Air Date 6/12/2021
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall look at the politics of sports, including racism, sexism, capitalism, media, and mental health. So, pretty much just like regular politics, but with the one group of rich people who society broadly thinks don't have a right to be heard. Clips today are from Why is This Happening With Chris Hayes;
Citations Needed; The Damage Report; TYT Sports; Vice News; Edge of Sports; Past Present; and The Old Man and the Three.
The Uneven Playing Field with Howard Bryant - Why Is This Happening? with Chris Hayes - Air Date 1-21-20
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:00:34] Sports, and the culture... it's mirroring each other in so many different ways, where you're starting to see... Okay, like the section in the book is called "The Jokes On You," where the numerous opportunities to cheat... it's like it's open season. Whether you're talking about the Cabinet, whether you're talking about what's happening in sports, whether you're talking about the privatization of public money, all of it. It's the same "If you ain't cheating, you ain't trying" attitude.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:00:58] That's such a good point because, and the crazy thing too, and one of the ways that I think that sports and society mirror each other, is that we have increasingly adopted a kind of competitive ethos in non sport situations,
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:01:12] That's right!
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:01:12] Right? Like the way that firms are run, the way that we think about like the market driving, everything, the idea that like, the person that makes the most money wins the superstar performers,
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:01:21] That idea of meritocracy.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:01:22] Right? Exactly. That's, that's what we have for our social model is that everyone's engaged in this constant, essentially, like, iterative tournaments with each other.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:01:30] That's right. And don't forget the racial element of that, which is, "Okay, we've got racism everywhere else, but if my 40 time is faster than your 40 time, or if my score is better than yours, I win." And so sports has been used historically to combat racism in so many ways, right? That, "This is the pure thing. Okay, we've got problems in society, but here the arena is fair."
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:01:51] Yes.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:01:51] And now this arena isn't fair either.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:01:54] The other thing about it to me, and this relates to some of the stuff you talked about in the book and your last book, too, particularly... The role of players, sports athletes in our public culture, and particularly with this scandal, people are saying, "Well, they're going after management, not the players because players own the union."
And there's a really interesting and tortured relationship that sports writers, sports culture, fans have with players,
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:02:18] Yes.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:02:18] This very intense love, hate
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:02:20] The love, hate with it is so rooted in labor. And I think...
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:02:23] That's what it is.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:02:24] Yeah. And I think one of the biggest problems that I have with it, and it's one of the themes of a couple of the essays in the book is: What we're asking of the athlete... We talk about not wanting politics and sports, but what we were really saying is we don't want a certain type of politics. We don't want the players politics. And essentially what we really don't want is we don't want the Black players politics. We don't have a real professional respect for the player.
So we get angry with them for the money that they make. It's the only area that I can think of in the culture where, the more money you make, we want to hear less of you. Why are we listening to Donald Trump? Why are we listening to Mark Cuban? Why are we listening? Why are we listening to Tom Stier? Why? Because....
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:03:04] Because they're rich, right?
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:03:06] It's like, "Tom Stier! Shut up and dribble!"
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:03:08] "What are you doing here? Why are you here?"
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:03:10] Right. And then when Colin Kaepernick speaks, or when LeBron James speaks, or when a high profile Black athlete, well," You've got tons of money. What are you talking about? Be quiet." They're the only ones... You can, you can be president if you have money, but we want the rich athlete, particularly the rich Black athlete to be quiet.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:03:27] You know, it never dawned on me until I had this job, that there's a difference between the money you make and your status, of whether you are labor or management.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:03:37] That's right.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:03:37] And it's so easy to conflate those two and my whole life, even though I wasn't one of those like asshole fans, it was, like, "Shut up!" You know? "You're overpaid!" I never felt that way, honestly. And I sort of didn't like fans that felt that way. But I did have some idea of, like, "Well, why? You, you can do whatever you want. You have a lot of money..." But you're labor. And management is management. And even if management makes less money than you, you're still labor,
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:03:58] You're still labor.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:03:58] And labor? That category? That's way I live my life. I'm very well compensated and I'm extremely lucky and privileged to be so, but I'm labor! Like, I'm labor! I don't, I'm not management. I got bosses.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:04:10] Well, and that's how I look at it. When I did "The Heritage," the last book that came out in 2018, one of the arguments of that book was the exploration of the power, that, of the athlete, the return of the athlete as a political figure (the Muhammed Ali, Tommy Smith, John Carlos mode), that these guys had so much power that they had to be listened to.
And now in this book, 18 months later, I'm writing these essays, and one of the first essays I was thinking about was: Is that actually accurate? And especially for the Black athletes, How much power do you actually have? If you have to risk everything to speak? If you can't speak, do you really have power?
If you are going to get blackballed for talking for speaking your mind, maybe you don't have as much power as we think they have. What we do know they have is a lot of money. We do know that...
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:04:56] And those are different things
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:04:57] And they are two different things.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:04:59] The Kaepernick example, you just brought him up, and we should talk about, that's the first essay in the, in the books about Kaepernick.
Like, what was it about the Kaepernick Moment that sort of, like, set off this explosion culturally?
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:05:12] Yeah, I think that the biggest thing that Colin Kaepernick taught us in that moment was something that we were going to learn a few months later in the 2016 election. "You think we're tight? We're not tight."
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:05:25] Hmm.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:05:25] " [Do you] Think sports..."
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:05:25] What do you mean by that?
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:05:26] What I mean by that is, "You think sports brings us together? It doesn't bring us together." And all of these different moments came together within a few months of each other, that Colin Kaepernick was really doing was saying, "Listen, here is an issue that's important to me that is happening, that I'm not going to let pass."
And it struck the absolute core of this country, which is policing and what policing means to people. And what it did
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:05:55] And patriotism.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:05:56] And patriotism. Absolutely. And the two combined. And I find it really interesting because I don't think Colin knew that he was combining these two. It was a perfect storm. It was an explosion that what was really being said was, "This country is divided along these two lines and that they are so personal to people."
And I talk about this in one of the essays later on. When you talk about, um, policing in... If you talk to your neighbors and your friends, and we're all middle-class, and we all make the same money, and we're all in the same boat, and our kids go to the same schools... then you start talking about the racial difference in policing. Suddenly you realize, wait a minute, we're not in the same boat after all. We view things very, very differently. We view policing in a very different way. And Kaepernick captured that. On top of that, the way that people viewed him as unpatriotic and "Threat." That, what he was representing was something so clearly divisive. But divisive to whom? It was divisive... It wasn't really divisive to Black people. If you talk to Black people about Colin Kaepernick, they pretty much agree with what he's saying. What it was divided, what divided it, was, was, was White America. They were divided about this. There were some folks who said, "Hey, he's got a right to do this." And then there were a lot of people who said, "No!" But especially the owners, that, "What was he suggesting?"
And what he suggested was, that, "Guess what? We don't have the same paths. We're not on the same paths." And the threat that he represented to the NFL was so powerful that it's been three years since he's given an interview. And I felt like...
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:07:40] I try to book him all the time.
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:07:41] Exactly! I talk to him and I'm like, "Hey, can we, you know, speak in public?" He'll text you. He won't talk in public. And so what I was trying to get at with what the, what Colin Kaepernick taught us was all the different lines where Kaepernick sort of represented sports and labor. The difference between that, where the players, and to the anger between him and the, and his fellow players in terms of whether or not to align themselves with the owners through the Players Coalition, or whether to strike out on their own.
Whether or not the players were willing to back him or, or be tools for management, or whether there were other ways to go about trying to affect change. And also about what the Black athlete meant to the NFL. Notice that you had people like Ray Lewis and Michael Vick, and these guys who have criminal pasts, somehow being treated as they're the, as the legitimate ones.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:08:30] I mean, Ray Lewis...
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:08:32] That's kind of craven right there.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:08:33] Ray Lewis, getting up to Pronounce about: "The Good And The Great," the First Principles. And again, Ray Lewis, we should just say for, uh, was, was present at a double murder, stabbing, still unsolved,
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:08:45] Still unsolved.
CHRIS HAYES - HOST, WHY IS THE HAPPENING?: [00:08:46] Um, he took a plea for his involvement in that, uh... And he, and, and also I think in the moment that was happening was also, like, the picture of the, like, bad Black athlete, right? The thug who has, now, because they're big and strong can get a lot of money, but, like, the worst kind of racist tropes about these, you know, overpaid, overgrown Black athletes, like, Ray Lewis was that for a moment in the culture, And then has kind of like revived his reputation. He's now a commentator on TV.
And then he was one of the leading voices against Colin Kaepernick. And it was so head snapping for people that remembered all the White, racist football fans who were like, "Ray Lewis is a thug!" and now it's like, "Yes! Ray Lewis is carrying the banner for the flag!"
HOWARD BRYANT: [00:09:28] Yeah, "He's our guy now!" No, that's right. And then on, on, on top of that, he has a statue in front of the stadium in Baltimore, and he's a legend to them.
And all of that is okay, because it certainly makes sense to me. It's how people treat their, their sports heroes. If you wore their colors, that's how they treat you. You go to San Francisco and ask about Barry Bonds, right? He's a legend, no matter what, no matter what he did or didn't do whatever. But what I found particularly galling about Ray Lewis was his Hall of Fame speech, was the Hall of Fame speech... At no point, did he show any sort of contrition at all. While this is happening, you've got Colin Kaepernick who committed no crimes and has never been in any sort of trouble at all. He's the pariah.
And so I was asking myself in part of that essay, what does that teach us? What does that say? What does it say about the values? What does it say about the league's values? What does it say about, about Ray Lewis? What does it say about everything? And I just couldn't help, but think over and over again, that the real threat is the Black man's brain.
The 'Ungrateful Athlete': Anti-Black, Anti-Labor Currents in Sports Media - Citations Needed - Air Date 5-19-21
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [00:10:26] So you've obviously written about this quite a bit, specifically the piece we mentioned earlier in the Washington Post that you wrote last year that we thought provided some much needed historical perspective with regard to student athletes involved in activism, both in terms of their own labor, but also broader social issues. Of course, they go hand in hand. I think a lot of people, especially with the Colin Kaepernick situation, they thought this was a recent trend, that this was some kind of social contagion that took over during Black lives matter, but of course this has never really gone away and is indeed, is very, very old, decades old as you lay out so clearly.
So I want to begin by maybe focusing on the late 60s and early 70s as a kind of inciting point, an emphasis point, and how activists in that era really threatened both the White supremacist establishment and also the free labor rackets. And as we argue, those two go hand in hand, of course, they're inextricably linked, because you really can't have one without the other. So we want to start off by talking about the history with the focus on the late 60s and 70s, and what lessons can be gleaned, not only from their activism, but the reactionary pushback from their activism.
AMIRAH ROSE DAVIS: [00:11:27] Yeah, I would love to, and I would say that is a perfect place to start the conversation in general, because the earlier moments of Black athletic activism in college are happening generally in two ways. One, they're happening in Black spaces, in Black college spaces, so you have early activism in the 30s at Howard when the football team is striking for access to better meals and dormitory accommodations, and then of course you have a larger fight for integration to predominantly White schools.
So when we're thinking about parallels to contemporary Black athletic activism in collegiate spaces, really the precedent that we are reaching for is that area that you highlighted, that 60s and 70s, and that's because this is where you're going to see the first trickle of Black athletes, particularly Black male athletes in college basketball and college football, and Black women in cheerleading spaces, which I'll get to in the second, is definitely happening in this moment.
And so what is occurring at that time is what my friend Frank Guridy talks about as the sporting revolution. His great book is out now about Texas, where he talks about this changeover where you have desegregation and you have women's sports also doing new stuff, and in this moment, these pioneering Black players at predominantly White schools in the late 60s, they're starting to look around and notice that they don't like a lot of the things that they see going on. They don't like being housed in dormitories way at the edge of campus, based on a fear that they would be near White women students. They don't like that they're the only Black students on campus, that there's no Black coaches, that there's no Black history classes, very familiar concerns that you hear parroted by Black college students and other places, Black high school students, and so they are definitely part of a movement and a moment that's happening outside of just these athletic spaces. But within them, you start seeing them try to mobilize.
I think the big lessons that we can take from this moment in time is that varying successes really shows you how still precarious their athletic labor is at this time period. And so when Black student athletes at Oregon State are calling out the facial hair requirement and saying, hey, this is racist, my hair is cultural, the dress codes are racist -- they get kicked off the team. When 14 football players in California, said, hey, we're not going to participate in spring practices until we have more say in the team, or you bring in Black coaches, or you stop stacking us away from positions that are "skilled positions", they were dismissed. They were let go. They were reprimanded. And I think the highest profile case of this of course is the Black 14 in Wyoming who took issue with playing BYU and the church at the time, and for a while, had a very, I dunno how you want to say it, but obviously racist policy towards Black folks.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [00:14:23] Yeah, I think it was, yeah, until 1978 they barred Black members.
AMIRAH ROSE DAVIS: [00:14:26] Yeah, I think it's 78', the Book of Mormon taught me that. And so they were like, hey, we don't want to play against them. And that's a really high profile case, of course, because they tried to wear black armbands, a simple strip of black armband, against BYU, against that game to protest and their little arm bands caused so much to commotion that they were dismissed by the team. Not only were they dismissed, but fans poured into that game at that stadium wearing yellow armbands with Eaton, the coach's name, on them. So these 14 men then sued, insisting that they had a constitutional right to be able to wear a damn black armband. And they lost that lawsuit. They were expelled. They were really just completely rendered disposable. And you see that over and over again with these early mobilizations. Syracuse is the other one I reach to because in Syracuse, nine players are like, hey, we want a Black coach, and the school was like, sure, here's a Black coach, all of you are released. And so in the 1970-71 season, Syracuse had one Black coach and zero Black players.
And so I think that when you take all of these examples together at the end of the 60s and early 70 you see on one hand the beginnings of growing mobilization on the part of Black college athletes who are now growing in number in these spaces, but also those numbers are not yet at the point where they have leverage. They're not yet the center of the system, and while we can see how they are planting seeds, how they could have that power, it's very clear that they are easily rendered disposable, even as college sports are continuing to recruit Black football talent away from Black colleges, Polynesian football talent away from Hawaii and Samoa. At this time, the structure is in place in a way that their efforts are not really gaining traction.
ADAM JOHNSON - HOST, CITATIONS NEEDED: [00:16:19] Yeah, because in a sense it's a glitch in the matrix. It's the one of the very few avenues along with maybe music or other forms of entertainment, at that time, that had Black wealth and a platform, which is why I think the aggressive racial disciplining was so prominent. This is why Paul Robson was constantly being sanctioned and condemned by the New York Times, because it was a classic shut up and play, in his case it was shut up and sing, when he was protesting the Korean war. They wrote a editorial insisting he just go back to being an entertainment, be a role model for Black people.
And if you go outside of that narrow framework, the whole arrangement does it work. And I think that's always been why the racial disciplining is so aggressive and urgent in sports because it does have this component where, by definition, there's a platform, by definition, there's celebrity, by definition, there's an X factor they can't really control. And we can talk about this later, but I think that was a huge reason for why there was so much pushback against LeBron James, when he started his Miami Heat super team in 2010. Maybe the decision wasn't the best marketing, but I think that was a very small part of it, I think that was very much a pretext. Him and a bunch of players getting together and commanding the nature of a team really up ended the racial arrangement. And I think that's why there was so much pushback and why there was two years of White AM-sports caller meltdowns over this, because I think it offended the way things are.
AMIRAH ROSE DAVIS: [00:17:30] I think that's 100%, and one of the things that you can see as these sports demographics start to shift is leagues, from colleges to professional leagues, trying to figure out how to assert that disciplining. My friend Theresa Runstedtler is writing a great book about the so-called dark days of the NBA, where we get dress codes, and harsh enforcement of penalties, and all of these things that you're pointing to. Okay, now we know that there's this platform, how can we still control it?
And I think it's really important to read Black women into these spaces. And Black cheerleaders are so pivotal here because they, by their very presence, are calling out the farce for what it is. And so one of the things that you see Black cheerleaders doing is using their sideline space, but very much baked into the spectacle of college football, are protesting during anthems, they're putting their fists up, they're walking off the court. And the other thing they're saying is what you're interested in is Black football talent, you're interested in athletic labor. One Black cheerleader that I write about in a piece about Black cheerleading in activism says, so you want our boys to play for us, but you don't want us here.
And one of the things that comes up again and again, in these efforts of Black college football and basketball players is their advocation or their outrage over the treatment of Black girls either being barred from, or their experience on, the spirit squad, the drill teams, the cheerleading squads, because in those spaces, what they're seeing is oh no, you don't want integration, you don't want to actually fuse our dance styles and integrate the team or whatever, you want us to adapt to how your cheering in your kind of stale, nonrhythmic way. You want us to be only one in that space, and then really there's this anxiety on the part of a lot of boosters and fans that the spectacle of college football is fine with with the Black people being the labor on the field. But as soon as you start putting Black women on the sidelines, as cheerleaders, as sexual objects, as beauty standards, all hell breaks loose in terms of being no, this is how we're protecting our institutions. It's like, we don't really want you here, but I think that they're so great about calling that out. And they're like, oh, it's very clear why you're not hiring Black faculty or caring about Black student populations writ large, it's because your priorities are so clearly fucking centered on the athletic talent, how you treat us is indicative of that.
Absurdly Racist NFL Scandal EXPOSED In New Pledge - The Damage Report - Air Date 6-3-21
JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: [00:19:51] Here is a story that I think rightfully opened some people's eyes about this racist practice that just now is ending. And it comes to us via the NFL, which announced yesterday that they've pledged to halt the use of race norming, which assumed black players started out with lower cognitive function.
In a $1 billion settlement of brain injury claims and to review past scores for any potential race bias. You know what? I'm going to make a bold prediction. I think they're going to find some.
In its use of race norming, the league compares a given player's cognitive test scores with the supposed norm of his demographic group. Under the methodology, Black players are assumed to possess a lower level of cognitive function than the average white player. So, in theory, if your brain is damaged in the way that it's been shown that years of playing football can do, if they pretend that you started at a lower cognitive level, that a massive decline from those injuries would read as no decline at all, or a smaller one.
DR. RASHAD RICHIE: [00:20:52] That sounds like some mad scientist stuff, man. Like this was real? And this was considered to be legitimate in the application of how we determine who should receive compensation because of what the NFL has done to brutally injure individuals? That's amazing to me.
But once again, for those who are still denying that systemic racism exists, here's another example. You don't get more clearer of a systemic racism issue than literally saying, Oh yeah, yeah, we're a a major, major multi-billion dollar corporation. And by the way, we believe Black people are inherently dumber than white folks.
JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: [00:21:30] Yeah. And look, part of it I'm sure is that they don't want to give any player a single dollar in compensation for the injuries they've sustained. Racism is a particularly reliable and predictable fallback for that.
Now they -- and Dr. Rashad there was talking about it doesn't get any more systemic than this -- even their defensive of it proves that point. The NFL has defended the practice in the past saying its standard is quote, "relied on widely accepted and long established cognitive tests and scoring methodologies." I bet they did run long established, widely accepted, racist, cognitive assessments or predictions. Yeah, I'm sure lots of people have been racist for a long time. And lots of other racist people widely accepted that racism. Like that is not an actual defense. It is amazing that it took this long. I'm glad that it's finally, that it's finally changing and that there might be some ability to go back and correct if you did not get a settlement, and very few did, by the way: more than 2000 former NFL players have lodged dementia claims as a result of their injuries, but fewer than 600 have received compensation.
And so with lawyers saying that more than half of NFL retirees are Black and so few receiving any money at all, and the money they're receiving probably lower because of this race norming practice, this is a massive injustice, effecting hundreds and hundreds of people. And so it's good to see at least some change.
DR. RASHAD RICHIE: [00:22:56] Yeah and cognitive tests are always implicitly biased. As a college professor, I use something in the classroom called differentiated education. That's when I look at different elements to help a student understand the curriculum. One, cognitive thinking. Two, relational thinking. What I have found is that some individuals who learn, they learn better when you make the relationship connect to the curriculum. There are other students who learn better when you make a cognitive analysis of the material. That just has to do with learning style. Learning ability is not the same as learning style. And these cognitive tests, what they have tested, is learning style and interpreted it as learning ability.
JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: [00:23:45] Yeah. What you're describing is, in setting up a system, this might be charitable, is ignorant about the way that people learn, and their ignorance is thus producing the mirage of ignorance on the people being actually tested.
DR. RASHAD RICHIE: [00:23:59] That is correct.
JOHN IADAROLA - HOST, THE DAMAGE REPORT: [00:24:01] To some extent, I'm not sure that it is a hundred percent ignorance. It's very convenient. So maybe it's essential but yeah, you're so right. People learn in different ways and the tests needs to reflect that. And they basically never do. And this is one great example of it, but obviously this affects millions and millions of people when it comes to standardized testing and things like that as well.
DR. RASHAD RICHIE: [00:24:20] And in this case, it actually affects people getting the money they deserve.
Jackie MacMullan Tells Kyrie Irving That NBA Players Are Team Property - TYT Sports - Air Date 1-15-21
KYRIE IRVING: [00:24:24] Oh man. Well, it was exciting just to get started just because, it's just been long awaited.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:24:29] This NBA superstar Kyrie Irving.
JACKIE MACMULLEN: [00:24:30] Keep shooting, keep shooting. You know, when, when Gordon Hayward is taking a shot and missing, Kyrie's going, What are you doing? So it is a different vibe.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:24:36] This is ESPN's Jackie MacMullen.
KYRIE IRVING: [00:24:38] And, um, and I'm just excited just to continue to grow and build. You know, it's not just me. I'm grateful that I get to share the floor.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:24:45] So Kyrie has been torn to shreds by mainstream NBA media. But what's unacceptable is what MacMullen said on a podcast with The Ringer of a dispute she had Kyrie had almost two years ago.
JACKIE MACMULLEN: [00:24:55] We got into an argument about something and he's like, well, there shouldn't be an NBA draft, players should be able to go wherever they want to go. We're not, you know, someone's property. And I'm like, Yeah, you are, dude. That's the way it works.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:25:08] So MacMullen, an award-winning journalist with ESPN, backs the idea of Black players being someone's property. What she's doing here is giving credence to something Richard Sherman said a while back when Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his players would tow the line when the National Anthem was played or else they would be fired from the team. Sherm said the owner of the Cowboys with the old plantation mentality, what did you expect?
At ESPN a few years back, they did this to commemorate the start of the NFL season, selling off NFL players as property to the highest bidders. The outspoken Cam Jordan said "bad taste," in whatever context it was intended.
Odell Beckam, who was auctioned off on ESPN, wrote, "Speechless."
But with The Ringer podcast, it didn't end there.
BILL SIMMONS: [00:25:51] The KD/Kerr thing definitely fell apart, though I certainly think that was a piece of it. Like even we got a puppy last month and watch it then dynamic of the puppies competing for our attention. And our one dog Willy, who was kind of the apple of everyone's eye, then this new puppy comes in and he was just so resentful. Not to compare NBA players to the dogs.
UNKNOWN: [00:26:10] Did you name the dog Kyrie?
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:26:12] As Bleacher Report's Tyler Conway tweeted, "No wonder Kyrie hates the media."
You see, this is something Curt Flood fought for a long time ago.
CURT FLOOD: [00:26:22] This is America and I'm a human being. I'm not a piece of property. I'm not a consignment of goods.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:26:29] This when baseball players were enslaved to their teams because ownership fought the idea of free agency. His case went to this Supreme Court where he lost.
"The white rule," a major league baseball continued, "that was until two white players, Dave McNally and Andy Messersmith, also argued they be deemed free agents. The court ruled in their favor in 1976."
You know who else referred to their Black workforce as property?
DONALD STERLING: [00:26:55] I'm not a racist.
RICK STROM - HOST, TYT SPORTS: [00:26:56] Former Clippers chairman, Donald Sterling. The great Elgin Baylor, who played for the Lakers and worked under Sterling as the Clippers GM, sued Sterling in 2009, citing wrongful termination. Baylor claim that Sterling had a plantation mentality while running his team. Journalist J A Adande wrote of the court filings, "Players Sam Casell, Elton Brand, and Corey Maggette complained to Baylor that Donald Sterling would bring women into the locker room after games while the players were showering and make comments such as, 'Look at those beautiful Black bodies.' I brought this to Sterling's attention, but he continued to bring women into the locker room."
Why College Athletes Don't Get Paid - Vice News - Air Date 12-29-19
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:27:31] College sports have become so popular that the five biggest conferences made more than $6 billion last year alone. With so much money being made off of games played by college kids, we wanted to understand the demands of being a student athlete. So we caught up with Michigan State's basketball team as they flew on a privately chartered jet.
Is it tough to take advantage of your education when basketball is so demanding?
LOURAWLS NAIRN JR.: [00:28:20] Definitely. I think that's what a lot of people don't see. You know, being a student athlete, missing a lot of school, you know... One time, my freshman year, we played Duke [University]. We got home at three in the morning, and I had an eight a.m. and I had to be there. So a lot of people don't see that kind of stuff. It's a sacrifice but it's worth it.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:28:37] Do most people see it as a full-time job?
BEN CARTER: [00:28:39] Yes. Fully. Yeah. If you ask anybody on this team, they would tell you that this is their job, because that's what it is. I mean, we put in just as many hours, as someone who works a nine to five. So it seems like, you know, through school and weights and film and travel and all the different things, working on your game, you know, putting in the extra time, all this different things it just adds up.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:29:03] And what they wanted to add up to is the next step. The pros.
What do you hope to do after college?
LOURAWLS NAIRN JR.: [00:29:09] If it's in God's will I want to go to the NBA.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:29:11] What are you hoping to do after college?
JOSHUA LANGFORD: [00:29:12] I want to play professional basketball.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:29:15] While that dream is common, Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo explained to us how rare achieving it actually is.
TOM IZZO: [00:29:21] I mean, I got managers that think they're going to the NBA. You know, it's just, just the nature of the beast, and it's not an easy task to accomplish, but even if you do become a pro, um, you're probably gonna live another 50 years and having your education, your degree, I think will help you in a lot of ways.
You know, every guy that you recruit thinks he has a chance and yet less than 1% of the people make it.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:29:47] While the vast majority of these players never make it to the pros, the NCAA identifies them as amateurs, strictly forbidding them from profiting off of not just their ability, but their name, image, and likeness.
This led to a now infamous case brought by a former player at O'Bannon who sued the NCAA for profiting off of his likeness over a decade after he left school.
ED O'BANNON: [00:30:07] Close to 15 years later, uh, and they're still making money off of, off of my image.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:30:14] The federal court system decided that the NCAA's amateurism rules were an unlawful restraint of trade, but the ruling did not call for schools to pay the players directly. Some players think they're being ripped off, and a new lawsuit is directly challenging the NCAAs model.
O'Bannon and other cases have targeted certain elements of the NCAAs business model. Your case would fundamentally change college sports.
JEFFERY KESSLER: [00:30:38] We hope it will fundamentally change college sports.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:30:41] Jeffrey Kessler changed the NBA and NFL after pursuing groundbreaking litigation that freed up players to bargain for much higher salaries as free agents.
JEFFERY KESSLER: [00:30:50] What these players want is fair treatment. That's all that they've ever been seeking. The players will get their day in court.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:30:58] And now, Kessler has trained his sights on the NCAA.
JEFFERY KESSLER: [00:31:02] These athletes, they don't get paid, but everybody else does. It's not fair. And it's not legal.
What we're trying to do is empower the schools and the conferences to make their own choices about what's fair for the players. That's all. Very simple. This is a freedom of choice case.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:31:22] Former Clemson [University] cornerback Martin Jenkins is leading the charge in this new case. While playing for a sports program that brought in more than $70 million in revenue a year, he was not allowed to profit.
Why did you join this lawsuit?
MARTIN JENKINS: [00:31:37] I don't want to see college athletes struggle when the school that they're working for, technically, is making hundreds of million dollars off of them.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:31:45] Did you expect to make it to the NFL?
MARTIN JENKINS: [00:31:47] Absolutely. Absolutely.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:31:49] What happened when you graduated college?
MARTIN JENKINS: [00:31:51] I had four surgeries in college. Tore my labrum, had surgery on that; tore my groin, had surgery on that; a torn ligament in my foot, had surgery on that; and a torn ligament in my thumb, had surgery on that.
When I graduated, I initially went to a training camp, went to rookie camp, with the, uh, the New York Jets. Same kind of thing persisted, had some injuries. It's after giving it a couple of tries, I said, you know, it's, it's kinda time to hang it up.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:32:14] You spent years, uh, playing football and suffering injuries and you couldn't profit off of your athletic ability during those years. You graduated and it was injuries that in part took you out of the game. Do you think that your prime earning years were when you were in college?
MARTIN JENKINS: [00:32:32] I can actually agree with that. Yes.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:32:34] The case did that you guys are bringing, it could really change the future of college sports.
JEFFERY KESSLER: [00:32:39] In a very strong, positive way. If the schools are allowed to decide how to compensate these players, we believe they'll do the right thing, and the fair thing.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:32:50] So schools wouldn't be required to pay athletes, they'd be allowed to; the market would decide.
JEFFERY KESSLER: [00:32:56] Just like the market for anybody else in entertainment or anybody else in sports or anybody else who has a job. You let the employers decide what's the fair competition, and then the marketplace reaches a decision on that. The money is there.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:33:13] That same approach was applied to free agency in pro sports just as that market was ballooning as new broadcasting and licensing deals added billions to bottom lines.
But introducing a free market in college sports could spark even more dramatic effects.
We wanted to understand both sides of this debate. But the NCAA and 30 universities declined our request to speak on the topic. One of the few schools willing to talk to us was Texas Tech.
Texas Tech is expected to generate $80 million in revenue this year alone. But as athletic director Kirby Hocutt had showed us, the debate over player pay becomes more complicated when the cost of running a Division One athletics program is considered.
KIRBY HOCUTT: [00:34:21] This is our football training facility. This is the hub of Texas Tech football.
Take a peek into our team meeting room facility. It's our team meeting room. It gives Coach Kingsbury an opportunity to address the entire team at one time.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:34:36] I don't think I've been in a nicer corporate meeting room than this one.
KIRBY HOCUTT: [00:34:41] Serves its purpose. At Texas Tech University has invested over $200 million, uh, in the last decade into its athletics facilities.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:34:52] Hundreds of millions of dollars are invested directly into expenses like world-class facilities and personal salaries. But while the coaches and administrators are compensated well, what they're able to directly provide athletes is closely regulated.
KIRBY HOCUTT: [00:35:06] There's always sandwiches, lunch meats, bagels.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:35:12] So, before a couple of years ago, you couldn't have sandwiches and Gatorades and things for the student athletes?
KIRBY HOCUTT: [00:35:18] You were limited in, uh, what type of snacks you could provide and when you could provide those.
The NCAA has taken great steps forward.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:35:27] Does the athletic department turn a profit?
KIRBY HOCUTT: [00:35:30] We do, we, uh, we've been in a positive financial position for the five years that I've been at Texas Tech University, and the athletics department, in the past 15 years, has invested over $300 million into our athletic facilities.
We have 415 student athletes competing in 17 sports. They are receiving a free education. That's covering their tuition, their fees, room, books, and then board, their living expenses. And then on top of that, uh, this is our second year to provide cost of attendance on top of the full scholarship. At Texas Tech University, uh, the full cost of attendance is an additional $4,820.
If the day comes and there are additional payments, uh, to, to select student athletes that are required, you have to consider elimination of opportunities. I've been in a position before where I've had to eliminate sport programs. And I hope that I'm not in that position ever again, to have to take opportunities away from young people.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:36:36] While colleges say they need this revenue to provide scholarships, programs, and facilities, economists like Rodney Fort see nothing but record growth and record spending.
RODNEY FORT: [00:36:45] All schools can afford to pay players. All of them. If my revenues and expenditures are going up at the same rate, because money that's being generated by players is being spent on coaches, and administrators, and facilities, then the money to pay the players is already there. The fact that you're not allocating the money to the players doesn't mean that you couldn't, and that's the, you know, that's the fallacy.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:37:13] How has the NCAA changed of last 30 years?
RODNEY FORT: [00:37:16] The rise and impact of, um, of television, and now video streaming, it's changed it into an activity where the, uh, conferences that can generate the most money are also in control of how it gets distributed.
The reason that amateurism, uh, exists is because it allows the university discretion over a larger portion of the amount of revenues that get generated by the athletic department than they would otherwise have. And that discretion comes at the expense of the athletes.
GIANNA TOBANI - HOST, VICE NEWS: [00:37:45] Is there something contradictory about schools making money, any way they can off of college sports, and then not allowing the athletes, who arguably are the ones generating the money, to make a profit?
RODNEY FORT: [00:37:57] Many people wonder if this is an outright exploitation. As an economist, I look at that and say, well, yes, that's exactly what they're doing.
Hope Solo Wants Soccer Justice - Edge of Sports - Air Date 5-24-21
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:38:06] Speaking of humanity as we shift our conversation here, you've been so outspoken on issues of equal pay, but also racial equity in soccer, equity for disabled people in soccer. What has stirred you to speak out? In that could either be part of your upbringing or anything more recently. What has made you the kind of person that's willing to not just shut up and play?
HOPE SOLO: [00:38:32] You have to go way back, I would assume. It is, obviously how one is raised. And I think it's probably an accumulation of a number of different things, to have the ability to speak up, have the ability to be silent, especially when you're being criticized quite a bit.
So when I look back, I was raised around very strong women. It was my grandmother and my mother. But I was also raised to think equality is normal. I'll never forget when I went to college, I was young and naive and I was just. competitive. And I wanted a scholarship and I wanted to play for the United States and I had my blinders on and I was completely focused to fulfilling my dreams.
And then when I got to college, I'm 17 years old. I was young when I first got to college. So I was 17 years old and I went to my first party with all my soccer friends, we all went to the football party. And we got there and we had early morning workouts the next morning. So we didn't stay very late. And we started to walk out and I had a football player say, Hey, where are you guys going? Why are you guys leaving? And I said, I spoke up, I said, Oh, we have training early in the morning. And he said, nobody gives a bleepy bleep about women's sports or women's soccer; we're the ones who makes the money for the university. And right then and there, I realized that, Oh, wow, nobody has ever disrespected me as a female athlete until that moment when I was 17. Because I grew up just with my blinders on thinking that equality was normal. And I had every opportunity that my male counterparts would have.
And then it wasn't until I was in the real world as a young adult, when my eyes were really opened.
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:40:10] What a charmer, he sounds like.
HOPE SOLO: [00:40:12] Yes, he was.
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:40:16] Was there anybody -- you mentioned your family -- but have you had any influences in terms of other athletes, male or female, whoever, that you saw speak out and you said to yourself, Hey, that's a role model for me, that's what I want to be doing?
HOPE SOLO: [00:40:31] No. And I looked back, I saw all the inequities, you know, I, I had played on the US women's national team and I had been training with them since 1997. So again, I was young female at the time, 17 years old. I think I was 16 when I got first called up to a national team camp. So I'm very young. And it was at the height of the success, going into 1999, and I saw these women as a rock stars, as the Mia Hamms of the world. I saw staying at five star hotels with tons of fans, and hotel security guards. And I saw the possibilities of how far women's soccer and women's sports could go. And they really truly were rock stars at the time.
And as time went on, after the excitement slowed down from their success of 1999 and going into 2000, early 2000s, everything went back to being second class citizens for the women's team. We had middle seats in the very back of the plane. We never had charters like our male counterparts, the men's national soccer team. And we were still winning tournaments and the men were not. And so I think my eyes are really opened seeing all of the inequities just playing for my country and seeing how our five star hotels went down to two and a half star hotels and our per diem wasn't even equal.
So there were a number of issues where I started asking question after question to our attorneys. The leaders on the team at that time and everybody just said, Hey, Hope, the moment you start asking for the same contract or the same CBA as the men's national team, it's a non-starter. I was told that by the president of US Soccer, Sunil Gulati at the time, that having the same exact contract as the men is a non-starter for negotiations.
So I just constantly was told it's above your pay grade, quit asking these questions, we're moving forward with this particular contract. Because this is all that soccer will over us. And so I knew deep down that this wasn't right.
And I think as I became more of a veteran -- I played on the team for almost 20 years, 19 years since my first call it to when I got fired -- and in those 20 years, I saw a number of CBAs, a number of new contracts, and they were never equal. I played in every single professional league in the United States, and we were asked to play professionally on horrible fields, no doctors, no trainers. We didn't even know who the coach would be for a professional team. I remember telling my teammates, we cannot accept this pay because most of the players can't even live for the entire year on this pay. So this is not a professional league. This is a semi-pro league. So I always became the voice that -- really the voice of reason.
But at the end of the day, everybody still wanted to play. And the love of the game is what essentially always made us agree to certain contracts. The love of the game, the pressure to be and the intimidation by US Soccer, quite frankly.
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:43:39] You raise the issue of the end of your time with USA Soccer. And it really did seem like shortly after speaking up around these issues of equity and equal pay, you were ousted from the team. What happened there? Can you tell us?
HOPE SOLO: [00:43:55] Yeah, there was a big controversy. We had the same attorney that was our player's association director for way too long. He was buddy-buddy with Sunil Gulati. He was buddies with US Soccer. He sat in their suite. He always convinced us to just agree to whatever contract US Soccer gave us. And for years, many of us tried to vote him out and bring in a different attorney, somebody who would fight for our rights and our voices as players.
And I'll never forget the first time they brought in somebody who was connected to the NFLPA, one of the best service associations in the world. And through my husband, I got the contacts and they came and met with our team. And the first time we ever voted, it was I believe the number was 9-9 I believe it was an equal vote. And I remember at that point, I actually felt victorious because for the first time that many players actually knew we needed major changes.
And it took another two years before we actually voted Rich Nichols in who was the head of the player's association who helped us start the fight for equal pay. He came in, he educated us about our rights under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII, which honestly, looking back as a 30 something year old woman, for us to not know our rights is shameful. Quite frankly I do a lot of discussions around the world and I try to tell everybody we have to, in order to get equality, in order to get equal pay, we have to be educated about our rights. And in my thirties, I didn't know that the Equal Pay Act and Title VII was federal law and a federal law since 1963, signed into law by John F. Kennedy. I didn't know even what it stated, which just for all the listeners here, I'd like to tell you what specifically Equal Pay Act and Title VII says. And it states that if you have the same employer with the same job description and the same responsibilities, you cannot discriminate based on gender. And 60 years later, we're still fighting for something that is already federal law.
But really that was the start, is we had to educate ourselves, we had to have the right leader to help us educate ourselves. And this fight began in 2015. And that's really when my relationship got a little bit rocky with US Soccer, is when I brought in this hard ass attorney who really empowered us to stay together, to fight for equality. And eventually I got fired and so did he. In fact, the president of US Soccer took many of the players out to eat in Spain and said, we cannot work with that attorney because he's not agreeable. So, if you want a new contract, you're going to have to get rid of him. So it was divide and conquer at that point, the age old tactic that many businesses are fully aware of how to control their employees. And it was divide and conquer. And I was ousted. And then shortly thereafter, Rich Nichols was ousted as well. And shortly thereafter that the team signed a contract that was less than equal. And there went our fight for equal pay.
Naomi Osaka, Athletes, and Mental Health - Past Present - Air Date 6-8-21
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:47:07] So Naomi Osaka is 23 years old and one of tennis's hottest stars. She's won four majors and is currently ranked number two in the world in women's singles. In her short career she's won nearly $20 million in prize money, but now she's walking away from the French Open after a contentious fight with officials over her mandatory press availability. After pulling out she released a statement detailing how the press conferences affected her mental health and why she'd rather not play than to do them. Her decision sent shockwaves through the tennis world and opened up a broader conversation about athletes, mental health and their autonomy.
Natalia, what did you make of Osaka's decision?
NATALIA PETREZELA - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:47:46] Well, I have to say, at first, and this is probably not my best self, I was like, what is wrong with you? This is your job. You're paid so many millions of dollars a year. Get out there and do your dog and pony show and then go on your way. It seemed to me, I don't want to say much to do about nothing cause I have no idea what she's going through, but it seemed to me that sitting at that dais and giving a press conference, I'm sure it is stressful, especially after you've played, especially as it's been, if it's been an emotional experience, but it also seems like part of the very, very highly paid job that you're doing, and so it doesn't seem to me like that much to ask.
I thought about it for awhile and I think that's probably a little bit unfair because I have no idea what she's going through, and if this actually is such a gutting experience for her, then let's be honest, whatever I think of it, she has the right to do whatever she wants and maybe this could even set a really positive precedent for athletes and not just the athletes, but women of color athletes, setting boundaries for themselves that they have not traditionally been afforded. So I have changed my mind.
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:48:51] Well, it's an interesting question, because she can't actually do whatever she wants. She skipped this first press availability and she was fined $15,000. They threatened to pull her from the tournament, and they threatened her ability to play in future tournaments and she ultimately made the decision herself, but you're right, that it is very much part of what she is required to do in order to play this game. But you can also understand why, if this is provoking her mental health for an athlete, if your head's not in the game, that really affects your place. I'm sure that she sees a connection between this part of the job and her ability to do the other part on the court.
NEIL YOUNG - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:49:32] That's especially fraught for her at the French Open, where she hasn't done that well. I believe she's never gotten past the third round and is not known for her clay game. And a lot of the questions have been about that. Like, why aren't you doing well on this surface? Are you stressing about it? And there's a way in which those questions, I think, can get in an athlete's head. And we've learned a lot about the psychology of sports in the last couple of decades and how important the psychological preparation is for playing and for victory. And so if she feels like the press conferences are not only anxiety provoking, but actually undermining of her ability to be in the right headspace to compete, it seems like a smart, strategic choice, aside from any sort of mental health issues, to say, you know what, I'm going to bail out of this.
And I do think it's a really interesting, Natalia, what you said, I think, is what has been said over and over again, like this wasn't that big of a deal, it's a requirement of this sport, you're high paid. But I think there's a lot of assumptions built into all of that. Like, why is this a requirement of athletes? It's not a requirement of politicians. It's not a requirement of movie stars. There's all sorts of ways that other high profile people are allowed to bow out of press obligations with no sort of penalties.
And also I think that, yes she's well-paid, but the majority of tennis players are not. The majority don't make all that much money, and so if she's able to give a little bit of attention to this, it seems like a proper leveraging of her power and her fame and her wealth to address an issue that may be affecting a lot of less empowered and certainly less wealthy players on the tour.
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:51:09] I think it's worth talking about why these are mandatory and why this kind of sports journalism has developed the way that it has. In reading about the history of sports journalism, which has been a critical driver of particularly newspapers and then radio, Ronald Reagan was a sports journalist, Rush Limbaugh was a sports reporter, anyway, that sports journalism, in many ways, these press conferences after the game were already a nod to a players and protecting players, an alternative to those kinds of locker room press conferences, or that need to continuously talk to different reporters, answering the same question over and over again. At these press conferences, you're given a little more distance, you can handle everyone all at once and it gives some insight into the decisions that were made during the game, into how athletes felt before and after. So there's a real value to them for the sports media world and for the tournaments in order to get the kind of media coverage that they do, it's all part of that ecosystem of selling sports. So I think that's how it became mandatory as part of keeping up the coverage of the event to make sure that people were watching and that they had extra content to deliver.
NEIL YOUNG - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:52:31] Yeah, I would add a little bit more. First of all, just the history of sports writing, of sports journalism is really long, probably longer than most people would expect, starting in the 1820s and 1830s, and very early on newspapers realized it could drive readership. Their sales went up when they started adding more and more pages of sports coverage in their papers. But sportswriting really changes across the 20th century and radically expands in keeping with or in connection with, the rise of intercollegiate athletics and also of professional sports and the 20th century.
But what really changes it even more is the rise of broadcast television in the 1950s and 1960s. When you have the ability to watch a football game or a basketball game on you're able to do so on a national level, or at least on a semi-regional level, the practice of sports journalism has to change remarkably, because up until that point, it had essentially been just a play by play narrative of the game. If you weren't at the baseball game or you didn't get to listen to it on local radio, you didn't know what happened in the game, and so the next morning you read a description of every play that happened.
Once people are able to watch the games themselves on television and even more so once ESPN and 24 hour coverage of sports arises in the 80s and afterwards, sports writing and sports journalism becomes very much about analysis, about color details, about thinking about the cultural implications of the sport. It becomes personality driven. And so I think in that sort of transformation, the press conference is an important component of that because a sports writer isn't going to just go and again, describe what happened in the game. They need the quotes from the athletes and from the coaches to round out a unique analysis, a unique story that stands alongside the broadcasted form of the sport.
NICOLE HEMMER - HOST, PAST PRESENT PODCAST: [00:54:27] The athletes needed the journalists too, because in order to market themselves, they would need to be part of that color commentary. They would need to have profiles written about them. And that's been a big change in recent years, as athletes have been able to speak directly to the fans themselves, particularly through social media.
And that gets to this issue of, I realize I used the word autonomy a lot already, but I think that this is a really important part of it. That Osaka is in a position where she can make this choice and she already has titles, she has tons of money, she has the space in order to leverage her marketability and her position in order to make the sport work better for her. And that's actually something we've seen in other sports.
I was reading this piece on the NBA and the way that they have instituted new mental health services for players, and that was a player driven initiative. Players taking the lead in asking for what they want, and this then spills over into all sorts of other areas, including Colin Kaepernick. A player's autonomy, a player saying this needs to change and leveraging whatever power they have in order to try to affect some sort of change in the game and in society more broadly.
Sole By The Pound: Sonny Vaccaro on NCAA Sham Amateurism - Edge of Sports - Air Date 11-30-16
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:55:48] So let's get back to that bringing together of the shoe industry, the sneaker industry, and college sports. This has been described as an industry where people profit off of kids and where kids are unpaid marketing vehicles. And I keep thinking about your outspokenness against the NCAA, and that says to me that you agree with that analysis, that that's not right for kids to be unpaid marketing vehicles, and I wanted to ask you if this was something you saw in real time in the 1980s and 90s or is this something that came to you later, as you were looking back over how the industry had mutated over the years?
SONNY VACCARO: [00:56:25] I think it was always in my mind. The African-American, the inner-city kid, that's who made basketball then, now, in the future, whatever. The kids were buying everything, these kids in high school were paying for everything, everyone bought shoes. So when I asked to give away the shoes at my Roundball Classic, that was the payment for them putting it on. I gave the shoes to the kids, and sweatsuits and whatever the heck we gave away. When we went to paying the coaches, the kids at the schools basically it got everything free. You couldn't pay the athletes and it would not have been in my mindset in 77', but what obviously was my mindset was giving the coaches, sweatsuits, shorts, shoes for the kids, t-shirts for the summertime, whatever that was.
So the kids in my mind -- no one was thinking about anything and certainly not the people who ran the NCAA and the sport, so I've always understood this kid was shortchanged, but the windmill that is the NCAA, and I say windmill because they just keep blowing the wind up everyone's rear-end, they never said no and they took. They never brought up things to do something for the athletes. But no, it always progressed to a point where the kids were shortchanged and cheated by the NCAA proper, because the NCAA proper made their own rules.
And let's understand, when I was giving away and paying the coaches, now in the 80s, we're giving these coaches $200,000, $250,000, we are paying them more than the school was, so we understand that. The NCAA didn't step in then and say, stop it. Everything that's been permeated and done over these years, until it got to a point where it is today, has been okayed by the NCAA, only they kept all the money. They paid all their coaches. They built their own buildings, their own gyms off the money, all the endorsements, all the coaches and the players for the athletes wearing the shoes.
But David, I'm no martyr, I'm no saint, what I was understanding of who the individual was, it was the kid. Everything that was fought for early that was decried and beat up then came to realization by the public, that even though some may not want to admit it, that the NCAA is the elephant in the room.
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [00:58:29] Yeah. What you're really talking about what's changed is just the idea of exposing the hypocrisy of sham amateurism while people make millions off these kids.
SONNY VACCARO: [00:58:37] It's beyond hypocrisy. It's now shame. The shame of how they gradually get a crumb and they throw it to an athlete, like now they're going to pay for the parents who go to those football thing next month or whatever. Isn't that nice? I mean, shit, I've been asking for that for 25 years, but the point is we are now at 2017, there's more money than God created in the world of athletics, and it's all going to one entity. Individuals who run bowl games, individuals who run conferences, individuals who do nothing except monitor the events played by the 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 year old kids who bring in billions of dollars and we say, and right now it's such a beautiful time to say this for me on your program, and we say, "oh, they're amateurs", and it's all about tethering to education.
Education has come further down the crap hole in the system of the NCAA than it's ever been in this life, because there is no education. There's not even a pretense. So when they tell you about the $500,000 in scholarships, that's a pipe dream. The pipe dream is what? The education of the individuals who you promise to, and now they don't even take classes. Now they don't even do all these other egregious things. And what do they do when they fire the guy? They don't fire him because he didn't educate you. They fired cause he didn't win games.
DAVE ZIRIN - HOST, THE EDGE OF SPORTS: [01:00:02] I want to really fine point on this, because one of the things that was said in the terrific Sole Man documentary that ESPN 30 for 30 did, as one of the talking heads said something like we have to come to the realization that the shoe companies have hurt these kids. And it seems like what you're saying, and what folks like Patrick Ruby have argued, is that it's not the shoe companies that have hurt these kids, it's the system that doesn't allow for the natural relationship of the shoe companies actually having an honest arrangement with these kids being able to flourish. Is that how you look at it?
SONNY VACCARO: [01:00:40] Yes. That's the only answer to this question without a biased response from the other side, because all the promises and all the -- this word, amateurism is a sham to begin with. The irony here is one thing, one thing that none of them ever say that are in rebuttal against what I believe in and these kids deserve, is why in the hell did the NCAA and a number of school say no to the shoe companies. Don't take their money. Do you understand that when Under Armour gave $250 million contract to UCLA recently and all these other schools get all this money, do you really think the want to see Steve Alford and the guy Mora or Jim Harbaugh and Mike Krushelnyski, do you really think, let's put the shoes on, and don't give it to the kids, that's okay. They give it to them because the athletes are on television.
When I started this thing, it was all Sports Illustrated, and getting your picture in the paper. There was no TV in the 70s. People have willful blindness when it comes to this system. My point here is the hypocrisy is in the sayings of what people do to defend the NCAA. They don't have to take the money. I can't speak for the industry now, but when I was running the show for the three companies, let me just tell you something, we didn't give a damn if they were giving the players money or do whatever, giving them the shoes, whatever that's, what the rules allowed. Do you really think that the shoe companies would stop supporting the universities while they're still playing in these televised games and all that, and ESPN and CBS would stop televising the games if the kids got money? They'd give the money directly to the kids. They do it already. They do it already. This may not come out in money, it's in favors, just in everything else.
Megan Rapinoe - The Old Man and the Three with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter - Air Date 11-25-20
JJ REDICK - HOST, OLD MAN AND THE THREE: [01:02:24] This has been a big deal for the last few years. You guys had a lawsuit and it's essentially still ongoing, but to take us through the beginnings of this issue, and then where it's headed in 2020 and 2021.
MEGAN RAPINOE: [01:02:38] So I think that beginnings of the issues is really when our sport took off, which I would say, 2011 and 2012 we're big hitters, and then 2015 when we won the World Cup in Canada. That was a big thing where we basically are looking around and were like, we've won everything. We made the final in Germany, 2011, lost in the final, but won the Olympics the next year. We come back 2015, we've won the world cup, we won pretty much every game. We're big superstars, we get a ticker-tape parade and then the pay is just not there.
And I think at the heart of the issue, the potential that the men can make and the potential that we can make is just way different. So in this last ruling, the judge essentially said A) you signed your contract and you knew what it was and so you're responsible for it. And obviously we knew what the men's contract was, we asked for the same exact contract, same exact numbers, same exact line item that was not available to us. And that's just the hallmark of gender discrimination. You don't get offered the same thing and then choose something that's worse for you. So we were like, yeah, you missed that point.
And the second thing he said was basically dollar for dollar, we earned the same as the men over this period of time, but really what happened was we captured, for numbers sake, 90% of our contract and made the same as them who captured 50% of their contract. So essentially we have to work twice as hard for the same amount of money. And it's not that simple. Like when we get to World Cups, our World Cup pool money for winning as much smaller than the men's, that's a FIFA issue, but there's potential and growth aspect to it as well. So I think a lot of times people are like you don't get as many TV viewers, you don't get as many fans, which for us is not really true, we get a lot of fans, tV viewership is a little bit different at times, but if you don't invest in it and you don't put the same money towards it, then you can't really use that against us.
So we would have loved the last contract to have the same exact opportunity to earn the money that the men do, but that wasn't available to us, likely because they know that we would've earned almost all of it, so they don't really want to do that.
For me, it's kinda like they're digging their heels in on an issue that clearly the world is going one way on, and even if they win, they lose. Even in this lawsuit, the latest ruling was in their favor. Everyone still hates them. Everyone still thinks they're jerks. And what did they win? We're just going to appeal it. We're going to continue to appeal it. We have a new contract coming up next year, so they're just fighting this issue that sort of a dead issue, eventually will have to be resolved, and in the meantime, we're spending all types of time and energy and lawyers fees, and it's just a losing battle for everyone, frankly, and it's exhausting, I wish we could just come to an agreement.
JJ REDICK - HOST, OLD MAN AND THE THREE: [01:05:33] Let's assume for a second that we get to the point where it is equal pay. And this point is I'm going to make up an arbitrary year, 2023, 2025, I don't fucking know. Are you going to be bitter that in your prime and your best decade, as much as you won, that you didn't get to participate in that.
MEGAN RAPINOE: [01:05:56] Well, I'm certainly going to want a big thank you card or something. We talk about this a lot. We're like, damn, this is not for us, is it? It became very clear, very early, we were like, shit, these little kids are going to be set up so nice. But honestly, we were set up so much better than the women before us, so that's just how it goes. And I think we've been compensated and appreciated outside of our contracts, just commercially in other ways, but yeah, if this thing goes the way that we want it to, the salaries will increase by a couple X and I'm trying to hold on at least so I can like experience one year of that, just to stick it to everyone. But yeah, the little kids, I'll never pay for anything in their presence again.
TOMMY ALTER - HOST, OLD MAN AND THE THREE: [01:06:40] They got to grandfather you in. You just gotta be like, 47 year old Megan is on the team just for that.
JJ REDICK - HOST, OLD MAN AND THE THREE: [01:06:48] I think about all the time, I really do, I think about all the time, the guys that played in the 80s or the guys that played in the 70s Oscar Robinson, and granted, the economics of the NBA were way different back then. We didn't have these TV contracts, for me, some of these guys, like if I'm Dominique Wilkins or Isaiah Thomas, and I see these guys signing these $163 million contracts, it's got to eat at you a little bit. It's got to eat at you a little bit.
MEGAN RAPINOE: [01:07:17] I remember when, this must've been, whatever, four or five years ago, when the new salary cap hit and it was the crazy one and Timofey Mosgoz made $90 million and I was like, this is insane. The average is like 12 points or something, this is wild. Even some of them now, the money obviously is going to change because of COVID now, but some of these contracts, I'm like, I don't understand it, I don't understand this kind of money, it's wild. But then I'm like good for the players. They should get every single penny that you could possibly get. Anytime I see a big deal, I'm like good for them.
JJ REDICK - HOST, OLD MAN AND THE THREE: [01:07:49] I agree with you. Anytime one of my peers signs a big deal, I'm happy for him. I really am. I feel bad for the older players, and I think we owe them, we certainly owe them gratitude and respect and all that. I know we've, as a union, we've tried to augment some of their post retirement expenses, in terms of health care and stuff, but it's just not the same.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:08:10] We've just heard clips today, starting with Chris Hayes on Why Is This Happening? discussing how sports are often used to wish away accusations of racism while actually perpetuating it. Citations Needed discussed the love-hate perspective schools have on Black student athletes and cheerleaders. The Damage Report explained the unbelievably racist policy of race norming that was only ended by the NFL this year. TYT Sports looked at the widespread nature of the so-called plantation mentality of sports franchise owners. Vice News looked at the nature of college athletes generating billions for universities without being able to earn from their own labor. Edge of Sports talked with Hope Solo about pay equity for women's soccer. And Past Present discussed the case of Naomi Osaka prioritizing her mental health over press availability.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard bonus clips from Edge of Sports who dug deeper into how capitalism and the athletic shoe industry hurts young players who aren't able to profit from their labor. And Old Man and the Three discussed how the fights for gender equity and fair labor practices inevitably only end up helping future generations rather than the current ones waging the fights, so they're really just paying it forward.
For non-members, those bonus clips are linked in the show notes and are part of the transcript for today's episode, so you can still find them if you want to make the effort. But to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at BestoftheLeft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership, because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked.
And now we'll hear from you.
Critical Race Theory and objective facts - Christian from Arkansas
VOICEDMAILER: CHRISTIAN FROM ARKANSAS: [01:10:03] Hey Jay. Its Christian. Huge fan of the show.
I live in Arkansas and went to a very small, very conservative school in the heart of deep red country. I graduated in 2009, before the critical race theory law was passed. But even then it was taboo to talk about race. It was 95% White, 1 Black kid, a few Latinos and Asians. If anyone would try to have deep conversation on the topic of racism it would be immediately shut down and history was deeply White washed. The real problem I have with this is that it leaves children to learn about these things strictly through the lense of their parents, relatives, and religious institutions they attend. I learned about history and racism on my own. Some argue this is the way its supposed to be, the state shouldn't dictate what people learn about history, right? But that deprives us of an objective sense of truth. It's deeply frustrating. I would love it if we, as a society had a collective view of objective facts about our past. Right now, too many people view the past as a subjective thing.
I love your show and look forward to every episode. Stay awesome and keep fighting the good fight!
Final comments on the future continued breakdown of shared realities
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:11:12] Thanks to all those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at 202 999 3991, or write me a message to [email protected]
That message that we just heard, I think really gets to the heart of a lot of our problems, right? No shared reality in almost any area. And media bubbles, which we talk about a lot, I think are only the latest iteration because there have always been people who wanted to keep themselves and their children from learning mainstream information.
And that's sort of what the Voiced Mailer was referring to and thinking of the same basic issue in media. So what often comes up is the Fairness Doctrine. And as every year passes, fewer people remember what that actually was, and how it worked myself included, I wasn't really around in those days. And the fairness doctrine in its original construction is... not only is it defunct now, but it wouldn't address the problems that we have with a modern media landscape.
It only ever applied to broadcast, not cable and applying it to the internet would be completely unworkable. So just a few minutes ago, I did a quick search to see if anyone had come up with some ideas about what a modern fairness doctrine might look like. Just, it would be very different, very, very different. It probably wouldn't be called the fairness doctrine, et cetera, but you know, what is something that we could do today that would have a similar ish kind of impact on helping create a shared reality. And, honestly, there were no big ideas that, that hit me immediately when doing that search. But one interesting note was that the fairness doctrine, which we now sort of think back on as a high point in media civility, was actually seen by progressives at the time as an insufficient regulation that was flawed, but, you know, better than nothing.
And the argument being made in this article didn't really have much to do with the functioning of the fairness doctrine, but it was more that we shouldn't dismiss the discussion entirely. It shouldn't just sweep it aside as, "Oh yeah. That wouldn't work these days," because talking about it and remembering our legacy of regulating the way media functions sort of keeps the flame alive of reminding people of the legitimacy of the role of government in helping create a healthy media landscape, as opposed to the thinking behind market fundamentalism that was the driving force that helped kill off the doctrine under Reagan in the first place.
So, back to schools: while we see schools as being maybe one of the last places where it's possible to create shared understanding based on facts, conservatives, at least many of them, may very well see it as one of the last places that they have to defend themselves against the imposition of information they don't want to be confronted with.
To be fair, of course they would frame it as "incorrect. Liberal lies and misinformation "or whatever, take that as you will. So now the result of, of these anti critical race theory laws is that we're not just going to have a mixed population growing apart of Fox News and MSNBC watchers. We're going to have entire states that either teach the realities and legacies of racism, or entire states that don't.
And honestly, I don't know how different that's going to be because people who live in states that don't teach that stuff are probably going to learn it anyway, because we have very connected society and smart people will help teach their kids smart things, and smart kids will go and learn things on the internet.
So I don't know how different it will be. But I know that it's not going to help. And our toxic divide is already threatening to tear the country apart. We got, you know, a third of the country who thinks we're in an active civil war, so it's not going to get better anytime soon. I can't wait to hear this commentary dredged up and referenced in our 2031 ten-year retrospective episode when we'll all have a better idea of how things played out.
All right. Keep the comments coming in at 202 999 3991, or by emailing me to [email protected] That is going to be it for today. Okay. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work that goes into the show as well as their participation in our bonus episodes.
Thanks to the monosyllabic, transcriptionist trio, Ben, Ken, and Scott for their volunteer work, helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism, segments, graphic designing, bonus show co-hosting and so on. And thanks of course, to those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support, that's how you get instant access to our impressively good bonus episodes, in addition to there being extra content and no ads in all of our regular episodes for members. For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this, and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes on our website and likely right on the device you're using to listen. So coming to you from far outside, the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the best of left podcast coming to you twice weekly, thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show. From bestoftheleft.com.
Another quick addendum: you probably noticed I changed blog to website in this episode. I'm probably going to stick with that one. Funny side note though: as soon as I recorded and posted that previous episode, the last episode, in which I use the term blog to refer to where I put the show notes, and talked about how that term is as popular now, as it was in 2004, because of its utter decline into near irrelevancy; of course, I was quickly reminded of the only reference anyone's been making to blogs recently, which was Donald Trump's website that came and went within the course of a month due to low readership.