Episode 44: Beyond Larry Nassar — sexual abuse in Olympic sports; and a preview of the Paralympics
This week, Amira Rose Davis, Lindsay Gibbs, and Jessica Luther discuss issues of sexual abuse in sport beyond the Larry Nassar case.
Then Jessica interviews NBC Producer Lena Glaser about their upcoming Paralympics coverage, and Amira talks to Dr. Jonna Belanger about disability awareness in sport and how athletes with varying disabilities are grouped for Olympic competition.
As always, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and what’s good in our worlds.
Intro (5:12) Sexual abuse in sport (22:28) Jessica interviews NBC producer Lena Glaser (32:38) Amira interviews Dr. Jonna Belanger (45:19) Burn Pile (56:13) Bad Ass Woman of the Week (58:50) What’s Good (1:03:19) Outro
For links and a transcript…
“JR Smith stays quiet on details surrounding soup toss, suspension” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/22634510/cleveland-cavaliers-guard-jr-smith-stays-quiet-soup-toss-suspension
“Larry Nassar’s survivors aren’t finished fighting for justice and change” https://thinkprogress.org/sister-survivors-michigan-law-249a01a572ec/
“Gymnast Jacob Moore Becomes First Male Victim To File In Larry Nassar Lawsuit” https://deadspin.com/gymnast-jacob-moore-becomes-first-male-victim-to-file-i-1823446779
“100s of USA swimmers were sexually abused for decades and the people in charge knew and ignored it, investigation finds” https://www.ocregister.com/2018/02/16/investigation-usa-swimming-ignored-sexual-abuse-for-decades/
“Gold medalist sues U.S. Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics over Nassar abuse” https://thinkprogress.org/raisman-sues-usoc-9fade5d6a0bf/
“Top Volleyball Coach Raped Teenage Athletes, Lawsuit Alleges” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/02/sports/volleyball-coach-rape-rick-butler.html
“Scott Blackmun resigns as CEO of the United States Olympic Committee” https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2018/02/28/scott-blackmun-resigns-ceo-united-states-olympic-committee-larry-nassar-usa-gymnastics-sexual-abuse/382610002/
“An athlete accused her coach of sex abuse. Olympic officials stayed on the sideline.” https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/olympics/an-athlete-accused-her-coach-of-sex-abuse-olympic-officials-stayed-on-sideline/2017/02/14/35a6fc76-d2eb-11e6-a783-cd3fa950f2fd_story.html
“Lamar Jackson Has Already Proven He Should Be Drafted as a Quarterback” https://www.si.com/college-football/2018/03/02/lamar-jackson-position-qb-nfl-draft-combine
“Tom Izzo says his Michigan State team will only answer ‘basketball questions’” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/03/01/tom-izzo-says-his-michigan-state-team-will-only-answer-basketball-questions/
“Iranian Arrests Of Women Attending Soccer Match Is A Grave Injustice” https://theshadowleague.com/story/iranian-arrests-of-women-attending-soccer-match-is-a-grave-injustice
“Olympic champion Simone Biles back on U.S. national gymnastics team” http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/22619583/olympic-champion-simone-biles-back-us-national-gymnastics-team
“Maame Biney takes gold at world junior short track championships” http://olympics.nbcsports.com/2018/03/03/maame-biney-short-track-world-junior-championships/
“After being targeted by Chuck Grassley, Wisconsin basketball star recommits to her cause” https://thinkprogress.org/howard-wont-be-slienced-be9ef41a9606/
“Dwyane Wade Hits Game-Winner While Paying Tribute To Parkland Student” https://deadspin.com/dwyane-wade-hits-game-winner-while-paying-tribute-to-pa-1823381423
“‘Our country needs to wake up’: U.S. biathletes use Olympic platform to push for gun control” https://thinkprogress.org/biathletes-olympic-platform-gun-control-90b10f4c09ab/
“Chipper Jones, ex-MLB star and avid hunter, speaks out against ‘assault rifles’” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/early-lead/wp/2018/02/26/chipper-jones-ex-mlb-star-and-avid-hunter-speaks-out-against-assault-rifles/
Jessica: Welcome to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. We are so happy you’re here. On today’s show, we have the brilliant and lovely Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and women’s gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University, the tenacious and intelligent Lindsay Gibbs, a reporter at ThinkProgress, and me. I’m Jessica Luther, freelance journalist and author in Austin, Texas. Shireen and Brenda are each off on their own international adventures this week.
Before we get going today, we want to give a shout-out to all our patrons who are supporting this podcast through our ongoing Patreon campaign. You make this podcast possible, literally. We are forever and always grateful. If you would like to become a patron, it’s easy. Go to patreon.com/burnitalldown. You can pledge as little as $1 per month, but if you donate more, you can access exclusives, like an extra Patreon-only podcast segment each month or our monthly newsletter or even do your own Burn Pile. Speaking of burning, I feel like I’m doing a really good transition here, guys. Speaking of burning, do you think when the soup that JR Smith threw at Cavaliers Assistant Coach Damon Jones hit, that maybe it burned a little? Ha ha. What are your guys’ thoughts on Soupgate?
Amira: I have so many questions.
Amira: They never said if the soup was hot or cold, though.
Jessica: That’s true. We don’t know what it was, right?
Amira: We don’t even know the temperature. I have so many questions.
Lindsay: One of my favorite tweets was, “I hope that this doesn’t turn out to be chili, because the internet will never agree on whether or not that’s soup.”
Jessica: That’s great.
Lindsay: That was true. That would have turned into a two-day-long internet battle over, is chili soup?
Lindsay: Which it is not, thank you very much.
Jessica: Oh, no.
Lindsay: Okay. I know it’s ridiculous. Don’t throw soup at people, don’t need that, but I love the NBA so much. JR Smith is a bizarre person. Once his suspension was announced, if you’d asked everyone to come up with a hundred reasons, this would not have been one of them. Nobody would have guessed he threw soup.
Jessica: I know.
Amira: Yeah. It has definitely descended into soup wars, though, people saying, “Well, would it be worse if it was French onion or broccoli cheddar?”
Jessica: Can you imagine that, cleaning up broccoli cheddar? Oh my God.
Amira: Yeah, or if it was at least like a clear kind of ramen-based soup, like Pho or something.
Lindsay: Well, what would be your preferred soup, Amira, if somebody was going to throw it?
Amira: To throw or to get thrown at?
Lindsay: To get thrown at.
Amira: At me?
Lindsay: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amira: I think some maybe brothy soup, maybe like Tom yum with nothing really in it. Even chicken noodle has noodles in it and the noodles would be all damp on your face. Yeah.
Jessica: Noodles. You don’t want noodles. Oh, God.
Lindsay: I was thinking miso soup, you know?
Amira: Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah.
Lindsay: It’s very clear.
Jessica: Oh, that’s true.
Jessica: Yeah, I was thinking, like, a minestrone, something that’d be easy to clean off.
Amira: Now, if I was throwing soup …
Jessica: You would want thick?
Amira: … I would want thick and creamy, maybe a baked potato.
Lindsay: What about a gumbo or a chowder?
Jessica: Oh, smelly. Real smelly.
Amira: The good thing with gumbo …
Jessica: That’s funny.
Amira: … is that it’s spicy, at least the way my family makes it. Then, it would have the added bonus effect of burning somebody. I’m making myself sound like a maniac. I should stop.
Lindsay: You put some thought into this, Amira.
Lindsay: I like it.
Jessica: You have to be ready when it’s your turn to throw or be thrown soup at.
Amira: Mm-hmm (affirmative), exactly. I will never walk into Panera the same. I’m always going to be on guard now.
Jessica: Oh, God, bread bowls. Okay.
Lindsay: Oh, I hope he gets a soup sponsor now.
Jessica: Oh, my gosh. Campbell’s.
Lindsay: Oh, this has to happen. Okay.
Jessica: That’s too good. I want to end this little bit by just quoting LeBron James, because that’s always worth it. They asked him about it and he said, “Ain’t got nothing to do with me. Nope. Mama told me a long time ago to mind your business. Stay out of grown folks’ business. It ain’t got nothing to do with me, that’s what I did.” I just love everything about this.
All right, let’s move on to the show. First up, the three of us are going to discuss abuse in sports beyond the Larry Nassar case. Then, we have two interview segments this week about the upcoming Paralympic Games, which start March 9th in Pyeongchang. I will talk with NBC producer of the Paralympics, Lena Glaser, to give you all some background on the games and how to watch them. Amira chats with Dr. Jonna Belanger about the games, disability awareness in sports and how athletes with varying disabilities are grouped for Olympic competition.
Then, we cap it off, of course, by burning things that deserve to be burned, doing shout-outs to women who deserve shout-outs, and telling you what is good in our world. Let’s get into it. All right, we want to talk once more about sexual harassment and abuse in sports. I’m not sure all the places that this conversation might go, so I just want to give a general content warning for anyone who needs it, so that you can skip ahead. Lindsay, how do you want to get us started this week?
Lindsay: Yeah. Well, first of all, it’s important to remember that, while Larry Nassar is in prison, that that’s only one part of this problem. There’s a lot happening on multiple fronts as far as sexual abuse in sports go. You have the continued advocacy of Larry Nassar’s victims as they continue to push for accountability for his many enablers and changes for the system that are going to prevent, hopefully, people like Larry Nassar. Maybe it won’t prevent Larry Nassars from abusing, but hopefully it will make the systems more capable of dealing with the abuse, so it doesn’t get so extensive and so massive and go on for so many decades, like it did in Larry Nassar’s case.
This Monday, you had a half-a-dozen Nassar survivors speaking at the Michigan Legislature to unveil a package of 10 bills that have been crafted to overhaul Michigan’s laws on childhood sexual abuse. This package, which was up for votes this week and next week I believe, among other things, it expands the number of mandatory reporters to include coaches, athletic trainers, volunteers of youth sports.
It increases the penalties for failing to report sexual abuse to two years of prison time and/or a $1,000 fine. It also extends the statute of limitations. This is, I think, one of the most important things it does. For civil and criminal sexual abuse allegations, the statute of limitations is extended to 30 years after the abuse for adults. For minors, it’s extended to 30 years after the person’s 18th birthday.
Amira: Oh, wow.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Lindsay: That is huge. That’s such a big deal. That’s for both civil and criminal cases. It also increases the penalties for child pornography possession, which is really important. We know a lot of times these things go together. That’s a really important bill. Rachael Denhollander, who we know has been the advocate for this and we had her on our show, she was the first victim to come forward about Nassar’s abuse publicly, she’s hoping that this can really be a model for other states in the country to follow.
Michigan actually had some of the weakest laws where this was concerned. If all of these pass, it will be some of the strongest laws and hopefully a model. That’s just such important advocacy that these women are doing. They’re doing this advocacy by continuing to share their stories. They stood in front of lawmakers this week and shared their stories again. That’s just incredible.
You also, this week, had Aly Raisman. She filed a lawsuit against the USOC and USA Gymnastics for enabling Nassar and for not protecting its gymnasts. She is continuing to fight. USOC President Scott Blackmun stepped down this week from his post as CEO of the US Olympic Committee. He said it has to do with his health, primarily. He does have, I believe, pancreatic cancer. However, he’s of course been under fire for his mishandling of sexual abuse, not just in the case of Larry Nassar, but across sports.
That brings us to USA Swimming. We’re looking right now at a culture of sexual abuse in USA Swimming that is incredibly rampant. We’ve talked about this a little bit, but I think it’s important to keep our eyes on this case. We have, since 1997, more than 250 coaches and officials were either arrested, charged or disciplined by USA Swimming for sexual abuse or misconduct.
A lot of these coaches were allowed to continue with the USA Swimming programs. A lot of these were inappropriate relationships between 13-year-old swimmers and their 30-year-old coaches that were condoned and encouraged. USA Swimming is in for a reckoning as well. I think there’s a lot of important reporting going on there. We also have Rick Butler, who is a volleyball coach, who this week, in a lawsuit, it was revealed that Rick Butler sexually abused six girls and threatened their careers to keep them quiet. We want to delve into all this. I’m not sure, there’s so many ways to take this. I just wanted to pass it to you guys. What are your impressions about what continues to go on? What are the next steps here?
Jessica: Yeah. This week, I was reading, the OC Register has a really long piece about USA Swimming that came out, what, a couple weeks ago, maybe middle February? It’s just the latest of the investigative pieces about USA Swimming. ESPSN has been on this story for 10 years. Then, there was a huge one in Outside Magazine in 2014. It’s so upsetting in the way that when you read the Nassar stuff from Michigan State, or however you want to say it, USA Gymnastics, the numbers, I think it was something like 500 victims they’ve identified in the last two decades. I feel like it’s something like that.
Then, I was re-reading the 2014 Outside Magazine piece on USA Swimming. That one, I had trouble. I was reading it in public and I had to sort of keep myself together, because it could have been written about USA Gymnastics. I mean, all the things that we have since learned about USA Gymnastics in the last year or so, year-and-a-half, basically mirrored in this 2014 piece about USA Swimming.
Oh, I mean, there’s a couple paragraphs specifically about how abusers groom parents in order to make sure that the parents are on board with what’s happening and don’t recognize and therefore don’t report it. I mean, oh, guys, I don’t know, there’s just something about how similar that is to the discussion we’ve had around grooming with parents and USA Gymnastics.
Then, of course, basic failures of no one’s ever responsible for anything. It’s never anyone’s job to do anything about this. Clubs don’t have to do anything if the police don’t charge anyone. USA Swimming, as a national governing body, doesn’t need to do anything, because that’s up to the clubs to do it. The USOC doesn’t have to do anything, because it’s up to the national governing body of USA Swimming to do something and the way that it just works itself up the chain. That was as true in 2014, in that reporting, as it is now. There’s something about how, I don’t know, just the repetition of it all and how it hurts to see it just repeated over and over again. Amira?
Amira: Yeah. When we were thinking about this and these cases, I kept coming back to USA Taekwondo, which we’ve also mentioned. As a quick primer for those who haven’t followed the case, Marc Gitleman, Gitelman, who-
Amira: I don’t know how to say his name.
Lindsay: Gitelman, yeah.
Jessica: Gitelman, yeah.
Amira: Well, one of the reasons I don’t know how to say his name is because, oftentimes in the case, he’s referred to as “Master G”-
Amira: .. which is what the athletes called him. Master G, Mark Gitelman, was forcing underage girls to have sex. Yasmin Brown came forward with a story, for instance, when she was 16. Under his tutelage, he brought her alcohol at a hotel room during a Taekwondo tournament, brought her there, introduced a game in which she ended up collapsed on the bed, under the influence, and felt his hand lift her shorts. Then, he was biting or sucking or some sort of mouth-on-thigh interaction. Then, it continued for the next three years around tournament times in hotels, in his car.
She sent a letter about this abuse and included letters from two other women who alleged similar patterns of abuse and the police report to USA Taekwondo to try to get him banned from coaching and especially restrict his access to younger athletes. Those initial officials actually believed them, but didn’t ban Gitelman. In particular, the reason why, even though they were all set to vote on it, is because higher ups from both part of USA Taekwondo and from the USOC intervened and essentially said they would handle it and internally apparently feared a lawsuit if they were to stop him from coaching.
Amira: Even though they kind of responded to Brown and the other complainants by saying, “Okay. Well, now the USOC has this. We will make sure that we can figure out a good solution,” they actually didn’t do anything. They didn’t intercede on their behalf. They didn’t do anything for over a year after the complaint. About a year later, he was convicted of sexually abusing Brown and one other girl. Two days after that, after he was convicted, USA Taekwondo finally banned him from coaching.
Amira: I kept coming back to this in particular, thinking about Scott Blackmun stepping down this week. When the Washington Post did a really detailed story on this, I guess this was about a year ago or so, they reached out to then USOC CEO Scott Blackmun to get a statement on it. His statement was, quote, “Sexual abuse is terrible and unfortunate reality. The USOC has been a leader in the development and implementation of programs that seek to protect young athletes from abuse. We’ve invested millions of dollars, created a new independent agency that has mandated policies and programs for national governing bodies that we oversee. The prevention of sexual abuse has been and will continue to be a high priority of us.”
I read this and it’s so hard to listen to how they just ring so false and so fake on multiple levels. The millions of dollars that he’s talking to is for the setup of the US Center for SafeSport, which was supposed to be opened years ago and it was delayed time and time again. One of the reasons it was delayed is because the USOC had said that they would contribute $8 million over the course of five years, but kept saying, “Oh. Well, we’re having trouble raising the other $16 or $17 million we need to open this.” Mind you, this is a organization that averages over $235 million a year.
It’s really sickening to hear those words and then think about how he’s writing these words and saying the USOC’s a leader in protecting young athletes and developing procedures for sexual abuse at the same time that we’re hearing all of these other cases at USA Swimming and USA Gymnastics laid bare. At the same time you’re constructing these words or thinking about these safe space, these people, these athletes, these girls are being harmed. It’s just so disgusting to me that he was even able to step down, citing health issues, and the fact that he wasn’t fired.
Lindsay: Yeah. It’s just all so disgusting. The Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act has been just used and abused by all of these organizations. Just to a little bit build on what Amira was saying about this, Ted Stevens Amateur Sports Act says that everyone should have access to these sports. It seems the spirit of the act is against discrimination and creating safe spaces. The way these organizations saw it was that even sexual predators should have access to the sports.
Jessica: Oh my God.
Lindsay: I’m not even kidding. It was basically used, they were like, “Well, we’re afraid that if, just because of allegations against this person, if we are keeping them from the ability to coach, that is against the Amateur Sports Act.”
Jessica: I can’t …
Lindsay: I know that that sounds like I’m lying and making this up, guys, but that is the legitimate reason.
Amira: Yeah. It’s exactly what happened in the USA Taekwondo case. It’s the strictest interpretation possible of that.
Lindsay: Right. Can you even imagine, instead of reading an act like that and thinking, “This is obviously there to protect people who are being discriminated against and to create safe spaces for athletes,” I would think the act would mean, if you’re a victim of sexual abuse, that you should have a safe space and not be subjected to working with your abuser. That’s how I would interpret the act. These organizations interpreted it differently. The USOC did nothing to quell that or to change that when they could have. It’s just disgusting.
Amira: Beyond doing nothing, really have used it as a shield, right?
Lindsay: Yes, that’s exactly what it is.
Jessica: Yeah, true.
Amira: It’s taking this act and reappropriating it to shield themselves, because they’re saying, “Oh. No, under this act, we were just being lawful.” It’s so sickening. It’s sickening.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s mind-boggling. One of the other things, Jes, when you were talking about how similar the USA Swimming case was to Nassar and these threads that we see that bind these cases together, I thought of that again when I was reading about Rick Butler. Diana Moskovitz, who we love, has a good summary of the lawsuit against Rick Butler, who is the volleyball coach, up on Deadspin, which we’ll link to.
One of the things that this lawsuit details is the verbal and emotional abuse that Rick Butler subjected onto these girls, criticizing them about their weight, making them come back early from injuries. I mean, how many times did we hear about this stuff in the Nassar case? It’s getting this emotional and mental control over these athletes to this dangerous extent. It’s worth noting, I believe, that Michigan State is also included in this Rick Butler lawsuit, believe it or not.
Lindsay: Just to give us a little bit of background, very, very briefly, USA Volleyball actually did ban Butler for life back in 1995. Five years later, it partially lifted the ban, so that’s cool.
Jessica: Sure, why not?
Lindsay: Then, Butler’s coaching career continued. He switched to AAU, which didn’t ban him until January of this year.
Lindsay: Then, after months of pressure, and that was only after months of pressure from members of the volleyball community and a four-part investigative series in the Chicago Sun Times, after the AAU ban, there was an indefinite suspension by the Junior Volleyball Association. Even that hasn’t ended Butler’s career. According to the lawsuit, he continues to coach young players. It seems like he’s doing this privately.
Once again, you have all these institutions failing to protect, he’s, at the same time, emotionally abusing these women. Then, he’s using his affiliations with prestigious organizations to increase his profile. This is where Michigan State comes in. Michigan State, which of course we know enabled Larry Nassar, is given as an example of how colleges helped Butler retain his power.
Butler has a special relationship with Michigan State University. I’m reading from the lawsuit right now. The current head coach of the Women’s Volleyball Program at Michigan State University was one of Butler’s coaches during the mid-1980s. Her current assistant coach for the Women’s Volleyball Program served as the head coach for the Sports Performance Volleyball Club Summer Camp in the early 2000s.
Not only does Michigan State work with Butler in Sports Performance, which is Butler’s organization, in identifying potential recruits, at least one Michigan State Women’s Volleyball coach has, as proxy of Butler and Sports Performance, taken an active role in denying the accusations against Butler and discouraging victims from speaking out.
Lindsay: It’s all related.
Amira: This is nuts.
Jessica: It’s all the same, over and over again.
Jessica: Okay. Well, we’ll be talking about this again, I’m sure, on this podcast. Now, onto our two interviews this week. First up is my discussion with NBC producer, Lena Glaser, followed by Amira’s interview with Dr. Jonna Belanger. All right, Lena, I would like to start with you explaining your role at NBC when it comes to the Paralympics. What is it that you do?
Lena Glaser: Yeah, absolutely. Well, my role overall is I’m a producer with NBC’s Olympic Unit, so I am part of the production for the Olympics and then my main role outside of Olympics coverage is essentially as coordinating producer of our Paralympics coverage as well. That ranges everything from hiring and finding and recruiting new on-air talent and analysts, to putting together a production staff, coordinating with our engineering teams in terms of feeds, what kind of support we’re going to have on the ground in South Korea, working with operations and interfacing with all of those departments.
It’s a little bit different than our Olympic operation, obviously, because it is much smaller, but because we also cover the Olympics, which not every Paralympics rights-holder does, we have this Olympic footprint and tradition that we can work in. It does make it quite a bit easier, because I’ve been doing Olympics for a while now. That helps a lot.
Jessica: Yeah. How long have you been doing this? What Paralympics is this for you, what number?
Lena: This is, let’s see, London was my first. We had pretty minimal coverage. I think it was around five or six hours.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Lena: It was a series of highlight shows. Then, Sochi was the first games that we really did much more live coverage. I think we were up over 50 hours for Sochi and then we were at about 70 to 75 for Rio. Then, now in Pyeongchang, we’re looking at about 95 hours of linear TV. Then, when you add in all of the live streams and everything that’s available online, I think we’re up at around 250 hours.
Jessica: Wow. Okay, that’s wonderful.
Jessica: Can you give us just basic background? How many countries are expected to participate? How many athletes will be there this time?
Lena: About 40 countries and 600 athletes.
Jessica: Oh, wow.
Lena: It’s obviously much smaller than the Olympics, but because of the classifications and the way that the medal events work, it’s actually only about 20 or 25 medal events fewer than the Olympics, just because they will run events in multiple classifications in things like biathlon or cross-country skiing or alpine skiing, for example. They’ll have a sitting, a standing and a visually impaired classification, which means each of those are medal events. Then, on top of that, you’ve obviously got they’ll run all three of those in the downhill, the Super-G, the slalom. Every event has multiple events on top of it, the same way at a Summer Games you would see them run the hundred meters on the track multiple times.
Jessica: I see. Oh, that’s so interesting. Let’s get into the specifics of the Paralympics. You mentioned some before, but what are the actual events that people can watch? Can you tell us, are there athletes that we specifically should be looking for that you’re excited to see compete?
Lena: Yes, absolutely. The Paralympics also have, I would say, less than half the sports of the Olympics. It’s really six different sports. There’s alpine skiing and snowboarding. This is only the second time around that snowboarding’s been in the Paralympics, so that’s always really exciting, especially because the US team, as you might expect, is incredibly deep, the same as it is in the Olympics.
Then, there’s cross-country skiing and biathlon. Unlike the Olympics, you will see a lot of the same athletes competing in both of those events. My understanding of that is it’s really more a function of the fact that, because the international fields are just not quite as deep, it is a little bit easier for athletes to learn both skills if they want to and to try to incorporate both cross-country and biathlon events into their program, because they never happen on the same day. You may see people in both of those, which is obviously very different from the Olympics.
Then, there’s two sports that’ll be happening in the Coastal Cluster, which is the downtown area where the figure skating and the hockey was for Olympics. There’s sled hockey and then there’s wheelchair curling. I would say, in terms of a US audience looking for things to get into, sled hockey is always the number one draw at a Winter Games. The US Sled Hockey Team goes in as two-time defending gold medalists, so they’d be looking for a third straight.
Also, similar to the Olympics, the rivalry with Canada is incredibly huge. I think coming off of the US/Canada amazing women’s hockey game, I think that the vibe will be especially strong for those guys as well. I know that, after a successful Olympics for the US, they always want to go in and make sure that they’re also getting it done as Paralympians as well. I think they’ll be super fired up.
There are a bunch of really interesting people on that team. Sled hockey, it’s interesting. It technically could be a coed sport. Women’s sled hockey is not yet in these Paralympics. I think it is something that’s potentially in the works. Theoretically, women would be allowed to make any of the teams. There is I think at least one US woman who’s very good, but has not made this roster. It is a men’s team, even though technically it is a coed sport. I don’t think you’ll see any women at the games.
Jessica: That’s similar to, what, four-person bobsled?
Jessica: Women could technically do it, but we don’t actually see that.
Lena: They don’t weigh enough, yeah.
Jessica: I wanted to ask you about the actual coverage of the Paralympics. How has that changed in your tenure? What’s changed over the last few years?
Lena: The biggest thing that changed, obviously, is the amount. The live streaming, this is the first time that NBC is hosting all of the live stream. In the past, we’ve done it as a partnership with the US Olympic Committee. This will be the first time that everything’s available at nbcolympics.com, which we’re really excited about.
It’s really interesting just how the coverage has evolved and how it’s been able to evolve. To be completely honest, the biggest thing that’s really different for us this time is that we have a presenting sponsor. I think the biggest blockage to showing absolutely as much Paralympics as we would want to and wallpapering every network with it is that TV is a business and we’re relying on advertisers and the Paralympic athletes and sponsorships as well. Everyone needs a lot of these companies to really step up and to want to make it happen, because that’s really the driving force behind it.
Toyota has really stepped up in a massive way for us. This will be the first time that the Paralympics on NBC have a presenting sponsor, which I think is great and shows a huge commitment. Then, in terms of the actual production philosophy, a lot of those things, it’s more just how can we expand, as opposed to trying to change. For me, I really feel like, as much as we can put the Olympic spin that I’ve learned in my years at NBC into Paralympics coverage, I think it’s successful.
I think people really seem to like it, so we try to go out and profile athletes. We do some shoots beforehand. We’ll do some shoots on-site. For us, it’s really about just trying to do more of that each time around and giving the people what they want, which I think is showing the coverage and doing justice to the coverage and explaining the sports, but also just telling the stories of the athletes, because everyone has a great story.
Jessica: What do you find challenging about producing the Paralympics? On the flip-side of that, what’s rewarding about this work?
Lena: Education, honestly, is the most challenging thing. I’ve been to meetings with the International Paralympic Committee and I’ve talked to rights-holding broadcasters all over the world. That’s what everyone really agrees on. I think the fascinating thing is that our countries are all at different places with this. It’s hard to have to explain things like classification on TV. It is not something that fits easily into the four seconds in the middle of a hockey game when you have a breath to say something. It’s just a harder thing to do.
You also don’t want to recap it and rehash it too much for people who already know. Also, you have to assume that when you’re showing a sled hockey game on national TV, there’s going to be probably the majority of your audience has never seen the sport before. I think the one advantage that we have is that that is something that NBC deals with all the time with the Olympics, because people come to curling every four years and a lot of people don’t remember the rules. Everybody needs that little refresher.
I think the biggest thing for us is to use our Olympic model, which is to really rely especially on our announcers, many of whom are Paralympic athletes. They can explain their sports better than anyone else can. Then, also graphically, we’ve done a couple of things. We started this in Rio and this will be our first Winter Games partnering with a company called LEXI.
LEXI is out of the UK. They essentially create classification graphics, which are like animations that we can run at the beginning of alpine events, at the beginning of a cross-country race, to show you visually what the disabilities are of the people competing in this race and essentially why is it fair that these people would be competing against one another, which I think is the hardest thing to explain. Those have really helped a lot, which I think is good.
Jessica: It’s so interesting. I’m so excited to watch. Thank you so much for joining us. The Paralympic Games will be March 9th through the 18th in Pyeongchang. Can you please tell our listeners how they can watch?
Lena: Yeah, absolutely. Nbcolympics.com will have everything live streaming and the NBC Sports app. Then, almost all of our coverage will be on NBCSN. We’re on the air Friday morning at 6:00 a.m. on the 9th with opening ceremony live. We’ll be on NBCSN most nights and then we’ll have some afternoon coverage as well. You can see us on NBC on Saturday, the 10th. There’ll be a recap show about a week after the games end on NBC as well.
Jessica: Thank you so much for joining us, Lena. Good luck.
Lena: Absolutely. Thank you, guys.
Amira: The Paralympics is upon us. I am delighted to be here today with Dr. Jonna Belanger, my colleague here at Penn State. She’s over in the Department of Kinesiology, where she works on adapted physical activity and disability sports awareness. She is also a classifier for USA Track & Field Paralympics. I am so glad to have you here.
Jonna Belanger: Thank you.
Amira: Paralympics is a event that we feel here at Burn It All Down doesn’t get as much coverage as it should and also that we feel we don’t know enough about. When I heard you were a classifier for USA Track & Field Paralympics, I was like, “I have to talk to her.” What does that mean? Can you tell us what “classification” is?
Jonna: Sure. Classification is actually like our backbone to the Paralympics. It provides us with a structure. The closest thing to think of is like if we look at traditional sports, you have the age and gender. Well, we just add a third layer actually of classification on there. It allows the sport to be as fair and equitable as possible. Our goal with classification is to group people together based on function, define the most elite, highest functioning athlete within that group.
An example would be like taking all athletes who have a below-knee amputation and they run against each other. They would be classed together. Every sport has a different system. It has to be based on evidence-based processes. Classification has changed quite a bit in the last 15 or so years. We’ve gone away from this medical model where you only have one class per athlete and they have the same class throughout all their sports. Now, we have different classes per sport. One athlete competing in track & field and swimming would have different classes.
Amira: How did you come to be a classifier?
Jonna: Happenstance, I just kind of stumbled into it. I had a great experience with a family member who ended up with a disability. That’s how my love for disability sport came in, took play. Then, I sought out as many volunteer opportunities as I could. I went to a great university that offers adapted physical activity, which is really rare. There’s not a lot of programs out there.
Because they offer it, they had a lot of connections with the parasport world, volunteered a lot through that, became a para track & field official, wasn’t exactly my strength. Then, I continued to work through the volunteer ranks until I met the right people to get me trained as a classifier. I’ve been doing this for I believe about five years I’ve been classifying for the US.
Jonna: Now, I’m just a US classifier. I shouldn’t say “just.” I’m the first layer. Athletes that go through us, then if they want to compete internationally, they also go on and get classified internationally.
Amira: Okay. The classification process for athletes, they start at the sport that they want to compete in nationally, so that they would see you. What is that process like for them? Is it submitting materials? Do they pick the classification or is it a discussion?
Jonna: Yeah, it is kind of a process that not a lot of people understand. It is evolving, so what I tell you right now is probably going to change next year and the year after that. First question, does an athlete start at national and then go on to international? There are some athletes that will just go straight on to international. In the US, that’s not as common. In other countries where international is their only opportunity, that’s more common.
Every athlete that competes at the Paralympic level, when we start to look at the Winter Games or Summer Games has to have an international class. They’ve moved now to where every athlete has a class before they get to the games. Rio was the first time actually that they put that in place. Yeah. In the past, they could get classed.
Amira: At the games?
Jonna: At the games.
Jonna: Yeah, which is intimidating if you’re an athlete and you get there and you’ve been training at a certain class. We’ll use my area that I know. I know it’s not a winter sport, but track & field. If they train at, let’s say a T53, which is a seated athlete, typically spinal cord injuries, there’s an impaired muscle power or impaired range of motion there, the next level up would be T54. Let’s say they get to the international games and they’re then classed at a T54, they have a whole different set of times they have to try to meet.
Amira: Oh, wow.
Jonna: We try to get them classed prior to the games. We try to class them as accurate as possible. At the US level or the national level, there’s other national governing bodies that will cover that, so that they’re in the best possible seat. How we do that, because that was your second question, they do submit paperwork. They have to submit medical documentation that they would have the minimal disability requirement. That’s set by the International Paralympic Committee.
There’s 10 impairments that they can classify on and then there’s minimal criteria for each one. They submit that to our US National Offices. They review it. Then, local organizing bodies decide whether or not they want to host a panel. A panel is made up of a technical classifier and a medical classifier. That, again, is set by the IPC to decide what all is needed.
On the US level, we’ll go with just a medical and a technical. On the international level, then they would also have a chief classifier in addition. It’s a panel of three there. We are hosted by the local organizing committee. The US Paralympics sends out and says, “We need a panel at these dates,” and then we all decide what works within our schedule. We’re spread all across the US. Right now, I believe there are four of us technical track & field classifiers.
Amira: Oh, wow. That’s a really small number.
Amira: I was not expecting that number to be so small.
Jonna: Then, I believe there’s about 12 medical, but I could be off on that.
Amira: Wow, you’re super important.
Jonna: I’m specialized, but I don’t know how important I am. Yeah.
Amira: Well, that’s incredible. It seems like classification is such an important aspect of the Paralympic Games. Is there a major difference in how they work in Summer or Winter Games or, as much as you know, is it a similar process and then the classifications are just different for sports?
Jonna: It is a similar process. That is, again, set by the IPC. We call it our “classification code” as to what we have to follow. That’s fairly new. The code went into place in 2007 to universalize classification itself. It is in its newest revision. In 2015, I believe it might’ve gone through another revision after Rio where they just update what is required.
The big things are that it’s evidence-based for each sport, that all of the athletes are given a fair opportunity. There’s regulations on the process that has to be taken, stuff like the panel, who can make up a panel, who is trained is all set by the code. That process is the same. It’s a athlete evaluation. We do the bench test, which is they come and they, similar to a medical test where they check power, range of motion, coordination, all of those items.
Then, we do a technical test. That’s where I come in. I check to see how do they move, technically. Then, we do a sport observation as well. We have to see them at a competition. That usually all happens at one time, at one setting. They come in a little bit early for their events and go through the classification process that way. Yeah.
Amira: In terms of adapted technology, I read somewhere that the Summer Games, for whatever reason, were ahead of the Winter Games in terms of how they were using adapted technology to get athletes to sports. Perhaps that is because of the type of sport that’s played at the Summer versus Winter Olympics. Is there something that you see in your expertise of the kind of process of adapted technology coming to the winter sports that lags behind the summer sports, if that makes sense? Is there a difference in how technology can be used in certain sports?
Jonna: That isn’t my expertise area, I’m going to go ahead and just let you know that. I have some guesses as to what it might be. One, the Paralympics itself started more with summer sports. Those have been around longer, so the longevity there might be one of the reasons. There also are more sports in the summer and there’s more classes in the summer. If you take track & field, there’s 57 classes in track & field. It’s one of the biggest. Swimming would be the second biggest, both summer sports.
If we look at the winter sports, I believe alpine skiing, biathlon and Nordic skiing all have the same classes. There’s standing, seated and visual impairment. They don’t have intellectual disability in the Winter Games. There’s just fewer classes, so that might be what’s driving some of the technology. Yeah, that’d be interesting to find out there.
Amira: Right. What does the Paralympic Games do to raise awareness about disabilities, abilities, ableism itself?
Jonna: The Paralympic Games, I think the greatest thing that they do is it really shows that these are just athletes. My biggest catch line I always say to my students and when I guest teach is “Sport is sport.” We’re just taking a sport, we’re adding a different piece of equipment, the technology that you just talked about. We’re adding a sit ski or we’re adding a wheelchair in curling, but it’s still the same sport, just a unique set of rules that are evolved around that set of functional ability.
By doing that, it allows people to really attach to and connect with and understand that these are athletes. They’re just athletes. They may have a disability included with that, but they’re still an athlete. They train just as hard, they compete just as hard. They win gold medals just as well. I think that is a unique aspect of the Paralympics. Their whole motto is “Spirit in Motion.” They’re looking at just showing that these athletes are in motion.
One of my biggest pet peeves is this term, “wheelchair-bound.” These athletes are not wheelchair-bound. They move from a wheelchair, to a sit ski, to the floor, to wherever. They’re just people that move around and they use a different set of equipment. They don’t have running spikes. They have a C-leg instead of running spikes. They’re using different equipment, but still the same level of sporting ability.
Amira: That’s great. My last question, we’ve on the show have talked a bit about marginalization and representation in the Olympics, particularly around race, class, gender and sexuality. Do we see similar patterns in the Paralympics? Is it something that we see a disproportionate amount of people who have access to resources competing? Is there a racial demographic makeup that has similar patterns that we see across the Summer or Winter Games?
Jonna: Yes, for sure. There’s always that issue of equality when it comes to sports. I don’t think there’s anything that prohibits one set of equality from the Olympics into the Paralympics. I think it’s just another layer. If we look at gender, I know that a little bit better, they’ve increased at this Winter Paralympics. The statistics says its increased by 44%, but we’re definitely not any different than the Olympics if we’re looking at some of those intersectionalities of race, gender, socioeconomic status, et cetera. There are some things that would be slightly different. There are some coed sports that we don’t see coed in the Olympics, so we do have that. That is slightly different. Overall, I would say it’s fairly similar.
Amira: Great. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. It’s a pleasure to talk to you.
Jessica: Okay, it’s time for everyone’s favorite segment. We like to call it the “Burn Pile,” where we pile up all the things we’ve hated this week in sports and set them aflame. Lindsay, would you please get us started?
Lindsay: Yes. The NFL Combine is this week, which should just be a giant burn pile within itself.
Amira: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jessica: Uh-huh (affirmative), yes.
Lindsay: Don’t read tweets out of context about that, because you will think that we are about 200 years ago looking at something very different. It is very disturbing. Anyways, this week Lamar Jackson, who was the quarterback at Louisville, Heisman Trophy winner, one of the best prospects in the draft, he is a black quarterback and guess what position teams were interested in seeing if he could play this week?
Amira: Oh, call on me.
Lindsay: Who? Amira, any guesses?
Jessica: Not quarterback.
Amira: Not quarterback.
Lindsay: No. Which position, Amira?
Amira: Wide receiver.
Lindsay: Yes. Is there any historical context that we should apply to black quarterbacks being turned into wide receivers because of their, quote/unquote, “athleticism” and, quote/unquote, “doubts about whether they can lead an offense”? Oh, yes, there is. This is what happened to every single black quarterback up until just the past few decades.
This is very, very recent history, but it does not take a scholar to know about. Even if you believe that there are legitimate reasons that maybe you can kind of understand where teams are coming from, to ignore the historical context of this is stupid and discriminatory and bullheaded and ignorant and does nobody any favors.
This was what happened. This is systemically why we didn’t have black quarterbacks, because they were turned into wide receivers at things like the NFL Combine or whatever equivalent there were. Lamar Jackson has been very, very good. He’s stayed calm, but he did not run the 40-yard dash this week, because he did not apparently want to give them any reasons to put him at wide receiver. He wanted to say that he is there just to throw the ball, to be a quarterback, which he won the Heisman Trophy as a quarterback. We’re not talking about the Tim Tebow Heisman Trophy. No, he has a good arm.
Look, I would just like to burn the NFL Combine, burn asking black quarterbacks to play wide receiver and burn the white reporters who found reasons to justify this, including Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, who said, “Well, some running backs were asked to be looked at as defensive backs,” like that’s at all the same thing.
Lindsay: That’s not the same thing, so burn.
Amira: Yeah, burn.
Jessica: All right, Amira, what do you want to throw in the incinerator this week?
Amira: Yeah, well Lindsay took my burn, which is fine.
Lindsay: You got to get into that document quick and claim these things.
Amira: I know. I do want to add to it about the Combine, generally about the historic imagery and allegories that are drawn from it. The Combine as a thing just makes me really uncomfortable. You can go on Twitter and see a often passed-around image comparing the Combine to a slave auction. Personally, for me, I think that we don’t understand all of the depths of horrors of slavery so I’m very careful when we make those parallels to the NFL, but because of the racialization of the week and because almost all the doctors and scouts and reporters are white and a high percentage, 65, 70% of the players at the Combine are black, we also can’t ignore the image.
We can’t ignore the commodification. We can’t ignore the ways in which their bodies are prodded and poked and examined and talked about as if they are just in a meat factory. On top of that, the interview questions are highly ridiculous. Every year, you can find a BuzzFeed listicle or something of the most outrageous interview questions, but so many of these are also racially tinted.
You’ll get questions, obviously famous interview questions that were thrown at people like Dez Bryant, if his mom was a prostitute, stuff about Cam Newton and tattoos. This happens a lot of ways. There’s ways that people are trying to assess if somebody’s going to be a Kaepernick. They try to assess political ideology. There’s ways that people use these questions to try to assess, quote/unquote, “mental fitness” or mental health.
Lindsay: Also sexuality.
Jessica: Yeah, right.
Amira: Sexuality. There’s been straight-up questions about your sexual orientations or weird questions like, “Do you prefer bras or panties?” There has been things about braids, like, “Oh, you have dreads. That means you smoke weed, right?” The whole thing just makes me, blegh. I have little kindlings for all of the stuff that happens at the Combine and all of the stuff that it really accelerates and heightens the kind of commodification of athletes, which I would add is furthered by the draft itself and then even furthered by the way that we talk about fantasy sports now and ownership. If you think back to that early ill-thought out ESPN auction …
Jessica: Oh, that’s right.
Amira: … we can easily see how all of these things combined and just make you being left feeling like, just blegh. I can’t stand all of it. I personally just want to burn the commodification of athletic bodies and the kind of historical imagery that it conjures. Yeah, I’m throwing it all on the Burn Pile. Burn it.
Jessica: All right, March Madness is around the corner. One of the best teams on the men’s side is the Michigan State Spartans. As we’ve talked about repeatedly on this show, Michigan State is under an intense spotlight because of their failures around Larry Nassar, but also because of an ESPN report suggesting that both the football and basketball programs have handled reports of gendered harassment and violence poorly.
Beyond that, MSU basketball is one of the schools swept up in the FBI investigation into paying players. In this case, it was a player’s mom who might have been given a whopping $400. The coach of the Spartans, Tom Izzo, he’s over it, you all. He’s done. According to the Washington Post, quote, “Saying there have been a lot of distractions for his team, Tom Izzo asserted Wednesday that his Michigan State Spartans would henceforth only be answering basketball questions. He said the five-week stretch had been draining on his players.”
Izzo went on to say, quote, “I tried to do it as best as I could for all of you, never cut off my locker room or anything else, but now it’s going to be basketball time. These players, the staff deserves to focus in on basketball. That’s what we’re going to do and see if we can make this incredible year even more special.”
I want to be fair here, because I’m a fair person, everybody. I imagine it has been hard to be the team in season and under the spotlight as the world finally came around to caring about what was happening at Michigan State and being the ones having to answer for all the things that go well beyond their team. Of course, these players have been working hard for a long time, their lives a lot of them, to get to this moment at the end of a very good season, but I can’t help but bristle at this language.
The violence and institutional betrayal that hundreds of girls and women have endured are not distractions. The reckoning for that hell is not a distraction for the basketball team. It is unfortunate timing that it is all happening now, but for some of these women, it has taken two decades to finally get here. I’m sure it has been a draining five weeks for these players, but again, in the larger context here, the thing that is draining is an institution in an athletic department coming to terms with the damage done to hundreds of girls and women across decades of time.
It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to take a lot of time. It’s Izzo’s job to care for his players and to put them first, I understand that, but the language is only compassionate and empathetic in a single direction. If the people in charge at Michigan State need to do anything right now, it’s spread that compassion and empathy around.
As for what people deserve, well, the list is too long to enumerate when it comes to what people around Michigan State deserve, that they didn’t get or haven’t gotten, both those harmed and those who did the harming. I know this bothers me in part because I am worried that Michigan State is going to get one of those familiar redemption stories if they go deep into this tournament and especially if they win. It’ll get one of those stories where we are told that the school is healing because they are able to come together around the basketball season.
We use language a lot as a way to minimize harm and escape sustained consequences. I just don’t want that to happen here. I want to burn these words. Burn.
Okay, guys. Special thing, we have one final burn. It comes from Shireen. She published a piece this week at The Shadow League titled “Iranian Arrests of Women Attending Soccer Match is a Grave Injustice.” I’m going to read part of it. I will be mentioning Sara, whom is Shireen’s friend and a lead organizer with Open Stadiums. Shireen interviews Sara for this piece. All the following are Shireen’s words from The Shadow League.
“On Thursday, as FIFA President Gianni Infantino sat beaming and enjoying one of the most exciting soccer events in Iran, 35 women were arrested for risking their safety in order to enjoy the same basic freedoms as men. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a ban on Iranian women attending any type of sporting event in a stadium or public place.
Girls and women were so desperate and frustrated with the sheer injustice that they dressed up as men in order to get by security. They were caught, the youngest being only 13 years old. Later, Infantino insisted that part of his trip was to discuss the stadium ban with President Hassan Rouhani. After he returned to FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Infantino issued a statement assuring the football world that women would have access to stadiums soon.
This policy is bizarre considering the ban does not apply to non-Iranian women. If there are international matches and visiting supporters attend, they are permitted to attend. The beautiful game should not be blackened by toxic patriarchy and gender discrimination. FIFA vowed to uphold an anti-oppression policy but seems to be failing.
I asked Sara if she feels change can be made. ‘I hope so,’ she replied. More than any time, now is the time, World Cup 2018, passionate female fans and a ready society. I hope FIFA does their job and becomes more responsible. Watching football shouldn’t be crime.” On behalf of Shireen, I say burn this sexist law. Burn.
Jessica: After all that burning, it’s time to celebrate some remarkable women in sports this week with our Badass Woman of the Week segment. First are honorable mentions. It is March. Conference basketball tournaments are underway and we’re getting set up for March Madness. Congrats to the Belmont Bruins, who became the first team to officially book a ticket into the Women’s NCAA tournament in dramatic fashion. In the Ohio Valley Conference Tournament Final on Saturday, Belmont hit two three-pointers in the last 15 seconds in regulation before pulling away in overtime.
At the World Indoors Championship, Kenni Harrison won gold in the women’s 600-meter hurdles with a time of 7:70. She broke Lolo Jones’ championship record of 7:72. Shout-out to Simone Biles, whom the Athlete Selection Committee at USA Gymnastics named to the Senior National Team last Thursday after reviewing training video of the reigning Olympic champion and five-time Olympic medalist. Fresh off her Olympic debut, our girl Maame Biney became the first US woman to win a Junior World Title. She crushed the competition in the 500-meter at the ISU World Junior Short Track Championship 2018 on Saturday in Poland. Now, Lindsay, with our Badass Woman of the Week.
Lindsay: Yes. I would like to celebrate today Marsha Howard, who is a forward on the women’s basketball team at Wisconsin. A couple of weeks ago, Marsha was attacked on social media by Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa because she remained seated during the National Anthem at a basketball game against Iowa. For ThinkProgress, I emailed Wisconsin and was able to get Marsha to answer some questions via email about her protest, which has been going on all season long.
I just want to share some of Marsha’s quotes with you right now. She said, “It was his opinion,” that’s referring to Grassley, “but I refuse to back down from what I believe in. I don’t understand how exercising my constitutional right isn’t being patriotic. The First Amendment allows me to petition the government and to peacefully assemble.
I have not only been protesting the brutal acts of gun violence, but also the improper attainment of justice and liberty for all and the understated emphasis on racialization and equality of people of color. Systemic racism is important to me, because it affects me, my family, my culture and all the systematic oppression we have endured. Facts prove the systematic oppression and the fight to keep people of color in the back with their mouths shut.” Thank you, Marsha, for your advocacy, for taking a stand. We salute you. You are our Badass Woman of the Week.
Jessica: To round out this episode, let’s talk about what’s good in our worlds this week. We want to start by stating as a group that one thing that is good in the world are athletes who are speaking up against gun violence and for gun control. During the Winter Olympics, multiple US biathletes spoke up for gun control, including US biathlete Lowell Bailey, a 36-year-old four-time Olympian, who told the Washington Post he supports an assault weapons ban.
Retired baseball player and avid hunter Chipper Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, quote, “I believe in our constitutional right to bear arms and protect ourselves, but I do not believe there is any need for civilians to own assault rifles. I just don’t.” Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat has dedicated the rest of his season to Joaquin Oliver, who was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida earlier this month and was buried in a Wade jersey. Last week, Wade wrote Oliver’s names on his shoes and hit the buzzer-beating, game-winning shot. It’s sad that they have to say and do those things, but it’s a damn good thing that these athletes are. Okay. Amira, what’s good in your world?
Amira: What’s good in my world? Well, right now I’m very, very happy because my little cousin, Alexis Morris, who plays for Baylor Lady Bears, they’re in the Big 12 Tournament. She was just named to the all-freshman team in the Big 12. She has a lot on her shoulders right now.
Jessica: That’s awesome.
Amira: Yeah, I’m really excited for her. Kristy Wallace, who has been the starting point guard for Baylor all year and has taken them to a number three seat, very good squad this year, tore her ACL last week, senior season. It’s really heart-wrenching. Alexis is the next person up, so she is now stepping into the spotlight. She, as a freshman, is tasked with guiding her team through the Big 12 Tournament, which they’re currently playing, and then through the rest of the post season.
Yesterday was their opening game of the Big 12 Tournament. She played magnificently, played 38 minutes. Her coach said that she looked like a vet out there and I have to agree. They play again today at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time versus TCU. I am always overjoyed when I can watch her play, although I am silently burning women’s access to sport. It was impossible to find women’s basketball games for much of the day yesterday, despite wall-to-wall coverage of men’s teams, including the Baylor’s men team, which no shade to them, the women’s team is actually good. The Baylor’s men team were playing on ESPN.
Jessica: That was some shade.
Lindsay: Amira, that was the definition of shade, just so you know.
Amira: Well, the way my [inaudible 01:01:30] is set up, it has no chill. Anyways, it’s really good to see Lex ball out and to be able to watch her from far away. Good luck to her. Also, it’s spring break, so yay.
Jessica: Yay. Lindsay, how about you?
Lindsay: Yeah, I’ll be quick here. I finally watched “Call Me By Your Name” yesterday for the Oscars. I would like it to win tonight everything. It was such a beautiful movie. We are recording this on Sunday morning, so I have no clue what happens at the Oscars tonight, but I would like Call Me By Your Name to win. I’ve also watched the new season of Queer Eye on Netflix, which I thought was going to be reductive and stupid and annoying and it was really lovely. It made me cry a lot.
Jessica: People love it. Yeah.
Lindsay: It’s really good. I recommend you just take a few hours to marathon all episodes in a row like I did. Also, I have problematic favorites, friends. That is okay. It is okay to have some problematic favorites, including The Bachelor. I’m very excited for The Bachelor finale this week, because it is supposed to be the most dramatic one ever. Yeah.
Jessica: That’s awesome. I’m actually not going to be here for the next two weeks. I mean, that part’s sad, but what’s good is that I’m taking my son and we’re headed to Florida for his spring break. We’re going to not only visit all of the grandparents, they all are there, living there, but we’re going to finally go to Harry Potter World at Universal. I’m excited to spend all that time with him, to see so much of our family and to get a butterbeer, which they better have those there or I’ll be disappointed.
Amira: They have them three ways, remember, I told you? Frozen, hot or regular.
Jessica: Oh. That is what is good in my world.
All right, that’s it for this week’s episode. Thank you all for joining us. You can find Burn It All Down on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to subscribe to Burn It All Down, you can do so on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play and TuneIn. For information about the show and links and transcripts for each episode, check out our website burnitalldownpod.com. You can also email us from the site to give us feedback. We love hearing from you.
If you enjoyed this week’s show, please share this episode with family, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, the cashier at the grocery store, whomever you think would be interested in Burn It All Down. Also, please rate the show at whichever place you listen to it. The ratings help us reach new listeners who need this feminists’ sports podcast, but don’t yet know it exists. One more thank you to our patrons. We couldn’t do this without you. You can sign up to be a monthly sustaining donor to Burn It All Down at patreon.com/burnitalldown. That’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N.com/burnitalldown. That’s it. For Amira Rose Davis and Lindsay Gibbs, I’m Jessica Luther, until next week.