Episode 46: Discrimination in coaching and FIFA’s women’s league
This week, Shireen, Lindsay, and Brenda discuss discrimination in coaching in the wake of the University of Minnesota Duluth being found by a jury to have discriminated against former women’s hockey coach, Shannon Miller. Brenda interviews Gaby Garton, goalkeeper for Argentina’s National Women’s team, and then the gang talks about FIFA’s proposal for a women’s league.
As always, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and what’s good in our worlds.
Intro (5:50) Discrimination in coaching (15:43) Brenda interviews Gaby Garton (33:05) FIFA’s proposal for a women’s league (45:29) Burn Pile (51:45) Bad Ass Woman of the Week (53:58) What’s Good (58:00) Outro
For links and a transcript…
“‘A big day for women’: Jury sides with Miller, orders UMD to pay $3.74 million” https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/crime-and-courts/4418059-big-day-women-jury-sides-miller-orders-umd-pay-374-million
“FIFA Plans to Launch Women’s League” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/sports/soccer/fifa-womens-league.html
“Michigan colleges worry new Nassar-inspired bills might be too effective” https://thinkprogress.org/michigan-colleges-seek-delay-nassar-4fbe252a122f/
“‘A big day for women’: Jury sides with Miller, orders UMD to pay $3.74 million” https://www.duluthnewstribune.com/news/crime-and-courts/4418059-big-day-women-jury-sides-miller-orders-umd-pay-374-million
“FIFA Plans to Launch Women’s League” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/15/sports/soccer/fifa-womens-league.html
“Michigan colleges worry new Nassar-inspired bills might be too effective” https://thinkprogress.org/michigan-colleges-seek-delay-nassar-4fbe252a122f/
“Transgender Volleyball Star in Brazil Eyes Olympics and Stirs Debate” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/world/americas/brazil-transgender-volleyball-tifanny-abreu.html
“Rugby union: New Zealand’s national women’s side receive historic paid contracts” https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/mar/13/rugby-union-new-zealands-national-womens-side-receive-historic-paid-contracts
“Canadian keeper Stephanie Labbe joins a men’s league” https://www.thestar.com/sports/soccer/2018/03/13/canadian-keeper-stephanie-labbe-joins-a-mens-league.html
“Arctic Winter Games 2018” http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/topic/Tag/Arctic%20Winter%20Games%202018
Shireen: Welcome to this week’s episode of Burn It All Down. It’s the feminist sports podcast you need. In this week’s show, we have Brenda, associate professor and undeniable genius at Hofstra University who is currently in Argentina; the indomitable and brilliant Lindsay, sports writer at ThinkProgress in D.C.; and I’m Shireen, freelance sports writer, cat lover, and CBO of Burn It All Down in Toronto, Canada, CBO being Chief Badass Officer.
Lindsay: She gave herself that name, everyone.
Shireen: I gave myself that name. This week, we will be discussing Shannon Miller and coaching discrimination against women and LGBTIQ folks. Brenda has an incredible interview with the amazing Gaby Garton, who is goalkeeper of the Argentine women’s national team. And we talk FIFA and their ideas about women in football.
Before we get into it, let’s chat about March Madness. Lindsay, your thoughts.
Lindsay: Oh my gosh. A 16 beat the one in the men’s tournament for the first time ever and it was really exciting to see, I have to say. I was at a hipster bar in D.C., where nobody cared at all except for me, who was standing watching the game, gasping out loud every tine UMBC made a shot. And they just kept pulling away in the second quarter. Look, UVA, Virginia, hit … who was the number one overall seed, it must be said, making this more special. But they had just beaten my beloved Tar Heels in the final of the ACC tournament. So I was really … I’d never super believed in UVA and what they do, but after they … They were so good in the ACC final that I started to really believe, and they just got decimated. Look, I feel bad for the guys, but it was history. And it was really fun to watch.
Shireen: That’s amazing. I actually was really excited to see some shout-outs. The UMBC was shouted out by Layshia Clarendon, actually, so that was … but this was in the … The women’s team is the only two 16 seeds to ever beat a number one seed. And I think there was a lot of respect there, because UMBC replied back and said, “Harvard Women’s Basketball was the first. Don’t forget that. They laid the groundwork. It just took us 20 years to catch up.” So I was tickled pink by this sort of respect. I mean, it was really humble, and the UMBC, whoever’s running that Twitter account, they should get a pay raise because they’ve just been wonderful and enjoying the moment. It’s been really exciting and I think that for me … And we all know I’m completely obsessed with UConn. Gaby Williams loved my Tweet, so hi Gabby. She didn’t like it. She loved it. I think we know I’m a little [crosstalk 00:03:14]-
Lindsay: Is that a new Facebook … or is that a new Twitter button that I missed, the “Love” button?
Shireen: I’ll just translate it. We all know I’m obsessed with the Huskies. That’s no surprise. And they are my pick and I share the same pick as Barack Obama. I’m just going to lay that out there.
Lindsay: Yeah, you’re really going out on a limb with the UConn pick.
Brenda: Statistically impossible.
Shireen: But I’m not risque in my investments, okay? Let’s just say that. I love them and I’m totally obsessed with them, and hi everybody. Hi Batouly. Hi Kia.
Lindsay: They’re definitely all listening, so that’s good, yeah.
Brenda: They should be.
Shireen: But I love it. I love that the excitement over women’s basketball, college ball, because I live in Canada and we don’t see women’s university ball and we should. Canada, you need to wake up. But it’s really exciting, and the excitement over this is … I fell in love with women’s ball watching Syracuse. I fell in love about 13, 14 years ago because it was just so pure and so exciting. I just think that it’s wonderful. Bren, what about Argentina? Are you getting any news about March Madness?
Brenda: No, March Madness is a non-thing here. They’re not interested. Argentina has its own basketball league, which is really great and interesting and very technical. There’s a lot of interesting commentary on how the Spanish and Argentine leagues are different from the U.S. in terms of strategy and play. Sadly, though there is club women’s basketball, it certainly does not get television coverage that it should. I’m hoping to hit a couple games.
Shireen: That’s amazing. Isn’t Manu Ginóbili from Argentina?
Brenda: Oh yeah.
Shireen: Love him.
Brenda: He is one of the demigods of this place. His face is plastered everywhere, so … Manu Ginóbili, and also his brother. They’re icons next to, like a Messi, here and they’ve done a lot to charge basketball. It would be nice if there was a little [inaudible 00:05:19] in having Manu Ginóbili shout out the fact that these clubs have women’s teams, too, that could use a little support.
Shireen: Yeah, we’ll contact him and get on the [inaudible 00:05:29].
Lindsay: You can go through Timmy, right Shireen? You can go through … Just get Timmy to reach out to him.
Brenda: Yeah, that’s right. I hear they’re friends.
Shireen: I’m waiting for Timmy to email me back. It’s never happened. Shocking.
Lindsay: What are you doing, Tim Duncan? Get with the program.
Shireen: So, moving on. Lindsay, you want to take us in?
Lindsay: I would love to. All right. So let’s take you back to December 6 of 2014, when Shannon Miller, who is the coach of the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs hockey team, women’s hockey team … she coached them to a 4-1 win over Ohio State, which was her team’s 11th win in its last 13 games, making them the number seventh ranked team in the country in women’s Division I hockey. Her 375th career victory, more wins than all but three coaches in NCAA Division I history. Nine days after that, in 2014, she was, effectively, fired. The athletics director, Josh Berlo, at UMD said that this was one of economics. She was the most decorated coach in NCAA women’s hockey, which means she was also the sport’s highest-paid coach. So they just simply couldn’t afford her anymore.
However, at the time Miller stated that she would be willing to take a pay cut. She was already making $93,000 less than the men’s coach, and she said she’d be even willing to take even more of a pay cut than that, in order to remain in the job. But the university let her go. She then filed a lawsuit against the school, saying that her termination was a result of discrimination and that the university had retaliated against her for filing Title IX complaints while she was employed. Well, I actually have good news for you all. This Thursday, a Minnesota jury said that the UMD must pay her $3.74 million in lost wages and emotional distress. And she said, “It’s a big day for women. Women in general, but especially women in college athletics.”
Now this is a really … I’m really glad we’re talking about this, because I don’t think you can overstate what a big deal this is and how significant this is for women in coaching in college sports. In 1973, 90% of women’s sports teams in NCAA had female coaches. Today, that number is 43%. One of the negative things that’s happened from Title IX, there’s been a lot positive, but one of the negative things has been that as these women’s sports have received more investment by the universities, as they’ve had more incentive by federal law to have women’s programs and invest in women’s programs, these jobs became more desired, better paying, and therefore, went to men more often than not. So you’ve seen a trend of women in coaching who have been treated completely unfairly and not given the same opportunities, and not been treated appropriately. And we’ve recently had a couple of lawsuits that have showed that the law is beginning to recognize this, and that people can see this. It’s great to see these women coaches fighting back.
It’s very important to know that Shannon Miller … this is also a win for LGBTQ equality and coaching. She was harassed. She was called, I hate to even use this word but in her locker there were notes calling her a dyke. She was mistreated by the university … and that was a part of this, was sexual orientation discrimination as well. So look, it’s a big win for women and for LGBTQ women in coaching. What did you guys take from this?
Shireen: Well, first of all Shannon Miller’s a legend. She was a Canadian player as well, and she’s coached some former … She’s a former coach of the Women’s National Hockey Team. I think part of this process in University Minnesota Duluth was that it wasn’t just Miller. Her partner and former UMD softball coach, Jen Banford, and the former basketball coach, Annie Wiles, did file suit. It wasn’t just Shannon. This is a systemic problem at UMD that discriminates against women and LGBTIQ folks. I’m really, really glad to hear the settlement amount. She deserves it. She said something like she had applied to 27 jobs and couldn’t get anything. That’s horrific, particularly with a person with a track record like Miller’s. She’s undeniably a very talented coach and has taken that team far. I think it’s time that these men in these positions, and I will always blame the men because misogyny is the root of so much evil, that they pay up. They should absolutely remunerate her. Pay up. Pay up that money for being assholes. Pay up.
Lindsay: A man with her record would never have trouble finding a job. It’s inconceivable to think about that.
Shireen: Well, a man in her position would have never lost his job in the first place.
Lindsay: They always seem to come up with the money to pay the men. It’s amazing.
Brenda: Yeah, there’s always a man … these imaginary buckets of cash if it comes to saving a men’s program. Look at University of New Mexico, that’s just willing to forgive the debt of the entire sports program, despite it being in shambles in terms of the conduct of some of the coaching.
I think once I come back to … One thing that doesn’t get really covered in these discussions that I wish would, is that there is shared governance at University of Minnesota. This is a public … the whole system, this is a public system. It’s one in which taxpayers contribute to. It’s good to see the courts. I’m angry that it has to get there, that she has to wait that long, that it couldn’t come up to faculty vote, that the faculty just sit back and are complacent, basically, in letting these coaches run a university program. It doesn’t have to be that way. I always wonder to myself, why are faculty getting involved in this and how are they being shut down? Because they’re the one weighing here structurally that could solve this before she had to go for years and years and apply to 27 jobs. It’s a frustrating thing. It’s a great win. It’s just sad that she had to go to these lengths.
Shireen: Sure. Linds?
Lindsay: Yeah. I want to give a couple of shout outs first to my colleague at ThinkProgress, Adam Peck, who wrote our story on this lawsuit on Friday and who … A bunch of my intro was actually taken from his story, so he did the legwork there. But also to the Reveal for The Center of Investigative Reporting, who, I believe it might have been 2016 although it might have been just last year, did a big investigation. They really dug into Title IX and female coaches. One of the things their investigation revealed was not just that we have this problem of the percentages going down in women in coaching, but also that female coaches who witness or experience discrimination in their departments and report it to administrators are often swiftly fired or forced out of their positions. In many cases, allegations against the female coaches surface for the very first time after they report discrimination. In other words, all of a sudden, these complaints about their job performance magically appear out of thin air the second they go to the athletic director to talk about Title IX discrimination.
Annie Brown, who was the reporter on that investigation, found that in the past decade retaliation lawsuits have been filed by at least 29 female coaches and 8 female sports administrators against their university. When she looked deeper into these cases, she noticed that 13 coaches in retaliation cases were accused of mistreating or verbally abusing their players. In other words, there’s this pattern across college athletics in the United States of female coaches being accused of mistreating their players only after they come forward to complain about gender discrimination. Can we burn that? That’s just ridiculous.
Shireen: Absolutely, we can burn it. I think it’s also really important to recognize these systems that exist. The fact that you said “retaliation lawsuit.” It’s so sad that that has to happen, because we understand that these lawsuits are not cheap. It costs money and mental energy and emotional energy and so much labor to get justice. It really sucks that this had to happen in the first place with Shannon Miller.
Lindsay: Yeah, I want to give a shout out to Jane Meyer who actually won a big lawsuit. She was at the University of Iowa. She got, I believe it was a $1.74 million settlement. I’m sorry, that might be a little bit off, but it was above a $1 million settlement for Title IX discrimination. This just was earlier this year … or, excuse me it was May of 2017. She was an athletics administrator, and it was a very similar lawsuit to the one that Shannon Miller filed. $1.43 million in damages from the Polk County jury and university in Iowa. So it’s really exciting to see this trend, I would say, of women speaking up and finding justice through the court system, and hopefully that will … Apparently, doing the right thing isn’t keeping these male administrators in line, so maybe the threat of money will.
Shireen: Brenda, do you want to take us into your interview?
Brenda: Sure. While I was here in Argentina, I was luck enough to get to go to the women’s national team training, and take advantage of that opportunity and speak with Gaby Garton who had played for Rice University and is the goalkeeper of the Argentine national women’s team.
I’m so excited to be talking today with Gaby Garton, keeper for the Argentine national women’s team, professional club player here in Argentina, and also an amazing master student and scholar of the game.
Gaby, you’ve been playing in Argentina for five years now, professionally. Before that, you were at Rice University. How was your college career?
Gaby Garton: Let’s just say my time at Rice was a little bit disappointing. Growing up, obviously when you’re playing club soccer basically your main goal is to get to college and play at a Division I level and hopefully get a scholarship to do so. But honestly, my experience wasn’t anything like what I was hoping it was going to be. I thought it was going to be where you get there … and college is a great opportunity to grow as a player, as a person … and that the coaches were going to be capable of leading you through that. Unfortunately, it’s almost like the main goal, which is not so surprising I guess, is winning, right? That’s the bottom line. So a lot of times, coaches would find it easier to maybe recruit new players instead of working on the players that they had with them.
Also, I think a lot of the times I felt like this, and some other girls who probably didn’t get as much playing time as they would have liked felt as well, that their value for the coaching staff is completely based on what they could offer on the field. As a time in your life, when you’re going through college you’re trying to figure out what you’re going to be doing for the rest of your life. And when your whole value at the time is placed entirely upon how much playing time you get or what a coach thinks of you, it’s really difficult to work through that. Honestly, I actually still have nightmares. It was a time when I stopped enjoying soccer, almost. I dreaded going to practices. I still have nightmares, where I wake up sweating and so scared that I showed up late to practice … or dreams where I forget my cleats or my gloves or something at home, and I come back and am late for practice. It’s a strange fear of messing up that I felt was instilled in me during that time.
So honestly when I got the chance to play in Argentina, it was … the passion that I originally had for soccer or football, I guess, was reignited. Learning to enjoy it again and train without so much stress, maybe that fearing … training without the fear of making a mistake, I guess, would be the way I’d put it. Obviously there’s pressure because you’re playing at a club level, on a competitive level. But I felt the pressure was different than when I was at Rice.
Brenda: How did you end up on the Argentine national team?
Gaby: The way I got to the national team was kind of crazy. Honestly, I think if it hadn’t been for Rice, I wouldn’t be in Argentina probably, ironically enough. When I was going into my senior season, my goalkeeper coach at Rice told me that there was an incoming freshman who, her name’s also Gaby, who had had experience training with the U-17 national team in Argentina and had contact information for the coach. He mentioned that they were actually looking for goalkeepers. Through Gaby, I was able to get in touch with Carlos Borrello who’s the coach now, and he was the coach at the time. There was a period between 2013 and 2016 where he wasn’t involved in AFA, but when I was … this was in 2011, when I was originally getting in touch with him. He invited me down for a trial. I went for two weeks. I trained the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday schedule that they have now.
It was a really eye-opening experience for me. Coming from college, where you have everything in terms of material things, equipment, clothes … everything, you have everything pretty much handed to you and ready, you know? You show up for preseason and you already have four training shirts, shorts, all your game gear. They give you cleats. For goalkeepers, they would give us gloves, everything we really needed. And when I got to Argentina, when I showed up, I think actually it was wearing some Rice gear, the girls all liked the clothes. They were like, “That’s so awesome. Here we don’t get anything.” “What do you mean, you don’t get to keep any of the clothes you train in?” “No, you show up at the locker room. You get dressed in the clothes that they have set out for you. And then when you leave, you have to leave the clothes behind, like any other gear.”
And that was just one thing. It was also the fact that they had to pay for their own cleats. Girls who often, it was difficult to be able to put together enough money to buy a decent pair of cleats, especially since in Argentina any article of clothing and even more so for sports gear, is probably at least 50% more expensive than in the states. And you’re talking salaries that are at least a third of what people make in the U.S. monthly, and for these girls even less, probably. So it was just … [inaudible 00:21:29] was shocked and was curious as to what it was that kept them playing then, because they would also tell me that the league wasn’t that great and that they weren’t every really sure if they were going to get to play on the weekend because games would get suspended and then they’d get passed to the next weekend. A tournament that had 14 teams in it sometimes would last a whole year or more because of a lack of organization, and that they would sometimes get to play.
Things have improved since then. At that time sometimes they’d have four games scheduled in a month, but they’d only end up playing one because of weather. They wouldn’t play in the week, so games would get pushed on. But talking to them, it was clear that just being able to wear the clothes from the Argentine national team and being able to think about representing their country was something that was enough to push them and to continue playing in those conditions. At the time, there were very girls who were playing out of the country, so they were all pretty much in the league in AFA in Buenos Aires.
Something I’ve been thinking about, too, is they wouldn’t receive … They’re completely marginalized in AFA. It’s almost like you feel women’s football is a second thought, or even a third, fourth. A lot of times, people … I think less so now, because they have been receiving more coverage, especially after the letter that they sent. And when they went on strike, luckily the media has been giving them a lot more attention, a lot more coverage than before. But there are people who previously didn’t even know that there was a women’s national team.
This is something that also happens … When I eventually moved to Argentina in 2013, I was initially playing with River. And just getting to talk to people, I would mention that I was playing soccer for the women’s team, and most people didn’t even know they had a women’s team at River Plate. But it’s something that happens frequently. The men’s team gets immense amounts of coverage, and the women’s team is neglected. More so than just in terms of the coverage they receive, I think what shocked me when I first got to Argentina was the fact that you have these huge massive clubs like Boca and River who aren’t even capable of providing their teams with the gear they need.
When I got to River, they were training with clothes that had been used by the men’s team over two years before that or something. It was just all old, and some of it had holes in it. It didn’t really fit right. But I guess that’s something that’s unfortunately very common in most teams. And a lot of teams in AFA don’t even have their own training gear. They just have to train with whatever clothes that they have. I think it’s interesting that despite all this, especially the girls who play at the clubs that they’re huge fans of, especially at Boca, River, San Lorenzo, they’re willing to put up with those conditions to be able to wear the jersey that they’re wearing. But mainly just because of what that means in terms of men’s football, because Boca, River, and San Lorenzo for example, they’re well-known but because of what their men’s teams have accomplished.
The club that I have been playing for over the past two years, UAI Urquiza, is one of the clubs that invests probably the most out of the other clubs in AFA. I’m not saying that it’s perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I will say that I play at UAI Urquiza and most people wouldn’t even know what club I’m talking about. I think for some girls it was a source of pride to be able to say that they were playing at a big club, and for people to be taken in by that.
I don’t know, I think I got tired of that at River and that fact that yes, you’re playing in a big club but at the same time, your already-measly stipend that you’re getting wasn’t even a guarantee. Sometimes we’d get paid … Some months we’d get paid, and other months we wouldn’t. I’m talking about a stipend of about $20, maybe $30 a month. Some girls, if they were lucky, might have gotten up to $50 a month. But even so, there were times where they’d owe us three months of stipends, and there were girls who would have to pay for their own transport and their families couldn’t even hardly afford it and they couldn’t make it to practices. At the same time, they were still happy to be there. I guess it’s a good thing that they enjoy it, but at the same time it’s frustrating that that’s what you get used to in Argentina.
Brenda, you were saying that it makes you so upset to see the conditions that I play in, but the girls try to make the best out of it because it’s what they have. I think, slowly, things are going to change, but it’s going to be a long process. It’s going to take a big fight, from the players side and then also, hopefully, with this new administration in women’s football in AFA, they’ll be able to work alongside the players to improve the conditions and improve the league.
Brenda: Could you tell me about the collective letter that the team sent to the Argentine Football Association a few months ago?
Gaby: I wasn’t actually with the team in that period of time, but I was in contact with quite a few of the players who were involved. Mainly, the letter was, I think, a culmination of frustrations that the girls have been going through over the years. When they started training again after a two year break, they realized that the conditions were worse than when they had left off. They were training on a turf field. They were in a locker room that’s intended for futsal [inaudible 00:27:16]. We still change in a locker room that’s intended for a sport that involves about 12 to 15 players. We’re about, well when you look at the full number, about 20, 25 girls, so it’s kind of uncomfortable when you only have 6 showers and a limited period of time to get ready.
And then also, the fact that they weren’t getting paid their stipends that corresponded to them. A rough trip to Uruguay for a friendly, where they had to travel to Uruguay by boat where they left around 4:00 in the morning, had to wait on a bus before the game for about four to five hours, play the match, and then return by boat that same night, because the federation didn’t want to pay for a hotel. I’m pretty sure they didn’t get any money that was supposed to be paid for them for that day, either. And then in Montevideo, they had to wait on the bus until before match time before they could get into the locker room to warm up and stuff. They were on the bus for about five hours. Then tight after the match, they showered and had to head back to Buenos Aires the same night, and having to play an international match that same day.
So I think the letter was just a culmination of a lot of poor treatment pretty much, and feelings of not being valued at all by the federation, which are not inaccurate feelings. With the change in administration … The president of women’s football now is brand new. The one who had been there before him has been around since the 90s and pretty much just insured that the sport wouldn’t grow at all. I mean, some of the girls have the opinion that it was most convenient for him if the sport didn’t grow, because it would be easier to steal money or skim money off the top from the discipline. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I think it’s probably [inaudible 00:29:11].
With this new administration, there was hopes that their demands are going to be met. The new president is also the vice president of the club I was playing, UAI Urquiza. He’s done some really good stuff at UAI Urquiza, but there are also things, obviously, that could be improved in terms of stipends … and not just stipends, but other things having to do with work schedules and … When a player wants to leave the club, sometimes it’s very difficult for the club to give them permission to go to play at a different club, even if it’s outside the country.
Getting back to the national team, they wrote this letter, pretty much just demanding decent treatment. It wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Asking for a stipend that was reasonable to replace the hours of work that they missed in order to be able to go to practice and to cover travel costs, and asking to play on a grass field, asking for a locker room that’s adequate for the amount of players that were present at training. Since that letter, they didn’t actually come to a direct agreement, but the federation decided to come up with 200 pesos a day in terms of the stipend, so about $10 a day. And we’re training on a grass field, but we’re still in the same locker room as before. I think it was good for the federation to know that the team is willing to unite and to fight for things that are basic rights really, I think in sports, nothing out of the ordinary and definitely not even close to the same conditions that the men have. We’ll see what happens.
Brenda: Right now your team’s getting ready to play the Copa América. Copa América Femenina starts in Chile April 4th, and is the only tournament of its kind in the region. It qualifies the countries under Carnival, just for our listeners that might not know, for some really big events. So Gaby, what are your hopes? How’s the Argentine team looking?
Gaby: Despite the fact that we haven’t been training together for that long, I think that Borrello, the head coach, has managed to put together a very talented group of players. In addition to the girls you saw training the other day, there’s about seven or eight who are coming in from leagues around the world. There are some players coming who play in Spain and Brazil, in China. I think those are the three … oh, and one that plays in the United States. She’s definitely a huge part of our chances.
We have a tough first match against Brazil. That’s definitely going to be the biggest challenge. I don’t know, I think very even in terms of the rest of the matches. It’s going to be a tough schedule. We have Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia in our group. Bolivia is probably the least-developed country in terms of women’s football, but Ecuador and Venezuela have been taking huge strides in terms of bettering women’s football in their countries. I don’t know if it’s necessarily the federation itself or just the fact that it’s becoming more popular among women to play. They’ve definitely been having stronger performances at international tournaments than in the past. It’s going to be a tough group to get through, and then once … hopefully we get through the group stage. We’re going to need to finish in the top three to have a chance at qualifying for the World Cup and then the top two for qualifying for the Olympics. The whole top four qualifies for the Pan American Games.
Brenda: We wish you the best of luck in Chile next month, and we appreciate you sharing this incredible story of struggle and dedication with us at Burn It All Down.
Shireen: Brenda, do you want to take us into discussion about FIFA?
Shireen: Without vomiting.
Brenda: I’m going to try. Yes, I would love to take us into that discussion. This week, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, put together a number of proposals because they’re having an executive council meeting in Columbia. Among those proposals was this idea of a new global women’s league. As far as the proposal, the competition would feature 16 of the world’s top women’s national teams, and begin to play probably … I mean, it looked like, and I’m going to get into why this is difficult to articulate because, in fact, Infantino is not articulate at all. This is like a kid who did not do his homework and showed up and was like, “Oh well, there’s these plans that I have for a league.” It’s so ridiculous.
Anyway, he indicated it would be next year … that he’s going to pull this brand-new tournament together next year, and that FIFA would add four regional leagues. Very unclear, because there’s more than four confederations, so what regions is he referring to? God knows. This would encourage, according to him, the development of women’s soccer globally, and then there would be a system of promotion and relegation.
Now if you’re scratching your head, you should be. I mean, he has no idea what he’s talking about. This is the quote from him. This is the quote: “We are also thinking of creating a world women’s football league so that all federations can participate, because we should not lose sight of the fact that 50% of the world’s population is female.”
Shireen: End of quote.
Lindsay: Who’s losing sight of that?
Brenda: And how is a world women’s football league going to correct everyone’s supposed misperception that women are not half of the world’s population? No idea how those things correlate. Like I said, kid shows up, no homework, comes up with this stuff. So yesterday, I should mention that they decided not to do that, that the executive council said, “This makes no sense.”
Shireen: Yeah, it’s a logistical nightmare.
Brenda: It’s a logistical nightmare. It makes no sense. And just to give you … I just have to say a couple things … and just one last thing, okay? The New York Times did a story on this, and its reporter named … what’s his name? Oh, it’s Tariq Panja. He writes about men’s football, and this always drives me crazy. When you go to write about women’s football, find someone who gives a fuck about women’s football, okay? I’m sorry, he might be great about men’s football, but this is the quote that he said. He says, “The rationale behind the idea,” which by the way, has no rationale, so Tariq, I don’t know what you’re talking about. “Rationale behind this idea is to grow interest in the women’s game, which until now has been largely financed by the billions of dollars FIFA makes from selling the quadrennial men’s World Cup Tournament.”
Okay, women’s soccer is not largely financed by FIFA whatsoever. FIFA has required federations to spend annually, $38,500 on their women’s team. That means even [crosstalk 00:36:45]-
Shireen: Wait, that’s it?
Brenda: That’s it. With the salary of Infantino, you could fund 44 women’s national teams per year. Where are these billions of dollars? Anyway, they iced it yesterday. That’s what they call it, icing it, and it all sounds so slimy. I don’t know. Do you guys see … Maybe I’m being mean about the whole idea. Do you guys see any hope in a tournament like this?
Shireen: Okay, first of all I do not think you’re mean, at all. I think you’ve been handling Infantino, who I love that you call Johnny, with kid gloves. But I think that it’s ridiculous. I think that the entire idea that this is happening … We have to remember that when Infantino took over the presidency in 2016, he platformed largely on women’s football. They’d just wrapped up the women’s World Cup in 2015, which was extremely successful, and in my opinion basically saved FIFA’s ass, because at the time Sepp Blatter was in the high of his corruption. So I really think that women’s football pulled FIFA through incredibly, despite the lack of respect, remuneration, and just solidarity and amplification.
But Infantino is a politician. Like I was explaining to somebody yesterday, that the head of FIFA is not a person who’s a guardian or a supporter of the game, particularly the women’s game. It’s a political position. It’s incredibly political. And he strategized and decided to use women’s football as a key element in his campaign, which is what he’s doing. So he gets up there, and it’s almost like saying something like, “Climate change is bad, but I really don’t know what to do about it.” So he’s not getting cookies for declaring that women’s football exists and that women are 50% of the population. You don’t get cookies for that. You just don’t. No. The bar is low, yes, for FIFA but there are so many smart people out there, women in particular, that already know this. We don’t need him to come up with these.
I was reading the plan, Brenda. One of the other things that actually bothered me about this was, and Lindsay you can speak to this too, Tariq’s article was the one that was being recirculated. And the lack of writing about this also really irritated me … was the lack of people reporting on this. Even the Toronto Star, they just reprinted Tariq’s article, which as Brenda has said, completely debunked many of his points. So of course I’m going to slam the media, because I think the media is trash most of the time, except for us obviously. I get frustrated about the whole bit and how … I think that even they should have had a women’s executive speak to this, but they can’t because there’s none on the executive committee, so never mind.
Brenda: There’s only one, the former [crosstalk 00:39:34] Burundi.
Shireen: There’s one. Yes, that correct.
Brenda: And this is with all respect for Burundi, but that is not a soccer powerhouse that can go in and throw their weight around on an executive council, so don’t tell me that that wasn’t a particular choice.
Shireen: Yeah, exactly.
Lindsay: You know what’s so infuriating? It’s that they talk about how, okay yes, 50% of people are women, and what they mean by that is it’s a good idea, then, to develop this sport. Yet they’ve never once followed their own advice, so what they’re saying with that 50% thing is our point, right? It’s that yes, it is smart to invest in the women’s game because it is going to pay off, because this is 50% of the population and you want to dip into that talent. You want to have that as part of the sport. It only makes sense, you know? And instead, they just undermine themselves at every turn, because they don’t actually believe that women deserve the right to equality. They still, in their way, believe it’s charity, and it’s sickening. I don’t know. I’m over it.
Brenda: Think about how dumb this is just for a minute, because this is a whole level of dumb. 16 of the world’s top women’s national teams. Okay, go and look at world rankings for FIFA at the top, which by the way are crap anyway, because they literally rank people based on … Some of these national women’s teams like Argentina, have played one official match in the last four years. How do you even rank them? But whatever, Coca-Cola sponsors it and FIFA just keeps churning it out every three months. So, top 16. Top 16 would include what, two teams, three teams from outside of Europe and the U.S.? You could just call it-
Shireen: Yeah, I think maybe two, yeah.
Brenda: You call it super-global-north-developed-world tournament, because the only thing you’re going-
Lindsay: That’s catchy, yeah. That’s catchy.
Brenda: I can see the marketing for that. I mean, it’s like “White people play,” or something. Look, 16 of the top … all I can think of is Brazil … Shireen or Linds, you might be able to help me here. All I could think was Brazil, Japan. Who’s not in Europe? Canada, Australia, and the U.S. He didn’t even think about this, that those are obviously the top 16 places where women’s football is already developed, A-hole. That’s not where it needs to be developed. The idea to develop it globally means not paying attention so much to the top 16 women’s national teams. So his very structure of this is just ludicrous.
Shireen: I think FIFA should hire you to consult them, Brenda. I would pay to watch that happen, actually. You would just go into the FIFA Ex Co boardroom and sit down and lead. I agree with you. Development doesn’t mean just recognizing.
Lindsay, I really take heart to what you said about they consider it this form of pity, like “We’re just acknowledging you.” No. Women’s football is brilliant and amazing, and you don’t get to do that. I think the idea of growing it on a global game … I think Infantino is confusing the word developing with supporting and continued support, which is what needs to happen in Canada, in U.S., in Brazil, where we all know these federations have been absolutely horrible in dealing with their women’s teams. Continue to develop the game, yes, outside of that. They do have campaigns and places in the global south, but that’s not what it is. That can’t stop, and say “Oh well, we’re developing there and we’re going to do this.” Those professional women’s teams where the football culture is strong, still is very problematic in a lot of places, absolutely, but the women keep hustling. That needs the support of FIFA. He just wants cookies. I can’t even. I can’t even, with this.
Lindsay: Can I just add one short thing about this, too? I get into fights with FIFA’s PR people on Twitter, and it always sucks my soul. I’m going to die four years ahead of time, just on the basis of my fights with people like Alex Stone. I’ll just say, I’ve been to FIFA’s archives twice in Zurich, which is a creepy, creepy, creepy thing because they’re five stories underground, so you feel like you’re entering the evil Batcave. They will tell you, officially, they do not require any confederations to explain or account for women’s development money. That means it’s in the interest of every single federation to steal that money because they are crooks, by and large. They don’t have report, so they funnel it to the men’s game, and that’s why I know that Tariq doesn’t know what he’s talking about when he says that the FIFA money has “by and large developed the women’s game.” He has no idea because FIFA has no idea, and none of the confederations have any idea because they’re not required to report it.
And FIFA says this is something they’re … Literally, I have this quote from Alex Stone that says, “We are thinking about how to develop an accountability measure in the coming year.” [crosstalk 00:45:05] accountable. Oh my God-
Brenda: I only … we are thinking about making it … yeah. That’s not how accountability works.
Shireen: Like the other stuff, anything we talk about FIFA is this regard automatically goes on to the Burn Pile as well, so it’s this segue, this perfect segue.
Speaking of the Burn Pile, everyone’s favorite segment, Lindsay, you want to get us started on this?
Lindsay: I would love to. I’m going to take us back to our favorite friends in Michigan. We used to love-
Brenda: Not my friends.
Lindsay: Shout out for all of the content in Michigan. A couple weeks ago, I talk about how Rachael Denhollander and a few other Nassar survivors were in Michigan lobbying for these bills to improve laws for sexual assault victims in Michigan. It was an amazing group of laws that had bipartisan support, did things like increasing the statute of limitations and making more people mandatory reporters and … just really common-sense stuff that will make people safer.
Well, it seemed that it had so much support in the Michigan legislature. You know who didn’t love this? Michigan colleges. On Monday of this week, Michigan’s 15 public universities sent a letter asking lawmakers to delay the voting on these bills out of concern that the bills would have a “profound impact” and encourage survivors to “file a significant number” of lawsuits against such universities, churches, and grade schools. In other words, they’re worried that these laws are going to be too effective and help too many survivors. That’s why they want them to not be voted on.
The laws are still going forward. It seems like they still will pass in Michigan, but this is right out of the Catholic Church’s playbook, is what this is, which is lobbying against laws that will allow more victims and survivors to come forward to seek justice. It’s disgusting, and you’re simply not allowed to both say that you want things to be better and that you want to improve … you recognize that things are bad and you want to make things safer in the future, while also fighting against this pack of bills that will actually do that in a concrete way.
So I would like to throw that on the Burn Pile.
Brenda: This week, Brazilian sports reporter for Esporte Interativo, Bruna Dealtry was kissed on the mouth on live camera by a fan. This was a game … right now it’s going on in South America, it’s Copa Libertadores, which is where all the club teams play each other for … It’s like the champions league, but of South America. Vasco da Gama in Brazil was playing Universidad de Chile, and this fan kissed her on the mouth on live camera. It’s just so horrifying. And to watch her … She moves on. She doesn’t stop, actually. The guy went away, and she keeps interviewing fans and talking, but you can just see the paralysis in her body, and the discomfort.
She wrote this really amazing Instagram post, where she was talking about feeling impotent and feeling like she was unable to do anything, and then later how she felt even worse for not doing anything, right? She felt ashamed of her reaction. She wrote this post, which was really touching, and says … I’m doing a rough translation from the Portuguese, but, “Certainly this boy does not understand how much I sacrifice to be there.” She meant, to be a sports reporter. “How much I studied. How much I strived to be able to tell amazing stories and be in front of cameras showing everything live. Colleges, courses, many lost weekends. Tactical study, technical research. But for the simple fact of being a woman in the midst of this crowd, none of this had any value to him.”
I would like to burn all of that. I would like to burn the fan cultures that treat women reporters like this. Just mad love to Bruna and respect for her reaction, but burn that fan culture altogether.
Shireen: Torch it. I’m going to go next and say that I’d like to burn whatever Canadian hockey curse is out there in the world. We know that … and whoever is putting that curse on my beloved people.
Lindsay: It’s the United States, Shireen. It’s the United States.
Brenda: It’s Lindsay. I think it’s Lindsay.
Shireen: I didn’t want to get personal, but all right. We are so proud of all athletes, the para-athletes. The Canadian sled hockey team brought home silver last night, which was amazing. We’re so proud of them. We love them. In an upset, lost to the United States in overtime. It’s the second overtime loss of Canadian Olympic hockey players. That has dumbfounded us and whatever is out there, whatever grandma has put some type of curse on us, I don’t know. But I’d like to burn that, and I just … mad respect. I know this is a Burn Pile, but just want to shout out mad respect to the Canadian para-athletes, who brought home 28 medals, a big jump from the 19 that we had before. As this is a burn, it’s also a mad respect and love, but it is a burn of that curse. Because in four years, we will be back, okay? We will.
Lindsay: This is the first time I can’t shout, “Burn.” I can’t agree with this.
Brenda: See? She did do the curse. I told you. I told you, Shireen, Lindsay’s been way too happy with this situation.
Shireen: I know.
Lindsay: Look, I’m sorry. I’ve been doing this story, it will come out this week, on some of the U.S. para-athletes and the sled hockey team. This is their third gold in a row in the Olympics, and that’s just incredible and so I’m happy for them. I can’t-
Brenda: I’m going to burn it for you, Shireen. Burn.
Shireen: Okay, thank you. Thank you.
Moving on to our happy-happy, we can all agree this is happy. Goddess Woman of the Week, and the honorable mentions. This was really incredible. Julia “Hurricane” Hawkins, 102-year-old, set a record at the USA Track and Field’s Masters Track, 100 meters and 60 meters, with a time of 24.79. The video of this is incredible and we’ll link it, but 102 years old.
Also, Tiffany Abreu, who is the first transgender volleyball player in Brazil’s Superliga, has been inspiring legions of fans in Brazil on her route to an Olympic 2020, hopefully, appearance.
Chloe Rollie scored a try and extended Scotland’s lead over Ireland in Rugby, which is pretty amazing. The way that this went down was brilliant. So shout out to Chloe for also amplifying Rugby and Scotland.
On the note of Rugby, New Zealand’s Rugby Union is now offering 30 women paid contracts, which is the first of its kind. We know that the Black Ferns are the world champions currently in women’s rugby, so this is really incredible. And also shout out to Aubrey Bloomfield, a friend of the show, who gave us a hot tip on this.
I would also like to shout out, as an honorable mention, Stephanie Labbé who is a Canadian goalkeeper with the national soccer team, is actually the first woman to try out for the Calgary Foothills FC Men’s Under 23 Team, which plays in the Premier Development League, a third-tier league behind Major league Soccer and the United Soccer League. She is not playing with Washington Spirit anymore and decided to do this. Stephanie’s also been very, very, very open and honest about her struggles with depression and mental health. I just wanted to shout her out because I think she’s amazing.
So drumroll please, for Badass Women of the Week.
Brenda: That’s like guppies.
Shireen: We sound like toddlers.
Lindsay: We’re getting worse at this, is the thing.
Shireen: Congratulations to Shannon Miller. Just wanted to shout you out again. We had a whole segment, but well-deserved. We love you. We think you’re amazing, and may you keep rocking. Hopefully this is the start of a whole bunch of new things.
So what’s good, friends? Brenda, tell me what’s good.
Brenda: I’m back to teaching this week. Only in Spanish, so it’s a little bit daunting, a four-hour … They do four-hour blocks here. But it’s going to be something that’s going to press me, push me, stretch my brain. I’m really excited to learn from the students, just really excited, so that’s what’s good in my week.
Shireen: Awesome. Lindsay?
Lindsay: Yeah, a dear friend of mine, we celebrated her getting her Green Card yesterday, so that is good. I’m very excited for her. Next weekend, I’m going away on a little two-day vacation that will apparently involve me being in a cabin that has no Wi-Fi and no cell service. Bye! The only problem is that it’s March Madness, so that’s going to be really, really hard for me. My poor friends who don’t care about sports at all are probably going to have to trek into town so I can watch some games. Look, it’s part of my charm. You guys just have to love me. So [crosstalk 00:55:13].
Brenda: We’ll send you messages in a bottle, Linds.
Shireen: I’ll have a pigeon carrier service available. I’ll send that.
For me, I was really proud for the launch of … I’m part of this initiative called the Muslim Women in Sports Network. I’ve been working quietly with a couple of women, Rimla Akhtar in the U.K., [inaudible 00:55:33] in Australia, Nida Ahmad in New Zealand, and [inaudible 00:55:38], who is in Saudi Arabia. We had been having ridiculous Skype meetings, because everyone’s all over the world. It was someone’s midnight and someone’s 5:00 a.m. To put out a power list of 30 incredible women all over the world, globally, different sports, different ethnicities. And it’s a initiative by Muslim women, for Muslim women, to take back the narrative and amplify what we need to. I’m really, really proud of that and I think we did tweet it out from the Burn It All Down account.
Secondly, I am going on a cruise with my kids and my parents, and I’m very excited about it. I will not have Wi-Fi either, for seven days. I’m really excited about it, because the idea of being on this floating thing in the middle of the ocean really appeals to me. I’m actually a big fan of cruises and I’ve never been on one, so I’m super excited. I will report back. Hopefully I will get March Madness. I don’t know how that’s going to work on a floating thing in the middle of the water, but hopefully it’ll work, because [crosstalk 00:56:38]-
Lindsay: Floating thing.
Brenda: You guys are both out. What am I going to do? I’m going to be so lonely.
Lindsay: [crosstalk 00:56:46] will be there for you. We love [crosstalk 00:56:50]. Wait, Shireen, can I just say really quickly that I have read so many horror stories about cruises? So be nice to everyone you meet, okay? I know you’re lovely and nice to everyone anyways, but just be super duper nice.
Shireen: Super duper nice. Unless they’re American hockey person on Canadian hockey-
Lindsay: Shireen, Shireen the thing is, people … I don’t want to scare you, but bad things happen on cruises, according to every television show I’ve ever watched so-
Brenda: What about the Love Boat? What about the Love Boat? They solve your whole problems.
Lindsay: Just be nice. That’s what I’m saying. Channel the love, Shireen, because I know you’re very nice, but sometimes …
Shireen: I’m feisty? No, no, no. I love Lindsay gently nudging me to be a kind person. I love that.
Lindsay: I’ve just heard so many horror stories about people disappearing from boats and never to be seen again.
Shireen: Oh my God. No.
Lindsay: Sorry, sorry.
Shireen: I agree totally.
Lindsay: It won’t happen to you.
Shireen: I know. I will behave.
That’s it for this week in Burn It All Down. I do want to take this time to thank our flame [inaudible 00:58:05] for contributing to our Patreon campaign, and remind those that haven’t this is a great opportunity to do so. You pledge a certain amount monthly, as low as $2 and as high as you want, to become an official patron of the podcast. In exchange for your monthly contribution, you get access to special rewards. With the price of a latte a month, you can get extra segments of the podcast, a monthly newsletter, and an opportunity to record on the Burn Pile, only available to those in our community. We are so thankful for everyone who has contributed, and are still marching towards our goal of hiring a full-time producer to help us with the show. Burn It All Down is a labor of love, and we believe in this podcast. Having a producer to help us as we grow would be amazing, as would be the opportunity for us to all meet and go on the road for live Burn It All Down.
On behalf of Lindsay, Brenda, I’m Shireen, and that’s it for this week in Burn It All Down.