Episode 81: U17 FIFA WWC, the NHL and concussions, and Dr. Rachel Allison on her new book!
On this week’s show Shireen, Brenda and Lindsay open the episode with a discussion about the validity of using flatulence as a strategy at Grand Slam of Darts (2:00). The women talk about the U17 Women’s World Cup, the development of the teams, youth soccer and how and why it might not translate into successful women’s programs (6:02). Brenda interviews Dr. Rachel Allison about her new book “Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer” (20:00). Then the gang discusses the NHL, concussions and the court case, and how the league is miserably failing the players (36:11).
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile (49:20), our Bad Ass Woman of the Week – Claressa Shields!!! – (57:40), and what is good in our worlds (1:00:23).
For links and a transcript…
“Stink hits darts grand slam as match features flatulent end” https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2018/nov/17/stink-hits-darts-grand-slam-as-match-features-flatulent-end
“FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup Uruguay 2018” https://www.fifa.com/u17womensworldcup/
“U-17 WWC: Canada, Mexico open with wins” https://www.concacaf.com/en/under-17s-women/article/u-17-wwc-canada-mexico-open-with-wins
“Forlan: U-17 finals will bring good things to Uruguay” https://www.fifa.com/u17womensworldcup/news/forlan-u-17-finals-will-bring-good-things-to-uruguay-2920733
“USA loses 3-0 to Korea DPR at U17 Women’s World Cup” https://www.starsandstripesfc.com/2018/11/17/18100195/usa-loses-3-0-korea-dpr-group-u17-womens-world-cup
“Huitema helps Canada tops South Korea at under-17 women’s World Cup” https://www.tsn.ca/huitema-helps-canada-tops-south-korea-at-under-17-women-s-world-cup-1.1211522
“In N.H.L. Concussion Settlement, Owners Win the Fight” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/12/sports/hockey/hockey-concussion-settlement.html
“A Concussion Lawsuit Has Been Settled. A Commissioner’s Legacy Is Unclear.” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/16/sports/hockey-concussions-settlement-bettman.html
“The Wins and Losses of the NHL’s Tentative Concussion Lawsuit Settlement” https://www.si.com/nhl/2018/11/12/nhl-concussion-lawsuit-settlement-wins-losses-former-players
“Former Blackhawk Daniel Carcillo calls NHL concussion settlement ‘insulting'” https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/ct-spt-nhl-concussion-lawsuit-20181112-story.html
“‘I thought he was going to die’: The true toll of concussions in the NHL” https://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/hockey/ct-spt-nhl-concussion-lawsuit-20181112-story.html
“Friends raised money for a gay college athlete after her parents disowned her. Then the NCAA called.” https://thinkprogress.org/ncaa-punishes-lgbtq-athlete-66e28ef63ede/amp/
“Richard Scudamore’s £5m reflects greedy and ruthless Premier League” https://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2018/nov/15/richard-scudamore-5m-gift-premier-league-greed-grassroots
“MLB launches investigation into allegations of racism, sexism made by ex-Mariners’ staffer” https://www.seattlepi.com/sports/baseball/article/MLB-investigation-Seattle-Mariners-Lorena-Martin-13388274.php
“Yael Averbuch, NWSLPA President, Weighs In On Historic Day For Union” https://www.forbes.com/sites/howardmegdal/2018/11/15/yael-averbuch-nwslpa-president-weighs-in-on-historic-day-for-union/amp/
“Suzie Bates becomes the first player to reach 3,000 T20I runs” https://www.worldtwenty20.com/video/914589
“Claressa Shields wins 10-round decision over Hannah Rankin, adds WBA title” https://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/2018/11/18/claressa-shields-wins-10-round-decision-over-hannah-rankin/2046970002/
Shireen: Welcome to this week’s episode of Burn It All Down. It’s the feminist sports podcast you need. I’m Shireen Ahmed in Toronto, and I am joined this week by the undeniable genius of Hofstra University, Dr. Brenda Elsey, Associate Professor of History. And, our indomitable and brilliant Lindsay Gibbs, sports writer at ThinkProgress. Before I start, I’d like to thank our patrons for their generous support, and to remind our new flamethrowers about our Patron campaign. 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 access to extra segments of the podcast, a monthly newsletter, an opportunity to record on the burn pile, only available to those in our Patreon community.
So far, we have been able to solidify funding for proper editing and transcripts, but are hoping to reach our dream of hiring a producer to help us with the show. Burn It All Down is a labor of love, and we all believe in this podcast, but having a producer to help us as we grow would be amazing. We are so grateful for your support. This week’s show is going to be amazing, as usual. We will be talking Under-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay. Brenda has an interview with Dr. Rachel Allison, specialist in American women’s soccer, and we will get into NHL and concussion. It’s going to be amazing, but before we begin, let’s talk about a really important issue in terms of competition, and I really would like to thank our resident birthday girl and woman we love, Jessica Luther, for flagging this flatulent story. This story about bodily functions and how you treat your opponent, and basically we’d like to call this the fart darts. Brenda, I know you want to talk about this. Please get into it.
Brenda: I can’t believe it’s real. Evidently at the Dart Grand Slam in Wolverhampton, England, there are two competitors at the end. One is Dutch and the other is Scottish, and they have accused one another unfair tactics because they have farted. And besides the fact that fart rhymes with dart, and besides the fact that darts is questionably athletics.
Brenda: I know, I’m inviting the hate right now. But on top of all that, how did these people colonize the world? I mean, really? You have no idea. You have to read it. We’ll put it in the show notes, the article in the Guardian, but literally they’re both denying that they supplied it.
Lindsay: Okay. I’m confused. What do you mean tactics? Were they as they were throwing or you couldn’t focus because the smell … I need a little more information.
Shireen: Sorry. I was very brief in my intro just because I don’t know if I can do this without laughing. It was Gary Anderson of Scotland and Wesley Harms, all right, he’s a Dutchman, blamed each other for “rotten farts” during their clash, and this is the Grand Slam of Darts, this isn’t just like some regional … This is the Grand Slam.
Lindsay: As if I know what that is.
Shireen: I know, and I mean, I just think it’s interesting, it’s called a Grand Slam, but that’s amazing, whatever. Dart culture, fart culture, whatever. So Anderson has twice been the world champion but in a post-match interview, Harms said his poor form was due to Anderson breaking wind constantly and leaving a fragrant smell. You can say you’re salty because you lost a Grand Slam, but to accuse someone of farting their way to a championship, I just, I don’t know. So Anderson then turned around and blamed Harms and then so Harms went back and said, and this is my favorite quote, seriously, “If the boy, Anderson, thinks that I farted, he’s 1010% wrong.” I’m not a mathematician, but I didn’t even know that was a percentage you can use; 1010% wrong. You know what? Burn It All Down is 1010% sure the story stinks.
Lindsay: That’s amazing.
Brenda: So, what a gift to writers, what a gift to headline writers, what you could do here.
Lindsay: A couple things first of all the only thing I’m surprised about here is that ESPN didn’t show this above a women’s college basketball game or something on television.
Shireen: That’s awesome.
Lindsay: They really missed an opportunity there, and number two, I usually push for all sports to be coed if they are to be women’s leagues, but you know what, women, we know this is fine. We’re okay. I’m good sitting this one out. More power to you.
Shireen: Brenda, can you take us into the Under-17 Women’s World Cup?
Brenda: I’d love to. So we have just kicked off our recording today November 17th, and the Women’s World Cup is being held in Uruguay and it started November 13th, and it goes until December 1st. So we’re still in group stages, and I’m so excited for the Uruguayan women. I’ve been following them on Twitter and on Facebook and Instagram, and the women who are obviously aged out of a U-17 Women’s World Cup, have been so supportive and they’re so excited to just showcase women’s soccer in Uruguay. There’s one of the biggest disparities in the world between the women’s national team and the men’s national team in Uruguay.
The women’s team is usually unranked, meaning that the Federation doesn’t hire a coach, doesn’t respond to invitations, they did not make the World Cup this year, they did not make the Pan American Games and they will also not qualify for the Olympics, so it was very upsetting for them understandably back in April. And I met a lot of them when I went to that forum in Chile, of players throughout South America, and that was the one thing they kept saying is how excited they were to have the Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, and how they hoped that it would bring a lot of people and wake them up and things like that. I mean, the big stories and we can talk more about it, but has been a huge success of the African Confederation, including Ghana and Cameroon, Cameroon that defeated Germany and so that’s a big deal.
And so, they’ve done really well, we can talk more about that, and something that people might not know and I don’t even understand why this is a thing, but the team that’s won the U-17 Women’s World Cup the most has been North Korea and also South Korea has won, it’s only had six iterations. So that’s pretty amazing, and I don’t know why. Because it’s also happened before that, African teams have had a lot of success. I don’t quite understand why there’s this success at youth soccer level and then when you get to the women’s team it’s like, “Where did they go?” So anyway that’s something to think and talk about, but I’m curious to see what you both thought.
Shireen: Well, I really like the point you made about that and I just wanted to mention that just jumping off what Brenda is saying, that the United States loss to South Korea off set pieces, three nothing, sorry North Korea yesterday off set pieces consistently. If it happens once you figure out your defense, your goalie calls your players you figure it out. But three in a row, there’s some massive defensive breakdown and strategic breakdown at the youth level. However get into women’s, in full fledge women like over 21 and the United States dominates.
So, what’s the problem here? Why are places like, African teams for example, in the AFC, why did they falter when they get older and I mean, we can point out to lack of development Brenda, do you think we could have a conversation about that? We can have a conversation about the lack of support at the women’s level for these players. Where’s the breakdown? Japan boasts a really strong… for a while, one of the top teams in the world and world champions as well. So what’s going on here? Why does this happen? And for me it comes down to money, I’m going to say its money and support and development at the Federation level, it’s the only thing I can think of. Linds?
Lindsay: Well, yeah, I mean you say that, but then I mean, as you mentioned the USA hasn’t had success here either. So I think it is interesting dichotomy a little bit. I think a lot about the tennis because obviously I cover tennis really closely and while it’s individual sport versus team sports, there are a lot of differences. A lot of times you see the players who are the Junior Grand Slam champions more often than not, they are not able to make the leap into the pro level. So there’s this gap as you age, and as you become professional versus who develops their game on a professional level. And a lot of time you see the teams or the players who are not having a lot of the success on the juniors or let’s take the Williams sisters who didn’t play in the juniors at all, then being able to really go on and dominate on the pro level. So I’ve always been interested by this difference between the Under-17 levels, with the junior levels versus the pro levels and why we don’t always succeed. See that success translate one to one?
Shireen: Yeah, Bren.
Brenda: Well, yeah, I mean, that’s a really interesting point about the US Linds. I mean, something I guess I would say is that maybe what we’re seeing is what the landscape would look like if funding was more equal. Because what you get, at least from just speaking from CONMEBOL, which is the South American Confederation and AFC, AFCON is that you have young women that can still have a structure because of school. So they don’t have to go out and get a job right now yet because they’re 16, and so not that people know, not that that doesn’t exist in the world, but they’re able to stay playing and probably have facilities through secondary education. And at least in the case of … I’m just going to speak from South America because I’m sure about this one.
You’re looking at teams that the young women are not stigmatized, it’s seen as just part of their school experience. And so to a certain extent whatever funds FIFA and the Confederation put forward or not at all equal to what Europe does. But in another sense, it’s more equal because those young women are able to play on a more not full-time basis, but regular basis. Like I said, I mean look at Uruguay, they literally don’t convene their team. Those women, if they don’t pay for a gym membership, they can go a very long time without having the facilities to stay in top shape. So I think that’s part of it. So I think it is about money. It’s also about stigma, because it’s one thing to say, “I’m a young woman and I’m playing in school.” And then it becomes another thing when you tell your family this is what I want to do for a living.
Shireen: But I think that’s a really important point as well is that the disparity between an income a possible income, whereas youth players, most of them are living at home or taken care of in terms of their club programs or whatnot, women don’t have that option, maybe can’t dedicate as much time to the training as required. And there are others, so many things you can think of that gets down to equity, pay equity for me. It really comes down to that in so many ways. Lindsay, you want to add something else?
Lindsay: Yeah, I think that’s such a great point, Brenda in it. It’s hard for me not to think about North Korea, where obviously, we know there’s not a great system once you get outside of school, and there’s so much control and that these women don’t have that much freedom. So that it makes more sense that they’re succeeding at the younger levels when these structures and these incredibly strict structures are still in place, but that that’s not translating all the time up to the higher levels. I think that makes so much sense to me. I want to shout out the Finland team, which was the only team that was making their Under-17 FIFA Women’s World Cup debut, and we’ll link this in the show notes. There was a really emotional scene that was described on the FIFA website after they lost.
So, they lost their second match which eliminated them from the quarterfinals. They are I think maybe the first team to be eliminated. The only teams as of right now that we officially know are going forward for to the quarterfinals are Ghana, New Zealand and Canada. There was this scene describe that, “Moments after the final whistle, the players parents wait at the edge of their seating section.” The moments that followed are difficult to describe. These parents flew halfway around the earth to be there for their children, and undoubtedly there were more than wish they could be there, and you could hear a pin drop as they waited for their daughters in the stands. Some of them could be seen hugging their children for several sustained minutes. And Nona Yang spoke with fifa.com and said that in the locker room, everyone was sobbing so much that they couldn’t even move.
That’s how devastated these players from Finland were that they weren’t able to get a win here in the group stages, and that they weren’t able to advance, despite the fact that they achieve history just by making it to this point. And I think sometimes for me I get really jaded and think of junior tournaments as an afterthought a lot of the time, and just think of the Women’s World Cup as the one we should be focused on, the adult version, I guess you could say. And it’s important for me to read these stories and remember how much it does matter and how this was history for this team and for this country. And they described scenes of everyone gathering around the team, the TVs in Finland to watch these matches, even though it’s halfway across the world. So I think that that, it’s so important towards building the infrastructure for the future of the game.
Shireen: It’s also really important to keep in mind as Lindsay just pointed out that piece of history. The Under-17 Women’s World Cup is a place where there is tremendous amount of history in the worlds game. The last one, which was actually held in Jordan in 2016 was the first FIFA-sanctioned match where hijab was actually seen on a patch. So this is not the first time we’ve ever seen. So the Under-17 for those of us that follow that closely, this game, and it’s part of our soul and our love, the U-17 is really a place where we see a possibility of future, where we see things. I mean, this is a really big deal. It was also the first FIFA-sanctioned tournament that was ever held in the Middle East and in the MENA region. So I think this is really important. The Under-17 is something that we really need to keep our eyes on. Brenda.
Brenda: Yeah, something that’s pretty exciting too, I mean, I love this story of the Finnish team, and I actually personally have a very hard time writing about youth soccer, in terms of could I write something on this world cup? I really don’t want to. I have a hard time writing about children. It’s just a thing. What am I going to write. I mean Shireen did it as elegantly as possible, “There’s some defensive problems when there’s three goals on set pieces.” You know what I mean? It’s just so hard to criticize, because you look at their faces, and they really are kids. One thing that’s really, one person, not a kid on the pitch, have been the refs. And we’ve seen more women than ever. So also just throwing that out there, hats off. To all of these women who have gotten their licenses, and are out there at the Women’s World Cup. I haven’t seen one man, they might exist, but so far, I haven’t seen one out there. So that’s pretty encouraging.
Lindsay: Yeah, just, I wanted, a few other things that stood out to me while I was researching this. First of all, I’ve never felt more old when I read the phrase Born in 2003 for one of the players. Yeah, so just having a little difficult time here, and also we have to give a shout out to the best team name ever, which is the Black Maidens of Ghana. Every time I see that, I just get very excited. It’s just such a good good name for the team. But really, I had completely missed and we might even talked about on Burn It All Down. Guys my memory is really bad these days. But I just forgot that the CONCACAF Under-17 tournament was really an interesting one this year.
So, I was reading the US’s journey to this tournament. And so the Under-17s kicked off their CONCACAF competition in Nicaragua in April, and the USA had the win in their first competition, in their first match. But in the midst of preparation for the second group stage, CONCACAF announced that the tournament was postponed due to civil unrest in their host country, and played it and resume for 46 days, when it resumed in Florida. So just a good reminder of everything that’s going on in the world and how this impacts these really important competitions at levels that we might not always be paying attention to.
Shireen: Yeah, absolutely, that’s a really good point. The geopolitics of football is incredible, and that applies to youth soccer as well. I just wanted to add, because I have to, I just wanted to let everybody know who doesn’t know, that the Under-17 Canadian team which is undefeated in this tournament is actually coached by Rhian Wilkinson, who is a former Canadian National player. So we’ve seen a lot of male coaches in the Canadian structure, but to see a former player get in there and coach what is a very successful team is really incredible. And I mean, my own daughter follows them closely on Instagram, and I mean they’re her peers, they’re literally only a couple of years older than she is. So it’s really fun to see all of this happening, and the excitement it’s causing locally, it’s very exciting. So yay for youth soccer. Next Brenda Can you take us into your interview with Dr. Allison.
Brenda: Yeah, I sat down with Rachel Allison and talked about her brand new book Kicking Center. I’m so excited to be speaking today with Rachel Allison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi. She’s the author of the new book Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer, which was published this year by Rutgers University Press. She’s also a longtime flamethrower, so that makes her extra special to us. Rachel, how are you?
Rachel: I’m great. Thanks so much for having me.
Brenda: Oh, thanks for being here. Before I start with my own questions, for the listeners that haven’t had the pleasure to read this book yet, could you give us a little summary of it?
Rachel: Sure. So Kicking Center is about Women’s Professional Soccer in the US. So the National Professional League not the women’s national team per se, and it’s about the challenges that women’s Pro soccer has faced getting off the ground operating in an environment where we don’t have a lot of stories of long term success in women’s Pro team sports in the US. And so I really look at from the inside how people working for this league operate on a daily basis to build, sell and market the sport.
Brenda: And from reading the book, one of the fascinating things is that you decided that you were going to have to go inside the organization. Could you describe that?
Rachel: Yeah, so that decision really happened when I saw a disconnect, when Women’s Professional Soccer, the professional league that started in 2009 was getting off the ground. I was one of their early season ticket holders, and in this position, I went to a lot of meet and greets with players, with staff and was invited behind the scenes sometimes. And so one of the things I got a sense for was how different some of the more private conversations were among staff, among players about the challenges that they were facing and how that was different compared to the public face of the league, their pronouncements on social media, the press releases through the website. And I mean, just I got a sense that if I really wanted to understand what was going on, I had to get behind the scenes and spend some serious time there to understand through the course of a whole season right? The off-season, the pre-season, the season and then the immediate postseason, what was really going on with women’s pro soccer and how people inside this league navigated a lot of the challenges they faced.
Brenda: So what did you find? What was going on?
Rachel: Yeah. So I think the major takeaway from the book in terms of the challenges is what I call a centralist ideology. It’s this idea that differences between men and women are the result of biology, and applied to sport essentialist ideology often proposes that women are somehow fundamentally biologically different than men, and therefore athletically different from men, and inferior to men in fact. It’s the idea we might often see on social media, that women’s sports are somehow just lesser versions of men’s sports.
And I find that this ideology really pervaded the landscape for women’s pro sports, but in somewhat more subtle ways than you might anticipate, blanket assertions that women just aren’t good at sports, and nobody cares about women’s sports, probably what’s going on. Instead, it’s a more subtle and marketized version of this ideology, and that the language used here is often based in conceptions of interest that there just isn’t interest in women’s sports. So it actually puts this, that the onus for an equality onto fans, that there aren’t enough fans coming to the games thus the lack of investment on the part of media organizations are major corporate partners. And this is what ultimately accounts for somewhat more marginal position of women’s soccer, and its lack of major resources.
Brenda: So looking at the WPS, what’s your takeaway about how the NWSL has managed to forge a more stable league?
Rachel: Yeah. I mean, the NWSL is certainly different from WPS in its organizational structure. I think it’s been able to get a lot more buy-in and I literally mean buy-in in terms of resources from US Soccer and from MLS, the men’s professional league and this has been one source of stability, and at the same time I think the NWSL has done a few things, a little bit differently. We see a shift among some teams in the NWSL and I mean, particularly here the Portland Thorns, although that’s not the only team by any means. A shift away from an earlier marketing strategy that was really common in the WPS era, of marketing specifically to girls and their parents as kind of the major fan base.
I write in the book about how in some ways this marketing focus is somewhat limiting in that girls and their parents particularly the white and very class-privileged soccer-playing girls that the league was going after, are also really strapped for time oftentimes pulled again, you know, pulled in multiple directions and often really burnt out on soccer after their own club participation. And this marketing focus also tends to kind of ignore other fans who historically have been a really strong presence, strong active presence in the women’s soccer fan community. Adult fans who don’t have children, I mean gay and lesbian fans and so I think the NWSL has also really energized the sport and their fan base by being more inclusive in their marketing efforts,, and in their fan cultures.
Brenda: One of the things that I was interested in is the relationship between the League and the NCAA. Is it different now with the way that the draft has been set up or is it just a matter of the time that the league has established and then all the other things that you’re talking about? I’m curious about how you see the relationship visa vis college women’s soccer.
Rachel: Yeah, I’m interested in that relationship too, and I wish that I did know more about it right now. I mean, I know in 2018 and the NWSL there were 40 women who were drafted as part of the college draft, and all of it, teams had a roster cap of about 18 to 20. And of course, a few of those players, as part of those rosters are going to be allocated players or international players. And of course, some international players could also have played college in the US. So there might be some overlap there. But in general it seems like there are a somewhat limited number of opportunities for college players to make that transition and so I wonder about this relationship between opportunity on the one hand and then aspiration. So how common is it among our top division one college players to really see the NWSL as a viable option for them.
Brenda: Yeah, I mean, and the salary cap is pretty low still.
Rachel: Yeah, it is pretty low, and I’ve written in the past about really when we talk about pay disparities between men and women in sports and issues of pay equity, we also need to look not just comparing men and women, but also just look at women’s soccer and look at the differences in pay between rank and file players and players on the women’s national team, and focus as much on bringing up the floor as in achieving parity at the top levels. And I think this is a major issue, especially for players who would be coming out of college.
Brenda: Yeah. I mean, I have this weird issue to ask you about, in the WPS, how many interviews are you going to get where someone’s like, “I have this burning thing that’s bothering me about the WPS.” Welcome to Burn It All Down, right?
Brenda: So Marta’s salary was frequently blamed and today is a source of sore Twitter fights for me. People who still resent her salary in the WPS and blame it for tanking the league.
Brenda: How would you respond to that? And don’t feel like you need to agree with me here.
Rachel: Sure. Yeah. And I’ve seen some of that going on, especially on social media. I think that’s a misplaced argument to blame Marta’s salary for the demise of the team. And in fact, if you look at the interviews that the ownership gave at the time that that team was folding, they themselves did not blame Marta’s salary, even at times when they were prompted in that direction. That’s not where they placed the blame by any means. I think that’s a really wrongheaded argument, that’s on the wrong track.
Brenda: You heard it here, Burn It All Down listeners. Rachel Allison is a doctor and specialist in this and I win. Okay, in your time you decided to use the name of the team where you conducted ethnography or well, ethnography in participant observation, anonymous.
Brenda: What made you decide to do that.
Rachel: Right. So I don’t actually use the name of the team that I studied, I use a false name for the team, and I think that’s a really interesting issue for those of us who do this kind of research, this kind of qualitative embedded research. Some people would argue that it’s actually sometimes not even possible to do this. For instance, if you are one of the potential listeners right now, who are really invested in women’s soccer and highly knowledgeable about it, could you comb-through this book for enough cues to figure it out? Possibly. And sometimes that information that would reveal the identity of this team is also really informative and necessary to the story of the team itself, and so sometimes it’s not even possible or desirable to mask the identities of the teams that we study.
But on the other hand, I think that it was a condition of access to some extent that to conceal the identities of the people that were working for this team, that really gave me a enormous gift, letting me in and letting me see the work they were doing behind the scenes. And I don’t know, if it would have been possible for me to get that access, if I hadn’t essentially guaranteed that their identities would remain confidential.
Brenda: So did you find your way into this project just because of your passion for soccer or combination of intellectual and personal interest?
Brenda: How did you find your way to it?
Rachel: Yeah, it’s a good story. I think it was a combination of personal interest and professional interests as they developed and then just sheer dumb luck. So I’m a long time soccer player, I played through college, by no means at the most elite level, and I’ve just had a long time love of the sport and I think I was born in the right time in the sense that I was coming of age at a time of many of the marquee events in women’s soccer history in the United States, at least, particularly the ’96 Olympics, the ’99 Women’s World Cup, these major moments where women’s soccer was on the map internationally in a way that it hadn’t been before, and in a way that it almost no women’s sports had been before. And so I had followed the trajectory of the professional women’s game as closely as I was able to at the time without internet and social media and all the technologies we have to follow sports now.
And so, I was a graduate student in Chicago, and I was taking the local train public transit to campus one day, and I picked up a copy of a free city newspaper, and I read this article on the train that day about WPS and how Chicago was going to be home to one of the teams as the league got off the ground in 2009. And it just struck me, here was a new women’s Pro League, this was quite a while after the the WUSA had folded in 2003, and so this seemed like a really big deal to me, and I also just happened to be a PhD student at the time, studying things like gender and social inequality in my in my studies and looking for a dissertation topic. So this all came together, that I was able to learn more about WPS as it got off the ground, and was in the right place at the right time.
Brenda: Yeah that’s so important in our lives at every level.
Rachel: Yeah, absolutely.
Brenda: So we can’t not talk a teensy bit about the NCAA women’s soccer tournament going on right now, we both work at colleges, we’re both into women’s soccer, anything you’re looking for or excited about?
Rachel: Well, I have to be honest, unfortunately, the thing that I was most excited about came and went. So I have followed our team here at Mississippi State pretty closely. I’m a big fan. We’ve had a really successful run this year. And so I watched our game in the first round and unfortunately we were knocked out in overtime. So that’s been a little disappointing to me. I’m looking forward to some good soccer for the next few weeks, the rounds too and beyond get off the ground, I think. Is Hofstra still in it?
Brenda: It is. It upset Boston College on the first round and they play on tonight that we are recording? It’s Friday, November 15th, and so they play Wisconsin.
Brenda: And so that’s really exciting. They’ve had to move the venue because of the smog in California.
Rachel: Oh, yeah.
Brenda: So it was the air quality, I should say, non-smog. And so that was a little bit disruptive and then they changed the venue, which meant that there’s not a live feed, so I’m sort of bummed about that. But yeah, I know, I generally just like following it, it’s so big right now, I don’t even know what to say, there’s no way I could possibly follow all the teams that are there but I’m happy for Hofstra and I’m also really learning some good soccer, it’s early. So we’ll see what it brings. Okay, last question, it’s a populist one.
Brenda: I’ve got to throw it out there, who is your favorite player of all time in the WPS?
Rachel: Without a doubt Megan Rapinoe, without a doubt, and when I first started following WPS in 2009, 2010 she was a player in the shift for the Chicago Red Stars, currently champion in the NWSL and she’s just been fantastic from the beginning in every way on the field, off the field. I just really appreciate all of her recent work speaking out against racial injustice and I just love her as a player.
Brenda: Yeah, we’re big fans also at Burn It All Down, so you’ll find a lot of support. So Rachel Allison, thank you so much for being on Burn It All Down and to our listeners, a reminder that the book is Kicking Center: Gender and the Selling of Women’s Professional Soccer. We’re going to have a giveaway with the book and hey, it’s holiday shopping time.
Shireen: Lindsay, can you give us an intro into what’s happening with the NHL and concussions?
Lindsay: Yes, I can. So this week a settlement was announced in the NHL concussion lawsuit which has been ongoing. It was what could only be described as a giant win for the NHL and for owners of the league. It’s an incredibly frustrating one for players. So the deal only applies to 318 former players. It was not given class action status, which is a huge problem, so it only applies to 318 former players, it maxes out at about $19,000,000. It includes free neuro-psychological test for these 318 former players, up to $75,000 for medical treatment, and a potential cash payout of about $20,000 a player, and also there’s the establishment of a common fund to help other players in need. Of course, all those things are positives. I don’t want to say that these are really bad things.
But I think that the disappointing thing is how small the settlement ended up being in the big picture. It’s not a one-to-one comparison, and we can talk a little about the nuances here, but the NFL concussion settlement which was solidified a few years ago, you know, was a billion dollar settlement, that’s going to impact over 20,000 retired players, and it’s going to be paid out over 65 years. So it’s one that’s really focused on the long term, whereas the NHL one was really just to make this one go away. The NHL has fought this suit tooth and nail, and it’s led to a lot of interesting things such as discovery, which is a place that we never got to with the NFL settlement, because they want it to go away.
In that discovery process. We got to see emails from Gary Bettman, the NHL commissioner, and other top NHL officials. So this is from a email thread I believe in 2013, a few years ago. So, “An interesting question is whether being an NHL fighter does this to you (I don’t believe so.) Or whether a certain type of person who wouldn’t otherwise be skilled enough to be an NHL player gravitates to this job. I believe that one is more likely.” Those were the words of Bettman himself.
So it’s just this mentality of how they have treated these players who are really searching for help. But Shireen I wanted to just start this with you. Because in the New York Times right up of this article, they brought up something that I thought was pretty interesting, which was that it had something to do with Canadian culture, and the fact that so many … That Canadian culture isn’t as litigious as United States culture. And just since hockey is such a revered sport in Canada, and so many more hockey players are Canadian, even in, of course, the NHL, that it just seemed that that was a reason why fewer players were willing to join this suit, and join this fight and really take on the NHL, do you think there’s any truth to that?
Shireen: I mean, absolutely. I think that’s a really good point. It’s also really scary the way that the structures are, in the powers that exist in hockey Canada, in Canadian culture, in so much as I mean, we talk about concussion testing, there is more concussion education and prevention in soccer in this country than there is in hockey. And I find that really terrifying actually, when you look at the culture around it, and head injuries and there’s a lot of work in the kinesiology departments around Canada and universities, and I have colleagues that write about it and professors whose work I really respect, and it doesn’t get the attention for a couple of reasons.
One, because the Canadian association with it, is just to sort of oppress it, and saying, “No, it’s something that’s part of the game.” This is a huge expression in Canada, it’s part of the game, getting injured is part of the game. Well, brain damage isn’t exactly something that should just go along with the sport, particularly one that starts at youth levels, and you’re right to say it’s not as litigious here, but what ends up happening is there’s very vague rules in youth hockey in Canada, you have two concussions and you’re out, basically, or two severe concussions.
And it’s really a young woman that my daughter used to play soccer with. Her older sister was at national camp, and she actually fell out of her bunk bed at camp, and she hit her head so bad, but it took them two days to get her off the ice. And she was blacking out. I mean, the attention to this is sort of, “Oh, it’s just part of the game, play on.” You can’t play on with a concussion. It just simply doesn’t work like that, severe ones are really bad. Get off your screen, get in the dark, get assessed, change your diet immediately, see a doctor, you have to do all these steps.
It took them two days for her get off the ice, until she like got physically sick on the ice, and had to be taken off in a stretcher, it’s just, I mean, that’s one example, and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of people that really disagree with me, and I’d love to hear from you about it, particularly in Canada, but it’s scary, and I don’t know why. Also, the litigation process in Canada is really, really difficult and to take this to the highest level, which is the NHL, I can see why people would be really reluctant because NHL is considered this demigod of Federation here, Association. So it’s just a bit of a mess. Bren.
Brenda: Yeah, I was just actually calculating how much per player that lawsuit would be. And even if I don’t count lawyers’ fees, that means each former player would get $60,000.
Lindsay: Which is nothing.
Brenda: Right. Of course. I mean, because treatment I mean, hopefully they’re Canadian and they have national health care, but the ones who aren’t just to pay for specialists and time that they’re going to miss from their professional life because of this, $60,000 is very little. And I understand that a lot of people read and listen and they imagine these people are bazillionaire, but they’re really not necessarily. So anyway, just to speak to Lindsay’s point, and that’s not even counting lawyer fees.
Lindsay: And taxes?
Brenda: And taxes.
Shireen: Taxes, yeah.
Brenda: So you’re walking away with not very much given the toll that this could take on someone’s life, and when Shireen says, “Okay you have to get in the dark.” And things like that. I mean we have concussion protocols for students, and for how long they’re supposed to be out of the classroom because just the lights of the classroom and the stimulation can really aggravate that. So it can take a toll on every part of your life, not just your hockey playing life, if you’re someone that wants to go to school and be in an office or be out in the world, there are so many things that aggravate those conditions.
Shireen: Totally. Lindsay.
Lindsay: Yeah, it just makes me so angry that the people who are running these sports just don’t understand or just willfully care not to, and that the NHL was willing to fight this at every turn willing to decide that, they continue to deny that there’s any relationship between football and CTE, I mean, excuse me, between hockey and CTE, which is just, it’s staggering at this day and age. I want to give a shout out to Daniel Carcillo, who was one of the players who was really putting himself out there, and being the face of this suit, even though he knows he doesn’t have a sterling reputation. But he says that he’s going to deny, opt out of this settlement because he wants to continue to fight the NHL in court, and if there is one good thing about this not being able to be certified as a class action suit, is that it does allow these other players to continue to sue the league. This means probably it’s not the end of the NHL’s legal battles with concussions, as long as there are players like Daniel who are still really willing to fight.
The New York Times did a piece on him and some of his quotes were just staggering. I mean, he said, “When I say the NHL is killing human beings, they’re killing human beings.” Is what he said. And there was a photo of him with his new born daughter, the caption said, Carcillo was at the hospital with dark daughter, Scarlett, who was born in July, he worries about not remembering his children. This is someone who’s about my age in their early 30s. I just can’t even imagine. Two years ago, I sat down with Dale Purinton who was a former enforcer for the New York Rangers. And it’s for me, one of the interviews I did that sticks with me the most.
I always tell people, I get asked sometimes, “What are the hardest stories for you to report? What stick with you?” And I think everyone always assumes I’ma talk about sexual assault and sexual trauma. And of course, those are incredibly difficult. But for me, there’s something about talking to survivors of brain damage and their families. That is a different type of helplessness, and a different type of just devastation, because it’s your brain, and they’re putting their brains on the lines for our entertainment. And nobody in these official capacities is caring. And I’ll never forget Dale and his wife talking to me, his wife sobbing while throughout their talk, talking about how her husband had so many times just, he wasn’t anymore, the man she married, the life was just sucked out of his eyes. And then you’re going back to Brenda’s point of how all these players are not the bazillionaires.
Dale was a journeyman, he was an enforcer. He wasn’t one of the most talented players, and he told me, “You don’t have a voice when you’re on a team. Because once you start to ask questions, or you push back by any means they say, Oh, he’s uncoachable, he’s the cancer of the team. If you get labeled like that, you’re going to lose your job. So there’s so much pressure that way it’s really a fear-based job, if you fall out of line they’re going to replace you.” So now just the fact that after all Dale has gone through, that now he’s part of this $60,000 and you walk away. It’s nauseating.
Shireen: I appreciate that so much, thank you for sharing that Lindsay. It is really harrowing, particularly his quote that the NHL is actually killing people. And what steps are being made preventively? What’s going around education around this? Who are the neurosurgeons and neurologist that are working with the league to talk about strategy to talk about prevention? Is that even a word being used to me NHL, no. Gary Bettman’s words are hollow, his actions are insufficient. And it’s not good enough, especially when these are the health and the futures. It’s so true what you said about for our current entertainment. It’s not even as if moving forward this will, I mean, when they’re done, they’re retired and they’re done. And then what happens, we not care about them anymore. These are human beings in their lives. There must be a way to fix this, and it’s the NHL’s responsibility to advocate for the game. Grow the game, yes, but protect the players in it. I find it mind boggling, no pun intended. Brenda.
Brenda: I don’t have much to add, except just to echo the same sorts of concerns, what’s being done? So on top of yes, there’s this lawsuit, part of the reason that it’s frustrating them it’s what did you say $18.9 million? Is that you want it to hurt the organization enough to take those steps. So it’s on the one hand about trying to help people who are in desperate situations, and could be damaged for the rest of their life in different ways, and on the other hand, it’s also there is a reason to make it punitive. And part of it is get your shit together and make some protocols that makes sense.
So I guess I would just add that, it’s not just sometimes when you get into these discussions, and I think that’s part of the whole “Canadian culture, litigious.” Blah, blah, blah, when you start to hear those words, it’s also like they’re trying to make it out as if people are greedy alone, and that’s why they’re suing, and so I always get really uncomfortable with that. And then extra uncomfortable because part of the point is just, it should hurt the organizations enough because if it doesn’t, they’re just going to maintain the status quo.
Shireen: Moving on to our favorite segment, the Burn Pile. Lindsay do you want to go first?
Lindsay: Sure, I know you’ll be shocked. But it’s the NCAA’s turn again-
Lindsay: Yes, perma-burn. This one shocked even me, and it’s hard to shock me these days. Alright. So, Emily Scheck, a cross, country runner at Canisius College in upstate New York, had to deal with these the worst case scenario when her parents discovered through social media that she was dating a woman. Her parents told to either return home, so she could receive conversion therapy or stay at school and be cut out of their lives forever. And I have to give a shout out to Outsports who first reported this story. So Emily did not want to endure conversion therapy. So her parents completely disowned her. They cut off all her financial support, including leaving over the huge credit card bill from a vacation they had previously told her they were going to assist with, they canceled the insurance on her car, drove her car to her dorm, packed it there with childhood items that they had taken out of the house, and removed the license plates from her car, and left her with no way to pay for tuition, her books or a meal plan at school.
She was working two part-time jobs but very part-time because she was also a full-time student and a college athlete which we know makes it very difficult to have time for work. So this was obviously a devastating nightmare, but Emily’s friends stepped up and eight days ago, her friend Grace set up a GoFundMe to help her out, and it raised over $25,000, in eight days, but a few days into all of this, an NCAA compliance officer at Canisius College reached out to her and told her she had two options, to return every penny and maintain her NCAA eligibility or to keep the money and leave the cross-country team. Just let that sink in for a second.
This was someone who’d been disowned from her parents, her friends are trying to raise money so she could stay in school, and they said, “This is not fair, you’re going to lose your NCAA eligibility. Now this created a very big hoopla, that it involved Emily and Grace both having to part ways with the cross-country team because Emily decided she needed to take this money in order to be able to continue to survive, but then it created a really big wave of backlash, and the NCAA has for the time being at least reversed its decision and decided that Emily can be granted a waiver.
But the only reason why this has happened is because of the uproarious media attention it received. They only granted this waiver eight days after the GoFundMe was set up. And about a week after they were first notified of this, and after all this anguish and trauma had been inflicted. So look, I just can’t believe we’re still here. still dealing with NCAA eligibility issues about things like a GoFundMe to keep someone from having to drop out of school. It’s absolutely absurd. I don’t understand how we’re still here. I don’t understand how the NCAA doesn’t have better things to do. Burn.
I’m going to go next. So some may or may not have heard that be Premier League Chief, the Executive chief Richard Scudamore is leaving. Now, Richard Scudamore has so generously accepted a £5,000,000 bonus, a departure bonus for his role from all of the clubs that are in Premier League, the English Premier League in football spread over three years, and he will also be retained in a consultancy advisory role. That basically translates to, he’s going to get all the cash money. The white man is going to get the cash money for basically doing nothing, and he’s excellent at that, he’s so good at doing nothing, it’s exactly what he’s done.
SThis is in addition to his salary. Now there was actually a really good article by David Conn, in The Guardian about this, and the first thing that you think of, why can’t that money just go to the women’s sides of some of those clubs, even Manchester United has a woman side. Arsenal does, Chelsea does, they could use money for development, they could use money towards cultural sensitivity and anti-racism, anti-misogyny training, which is desperately required in the Premier League. It’s so frustrating when you see the gaps here, it’s £5,000,000, which translates to what? A bazillion Canadian dollars, I think. I have no idea. My mouth is so bad. But I’m so irritated about that. It’s just the constant flow that seems to happen. There’s never enough for women’s football, but there’s always enough to give the white guy that’s on his way out. I don’t know. I want to burn, I want to take the money and then metaphorically burn this. So let’s take that money, but burn this. Burn.
Shireen: Brenda, what are you torching?
Brenda: I’m torturing something that Shireen gifted to me this week. Sometimes there’s just so much to burn that it’s hard to keep up, and sometimes we’re racing to the document to get referencing. So mine is a totally infuriating case that has come up because Dr. Lorena Martin has filed a suit against the Seattle Mariners and the MLV has launched an investigation into her charges, and she’s gone to social media, now it’s guess apparently about a month old story, but it’s just been this past week that she took to Twitter to explain things that she experienced firsthand by General Manager Jerry Dipoto, manager Scott Servais and Director of Player Development Andy McKay.
Now, Dr. Martin was the very first woman in Major League Baseball to be the Director of High Performance. So it was seen as a really exciting landmark for a lot of people, and she has come out to say that racism is rampant among the top administrators, and one of the things she points out is that they have called Latinos, lazy dumb and stupid, especially the Dominican players. Now there’s so many angles at which this sucks but I just wanted to talk about two. One is she has had to couch to get attention I believe is in my opinion. She is couching this as part of the leadership breakdown of the Mariners, they can’t win because they do this stuff. Now that’s absolutely true. I’m sure that their relationship with players is tainted by their racism but I also think it sucks real bad that people need to care because they’re not good.
That somehow you have to say, we have to care because this isn’t why they’re going forward. It’s like you should just care anyway, and then secondly I do think it’s part of a larger problem in Major League Baseball where Dominicans are just not cherished, what they give to the game. I mean, Puerto Ricans we saw Alex score and we celebrate that, here on Burn It All Down, because he won. But Dominicans and Puerto Ricans, but I’m just going to talk about Dominicans for a moment. I mean, wow, they have given to Major League Baseball an amazing gift, they have been exploited and scouted at age of 11 and and thousands of them will never make it, and they’ve given so much to Major League Baseball in terms of fandom, in terms of popular culture, that those two things, just that racism is horrible and that to talk about baseball, and not talk about the awesomeness of Dominican baseball culture sucks, is what should happen in terms of this. So I want to burn it, burn.
Shireen: Burn. Now after all that burning let’s amplify and elevate some amazing people this week.
Honorable mentions go to first and foremost our very own Jessica Luther.
Lindsay: Happy Birthday.
Brenda: Happy Birthday.
Shireen: Iraq’s first female weight lifting team.
C. Vivian Stringer becomes the first African-American coach in college basketball to win 1000 games.
Shout out to Sue Bird for joining the Denver Nuggets head office as Basketball Operations Associate. Now don’t worry, WNBA fans, she’s not retiring from the league, she’s just doing this in the off-season.
Would also like to shout out NWSLPA president, Yael Averbuch, for recognizing that they will be the exclusive bargaining entity that will, “Represent less of a pathway towards a specific outcome say a collective bargaining agreement or particular improvement and working conditions of the players, and more of a gesture of good faith that will allow players and legal like to work towards building a better future for professional women’s soccer in the United States.” We love that.
New Zealand’s Suzie Bates became the first player to reach the milestone 3000 T20 runs, because right now the T20 tournament is on in women’s cricket.
Would also like to shout out India’s women’s hockey team, ice hockey team. The ladies have been competing since 2016, and traveled to Canada to play for Hayley Wickenheiser’s world female hockey Festival, which is called Wickfest. The Toronto Furies, the DWHL team, and all of their home games which will be live streamed through SportsCanada TV, so excited about that.
Meg Rowley, who is writing, chatting and will be now managing … In addition to managing the Hardball Times, will also be a voice of their Fan Graphs audio.
Mahailya Reeves, a 15-year-old high school freshman who pressed 315 pounds in a clean and press, and that video went viral. It’s incredible.
Now can I get a drum roll please?
Lindsay: Brrrrrr. Bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam.
Shireen: I love that baseline, Lindsay.
Lindsay: That makes it up sometimes.
Shireen: Cool, oh, yeah. I love it. Our Badass Woman of the Week is former guest and multiple Badass Woman of the Week winner Claressa Shields for winning a seven-nothing bout against Scotland’s Hannah Rankin, to add another YUD to add to be WBC title to the already WBA and IBF belts that she already has. She’s this two-time Olympic gold champion, is unstoppable. So what’s good in your world? Brenda.
Brenda: I’m going to Argentina. It’s like, do you see a pattern?
Brenda: No, I am. And it’s a huge conference that’s happening at University of Buenos Aires. CLACSO is having it. It’s called the Forum of Critical Thought, and so there’s politicians like Lula and thousands of people. And I’ll be in this small track on sport and society, but a track I love very dearly, and I’ll also be going to the NGO that works with girls in shantytowns, Villa 31, maybe some of you have seen the movie Women With Balls, Mujeres con Pelotas, which was a well-known documentary a few years ago, and this is that organization. So I’m really excited to just learn more about it, and to see all of my friends there, it’s also summer there, and that’s awesome.
Shireen: That’s awesome. Lindsay.
Lindsay: Well, here in United States it is Thanksgiving week. So I am very excited for that. I’m going to be going back to North Carolina for the first time since maybe July. So I am excited to see my family, a little scared that politics is going to come up and I don’t worry, I’m not one of those people that stays silent when they hear problematic things, but it can get emotional, I will say that so just sent send a little thought. But like today, I have a friends giving with some friends in DC, so I’m about to go cook for that. So I’m really excited about that as well. And I’m also just excited for a few days off of work. I don’t think I realize quite how burned out I was, but I’ve been working really hard this weekend so that I can take a few full days away from the news grind. So yeah, all of these are things that I am excited about.
Shireen: That’s awesome. I actually had a really fun yesterday, and I’m very proud. My mom has given a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Family Physicians College in Canada for a lifetime of work and dedication and service and I’m really proud of her. It was graduation convocation ceremony in Metro Toronto Convention Center, and all these graduates came and fellows that were inducted into the college and it was really beautiful, all my mom’s grandkids were there, the whole family was there, we had an entourage, and then went afterwards to this amazing Iraqi restaurant for this, really fun meal. It just was so nice to celebrate her. And she was over the moon.
She was really, really excited. Now the funny thing is that when the procession came in, of the graduates, they were led by bagpipes, and it was super interesting because the first couple graduates were my mother’s batch, and a lot of them were people of color, and it just was really interesting moment to be like they’re following bagpipes. It’s just so funny, and the only critique I have of the entire ceremony was the mp3 that they selected to sing. O Canada was terrible. They could have got a children’s choir or got someone to sing it acoustically. It was just a really bad, very operatic, is that a word? Just whatever. Anyway, this is what’s good. So I’m trying to be positive, it’s just the bagpipes-
Brenda: Shireen glass half-full Ahmed remember?
Shireen: I know. I’m like, “No, this is what’s good.” And I’m trying to not be critical in my analysis of something, that’s what’s good, but just anti-colonialist thing, whatever. Anyway, I love my mom and I’m really proud of her, I’m so proud of my momma. And I’m going to Poland in a couple weeks and I know you’re, “You’re going to Poland in December, why?” But I’m actually going with the FARE network has a conference INSPIRE Project which I helped build their toolkit for using football as a means of integration for refugee women into European society. So I’m really excited about that, and I want, if you know anything about Poland, flamethrowers, please send me a tweet on what I should see. I don’t have a lot of time. I think I only have six hours, seven hours, but let me know what I need to see.
So that’s pretty much it for me, but it’s good. That’s it for this weekend BIAD.
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