Episode 61: Pride Month Redux, and Gendered Violence and Sports (…again)
On this week’s show, Lindsay, Brenda, and Amira talk about a series of stories from the last week that fall at the intersection of gendered violence and sports. Then the group does a Pride month redux as the month comes to a close. Finally, Brenda interviews Jessica Lopez, football/soccer expert who works for Minnesota United and is a diehard Team Mexico fan.
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, and what is good in our worlds.
Intro (5:50) Gendered Violence (27:22) Pride month (38:08) Interview with Jessica Lopez (50:17) Burn Pile (57:33) Bad Ass Woman of the Week (1:00:31) What’s Good (1:04:54) Outro
For links and a transcript…
“The NFL’s spineless 3-game suspension of Jameis Winston is an insult to sexual assault survivors” https://thinkprogress.org/the-nfls-spineless-3-game-suspension-of-jameis-winston-c59419405cd0/
“Court Docs: Ex-Baylor A.D. Says Everyone Was In On The Sexual-Assault Coverup” https://deadspin.com/court-docs-ex-baylor-a-d-says-everyone-was-in-on-the-1827179602
“Without Disclosing Details, N.F.L. Fines Jerry Richardson for Sexual Harassment and Racist Comments” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/06/28/sports/football/jerry-richardson-nfl-panthers.html
“The Luke Heimlich case and why one baseball team’s pursuit is full of logical landmines” https://sports.yahoo.com/luke-heimlich-case-one-baseball-teams-pursuit-full-logical-landmines-133357057.html
“We need to talk about sexism at the World Cup” https://diversityguide2018.com/news/fare-blog-we-need-to-talk-about-sexism-at-the-world-cup
“Inside The W: Love & Basketball for Dupree, Bonner” http://www.wnba.com/news/inside-the-w-love-basketball-for-dupree-bonner/
“Staggering number of LGBTQ teens are excluded from school sports, new study finds” https://thinkprogress.org/lgbtq-sports-youth-exclusion-64773aa45997/
“The World, Wide Open” by Roxane Gay https://theundefeated.com/features/the-world-wide-open-roxane-gay-physical-transformation-bodys-unexpected-power/
“Amelie Mauresmo to become first female Davis Cup captain for France” http://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/23884594/amelie-mauresmo-replace-yannick-noah-davis-cup-captain-france
“Becky Hammon moves up, gets promoted by San Antonio Spurs” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/23927643/becky-hammon-promoted-san-antonio-spurs
“Pregnant LPGA star Stacy Lewis’ contract with KPMG should set a new standard” http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/golf/ct-spt-lpga-stacy-lewis-pregnant-sponsor-20180627-story.html
“Rapinoe on Body Issue cover: ‘Visibility is important'” http://www.espn.com/wnba/story/_/page/espnwbodybirdrapinoe/wnba-sue-bird-uswnt-megan-rapinoe-debate-better-athlete-body-issue-2018
Lindsay: Hello everyone. Lindsay here. I’ll be your host for today’s episode of Burn It All Down. But before we get started, I wanted to take a second to remind you all about our Patreon campaign. The Patreon campaign is the way we fund this show. Because we do this independently and don’t have big money sponsors, we rely on our listeners to help make this show work every single week. If you go to Patreon.com/BurnItAllDown, you can pledge monthly donations as little as let’s say $2.00 a month, whatever works for you. Those donations give you special access to Patreon only content. This week you might particularly love that because you might be not getting enough World Cup takes in your life. We have a World Cup podcast episode just for our Patreon listeners and a World Cup newsletter. Both of those things will will help you relive the entire group stages of the World Cup and get you some special insight going into these knock out stages, which by the time you’re listening to this are well underway.
So we just want to thank you all for all of your support and here’s this week’s episode.
Okay, everyone. Welcome. As I said, I’m Lindsay Gibbs, sports reports at Think Progress. Joining me today is Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor at Penn State, and Brenda Elsey, the associate professor of history at Hofstra. It is always a scary day for me when it is just me and the professors. So yeah.
This week we’re going to talk about the ways that pro and college sports leagues continue to fail when it comes to dealing with allegations of sexual assault. Then we’re going to recap the highs and lows of the Pride Month in sports’ world. Then we have a special interview where Brenda interviewed Jessica Lopez who is, Brenda, the writer for ESPN Deportes, is that correct?
Brenda: She used to be. She worked for many years on the Mexican team. Now she is the head of PR at Minnesota United and MLS.
Lindsay: Oh, perfect. I should’ve asked you that before the intro, but we’ll just keep it in. So yeah, so they’re going to be talking a lot about Team Mexico, which we’ve all fallen I love with.
So look, before we get going, we usually start at the top of show with some light hearted talk, but honestly, this week I’m having trouble if anything light hearted. It’s just want to take a second to acknowledge that it’s been a really, really tough week for I think all of us. I know for me the double whammy of the Justice Kennedy’s retirement on the Supreme Court and then the day later the shooting at the newsroom in Annapolis at the Capital Gazette, which was just about 30-40 minutes from my office where I work in a newsroom in downtown D.C. It was a lot. So Brenda, Amira, how are you both doing and yeah, how are we getting through this time?
Brenda: Usually I go into some sort of escapism during the World Cup, but I’m doing terribly.
Brenda: Communing with nature I would say. It’s summer so I do find myself like … I have a lot of … Where I live there’s a lot of things to pick and garden. I have a lot of blueberry bushes. So I find myself just sort of zenning out and picking blueberries. That’s the maximum bandwidth that I have. But yeah.
Lindsay: But that’s lovely.
Brenda: It is. It is. So like nature I guess. Something like that is the best I can do.
Lindsay: All right. Amira, how about you? How are you hanging in there?
Amira: Yeah. I mean, it definitely been a tough week in the usual kind of escapism or distractions whether it’s sports or kids or Netflix doesn’t really seem to be doing the trick. I think that it was just a week that I kind of took easy and I leaned into some of my kind of brilliant folks around me and used the kind of fuel of relationships and love to fuel the flames of activism. I think that that’s something that’s really helpful in times like these to look side by side and realize who will be in the street with you. Who will take to the street, and use that love to fuel a revolution. So that’s kind of where I am, which is somewhere between being absolutely mortified and angry and every day feeling like there’s a new whammy, but also existing every day and knowing that this struggle has been … Is part and parcel of a fight that has existed before me and will exist after me. That’s about where I am.
Lindsay: Those are inspiring words. Thank you. I’ve been struggling to come up with any inspiring words this week.
Brenda: It’s better than blueberries.
Lindsay: You know what though, blueberries are pretty great too. So it’s better than my thing, which has just been occasionally just laying in my bed and staring up into space and being like, “Oh my god. Oh my god.”
Well, anyways, I’m excited to get into today’s episode where I can’t say it’s going to get much more uplifting, but I’m excited for it nonetheless. There is one thing I can promise you, we are not going to be talking about Lebron James’ free agency here because the only thing we care about is that he’s happy and that he doesn’t go to Boston. Bye.
So this week we had a return of kind of an evergreen topic in sports, which is how leagues handle violence against women, especially allegations of sexual assault. So far it seems that it’s just not getting any better. This week the NFL suspended Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston for three games. Three games despite the fact that they agreed their investigation agreed that the account of an Uber driver who said that Jameis reached over and touched her crouch while in the middle of an Uber ride, which is sexual assault. So sexual assault equals three games. The suspension seemed to be negotiated between the NFL and Jameis Winston so that he would not appeal the suspension. So they wouldn’t have to go through an ugly legal battle like they did with Ezekiel Elliot case, domestic violence case last year. But also so that details of what happened would not be revealed to protect Jameis Winston in that way.
Also, some news out of Baylor this week where the former athletic director Ian McCall came out and talked about how this was a systemic issue at Baylor. It wasn’t just in the football program. He felt that many people in the football program were used as an escape because they were black men. Now he didn’t say that the football program didn’t have a problem, which I think is important to note, but he did say that in his opinion and from his time there, he felt that Baylor decided to focus and scapegoat the football program because of the fact that they were black men involved in these allegations and would get the rest of the university off and you could centralize the problem there.
We had Jerry Richardson who’s a former owner of my beloved Carolina Panthers who the result of his sexual harassment investigation came out. This investigation essentially pushed him out of the ownership and forced him to sell a few years earlier than he would like to. He’s selling the team for over $2 billion but was fined $2.75 million from the NFL and once again, no details of that investigation were released.
Then we have the fact that the MLB, folks in MLB are still trying for this Luke Heimlich redemption tour.
There’s just a whole lot to digest and let’s just dive right into it.
Amira, can I start with you? Let’s start with you and Jameis Winston. What are your thoughts on the NFL’s decision here?
Amira: Yeah, I think that it’s just so telling that they sealed the details.
Amira: Which makes you immediately like all your hair stand up and you’re kind of like, “All right, then.” It’s not a good look. There’s nothing about it that’s a good look. The fact that he was with Banks from Vanderbilt. The whole situation is so murky and disgusting. The NFL has shown time and time again that the way that it nets out discipline is really done with an eye towards public perception and not necessarily based on what’s going on. So I’m thinking here, for instance, of the Ray Rice punishment that only changed after the video was public despite the fact that they always had those facts, or the kind of witness in which they came down on Ezekiel Elliot with the six game suspension based on being able to kind of deal with public perception in that way and just come very strong because they thought that that would kind of sure up and look good for a legal that struggled with domestic abuse.
I think one of the things that we see in this case is sealing the contents of the letter so that we don’t know what they are evaluating makes it all very, very kind of sketchy to me because I think that this is a way of brand protection. The fact that you have a player with a known history then having another incident, and I feel like this is not going to be the end of it. Things don’t stay sealed anymore. So I wouldn’t be surprised if in six months the contents of the letter are revealed or we know the full extent of what happened, and all of a sudden we realize that the NFL was handing down a punishment that either didn’t work, didn’t fit what happened, which I don’t think is the case. I think it’s much more likely to be the fact that they could’ve done four games or six games or something else. So we have no way for a highly public case to really see what’s going on, but I don’t trust the NFL or Goodell one bit.
Lindsay: Yeah. I think that’s the hard thing. I mean, of course they made some sketchy decisions in the Ezekiel Elliot case. I went through all of the information that became public during those court battles, which that was such a fun fall that I had last year. There was a lot of reasons to be disturbed by Ezekiel Elliot’s behavior, and I believe that there were reasons for the NFL suspension. However, the way that they handled things was so sketchy. It made it seem like they were always trying to cover something up. So there’s no reason to completely trust them.
The same time, you look at this. I mean, this Jameis Winston, the Ezekiel Elliot case was looking at six or so incidents of domestic violence over a week long period. Whereas this was one night. It was focused in. It was one essentially action that we’re talking about, and the NFL’s letter and Jameis Winston did not deny said happen. So it just seems pretty clear cut.
Brenda: Yeah. It was sort of striking this week that the comparisons of suspensions given the actions of different players. Like a lot of journalists were reporting you included Lindsay from Think Progress about comparing the Winston games with other things like what was the marijuana one was 16 games.
Lindsay: Yeah. A full season for marijuana.
Amira: Or like Julian Edelman right now. They don’t even know what substance they suspended him for, games for. He has it on appeal. It’s like you don’t even know what you’re doing and that’s a game more than this.
Lindsay: Yeah. It’s a mess. It’s just so gross. I could talk about the Jameis Winston thing. The thing I wrote in Think Progress this week is that honestly it’s an insult to sexual assault survivors and I’m having a really hard time honestly dealing with this. Perhaps it’s the fact that there’s kind of no equivocation here. Jameis Winston is no longer denying the fact that he did this. The NFL, there’s no, “He might have.” It seems like everyone is saying, “He definitely sexually assaulted this woman, and we are giving him three games.” The clear cut-ness of that is I think what is … It’s really hard to stomach.
Let’s talk about Luke Heimlich. What do we think about the fact that I believe it’s the general manager, manager of the Kansas City baseball team, the Royals, who seems really determined that Luke Heimlich gets this redemption story.
Amira: Yeah. It’s just all such a shitty thing. I feel like people are really kind of digging their heels in. I mean, we see this all the time, but I think there’s a particular way that this case has been … There’s a lot of people very invested in redeeming Luke Heimlich. I don’t know if it’s a function of … I don’t know that it’s different than other kind of redemption tours. I don’t know if it’s because his actions happened when he as younger and a lot of people are trying to write it off as that. I don’t know. It certainly helps to win generally and win the championship certainly helping.
So I think that it’s just a particular investment. It reminds me of what happens when people very easily want to make themselves feel better by cheering for somebody with a questionable past. We talked about on this show about redemption and one of the things that we noted that just made this point that was particularly resilient is about what it means to sit there and have people cheering. So I think that the way that people really are investing in redeeming him is a kind of amplified rhetorical cheering. That’s kind of why it rubs me the wrong way. But it also doesn’t surprise me.
Lindsay: Yeah. Brenda?
Brenda: Yeah. I mean, that we talked a while about the Heimlich case and he was 15 at the time. We wouldn’t know about this if he hadn’t made a mistake in reporting to the … Because he’s on probation or whatever. I don’t know what you call it when you have to check in all the time but you were a minor when you did it. But whatever that is, we wouldn’t even know about this case really unless the mom wanted to go to the press. So it’s one of those … It’s a super complicated case. But what’s not complicated is why would you want to give … Forgive the metaphor. Why would you want to go to bat for this person? Why would you be like, “Oh, I know what I’ll do. I’ll make sure to drag this up for the victim and their family over and over again and spin it in a positive way somehow. A redemptive way.”
So it seems to me that there’s two kinds of issues. One is the case itself, which is super complicated. Then the other one is the decision of this Kansas City Royal manager to like keep this in the news and to be his kind of advocate.
Lindsay: Yeah. It’s mind boggling. It’s absolutely mind boggling.
Let’s talk about this Baylor report. Amira, did you read anything about this what was going on at Baylor and Ian McCall’s comments about this football program being used as essentially a scapegoat?
Amira: Yeah. I was like water is wet, that kind of …
Lindsay: Yeah, right.
Amira: Yeah. I think that actually our very own Jess Luther makes this point really strongly in her book on sportsmanlike conduct, which everybody should go read. But this idea that it’s very easy to use black athletes, especially black male athletes, at these predominantly white institutions to be the scapegoat for all sexual assault problems. Use that as a way that not only one … Not to say that that’s not a place where we can certainly say, “Hey,” especially at Baylor. There’s a lot of terribleness happening with that. But there’s a way that that’s used to act like that’s the only space in which this is happening. Therefore let’s not worry about other campus assaults or let’s not worry about the kind of rampant culture in Baylor that might be really toxic and problematic. I think it’s very similar to me the way that in the NFL, for instance, the issue of say domestic violence. That’s something that’s really amplified, and so it has created this kind of way in which we talk about domestic violence in the NFL as if it’s a uniquely NFL problem in terms of black NFL players in particularly being more prone to domestic violence when we know that that’s just not the case.
Now the way they bungle discipline for it, all of this is worthy of our condemnation and our attention. But we can’t slip into this idea that black male athletes are more inherently violent or domestic abusers or sexual assaulters because we know that there’s all of these people in Fortunate 500’s. We know that there’s lawyers. We know there’s doctors. We know that this stretches across all of society, and the idea that we can talk about these things with black male athletes and then use that as a shield to like put up a … What do you call it? Like a window dressing on the fact that there’s much more deep seeded rampant problems. I think that this just kind of reminded me of that.
Lindsay: Yeah. Completely agree. I mean, we’re sitting here talking about Jameis Winston, a black athlete, today and Luke Heimlich, a white athlete, a white male. The way that … I mean, look, Jameis Winston has benefited from tons of privilege based on the systems that he’s existed within. We call can agree and this is the point that I also think that Jess makes so well in her book, which is that these systems are what is propping up these black male athletes. It has nothing to do with them as individuals. It’s all about protecting the systems, which are still run and profiting white men who are in power.
Lindsay: There’s just so much here. Brenda.
Brenda: Talking about white male systems, an actor in all of this this week that doesn’t get enough attention I think are the PR firms.
Brenda: JF Bunting is the one that got mentioned in the Baylor one, which is a well known … One of the things that it is just I don’t want to say the f-word, but it is fucking amazing that you have a PR firm that literally says on its website it specializes in Title Nine. By specializing it means we specialize in making universities act like they actually institute Title Nine.
It’s amazing to me that they’re allowed to do that, and they came up in the Baylor case and they’ve been hired up and down. They use people from the media to quail stories, to insight stories, to make these redemption cases possible. They do the work for journalists that then pick it up, not good journalists, but that pick it up like the New York Post. They sort of harass journalists that are good and want to do investigative stuff.
So anyway, I just want to say one of the ways in which all of this gets spun for us, it’s not only that our own kind of racist and sexist assumptions come in to play as consumers of this media, but it’s also that we’re being fed it.
Brenda: In this way by people who are super professionals at this.
Lindsay: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. Who know how to hit all of the buttons.
I mean, honestly, that takes us back to Jerry Richardson in my opinion. I mean, I honestly haven’t fully processed this. I mean, I’ve never been a Jerry Richardson fan even though I’m a lifelong or the Carolina Panthers born when I was like nine years old. I’ve been going to the games ever since. For their whole life, I’ve been a super fan. But I’ve never loved Jerry Richardson and always known that he was a racist asshole. But at the same time, I mean, these allegations that came out against him in Sports Illustrated were incredibly disturbing. I mean, he would … The way he would make women give him feet massages, like professional women at the office. The way he webinized non-disclosure agreements, which hopefully this will become outlawed within the NFL. That’s one big thing that could actually be a good thing to come out of this is the making these type of non-disclosure agreements against the rules. I mean, he would feel up women, you know, in this weird old man way of, “Oh, I’m just kidding.” It’s just, I don’t know. It’s sickening and he’s the leader of the team. He was the guy.
Honestly, I still haven’t completely processed it and it seems like he’s getting away completely Scott free. Amira, I know you had some thoughts on this.
Amira: Yeah. I mean, I think it ties directly into what we were talking about and what Brenda just brought up about PR. The way that, again, this is shrouded in PR speak and lack of details. I think that’s really interesting to note, for instance, that the league funded investigation was not even investigation into a full investigation into an accounting of what happened under Jerry Richardson. Rather it was seeking to confirm the details of the allegations made in SIPs and otherwise and ended up literally being a report that said it substantiated the claims and identified no information that would either discredit the claims. Then left it at that. So what we’re left with is this very PR term of workplace misconduct, right? Which covers up that not only the kind of sexual assault allegations but the litany of racist comments that he made. It has left his victims to basically and survivors of this improper conduct to speak out to weight violating their non-disclosure with being really forthcoming with like what exactly happened in order to give us the full breath of it. This is not workplace misconduct. This is not like a simple improper conduct of not having good workplace manners or not refilling the coffee or whatnot. No, this is somebody who has a history of businesses that have been sued for discrimination, racial discrimination, that have had a history with this.
This is somebody who for years is accused of making sexist, grotesque sexist comments, racist comments, and we should label it as such. The fact that we don’t is this PR spin. I think that that’s really important to note that it falls in line with this idea that the worst thing you can call somebody is a racist. So you use things like racially charged or improper workplace conduct instead of saying, “No, we found that he is racist as shit. He’s a misogynist and this is what the deal is.” It kind of softens it.
So I think that it’s really part and parcel of everything else we were talking about. There’s a way in which this was barely a blimp on the radar. If you were just looking at this coming across your Twitter timeline or scrolling credits at the bottom, it would say, “Jerry Richardson fined $2.75 million,” whatever it was, “for improper workplace conduct.” That’s it. That’s all you hear, and yet we’re wall to wall on something like Jameis Winston where we still don’t know. The NFL has kind of shrouded it. But yet, it’s something that is wall to wall coverage. So you can see how people walk away being like, “Oh, the NFL’s biggest issue is these black athletes who are pathologically inclined to these actions,” then not being able to see this systemic abuses of white owners.
It reminds me of Jim Irsay and how quickly we all forgot about how much drugs he was carrying in his car, for instance. So I think it’s all wrapped up together and it’s just something I think, Brenda, you hit the nail on the head when you talk about PR spin, which is such a necessary part of this conversation. He’s a racist. Say he’s a racist.
Lindsay: He’s a racist.
Okay. Moving on. Pride Month in sports has just wrapped up and it ended with some pretty big few fronts, both positive and negative. Amira, do you want to get us started?
Amira: Yeah. Wrapping up Pride Month, I want to start with and acknowledge Collin Martin who’s the MLS … I know, exciting. Who plays Major League Soccer for Minnesota United, which didn’t you just say, Brenda ..
Brenda: Jessica Lopez’s team.
Amira: Yeah. You’ll get the connection. So Collin Martin announced just a few days ago on Pride Night that he wanted to formally come out, becoming the second openly gay player in the MLS. Currently, I believe like the only openly gay U.S. male professional athlete and active professional athlete. He put out a statement right before the game where Minnesota United was hosting a Pride Night saying, “Tonight my team Minnesota United is having a Pride Night. It’s important night for me. I’ll be announcing for the first time publicly that I’m an openly gay player in Major League Soccer.” He goes on to say that he’s been out for many years, including to his friends, family, and teammates. He’s played in the MLS for six seasons, and he’s only received kindness and acceptance from everywhere in MLS and how that has made the decision to come out publicly much easier. He ends with this, he says, “As we celebrate Pride Night, I want to thank my teammates for their unconditional support for who I am. In light of my experience as a professional athlete, I want to take this moment to encourage others who play sports professionally or otherwise to have confidence that sport will welcome them wholeheartedly. June is Pride Month and I’m proud to be playing for Pride and for playing as an out gay man.”
I think these words were so important given the other news that we had this week reported very eloquently by our own Lindsay Gibbs, and the huge disparities that have been found in LGBTQ teams being outside of school sports. This recent study that Lindsay wrote about this week shows that only 24% of LGBTQ youth say they play a school sport compared to 68% of the national sample for CIS gendered or non-LGBTQ youth, which is a staggering disparity.
Linds, I was really taken and captivated by this reporting. Do you want to speak a little bit on it?
Lindsay: Yeah, absolutely. I was blown away by it too. The people at the Human Rights Counsel who work on this and who are more well vetted in the issues, they weren’t as surprised by this sample difference as I was. 24% compared to 68% is just horrifying and furthermore, only 14% of transgender boys and non-binary youth and 12% of transgender girls participate in school sports. This is despite the fact that this study also found hard numbers to prove that participating in sports actually makes LGBTQ youth have a less … They’re less likely to be depressed. They’re less likely to feel hopeless, and they’re more likely to feel like part of the community.
So we know that the LGBTQ youth face many challenges. Sports is a way to really help them and help them be part of the community and help them feel part. Yet, they still seem so inaccessible to LGBTQ youth. There’s a lot of reasons for that. I mean, coaches. Most coaches don’t think that there are any LGBTQ youth on their teams. It’s because 80% of LGBTQ youth aren’t out to their coaches according to this survey. So most coaches likely have LGBTQ youth on their teams, but just don’t know it. When you go to other things such as the locker room culture, one thing that really gets me is how it’s always been portrayed as both gay, lesbian, and bisexual people in locker rooms are threatening because they might be attracted to you while you’re changing, and oh, that’s not safe. Also, of course, the transgender people are in the locker room as some sort of scheme, evil scheme. When in reality, it’s the LGBTQ youth who are feeling unsafe in locker rooms. They’re the ones who aren’t feeling welcomed in locker rooms. They’re the ones who we need to make locker rooms a more welcoming space for because just locker rooms in itself I believe are one of the biggest barriers to getting more participation in sports.
So yeah, there were reasons to celebrate this here at the end of Pride Month. In the WNBA, there was an exciting moment where DeWanna Bonner and Candice Dupree who are married and have twins. Dupree gave birth to their twins. They actually played each other as opponents for the first time on Friday night. That was really cool to see wives facing off.
You also had …
Amira: That’s the thing about the WNBA is that you get not only wives facing off, you have ex-wives facing off. I don’t understand why nobody would want more. This gives you great storylines.
Lindsay: I get mad because I feel like people think when I focus on this stuff that … I think people get afraid to bring it up because they don’t want people to just focus on that. But look, I love gossip. I love gossip in men’s sports. I love gossip in all sports. So I would like to talk about it. I’d also like to break down the game, but if there are wives or ex-wives playing against each other, yes please.
So anyways, you also had this week Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird on the ESPN Body Issue, which was one of the best things I have ever seen in my life. So there were these three really, to me, big moments here at the end of Pride Month, and yet this study came out that just showed there is so much more work to be done. Brenda?
Brenda: Yeah. So far, I mean, I’ve been more wrapped up with the World Cup this month and all the fears about Russia and what could happen given the Draconian Laws against informing children about homosexuality in Russia and a series of problems with Putin administration. It’s interesting because … I hate to like say this because I’m really negative. But it hasn’t been as bad as we thought.
Brenda: I have to celebrate that. DP chant went away after the first Mexico game. The players plead with the fans like, “Oh, stop. Please. Please. Please, stop. You’re hexing us entirely.” That was really great to see, and so I guess for this month, the month that I thought would be way worse, I’m a little bit hardened to see that … That has to do with the work of organizations like Fair and tons of grassroots organizations. It’s not like this is just happened.
Lindsay: Right. Amira?
Amira: Yeah. In honor of Pride Month and wrapping it up, I thought that I might bring a little bit, a little small piece of LGBTQ sports history, particularly to talk about exactly what you just said, Lindsay, how sports can be a really important pivotal space and why inclusion is such an important thing. Inclusion and representation.
In 1977 in the Pioneer Valley where I grew up in Western Massachusetts, there is a really infamous lesbian softball league. It began in 1977, and it was specifically aimed at providing lesbian and their friends a feminist sport’s place where they could come together safely, have social activity, share kind of political ideas, and also have fun. This was a philosophy of inclusion with any woman regardless of ability and race. There was women who were disabled who played. Women of all kinds of races and ethnicities as much diversity as you can pack into the Pioneer Valley. Essentially, this grew. It started out with just six teams with names like the Hot Flashes or the No Nukes of the North. It grew up to, during the height of the league, to 16 teams.
In 1991, it was officially renamed the Mary Vazquez Woman’s Softball League to recognize Mary Vazquez who had such a important organizing kind of effect and skills. It’s something that I hold very near and dear to my heart because as I was growing up, it’s not a secret, my adoptive parents are lesbians from Massachusetts. Their friends played in this league. I grew up going to these softball matches that were still very active well into the ’90s when I was a child. The community that was there was something that still stays with me. Just a place where people can congregate and find support. It was a place for organizing in activism. It was a place where you could come and play sports and feel included, but also leave with a sense of comradery that lead them to other forms of activism and other forms of protest and just defining themselves in saying, “We have a space. We demand a voice. We’re together in this.”
It was just something that popped into my mind as we were wrapping up Pride Month discussion and also thinking about what it means to live in the times that we do. I think we can take a lot of instructions from lesbian softball teams from the ’70s that showed us the importance of sports and how sports can be a communal space that validates your identity and helps you organize who those around you is the best part of sports in many ways. So that is your quick history, your Pride Month history. You can check it out. There’s a great documentary about it called In League With Us, the Mary Vaquez Women’s Softball League. If you want more information about it, and yeah.
Brenda: So now that we’re out of the group stages, I wanted to sit down with an expert on Mexican fútbol or soccer, if some of our listener feel more comfortable with that. Jessica Lopez, the public relation’s manager for Minnesota United and who’s also done work on Mexican football with ESPN. Welcome to Burn It All Down.
Jessica Lopez: Hey. Thank you so much for having me. I’m psyched to be here. Always a good time talking about Mexican soccer. So I appreciate you guys inviting me on.
Brenda: Well, we’re pretty excited right now about Mexican soccer too. Do you want to tell us were you surprised about their game with Germany, or is it just that we don’t get enough intel on Mexican soccer that we wouldn’t have been surprised if we would’ve had more info?
Jessica: So I originally predicted this as at least a draw. I thought Mexico was going to get something out of that game. But to go into a game like that against a team that you have never beaten in a World Cup, I think there’s always an element of surprise, right? For me, I was surprised at the way that Mexico just went out and attacked that game from the start. It looked like within that first 45 minutes, they had already kind of broken Germany. Then [Lozano] scores his goal and then after that, just going counting by five minute, 10 minute increments until this game is finally over. You’re on the edge of your seat just screaming every single time we’re in the box. So I don’t think that I was necessarily surprised. I thought that Mexico could get something out of that game with a coach like Juan Carlos Osorio who is just absolutely obsessed with planning his tactics. You know he said something after the match that he had been preparing for that specific game for six months. So, you think about it like that and all of his kind of tinkering and the different rotaciones that people talk about and stuff like that, seemed to all kind of connect into that one amazing 90-minute period.
Brenda: So what happened to them game three?
Jessica: Game three for me had a little rotaciones feel to it.
Brenda: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Jessica: In dropping back down to earth after these first two games where it really felt like Mexico was playing with that love of winning, which is they just had this free feel about how they were playing with so much confidence after Germany. Then they approached that game. It was the first time in 51 games in charge that Osorio had decided not to do his infamous rotaciones, right? So this was the first time that he had done two consecutive, the same lineup back to back, right?
Brenda: So explain to listeners that don’t know. They know Osorio is a Colombian coach, who’s really well known in Latin America. So explain what that … Maybe for our listeners that don’t know what are his rotaciones?
Jessica: So the rotaciones are essentially just this is a coach who rather than sticking with the same starting 11 all the time, he is constantly rotating guys in and out. So you look at each player on this team and every guy knows that they have a role, that they could be needed, and yeah, essentially just that he loves to tinker. He gets a lot of … What’s the right word for this? Just like a lot of backlash from folks in the media or anyone who disagrees with his rotaciones, but he’s just a guy who never really settles. He’s always thinking about the next step. A guy who I would definitely not want to play chess against or something like that because he’s just seems like mastermind to me. I’ve always loved the way that he approaches games, but for the Sweden game, he said something after the match that he felt very sad. This was the first time against a team that is so direct and physical and strong. Like Sweden, this was the first time that he hadn’t approached it with his sort of three center back, one defense one lineup that he had used in the past.
So it’s one of those things where I think that Mexico did approach the game trying to win, but it just didn’t work out. Whether it’s on Osorio not switching things up or the players not being 100%. There were a few guys Edson Alvarez is super young. The captain Andrés Guardado. Just some guys who didn’t have their best game. You had Hector Moreno getting a yellow card so now he’s suspended for the next match. Mexico tried to play. They just tried to play through the middle of a team that was so compact. It felt like they had two or three more guys on the pitch than Mexico at any given moment. Just one of those games.
Brenda: What do you think it means right now in this political moment for Latinos in the U.S., Mexican Americans to see Mexico represented on this world stage in this really positive way?
Jessica: Oh, man. That’s a tough one. I feel like it’s tough because it is just so massive. What they were able to pull off against Germany and just kind of the mindset that this group of players, first and foremost, I think it’s just a wonderful, super lovable group, and to see them giving their all on the stage, producing incredible moments like that. You have guys like Chicharito who are saying imagenemos cosas chingonas. Just saying that we’re really trying to believe amazing in order to not say it in a more vulgar way. Just incredible things are possible here. Not only that contrasting that with the fact that there have also been some positive changes in the sense that the goalkeeper chant has stopped. I think that’s a huge positive on the world stage to show that this fan base and this group of players, the federation, the league can all come together and say, “You know what, it’s time for this to finally be done,” which should’ve happened a long time ago in my opinion.
It’s huge. It brings me to tears most of the time after any of their games, a win or a loss. It’s just so much emotion. Such a time to just be able to share and appreciate. That’s the kind of stuff that I love about the World Cup.
Brenda: Yeah. It felt like, and Chicharito as far as I know actually was one of the leaders of the campaign against the homophobic chant, the p chant.
Jessica: Yeah. You saw once the World Cup kind of kicked off and Mexico had that $10,000 fine after Germany because there were chants during that game. You saw after that a lot of the players, Chich included obviously, you saw other guys like Marco Fabian and a number of others posting on social media and being like, “We got to do this. We really got to …” Just urging the fans to change that, which is special to just see all of those folks come together.
Brenda: Yeah. Do you think … I mean, what do you think for the fans in the U.S. versus … Do they have a different culture, different futbol culture from Mexican fans in Mexico, or do they have a kind of … Is there a sort of pan Mexican futbol culture?
Jessica: To me, I kind of … As somebody who’s worked on the sport and particular with this team in Spanish and in English, I think that the passion ad love for the team is cross cultural, cross border. Fans in the U.S. share that same emotion and just die hard love of this squad as folks in Mexico. I think you see that more and more with the national team improving their efforts to reach that audience. So yeah, with their English language channels, but I do think it is something that crosses borders and all of us are really just sharing that same passion. Whether it’s folks in the Los Angeles area or in Mexico or wherever else they may be.
Brenda: What do you think Mexico’s got to do against Brazil?
It’s not easy.
Jessica: So if you can beat Germany for the first time in a World Cup, there’s no reason why you can’t beat Brazil, in my opinion. I think it’s Mexico not trying to change too much, approaching the game with more confidence, the confidence that they took into the game against Germany. So it’s a tough one because I feel like in the World Cup you can say as much as you want in terms of tactical preview, how’s the coach going to switch things up. You have Hector Moreno who is now suspended, which is a big change. So somebody’s going to have to come into Mexico’s defense. Whether that’s pushing Layún back from the right wing, bringing in Hugo Ayala. There’s a number of different changes that Osorio could make, but my and large I think it’s kind of trying to do some of what they did against Germany in the sense that they got those wide guys like Chichi and Carlos Vela in when the German outside wingbacks and stuff pushed up more and more, which I think is similar to what Brazil can do.
But it’s the game before the “la Quinto Partido,” which is always a challenge for Mexico over the years. So you’re going to need a little bit of luck in addition to that, and just kind of going with that love of winning and this feeling that here is a group of players who at least from a distance genuinely seem like they’re all in. They support the coach, they are bought into his system, they’re bought into each other. So for all those reasons, I think it’s an amazing team to watch, and I think that I genuinely feel confident that they can get something out of that game. I have them advancing but I wouldn’t be able to bet against them.
Brenda: Can you explain to our listeners what’s the Quinto Partido?
Jessica: Sure. Yeah, so I mean over … I’m trying to think. It’s been since like 1990. Pretty much for my whole lifetime, Mexico has not been able to make it to that Quinto Partido, the fifth game, in the World Cup, past the round of 16. So you look back to there are always these events that happen every single World Cup that just kind of just some stroke of misfortune and Mexico seems like they’re on the verge of making it. Something happens. In 2002 is where the dos a cero kind of originated when they met the U.S. and they lost 2-0. After that, there was a crazy goal against Argentina for winner in like the 90-something minute in 2006. 2010, they lost gain. 2014, which I think is actually a year or two the date that we’re having this conversation when, or four years to the day, I’m sorry, that we’re having this conversation when No Era Penal happened. When Mexico went up against the Netherlands in the round of 16 and Robben went down in the box. They called it.
Brenda: The reason I had to VAR then. I wish we had the VAR then.
Jessica: If we had VAR then, it’s a good point. But yeah, so Quinto Partido is really just this curse that seems like it’s been around the national team for decades at this point with Mexico trying to make it past the round of 16, and always having to go up against the Netherlands, the Argentina’s, which is inevitable once you get into the knock out rounds. But it’s a curse that I’m hoping they can break this time around.
Brenda: Well, at Burn It All Down, we wish you and Mexico the very best of luck this week, Jessica, and thank you for being with us.
Jessica: Thank you so much for having me. Again, I really appreciate it.
Lindsay: All right, everyone. It is Burn Pile time. I’m going to kick us off with what is now a weekly edition of what’s burning at Michigan State University?
This week we have the fact that Michigan State University and particular our friend and our own president John Engler moved Robert Kent from his role as assistant general counsel into the job of interim VP of the office of civil rights and title nine education and compliance. You might be thinking, “What is this big deal there, Lindsay?” Well, to put it in plain terms, this means that the man who defended Michigan State against all of these sexual assault lawsuits is now going to be heading the office that handles sexual assault complaints.
Amira: Oh, jesus.
Lindsay: Just let at set in.
Amira: You can’t make this up.
Lindsay: Well done Michigan State. Burn it.
Amira: Yeah, burn.
Brenda: I have a shameful alumni burn there.
Brenda: Yeah, I’m an alum. That’s an extra burn on Michigan State. It burns me too.
I want to burn the racist actions that took place on the Mexican show Un Nuevo Dia, which is also Mexican-American, more than just Mexican El Telemundo. The two hosts James Tahhan and Janice Bencosme made a racist eye gesture in celebration of the South Korean 2-0 victory over Germany. They’ve been suspended and it’s unclear what Telemundo will do with them. But it’s like are you kidding me? Really? Are you four? In 1940? I mean, what is like … When this seems so anachronistic, I mean, obviously racist, horrible, and then on top of it, it’s unbelievable to me that that’s even in the repertoire of racism anymore. It just seems so like we’ve done so much work to try to bring attention to why this is so awful and hurtful, and there they are on a morning show doing it when they’re so supposedly grateful to South Korea because if South Korea didn’t beat Germany in that way, then Mexico wouldn’t go on. They did it in Mexican National jerseys. It’s so awful to see. It’s so awful to see. Of course there’s a very large Asian community in Mexico that’s frequently erased on top of it. So it’s not only racist externally. It’s racist internally.
Amira: It erases all the great feelings it was having of the Mexican-Korean solidarity that we were talking about, and if you want more of that discussion, check out our hot take.
Brenda: Yeah. So anyway, I want to burn that, especially in this week where Mexicans are being caricatured by other very racist forms of … Whether it’s in the government or on the streets, and our president that has used racist, violent language to describe immigrants, to defame Mexicans. So then to see this on Telemundo is like this is the same system that is demonizing Mexicans. Then it in Mexico with a Mexican National jersey was so disappointment to me and so not what my Mexican family community is like. So I want to burn the gestures of those hosts.
Amira: Yeah. I want to burn the reactions to the correct … Okay. Let me back up. So Messi scored a goal, as he’s ought to do, and one of the things that that set off was people declaring him the first player to have ever scored a World Cup goal as a teenager in his 20’s and his 30’s.
Lindsay: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Amira: Many people took to Twitter to note that he was not the first player. Rather, the first man to do it. Julie Foudy, for instance, retweeted a tweet and said, “Um, Mia Hamm would like a word.” Mia Hamm completed this feat as well as Sunwin of China who completed in actually the same World Cups as Mia Hamm did. So this simple correction by saying, “Oh, FYI, he wasn’t the first. He was just the first man.” Just factual and accurate, but like that doesn’t detract from the celebration. It’s still an amazing feat.
The reaction to people simply saying he wasn’t the first is what I want to burn because the pearl clutching, the ridiculous way that people get so riled up. It reminded me of during March Madness when this happened with UMBC being like, “They’re the first number one seed, or sixth in seed to knock off a number on seed,” and people just was like, “Oh, actually Harvard did it on the women’s side like two decades ago.” Simply saying, “Hey, actually women exist,” causes people so much derangement. They’re so vexed because to point this out. They’re like, “Who cares.” It’s like, “No, women actually exist. Language matters.” That’s why I want to burn it down because I think that … I mean, we try on this show to make sure we’re saying Men’s World Cup and we don’t always get that right. We don’t say that because I think all of us have been conditioned to use language that reifies men as the kind of norm, white as the norm, and so we put qualifiers on everything that is outside that. Whether it’s women or minority groups or whatever.
That’s the systems that we’re a part of. We’re part and parcel of that. So it actually takes some work to undo that and it takes some work to say, “No, actually there is another World Cup that we’ve conditioned to be called the Women’s World Cup,” but what would happen, right? If we just said, “This is the Men’s World Cup. That’s the Women’s World Cup. This is what’s going on.” I think that people who want to clutch their pearls and get so vexed over language and say, “Oh, you have genders or why does it matter?” Well, it fucking matters. It does because these are the ways that we unconsciously or kind of quietly reinforce systems of oppression and power.
So even though it seems insignificant, being able to say, “Actually, Leo Messi did an amazing achievement. He’s one of three players who have done this, and he’s the first male player to do this.” It’s simple as fuck, and it’s accurate. It does a long way to not insuring or reassure of women’s athletes.
So anyways, I’m burning those stupid reactions down.
Lindsay: All right. It’s time to lift up. Speaking of some bad ass women of the week. First of all, I want to give a shout out to Amelie Mauresmo who I meant to shout out last week. She became the head coach of France’s Davis Cup team earlier this month, which notably is the men’s team competition in tennis. So way to go, Amelie.
I also wanted to … I love being able to shout out Roxane Gay here on the sport’s space, but she wrote a phenomenally powerful essay on bodies and fatness and exercise and trauma to open up the ESPN body issue. It just really moved me. So thank you, Roxane.
Another great moment for women coaching men’s sports, Becky Hammon will now be on the front row of the Spurs coaching bench, which means she will be court side at all the games next year. She got a promotion. So I’m just so excited to be able to see her sitting right there next to the players. She’s been in the row right behind them, but there’s something about that front row. The visibility is super important.
Also, Breanna Stewart who not only is, I believe, in the power rankings that I did this week over on yard barker, is the front runner for the MVP in the WNBA, but she also recently did a wonderful feature on ESPN where she opened up even more about the sexual abuse she experienced as a child. It all came full circle when she posed for the ESPN body issue, which she said was part of kind of taking back her narrative and ownership of her body. So way to go, Stewie.
LPGA star Stacey Lewis announced her pregnancy this week, and she convinced her sponsor to continue to fulfill her contract regardless of if she plays or not, which is a huge moment for maternity rights in golf. Love that so much.
Also want to give a shout out to Kate, the woman known as Kate, who is the woman who came forward with her story about Jameis Winston’s abuse last November in Buzzfeed and is the reason that he even got three games. She released a statement this week saying how important it is to believe women because perhaps if women had been believed before her, that we wouldn’t even be here today. So thank you, Kate, for you strength.
Drum roll please.
Yes. All right. I know we’ve already mentioned them, but Megan Rapinoe an Sue Bird, the first lesbian couple, same sex couple, to be on the cover of the ESPN Body Issue. They are so hot.
Lindsay: Beautiful. It was just such an inspiring moment. They are the power couple right now. Yeah. Thank you, Megan and Sue.
Okay. It’s been a tough week. I know that. Can we think of anything good that’s going on? Amira?
Amira: Yeah. So World Cup and Wimbledon are taking this week by storm, which gives me my summer sports mornings, which I love so much. I drop the kids off at camp. I sit down to write and I have one eye trained on my computer and the other on a TV. It just is so wonderful to wake up to Wimbledon, and then also because of the World Cup times this summer, getting to wake up for those 10:00 a.m. games as well. So I’m super excited about that.
The other thing that’s good, sometimes when I need an escape and Netflix just doesn’t do it, I go to my trustee and true books, which means that I’m rereading Harry Potter for the zillionth time because how could you not? It’s brilliant. So I’m currently on book four. I’m just marveling at this world and falling in love with it all over again. I’m reading the copies of the books that I read when I was 12, and I’ve read them countless times since then. It’s just fun. I’m driving a lot this summer. So just putting them on the audiobook is cool. So shout out to Harry Potter and Wimbledon and the World Cup. You’re what’s good in my life right now.
Lindsay: I love it. Brenda?
Brenda: Yeah. Well, I would preface this. It’s going to sound arrogant if I don’t preface it by explaining that I’m the worst sport’s predictor ever. Like nothing that I say usually comes to fruition except sometimes I have an eye for talent in South American Strikers, but not always. So I went to a World Cup congress in Paris, talked about it on the show, where I engaged in a heated argument over the value of Eddi Cavani who is the Uruguayan Striker, right? Number nine for Uruguay. Huge argument. Huge argument, and I would just like to say that yesterday in Uruguay’s 2-1 victory over Portugal in which he scored twice, I am vindicated. I got something right. In your face, delegates at the World Cup of Paris congress.
Amira: You don’t even need to qualify that.
Amira: You are a genius.
Brenda: It is so in your face because I was right and Cavani is brilliant, and I’m so happy for him. So that’s what’s good is that I feel like, “Hey, all these years of studying futbol, men’s and women’s, maybe I know something finally.”
Amira: You know a million things. Don’t downgrade your brilliance.
Lindsay: Honestly, the modesty’s annoying. So I don’t like it.
All right. For me, I’m going to have to say Diana Taurasi is what’s good. I got to see her play live last night and interview her. So that was great. She was in town. Mercury versus Mystics. It also gave me a chance to relive my … I mean, there are so many good Diana Taurasi stories, but this one comes from Shatori Walker-Kimbrough who is in her second year with the Mystics, and I remembered her telling me something last year about an interaction she had with Taurasi but I couldn’t remember exactly what it was. So I asked her to repeat it for me. So this was her rookie season and I think I’d asked her something along the lines of, “As a rookie, what’s it like facing Diana Taurasi?” Walker-Kimbrough told me, “Well, she sat on my shoe.” I was like, “Wait, what do you mean?”
Apparently, they got like intertwined in a little scuffle in the middle of a play. Shatori’s shoe came off and in the middle of the play, Diana Taurasi just sat on … Was just like, “Oh, I’m just going to sit on her shoe so she can’t get to her shoe anymore.” So Walker-Kimbrough’s there, a rookie, in the middle of a play being like, “I should probably run for this rebound, but I don’t have a shoe because Diana Taurasi is sitting on it.” I just love that story so much. Apparently Taurasi didn’t even hand the shoe back to her at the end of the play. She just threw it the sidelines in true villain fashion.
It’s not easy to go up against the GOAT, but that’s just happens. Sometimes the GOAT takes your shoe.
All right. Thank you all so much for listening to us this episode. I hope that we all find strength together to move forward in these really tough times. At times, it’s important to just allow ourselves to feel everything and to go into the fetal position and to rebuild our strength for the fight ahead.
Thanks for spending your time with Burn It All Down. As I mentioned at the top of the show, we really appreciate our Patreon supporters and are really trying to unlock our next level of donations, which we need 100 more, $100 of monthly pledges to go to reach our goal of $1200 a month. So please, any bit that you can contribute would really help us so much as we continue to grow the podcast. You can of course follow us on Twitter @BurnItDownPod. We’re on Instagram. We’re on Facebook. We are on the website burnitdownpod.com, and of course, iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, SoundCloud, all of those you can go to. You can rate us and review us. We are up to 300 reviews, and I’m so excited. Thank you all so much.
Yeah. We will see you here same time next week. Love to you all.