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Podcasts, Interviews, and Writing

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About a month ago, I appeared on POPSspot Sports Radio. The topic was “Sports & Violence Against Women.” It was a wide-ranging discussion on this topic and I really enjoyed being on the show. (I can’t figure out how to embed the audio on my site so just click over and listen to it where POPSspot has it available).


That same week, I did a podcast episode with Josh Katzowitz. He has a series called “Mightier Than The Sword” where he talks with writers “about writers, about their backgrounds and about the charcoal-to-bark, pen-to-paper, digits-to-keyboard, fingers-to-smartphone-screen world in which I love to live.”

The interview covers what it’s like to write about the impact of sexism on sports in a field that can be incredibly sexist, how I marry my writing to my activism, what “rape culture,” and about my upcoming book on sexual assault and college football.


On August 26, I did an online chat with Katie Klabusich at a site called Tawkers about college football and sexual assault. The downside to the Tawkers format as is: I can’t even cut and paste the text from the chat. The only way to read the full transcript of the hour-long chat is on Tawker’s site, scrolling down through the talk.


Way back in July, I was profiled by David Leonard for The Feminist Wire. In the long interview, I spoke about being a feminist and a sports fan at the same time:

I am a feminist sports fan. I am a feminist anything. That’s a hat I can’t take off.

Of course, being a feminist sports fan is hard a lot of the time. While watching a game, commentators – who are almost exclusively men unless you are watching women’s sports – often assume that the audience is just men or they actually make sexist comments (I’m thinking of Brent Musburger’s famous “boys, make sure you play quarterback so you can get a hot girlfriend” statement during the Alabama football championship game a couple of years ago). The ads around sports are sexist, too. There is a lot of eye rolling and righteously angry tweeting that happens while I am watching that helps me process it all.

A big part of the process of being a feminist sports fan is setting expectations nice and low. It’s about preparing for the inevitable let down and dealing with the disappointment when the letdown happens even though you’ve prepped for it. And it’s a lot of waving my arms wildly above my head and screaming on a regular basis, “I am here! Women are here!”

The interview is much longer and is about much more than just sports.


Recently, I spoke with Parker Molloy at Hellogiggles about women in sports. Here is what I said about the impact of Mo’Ne Davis:

I think the impact of a moment like one we just saw—the nation being captivated by Mo’NeDavis, her awesome play, and her kick-ass personality—is hard to measure. I have no doubt that there will be girls who suddenly imagine themselves as baseball players that wouldn’t have before. I definitely believe that there were plenty of people who, maybe for the first time in their lives, really wondered about why mainly boys play baseball and girls play softball. Emma Span wrote a great piece about why girls play softball for the New York Times earlier this year:

But issues of masculinity and sport are so intertwined that “throw like a girl” probably isn’t going anywhere for a long time. I think the flip side of people really considering the sexism that causes girls (and women) to almost never play baseball beyond hitting a ball in their yard, is people imagining Davis or [Kayla] Roncin as anomalies. Exceptions that prove the rule.

It matters, though, that a whole lot of people now understand that baseball can be for girls and that girls can play baseball. All of sports would be better if we divided players by skill level and not by some arbitrary biological standard.

There is much more to the interview.


Finally, my debut piece for VICE Sports is up today. It’s all about why I loved attending Charlie Strong’s women’s football camp this summer. And while I would appreciate you reading the entire piece, I will tell you that the final paragraph is one of the best moments of my summer.

Quick Thoughts On NFL’s New Domestic Violence Policy

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Today, NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, dropped a lengthy letter in which he admitted that he messed up when he only gave Ray Rice a 2-game suspension for domestic violence and he outlined 6 new policies that the NFL will implement regarding domestic violence and sexual assault.

My quick thoughts:

  1. Everyone should read the entire letter before forming opinions about it.
  2. Good job, public and sports media who got really angry that Ray Rice only got a two-game suspension for beating his fiancee unconscious. The outcry following that punishment is most definitely the ONLY reason this letter exists today.
  3. 5 of those 6 policies are proactive. This is important. The 6th part – the punishment part – will get a lot of play and sports media will focus on it. But the first 5 policies are all about preventing violence before it happens, both internally within teams and externally within communities. Punishment will not deter this violence but rooting it out before it happens, that could.
  4. All the stuff about being proactive in an attempt to prevent violence (which is the bulk of the letter), FEMINISTS DID THAT. The NFL was listening to somebody when they wrote that letter and it wasn’t just DUDEZ.
  5. The punishment part is bad. These new, incredibly harsh penalties that could backfire and just cause people not to want to report knowing that the result could cost a player his career (people don’t report for much less). It’s hard to see this as a deterrent. [UPDATE: someone brought up that lax punishments are also deterrents for women reporting partners for domestic violence. That's true, too. Part of the problem with focusing on punishments is that no matter what they are, many victims feel fundamentally unsafe reporting due to possible retaliation and/or effect on their partner's life.]
  6. And as Dan Solomon texted me when we were discussing this, the fact that this remains only a punishment to an individual does not stop the horrible behavior we saw the Ravens exhibit in the face of Ray Rice’s case and his suspension (a full court press of rehab publicity, mainly, which shows no signs of slowing down). Dan wrote, “There’s no incentive for them not to be horrible in the future. In fact, there’s the opposite. They need to downplay and PR and spin away all of this to prevent a lifetime ban.”
  7. The NFLPA will hate the punishment part and we should expect them to fight it all the way. At the same time, they could have at least taken the time in their response to acknowledge how great the proactive parts of the letter are.
  8. I don’t trust the NFL. The proactive stuff is wonderful IF it’s implemented in a way that is careful, thorough, thoughtful, consistent, and constant. What has the NFL done to make us think it will do that, to make us think it will do anything unless it gets something out of it? *crickets*
  9. If the sports media chooses to mainly focus on the punishment part of all of this, I fear that this will overshadow the bulk of the letter, which is about all the things we need to do to prevent violence. It will also serve to allow people who just want to move on from all of this to say, “PROBLEM SOLVED!,” when, in fact, all that proactive stuff shows that there is no solving of a problem; this is a long-term, on-going process that takes constant care.
  10. If you feel dissatisfied at the punishment part of this (that you feel like any act of violence against another person should lead to immediate dismissal from the league), at least keep in mind that the punishment the NFL has laid out is much more harsh than how the legal system often handles these cases. There is so much wrong in this society when it comes to violence against women and it doesn’t start or end with the NFL.

Why Sports Are Great: Jackie Robinson West

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Today, my friend Dan Solomon texted me: “Did you watch that little league game yesterday? It was basically Exhibit A in the case for “Why Sports Are Great.””

I hadn’t watched it because I was busy doing family things with my family so I asked Dan, “And why are sports great?”.

The following is his answer:


Because those kids!

The Chicago team [Jackie Robinson West] was just totally outplayed. They hung with [the South Korean team] okay — they managed to sneak a run in — but they only had 2 hits for the first 5 (of 6) innings.

Korea, meanwhile, was up 4-1 going into the 6th, then just ran away with it at the top of the final inning, 8-1.

And the Chicago kids are all so, so sad.

And their coach doesn’t try to rally them to win. He doesn’t lay on a locker room speech. He just tells them that he’s so proud of them, that nobody in America can say anything to them, because they’re the ones who are here. Nobody else got to play in this game. So don’t worry about losing or winning. It doesn’t matter.

And then the Chicago kids rally for a great final inning. They’re laughing and playing and hitting, and they score three times before they finally lose, going out 8-4.

And afterward, they go and rush out to meet the Korean kids and they teach them cool new handshakes and congratulate them on their win, and everybody is all smiles.

The coach put President Obama on hold to go out and be there with the kids. HE PUT PRESIDENT OBAMA ON HOLD. “Can I call you back in 10-15 minutes?”

Amazing.

Obama is inviting the kids to the White House.

They’re having a party in their neighborhood in Chicago when their plane lands today, and a citywide parade on Wednesday.

I just don’t think I can remember the last time I saw a team in any sport play with as much heart as those kids did in the 6th, when they could have been crying and disappointed. And everybody seems to recognize how great that is, and want them to know how much they admire them for it.

I love it. If every baseball game were only 6 innings, this might have actually convinced me to watch it more.

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Shame On Bob Stoops

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Bob Stoops is the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners football team.

Stoops’ team has worked very hard this off season to transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, a former wide receiver from Missouri, to their school to play this season (they found out on Friday that there efforts were for naught).

Green-Beckham was kicked off of Missouri’s team for alleging pushing a friend of his girlfriend’s down some stairs. Gary Pinkel, G-B’s former coach at Missouri, has recently said it was because of that incident and “other information” he knew about his WR (G-B has a history of off-field incidents).

The news about G-B broke in April at the same time that Missouri was still dealing with the effects of a damning January report by Outside The Lines, revealing that the school might have ignored and failed to investigate a case where multiple football players raped a fellow student; she later committed suicide. About the time G-B got in trouble, the president of Missouri was passing an executive order changing how reporting of sexual assault would work on campus.

Missouri could also have known that Outside The Lines was working on a different piece about their program. This latest OTL report, which was published on Friday, is about former Missouri running back Derrick Washington, who was dismissed from the team 2010 after being charged with sexual battery (for which he was found guilty and served 120 days because he was a first-time offender; then he returned to the field and played ball at Tuskegee). TURNS OUT, Washington had been accused of violence against women, including sexual assault, THREE other times before he was finally arrested for the fourth incident. And his coaches and school administrators knew about this. In response to this latest OTL report, Pinkel admitted on Friday that “he knew about a 2008 rape allegation against former running back Derrick Washington, but didn’t discipline him because police didn’t file charges.”

To bring this all the way around: Bob Stoops has brought G-B to his team after all of this and appealed to the NCAA to waive the year-long wait that a player normally is forced to endure after transferring. G-B was dismissed from his former team for violence against a woman. He was dismissed by a coach who has a history of looking the other way when allegations of VAW are alleged against one of his players.

ON TOP OF ALL OF THAT, The Big Lead reported on Friday, the day the NCAA finally declined that waiver, making G-B wait a year for eligibility at Oklahoma, Stoops and his team have suspended running back Joe Mixon. Why?

At the end of July, Mixon was accused of punching a female student at a restaurant. Last Friday, news came out that he would be charged with a misdemeanor count of acts resulting in gross injury.

As Jason Lisk at The Big Lead wrote:

So while Oklahoma can try to argue technicalities and get Green-Beckham eligible just a few months after that occurred, we can point out realities. It is a blatant case of hypocrisy. That, or winning the right way only includes suspending for behavior that occurred within a short distance from the Oklahoma campus.

My friend Lauren Chief Elk, in response to these cases where football coaches and athletic directors could not care less about times when their players are violent toward women, always asks about accountability. Where is the accountability here? Why wouldn’t Stoops go after G-B if he is only punished for losing games, not for his players committing violence against women? What would happen if coaches (and ADs) had to answer for these kind of recruitment and coaching decisions? Why is Pinkel still at Missouri, for that matter?

But really. At this point, when your moral compass appears to be even more broken than Gary Pinkel’s, shame on you.

Chip Sarafin: First Active D-I College Football Player To Publicly Come Out

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From ESPN yesterday:

Arizona State offensive lineman Edward “Chip” Sarafin told Compete Magazine that he is gay, becoming the first active Division I college football player to come out publicly.

Like former Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam, Sarafin came out to his team before going public.

“It was really personal to me and it benefited my peace of mind greatly,” Sarafin told Compete Magazine — a Tempe, Arizona-based LGBT sports publication — of revealing his sexual orientation to teammates this past spring.

So, like Sam, the team didn’t fall to pieces once they knew there was a gay player amongst them. Amazing.

Yes, it will be a nice day when players being honest in public about their sexuality is no longer news. But for now, it is really big news. This is why:

The reporter who interviewed Sarafin for the Compete Magazine story, Joshua Wyrick, said the player “cited Michael Sam as kind of the impetus for him reaching out.”

Good luck to Sarafin and the Sun Devils this season.

Tomorrow: Watch Mo’Ne Davis Play Ball

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You should know who Mo’Ne Davis is. In case you don’t…

From Travis Waldron at ThinkProgress:

Mo’Ne Davis struck out six batters and allowed just three hits Sunday in leading Philadelphia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association to a berth in the Little League World Series.

But the reason Davis is such a big story coming into this week’s World Series is only partially explained by the batters who keep swinging and missing. The other reason Davis stands out among the crowd of young ballplayers who will descend on Williamsport, Pennsylvania in the next few days?

She’s a girl.

Davis, a 5-foot-4 eighth grader, boasts a 70 mile-per-hour fastball and induced a game-ending double-play to seal her complete game shutout and Taney’s place in Williamsport (you can see highlights of her performance here).

A 70MPH FASTBALL. Damn.

Waldron discusses Davis in conversation with Emma Span’s recent opinion piece at the New York Times, which is apt. Span discusses the way girls are pushed out of baseball into softball and the consequences of that move:

Last year, 474,791 American boys played high school baseball, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations; 1,259 girls did. In some cases these girls were the only ones in their entire state. No college scholarships lie ahead, as they do in softball. Without the development of skills and talent at the high school and college level, a national women’s baseball team that plays in a World Cup will be treated as little more than a curiosity, struggling to find the attention it deserves.

Softball isn’t baseball, Span argues, and the distinction is a result of sexism.

Davis is the 18th girl to ever play in the Little League World Series, which is now 68 years old (there is another girl playing in the LLWS this year – Emma March – and this is only the third time two girls have competed at same time). And she’s the latest example of why throwing like a girl isn’t the insult some people think it is.

You can watch her and March play ball on ESPN starting tomorrow. From Waldron:

Davis and March will make their first appearances at the World Series on Friday, when March’s Canada team takes on Mexico (1 p.m., ESPN) and Davis and Taney meet South Nashville Little League (3 p.m., ESPN).

Go, girls, go!

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