Episode 83: Racism and sexism in coaching, the NFL and domestic violence, plus an interview w/ Gloria Nevarez
On this week’s show, the whole crew is together again! After wrapping up the Women’s World Cup U17, [8:03] Brenda, Amira, Lindsay, Jessica, and Shireen talk about racism and sexism in coaching. [21:52] Then Jessica interviews Gloria Nevarez, the commissioner of the DI West Coast Conference. [33:08] And, once again, the gang talks about the intersection of domestic violence and the NFL. [49:11]
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile, [1:02:32] our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, starring Dawn Staley, [1:04:47] and what is good in our worlds. [1:14:20]
For links and a transcript…
“Where Are All the Black Coaches?” https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/articles/dawn-staley-black-coaches
“Coaching While Black” (video) https://www.theplayerstribune.com/en-us/videos/ncaa-black-female-coaches-roundtable
“‘I did it for every single girl’: the first Afghan woman to scale Mount Noshaq” https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/nov/09/for-every-single-girl-first-afghan-woman-to-scale-mount-noshaq-hanifa-yousoufi
“A 9-year-old who couldn’t find Curry 5s for girls wrote Steph Curry. His response is priceless” https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/11/29/a-9-year-old-who-couldnt-find-curry-5s-for-girls-wrote-steph-curry-his-response-is-priceless/
“Heidi Johansen bliver den første kvindelige træner i professionel herrefodbold” https://www.dr.dk/sporten/fodbold/heidi-johansen-bliver-den-foerste-kvindelige-traener-i-professionel-herrefodbold
“Number of Women Coaching in College Has Plummeted in Title IX Era” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/30/sports/ncaabasketball/coaches-women-title-ix.html
“The NFL’s Groundhog Day” by Lindsay https://thinkprogress.org/the-nfl-has-failed-domestic-violence-survivors-ca09069a02dd/
“[Washington NFL team’s] explanation of Reuben Foster claim makes entire endeavor worse” https://wtop.com/sports-columns/2018/11/column-skins-explanation-of-reuben-foster-claim-makes-entire-endeavor-worse/
“Betsy DeVos’ New Title IX Regulations Will Only Hurt Female Student Athletes” by Jessica https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/opinion-devos-title-ix-college-athletes_us_5bff08bbe4b0388c1770f4de
Hands Off IX https://www.handsoffix.org/
Brenda: Welcome to this week’s episode of Burn It All Down. It’s the feminist sports podcast you need. On this week’s panel, we have the unsinkable optimist, Shireen Ahmed, freelance sports writer in Toronto Canada, the fiery and brilliant Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history, and women’s gender and sexuality studies at Penn State, the all-around bad ass Jessica Luther, independent writer, general slayer and author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct: College Football and the Politics of Rape in Austin Texas, the brilliant wordsmith, Lindsay Gibbs, sports writer at ThinkProgress, in DC, and I’m Brenda Elsey, associate professor of history at Hofstra University, coming from the Hudson Valley, in New York.
Before we start, I would like to thank our patrons for their generous support, and to remind our new flame throwers out there about the patron campaign. You pledge a certain amount monthly, it can be as low as a couple of bucks, to become an official patron of the podcast. In exchange for your monthly contribution, you can get access to special rewards, extra segments of the podcast, monthly newsletter, an opportunity to record on the Burn Pile, et cetera, et cetera, so many rewards. We are so grateful for your support.
This week, we’re going to discuss, racism and sexism in coaching, domestic violence in the NFL, and Jessica interviews Gloria Nevarez, who when she was hired as the commissioner of the West Coast Conference of the NCAA earlier this year, became the first Latina commissioner of a division one conference. Before that, let’s spend a moment on the amazing young women that just finished playing the Under 17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay, this past Saturday, December 1st. I think I should start with Shireen, given Canada’s presence in the tournament. Okay all right, Jessica, Jessica, I’ll start with Jessica.
Jessica: No, I just, poor Canada, but it was exciting to see New Zealand win. I don’t know a ton about … I feel like my knowledge of this came from last week’s podcast, which was brilliant. But, it sounds like Spain beat Mexico and New Zealand over Canada. I don’t know anything about New Zealand soccer, so, I was excited to see that country up there.
Brenda: Is everyone in New Zealand okay with being called Kiwis?
Jessica: I have no idea.
Brenda: I see it all the time, and I think that is not a-
Amira: Yes, what do you think it’s like? Do you think it’s like a slur?
Brenda: I don’t know, I just wouldn’t want to be called a kiwi all the time. I like kiwis, but they’re weird and fuzzy, and-
Jessica: They taste good.
Brenda: I don’t know.
Shireen: They’re tangy, they’re tangy and fuzzy.
Brenda: Okay, but I’m just throwing it out there. If I had to be referred to as a food, kiwi would not be the thing I’d want to go back to all the time. I’m from the mid-west, and I wouldn’t want be like a corner-husker, that is a thing, and I wouldn’t want to be that.
Amira: A corner-husker. That’s… they husk corn.
Brenda: Women’s World Cup, okay Shireen, what did you think about Canada’s presence?
Shireen: Oh, Canada in the first 15 seconds, that was rough, against New Zealand, I was thrilled, and I think we should also note that it was the first time for New Zealand to be up in the semifinals, and then be up in the top four. It was a historic moment. I think the question about kiwis is a good one, and so, our New Zealand flame throwers, please let us know how you feel about the tangy fuzzy fruit, and being addressed as so.
Shireen: Now, Anna Karpenko, she’s like 16, or almost 17. She’s from Richmond Hill, close to Toronto, that move in the first 15 seconds, error, cost Canada, in my opinion, the bronze, the third place. Specifically because it was an absolute defensive error, there wasn’t enough time for her to release the ball the way it should have been, and New Zealand was waiting. They were absolutely waiting. Grace Wisniewski was there, and she was ready to fire, and she did. I saw the face and the reaction of the goalkeeper Karpenko, right after, she put her hands to her face, in frustration and in sadness, because she knew exactly what happened.
That goal at the 15 second mark was the fastest goal in that time period, for the under 17, ever, in the history of the tournament. So, that was terrible. I’m also the mother of a goalkeeper, and I know that pain, and it’s not a nice one, and that will haunt her for a very long time. It was just a breakdown, they weren’t warmed up sufficiently, but New Zealand was ready to go, and it’s the difference.
Between Spain and Mexico, I only caught half of the match. I think that I’m really happy. I feel like Spain has been the superior team. They took this tournament in 2016 in Amman Jordan, they’re incredible, they’re fiery. Of course we’re all rooting for Mexico, because they’re also the underdogs, first time they were up in the top two. So, I just love the Mexican team, I love the spirit with which they play, but Spain is a really, really, formidable team. I want these young girls, these young women, to soak it up, because of the fact that their federation is a disaster, and as they get to be women, they’ll be thrown into the usual system of misogyny, and sexism, and inequality. So, there’s that.
Brenda: One of the things that’s so strange about the U17 is how it just hasn’t translated to results at the adult level. So, North Korea has won twice, for example, and they even were only defeated by Spain. The quarter finals were really exciting, three out four went to Pence. So, it was a great tournament, but it is strange to think to yourself like, “I would love to see this translate into more support for this cohort going forward, for Mexico.” Especially upsetting that they didn’t qualify for the Women’s World Cup, so this is great to see, and it’s very hopeful. But, it is always confusing to me, why it doesn’t translate. We haven’t seen historically, the U17 translate into that success. So, it’s interesting to watch.
I was also hoping that Uruguay would do better. The women were really excited to have the tournament there It was a drag to see them get thrashed as they did, and then to have the attendants be pretty, pretty sparse. So, just our love and solidarity out there to the Uruguayan women who really did so much to organize that. Shireen?
Shireen: Just three last points. First of all, Diego Forlan is a beautiful, beautiful man.
Shireen: I love seeing him there up for the trophy, for presentation. I’m so okay with the Uruguayan kits being really tight.
Brenda: Me, too.
Shireen: Yeah. Secondly, a note to the coaching stuff, I know for Canada, Rhian Wilkinson, a former national team player was actually the coach, and she took this team really far, limited resources, so, props to those players that come back and they coach. I want to see more players in the Canadian system, I want to see more women players become coaches in the entire system.
Lastly, the highlight of this entire tournament for me was when Gianni Infantino, the gross person that he is, the President of FIFA, was there to present the trophy. The Spanish team was basically like, “Give us the trophy, and then get out of our way,” and then they hoisted it in happiness. Like he was just recognized by them, the champions, of being as insignificant as he really is. So, that was a great moment.
I always love to see a whole ton of disrespect hurled at Infantino, who I call Johnny, by the way. All right, great. Well, wonderful tournament, nice to see it wrap up like this.
This week, we saw quite a few developments around the topic, in social media and beyond, around the topic of racism and sexism in coaching. Shireen, do you want to walk us through some of what’s been going on?
Shireen: Thanks Brenda. I think that this topic, specifically about black women coaches in the NCAA, is a really important one. We saw it come up last in the Undefeated, when they did Dawn Staley of South Carolina won the championship, it was a riveting, incredible tournament. We were all fixated, it was absolutely fabulous. But when we sit back, and after we relish in the victories, let’s talk very seriously about the representation.
Dawn Staley actually this week, had a really powerful piece in the Players Tribune, where she talked about her own upbringing from North Philly, she talked about her rise to the top, and she talked very much about socioeconomic divide, as well as racial divide. That’s really important to note.
She also talked, and the statistic she quoted was, “90% of the folks playing are black girls. Why is that representation not there?” Sorry, rather she said, “90% of the coaches were white,” sorry that’s what she said. So, when we defer to that, and say, “Well, why is there not representation? It’s about opportunity.”
Then, there was this incredible round table that The Players Tribune also hosted, and these are all, we’ll put these links in the show notes to talk about it, there was NCAA coaches, Dawn Staley as I said, Carolyn Peck, Felisha Legette-Jack, Yolett McPhee-McCuin, and Vanessa Blair-Lewis. These are all very accomplished, really incredible women. Some former players, most are former players, but they talk about it. What they talked about in this, to me, that was the most heroine in this conversation. It’s about 20 minutes, everybody should listen to it.
It was that, they were always in the fear that if they can’t get it done, they’ll be replaced, and that’s the word that was used, “We’re replaceable.” That really shook me, because they’re not replaceable. They’re incredibly valuable, but their worth is not recognized.
Brenda: Amira, you want to add some historical context to this discussion?
Amira: Yeah, sure. So, when we think about the long history of black women coaching, you look pre-Title IX. A lot of black women were physical educators in charge of developing competitive athletics at historically black colleges and universities. That’s really where you had the most I think accessibility to sport. There’s for instance, around 1940, only 25% of black colleges and universities said that sports for women were bad, whereas 83% of mainstream, predominantly white institutions, didn’t want to offer competitive athletics to women, at the same time.
So, they had a lot of opportunity within that. But even within that space, you saw by the mid-century, a lot of black women being pushed out of those coaching positions, in favor for black men who saw opportunities to craft competitive teams and compete at the national, international level. So, as sports were more legitimized within historical black colleges and universities, black men took over those coaching positions from black women, despite early, I think barrier breakers, like Noel, I was going to say Nell Painter, she’s a historian, like Noel Jackson and what not.
Then what you have is a similar effect in the wake of Title IX in which, when you have Title IX legislation passed in the early ’70s, over 90% of coaches of women’s sports in college for instance are women. Now, that number is less than half. So, that’s an enormous dropout. One of the things that has happened, is a similar process. As soon as Title IX mandates that if you take federal funds you have to provide equitable education opportunities, which of course spill over to athletics in high school and college sports, it creates a motivation for schools to now invest, even if they’re not investing much, but invest in the women’s game. It legitimizes competitive athletics for girls or women, that again, you see an influx of men, now predominantly white men into coaching positions. The exodus of women from those head coaching ranks in particular about all the way down
So, you have that double whammy happening, that creates this atmosphere that we’re dealing with now, where it’s very hard for women to get into the coaching game. If you want to disaggregate that more, it’s very hard for black women, Latinas, Asian women, to get into coaching ranks, even in that smaller pool.
Jessica: Just building on what Amira just laid out, you get this thing where even female athletes are much more comfortable being coached by men, because coming up through the ranks, they’re more likely to be coached by men. So, it’s not just that they aren’t even seeing themselves and seeing that possibility, I mean, all of these women talk about how important it is just to see that women can coach, that women of color can coach, that black women can coach. That inspires other women to do the same thing. Dawn Staley was very clear about that in her piece.
But you also get this other kind of effect where the players themselves, they internalize that as normal, that men are coaches. So, all the misogyny that leaks into the way we think about leadership, and who should be in charge, that’s coming from the players themselves too, so, they’re working through that as well, when they think about who can be a coach. There’s just so much work to do in order to unpack all of it.
On top of just the systemic way that men hire men, white men hire white men, most of the people in sports administration are white men, most athletic directors. It’s such a big deal when a woman, and especially a woman of color, or a black woman is hired as an athletic director, that she ends up on our Badass Woman of the Week, whenever it happens, because it’s so rare, still to this day. So, you have all this that’s going on. Every time I hear that history of what happened after Title IX passed with men suddenly deciding that women’s athletics is a space that they want to be in, and then therefore have really infiltrated in a way that has sidelined women, female coaches. Just, it hurts every time when I hear it.
Lindsay: It hurts, that’s a really good way to put it Jess. Because Title IX has been such a monumentally good thing for women sports in all areas, except for this one. But, it’s a big one. It’s hard to talk about this without talking about just sexism and racism in general. Like Jess said, it’s there, it’s in the air we breathe, everyone is exposed to this reality that the people in charge are older white men, and that is just how it is supposed to be.
So, what I see is leagues, even progressive leagues like the WNBA, when going gets tough, when there’s a really, really bad season, when there’s a few really bad seasons, and they have a black woman or black man at the helm, and the results have been bad, it makes perfect sense for them to fire, or let go of that coach. There’s nothing bad about their decision to let go of their coach, except you’re firing someone. But, you most always. I don’t have any data, but it just feels like you most always see them follow that up by hiring a white man back, going back to what they’re most comfortable in.
One of the threads I am interested in watching though is, because women’s sports, women’s program sports are slightly further ahead than they were 20 years ago, not as further ahead as we would like them to be, but slightly. I think we are seeing, slowly, surely more chances for women, because you’re not able to say, “Well, they didn’t play. They haven’t played since they left college,” or anything like that. Just in the NBA, right now of course, we have Becky Herman, who’s still an assistant at the Spurs, and seems … She’s been there for so long, she’s turning down other opportunities because she wants to be the first woman to be the head coach of an NBA team. She knows the best way to stay there, to do that, is to stay within Popovich’s system. So this year, she’s in the front row, she’s one of the front row coaches instead of the back row coaches on game day.
You’ve also had this year, Kristi Toliver, who’s an active WNBA player, who’s now an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards. You don’t get that opportunity unless you have the WNBA. You have-
Jessica: Maybe even Lindsay Whalen, like even Lindsay Whalen going interest NCAA coaching. It makes sense, she’s coming out of WNBA.
Lindsay: Right, exactly. That’s a great point. Lindsay Whalen, Chasity Melvin, who is now a coach with the Greensboro Swarm, in the NBA G-league. She’s an assistant coach there. She went through the NBA assistant coaches program. I interviewed her a few weeks ago, I haven’t finished the piece yet. But, it was fascinating, she went through this program that WNBA players haven’t taken advantage of. Nobody’s thought to include WNBA players in this program. She went, she was better than everyone, she pretty quickly got a job after just one year as an assistant in this coaches program. She was in the WNBA for years, and years. It’s keeping women involved in the game for longer.
Sue Bird is now in the front office with the Denver Nuggets. She’s doing some front office work. Tamika Catchings is doing work with the Indiana Pacers. So, because of this, you are seeing these women who are staying around the sports longer, and then when people are like, “We just want the best person for the job,” well guess what? Because women have been given this opportunity to stay in the profession longer, there are a lot less excuses to include them as the best person in the job.
Furthermore, I want to give shout outs to the women’s professional football leagues that we see around the United States. There are a couple of them. Most of the female coaches that we’re seeing in the NFL, have come through those ranks, and those leagues get none of the support that the WNBA gets. But, these women are staying in these grassroots leagues for longer, they’re playing linebacker, they’re playing all these positions, they’re getting coaching opportunities within these leagues, and that is leading them to then be able to get their foot in the door, in the professional ranks. It’s keeping them around sports longer.
Shireen: I just wanted to actually loop in the SB Nation piece that came out this week, talking about this, which sort of to a degree, is linking what we’re talking about. The racial analysis in this piece is nonexistent, but Tim Struby wrote it, and it was like, why aren’t there many women in coaching, was the tweet that came out. I think that, the attempt to talk about this issue was good, but the way it was framed, was problematic for me. Like I said, the racial issue, the analysis, the socioeconomic piece wasn’t included, and also, it was written by a man.
So, my whole thing is that, this is reflective systemically of the problem we see through sports, the whole way down. This piece could have been written by a woman. I mean, it could have been written by anyone on this podcast, it could have been written by our friends and colleagues out there, but it wasn’t, and that’s so indicative. You don’t get a pass for just talking about it, and saying, “Well, we’re pointing out the obvious problem.” That’s not fixing the issue. So, I’m a bit salty about that, and I’m going to be okay with being salty about that. So, that’s it.
Amira: I was thinking about this, this week, and I really liked what Lindsay brought up, because I was thinking about opportunities, what those look like, and how do we foster opportunities and pathways to coaching. I feel like so much of the fight with girls and women in sport, is to just get on the field. I think we’re just starting to try to push that conversation beyond that. So, what happens after you get off the field, or if you have aspirations within the sporting world, that isn’t necessarily as an athlete, but as a coach, or announcer, or broadcaster, or whatever it is.
I was thinking about this a few weeks ago, C. Vivian Stringer became the sixth NCAA coach to win 1,000 games, head coach for records, women’s basketball. I was writing a piece about the history of cheerleading, black cheerleader protests, and C. Vivian Stringer actually sued her high school in Pennsylvania in the ’60s, to be able to integrate their cheerleading squad.
What’s interesting about it is what she cited as the reason for doing it. She said, “I didn’t really want to be a cheerleader, but yelling on the sidelines and being active on the sidelines is the closest I could get to telling those boys how to get it together and get in line.” So, I’m reflecting on what it is for a teenage C. Vivian Stringer-
Brenda: That’s so great.
Amira: … To integrate her cheerleading squad, because it gets her on the sidelines to tell the boys what to do, because she wants to coach. She knew from that age, that she wants to coach. So, what that looks like, if we think about opportunities and pathways, and the kind of long history of the desire of women and women of color particularly, to be on the sidelines coaching, either from the get go, or after they’ve had a storied athletic career themselves.
Brenda: This week, Jessica interviewed Gloria Nevarez.
Jessica: I’m thrilled to be joined today by Gloria Nevarez, who when she was hired earlier this year by the West Coast Conference, became the first Latina commissioner of a division one conference. Welcome to Burn It All Down, Gloria.
Gloria Nevarez: Thank you, thank you for having me, I’m excited to be chatting with you today.
Jessica: So, I thought we’d start today with the conference itself. Can you tell us a little bit about it, how big it is, what schools are in it?
Gloria: It’s the West Coast Conference, commonly known as the WCC. We are private schools on the West Coast, average enrollment is about 7800. That includes BYU, which skews that stat a little bit, it’d be much lower without BYU. North to south, we have Gonzaga, Portland, we have in the Bay Area, four schools, St. Mary’s, Santa Clara, University of San Francisco, and the University of Pacific, which is a little bit near Sacramento. In the south, we have Pepperdine, and Loyola Marymount University. So, schools that have been around a long time, and have achieved a lot of success.
What I love about this league is, we’ve been saying, we box outside our weight class. This fall alone, we’ve had, think about this stat, 13 teams ranked in the top 25, nationally. For our size and our footprint, in all the competition in this, in the west, and across all the sports, it’s amazing. That includes all the fall sports, and men’s basketball, that represents eight different sports, 4 men, 4 women, and six of our 10 schools. So, for us to have that kind of success in breadth, depth and diversity, it’s really amazing, considering our budget size, and enrollment numbers relative to the Power Five Conferences.
Jessica: Can you tell us a little bit about what you actually do as commissioner? What does it mean to be the commissioner? What is your day to day like?
Gloria: Make sure everybody plays nicely together. No, I’m just kidding. As the commissioner, our jurisdiction so to speak, is really the governance of league play and championships, at a very high level. So, we create schedules to make sure that we crown a champion, either through regular season or actually have an event to do that. Then, we also have an external function as far as, we own all the media rights. So, we negotiate and govern the television agreements, through the league, and we have a digital network, thew.tv. So, we produce, own and run that.
Jessica: Can we talk about the path to becoming the commissioner of the conference. You were a basketball player, correct?
Gloria: Correct, about 100 years ago.
Jessica: What position? What position did you play?
Gloria: I was recruited as a shooting guard at UMass Amherst, but then due to some coaching turnover, I ended playing my last two years under the basket as a small forward, and I’m really only 5’8. So, there was a lot of boxing out, a lot of boxing out.
Jessica: Yeah sure. What did you love about playing basketball?
Gloria: I love sports. I grew up playing soccer, softball, and basketball. Softball actually was probably my first love, but basketball season and recruiting for that came first. So, I got a full scholarship offer to UMass. The way my family and I looked about the college decision was, “Free? Yes, count us in.”
Jessica: Right, right. What did you learn as a student and an athlete when you were at UMass?
Gloria: I really appreciate, and you see all the statistics and the data about women who play sports do better in the C Suite. For me personally, I attribute that to learning to compete, and honestly learning to lose, and still compete. So, when you’re in the boardroom, and you’re going toe to toe, to someone, how to do it without taking it personally. I love Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s quote about, “Fight for things you’re passionate about, and do it in a way that others will follow you.” I really believe I learned those lessons through sports. You have to be with a group of people, who you might not ordinarily be friends with, you might not ordinarily hang out with, but, for the nine months out of the year that you’re in basketball season, those are your besties, and you’ve got to make it work.
That’s such a great life lesson, and even more importantly, a business lesson, because you don’t pick your colleagues, you don’t pick your adversaries, but you’ve got to live with them, and you’ve got to work with them, and you’ve got to go toe to toe with them. I just really attribute those lessons to sport, because you don’t, “Oh, that person doesn’t like me,” or, “That person disagreed with me, so, they must not respect me.” That’s not the case at all, it’s just business.
Jessica: What was it like as a Latina on UMass campus? My understanding is, UMass is pretty white overall.
Jessica: What was that like for you?
Gloria: It’s funny because, UMass not the school but the area, considers itself like the Berkeley of the East Coast. But, if you’re from this area, and actually know the real Berkeley, it’s like, “Yeah, I get that, you’re really more liberal, but nobody is really the Berkeley of anywhere, except for Berkeley.” But, I did love UMass. I grew up in Bay Area California, so my whole high school experience, and growing up, was very diverse. I had a lot of Filipina, Asian friends.
So, when I got to UMass, I didn’t think of myself as a Latina, at all. I’m actually half Mexican, a fourth Filipina, and a fourth Irish. I identify more the last name, and culturally growing up with the Mexican side of my family. I signed my letter of intent late in UMass, so, I missed orientation. I show up, it’s the dark of night, get picked up by the basketball GA, get brought to my dorm, go through my mail the next day, and I get this letter, “Dear student of color.” I had no idea what that meant. I thought perhaps we got assigned colors during orientation, like blue group, or green group. So Elena Silva, the other Latina on my floor in the dorm had to break it all down to me, what it meant, how few of us there were.
Gloria: It really became part of my identity because, there were few of us, there wasn’t that diversity there. Then, the athletics group becomes your family, and most of those, basketball, football players, other sports, are of diverse backgrounds. So, it definitely became almost like a little social group in among itself there, for me.
Jessica: Interesting. How did you actually end up in sports administration? Why did you want to do that particular work?
Gloria: Again, I missed orientation, because I signed so late. This is embarrassing to admit. The basketball team enrolled me in majoring classes, because they had to do my paperwork, and it was all done so late. So, I started in that major, because that’s where that program put me, and I just loved it. One, there were a lot of other athletes in the program, but it was the backbone of business, which is where I thought I might lean toward, but with a sports focus, which was really novel at the time. Now there’s a quite a few programs, back then there was maybe UMass and Ohio State. So it really fit me, and I loved it, and just stuck with it. Probably one of the few people who actually works in their major.
Jessica: Yeah, that’s true. I think that’s pretty uncommon. What are the rewards that you get from doing this work? What do you love about it?
Gloria: I’m one of the few people who’ve worked both on campus, and conference, and bounced back and forth. So, during my campus days, I really enjoy still working closely with the student athletes. It’s such a great … I valued my time as a student athlete in college, and it’s such a great time in your life. You’re learning who you are, you’re trying to figure things out, you’re playing collegiate sports at the highest level, but there’s still young people trying to work through young people issues. So, I really appreciate providing great experiences for that cohort of people, college athletics.
At the conversation level, on my worst day, my job is still to work in sports and watch games, and root for these young people doing great things. So for me, for my love of sports and basketball, it can’t get much better than that.
Jessica: Do you get to go to a lot of games?
Gloria: I do. I think it’s really important for conference staff to get out, and get on campus. You don’t want to be that Ivory Tower rule from afar. You really need to get in the campus, network with folks, and learn about what the challenges and issues are, on a daily basis.
Jessica: That’s cool. That would be a cool part of the job.
Gloria: My travel footprint is pretty fantastic. I mean, San Diego, LA, Portland, Spokane, Provo Utah, the Bay Area, they’re all vacation spots. My husband has his own business, so he’s able to travel with me quite a bit, and there’s rarely a trip he doesn’t try to make work.
Jessica: Yeah, that sounds amazing. I do want to ask you though, about the other side of this, the challenges. We talk a lot on Burn It All Down, about the fact that sports media, sports administration tends to be a white male space. You have made it to the top of sports administration as a Latina. What kind of challenges have you faced?
Gloria: That’s a hard question for me because, when I think about the things that may have been challenges, it’s hard to pinpoint whether those were gender based, or racially based, you know?
Jessica: Sure, of course.
Gloria: When I started one of my first BCS jobs early, early in my career, the athletic director introduced me as, “This is our compliance person and she’s much better looking than the last guy.”
Jessica: Oh wow!
Gloria: I laughed, and honestly in my naivete, I didn’t think of it as offensive or a slap in the face. I almost probably took a little bit of pride in, “Oh, I’m one of the guys, they can joke with me about that.” But looking back, wow! I should have said something, “Hey, I have a law degree, I’ve done this job well, I’m qualified to be here,” but assuming that people knew that or heard that was my first default, rather than standing up and saying, “This is my resume.”
So, it’s those types of things that I think go along to get along, that might have not made things feel like issues that should have been red flags to me, at the time.
Jessica: Sure. I think we all have that kind of a thing. Looking back, it’s always easy to see it there.
Gloria: Well in sport, it really is about the networking, and being invited to that golf outing, being invited to that beers after the game, or dinner, or whatever in a professional sense, so you get to know the power players in a more relaxed setting, that I know I missed out on those invites just because I wasn’t part of that group.
Jessica: Do you have advice for, say young women or just women who want to do this kind of work, from when you’re looking back on the things that you wish maybe you had done differently, or how well-
Gloria: I wish I’d asked. I wish I had just knocked on the door and say, “Hey, I know you guys all do this after the games, can I join?” What’s worse? People are going to say no, or they’re going to scratch their head and think about the issue, but either way, you start from a place of not being in that room. So, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Jessica: Thank you so much for joining us today Gloria. I really appreciate your time. Good luck with the WCC.
Gloria: Thank you so much. I appreciate you facilitating the conversation and having me on your show.
Brenda: Sadly, we have to revisit one of our evergreen themes here at Burn It All Down, domestic violence in the NFL. Amira, want to take the lead on this?
Amira: Yeah. In the last week, we’ve seen once again that there’s a lot of smoke, whistles and mirrors with the NFL when it comes to taking domestic violence seriously. It’s a constant reminder that they just really don’t give a fuck. I’m trying to cuss less, but this week has really tested that.
So, there’s two different events that happened this week, that released this conversation. First, earlier this week, Reuben Foster was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. So, he had been cut by the 49ers, and picked up less than 24 hours later, by the Washington Football Team on waivers. Actually, they were the only team to put in a waiver request, and a lot of anonymous people in the league were like, “Why are you doing this?”
They also never contacted any police department or anything, to figure out what the details were with Reuben Foster’s multiple domestic assault, arrests and allegations. For instance, the Philadelphia Eagles did call the Tampa Police Department, to see what the deal was, and after talking to the police department there, decided not to put in a claim on waivers. So, what made their acquisition worse was the terrible, terrible, I don’t even have words, for the ridiculous statement that they put out, to justify their actions, to justify their signing of Foster. So that happened earlier this week.
Then, at the end of this week, you had the Kansas City Chiefs cutting their standout running back Kareem Hunt. Now Kareem Hunt will remind us very much of Ray Rice, because they have known about that incident, in which he is pushing a woman, and then can later see him come back and kick her, as she’s crouching down on the ground. They knew about this incident, and the league knew, and everybody knew. What has changed this week isn’t that knowledge, but that TMZ broke the video out, and put the video up. So, you have a very similar trajectory as Ray Rice, back in 2014. So, you have something they know happened, of kind of minimum consequence, and then when the video becomes public, it’s the public outcry, that perception, that then results in actual action being taken.
So, extremely frustrating. Like we said, there was a lot of hand ringing and saying we’ve learned from Ray Rice, we’re going to handle this, but that’s not the only incident that reminds us about domestic violence in the league. I just want to take this moment, before we transition to talking about that, to remember with depth, and hold space for Kasandra Perkins.
Five years ago this week, Jovan Belcher, who was a Kansas City Chief player murdered his then girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins before driving towards Arrowhead Stadium and committing suicide. This murder suicide reportedly shook the Chief’s organization, and it’s something that we can’t forget. When we talk about certain domestic violence cases, we have to remember that there was also one that included on property, a murder suicide of the mother of Jovan Belcher’s child, and a five year old who’s now being raised without her mother. We know there’s a high, high rate of black women dying at the hands of their partners, and this is something that I just want to hold space for, as we think about this conversation. Because, this is a life and death conversation in many ways, that we should treat it with that type of seriousness.
Jessica: I think on some level, it’s remarkable how little we talk about Belcher and that case. I think it goes back to Amira’s point that we really like to see things, and for whatever reason, respond to that. I wanted to add, just at the top, last time I was preparing for this segment, and one of the secrets for me, of the work that I do, I don’t know if it’s actually a secret, but I don’t read a ton of stuff if I don’t have to, because I have to read so many cases of sexual assault and domestic violence, just to do the work that I do. So, I will purposely not engage with stuff that I don’t have to.
So, I had not read much about Reuben Foster, and just as the news was breaking this week, I knew. As soon as I saw his name, I knew that it had come up before, and that the 49ers had kept him then. The last time I was reading Lindsay’s piece that she wrote this week for Think Progress, in it was very good, you should all read it, about the NFL and domestic violence. In there, she details what actually happened with his case, and it’s horrible. Of course it is.
But, the actual details of it, it’s one of those moments for me where I was reading it, and I was like, “How could anyone else read this, know this, and then …” Sometimes my heart just breaks for how little we care about victims, and what they go through, and what the reality of this violence actually is. For Doug Williams, of the Washington NFL team to talk about this, and he said, and I’m just going to quote it, this is what he said about them acquiring Foster, “The high risk was the beat-up that we’re going to take from PR. We understood that from a PR standpoint, and we’re taking it.”
I don’t even know, I don’t even understand what these people are doing, and the choices that they’re making, and how they cannot, even hold for a second, in their heads, that there are actual people who are harmed. The high risk? I hate the word risk. I hate when these teams use that. Who’s actually taking the risk? What’s actual risk here? Then, to actually use the language of beating up, and to talk about it, about yourself, the arrogance of all of this, it just breaks my heart.
Brenda: It was just zero self-reflection or intentional malice in that statement. it was shocking. I think you and Lindsay had alerted it on social media, and it is heartbreaking, and it is also enraging that they’re allowed to just get away with this, over, and over. Lindsay?
Lindsay: Yeah. I feel like a broken record saying this, and like it doesn’t do any good. I know it doesn’t do any good saying this, but I have to say this right now. They’re worried about the risk with Reuben Foster, they’re willing to take the PR hit, whatever that means, with Reuben Foster, yet they really need a quarterback but not signing Colin Kaepernick.
Jessica: Thank you, yeah.
Amira: That part.
Lindsay: I almost feel stupid even bringing it up, because it’s clearly not a point that anyone is caring about, pointing out the hypocrisy. It’s like sometimes with the GLP, pointing out the hypocrisy isn’t doing us any good, let’s stop. But, I can’t. It’s so obvious, I can’t let it go. Their quarterback just went down for the year, they’re in the playoff hunt because the NSC East is garbage fire, and yet they’re picking up Reuben Foster instead. I wrote the piece that Jess is talking about, I believe I published it on Wednesday, and it was called The NFL’s Groundhog Day.
It was just about how every single time there’s a domestic violence incident in the NFL, the NFL and the teams do the wrong thing. It’s just staggering to see how they’re repeating the same pattern over, and over again, in the past four years. I wrote that two days before the Kareem Hunt video came out. So, that wasn’t even a part of this piece that I wrote, because that video hadn’t even been out, and I wasn’t that aware of what had happened in Foster’s case, because it’s so hard to keep up with all of this.
But I just think it’s just so exhausting, and it’s really defeating to just go through this process, time and time again. I think one of the clearest examples, in the past four years, of the way the NFL’s decision worked right along inside law enforcement’s decisions to continuously just put women back in danger, is with Johnny Manziel, who domestic violence isn’t a big part of his story.
When people talk about it, it’s more the drug abuse and the mental health, but I think we need to talk about the domestic violence. In the fall of 2016, he was pulled over by cops, because people had reported him having a big fight with his girlfriend in the car, while driving, a point where she was trying to get out of the car while it was going. So, it takes a lot, I would think, to pull over a car, for a domestic violence fight. But, that’s what happened here.
In the dash cam video that was released, this was at the time, the woman was heard saying that she feared for her life. However, she did eventually, as the police were over there, recant what she was saying. She said that she just wanted to go home, that everything was okay, she was clearly trying to cover up for Johnny, she was worried about how this was going to impact her career. The police witnessed bruises on her, and scratches, but decided that, that was just because she was hysterical, and Johnny was trying to keep her from getting out of a moving car, and that, that’s why she had these scratches on her.
They also looked at her, and said that she was hysterical, and had clearly been drinking, whereas, he seemed fine, when he’s admitted to having a couple of drinks. It just seems that there are a lot of sexist reasons to think that a woman who has just been abused is hysterical and probably the drunk one, while the man who has an alcohol problem, is clearly okay, better at hiding, okay with covering up his use, and is the one behind the wheel, wasn’t seen as drunk and crazy.
In anyways, they ended up just being released from the scene, she ended up releasing her statement saying that they were working through their issues privately. The NFL investigation went nowhere, he continued to start for the Cleveland Browns for a couple of more weeks until his partying got in the way.
Then the following January, or February, I can’t remember which one, of 2017, there’s another big domestic violence incident between Johnny Manziel and the same girlfriend. This time, he raptures her eardrum. She is heard, overheard by a bellhop saying she’s afraid for her life. It’s much more extreme than the first one, but the exact signs in that first incident were all there in this second one. Of course, this time he ends up getting indicted for domestic violence, so, he did plead down.
But it’s just like, how did the NFL investigation, the police, everyone, how are we so still, so not educated on all this, that we didn’t see the signs this first time, and that we let him completely get away with it, and think it was okay, and then it happens again. It was similar in the Reuben Foster thing this week, where they’re like, “Oh well, she recanted, so that’s fine. She said that she was lying, and that’s totally normal, so we’re going to ignore that.” Because, there was a domestic violence incident from back in January, with Reuben Foster, and the same woman.
Shireen: I just wanted to jump off of what Jess had said as well, about the language being used for this. Now, the crimes and the violent crimes are absolutely atrocities in themselves, but the language being used here is also really problematic in such a huge way. Also, just to Lindsay’s point about Kaep, there was a tweet that run around and it just stuck with me, that is Colin Kaepernick had beat a woman, he would still probably be in the NFL. He would probably still be there, because that’s considered less egregious than kneeling to raise the issue of police brutality, and anti-blackness, systemic anti-blackness in the United States. That is so hard to process and digest, but from what I see, it’s the truth.
Also, just really quickly, Johnny Manziel that Lindsay mentions, the other thing is, the fallback. Johnny Manziel is in Montreal playing for the Alouettes in the CFL now. There’s always a fallback, and here, the rhetoric around his past is nonexistent, it’s really, really not. I remember when initially was being looked at by Hamilton, lucky, very, very lucky that the advocates and women’s rights activists in Hamilton really made a lot of noise, in so much that it was embarrassing for Hamilton, and the Ticats. A friend of the show, Cricket, she’s a frontline worker with Survivors of Violence, and she brings a lot of awareness to it, she was really involved in that campaign too, and that’s good, but this is the process, this is really, really the process, that there’s always a fallback option for abusers.
Jessica: Just listening to Lindsay recap the Manziel story, one thing I just wanted to mention very quickly, we’ve talked about this before, and I’m sure we’ll talk about it again, but there’s a very real reason that we talk about this a lot, with the NFL, around domestic violence, in part, because there’s a 24/7 sports medium and the fan interest, and also that these are black men, and as I often say, we’re much more comfortable talking about criminality of we can put a black man’s face on it.
Listening to Lindsay recap the Manziel thing, I was thinking about the fact that police officers have an incredibly high rate of domestic violence themselves. So, the idea that we are constantly relying on law enforcement to explain to us the public, what happened and how we should interpret that, and then layer on top of that a sports media that’s made up 90% men, to then interpret that for us, we just have to hold those thoughts as we’re getting this information, and understanding where it’s coming from.
Brenda: Absolutely. Linds, you want to wrap it up?
Lindsay: Yeah. I just want to say that, in all of these situations, what you have is teammates and coaches, and family members, and friends of these abusers who want them best in them. Understandably, they know a different side of them, and they see a different side of them. Because of that, and because of their lack of understanding of domestic abuse, and how it works, they just feel like every single second chance is warranted, or they feel like the accusations have to be awry, or they feel like the only way for any of this to be true, is if this person is being completely set up.
You’ve seen that in Manziel stuff, you saw that with the Josh Brown, the kicker for the New York Giants Forever go. I’m just exhausted with us being so willing to give abusers of all kinds 2nd chances, 3rd chances, 10th chances, of us believing in the good in these men, often men, so fully and concretely, because they were once a nice teammate. They were nice to me after a hard time in my life, that we will completely discard the victims in this. It’s just the strangest and most heartbreaking power dynamic, and we see it play out, time and time again.
Brenda: Now it’s time for everybody’s favorite segment of the show, the Burn Pile, where we gather up everything that’s been awful in sports this week and set it aflame. Jessica, can you get us started?
Jessica: Yeah, sure. So, a couple of weeks ago, Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, released new proposed guidelines for Title IX in regard to how educational institutions are supposed to respond to reports of gender violence. We all knew this was coming, they’re finally here.
The proposed guidelines do two main things. They reduce the legal liability for universities, and that’s actually the biggest thing, and we really have to hold onto that. They reduce the legal liability for universities and they focus on bolstering so called due process rights for students who are accused of harming other students, and violating the student code of conduct. More specifically, they would narrow the definition of sexual misconduct, meaning there’ll be less cases for which Title IX’s responsible.
They would make it so schools only handle cases that happen on campus, or at school sanctioned events. So, I guess sorry if you’re assaulted in an off-campus apartment by the person who sits near you in your astronomy class. They would encourage a higher standard of evidence, and they would severely narrow whom someone must report to, in order to initiate a formal investigation. Too bad if that person never hears about your case.
As I always do when talking about Title IX, I want to reiterate the point, that the point of this federal statute is to make sure no educational institution taking money from the federal government, is discriminating based on sex. This is a civil rights issue. Title IX is about ensuring that all students, regardless of their sex, are able to access education equally. So, there’s plenty to say about all this new proposed guidelines, and there’s not time to say them all now.
But what I want to point out is that, when the new regulations go into effect, they will essentially offer more cover, and less accountability throughout universities, which is especially concerning, when you think about athletic departments. As we’ve talked about, repeatedly on this show, and we will continue to, collegiate athletic departments like to keep things in-house, there is pressure to protect the family, remain quiet. There are consequences for speaking up.
I am worried about what this will mean, not only for any victim whose perpetrator’s in athletics, but specifically for student athletes who are harmed by other student athletes. Telling your coach or your trainer, or your athletic tutor, might not mean that any of them will be obligated by the Department Of Education to do a damn thing about it. Things went great under the Obama guidelines, and those were the most progressive ones, to date. Those guidelines were only the beginning of the change, and now well, it’s hard to know what the ripple effects of these setbacks are going to be.
We also know, the NCAA is not going to do anything about this, and now, Trump’s DOE is abdicating responsibility too. I’m too jaded when it comes to this topic to believe that, most athletic departments especially the ones involving a lot of money run by male athletic directors, at universities with male presidents, are going to feel motivated to address the problem of gender violence on their own. Fans and the media are going to have to do that work, and y’all, I don’t really trust them to do it either.
So, I want to burn all this, but before I do, I also want to note, that if you want to comment on these new proposed guidelines, the comment period is open now, and will be for about another seven or eight weeks. Go to handoff ix, as in nine, handoffix.org to find out more. Now, let’s just burn all of this. Burn.
Brenda: Burn. Amira?
Amira: I want to just go back to Kareem Hunt for one second, a deeper known aspect of this case, or the narrative surrounding it. Which is, one of the things that happens in that video, in that incident is that, Hunt and the rest of the folks with him, allege that the woman who is in the video, who gets pushed, and then later kicked, that she was calling them the N word. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a domestic violence abuse, a case of this nature, in which it has been a black man responding to a white woman using that language.
The aspect of that I want to burn is the way that I’ve seen certain people, black men try to excuse the violence by saying, she called them nigger, and so therefore, that’s fine. Also at the same time, everybody who’s like, “All right, that doesn’t matter because he hit her,” both thing, that type of reduction constantly, constantly is harmful, particularly to women of color, who have to sit with, hold, and labor under both these things.
Now, I firmly believe you shouldn’t put your hands on people, just don’t do it. But, I don’t want to do that in a way that is dismissive. So many of us from a young age are taught, if somebody calls you nigger, you hit them. I was taught that from as a child, that’s your first response. I think that there needs to be like an actually robust, and maybe it’s the internal dialog conversation, about what that invokes, and how you walk away in that moment, so that the result is not hitting people. There’s somebody who’s sitting in jail for 10 years, because a white woman called him nigger, and he punched her, and she died. She’s dead, she has no life anymore, and he is sitting in jail for 10 years. That cannot be the solution to that.
At the same time, stop excusing violence by saying, “Well, this is what she was called.” It’s terrible on both sides. It’s the most reductive thing, and I find myself constantly enraged, because I feel like a majority of the people having the conversation don’t have the range to understand the nuance. They just don’t, and it’s annoying, and I’m over it, and I want to burn it down.
Brenda: Burn, burn.
Lindsay: I want to talk a little bit about Jalen Hurts. So, I don’t know if any of you watch the Alabama Georgia, SEC title game, it was absolutely incredible yesterday. Alabama came back from, I believe it was a two touchdown, they beat more deficit to win it in the end. Look, it is pretty hard to ever root for Nick Saban, or Atlanta, I’m an Underdog fiend, I love Underdogs.
However, what happened is, the Alabama starting quarterback, Tua, got injured. So, Jalen Hurts who was benched last year in favor of Tua, and has been mainly the backup all year long, was put in as starter in the third quarter, and ended up leading his team to the win. It was impossible not to root for this guy, it was just a great story.
The part of this I want to burn is the fact that so many, SR sports reporters, you guys definitely know the ones that I am talking about, they decided to use this as a chance to advance what one of my friends on Twitter very aptly put is, the humble negro narrative, the humble black man narrative, of, well, he decided to not transfer away from Alabama, he decided to stay in his place, he didn’t ask for anything more, he was nice. Then look, he got this great moment, so, this is what all student athletes should do, and positioning him against a straw man of a selfish student athlete who does transfer for more playing time, who does want to make the best of their limited athletic career, in different ways.
Look, Jalen Hurts is incredible, and what he did, I’m all aboard the Jalen Hurts train, all aboard what happened last night, it was incredible. But it’s also very clearly the exception, and not the rule. We should just keep encouraging these student athletes to make the best decisions for themselves when it comes transferring. Not all schools are Alabama, not all positions are the quarterback, where it’s so easy to shine, if you even get a little bit of a leeway. Stop using Jalen Hurts and his success story, to then denigrate all other college athletes, who do decide to transfer. There are so many good reasons to transfer, and we let the coaches quit, and leave these kids in the dust every single day. So, I’d like to burn that.
Brenda: Burn. Shireen.
Shireen: I’m going to metaphorically burn men. Honestly, the trash, the levels of frustration all across the board, I just I’m so frustrated on many levels, with the incessant, unapologetic, very disingenuous way that they come back and say, “No, we’ll do this.” So, other people who identify as men, collect these men, collect them, and reign them in for their violence. We’re talking about whether it’s sexual abuse committed by heads of football federations, yes, Afghanistan, I am looking at you. Whether it’s the NFL, oh my God! Gadel, I’m looking at you. I haven’t stopped looking at you, which hurts me, internally.
Honestly, whether it’s Nike, which is festering this horrible culture, whether it’s the MABS, I could go on forever, if you listen to every Burn It All Down episodes, the 82, before this one, well back me up on this. I just have had it with men. I’ve had it.
So, I realize that I’m not being very specific, but I don’t need to be, and that’s the point. The excuses, the lack of progress, the lack of change, I’m exhausted. Other women and NBs are exhausted, other men that are allies, okay you’re allies, but guess what, fix it, because it’s not good enough. I’m exhausted.
I’m trying to do a very, very positive half glass full, but let me tell you one thing that makes me less half glass full, is men. So there, burn.
Brenda: Speaking of men, my burn involves a group of men, and they report on soccer in the English-speaking press. This week, I had the gall to criticize some of them for their coverage of the Copa Libertadores debacle in Argentina. My criticism was on a particular podcast. My criticism was not about one article, but about a tradition of using essentialism to explain what happens in Latin-American soccer, specifically Argentina, that the River Boca final, the problem with it taking place has to do with an intrinsic passion in Argentine soccer, that is violent.
It was really a caricature of working-class Argentine fans, I didn’t tag the author of a particular piece, I actually put forward a different piece that I thought was better. I did criticize the piece in the New York Times and the Guardian pieces. The response was amazing because, clearly, there’s a group of British sports writers that have a chat together or something, that woke up and decided that I had offended them.
Mostly, the writers would agree with my analysis privately, publicly, they came at me for, “Questioning their professionalism,” because I criticized that they didn’t speak Spanish, and one of them speaks Spanish. So, one of them tweeted at me for six hours, that he speaks Spanish, and I said, “Well, if it’s not a language problem, it must be a critical thinking problem.” Well right? I gave you an out.
I think if you use essentialism to explain something, it’s very, very fair to question your professionalism, because we should know better by now. So, I would like to burn the fact that there’s a gatekeeper, an old boys club network that often plays good cop, bad cop, that doesn’t actually read the work of women, or listen to the podcast we’re on, but will back up any sort of challenge to their control over the field. I made one mistake in a podcast, that was not edited out despite my having wanted it edited out, that was enough to just tank an hour worth of analysis. So burn you, burn your boys club. I don’t know, this is attached to Shireen, burn.
Now after all that burning, we’re going to celebrate some of the amazing women in sports this week, and what they’ve accomplished. Before we go on to do that, we would like to recognize the death of former National China Team player, Zhang Ouying from lung cancer. Ouying was a 43 year-old woman who had played as a key member of the Chinese squad in two Olympic games, and three World Cups. So, rest in power.
Honorable mentions this week go to the New Zealand Black Ferns. Their win over the Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament was the fourth time.
Hanifa Yousoufi, the first Afghan woman to scale Mount Noshaq.
The Nigerian Woman’s Football Team, the Super Falcons won their ninth AFCON title, congratulations to them.
Riley Morrison, a nine year-old hoopster, who wrote to Steph Curry, because Curry shoe, the Curry five, is only made for boys and not girls. Steph Curry wrote her back and said, “Here you go.” Now, she’s going to be one of the first to own a Curry Six.
Shireen: It’s now corrected on the site, so everybody can go get that for your nieces, or daughters, or whatever.
Brenda: Or just reject consumerism of athletic shoes all together. Just another option. The eternal Burn It All Down struggle made for kids, by kids. I’m only laughing so I don’t burst into tears.
Heidi Johansen becomes the first female trainer in Danish professional men’s football. The former team player, national team player has been employed as a goalkeeper coach, in the first division club, HB Køge. Congratulations.
Can I get a drum roll? Dawn Staley named USA basketball coach of the year.
That was arousing. That was a good job. In these dark times, and literally for a lot of us, they are darker with the time and the sun shortening, what’s keeping you all afloat? Amira? Curry Sixes?
Amira: I know. Yesterday, my sweet, sweet middle child Jackson turned six. [crosstalk] Thank you, love them, and I’m absolutely obnoxious. I celebrate it like it’s really my day, but it is, because I did that.
Shireen: You did.
Amira: So, Jackson turned six, that’s certainly good. I’m teaching my last class on Tuesday, the semester is over, that is certainly good. I actually really love my students who are both in my classes, and they’re doing amazing. Oral History is a really great sports podcast, they’re lovely, but I’m very ready for break too. I also have a busy week. I’m going to get to see Lindsay, hopefully.
Amira: Because,Tamari’s performing at the Italian embassy again, so this week, I’ll spend half my week in DC doing that. Then, I’m going to jump on a few planes, and I’m going to head to New York for a talk at The Schomburg with Randy Roberts, and Howard Brian, for their conversations on black studies. We’ll be talking about athletic activism and race. So, if you’re in the New York area, come check us out. That’s Thursday December 7th, I think, thanks Bren. Also, it will be livestream, so I’ll make sure to tweet out the link. You can also check it there. That’s what’s good in my life. My half-birthday is on Tuesday, and that’s a thing that I totally celebrate.
Shireen: Wait, wait, wait, what’s a half-birthday?
Brenda: Shireen, would you like to go next and have half-birthdays as something you’ve just learned?
Shireen: Yes. I love my birthday. January 22nd is the best day of the entire year. What is a half-birthday? If I missed it, can I make a three quarter birthday?
Amira: Well, that might be a step too far. So a half-birthday-
Jessica: Oh golly!
Amira: On Tuesday, I’ll be 30 and 1/2, but for real, this is going to be a little sad, but the reason why I started celebrating my half-birthday is because for me, like many children who are placed for adoption, my birthday wasn’t necessarily a time that was super happy for me, when I was younger. It was the day that I lost my first family. It was a day of loss, and I always had a lot of conflicting feelings around it, even if I couldn’t articulate it.
December 4th was far enough away, that was free from a lot of those baggage, but it contained a lot of joy. So, it became a joking thing I did, growing up, and I just stuck with it, because I like to say 30 and 1/2. But really, it also can start a six months countdown to your birthday, and who does not like to celebrate themselves? So now, my birthday is not filled with the same type of baggage. I’ve been in reunion for 1/3 of my life now, and I also just like to celebrate myself, generally. So, that is why I’m still all in on my half birthdays.
Lindsay: Okay, happy half-birthday.
Brenda: Shireen, what’s good?
Shireen: I went to the Christmas market in Toronto in the Distillery District yesterday, it was beautiful. I took my boys, and my friend Amber, and her son Amari, it was just the moms and the boys, and it was amazing. We paid for over-prized hot chocolate, $4 Canadian for organic hot chocolate, per cup. I swallowed that, and I was like, “No, this is festive.” It was freezing, it was wonderful, everybody was out in their cure gear. We sat on a ferris wheel, and then it started to pour, rain. It was like, okay.
That was really fun, and I’d never been before. It’s like a Toronto landmark at the Christmas market. Then, we went to the old spaghetti factory, which is really, really fun. I found out, they have halal meat. All their meat is halal, so, it was mind-blowingly exciting for me, because I’m relegated to automatically not eating meat, when I go out, but this was so fun. You all don’t understand, being able to have meatballs, was just so exciting. I was so excited.
So, the last thing that was really great for me this week was, I actually reviewed and wrote a piece for the Shadow League on the movie called Tiger. It’s a movie about Pardeep Singh Nagra, the boxer, who in ’99 was banned from boxing, because of his beard. He’s a practicing Sikh. The movie was made, and it was released on Friday. I had a really, really fantastic interview with him, and two of the actors, Michael Pugliese and Prem Singh. So, we’ll put the link there.
But also, speaking to Nagra was very cathartic for me because back in the day, when I was told I couldn’t play soccer anymore because of my choice to wear a hijab, I had heard about him. He fought the fight that I just didn’t, at the time. So, that was really, really important for me this week.
Brenda: All right, Jessica?
Jessica: I love the holiday season, this time of year, in part because I just do a lot of baking. I just love baking. I actually made pop tarts last weekend, and they’re beautiful, and they tasted amazing. I put them on Instagram, if you want to go and look at my beautiful pop tarts that I made.
One of the best things about today for me, other than recording this podcast is that, number 10, Texas Women’s Basketball Team, is hosting number 6, Mississippi State, and I’m going to go watch it. If you don’t know why this is a big deal, then you need to go back to listen to our recent episode where we had Erica Ayala on. Lindsay and Erica really broke down why Mississippi state is such an exciting team, and of course, I’m always excited to see Texas play. So, I’m going to go do that later today, and I’m very, very excited. It will be my first women’s basketball game of the season.
Lindsay: I’m still stuck on someone really wanting to celebrate their birthday for six months. I get the half-birthday thing, but when you said it’s a six month countdown to your next birthday, I just don’t understand. Birthdays make me incredible uncomfortable. I so admire how you and Shireen embrace them, and lavish them, and love them in these ways. I’m not a shy person, I’m very outgoing, but birthdays make me want to cuddle in the corner. I don’t like them.
Anyways luckily, apparently my half-birthday’s coming up too, because Amira and I are both June babies, so that’s something. But, I went to see Maryland play, Georgia Tech this week, so, anytime I get to a women’s basketball game, that is good. Notre Dame and UConn play this afternoon, so while I will not be there, I will be watching. Hopefully I will be watching in a good mood, because the panthers will have snapped a three game losing streak, which has me just furious, but we’ll see what happens.
But also, I’m just going to piggyback off of Jess, as always, it is December officially, which means, last night, what did I do? I watched Christmas movies on Netflix.
Jessica: I did that too. I do a lot of that.
Lindsay: So, that’s good.
Brenda: Cool. I’m going to go cut a Christmas tree with my kids, right after recording. So, that’s what’s good for me. Hopefully that means that the fact that my house isn’t super clean, because it’s the end of the semester, will be covered up by beautiful pine scent emanating from the tree, and thus covering up all the dirty dishes scent.
Amira: You get a complete pass till grades are in. At least that’s what I told my husband. So, I’m going with it.
Brenda: It just always feels like there’s an excuse. It was the World Cup, and then it was semester starting, and then it was-
Brenda: Yeah, that’s right, midterms, my half-birthday, sometimes it just piles up. So anyway, I’m really excited about it. There’s a big farm around here, and I just love a tree, a real tree. I didn’t grow up with one either, and I also have a pretty ambivalent birthday and Christmas feeling. So, it’s the one thing I can totally get behind. So, I’m excited about it. So, merry sports watching, and tree cutting and chopping, et cetera, this week.
Amira: Brenda, guess what?
Amira: Tomorrow’s rehearsal, less than two nights ago, whatever, I did a solo escape room by myself, not only escaped, I set a record.
Brenda: Of course, you did.
Amira: I have a picture of me holding three signs at the end that I’m going to send you right now.
Brenda: People hold us back. Sometimes you’ve got to do it solo.
Jessica: That’s amazing.
Shireen: No, no, Amira, do you have a trophy for this? Because you should send yourself one.
Amira: I know You want to make me one?
Brenda: I think it should be part of BIAD merchandise.
Brenda: Now, you can do-
Lindsay: BIAD trophies, we have to make BIAD trophies.
Brenda: Exactly, and you can put whatever you want on, like your choice of accomplishment. That’s coming.
Shireen: I was just going to add one more thing, I know we’re long, but Lindsay, I just wanted to tell you heartfelt, and very sincerely, that your birthday is very important to me, because it’s the day that you were brought into the world. I’m going to celebrate your birthday, if you don’t want to, because I love you, and I love that you’re in the world, and it’s an important day.
Lindsay: I look forward to celebrating your celebration.
Brenda: Because of the fact that I love you Lindsay, I’m going to ignore your birthday entirely.
Lindsay: Thank you Brenda, see that is a true friend.
Brenda: That’s what I want. That’s what I want, okay. Happy, all holidays, listeners. That’s it for this week, on Burn It All Down. Although we’re done for now, you can always burn day and night, especially with our fabulous array of merchandise, including mugs, pillows, Tees, hoodies, bags, and soon to come, trophies. The holidays are coming up soon, and what better way to tell someone you love them, but by giving them a pillow that crushes toxic patriarchy. Please go to our store, Teespring.com/store/burn-it-all-down, with some dashes in there. It’s pinned to our Twitter. Burn It All Down lives on SoundCloud, but can be found on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, and Tune In. We appreciate your reviews and feedback, so, please subscribe and rate, let us know what we did well, and how we can improve.
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Okay, that’s it. Until next time, I’m Brenda Elsey, on behalf of Jessica Luther, Lindsay Gibbs, Shireen Ahmed, and Amira Rose Davis.