Episode 45: March Madness in the NCAA, NWHL, CWHL, and NWSL
In this episode, Lindsay, Amira, Brenda, and Shireen talk about the state of things in the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) and the National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL), and hype the upcoming National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season. Then, they dive into even more NCAA corruption, and Lindsay interviews author and former Davidson basketball player Amanda Ottaway about her memoir, “The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey.”
Intro (5:05) CWHL and NWHL (16:03) NWSL (22:00) “The NCAA is really fucked up” (32:49) Lindsay interviews Amanda Ottaway (44:42) Burn Pile (53:53) Bad Ass Woman of the Week (55:32) What’s Good (59:35) Outro
For links and a transcript…
“Kenzie Kent, Boston College’s multi-sport standout, is undecided on her NWHL future” https://www.boston.com/sports/college-sports/2018/03/09/kenzie-kent-bcs-multi-sport-standout-undecided-on-nwhl-future
“Hilary Knight joining CWHL’s Les Canadiennes for playoff run” http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/22694071/team-usa-star-hilary-knight-joining-les-canadiennes-canadian-women-hockey-league
“How to follow women’s hockey now that the Olympics are over” https://www.theicegarden.com/2018/2/27/17040676/olympics-womens-hockey-how-to-follow-pyeongchang-2018-nwhl-cwhl-sdhl-awihl-rwhl-ncaa-u-sports
“Report: Christen Press won’t report to Houston Dash” http://equalizersoccer.com/2018/03/09/houston-chronicle-reports-christen-press-wont-report-to-dash/
“Press was willing to stay in NWSL, Dash not right fit” http://equalizersoccer.com/2018/03/10/press-was-willing-to-stay-in-nwsl-dash-not-right-fit/
“Sources: Vancouver Whitecaps eye 2019 for NWSL entry” http://equalizersoccer.com/2018/03/02/sources-vancouver-whitecaps-nwsl-2019-expansion/
“Crystal Dunn ready for her NWSL return” http://www.nwslsoccer.com/news/#crystal-dunn-ready-for-her-nwsl-return
“LeBron James Doesn’t Think The NCAA’s Flaws Can Be Fixed” https://deadspin.com/?startTime=1519774980494
“Jalen Rose says college basketball players should boycott the NCAA tournament” http://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/02/jalen-rose-espn-ncaa-tournament-college-basketball-players-scandal-cbs-contract-boycott
“ESPN analyst Jay Williams calls for player boycott at Final Four” https://247sports.com/Bolt/NCAA-Tournament-Jay-Williams-calls-for-player-boycott-at-Final-Four-115652903
“Steve Kerr supports the idea of sponsors paying NCAA players, abolishing amateurism” http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/news/ncaa-basketball-steve-kerr-warriors-ncaa-players-getting-paid-abolish-amateurism/1jya4b9ff0j171fpqpgr8h8bon
“Kentucky’s John Calipari: College players should make money off their likeness” https://www.cbssports.com/college-basketball/news/kentuckys-john-calipari-college-players-should-make-money-off-their-likeness/
“NCAA reports revenues of more than $1 billion in 2017” https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/college/2018/03/07/ncaa-reports-revenues-more-than-1-billion-2017/402486002/
Amanda Ottaway: https://www.amandaottaway.com/
“LA Clippers Bizarrely Tout Ayn Rand, Anne Frank to Promote Dating App on International Women’s Day” https://www.thewrap.com/la-clippers-bizarrely-tout-ayn-rand-anne-frank-to-celebrate-international-womens-day/
“Iris Cisneros to Make History as First Woman to Call Match on U.S. Spanish-Language Television” https://www.si.com/soccer/2018/03/09/iris-cisneros-univision-deportes-liga-mx-america-leon-women-soccer
“Cool, calm and collected, Tierna Davidson guides USWNT to SheBelieves Cup title” http://www.espn.com/espnw/sports/article/22681594/cool-calm-collected-tierna-davidson-guides-uswnt-shebelieves-cup-title
Lindsay: Hello everyone and welcome to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. I’m Lindsay Gibbs, sports reporter at Think Progress, and I’ll be your pilot for today’s flight. Jess is off on a spring break adventure, but the rest of the group is ready to go. We have Amira Rose Davis, Assistant Professor of History at Penn State, and I believe this week birthing coach extraordinaire. We have Shireen Ahmed, freelance sportswriter from Toronto, Canada who we are thrilled to have back on this side of the pond after her UK excursion, and the indomitable Brenda Elsey, Associate Professor of History at Hofstra who is joining us from Argentina? Is that right, Bren?
Brenda: That’s right.
Lindsay: Where she’s just kicked off her, everyone wait for it, her Fulbright semester. We are so proud of you, Brenda. A few housekeeping things up front, bear with me for a second. First of all, for as little as an extra scoop of guac, which I feel like we’re just as good for your soul as an extra scoop of guacamole, you can be an official Burn It All Down patron.
This week we will release our patrons only segment only on Patreon, and later this week that segment will feature a discussion on mental health and the athletes that are paving the way in that discussion. You don’t want to miss that, so please become a patron.
Secondly, we have exciting news. We are looking to hire someone on a extremely part-time basis to help us a few hours a week with social media and promotions. We’d love to have a fellow flame thrower on board, so if you’re savvy with social media and know how to create graphics quickly, and have any sort of ideas about things that we could maybe do to boost our profile, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. This will be paid, very, very part-time, but it will paid so please reach out for us so we can discuss further.
Moving on, we have an exciting March Madness edition of our podcast today. First we’re going to be looking at the March happenings in women’s pro sports. We’re going to look at the state of things in the National Women’s Hockey League, and the Canadian Women’s Hockey League, and look forward to the National Women’s soccer league season, which starts in a couple of weeks.
Then we’re gonna be diving into all things NCAA corruption and I will bring you an interview journalist and author Amanda Ottaway, who just released a memoir “The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey” about her time as a basketball player at Davidson College. So, we’re going to talk a little bit about her book, her experience at Davidson, and then look ahead to the women’s NCAA basketball tournament.
But first, it is Daylight Savings Time, and I am not happy about it. We record this on a Sunday morning, which is kind of brutal anyways but we do it because we love you all. Is anyone else suffering as much as I am this morning with losing an hour?
Shireen: I lost a whole bunch of hours because I flew like 17 hours. I went from Manchester to Brussels and then Brussels to Toronto. Then I lost an hour, and I’m like, “Really? Is that really necessary?” I made the mistake of not giving my cat her treats as soon as I saw her in bowings, so she’s a bit upset. So, I’m dealing with that drama. I don’t know. Maybe Daylight Savings Time is supposed to be a good thing. I don’t know.
Brenda: I didn’t lose anything because in Argentina, we were two hours ahead and now, I’m just an hour closer to you. I’m sorry, but my brain is mushed for no other reason having to do with time. Just having to enroll three children in a foreign school system. So, I-
Lindsay: I think that’s a good excuse.
Brenda: Yeah. Yeah.
Amira: Time is a construct. I just started a [gluten diet 00:04:03]-
Lindsay: Time is a construct. [crosstalk 00:04:05].
Amira: What is time? I don’t know. I’m over it. I just like sleep. [crosstalk 00:04:12].
Brenda: Time is all we deal with [crosstalk 00:04:15].
Lindsay: That is what my daily motivational calendar said something like, “Time is all in your head.” I was like, “No, it’s not. Time is not in my head.” Although, I will tell that to my editors next time [crosstalk 00:04:31]. Time is a made up concept. But I will say I was out for drinks with friends on Friday night and I was so excited about Daylight Savings Time, because my office doesn’t have any windows. I think progress. We don’t see daylight. It’s really nice to be able to have some extra daylight after I leave the office in the afternoons or evenings, excuse me. My friends were like, “No, this sucks. We lose an hour of sleep.” I was like, “It won’t be that bad.” And then, I woke up this morning and I was like, [inaudible 00:04:58]. It’s that bad.
All right. I want to start off today by talking some women’s pro sports. We’re going to have a distinctly North American bent, so apologies in advance for that. I want to talk about, first of all, the CWAHL and the NWHL. First of all, the CWHL and the NWHL. We’re a conference removed from the Olympics where, I don’t know if anyone remembers, USA beat Canada in the Gold Metal match. Just in case anyone’s forgotten, Shireen.
But now, we’ve returned, and we have still a little bit of a rivalry between the two countries because we have the Canadian Women’s Hockey League and the National Women’s Hockey League, which is US based. Although, the Canadian Women’s Hockey League does have one team in Boston that, bless its heart, is having a horrible season, one win.
Anyways, get on to that. So, both leagues are shaping up for the playoffs. In the NWHL, the Metropolitan Riveters have had the best record at 13 and 3, but they are followed closely by the Buffalo Beauts, who at 12 and 4 are finishing a 10 game win streak. Since the Pegulas, which are the owners also of the Buffalo Bills and the Buffalo Sabres, became owners of the Buffalo Beauts, the Buffalo Beauts have not lost a game. How’s that for support.
Just a shout-out to Madison Packer, who is a player on The Riveters, who announced that she was retiring last year, but came back to play this season anyways, and has been one of the best players in the league, which is really exciting. The playoffs start next weekend. It will be the semi-final games in Buffalo and New Jersey because it’s now the Metropolitan Riveters and they’re in New Jersey, not New York. So, the semi-final will be one game semi-final there. Then the following weekend, there will be a championship.
Then in the CWHL, which has seven teams, the playoff picture is also coming into view, although won’t be officially locked in until after the games today. I don’t know all these Canadian things, but the Les Canadiennes Montreal and the Kunlun Red Star and the Calgary Inferno have all clinched playoff spots, and Shireen will correct me on all of that in just a second. Their playoffs will kick off next week, but the big story has been Olympians returning to these teams for the playoffs. Most of the Olympians have been playing with their national teams this year, not in these leagues. But now that the Olympics are over, they’re saying “Hello, we’re here for the playoffs.” There was some pretty surprising news this week on that front. Shireen?
Shireen: Hello. As we know, the magnificent US women’s hockey team beat Canada in the gold. I can say this now without trembling, but because the hockey gods are also Canadian, guess who’s coming to town. Hilary Knight, captain of the US women’s hockey team has … it was announced that she will join Les Canadiennes and she will be joining an incredible team, including Marie-Philip Poulin, captain of the Canadian women’s hockey team, which I think this is formidable. The Canadiens’ hockey history is so solid. It was one of the Original Six, we know this in the NHL. Les Canadiennes has actually proven to be a absolutely solid franchise. They get support, they play out of [Centre Brossard 00:08:30] so they don’t play in the Bell Center, but they’re close to sellout games.
Hilary Knight coming, her tweet announcing her arrival, soon arrival … The first practice they have will be today, March 11th, and she will be joining them for that. There’s a lot of flurry of excitement. This is a really big deal. I’m so excited, and basically Canadian hockey wins anyway even if it’s not in the form of a gold medal because now there’s Hilary Knight. I think this is wonderful. You all are supposed to laugh there and no one’s laughing, so okay I’m going to just keep going, but just the idea that … That was so exciting for me because it’s a little boost for the CWHL. It’s a really big deal. This is a league that we know players are not remunerated anywhere close to where they’re supposed to be.
There was a really great panel hosted by a friend of the show, Aaron Lakoff, featuring Meg Hewings as the GM and this is the first year that she’s been paid for doing the work she’s done. A really good friend of mine, Sofia Ahmed is actually the media point person for Les Canadiennes. Recently on our trip to Montreal, she gifted Brenda and I tuques, Les Canadiennes tuques which I’m wearing right now.
But I think it’s really important to understand that the flurry of excitement around this news and the attention that cross border Les Canadiennes will get from the United States is really important. NWHL and CWHL don’t work in vacuums. There’s a lot of players that go back and forth. There’s some interesting histories about the two leagues and how they get along but this is really important, because what it’s just going to do is bring new fans and that’s what we need.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s exciting. This is the first year that the CWHL has paid players and the NWHL has actually slashed its salaries this year. The Ice Cardinal learned that the NWHL players this year made just between 5,000 and 7,000 dollars, which is down from the 26,000 dollars which was the maximum salary when they first started two years ago. But this year, the CWHL is actually paying players, I believe between 2,000 and 10,000 dollars, Canadian money this year.
Shireen: Which is like 5 dollars US because our dollar is so bad, but anyways.
Lindsay: You always way over exaggerate how bad the Canadian dollar is, like to an annoying degree. It is not that much less. It honestly makes their salaries about equals, so the 10,000 Canadian, I believe it’s around 8,000 dollars US, so we’re getting there. It’s exciting to see that these leagues are getting on equal footing, but it brings up a different question which is, how do you keep sustaining these two leagues within women’s hockey and aren’t we better together? I know it’s a complicated question because there is a lot of tension between these two leagues, but you do think at a certain point this becomes more of a hindrance than it is a benefit. Does anyone have any thoughts on that?
Shireen: What do you mean by hindrance? I just want you to clarify that.
Lindsay: I mean that right now, I feel like we’re spreading the pie a little thin as far as attention, promotion. The NHL has been reluctant to partner with a lot of these teams because they don’t want to pick and choose. They want one team, one league that they can really partner with. They’ve gotten a little bit more willing to do things with the individual leagues, but the NHL has said multiple times “We want one league. We want them to figure this out and then we want to work with one league.”
Also, you want your best players playing against each other at all times and when they’re spread out amongst two different leagues, that doesn’t help. The women’s game is growing and it’s growing exponentially. There is a lot more talent coming in the pipeline, but I think it’s still important to have that top talent concentrated.
Brenda: I like that idea. I actually like that idea and I’ve liked it for Mexico and the US for a long time, not just looking towards Canada.
Amira: What is the argument against not combining? It seems to work for the NHL.
Lindsay: Well, it’s just the two different, completely different ownerships and completely different models. When Dani Rylan who started the NWHL, when she got things started, she initially wanted to just have a New York team of the CWHL but she really wanted to pay the players. She came out with a lot of energy and a lot of, I would say ego. I think that’s fair to say, about how she could do this better than the CWHL was doing. Within about six months, she established this league that had four teams and was paying its players.
Now that league has gone through growing pains, but I think … I would say there was a lot of tension. There was almost some insults towards the Canadian league being like “You’ve been here this long. You hadn’t been able to pay the players. I’m coming out of nowhere and I’m paying players. This isn’t that hard. What is wrong with you?” I think that there’s been a lot of behind the scene tension between the two leagues. I think it has been good in a lot of ways. I think the NWHL did end up speeding up the CWHL’s timeline for paying players, although there was a timeline in place but I think it put more pressure on them to stop not paying the players, and to find a model that would work.
At the same time, the NWHL has been humbled. There have been salary cuts. There’s been a lot of drama, so they at the same time have been brought down a couple of pegs and [seen 00:13:59] that this is hard. This is not an easy thing to do. But ultimately, it’s between these two ownership groups and it’s trying to find some common ground there. It’s not as easy as it seems.
Shireen: I don’t know. I’m of the opinion that it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have two different leagues, only because the cultures of hockey are quite different in different places. I’m a proponent, obviously. I have no business sense, but having them spread around is a really good thing. As far as NHL supporting one league, you have Calgary, the Flames that are supporting Inferno. You have, quietly, you have the Canadians that are supporting The Fabs in different ways. I think it could be way more, and then you have MLAC in Toronto that basically gives the nod every once in a while to The Furies, so it’s not the level of ownership and support for the women’s teams that we would like to see in the places that there are.
Same with the Bruins. We would like to see way more for the Pride as well. The other thing is there are two women’s hockey teams in Boston, one for each league, which is also … people are like “What? There’s two.” For me, that’s bizarre but that’s just the way it worked out and what’s happening. There’s a huge hockey culture in Boston, so fine.
There’s a lot of complications … Sorry, not complications. The situation is complex for many reasons, like Lindsay alluded to. There’s some power struggles here, there’s issues here. I would love to see ideally the league get along, get into a place where they can support each other because this is about women’s hockey. That’s where the bottom line is, in supporting the players. Hopefully, we’ll come to a place where [we can 00:15:39] with more fluidity.
Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. I’m rooting for both leagues and ultimately rooting for whatever’s best for women’s hockey. I hope they keep pushing each other forward and then eventually do come to a place where it makes sense for everyone, for there to be a merger. I think that would be the goal.
Moving on, really briefly we want to look forward to the National Women’s Soccer League season, which I believe is this its sixth year you guys? That didn’t sound right but it might be. I can’t count, but it’s pretty exciting. It’s been a tumultuous off season. The Boston Breakers folded which was really disappointing. We talked about that briefly.
Brenda: Sad, sad.
Lindsay: Really it is, it was really disappointing. The players have been dispersed throughout the league. There was a dispersal draft. The big news this week has been that Christen Press announced that she will not be playing for the Houston Dash this year. Press was traded to the team in the off season. It was never a team she wanted to play for, so because of that she has decided to sit out the season, which is … It’s unfortunate I think, because that’s one of the best players that’s not on the … that we’re not going to get to see play this year. But we are a big proponent here of players’ rights and players asserting their rights, so I’m glad she’s doing what she feels is right. Honestly, it’ll probably be better for the team and having her there if she wasn’t going to be mentally bought in to the culture in the Houston Dash.
We want to talk about some positive things. What are you guys excited to see in the NWSL this year?
Shireen: NWSL, I think that our dear friend, Meg Linehan is there. I’m excited to see Orlando as usual. I love the team and not just because of Marta, just because the culture of the team is one that really includes the city. I’m a huge fan of Portland. Anything Christine Sinclair does, I’m a huge fan of. We all know this. Nadia Nadim has moved to Manchester City, but Portland for me is a way that it teaches the world … it teaches the United States and the world to support the women’s game so holistically. It’s a community that literally thrives, sold-out games every time and that’s what I’m looking for a little more in terms of just the players.
I just have a quick thought on Christen Press. I think she was gunning to go to Europe and that didn’t necessarily pan out, so I think that option is always open. Sweden has an incredibly strong women’s league. I just got back from a conference on women’s soccer. There was a lot of discussion about this.
The views of the NWSL in England is really funny because they’re so centered on their own women’s, but they’re very definitely looking to bring … I use the word poach very carefully, to bring the strongest players over. We know Meg Rapinoe played in France. Carli Lloyd played in Manchester, so there’s a lot of looking to that and they’re definitely looking to the NWSL to get the strongest players. That’s a real thing-
Brenda: Christen Press played in Sweden before.
Shireen: Yeah, she did.
Brenda: You’re totally right. You’re totally right that she could be looking to go back because the conditions are just a lot better.
Lindsay: We all know that overseas they don’t use the same [ec models 00:18:51] and salary caps, everything that we do here a lot of times. Like in basketball, they’re willing to pay more money for these players than our leagues are because the way they’re structured.
Shireen: The other thing I didn’t realize was that Marta actually has dual citizenship with Sweden, and that’s something else that some of these countries offer the players, is citizenship. That’s a thing that’s advantageous for the players for their lives and moving forward. One of the other things that I was quickly going to mention, I’m also looking forward to Sydney Dwyer’s family photos, because I think they’re adorable.
Amira: They’re the best.
Shireen: They’re so cute. They’re so cute [crosstalk 00:19:27].
Amira: Oh my God, my heart just burst.
Shireen: So, so cute.
Brenda: The other thing to think about though in terms of Europe is, big player salaries largely don’t come from the leagues anyway. The vast majority of Marta’s salary in Sweden came from sponsorships. Still, it’s not necessarily that advantageous but they say that the field conditions are better, the media coverage is better, the respect for players’ rights and the coaches, their time, their injuries, things like that is better. That’s what Marta will [generally 00:19:57] say.
The money is very hit or miss. It comes down to a lot of sponsorships. The thing about citizenship is a really interesting point, Shireen. I don’t know if Marta is like “I want to live in Sweden my whole life.” My sense is she doesn’t. That’s not going to pull her back to Sweden, neither will US citizenship. In a case where you’re coming from a different type of country, it certainly could, worse conditions. But a lot of these players, I think, are just moving around all the time.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Amira, what are you excited about for the NWSL?
Amira: Speaking of moving around, I was really excited to see Crystal Dunn coming back-
Lindsay: Me too, yay.
Amira: Early to rejoin the … I can’t even say it, NWSL, for the pre-season after the SheBelieves Cup. She is also now going to be playing back in North Carolina, which is exciting. She has a lot of connections to that area, of course, going to UNC and having a standout career there. I’m really excited for her and for that city and to watch her play there.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Bren?
Brenda: I’m excited about Estefanía Banini who is center … Well, she’s an attacking midfielder for the Washington Spirit. I’ve never seen her do what I think she’s capable of doing, but she looks really ready this season because they’re playing the Copa America down here in South America so she’s training even more than ever. She’s back at the Washington Spirit. She looks more comfortable. I’ve seen some YouTube videos that she’s posted on our training, and I would really like to see her have a great season.
Lindsay: Absolutely, and I am also as a Washington Spirit local I guess, I’m excited for more Mallory Pugh, just to keep seeing her [crosstalk 00:21:48] because it’s pretty remarkable. The season starts, I believe March 24th and we are ready.
All right. Moving on, I’d like to quote Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers who said in 2016, “The NCAA is really fucked up.” Here’s Amira with more.
Amira: Yeah. You could write whole dissertations and people certainly have on the level of fucked the NCAA is. But in particular, let’s dive a little bit deeper into their current probe with the FBI and what that means for March Madness and just moving forward.
For those who haven’t been following, back in September, the FBI and other federal authorities announced a investigation into bribery and corruption, mainly in college basketball. At the core of this investigation were probes looking into the way that athletic giants and recruiters, shoe companies etcetera pay families of potential recruits to college basketball games. We’re talking about men here, clearly. Also bribes towards college coaches, agents and all of the way money is working on back channels, a underground economy if you will within the NCAA.
Of course in the last few weeks, this probe reached a new level publicly as Yahoo Sports released a story that included leaked documents from a associate of a long-time NBA agent, which basically implicated current and former players in some of the most prestigious leading programs in men’s college basketball. Basically the same day, ESPN dropped a story about FBI using a wiretap to record a conversation between Arizona head coach Sean Miller, and this associate, this NBA agent associate, in which they’re actually on the wire discussing a payment of 100,000 dollars in exchange for ensuring a commitment of the recruit DeAndre Ayton, who is now a star at Arizona.
Both of these stories dropped the same day and seem to indicate that this probe, this is just the tip of the iceberg about the probe and that the NCAA was going to be royally, royally fucked over by this FBI probe. Now, we will continue to see where this goes but what it has done is jump-started this conversation around how much money is being exchanged between agents and coaches and programs and sponsors. The big elephant in the room, if you will, is how little money the players receive at the same time. When you’re looking at some of these numbers and you’re looking at the reports that the NCAA is annually bringing in over a billion dollars, last year for instance, and at the same time you’re seeing that we’re about to embark on another year of March Madness, where all of these people who aren’t players are going to make a lot of money off of their labor.
We’re again at this point where we have to reconcile, we have to talk about the exploitation of players, of college athletes, particularly athletes of color. I think that as this conversation has ratcheted up, we have had these more prominent voices very bluntly express that. LeBron James on the record very clearly said the NCAA’s flaws can’t be fixed, and this generated a whole argument over what the future of the recruiting system is into the NBA. There were people like Jalen Rose who called for a boycott of March Madness. Steve Kerr was on record saying, maybe sponsors should just play the players and end amateurism.
We’re definitely add a moment where because this probe is coming to the light and because it is generating public conversation, where a lot of people who previously were silent on it are thinking, “Maybe this is the end of amateurism. Maybe there’s no recovering from this.” That’s the kind of place we are. Will there be a way to recover from this particular probe? I’m a little bit of a pessimist, so I will say I feel like these people are very good at figuring out how to exploit people. I’m not like “Oh, this is going to be the end of it all” but that’s just me. I’m wondering if you guys have thoughts about, if this is the nail in the coffin.
Brenda: As we’ve talked about on this show, I’m all for the end of amateurism. It is ridiculous on so many levels, but I’m also thinking about FIFA here and what it means to have government organizations intervening in these institutions. Amira, I think you’re totally right. Ty find their way to squeeze themselves out of any seemingly obvious moral trap that they’ve gotten themselves into, any legal, ethical … These types of people, these sports administrators are really excellent at doing this, so I agree with you. I’m not sure, unless there’s a huge groundswell of support from the public. But I think that the professional athletes coming out and being so, and coaches like Steve Kerr being so obviously critical of the system may do some more, put some sparks and public pressure. I’m not really sure, but yeah. [Studying 00:27:43] FIFA makes you always sort of be like, anyone can get out of anything at any time.
Amira: Brenda, I’m so happy that you said that about government entities intervening because I look at this, every time I read stuff about this and I’m like, the FBI and the NCAA are two organizations that I don’t really like at all. I don’t trust-
Brenda: The FBI and people of color have their own particular history.
Amira: Exactly. The whole thing is just like “blah.” Is there a way that they can both, I don’t know, disappear? The other thing about it is, and this question does come up a lot, is what are they investigating? Violations of NCAA rules are not necessarily violations of law, so there’s really interesting conversation around what is their jurisdiction, what is the reach and what does it mean to violate NCAA rule, to the point where now we’re having federal authorities involved in investigating their conduct.
Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. I think one of my biggest thing is who is the victim here? I think the players are the victims, but I think the FBI investigation is kind of painting the schools as the victims, which isn’t really true. It’s just this big mess because this system is just so corrupt, and nobody will do what the right thing to do is which is pay the players, or stop artificially capping this market when it shouldn’t be. Give them the same rights that you and me have. I worked throughout college. I was fine, a little tired but fine. It’s so frustrating.
Patrick Hruby, who’s a friend of the show, had a great article on Deadspin this week that just said “Look, we’re making this way too complicated. Just pay the players and things will sort out. It doesn’t have to be the end of Title IX or the end of women’s sports. If people decide that Title IX does impact the salaries that athletes are getting and that does go to paying players, well then if you want to give 50,000 dollars to one player on the men’s side, that’s what you have to do in order to get that player to come to your university. Then guess what? You have to put 50,000 dollars towards women sports too. That’s not the end of the world. That’s actually good investment.”
We’re making this all way too complicated and we just need to stop pretending that these NCAA bylaws were ever meant to be taken seriously, because I don’t think they are. The biggest thing here is the NCAA doesn’t enforce these rules itself. That’s why this investigation is coming from the FBI and not the NCAA, because the NCAA knows that it just kind of has to look the other way where a lot of these things are concerned. Of course, it would be nice if the NCAA would actually investigate things like the mistreatment of women or actual Title IX violations, or take those things seriously. But we know that’s not happening.
Shireen: I was just going to mention, we don’t hear a lot about how this has affected the women in the NCAA. I think that there’s a lot of conversation about the male players. There’s this really interesting article. I think it came out in November. David Berry wrote it for Forbes, looking at the sports economics of it and how NCAA women actually in terms of revenue were over ten million. If you’re going to chop that down in something, just for UConn, Napheesa Collier, she would have to be given a certain amount, and same with Katie Lou Samuelson who is one of the … She’s not even a senior. She’s one of the top players in the league, and Gabby Williams who is a senior. I think it’s pretty incredible, if you’re going to literally chop up what is brought in vis-a-vis what they should be entitled to.
In my opinion, I quote our friend Professor Lou Moore, “Pay the players.” It’s very simple. We can get into these conversations about the usage of black and brown bodies. We’ve talked about this on the show recently about all the politics around ownership, and what that looks like, not paying them because of slavery laws that are still there. The thing is there’s no formal protection post-college for these players if they get injured. Then they’re basically out, and that’s something that really, really, really concerns me. What are we looking for after, you know?
Amira: You know what? They wouldn’t even have to pay them. If you don’t want to jump right into paying them because whatever baby steps, that’s fine. Maybe stop profiting off their likeness. If you’re going to use somebody who’s basically them just without their name on the back of their jersey, if you’re going to sell all of their jerseys in your student gift shop, all of that stuff, you’re literally profiting off of their labor. At least, opening up avenues for them to get a piece of the pie would be a place to start.
Lindsay: I’m here with Amanda Ottaway who just released a memoir called The Rebounders: A Division I Basketball Journey. It’s all about her time at Davidson as a Division I basketball player. Amanda, thank you so much for being here.
Amanda Ottaway: Thanks so much for having me Lindsay.
Lindsay: One of the amazing things reading your book was I was just exhausted. Can you describe what a day in the life is like for a Division I basketball player, especially in season?
Amanda: At Davidson, we would do things in small groups throughout the day around our classes. A lot of times, it would open with an early morning lift and a small group and then a class or two, lunch, and then more classes. Then, either we had the early practice or the late practice because we shared the gym with the guys. At Davidson, they had a special rule called Division of the Day, which means that your professors get you basically from 8:00 to 4:30 and your coaches can have you for any time after that.
That means that the earliest practice time was like 4:00-ish to 6:00-ish, and then the later one was 6:00 to 8:00-ish, so we went back and forth. Then if we had the late practice, then we would have to go eat dinner in a different place than the cafeteria because the cafeteria would close, and then we’d go home and do homework or go to the all night computer lab and do some more homework.
Lindsay: Wow. One of the things I loved about your book was that it didn’t shy away from some really tough topics about women’s sports, and some issues that a lot of people tend to ignore. As a female athlete, what was one of the most frustrating things about the coverage that you either received directly as a basketball player or that you saw other women’s basketball players receive?
Amanda: I think actually, I just retweeted this tweet of yours about how men’s basketball is the default. When you say the word college basketball, when you say college basketball, everybody assumes men’s basketball. I agree with you that that shouldn’t necessarily be the assumption, that we should specify “This is men’s basketball, this is women’s basketball.” I think that will help. I think that assuming that men are always the default of everything is the way we’ve been doing it for several hundred years, but I think it’s time to switch it up.
Lindsay: Yeah, it’s amazing how much that one word opens up space for the women’s game to exist too. You also talked about body image as a female athlete. I’d love for you to expand on that a little bit, if you wouldn’t mind, about the pressure to be strong in the gym versus the pressure to still fit into this conventional mold of what a female athlete should be, or a female should be, excuse me.
Amanda: Yeah, totally. That was a huge source of pressure for me in college and for many of my teammates. And yet, like you said, we loved being strong in the weight room, we loved being strong on the court. There was a lot of pride in working really hard on your body, and getting to see it do stuff that most people’s bodies don’t do, that’s incredible. When you’re on the court and you’re boxing somebody out and it’s like another solid person and you’re moving her, that’s a really awesome feeling.
But then at the same time, then you go to a dressing room and you’re trying to put on a dress for Christmas Eve or whatever and you can’t it get past your traps or you can’t pull up jeans past your calf muscles, so there’s some practical inconveniences about having a muscular female body because clothes are not made for you. There’s also societal pressure, what women are supposed to look like. It sounds clichéd but it’s very simple. It was something that we were all, I think, constantly conscious and aware of, if not actively trying to get to change. I certainly wore sleeves a lot more than I do now, now that my muscles have melted a little bit.
I think I’m still struggling with body image. Yeah, it’s tricky. I admire the women athletes who balance it well.
Lindsay: It is tough because you subconsciously … All of those stereotypes and those images, they leave a mark even if you’re aware of them, even if you’re conscious of them and that’s frustrating. There was one quote that you put in your book that was a Bill Simmons quote, from I believe about 2005.
Lindsay: Can you remind me exactly what that quote was and what that said to you about the way we view women’s basketball players, even just a decade ago?
Amanda: That quote has stuck with me. I don’t have it in front of me right now, but it was something along the lines of … It’s about how WNBA players do not invite audiences because nobody looks good at the end of a two hour basketball game, and the baggy uniforms don’t help. All of these comments that we don’t ever make about male athletes at the end of a game … I don’t know. Everybody gets sweaty when they run around, I don’t know. It was something along the lines of “Sue Bird is downright adorable. If she’s at the ESPYs in a cocktail dress, I’m watching. If she’s throwing a behind the back pass to Lauren Jackson or something, I’m flipping the channel.”
Lindsay: In fairness to Bill Simmons, he has said since then, I think he went on Katie Nolan’s podcast a little while ago and said that his daughter has been teaching him some feminist ideals, in fairness to Bill. He has evolved since then. I would listen to his podcast, and honestly I wasn’t that much of an athlete. I would, when I was much younger, I’m sure not turn it off immediately like I do now. It was kind of, what is it, the air you breathe [crosstalk 00:39:16] sexism.
Amanda: Absolutely. It’s the same thing with body image. It’s just unconscious to think about women in that way. I think we’re shifting.
Lindsay: I think we are. I think we’re pushing forward, although it would be nice if men didn’t have to have daughters in order to realize this.
Amanda: Amen, amen.
Lindsay: Baby steps, I guess. There’s a perception that there is no homophobia in women’s sports, that women’s sports are past all of this but that wasn’t your experience. What did you experience on the team? What did you find out about your coach and how she perceived athletes?
Amanda: That’s a tough one. I write about this in the book but I had several gay teammates who were not out. For my entire freshman year, they were not out to the whole team. I don’t know how common that is or how common it was at the time, but I do know that they felt like they couldn’t do it safely. They felt like their playing time might go down. They felt like their parents might get called. They didn’t know what would happen, and that is really upsetting. I didn’t find that out till later. Hearing them talk about those experiences now is super upsetting.
I think the homophobia that we saw was pretty subtle, in that it was insidious is the word that I’m looking for. It was a lot more of a focus on like “Here’s one of our players is dating this guy on the football team,” saying things like that to recruits and their parents, just a focus on all-American heterosexuality, this imagined cliché that we have. Rather than saying “I’m anti any kind of diversity” it was a very pro, a very affirmation for women who did date men.
Lindsay: It reminded me a lot of Brittney Griner talking about Kim Mulkey in her book, the type of pushback she received and encouragement to not come out that she received.
Unfortunately, you I know didn’t make it to the tournament like you were hoping to during your time. Quickly, can you put us into the mindset of going into post season and how much that would have meant to you? You talk about just getting to the tournament and even playing one game for you would have been … That was the dream, that was the goal. For these non-Uconn, non- South Carolina teams who … I mean look, 32 teams are going to be done the first day, the first round. What is this like? Take us into that mindset a little bit.
Amanda: That’s all I ever wanted. From the moment that I decided that I wanted to play Division I, I wanted to play an NCAA tournament. I went through the recruiting process looking for teens that were going to get me there, and I think I always knew that I was going to be a pretty average, mid-major player. I knew I was not going to be on one of the top teams. As you say, 32 are going home very soon. 280-some don’t even go at all, so I kind of knew that I was going to be more in that batch. The best thing for me would be to get there.
It was a realistic goal and sadly we just never made it. It’s an incredible feeling. All of the cliches that you think are true. Everybody starts over in the post season, you get this whole new burst of energy. It’s so much fun because anything can happen. It’s like nothing that you did already really matters anymore. You get your second wind in March and it’s a really fun time.
Lindsay: Any predictions going into the tournament? I know the draw just came out so we haven’t had time to really break it down, but are you thinking UConn? They’ve got South Carolina in the Elite 8 match up, which is just brutal, very intriguing. What are your thoughts? You’re taking the field or you’re taking UConn?
Amanda: I think I’ll take UConn. I would like to see Mississippi State. Who doesn’t love that underdog?
Lindsay: I know. I just love what Vic Schaefer’s done with that team. I want them to have a redo from that final last year.
Lindsay: But I too am going with UConn. Gino scorned is …
Amanda: Exactly, exactly.
Lindsay: Thank you so much Amanda. It was really great to talk to you. What’s the best way for people to follow your work?
Amanda: Oh, sure. I’m on Twitter at Amanda Ottaway, O-T-T-A-W-A-Y. Also on Instagram, and my website is AmandaOttaway.com. You can buy the book there as well.
Lindsay: That’s great, thanks so much for joining us.
Amanda: Thank you, thanks for having me.
Lindsay: It’s time for our favorite segment, Burn Pile. Brenda, get us kicked off.
Brenda: This week, I’d like to burn CONMEBOL’s lack of accountability. For those who don’t know, CONMEBOL is the organization that runs South American soccer, so it’s like the NFL or something except it runs all the soccer, amateur, professional, national teams, from four years on up. It was founded 102 years ago and this week was International Women’s Day. Hope you guys had a great day, which is a really important commemoration in Latin America. It’s a lot bigger than it is in the US. It sparked tons of marches and activities, sit-ins.
CONMENOL’s official tweets about it gave the following statistic in regards to soccer, that there are 172 clubs and only three women presidents. As if they have nothing to do with that, as if they haven’t siphoned money from women’s development funds they get from FIFA. They’ve never sanctioned a single player, official or club for gender policies. Finally, CONMEBOl itself has never had a woman president or a member of the Executive Board. So, I’d like to burn that insulting rhetoric. We see you, CONMEBOL. We know that those types of tweets are just lipstick on a pig … Is that the right phrase?
Lindsay: Yeah, that’s it.
Brenda: You’re the pig, CONMEBOL. You’re sexist pigs and those tweets are lipstick and you’re gross. I want to burn their ridiculous attempts to look like they give a fuck. Burn.
Lindsay: Burn. Amira.
Amira: I want to burn something that is always worth burning, which is lack of representation and diversity in sports journalist circles. What got me to that this week was Ben Rothenberg, who is oftentimes contributor to the New York Times, tennis writer. You may remember him for writing that article about Serena a few years back, about how as athletes struggle to merge ambition with body image, that basically painted her as the exotic other and included all these quotes about how people didn’t want to look like her, so they were sacrificing their image. It was terrible. It was racist. It was awful.
Anyways, he’s back on the scene and did a whole thread last night around what he termed a “heated exchange” that he also called “testy” between Serena Williams and a reporter at Indian Wells last night. He was shocked, his words, that this didn’t get more attention, so he took it upon himself to do a very long thread using this transcript and documenting his entire take on Serena’s response to the question and if she was valid, etcetera, etcetera.
Then the video of the exchange in question surfaced, and many people pointed out that while it was clearly not a friendly exchange because she was unhappy, it was not heated, it was not testy. It was just very clear that she was not going to suffer bullshit from fools. It reminded me, of course, of how black women are read as angry or mad even when they’re just talking in low voices and without a bubbly smile. It got me thinking, what would this exchange covered like if it was covered by a black person or covered by a woman? It led me, again, to think of the report last year at the US Open where one out of every four people there covering the US Open getting press credentials were women, so 75% were men and the numbers for black sports journalists at the US Open were even smaller than that.
It is just a shame because when we consume sports and we watch them, we read about them, we hear about them, they’re so filtered by the generals on the scene and we have a long way to go to make that equitable and inclusive. I am burning that. I could burn it every day, but that’s what I’m burning [crosstalk 00:49:08].
Shireen: Torch it.
Shireen: Because I was in the UK, I’m going to gripe about Phil Neville who has now become … who he’d like to position himself, and Phil Neville is a recently appointed coach for the England women’s national team. He was astounded that to get to the SheBelieves Cup where the Lionesses lost to the USA, they had to travel in economy. I know, shocking right? They didn’t even get a direct flight. They actually had to fly around to get to Columbus, Ohio. He was astounded that this is the reality, but this actually is the reality. This is the reality how female players are treated, national treasures are treated, women that contribute so heavily, and this is a system that needs to be shut down.
He was quoted in The Sunday Times as saying that “He was astounded at the lack of preparation.” Well Phil, this is what you signed up for. This is how it is Phil, so you need to familiarize yourself with the reality that is women’s football globally, and more specifically in England. This is a team. We’ve talked about the systemic misogynoir and the layers of racism that exist here, and the sexism. But now you’ve got to roll up your sleeves and it’s not just about technical coaching. It’s about, absolutely, dismantling the systems that exist. I never in a million years thought Phil Neville would be a part of this destruction of the toxic patriarchy in football, but you know what? If he’s willing to put his money where his mouth is and get going, we need to make sure that these stories get out there, that the way that these players are treated, everybody knows because it’s not fair. I’m going to burn all of that, putting women in the back when the men who are considerably worse fly up front. You know I hate that, so burn.
Lindsay: All right. I’m going to take us back to International Women’s Day and talk a little bit about the LA Clippers, and who decided for Women’s Month which is the month of March, to partner with Bumble, the dating app that is supposed to be feminist because women get to message first.
I’ve used Bumble, been on some good Bumble dates so I’m all for dating apps. But it was interesting that this partnership was supposed to be so empowering. It took a specific wrong turn on International Women’s Day when the LA Clippers tweeted out from their official account, “In recognition of International Women’s Day, we continue to celebrate some of the most influential and inspirational women in history. Hashtag, Stronger With Her.” Now, what three women do you think that the LA Clippers and Bumble decided to highlight on International Women’s Day? Would you guess? Maya Angelou, Anne Frank and Ayn Rand.
Amira: That’s just a mess.
Brenda: Ayn Rand? Oh my God.
Lindsay: There were three quote images that they tweeted out, like quote graphics. They included one was Maya Angelou, which said “I learned that people will forget what you said. People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” A lovely quote, though I don’t know if that’s super International Women’s Day but that’s okay.
Next, we have Anne Frank. I love Anne Frank, but using her is like a publicity for a commodity with brands. It’s just a little strange. Her quote that is used is, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” That’s from Anne Frank, so that’s her inspirational quote. The third quote they included was from Ayn Rand, who got her own quote graph that said “The question isn’t who is going to let me. It’s who is going to stop me. Ayn Rand.”
Obviously, this is a misstep. They deleted it a couple of hours after issuing it. My favorite part of this is that someone showed that if you Google inspirational quotes from women, that the Ayn Rand quote is the second one that comes up. It’s clear that they just had an intern Googling this stuff, and probably had no idea that Ayn Rand is probably the most anti-feminist person you could put up. Anyways, this was a misstep. Brands need to rethink their International Women’s Day strategy because we are not going to be inspired or feel included by Ayn Rand quotes. Burn.
Lindsay: Moving on to talk about some of our favorite women of this week, the honorable mentions for the Bad-Ass Woman of the Week Award are Tierna Davidson, a centerback for the US women’s national team who just won the NCAA championship with Stanford three months ago, and was the youngest player. She helped them win the SheBelieves Cup with her focused performance on the US women’s national team, so yay.
We want to give a shout out to the massive International Women’s Day marches in Latin America and Spain for gender equality, to end femicide, and reproductive rights. That is the proper way to celebrate International Women’s Day. We are very proud of you and we also have … I wanted to give a shout out to Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka, who both returned to action at Indian Wells this week and won a match or two after long layoffs, and maybe more. The week is not over yet. Serena has obviously been off after her pregnancy and after a big scare for her pregnancy. Azarenka also had a baby last year, but she has been in a tough custody battle with the father of her baby and has not been able to travel with her son, Leo, which is why she has not been able to play in any event. It was great to see both of them back.
Our Bad Ass Woman of the Week is Iris Cisneros, who will make soccer broadcasting history by becoming the first woman to call a match on US Spanish language television. That is amazing. You are an inspiration, Iris.
All right, let’s finish it up quickly with some positive things happening. Brenda, you start. How’s Argentina?
Brenda: Argentina’s great. That’s my positive thing. It’s great and fascinating and it has a whole culture of protesting everything. It’s super fun. It’s just for me because as an outsider, I get to watch it all. I went to the best part of International Women’s Day. I went to an all day function at the University where I’m teaching and got to see the work that they’re doing with the women in the university there, and it’s really inspiring.
Also being in Argentina, I get lots of news about Leo Messi. I would like to say that I was happy to see him sit out the game, Barcelona versus Malaga this week, to welcome his third son. It was very nice. A lot of times, players say “Oh, I didn’t need to take time off. Look at how much I love the club.” No, no. It’s really good that he loves his son more. That’s what’s going on in my world this week.
Lindsay: Absolutely. Shireen?
Shireen: Coming off a really big high of meeting some incredible people in the UK. There’s four particular people I wanted to mention really quickly. One is [Ola Fasayo 00:56:43] who is the young man who met me at the Women in Football event I did. Salon Hickman, who is an incredible young woman who works with fighting sexism and racism in football in college level. Mark Thompson, who’s somebody who’s a budding young journalist, and JJ Roble who I had the honor of meeting and we mentioned her as the Bad-Ass Woman of the Week a couple months ago. She’s the first hijab-wearing … She’s of Somali descent and literally gives no fucks when she’s refereeing. She’s incredible and she’s on the pitch, and she’s so sure of herself and what she’s doing. I had the opportunity to meet these people and they stuck out because they’re young and they’re awesome. They’re huge Burn It All Down fans, but they also inspired me to keep doing what I do. That is just going to carry me for a really long time.
Lindsay: Amazing. Amira?
Amira: I had such a great eventful week. I drove through a snowstorm to Philadelphia to be with my best friend, who we kind of sensed was going into labor. The roads were so bad. We got snowed in. We lost power. We labored … She labored really, I just watched her. She labored in the living room with no power, by candlelight for a while until the snow was cleared enough that we could make it to the hospital. It was such an adventure.
Then on March 8th on International Women’s Day, Noel Hannah was born and I am so happy. She’s my goddaughter and I love her so much. She’s going to be a future athlete. Her dad played for the NFL for a while and her mom was a standout track star at Brown, now works for Princeton Athletics. It was really great to have her come into the world on International Women’s Day, surrounded by so much love. That is my something’s good, which is really going to carry me through the next few months because I’m just in such a euphoric state.
Lindsay: Oh, I love that so much.
Shireen: Oh, that’s beautiful.
Lindsay: Very quickly, I want to give a shout out to myself. I’m very proud of myself. If you ever want to talk to me about this personally, I can give you a little bit more but I had after a bad experience, I did not find any sort of joy in working out for an incredibly long, long time. It was actually a very emotionally painful experience for me. I worked really hard to try and turn that around, and I am finishing up a 30 straight days of yoga program. I am a month into a Couch to 5K program and have scheduled a 5K, which will be my first 5K in five years. I’ve scheduled that for the end of April and I’m just excited to be feeling good about these things again. It doesn’t feel like torture, so it makes me very happy.
Brenda: Yay, go Linz.
Shireen: That’s awesome.
Lindsay: Anyways, thank you all so much for listening to us and spending your time with us. This has been another fun episode and we just can’t wait. We have a lot of fun things in store. We’re episode 45. That means a year is within sight, which is just wild. Stick with us. There are some fun things ahead. You can please subscribe on iTunes or whatever app you use, and give us a rating and a review. That helps us so much. Share this podcast with your friends. Follow us on Twitter and on Facebook. All of these things are just so helpful. Leave out one extra scoop of guac and subscribe to our Patreon page, and we just can’t thank you enough.
For Amira Rosa Davis, Shireen Ahmed, Brenda Elsey. I’m Lindsay Gibbs. Keep throwing those flames.