is important to understand that para-swimming was actually the highest earning amount of metals at the para games in Rio, so it’s a very successful program. But then, allegations started to emerge from the swimmers themselves. And they did it.
And then, this past week, it turns out that one of the … the report itself. And this reporting was by Dan Roan, BBC sports editor. And it’s actually been … It’s been really, really thorough, and I appreciate that because the reporting has been really, really good. And, they have … the para-swimmers were subjected to abuse.
The coach is understood to be Rob Greenwood, who has since left and not releasing any comment, acted in appropriately. He would disclose the athlete’s medical information. He banned the swimmers from leaving the hotel as punishment. He restricted their mobility, and these para-Olympians were left distressed, and they actually talked very seriously about the bullying that occurred by this coach.
So, British swimming apologized to the athletes and their families for these “unacceptable behaviors”, but the report was damning in that the findings of the investigation and how like it was more than just that. It was an intimidating manner towards athletes, derogatory terms used to describe athletes due to their disabilities. He would ask athletes whether they were able to perform something due to their disabilities, like he was demeaning, condescending and rude.
And it was just, it’s horrific to see because these are athletes that are training and their mental game has to be strong, but they’re enduring this kind of abuse. And these systems of oppression that exist within sport are serious, particularly from this power dynamic. And we’ve talked about it a lot today. So, I just … I want to offer a lot of love and solidarity with the para-swimmers and British swimming, and I want to burn these horrific systems of abuse.
45:00 Brenda: Yeah, some I’m gonna switch from England to Italy, I guess, and burn up the racist behavior of Roma fans. We saw this week fans taunting, or last week I should say, fans taunting Chelsea defender, Antonio Rudiger. He’s a German national. He had formally played for Roma, and during the 3-3 draw, it’s a champions league opener on Wednesday, there were monkey chants. And, yeah, which is a violation of Article 14 of the disciplinary regulations of FIFA, so the UEFA for Control, Ethics, and Disciplinary Board is gonna hear the case on the 16th of November.
But it doesn’t matter because it’s an open secret that Italian Federation has completely let this go one for decades. I remember seeing French legend Lilian Thuram speaking at NYU a couple of years ago, and he was asked where was the worst place to play. And it took him no time to say, “Italy, always Italy.”
Think of what they did to their own Mario Balotelli. I mean half of the journalists kept referring to him as Ghanaian. He was born in Italy. Yeah, and I mean how few Italian players regularly stand up to this is also what I wanna burn. There’s a whole culture of fear that they’re gonna somehow make these fans uncomfortable by calling out what they’re doing as racist despite the fact that it’s completely racist.
So, whether it’s Parma or Roma, the Italian Federation has gone on too long pretending that this is acceptable and allowing players to be abused in this way. It’s so awful to watch, and it just ruins every match that I see it in. So I hope they get burned on the 16th of November by UEFA, and I’m wanna burn ’em here.
47:05 Shireen: Now after all that burning, it’s time to celebrate some remarkable women in sports this week with our Bad Ass Women of the Week Segment.
Honorable Mentions go out to Shadia Bseiso, a Jordanian versed in jiu-jitso, who’s joining the WWE. And along with her is Kavita Devi, the first Indian woman to also join the WWE. We’ll be linking some really cool stories about those women in the show notes.
Now, drum roll please.
All: <drum roll>
Shireen: You sound like baby otters. <laughter>
Lindsay: I’ve always dreamed of sounding like a baby otter. <laughter>
Shireen: Burn it All Down would like to recognize McKayla Maroney for being our Bad Ass Woman of the Week. This past week, McKayla actually disclosed that she was a survivor of abuse at the hands of former USA doctor, Larry Nassar, who has actually faces over 140 allegations of sexualized violence.
She has stated that she was 13 years old when this happened. She released this on Instagram, and it was tweeted wildly on her own social media.
Maroney was part of the team from 2012 that was dubbed the Fierce Five that won the Team Gold at the London Olympics. And she also took home an Olympic Silver Medal on vault. She’s also commonly recognized as an internet meme with her not impressed face on the podium.
But we want to send her love and solidarity for her, for being so incredibly brave and courageous to come out and do this. Also in light of the #MeToo, which she tagged in her statement. So, so much love to you, McKayla.
Now, moving on to what’s good. Let’s talk about what’s making us happy.
Brenda, you wanna go first?
49:03 Brenda: Yeah, I am going to Valdivia, Chile this week to present at the National History Conference, and I get to talk about girls and physical education, which is a really big passion of mine. And how it started in the 19th century and what it means. So, I’m really excited.
Lindsay: Can I Skype into the talk. I just wanna hear. I wanna learn about that. <laughter>
Brenda: Well, it’s in Spanish, so there’s that. But I promise I’ll do a rehash just for you, Lin.
Shireen: Lindsay, wanna go next?
Lindsay: Yeah. It’s WTA Finals in Singapore which is one of my favorite events of the year. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the top 8 singles players and there are doubles players there too in women’s tennis who face off in a round robin format at the end of each year to determine a champion. So it’s really fun because you get to see a lot of different match-ups. It’s not a single elimination tournament, and I love watching it. Unfortunately, the Singapore timezone does not work well with my work schedule, so I’m looking forward to watching what I can and checking the highlights elsewhere. And finishing this women’s tennis season off in style, and #GoVenusGo [crosstalk 00:50:24]
Shireen: I’m gonna go next. I’ve enjoyed tremendously watching or looking at pictures of Mario Balotelli with his new baby … who’s aptly named Lion, so I’m … he’s just beautiful. And I love Super Mario and I’m just excited by that.
What I’ve been doing recently is just trying to, like in the wake of the last couple of weeks, some strong self care. So because this is a no judgment zone, I will tell you what I’ve been doing. I have been watching the now defunct soap opera called ‘Passions’ on YouTube.
Jessica: Oh, I used to watch Passions. I used to watch Passions. I’m with you.
Shireen: Because I really need, I needed to lose myself in bad writing, horrible acting, and just something from a long time ago, and I think the first episode was 1999, and it’s all on YouTube by this one person whose account is Passions Fan #1, and props to you, Passions Fan #1, because I was feeling really stressed out, and I lost myself in like six hours of this ridiculous soap opera. So, I wanted to share that with everybody.
Brenda: Now you know what I’m doing on the plane.
Jessica: Yeah so quick shout outs to two TV shows, The Good Place, which is amazing, and I want everyone to watch it. And then, there’s a show on Netflix. I think it’s a Canadian show, but we get it here on Netflix called ‘Schitt’s Creek’
Shireen: Oh yeah
Jessica: And it gives me endless joy. That show, like I could just, watch that over and over and over again. Like we … I get sad when the season ends, and I know I have to wait for the next one.
So, I do wanna update everybody. So I did my dead-lifting competition yesterday.
Jessica: And I set my personal record of lifting 80 kilograms, which is 176 pounds. And I just wanna say, like, while that was very cool and I was very proud of myself, what was even better about it was that I was there with a bunch of amazingly strong women, and we were all supporting each other and cheering each other on. And like, the woman who lifted the most, she did over 300 pounds. Like, it was just … and then there was this like older lady who didn’t even … she couldn’t even believe that she was there and able to do it.
And it was just so much fun to be there with all these women…just reveling in how strong we all were, so that was really fun.
Lindsay: That’s amazing. I’m also now terrified of you, so that’s good.
53:06 Shireen: Well, that’s it for this week in Burn it All Down.
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On behalf of Jessica, Brenda, and Lindsay, I’m Shireen Ahmed. Thank you for joining us.