Episode 68: Tiger Woods’ Return, the Women’s Baseball World Cup, and the ATL Dream’s Elizabeth Williams
On this week’s show, Amira and Jessica are joined by guest co-host Shakeia Taylor.
At the top of the show, the group discusses the legacy of Aretha Franklin (5:42). Then they get into our cultural obsession with Tiger Woods (14:06) before turning to a discussion of the upcoming Women’s Baseball World Cup (26:47).
Then Lindsay talks with Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream about Atlanta’s phenomenal second half of the season, the WNBA playoffs, and whether we should expect the players to opt out of their current collective bargaining agreement on October 31.” (41:06).
Of course, you’ll hear the Burn Pile (50:08), our Bad Ass Woman of the Week, starring the US Women’s National Softball team (52:22), and what is good in our worlds (56:30).
For links and a transcript…
“Aretha Franklin Wasn’t Just The Queen Of Soul. She Was The Queen Of Shade.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/aretha-franklin-wasnt-just-the-queen-of-soul-she-was-the-queen-of-shade_us_5b71c3c1e4b0ae32af9a68f3
“Brooks Koepka Holds Off Tiger Woods to Win P.G.A. Championship” https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/12/sports/pga-championship-brooks-koepka-tiger-woods.html
“A Great Victory in Defeat for Tiger Woods” https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/a-great-victory-in-defeat-for-tiger-woods
“For the man who always said second stinks, this time it didn’t” http://www.espn.com/golf/story/_/id/24360463/tiger-woods-always-hated-coming-second-all-bad-year-pga-championship-where-finished-brooks-koepka
“Tiger Woods is a boon to golf, sponsors and broadcasters” https://www.economist.com/business/2018/08/18/tiger-woods-is-a-boon-to-golf-sponsors-and-broadcasters
Official site for the WBWC https://wbwc.wbsc.org/
“Watch the thrilling hype video for this summer’s Women’s Baseball World Cup” https://www.mlb.com/cut4/the-new-trailer-for-the-2018-womens-baseball-world-cup/c-278980100
Rankings (1 – 4: Japan, Canada, USA, Australia): http://www.wbsc.org/rankings/
“USA announces Women’s Baseball World Cup roster” https://www.sbnation.com/2018/7/25/17614400/womens-baseball-world-cup-usa-roster
“Blue Lives Matter Refuses to Partner with Jets, Cites NFL Protests And Isaiah Crowell Controversy” https://www.si.com/nfl/2018/08/15/blue-lives-matter-jets-partnership-controversy-isaiah-crowell-instagram
“The Braves Are Co-Hosting A Fundraiser For Xenophobic Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Kemp” https://deadspin.com/the-braves-are-co-hosting-a-fundraiser-for-xenophobic-g-1828334382
“Sixers hire former Duke, WNBA star Lindsey Harding as full-time scout” http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/24397430/philadelphia-76ers-hire-former-duke-wnba-star-lindsey-harding-full-scout
“Kyla Ross And Madison Kocian Are The Latest Olympic Gymnasts To Speak Out About Larry Nassar’s Abuse” https://deadspin.com/kyla-ross-and-madison-kocian-are-the-latest-olympic-gym-1828405324
“Fox Sports to make history with all-female announcing crew for D.C. United match” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/soccer-insider/wp/2018/08/17/fox-sports-to-make-history-with-all-female-announcing-crew-for-d-c-united-match/
“USA wins Softball World Championship” https://wswc.wbsc.org/news/usa-wins-softball-world-championship
Jessica: Welcome to Burn It All Down, the feminist sports podcast you need. We’re so happy you’re here. I’m Jessica Luther, freelance journalist and author in Austin, Texas, and on today’s show I’m joined by Amira Rose Davis, an assistant professor of history and women’s gender and sexuality studies at Penn State University, and we have a special co-host this week, Shakeia Taylor, a writer in Chicago, Illinois, who loyal listeners will recognize from our recent baseball themed Hot Take, here on Burn It All Down.
We are thrilled to have Shakeia back, and for an entire episode. First things first, as always, thank you to our patrons whose support of this podcast, through ongoing Patreon campaign, make Burn It All Down possible. We are forever and always grateful. If you’d like to become a patron, it’s easy. Go to patreon.com/burnitalldown. You can pledge as little as one dollar per month, but if you donate a little bit more, you can access exclusives like an extra Patreon-only segment, or a monthly newsletter. For our August segment, which went up last week, each of us picked someone in sports we feel is unfairly maligned and we defended them. Give it a listen, and then pop over to our Patreon page to leave a comment on the segment about who or what in sports you think deserves more love, or at least less hate.
On today’s show, we’re going to talk about our cultural obsession with Tiger Woods, after his second place finish at the recent PGA Golf Championship was the main storyline out of that tournament. Then we’ll discuss women in baseball because the eighth women’s World Cup begins on Wednesday, and for the first time ever, will be played in the United States and Lindsay talks with Elizabeth Williams of the Atlanta Dream about Atlanta’s phenomenal second half of the season, the WNBA playoffs, and whether we should expect the players to opt out of their current collective bargaining agreement on October 31st. Of course, we’ll cap it off by burning things that deserve to be burned, doing shout-outs to women who deserve shout-outs, and telling you what is good in our world. But first Aretha Franklin, the queen of soul passed away last week at the age of 76. We wanted to spend a few minutes at the top of the show remembering this cultural icon.
Shakeia you had a thread about that her the other day. Can you tell us about it?
Shakeia: Yeah, I was really devastated to hear about Aretha’s passing, but I remember that she has a very interesting connection to sports. She sang, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, in a 1990s MLB promo with the Tigers, from her hometown in Detroit. It’s super cute. There’s a scene in the promo, I don’t know if you have seen it, where she marries Cecil Fielder, and there’s like bats over their heads. So cute, and it’s real funky version of, Take Me Out To The Ballgame. She also sang the national anthem quite a few times. The 93 world series, the 2011 ALCS, and in 2013, MLB honored her at the Civil Rights Game. She’s got a really strong connection to sports. She apparently sang at a couple of wrestling events, which was pretty surprising to me. If you asked Aretha to sing at your sporting event, apparently she would come.
Jessica: That’s sounds great. Amira I know that you liked her shade a lot.
Amira: Yeah, Aretha was the queen of many things and shade was right up there. I enjoy many clips and many jest now of her. There’s some clips floating around online right now, if you want to see, for instance, during her feud with Patti LaBelle, her flip of the, I’m doing a motion that nobody can see, but her flip of her jacket and walking fast was epic, and of course being interviewed on young singers today. They sat down, and she was like young singer, beautiful singer, going through the list, and said, “Taylor swift,” she said, “Mm-hmm (affirmative)- a great gown, beautiful gown,” which is my favorite clip.
She was wonderful queen of shade and important for so many reasons. There’s a few pieces out right now if you go over to Black Perspectives, the blog of the African American Intellectual History Society, there’s a good piece by my colleague here, Crystal Sanders on what Aretha meant to civil rights movement, to Detroit, how growing up under her father really connected her to the movement, her longtime support of Angela Davis, and she was in line with the long history of black entertainers and athletes who harnessed their fame and their proximity to resources and money to help on bail. So she famously helped Angela Davis out with bail. This is something that we’ve seen in terms of like, say Harry Belafonte, paying for Martin Luther King Jr’s funeral, or even Jay-z and Beyonce very covertly posting bail for Ferguson protestors, and so she is very much at the forefront of this tradition. So besides being just the queen of soul and a icon, and all of that, she’s a warrior in many ways and we’ve definitely lost a huge light here.
Jessica: Yeah, that’s so true. Well thanks you guys for those thoughts, and now let’s get started with the show. All right, Amira, you want to get us started?
Amira: Yeah. Last week was the 100th PGA Championship and it was won by the reigning champion Brooks Koepka, and he had a tremendous outing at the PGA Championship, and he led the whole time and his 72-hole total of 16-under 264 was basically right there tying the absolute scoring record for the whole tournament set over 17 years ago, so he had a wonderful outing. Now, if you didn’t know this, or you didn’t hear about this, I don’t blame you because his victory was very much overshadowed by Tiger’s defeat. Tiger chased in the whole time and his comeback and almost victory became the leading storyline coming out over the weekend after the PGA Championship, and there’s this really interesting moment where at even at the end of the tournament, the cheers for Tiger and for what he had done, and the disbelief around this comeback completely washed over and overshadowed the victory of Koepka.
It really speaks to our continuing obsession with Tiger as a icon, as a star, and there’s a lot of layers here, and so, one, there’s been this thing within golf, of the Tiger effect and this idea that the ratings have really been tied to Tiger, and he mainstream golf when he came onto the scene, and ratings have risen and fallen with his appearance on the circuits, and this idea that, well, where would golf go, where are the next superstars and that nobody could match what Tiger did. Then of course you have it wrapped up in his brief downfall, which was tied as much to the downfall of his marriage, as to his back injuries and his losing his swing and all this stuff. So what you have here is a multipronged rehabilitation story, and comeback and reemergence that not everybody in the golf world I think is applauding, because I think for many his downfall was a … Well he had it coming.
He was notoriously stern and cold, and he’s just too black for the golf course, and all this stuff. So there’s just all these messy parts to our continued attention on Tiger that I found fascinating coming to the forefront as he makes these kind of returns to the game. I would love to talk and get you guys’ thoughts about especially thinking about it relative to something like Venus Williams who departs the game based on injuries, and dealing with obviously her autoimmune stuff and then still is coming back at a older age despite this, and when she gets close to a final, it’s like, “Oh my goodness! Venus is doing it again.” So I’m trying to map on how much of this is just, I don’t want to say nostalgia, but like cheering for people you grew up cheering for and seeing them back to the top where they haven’t been for a huge time, and then how much of it is Tiger specifically, and all the things that we attached to his success. Jess?
Jessica: Yeah, I don’t know if you can separate those two things, because I think that is what it comes down to, for me. I don’t know very much about golf, like I can’t really … I know some players, maybe like mentioned by name, but I grew up with Tiger and he is what I think of when I think of golf, and if you want to hear someone wax poetically about how much they love Tiger Woods, Lindsay did this actually on that August Patreon-only segment. She just is so excited about this comeback and I feel like we can’t even … It’s hard to overstate what he does for golf, and so I’m taking this from an economist article about the impact of Tiger and it says that nearly 8.5 million Americans tuned into watch the US PGAs final round. That was 73% more than the same day a year ago, when Tiger was not participating and it was the biggest audience for the tournament since 2009, and that was the last time that Tiger had a chance to win it and it was another second place finish.
Those are humongous numbers for this one single person, that he can bring people and I do feel like there is so much nostalgia here, and I do wonder even … I think Venus is the right comparison even though Serena is also … She’s only a year younger than Venus, but there is something when I watch Venus, I think part of it is, not that Serena hasn’t struggled, but she’s been so dominant in a way that Venus has not, that when Venus is doing really, really well I … And like I’m almost exactly the same age as Venus. It does give me comfort, like I can do it too. There is something about that and I’m wondering if people are mapping a lot of that kind of stuff onto Tiger as well. Shakeia.
Shakeia: I would have to say just from a non-statistical, non-sports related view of it, is I think it’s just cool to watch a black guy get a redemption story. That doesn’t happen all the time, and if you really think about it, Tiger’s “scandal” wasn’t like, okay-
Amira: A scandal?
Shakeia: He had an affair. That’s pretty normal news these days, you know what I’m saying? So I just think a lot of us are rooting for him because it’s like, “Okay, yes, let this guy come back.” I remember being a kid and watching him, so.
Amira: Precisely. I think you point to exactly a huge thing, which is part of why it was a scandal is because Nike had constructed this clean cut persona to market him when he came on the scene, and part of that was how he had to act as a black man or a Blasian…
Amira: Yes, that. As a black man in golf, he had to be clean cut and not rock the boat too much, and I think part of the scandal was rejoicing that there was a mess around him, but who else remembers Tiger as a kid, is Brooks Koepka who said, “When he started making that run, it brought me back to when I was a kid and when I was watching him and you heard these little roars, and being part of that as a fan is cool, and even when you’re playing him it’s pretty neat, and it pushes you to step up your game, I mean, you know you have to because he’s right there if you fall.”
And so even on the tour, I think there’s this sense, and you hear this from people who of course played the Williams sisters as well, and even if we switched boards, what happens when people play Tom Brady now? Is what happens with these athletes who have been playing and have been at the top for so long that now people who’ve idolize them are on the scenes competing with them. It’s just, or we just saw this, of course, in NBA where Jason Tatum went from being a little kid at one of the LeBron’s camps to dunking on him in the playoffs, and begging him for a follow on twitter, to him finally following him back now.
So I think that there’s part of that cycle in here that I really enjoy. From Tigers camp, they are very happy with his performance and hoping to continue to build on this and go forward. Tiger himself says …His caddy says he’s pretty pumped, he’s getting there, he’s very close and Tiger said, “I didn’t know well how it’s going to start this year, how many tournaments I was going to play, how well I was going to play. I didn’t know what swing I was going to use either, so I had to figure this out on my own and it’s been really hard. A lot harder than people think and I’m just very pleased at what I’ve done so far.” So it sounds like this just might be the next stone in what might shape up to be quite a comeback story.
Jessica: So, starting on Wednesday, August 22nd and lasting through to next Friday, August 31st, it’s the eighth women’s Baseball World Cup. I imagine there are plenty of people listening who didn’t even know that was a thing. It’s taking place in Viera, Florida, which is in central Florida along the eastern coast. It’s near the Kennedy Space Center. They call it the Space Coast. It’s about 10 miles from where I grew up actually, and this is an area where they do, or they used to at least do a lot of spring training, so there’s going to be 12 teams competing. Japan, USA, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, Chinese Taipei or Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cuba, Korea, Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Canada., and Australia.
Japan is actually ranked number one, and they have won the last five world cups. They’re also the only country to have a professional women’s baseball league. Canada is number two. The USA is number three, and Australia is number four, and I’ve actually been working on a piece about the tournament for a while now, it should be up sometime this week, and I’m interested in this sport of baseball, because it has really skirted around Title Nine. I find that fascinating that it’s this one sport, and that doesn’t … Title Nine has not had an impact on women in golf and baseball. That’s specifically because softball exists, which was originally created so people could play baseball during the winter. It was indoor baseball, but when baseball was-
Amira: It was for men.
Jessica: Okay, fair. Yes, and now like when Little League in 1973 was ordered to finally … They were forced by law to include girls, they just created Little League Softball and then just pushed the girls over there. This has been one of the parts of the story of baseball, and so to this day, the pipeline for baseball, it’s poor both for players of color and there isn’t even really one for girls and women because of the professionalization of baseball that really made it like a white man’s sport.
So it does feel though that there’s more emphasis these days on getting girls into baseball and keeping them there. There’s this organization called Baseball For All. They’re dedicated to helping girls find a place locally to play ball, and they also host a national tournament. They actually just did it in Rockford, nearly 300 girls showed up to play. Last summer I wrote about Girls Travel Baseball, an all-girl youth travel team and even Major League Baseball is putting some resources into building the game for girls, and of course right now we have this major international tournament on US soil for the first time ever, which is the Baseball World Cup. So I was hoping that you could start us off by talking a little bit about the history behind all of this, to ground this particular moment that we’re having.
Amira: Sure, like you put it, there’s actually a long history of women in baseball and girls in baseball that’s hidden behind the rise of softball as well as our cultural obsession, A League of Their Own is our only point that we see this. But if we even think about staple songs like, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, if you actually look at that song that it’s written from the perspective of a girl wanting to go to a baseball game way back in the early 20th century. So, for instance, in my research I write some about the Dolly Vardens, which was a black women’s baseball team professional. They got paid to play baseball right before the turn of the 20th century in the Philadelphia, Chester area. So there is a long history of baseball and in girls and women trying to break into baseball.
Now, of course we have A League of Their Own, and we’re in an anniversary year, this is the 75th year of the founding of the All American Girls Baseball League, which of course was active during war time to replace the entertainment and fill the void of a lot of male baseball players, and a lot of men in general going overseas. So part of the gimmick of the all American Girls Baseball League was to combine what was seen as a masculine sport baseball, with women playing it in uniforms that look like skirts, and this was going to be the gate attraction and it worked, and a lot of people came out to see, but it also gave a lot of women opportunity to play the game that they wanted to play, and obviously this is documented on A League of Their Own.
There’s also a hidden history of women of color in baseball here. First, in the all American Girls Baseball League, there were a number of Cuban women who were white passing, and so this dovetails off the work of Adrian Burgos, who looks at how the color line and baseball was broken by white passing, or ambiguous Latino players who didn’t necessarily move the color line because they weren’t read as black. And so we see similar stuff happening in the All American Girls Baseball League, and of course it was a segregated league, if you think back to A League of Their Own.
When you think about this 1:21 second clip in which the ball flies off the field to the offense, where there is a group of black women watching the tryouts happening, and Gina Davis character says, “Oh, throw it back, throw it back,” and a black woman stares at the ball and considers it, and she in Gina Davis’ character waves again and says, “Throw it back, throw it back,” and the black woman absolutely sends the rocket back to her and Gina Davis catches it, takes her hands out of the glove and shakes it, and looks at her and nods as if to say, “Oh, you can play too,” and in that 21 seconds, we see the ever slight, very brief nod to the fact that the league was actually segregated and there was instances of black women who came to try to, try out for the league and were turned away, because it was a segregated league and they want to maintain that segregation.
One of those women was Mamie “Peanut” Johnson who would later become one of three women to play in the Negro Leagues after integration, and I have an article on this that I can link in the show notes called, No League of Their Own, which looks at the history of black women in baseball in particular Toni Stone, who there’s now a Broadway show in the works that’s going to be developed with Uzo Aduba as Toni, Mamie “Peanut” Johnson and Connie Morgan, and these women were brought in as gate attractions to essentially sell the league after integration and after the Negro Leagues were crumbling as a black institution, and again that worked, and they allowed the league to survive for another three years while navigating the complexities of being black women in a defined masculine space. It is very interesting if you bring this up to then Mo’ne Davis of course, who had her huge run as a pitcher, and who got to meet Mamie before she passed away.
And then just this year, a little league team comprised of mostly black boys won the DC Little League tournament and went onto the Little League World Series, and they were actually named for Mamie Johnson.
Jessica: Yeah, it’s so interesting to me because I’m in doing research for this piece. I think … I don’t have a great grounding in the history of baseball. Until very recently my understanding of women in baseball began and ended with A League of Their Own, and I assume for a lot of people that, that’s probably true. So one thing I totally didn’t understand until looking more into the Women’s World Cup and prepping, writing this piece and doing the level of the too much research that I always do for this kind of stuff is like, that Japan had baseball in the late 19th century. Australia had baseball in the late 19th century, and that women have been involved in the sport in those countries for just as long.
It’s just amazing how narrow everything is around women in baseball, and the numbers are generally very small in both Australia and in Japan, and in Canada they have the same issue with softball. It has functioned really well in all of these places to keep women out of baseball, girls and actually out of baseball, but this is true in so many places and one of my fascinations is the fact that Japan has this Pro League. It’s small. There’s four teams, but it’s been around for a while. People didn’t think it was going to last that long and part of why it exists is because there’s a major corporate sponsor, that man saw a girl’s high school baseball tournament in Japan and decided that there should be Pro League for Japanese women. So this man decided that he is going to fund this professional league and it really does seem to make a significant difference for the ability of these women’s players when they show up for international competition.
The women in Japan have just been playing way more games than the women in Canada, the US, Australia and all these other teams and still even in Australia and Canada, they have different levels. There’s more opportunity even though it’s mainly amateur for women to play even than in the US and it’s just very fascinating to me because we see in so many teams sports, Title Nine has really done a lot of work in the US. It’s not … Obviously we talk a lot of time on this show, like it’s not perfect and equality and equity in particular is a real issue still with between men and women’s sport, but we think about US soccer, or the women’s basketball team, or even the softball team. Those team sports have really benefited a lot, and baseball, it’s just lagging in a way that we don’t see with other sports, even though all these other countries have similar issues around women’s baseball. Amira.
Amira: Yeah, I think it’s a really great reminder about as much as Title Nine is celebrated, and how much work it has to do, and the difference it made was in very specific sports and there’s a bit of disparity within the application of Title Nine until we see silos like this, which is a great example, where girls who wants to play baseball, and Jennifer Ring does a lot of great research around this, have been pushed into softball where it’s been like, “Well, softball is the girl’s version of baseball,” as you mentioned before.
So I think it actually … When we talk about girls and women in baseball, it really forces us to rethink our understanding of things like Title Nine, and what makes this sport a girl’s sport or a guy’s sport et cetera, and it’s not to malign softball, is just to understand that there are different sports and that there’s a lot of people who want to play baseball, and have been blocked or have to overcome that and play on boys squads, or male squads or have been pushed out of the game. So I think that I’m looking forward to more coverage of it, and like you said, pointing to a global movement of girls who love the sport of baseball and want to play that specific game.
Jessica: Yeah. Just to wrap this up, to give listeners who hopefully will be watching some part of the Women’s World Cup, a little bit about some of the players on the US team. I think it’s fascinating. There’s a 16 year old named Ashton Lansdell. This is the first time that she was eligible to make the team and she’s on there. She’s 16. On the other end of that Ila Borders who’s a left handed pitcher. She’s 43, and this is going to be the first time that she’s ever played with women. She’s had a storied career in baseball. She’s played with a bunch of men. She played for the St. Paul Saints. She’s currently a firefighter in Portland, but she’s on the other end of that, and then you have Malaika Underwood. Everyone that I talked to about the team, mentions Underwood. She’s been on the team since 2006. This will be her ninth time representing the US, which is the record for both men and women.
She grew up playing baseball, but in order to go to college and get a scholarship in sports, she actually played volleyball. A lot of women go into softball to get that scholarship, but she actually played volleyball at the UNC. She’s 37, had her first kid in February, so I’ll be looking for Underwood.
Then I want to mention for Japan, because I’ve done a bunch of research on this team, there’s a lot of phenomenal players for Japan, but Ayami Sato, she’s their star pitcher. She’s probably the best female baseball player in the world. She won the MVP award at the last two World Cups, and in the last two world cups, in the final game where Japan won the gold, she shut out both teams, so it’ll be very fun to see what she’s able to do this year. So I’m really looking forward to this world cup.
Up next, Lindsay’s interview with the Atlanta Dream’s, Elizabeth Williams.
Lindsay: All right. Hello everyone. I am here with the great Elizabeth Williams, who I cannot believe I have not had on this podcast yet. Hi Elizabeth. How’re you?
Elizabeth: Good, how’re you?
Lindsay: Good. So Elizabeth is, I believe in her fourth year in the new WNBA? Is that it Liz?
Lindsay: Wow! Time flies.
Elizabeth: It does.
Lindsay: She’s is one of the only Duke grads I like, and so that is a very big thing. She was … Her accolades, let’s run through them a little bit. Fourth overall pick in the 2015 draft to the Connecticut Sun, but her career really took off in 2016 when she was traded to the Atlanta Dream. She was the most improved player in the whole league in 2016, and then she … Last year, 2017 was an All-Star and this year is on one of the best teams in the league, the Atlanta Dream are 22 and ten, second in the league, nine and one in their last 10 games. By the time you guys hear this you’ll already know playoff seeding, but it’s I think locked up, but you’ll at least have one buy, maybe two, maybe a buy right to the semis.
Elizabeth, how have you guys done it? Atlanta Dream has just turned it around this season. What has happened? Can you put it into words?
Elizabeth: It’s hard to say, because when you get a new coach like it’ hard to mess in the first year, but I think everyone came in with an open mind, and I think we’re all a really good group of women that are willing to go through the bumps and bruises and then learn each other, and then trust that at the end of the day things will work out, and I think coach Nicki’s done a great job with us, and I think the team, we just have a lot of fun playing with each other.
Lindsay: Yeah, I think that really, really can tell. I remember talking to some people before the season about the Dream, and I think our thing was they have so many good pieces, that we have no idea if they will fit-
Elizabeth: Yeah. Exactly.
Lindsay: In what way they would fit, and throughout the first half of the year there was definitely some days where they didn’t fit, but it’s just all moving so seamlessly right now. What is the most fun part about the team? You really all do just seem like you have each other’s backs.
Elizabeth: Yeah. I don’t know. Our teams like … The word I used other day was “obnoxious” when I was talking to Sykes. We’re just trying … We’re so loose all the time and then even on the court we’ll just come at you. We want to play with a fast pace and that’s a really fun way to play, and I also think defensively we’re really solid, so it just makes for a really fun basketball, but I think off the court we’re just really ridiculous and just try to have a lot of fun but at the same time on the core it’s been translating really well.
Lindsay: Yeah, there was that great video. I think you might’ve put it on Instagram where LaChina Robinson doing a preview of the game on court…
Lindsay: because she’s your commentator for the Atlanta Dream, and behind her just player after player just shows up and just mugs and makes ridiculous faces, and I think-
Lindsay: Question was like, “Who are these people?”
Lindsay: Well that’s really great. From the outside this WNBA season has been exhausting but also a blast because the parody in the league is much stronger than it has been in recent years. Has it felt that way on the court and how do you handle that pressure?
Elizabeth: Yeah, I mean I love the parody, honestly. I think it makes … In other seasons the last two games we’re not this important, but they’re so important now for every team, like the difference between two and five, it’s like a couple of games. So, it makes it fun, it makes it competitive, it makes us as players want to compete at the highest level every day without focusing on other things, and I like it a lot. I don’t feel pressured, but it’s just like I feel like that’s how the game should be played.
Lindsay: There’s been a lot of stories this season about the travel and I think it’s been … The season is about three weeks shorter this year than it usually is, which is … That is a lot of time to fit the exact same number of games into, I believe 14 weeks as opposed to 17 weeks, in order to accommodate the world championships, and this has just I think exacerbated some issues that are within the league as far as back to backs, and travel days, and we saw it really reach ahead when the Las Vegas Aces decided to forfeit a game against the Washington Mystics after they had traveled for 25 hours leading up to this. Now we talked about this in our last episode, so our listeners can go back and listen to our tape, but I want to know what you as a player thought about their decision.
Elizabeth: Honestly as a player, at the end of the day our bodies are the priority, like this is … Our job is to play basketball and if you can’t do that because you physically don’t feel like you can, then I definitely understand it, and I felt for Vegas, and I know that obviously there are players that are frustrated and saying that the game should be played, but at the same time I think by Vegas making that bold move it forces people to address the issue here, that, one, there are these ridiculous circumstances. There should be either an ability to charter, or there should be something in place so this doesn’t happen, or there should be a role like in the NBA where you can’t play a game if you’re traveling across time zones that same day.
So it’s tough obviously for us, like if you think about like Atlanta, our position because Washington’s right behind us, but as thinking about the league as a whole I definitely understand where Vegas is coming from, and it’s really hard to fault them for finally saying, “You know what? I know this has happened in the past and teams still play the game too, but we just physically don’t think this is okay.”
Lindsay: Yeah, I thought it was really smart and I had to wonder, it seems like there’s a lot of momentum right now with players speaking up and advocating, and not just for themselves. We see a lot of advocacy for social justice issues as well, but also insane like advocating for themselves and the League, and Vegas is one of the younger teams. Do you think that had something to do with it, your younger players seeing a little bit more clearly, maybe than some of the veterans, and saying, “Hey, this isn’t okay.”
Elizabeth: Yeah, I think that is a big part of it. I think younger players want to be more involved, which is really important, but I obviously the veteran players on their team felt like it was the right thing to do also, so it’s nice to have that young push, but I think it’s opening the eyes of everyone now seeing that.
Lindsay: You are, I know, pretty involved in things with the Players Association. What’s your role? Are you the team rep, or-
Elizabeth: Yeah, I’m the player rep for Atlanta.
Lindsay: For Atlanta. That’s great, and so can you explain, there’s been a lot of talk about the upcoming … There’s a deadline related to the CBA, the collective bargaining agreement. Can you try to explain to people what that is. and what’s at stake in the next few months?
Elizabeth: Yeah, so the opt out date for the CBA is October 31st I believe, and basically either us or the League can opt out. I mean realistically the Leagues can’t opt out, so we as a union have the option to opt out of the current CBA, and basically come up with negotiations of things we want to change in it, whether it’s dealing with benefits, with travel, salaries, all the big topics that have been coming up a little more recently. So as player reps, we vote on certain things and then obviously we have the executive committee to, the President Nneka, and Lay’s vice president, and all the other vice presidents and other positions and just voting on certain things that happen. So we have calls pretty consistently with the union and the league and so that’s where we are with that.
Lindsay: Do you right now have any expectations? Like would you expect an opt out, or … Trying to put you on the spot a little bit.
Elizabeth: That’s what it seems like for sure. That’s where everything’s leaning.
Lindsay: Yeah, and so in that case it wouldn’t be a case where right away there could be a player stoppage or anything, right, because even if you opt out now, this would still be valid through 2019, is that correct?
Lindsay: So, you would just start negotiating and figuring out the next step then, but do you think that we’re at a place where if some of these problems aren’t taken care of, that we could see some actions coming from the players?
Elizabeth: Yeah, and that’s always a possibility when you’re in these types of negotiations, and I think the players understand that. I think we don’t want to get into that, but it’s a very realistic possibility.
Lindsay: Yeah. It’s exciting. I was talking … Mo Currie was telling me that she’s in her 10 years in the league. She’s never seen players, so many players so invested in contract talks…
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah
Lindsay: And I thought that was a pretty promising, I think, for the state of the league going forward.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Even the difference between my rookie year and now, it’s just the involvement has shot up by everybody.
Elizabeth: So, yeah.
Lindsay: What do you attribute that to?
Elizabeth: I think players being more willing to speak out. I think having Terri lead our union has been a big part of it too. She’s bold and not afraid to fight for us, and she’s very open about it and I think that’s definitely encouraged a lot of us to be more vocal and just be more involved in general.
Lindsay: That’s great. She’s talking about that Terri Jackson, who was the union president or vice. She’s the leader of the union, it’s just that I don’t know what the title is. Well look, that’s exciting to hear about all the engagement. Going back to Atlanta really quickly, did coach Nicki Collen, who like you said, “First year, I think she’s got to be the coach of the year right now.”
Lindsay: Just ridiculous what she’s done in Atlanta this year and the turnaround. Was there anything in particular that she said to you all 10, 12 games ago? Was there any moment that things really changed, or was it just a matter of getting more comfortable?
Elizabeth: It’s hard to say, because we started that first one shoot that we had. It started I think the last time we played Phoenix maybe, or the game before that, and then like two games after that was the trade with Lay and Bentley, and then we just started real rolling from there. So I don’t know if something in particular was said, if it was just like trying to get us on a run before also break, or I can’t remember specifically, but I think at that point we were just trusting that our offense would come into place, because at that point we were still top in the league in defense, we were shooting like 30%.
Elizabeth: So, it’s one of those things where it’s like, “Okay, eventually this ball is going to go in the basket,” and I’m pretty sure that was along the lines of what we had talked about before that one streak had started and then we started scoring. So-
Lindsay: Yeah, I was at that game in Washington where the ball started finding the basket.
Lindsay: It is absolutely ridiculous. We were just sitting there like, I think you guys shot over 60 percent in that game. It was just like, “What do you do with this team when they’re making that shots?” There’s just nothing you can do, and obviously guys, losing Angel is just so tough, not only from a basketball standpoint, but just it’s good having her back in the lead. She was playing well, you won. She’s a person, at least from the outside, you want big things for. You want her to be a part of that.
Elizabeth: Oh, yeah.
Lindsay: What did that do to your team, and how are you guys managing with that, because you haven’t … On the court, wins wise, you haven’t really lost a bit, but I’m sure it must be a little harder than it’s looking.
Elizabeth: Yeah, it’s tough. When we first heard about it, coach Nicki got a little emotional in our premium talk that next game, because it’s just like Angel has meant so much to our team this season, and just like her choosing to come back and being so willing to basically ban this new system and do what she’s done. So it’s like, I think emotionally it’s harder than what people would think, just because we’re still winning games, but anytime a player like that goes down it’s hard, but she’s always around and encouraging us on a bench. I think the biggest thing too is we always want to play for each other, whether that person’s hurt or not, that’s been our emo, is playing for each other, not just playing with each other, and so when she went down, I think in the back of our heads, like that’s always been there.
Lindsay: Yeah, in fact I think it’s been incredible how she’s handled it at least publicly, still being around. I can’t imagine how tough that has been to kind of … Because you want to be there. Well, look going into the playoffs, people will be listening to this the day the playoffs begin, what member of the Atlanta Dream should people really be on the lookout for now? We know you in there blocking every single shot. We know we’ve got Renee running everything, but who else, who’s … We know we have Tiffany Hayes who’s won, I think 20 player the month awards this year, or something like that even though she wasn’t an All-Star, which don’t get me started, but who else? Who will surprise you on the team, and who do you think might surprise people in the playoffs?
Elizabeth: It’s not a surprise to me, but I’d definitely say Jessica Breland. She makes the engine go offensively and defensively, and we always get so hyped when she’s hot, because she is so dangerous, and she’s like a big group player for us, so I would definitely during playoffs keep an eye on her.
Lindsay: Nobody is supposed to be allowed to have arms that long. Like I don’t know. They just keep coming, and it seems like they stretch, it’s pretty remarkable. Elizabeth, well, thank you so much for your time. I know I’m not supposed to root, but I will be rooting for you to block some shots in the playoffs, and hopefully our paths will cross soon. Thanks for being on Burn It All Down.
Elizabeth: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
Jessica: Now it’s time for everyone’s favorite segment. We like to call it the Burn Pile, where we pile up all the things we’ve hated this week in sports and set them aflame. Amira, want to get us started?
Amira: Yeah, I do. Football’s a never ending anything that gives me all the burns, and I want to burn … Last week it came out that the New York Jets, particularly the senior manager of partnerships Anthony Bulak, reached out to the founder of the organization called Blue Lives Matter, and hoped to partner with the organization this season to honor people, but this did not go over very well with the founder of Blue Lives Matter, Joe Imperatrice, who rejected it immediately on the grounds that the current NFL political climate quote … Oh, he basically said that the current NFL protests are, “A sign of disrespect towards our first responders, our military members in both past and present and our flag, which is,”-
Jessica: All right.
Amira: I don’t know how all of a sudden the flag became about first responders-
Jessica: First responders?
Amira: Yeah, it’s like how many things can we throw in there that actually have nothing to do with these protests? So now it’s about first responders as well, and after Bulak pointed out that the Jets … He said, “Oh well, we’ve never had a player protest the anthem,” and he was like, “Oh, but you’ve signed Isaiah Crowell,” who if you remember back in 2016 post on IG where he captured, “They give police all types of weapons and they continuously choose to kill us, #Weak.” But the picture that he attached that caption to, depicted a Grim Reaper with a knife to a cop’s throat, and so he said, “Well, you signed him. If I’m correct, the Jets signed the individual who depicted the Grim Reaper slicing the throat of a police officer,” and this was offered as reasons why they weren’t offering this partnership.
So the thing that I particularly want to burn is twofold. Of course, burning the Blue Lives Matter founder’s equation of the flags, to once again military members, but adding in first responders, and again trying to act like the protests are against the flag or the troops or any other misdirection instead of actually listening to what players have been saying for three years now. Obviously that’s very quite burnable, but also very …
The other thing I really want to burn is the Jets trying to forge a partnership with an organization that, literally in its name has set itself up on a certain false dichotomy, which is that the opposite of black lives matter is blue lives matter, which again is built on a false prevalence that people saying black lives matter is somehow anti-cop. That people saying black lives matter is somehow saying first responders don’t matter, or somehow waging a war against them, and this particular organization has been quite harmful in the dissemination of that idea. I see this right along with stadium police who want to protest the national anthem, or who you know in St. Louis when they didn’t want to come to work because a few people protested on the Rams when they were still in St Louis, and it’s ridiculous, stop making false equivalencies, stop doing it.
We have so many depictions of moments of police brutality. On a daily basis, we’re assaulted with images of black death and terror, and people are trying to speak to that, and all of this deflection and false dichotomies and all of it is ridiculous. And for the Jets to reach out to that organization as a means of partnership, in something that they would never ever do to say black lives matter, they would never, enter in a partnership with Social Justice Act Organization except to shield themselves from accusations. It just got under my skin and I’m just over it. I’m over it. I’m over his statement. I’m over the failed partnership. I’m just over it. I want to burn it down.
Jessica: Burn, burn.
Jessica: All right, Shakeia, what do you want a torch this week?
Shakeia: Well, I grew up in Ohio. I’m a super proud Ohioan, and I am to … Most people who knew me it bothers them, but I’m an Ohio State fan, and I know you guys talked about them a couple of episodes ago. I was like shaking my fists and trying not to scream the entire time. I throw the entire football program away, just all of it. Everybody, like, throw it away. I don’t even … Look, I can’t even speak. I have no words. It’s a mess. It gets messier every day, from watching fans of the team basically victim blame, to a rally of people who probably have never actually been on campus for anything other than a football game, like it’s just been so disgusting every single day.
You have text messages. You have a mother-in-law who may or may not have sent text messages. It’s too much. It’s trash. The right thing should have been done from the jump, and it hasn’t been, and this 14 day taxpayer funded investigation, for what? Just throw it all away.
Jessica: No, burn. I know we’re in the middle of the Burn Pile but I’m going to do this anyway since I have Shakeia here. What do you think’s going to happen? I feel like they’re supposed to it announce today. What do you think’s gonna happen to with Urban Meyer? He’s going to stick around as-
Shakeia: I have no hope.
Shakeia: I’ve no hope. I really think they were like, “Okay, we’ll suspend them because it’s the obvious thing to do here.” I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I don’t know. Do I think he should go? Absolutely. Get rid of everybody honestly, but to wipe those tears, since you all know my thoughts on this last-
Jessica: I would say that, that’s when Shakeia was on she suggested that we just get rid of sports for a year. Like we separate it all down and restart it, sports.
Shakeia: I mean, this isn’t new stuff. This is continuous. It’s systemic. It’s in the programs. It’s in this work-
Amira: But I almost feel like because it’s systemic, they suspended him and tried to wait till it blew over until there is an … Because honestly the stuff that started coming out about Maryland almost overshadowed the shit show at Ohio State, and I feel like that’s what they were waiting for.
Shakeia: Oh, absolutely. That’s why I was like, they have to obviously suspend him, because they were like, “Okay, we give this a little time, football season will start, everyone will be caught up, it’ll be over.” It’s disgusting. I have no hope. I don’t think he’s going anywhere. I’m pretty sure in a couple of weeks we’ll see him running out in the field and I will feel just as disgusted-
Amira: Yeah, to raucous cheers.
Shakeia: And he’ll win by a few blowouts and they’ll be like, “What happened?”
Amira: And they’ll craft a redemption a story. How Urban has come back.
Jessica: He’ll have overcome.
Shakeia: Oh yeah. With his millions and millions in taxpayer money.
Jessica: We could torch that in advance.
Jessica: That’s no joke. Okay, so my Burn Pile this week, it’s brief. I want to burn the Atlanta Major League baseball team for being hosts of an upcoming fundraising event for the Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, the horrible, racist and xenophobic Brian Kemp. According to Deadspin, the team had to shell out 13,200 dollars to be hosts. They’re like co-hosts for this event. If you don’t know anything about Kemp, he’s the worst. Here are some recent headlines about him in his campaign. From Slate, “Brian Kemp’s bid for governor depends on erasing the black vote in Georgia. It’s working.” From the New York Times, “Brian Kemp, enemy of democracy.” It’s like so tight, so short and tight.
In a campaign Ad Kemp, had a line, “I’ve got a big truck just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take them home myself.” CNN describes him as, “Georgia shot gun toting, Trump style republican candidate for governor.” It’s like all of that’s bad. He’s bad on his own, but then to cap it all off, he’s running against Stacey Abrams, who if she wins, would be the first ever black female governor in the history of the United States. It’s 2018. She also used to be a romance novelist, so you guys know, that’s close to my heart.
Amira: She has Jess’ vote.
Jessica: Yeah, exactly. His politics are total garbage and so instead of supporting her, the Atlanta baseball team chose Kemp to support publicly with their name, with their team name, and so I just want to say, stick to sports you assholes and burn it.
Jessica: After all that burning, it’s time to celebrate some remarkable women in sports this week with our Badass Woman of the Week segment. First are honorable mentions, Courtney Vandersloot of the Chicago Sky whose 10 assists and in a 91-88 win over the Minnesota Lynx, set the single season WNBA assist record with 241 assists. The Chilean women soccer players union, Anjuff, which is hosting the first ever forum of South American women players at the United Nations in Santiago. Women from around the region will share experiences and form the first association.
Lindsey Harding, the former Duke and WNBA star, who was hired by the Philadelphia 76ers as a full time scout for next season. Harding, the number one overall pick in the WNBA in 2007 is only the second former WNBA player to be hired as a full time scouting position with an NBA team. Former US Olympic gold medalist, and current US UCLA gymnast, Kyla Ross and Madison Kocian, who have publicly disclosed that they too were abused by former USA gymnastics and Michigan state doctor Larry Nassar. Alex Scott, the former England, Arsenal and Boston Breakers player who made TV football history in becoming the first female premier league pundit, and Lisa Byington, Danielle Slaton, and Katie Witham who together will become the first all women crew to call an MLS game. They will call the game later tonight, Sunday, August 19th, on Fox Sports One, when DC United head to New England. This entirely female announcing team will be the first ever for any of the USS five major men’s professional team sports leagues. That’s wild. All right, a drum roll please.
And the badass over the week are the USA softball team. They repeated the Softball World Champions defeating Japan 7-6 on a walk off single.
Amira: What a game!
Jessica: Yeah, a walk off single by Kelsey Stewart in the 10th inning. With the win the USA has secured a birth in the Olympic Games and Tokyo 2020 when softball will return to the Olympics.
Shakeia: Congratulations, yay! Okay. Yeah.
Amira: They’ve really fun to watch.
Jessica: I’m so excited that we’re going to get softball back in the Olympics. That’s going to be great.
Okay. So what is good with you all this week? Amira, what’s been good with you?
Amira: The Red Sox is still good in my world. I know everybody was wondering about that.
Jessica: Of course.
Amira: I know. So I don’t know. This is like semi, I’m not happy classes, they’re starting in Gulf by the time you hear this I will be teaching, but I’m trying to find the joy in it and I’m really excited to meet my new crop of students in my race, gender in sports class and have critical conversations on sport with a whole new batch of folks and get into see what podcast they produce. Just have good conversations. They’re reading Jess’ book. They’re reading articles from Shirleen and Lindsey. I’m trying to get Brenda to appear in the classroom. I like to bring my co-host into my classroom with me, and so I’m excited for the possibilities of the semester even though I wish it wasn’t starting this week, and the real something good happening this week is that my youngest, my little maniac, Zachary is turning two on Thursday.
Jessica: Oh, wow! Happy birthing day to you.
Amira: I can’t believe it’s been two years. Officially I have no babies anymore. Just one very determined and hardheaded toddler who thinks he’s grown, but I just am very excited to celebrate him and kids go back to school. My kids and not the students, they go back to school and so that is also something good, and Jackson’s starting kindergarten, so that is half a daycare bill that I do not have to pay anymore for and that my friends is very good.
Jessica: I totally feel that. Shakeia, what’s good with you?
Shakeia: I am going to Belize in a month.
Jessica: Oh, wow!
Shakeia: A trip came along out of nowhere. A friend of mine called me at seven something one morning on a weekday, and I’m like, “What’s wrong? Is it an emergency?” And she says, “Oh, I found tickets to Belize for under 400 dollars round trip. Let’s go, right.” When someone calls you and says, “Let’s go to Belize for a week for less than 400 dollars round trip.”
Jessica: You go.
Jessica: Get online and order that.
Shakeia: And the best part of it is my friend is a dual citizen. She partially grew up there so we’re going to see her family. It’s going to be their independence day-
Jessica: Oh, yeah..
Shakeia: So, it’s Carnival. I am so excited. Now that it’s a month away I’m like, “Okay, now I need to prepare.” That’s where my mind is. I’m totally a planner but not like of all things, but I’m super excited now. It’s a month away, Belize is a big baseball place, so I’m hoping to maybe run into the occasional person at a bar who wants to tell me about their baseball or their story.
Amira: I love that. Those would be the best interviews like in the middle of the Carnival.
Jessica: Yes, that sounds so great. So, my what’s good, is that I’m actually going to the Women’s Baseball World Cup.
Jessica: I know. I’m very excited. It starts on Wednesday, but I actually won’t get there until on Sunday of next week and so I’ll be there for the super rounds and then for the bronze medal game, and the final game and my parents are thrilled. They live 10 miles from there, so I’ll get to see them too. I had a great visit to Texas Tech to participate in their summit about ending sexual harassment in the academy. We fixed everything. It’s all going to be good now, of course not, but it was a really cool … I’ve really enjoyed the couple of trips I’ve made to Texas Tech and yeah, I think my kid goes back to school tomorrow as well, so the regularity of schedule. Such an old lady thing to say, but still that’s a very good thing.
Amira: In my words exactly and you got award?
Jessica: I did. In October, the Texas Freedom Network is giving me what they call their Smoot Award. It’s named after a woman whose last name was Smooth, and it’s about someone who does work that they think is important to the community. So I’m very honored.
Amira: This is what you do.
Shakeia: That’s awesome. Congratulations.
Jessica: Thank you. All right, so that’s it for this week’s episode. Thank you to Shakeia Taylor for joining us this week. You can find her on twitter, @curlyfro. Go follow her right now and thank you all for joining us. You can find Burn It All Down on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to subscribe to Burn It All Down, you can do so on Apple podcasts, SoundCloud, Stitcher, Google Play, and TuneIn. For more information about the show and links and transcripts for each episode, check out our website, burnitalldownpod.com. You can also email us from the site to give us feedback, we love hearing from you.
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