S1: The following podcast contains explicit language, including the words. Well, you’ll just have to wait and see.
S2: Hi, I’m Stefan Fatsis, the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. And this is Hang Up and Listen for the week of June 22nd. Twenty twenty on this week’s show, Ben Lindbergh of the Ringer will help us assess how much damage Major League Baseball is inflicting upon itself with its protracted coronaviruses season. Labor fight, statues of racist sports executives are coming down along with their Confederate counterparts. And we’ll discuss whether the racist nickname of the Washington football team might be the next to topple. Finally, American hammer thrower Gwen Berry will be here to talk to us about her fight for the right of Olympic athletes to protest.
S3: I’m in Washington, D.C. Josh Levine is also in Washington, D.C.. We can see each other on Zoome. We cannot see each other in real life because we are good citizens. Josh is Slate’s national editor and the author of The Queen, which is out in paperback. He’s also the host of Slow Burn Season for David Duke. Hi, Josh.
S4: Hello. I can see you in a distant manner if we wanted to.
S5: Well, we could.
S4: It doesn’t seem like you guys are interested in that, to be honest, because don’t like we can’t see each other this year just to be safe next year, the year after that.
S3: The message I’m sending read between the lines, read between the lines, loud and clear.
S6: Thank you, Stefan.
S3: You’re out in Palo Alto, California. Slate staff writer, host of Slow Burn Season three and top Twitter follow. Joel Anderson. What’s up, Joel?
S5: Wow. Appreciate that. That’s all I ever wanted. I wanted to get good enough at Twitter to be a top Twitter followers. So thank you. Hater of chocolate cake. Oh, bringer of bad cake cakes. Yeah. Oh, man. No. That chocolate cake being holds up pretty well. Like I said, called my 73 year old father in law this weekend. He was eating chocolate cake with chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream. I’m like, that’s exactly what I know best. Lando’s. Well, what was old people like?
S3: Sara was even when he was 33. Chocolate cake with chocolate syrup and chocolate ice cream?
S5: Probably, yeah. I mean, as I’ve said, it’s an old standard, which is fine. It’s not bad. It’s just, you know, you’re not missing. It tastes changes over time. I’m just saying they didn’t have access to all of the new flavors and everything that time. Time in the 90s. They didn’t. Yeah. All right. They were still figuring it out. I doubt they had white raspberry or something like white chocolate, Raspberry Pi, whatever flavor that existed 40 years ago.
S3: Josh, tell us about the slow burn updates.
S4: Third episode is out this week, first on Slate. Plus, members think it might be my favorite episode of the ones that we’ve done so far. The one that came out last week featured Colace Temple Junior, who is the first black basketball player at LSU. I don’t remember if we talked about that father of Garrett Temple, currently of the Brooklyn Nets and leader in the NBA as social justice endeavors. So there is a a sports tie in there. But yeah, folks should check it out. Slate dot com slash slow burn and check out season three while you’re at it. Can we do an awkward transition before we start the show to talk about what happened in NASCAR this week? Because we talked to Clinton Yates on her episode last week about NASCAR banning the Confederate flag. There was, I think, inevitably gonna be a backlash. The backlash that happened this weekend was extremely ugly. Um, a noose was found and Bubba Wallace is the area where his car was, the garage area, the only black driver.
S6: There are also a bunch of people kind of gathered outside the track with Confederate flags, right, Stefan?
S3: Yeah. The race was supposed to be run at Talladega yesterday, Sunday.
S7: Someone rented a plane and attached a giant Confederate flag banner to it and fluid over the track. And there’s a line of cars sporting their Confederate flags leading up to the track. But the reports I read said that people were talking them away and not bringing them into the track. So following NASCAR’s guidelines.
S5: Yeah. I mean, I guess we did sort of expect this backlash much as we would expect the backlash to a lot of activism going on around the country. Right. You know, I think if anything, it justifies Clinton’s, Clinton, Yates as POWs last week that he’s like I have I’ve never gone to a NASCAR race, never had the desire. I didn’t feel safe in right here. You get an example of like this sort of people that were attending these events and felt that they had, you know, the you know, the support of everybody around them. You know, I don’t think that you would see this sort of backlash if you would see this sort of show of force if people didn’t feel like they had a lot of support. And obviously, that’s something that’s been going out there for a while. So, yeah, man, I. I wouldn’t want to go out there right now much, madame.
S6: So I also want to just to give an update on my aftermath from last week, which was about the Chicago White Sox and their very tepid response to the Black Lives Matter movement after we recorded last week’s show. Ken Williams, who is black.
S4: The general manager, longtime general manager of the White Sox, gave a really long and impassioned interview, speaking on his own behalf, not necessarily the swelling coming from ownership of the team, but talking about his experiences with racism, including no racial slur being graffitied on his house when he took over as general manager with, you know, really vile messages. And so it was heartening to see, you know, from somebody at the executive level of the White Sox speaking out on these issues.
S8: So I just wanted to make it clear after the after ball from last week that that did happen.
S4: It’s a hazard to record a segment about baseball right now because their proposals and reports and insults flying around every hour. We’re recording this on Monday morning. And by the time you hear this, there could be a deal between the players and the owners or they could have each nuked each other into the sun. We don’t know. But as we’re taping the current offer on the table from ownership is for a 60 game season with fully pro-rated salaries and a 16 team postseason. If the players agree to that deal or something like it, then they’d still have to agree on health protocols. In this, after the Phillies and Blue Jays shut down their Florida spring training sites after players on both teams tested positive for the Corona virus. Joining us now to discuss is our baseball pal, Ben Lindbergh. He’s the co-author most recently of The MBP Machine. He’s also the co-host of the podcast Effectively Wild and a writer and podcast or at The Ringer. Welcome, Ben.
S9: Hey, guys. Welcome to the roughly seventh consecutive potentially pivotal week in the quest to start an MLB season. I’ve got all my baseball news breaker Twitter tabs open just in case there’s news while we speak.
S4: Thank you. So in the absence of baseball, you recently wrote a piece for the ringer on the video game, The Last of US Part two, which you called misery porn. And what an apt description that is of the spectacle of baseball owners and players total inability to come to terms on a plan for the season, at least among the cohort that I follow. Ben, ownership is getting most of the blame for this, which is always a good default position to have, in my view. But in the interest of fairness, what would you say is the best argument that ownership is not to blame here?
S10: Well, we obviously have unique circumstances, right? It’s not like they shut down the season because they felt like it. They shut down the season because they’re coping with a really almost unprecedented health hazard.
S9: So that’s part of it. And I think we should also be conscious of the fact that in terms of the timing, baseball kind of had it harder than some other sports in some ways in the sense that the NHL, an NBA seasons were far enough along that I think those seasons will be looked at as legitimate no matter what happens. And most of the player pay was already awarded, so there wasn’t really as much to work out when it came to the economics. And of course, the NFL season hasn’t started yet and may possibly start on time, or at least that’s the hope. So baseball was kind of in the position of this thing came along just as they were ramping up to a season. Nothing was really decided in terms of what would happen with the players getting paid. And of course, the baseball union is stronger than the unions and other sports. It hasn’t been broken in the same ways. And there isn’t the salary cap. So there there’s just more to straighten out.
S10: And of course, the owners are claiming that they will be losing money if they play games without fans in the stands. Now, of course, they have refused to actually back that up with any documentation.
S9: They haven’t exactly open their books and made that case convincingly. But that is what they claim and that is what they have claimed many times in the past in baseball history. But of course, there are challenges that go along with the prospect of playing games without fans in the stands that are more of an economic challenge. So there is a lot to work out. And these are unusual circumstances.
S3: That is an incredibly generous assessment of the situation very even handed back. I’m very, very impressed. Well, that’s what I asked for. Yeah, I know. And now let me say that they came to a sort of tentative agreement on how they would try to work this out in March. And it wasn’t until last week in the middle of June that the owners actually presented a proposal that adhered to that agreement, meaning that they would pay the players a pro-rated share of their salaries for whatever the season wound up being. The bottom line is that nobody trusts each other here, and that has contributed mightily to the impasse. Right.
S9: And Josh asks me to shill for ownership for one answer. I’ll do it.
S10: But to transition into what I actually think, though, and really what a lot of people this morning consulted a poll last week that showed that on the whole, baseball fans are self-identified fans are now siding more with the players, which historically hasn’t been the case regardless of the merits of their positions in the 94 strike in 2002 when there was almost a strike. People tended to side with ownership. I think that’s almost the default position of baseball fans.
S9: I know certainly from my own family members, my mom thinks the players are greedy and they should get back out there and play. So we’ve heard a little less of that this time. I think the owners and the commissioner have screwed up enough that people have actually seen through some of that. But yes, the owners and Commissioner Rob Manfred, who works for the owners, have been dragging their feet for months now.
S10: And so much of the delay has surrounded this matter of pro-rated pay, which the two sides seemingly agreed to in late March, or at least they believe they had agreed to. There was a contract decided. Then that said that if this season were played at some point, the players would receive pro-rated pay. Now, the dispute was whether that provided for a season played without fans. The owners claimed that that agreement had specified that if they were to play without fans in the stands, they’d have to open that all up to negotiation again. The players have said that that’s not the case, that they agreed on pro-rated pay. And the thing that they hadn’t agreed on was how many games would be played. The actual text of that agreement hasn’t been released publicly. But people who have seen it have said that the text supports the player’s interpretation more than the owners. And at the very least, it was too vague on that point and it didn’t conclusively established that that would be subject to negotiation again. So weeks and months went by when the owners were not budging off of that position that they weren’t going to give the players prorated pay. It’s not until the most recent offer that they finally gave in on that point and said, yes, pro-rated pay. So now it’s a matter of, well, how many games can they actually fit in? But the fact that we’re at the point where the owners can somewhat legitimately claim that 60 games is the most you can actually play is because they have waited weeks and months to actually make legitimate offers and get things started here, you know, and then it’s sort of interesting.
S5: So last week, you know, all the training camps temporarily closed because of all these positive corona virus tests that came out from, you know, from various spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona. Right. Well, what to what degree is the debate about whether they should even be trying to play in the first place? Because I you know, you hear a lot of disagreement about how they’re going to play the, you know, the vagaries of the CBA. You know, how many games are going to play, all that sort of stuff. But like, has anybody ever brought up should we even be trying to do this in the first place?
S10: Right. The whole economic dispute sort of seems like a sideshow at this point because it’s becoming increasingly clear that all of that may just be wiped away. Something like 40 people in baseball tested positive for Kofod 19 last week. And that’s not just major leaguers or minor leaguers, but also just team personnel who maybe are more at risk in general. And something like 10 of the team training camps have been affected by outbreaks since spring training stopped.
S9: And of course, Florida and Arizona, where baseball teams train, are two of the hotbeds right now where the number of cases are increasing.
S10: So it seems quite likely that even if they do somehow get across the finish line here and come up with an agreement that’s acceptable to both sides of that may be moot because the players probably would be reporting, you know, if they made a deal right now, something like July twenty ninth in the season wouldn’t be starting until probably the late last week of July.
S9: And a lot can change between now and then.
S10: And when you have all of the players and all of the support staff descend on these camps and they’ve said that the teams that are located in Florida will be relocated and maybe they’ll train in their home states. But there are a lot of places that are especially at risk right now. So in a way, as someone who wants the sport to succeed and does not want this to be a stain on the sports legacy, I want them to make a deal just so that if and when they do cancel the season, it’s because of covered and not because of the economics.
S9: But at this point, we’ve been hearing from the owners for so long that they don’t really want to play or at least a significant percentage of them don’t, that you almost have to be suspicious if they do eventually say, well, we have to cancel the season because of the players’ health and safety. That’s our top priority. You have to wonder whether that’s their real motivation.
S3: Josh, before you jump in, let me just say June. Twenty ninth to restart, but not not July 29, that they would start the season sometime in July. Yes.
S6: So I wrote a piece for Slate a long time ago about this idea that baseball is always dying, that in 1919 around the Black Sox scandal, that was gonna be the death of baseball. I mean, you can mark, like every decade, there’s some reason that that baseball is going to cease to exist. You mentioned the 1994 strike that’s often cited as another example. But a lot of the coverage about this back and forth negotiation and the players and owners are obviously fueling this with the level of vitriol. But it’s felt like the conversation here among fans in the press is like way more existential than it is among, say, fans of the NBA or the NFL. Do you think that’s fair and legitimate or is that just kind of a catastrophizing that has always attached itself to baseball?
S10: I’ve tended to downplay that baseball is a narrative. And you’re right. It is so prevalent that there have been multiple pieces on that very topic, not just years, but embattled areas written about it for Sports Illustrated, Bryan Curtis wrote about it for Grantland.
S9: It goes back to the 19th century based. It was barely established before people started talking about baseball dying, and in some ways, of course, that’s been overblown.
S10: Baseball is still very much here and until recently was doing pretty well, at least financially and in other ways. There’s some legitimacy to it. And that baseball has less of the national spotlight than it once did.
S6: I think baseball writers are writing about like videogames.
S9: I know it’s desperate times out there, but I think if you look at the history of work stoppages in sports, very often the effect is fleeting.
S10: And people will come back because they really like sports and maybe they’ll be mad for a little while, but they’re not going to deprive themselves of a form of entertainment that they really love. The baseball strike in 94 95 is one of the exceptions in that there really was a pretty significant and tangible downward trend in attendance for at least a few years. And attendance didn’t recover all the way for more than a decade, although there were other factors that affected that in an economic recession. But I think in this case, it’s been so public and so visible and so messy and so ugly and against the backdrop of everything else that’s happening. Of course, you know, in some ways this dispute is caused by Kofod. And so it’s more understandable. But in other ways, you have people going back to work and putting themselves at risk and wanting some form of distraction. And so no one’s really in the mood right now to hear about a dispute between players who know they’re not all millionaires. But compared to the average person, they’re doing pretty well on the whole, if if they are big leaguers and of course, the billionaires who are running the teams, no one wants to hear this. And that doesn’t mean that the players should just say, well, we’ll give in on every point because people want baseball back and we don’t want to be a bother. But it does mean that people are more frustrated. And when you couple this with the fact that there is a CBA negotiation coming up that jeopardizes seasons beyond 2021, and given how the last few months have gone, you have to expect that that will be acrimonious and bitter and that there’s a possibility of another work stoppage.
S9: So you’re looking at maybe a couple years where the story of baseball is just owners not really wanting to play and people accusing the players of being greedy. And it’s not great. And when you couple that with the fact that there’s so many other entertainment options out there, that there’s the possibility of the NBA season shifting so that it overlaps more with baseball, I think there is some reason to be concerned about baseball not bouncing back in the way that many sports have before.
S6: Yeah, well, you just said there, Ben kind of brings me back to Joel’s point, which is it’s kind of gross to think of it this way, but I feel like a lot of the, you know, disappointment that people are feeling is that baseball had like an opportunity here to be the only sport there was out there. Right. Playing, which totally discounts the idea that it’s not safe for anyone to be playing. But it’s it’s the kind of chasm between, oh, like baseball could have had the spotlight for itself. And it’s a time for, like, the sport and its stars to shine. And it does seems like, you know, even if it’s not true that the sport is squandering this opportunity like that, I think is what’s motivating a lot of us. Yeah.
S3: Yeah. Because the truth the true part is that like every other sport, this all began in mid-March and every other sports seemed to come up with a plan to resume playing, whether it was going be safe or not. Not knowing any of the logistics. But they all managed to come up with something. And we’re seeing soccer leagues and basketball and hockey have plans for resuming play right about now. We’re going to start seeing the women’s soccer league playing this weekend. So I think that Josh is exactly right. And the notion is more that the sort of the willful blindness on the part of Rob Manfred and the owners and the players to some extent, that this is a squandered opportunity.
S10: Yeah, I think there’s some truth to that. I don’t know that this would have been the make or break moment for baseball or that, you know, baseball, if it had come back first, would have gotten a bigger long term boost from that than, say, Marple racing or Cornhole think, you know. But I think that it’s already true that baseball has an exclusive window in the sports calendar, at least compared to some of the other major American sports.
S9: Right where there’s a period every summer after the hockey playoffs and the basketball playoffs and where baseball kinda has the sports calendar to itself a little bit. And even so, that hasn’t catapulted it to NFL levels of popularity or anything. So I think that, a, there was a limit on how early baseball could safely come back and be.
S10: I don’t know how many long term fans you would have created from that month or whatever it was of exclusivity. But I do think there at least would have been positive feelings about baseball. And, hey, they came back. They figured it out.
S9: People could have at least called it the national pastime and trotted out that old bit about how baseball is, you know, the thing that gets us through tragedies and everything, which, you know, there’s a little bit of legitimacy to that. So there would have been good feeling about baseball, whereas now there’s just bad feeling because you had this dispute about money. You’ve minor leaguers getting released or not paid left and right. You have the minor leagues getting contracted. You have employees furloughed and scouts, you know, out of work just after they prep for the draft. There’s just a lot of bad PR about baseball right now that could have been avoided.
S5: See if it wasn’t symbolic of this larger animosity between the league and the players union. I would actually argue, somewhat counterintuitively, that this is the best time to have a work stoppage. I mean, because I mean you I mean, you’re in the middle of I mean, it’s not like everybody’s attention is, you know, on baseball right now. There’s so many there’s so much other news happening. There’s so many other things impacting people’s lives that like if baseball just didn’t play, I just I, I guess maybe I’m being naive here a little bit, but I just don’t understand, like, why right now if they just said, you know what, I can’t do it after all. So I couldn’t come to an agreement. It’s dangerous to play anyway. We’ll see you next spring. I don’t understand. I mean, other than the fact that would be a calamitous financial impact. I don’t I don’t think like broad more broadly that it would be that big a deal. I think people would hold it against baseball. They couldn’t play this year. Does it make a lot of sense to me?
S3: Well, if you’re saying, Joel, that could they have just said, hey, let’s terminate the collective bargaining agreement now and that at the end of 2021 and resolve our differences over the next six months and come back with a deal that locks us in for the next 10 years? I don’t know that that’s an interesting point. I can’t leave owners or players would necessarily go for it, but it certainly would be a way, a more prospective way at looking and trying to solve some of the problems that the game faces.
S10: Yeah, at this point, they can’t agree on even these small, short term, high definition. So you have to be kind of pessimistic about tearing up the agreement and renegotiating everything. That’s been one of the points that has come up during this whole saga is that people will say, well, they could make concessions about future things and they could kind of horse trade with, you know, things a couple of years down the line. And it’s just like, well, you’re on a limited time line here and there’s only so much you can actually broach and settle. And they can’t agree on how many games to play or when to start or even what they have said and agreed to in private meetings. So it’s really not an optimistic situation when you’re thinking of, well, can they sort out these longer underlying longstanding issues? And that kind of makes you a bit pessimistic about the next round of negotiations. But I would hope that they can at least settle this so that they can convincingly claim that if the season is canceled, it’s because of health and safety and not because they were squabbling over money.
S6: All right. Let’s end with a discussion about some of the changes that will be happening with the sport when it if it does come back. There are reports about if play resumes, there’ll be a designated hitter in the National League, that there might be a runner on second base like a goat, not a ghost runner. I guess a real a real human runner on second base to start extra innings. Also expanded playoffs, band like it. It does seem like if these rule changes happen, even if they’re kind of represented as being temporary, it would be hard to imagine that at least some of them wouldn’t stick.
S10: Right. That’s one of the things that they’ve been haggling over is, well, are we saying this is permanent? Are we saying it’s only for one year if it’s this year and next year? But even if they say it’s temporary, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t change their mind. Once there’s a precedent there and something like the D.H that’s been coming for years, we’ve been hearing reports that we would get a universal d.h sometime soon anyway. And that’s something the players want and seems to be something the owners are fine with, which is kind of ironic that the only thing that the players and the owners can agree on is the designated hitter, which baseball fans have disagreed on for 45 plus years at this point. But I am fine with having it d.h because pitchers are just completely incompetent at hitting now and they’re not going to get any better. I understand the counterarguments, but I think it’s fine. Maybe that’s because I grew up as an AFL fan and I’m hopelessly biased. But the other arguments that come up and the other potential rule changes things like expanded playoffs, which again is something the owners are always in favor of because they make a lot of money off of TV playoff revenue and more games, more rounds, more teams means more money, especially in a season like this when they say at least that they’re not going to be making money on regular season games. So if they were talking about just a couple teams or something, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But they’re talking about 16 teams being the playoff field, at least temporarily. And that’s a huge increase going from 10 teams, a third of the league to 60 and more than half of the league. And I think that changes some incentives in some ways that. Wouldn’t be great for competitive balance, actually. People think, oh, well, that’s great. More people will have a chance and so we’ll see teams spending. But I think it also reduces the benefits of building a great team because baseball’s playoffs are just so subject to randomness that if you know you’re going to be in the playoffs with this big field, why invest in making a great team when it could all just come crashing down in one round? So there’s that. And yes, there’s the possibility of ties and the possibility of runners starting some extra innings on second base, which has been part of minor league baseball for the last couple of years. And the world hasn’t ended. But I think a lot of people are viscerally opposed to that idea in the majors. And I find it somewhat distasteful to Thais would be weird. But look, plenty of sports get by with Thais and think they’re just fine. We don’t always have to have a winner.
S9: The only thing that makes me sad about it is that we don’t have the weird baseball anymore where it’s suddenly a 19 inning game and everyone’s up till 2:00 in the morning, which really there aren’t a lot of forms of entertainment that just say, well, we don’t know how long this is going to take or how many hours of your night this will occupy. So I understand if they just say we’ll cap it at 12 innings or whatever.
S10: But personally, I would miss those really strange just endurance exercises where it’s like, are you going to stay up? Are you going to stay at the park and just be a zombie the next day?
S6: Ben Lindbergh’s mind always going to zombies these days, because all he does is play video games. But hopefully he will have baseball and we all have baseball to watch in the coming weeks and months. If it’s safe. If it’s safe. Joel.
S5: Yes. Sorry if I did. If that’s a priority here, fellows.
S6: Ben, thank you very much for coming on the show. Good to hear you.
S11: Thank you.
S5: The national re-evaluation of our most prominent racist really surged last week with protesters toppling over monuments all across the country. Down went the Robert E. Lee statue in Richmond, Virginia. So did a statue of Star Spangled Banner writer Francis Scott Key in San Francisco. The movement also claimed another deserving victim, a monument, a former Washington owner, George Preston Marshall, the last NFL owner to integrate as roster. It was part of a dizzying 24 hours for the Washington NFL franchise. The next day, Saturday, the team announced that it would finally retire. The number number forty nine worn by Bobby Mitchell, the first black player in franchise history. All of that sudden change inevitably made many others wonder about another, more glaring one. Finally changing the team’s racist nickname, a slur against Native Americans. The Washington Post editorial board published a piece Friday calling for current owner Daniel Snyder to change the name. So here we are again, Stefan. This is a very familiar debate among football fans. What’s different now?
S3: Well, nothing is different and a lot is different. And I want to start with the nothing. I actually researched the history of the word Redskin for my book on Merriam Webster that I hope will be published someday. Merriam’s lexicographers first attached a label to the word in 1898, usually contemptuous. Then there was no label for decades when Native Americans became caricatures in popular culture. And when the NFL team got its nickname in 1933 in Boston by George Preston Marshall. But it’s had a label in Mariem Dictionaries. It’s defined now is usually offensive. For almost 40 years, the racist helmet logo also unchanged for decades. What has changed is that even Dan Snyder recognizes that the team’s name is going to come under attack again. George Preston Marshall Monument, which was like 10 foot tall, piece of granite with a plaque with Marshall’s face on it. It was on city property outside of our JFK Stadium. The team hasn’t played there for a long time and people have wanted it gone for a long time. But the team had nothing to do with the statue being removed. It was the city’s decision. It declined to comment to The Washington Post about the removal. And the next day came, as you mentioned, this announcement about retiring Bobby Mitchell’s number and also renaming the lower level of the stadium in his honor. Coincidence? Hard to know, of course, Josh. The team had been the team. It said it was planning to retire as Mitch Mitchell’s number already. He died in April. I wouldn’t want to be cynical, of course, but it seemed fairly convenient to announce this right now.
S6: Stefan, you love to be cynical. It’s one of your favorite pastimes. One of my favorite pastimes, too. So love Witcher and Joel. Obviously, I want to leave you at one of America’s most cynical thought leaders.
S1: So contrast what you just described happening in Washington with what took place in Minnesota, where the statue of longtime Twins owner Clark Griffith was taken down outside of the stadium in Minneapolis. The twins came originally from Washington, D.C. They were the Washington senators. Griffith said in 1978 that he had moved the team from D.C. to Minnesota because, quote, When I found out you only had 15000 blacks here, black people don’t go to ballgames, but they fill up a wrestling ring and put up such a chant, it’ll scare you to death. It’s unbelievable. We came here because we’ve got good work, hardworking white people here. That’s pretty racist. And the thing that I found interesting is, OK. So the team was behind taking down the statue. The team said all the right things in the statement about how it had been too long and it hadn’t recognized the meaning of the statue and that it needed to, you know, and it needed to come down a long time ago. But a lot of the conversation around it was like, oh, well, you know, the things that he said in that speech in 1978. It’s not about the things that he said. It’s about his admission that the team was located in Minnesota due to his racist attitudes. It’s about actions, not just that he misspoke or said something racist. And that’s the thing that’s underpinning all of this Washington stuff. It’s like when you go back to George Preston, Marshall’s refusal to integrate. When you look at Dan Snyder’s refusal to change the team nickname, it’s a it’s all about a kind of racist white supremacist, however you want to describe it, attitude that’s permeated this franchise for the entire period of its existence. And it’s pretty clear, even with retiring Bobby Mitchell’s. No. Even with changing the name in the stadium of the section, that there’s not any kind of reckoning, Joel, with this a broader underpinning of this franchise.
S5: It’s good you mentioned that because we actually have a clip here of Daniel Snyder, who back in 2013 said he would never. Change the team name and we have a clip here of him in 2014 explaining his attachment to the current mascot.
S11: I would like people to know the history of whether its Lone Star deeds, whether it’s walked Walter Blackie Wetzel in Montana. It’s just historical truths. And I’d like them to understand, as I think most do, that they need the name really means honor, respect. We sing Hail to the Redskins. We don’t say hurt anybody.
S5: Yeah. So this is the textbook response from people who defend Confederate monuments. And it’s telling that, like, that’s the argument he chose here. And if anything, especially given today’s increasing and overdue hostility to Confederate iconography, it makes Dan Snyder seem even more out of step with the times. And it sort of reminds me of the argument from a few years ago that Colin Kaepernick would be anathema to NFL fans, that he would potentially be a huge financial liability for any team that signed him, as you know, and the league as a whole. Essentially, the NFL seems to believe that its fans are so much more racist than they give them credit for college. This massive Nike deal product flies off the shelves and off the website. People have to at least consider the possibility that there is a huge fan base of clamoring for more cap. So that’s the same thing here with the Washington NFL franchise. Snyder and the NFL are clinging to this name with the idea that removing it would be hugely unpopular. Right. And because their fans are racist. Essentially, there’s like with if we have got to have this racial slur so much and if you take it away from us, we’ll stop supporting your team. But at all, we’re not racist, Joe. They just love tradition. That’s right. You’re right.
S6: To just lost a lost cause does seem like the apt phrase for both the Confederacy and the nickname here.
S5: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, don’t you I mean, don’t you think I mean, we’re sports fans. We’ve seen a lot of changes over the years. Don’t you think that fans would actually love a new mascot to root for, if only just for the paraphernalia sake? Like wearing new shirts, wearing new uniforms, wearing new caps like that on a on a pure basic business level? It would be a great decision. But beyond that, the person who changes the mascot is going to be a hugely popular figure.
S3: He’ll also be a divisive figure, because I think you underestimate Joel, and I’m shocked that you’re underestimating the blatant racism in sports fans. There’s a reason that. But the Washington football team has been so stubborn on this. And it’s not just that Dan Snyder truly believes that there’s heritage in play here. It’s that he’s afraid of a backlash. And there’s a reason that the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell haven’t forced this issue on Dan Snyder and this team because it’s afraid of a backlash. If you look at the statement the team put out about retiring Bobby Mitchell’s number, it is so glaring in its timidity. Snyder’s quotation doesn’t mention the Bobby Mitchell was the first African-American player in franchise history. It doesn’t mention that Bobby Mitchell’s name is replacing George Preston. Marshall’s on the lower level of the stadium. You don’t learn in this statement that Bobby Mitchell was the first black player in the team’s history in 1962 when the rest of the league had been integrated for years. That’s left to the sixth paragraph of this statement in a quotation from a former player. It’s almost as if a team can’t even acknowledge its racist past because it would remind everybody of its racist present, right?
S5: I don’t see. I actually don’t underestimate the racism of fans. I think that what is underestimated is the anti-war racism of other fans and people who might be inclined to become Washington football fans or where Washington football paraphernalia. If it didn’t have this cartoonish offensive racial slur on the on the team uniforms. Right. And so that’s what I think like it it sort of operates from this old paradigm that we’ve got to be afraid of these people who don’t want to let that go. And it’s the same paradigm that like, you know, why NASCAR? Up until this past week held onto the Confederate flag while people made arguments for keeping up Confederate monuments. Then it falls down and yeah, that’s gonna be a backlash. But there’s gonna be a lot of the people that you might bring along that might come into the game, that might start wearing your your stuff that wouldn’t have worn it before. And that’s what that’s that’s what I think Daniel Snyder is missing out on. If he changes that, it gives them a chance to be the person that led this move that led. That was part of this movement. Whereas you know it at the rate he keeps up now, he may be remembered more along the lines of George Marshall.
S6: Well, I would say two things. Pushing back a little bit on. Well, he’s a draw. I don’t think Snyder will ever be popular, like even if he changes the name. I think there’s just decades worth of appropriately. They earned bad feelings around his tenure leading the franchise. And also, you know, I’m being slightly facetious here, but I think there’s something to the fact that the change from bullets to wizards and DC like wizards. So lame nickname. I don’t think that they’re like one of, you know, that that merchandise isn’t isn’t selling like any kind of hotcake. And it’s all about whether the team and the franchise is successful. If there’s a new nickname in the franchise, starts winning a bunch of games and they have like, you know, they had a Lamar Jackson like star player, then folks would like be really care attracted to the new to the new team. But if it if it continued to stink, then the new nickname would kind of attract the same kind of stink probably.
S5: Yeah. You get that burse, you get that initial burst of like excitement and then. Yeah. Then it’s dependent upon whether or not your team is any good or not. And I do take your point about Daniel Snyder. You know, it’s probably too late, but he can still salvage his legacy somewhat. But the guy that that that succeeds him in changes that name is going to be a hugely popular figure. But Dan Snyder, you’re probably right. It’s too late for him, but he can still salvage his reputation and his legacy. If he were to do this now, I think it’s somewhat he’ll still be him. He’ll still be Dan Snyder, but he won’t be Dan Snyder. He continued the racist legacy of George Preston Marshall either.
S6: Stefan, can you walk through what the events where that led to the integration of the Washington team in the early 60s because it required a kind of intervention that I think is going to be required for the team to change its name? Because as you said, based on this statement, based on everything we’ve seen this last week, the team is not you know, Snyder is not going to come out and say, oh, I was wrong. My heart has changed. There’s no way he’s going to do that. It would require. And The Washington Post editorial board. It’s like he’s not going to give a crap about that. Slate doesn’t use the names. Like that’s almost like a counter feeling, like, oh, well, then that’s gonna make me more resolute in not doing it.
S12: So, like, what? What happened in the 60s? Because I think this is what’s going to have to happen in the, you know, 20 20s.
S3: Well, there’s there total parallels here. And what happened starting in the 50s, the NAACP picketed outside Philadelphia Hotel where NFL owners were honoring George Marshall for his whatever service to the league. And then in the 60s is when it came to the head in the early 60s, he was getting pressure from local media. The very influential columnist, Shirley Povich of The Washington Post called Marshall out for his prejudice. And the team didn’t pick black players in the draft when it was clear they were better players. And then pressure increased. There was a letter writing campaign. There were calls from fans to boycott the team’s games. And what ended up pushing this was the fact that the team was going to move in to our JFK Stadium new our JFK Stadium, which was on federal property. And the Kennedy administration stepped in and said that you will not be allowed to use the stadium unless you abide by federal laws which banned hiring discrimination. And George Marshall said publicly, I didn’t know the government had the right to tell a showman how to cast the play to make good. And then finally, they cut a deal where the team would be allowed to move in if they desegregated. The team did draft Ernie Davis in the 1960 one draft. They traded him immediately to Cleveland and got Bobby Mitchell as part of the trade and return. And so it was this federal pressure. And there were protesters, by the way, that emerged after that. The Ku Klux Klan protested outside the stadium because the team had integrated.
S6: And Joel, the NFL commissioner, Pete Roselle, at the time did kind of allow Marshall to get away with us. He did for a while, but but then eventually got on board and and started up an increase, the pressure from inside. So I guess the question is the parallel here. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, is Roger Goodell Mr. Black Lives Matter now? What’s he going to do?
S3: Well, is it Roger Goodell, though, Josh, or is it gonna end up being Muriel Bowzer or whoever the D.C. mayor is in the next 10 years because Snyder wants to build a new stadium? He’s either gonna build it in Maryland, Virginia or D.C. The R.F. case stadium land is there. If he wants to build their D.C. City Council. And Bouser have said they’re gonna have to change the name.
S5: I absolutely think it’s going to come down to somebody putting pressure on him. And it’s unclear whether it’ll be Muriel Bowser or whether. Roger Goodell. But that’s why I think The Washington Post editorial board and all this other commotion around it, this is really good timing. Like, if you’re going to put if there was going to be at a time that Dan Snyder was going to make this change, it would be right now. And if they can’t get it done now, it probably won’t happen until the guy who inherits the team from him or whatever. If the, you know, Dan Snyder has a kid. So maybe that’ll be the person who takes over or whatever.
S3: Well, here’s another question for both of you. If players on this team start kneeling in the fall and some of them said they will. Will that have any impact? Dwayne Haskins, the young quarterback, has taken part in some of the protest marches. The coach, Ron Rivera, has said that he supports the players and their First Amendment rights. Snyder is going to start looking like not just an anachronism, but an impediment to racial progress and calm among players in the league.
S5: I think kneeling has been co-opted so much. I mean, even police officers are doing it at protests now. You know, I mean, so I think that only holds. But so much sway I think would have to happen. Is players from not only on the Washington NFL franchise, but around the league would have to take a stand and say, well, look, we’d only want to we weren’t going to play here. We don’t want to wear this uniform will wear the uniform inside out. So, you know something along those lines. I don’t know what it would be. You know, they can come out with their own ideas. But I think it would have to be something that would impact the product on the field. And then that is when you might see Dan Snyder come out. But like the guys kneeling. OK, Jerry Jones is Nield. Drew Brees is Nield. We know what that what it ultimately meant to them. It’s going to have to be something that would impact that franchise. And, you know, I don’t know, maybe they’re willing to go that far, maybe that if they do this again, this is the time to go that far. If you’re going to do it, you can really make somebody look like they’re standing athwart history right now if you wanted to. But it just is going to take a little bit more collective will.
S6: I wonder if you haven’t seen any of the more vocal. NFL players be on that team. It’s like there’s not there hasn’t been an Eric Reid or Malcolm Jenkins or, you know, Colin Kaepernick obviously on that franchise. I wonder if it’s because the most kind of the players that are most focused on social justice don’t want to go anywhere near that franchise in free agency because it’s toxic or because of the name or because of some combination, because of the owner, because of the name, maybe because of the lack of success of the franchise. I don’t want to impugn the character of anybody that’s on that team, Lena. It’s not like most of them had any choice about where they would go. But at least so far, that locker room and those players have not been like a major site of dissent and protest.
S12: And it will be interesting to see if that changes.
S3: But we also you also really haven’t seen all players call out the nickname at all from other teams from anywhere in the league. Maybe that’s out of concern that, hey, I might end up there in free agency or I could get traded there. But that has not become a talking point in this conversation among activist NFL players.
S5: Yeah, I just wonder if it’s inertia. Inertia, just, you know, that’s that’s the league they came into and it hasn’t been top of the mind for them. Maybe it will. You know, maybe this is an opportunity. Well, that will change. But to your point, Josh, I think about that. Well, Dwayne Haskins, that’s he had a personal connection with Daniel Snyder. Right. And he go to his school. He went to school with Daniel Snyder son. The most recent pick, Chase Young, he’s from the area, the running back that they selected a couple of years ago. Derrius, guys from LSU, you know, just he’s a guy who just showed up, you know, at the White House taking pictures with Donald Trump. I’d never thought about this before, but, yeah, I wonder how much of you know the sum of their player personnel decisions are influenced by who are guys that we’re going to bring in here who are not going to cause us any problems. Right. I don’t we don’t know that maybe we’re overlooking somebody. But that is an interesting observation that you know that. Why haven’t they had that dude on their team, somebody who was in the locker room who has been saying, no, I don’t want this. I don’t want to play for a team with this mascot. We’ve never heard that. And it’s actually sort of surprising.
S4: All right. I wanted to let you know that in our bonus segment this week for Slate Plus members, we’ll be talking about Steffen’s piece about Scrabble and slurs and a debate happening in the Scrabble community about whether players should be allowed to use them.
S3: Last August, after winning the hammer throw at the Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, when Barry stood on the podium with a gold medal draped around her neck. Barry is from Ferguson, Missouri, and she had spent the previous five years educating herself about race and American history. So as the last few bars of the national anthem played, it was an instrumental version. But right where the land of the free and the home of the brave would be sung, Barry made a spontaneous decision. She bowed her head and raised her right fist in the air. The silent protest drew a huge and predictable mix of attention interview requests, social media praise, hate mail and even death threats. Ten days later, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee placed Berry and fencer Race Inboden, who had taken a knee during his medal ceremony on probation for 12 months. And since then, Glenn Berry has emerged as a leader of a movement to pressure the U.S. and International Olympic committees to recognize the rights of athletes to protest during competition. Hey, Glenn, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you guys for having me. Take us back to that moment on the podium and what you were thinking.
S13: What’s crazy is everyone asks me that. So all my best answer for that was, you know, on the podium in that moment, I just felt like I had to do something to show where I stood and where I’ve come from, what I’ve overcame. And you know, just how important they are. Standing up for those who have no voice is in this world. You see all these community, all these people dying, suffering, getting killed, being unarmed and getting murdered. And I just felt like something had to be done. Like it was it was time for something to change. You know, it was time for these conversations to be taken seriously. So I did raise my fist then. You know, I was a little nervous. But, you know, in my heart, I knew I had done the right thing.
S5: If you had done that today, people would say, oh, Glenn is sort of riding a wave of a movement. Right. That there’s a lot of people now that have that are late to the party and are showing up. Was there anything in particular, any incident or anything in you know that right before last August that was like, you know what, I really need to get out there and say something? Or is this just part of your education about, you know, anti black racism in the country?
S11: I feel like it was definitely my education over time. But the thing that got me was on one day I was at practice and, you know, I was just a normal day. It was just me and my coach there that day, and it was a Saturday. It was really hot outside. And, you know, we were there for a couple hours because usually it takes me like two to three hours to finish a training session.
S13: So we were out there and, you know, I practice say you a that day and, you know, you vapes is basically in a ghettos. And this is big Walding, you know, fans surrounding the drone area so that, you know, people can just walk in and out and you’re protected from, you know, whatever’s going on in the neighborhood because it is a harsh neighborhood. So we were we were practicing and this this. Oh, man, is he was homeless. He was old. You could tell he was hot. You could tell he was tired. He just somehow he got through the gate and he just walked out and, you know, he came to my practice and I was just like, hey, how are you doing? And, you know, usually if something is something like that happens, you know, someone is scared or they’re threatened or they’re like, oh, you can’t be here. But me and my coach, we just decided to embrace them. Like, you know, one night we could say he was home this week.
S11: So he had a hard life or something had happened to him where, you know, he had an eight hand drink, anything. So we just talked to him.
S13: We offered him some water and he said literally at my practice, and he just watched me the whole time. So, you know, I talked to him. You know, I played around with them and I joked with them, ask them, did he buy throw you? And he was like, oh, no, I’m okay. I’m OK. But we you know, we exchange stories. And I talked to him about what I want to do and then the big games and what I had. And, you know, they really made his day. So after talking to him for a couple of minutes, the man literally just went to sleep. He literally just slipped. He drank water and he sat there watching the show and he wants to sleep. So I said, what about what about this world to me is so traumatized that people literally do not have peace of mind to be able to sleep. This man hadn’t eaten anything he had and drank anything for I don’t know how long. But he trusted me and my coach enough to sit out there in the high sign and sleep. And, you know, for black people, sleep is a luxury. Well, we don’t get to sleep because we have kids. You have work, you have stress. Sleeping is a luxury. He trusted us that much to literally let his guard down and go to sleep. And I was just like, I can’t take it anymore. I couldn’t I can believe it.
S11: Never seen anything like that in my life.
S13: And that’s what made me say, you know why I’m done. I’m tired of it. Something I’d change.
S8: You’re working in a long activist tradition. The gesture that you made is a very clear reference to what Tommie Smith and John Carlos did in nineteen sixty eight. Can you talk about their legacy and also what happened to them after they made that gesture during the Olympics?
S13: Like what? John Carlos and Tommie Smith did change to change the dynamics of track and field forever. Of course, they were punished. They were kicked out of the sport. They could never compete with a USA team uniform on ever again. They honestly, I don’t even remember them competing ever again in track and field. They were ridiculed. They were threatened. And I feel like for black people and black America, that changed the way every athlete today. And I know for sure personally, it changes the way we feel when we make a U.S. team, because every team we’re reminded of what they did and why we shouldn’t do that. And what will happen if we did do it. And it’s like they threaten us. They say, OK, you see what happened to them. You know, you hold this flag and you go on that podium and you respect your country because that’s what you’re supposed to do. But John Carlos and Tommie Smith and a lot of other athletes feel like we’re representing a country that literally kills us for no reason and doesn’t even think that we’re human beings. Like, how is that possible? How can we possibly do that? And I feel like what they do literally change the course of history along with a lot of athletes. And, you know, I’m grateful to have known them and to know them. I literally have a call today with Dr. John Carlos. And I’m so excited. And I’m grateful just to see what I should do next. Follow their footsteps and lead in new way.
S3: Glenn, after you were sanctioned last year, the USOC did not sort of respond in the spirit of Tommie Smith and John Carlos and progress. In fact, the head of the U.S. and SI put out a statement in a letter to you saying the goal of a games that are free from political speech is to focus our collective energy on the athletes performances and the international unity and harmony each games seek to advance, blah, blah, blah. Times have changed since then, and obviously the death of Jorge Floyd and the protest movement of the last few months has really refocused attention on the power of your gesture. And you didn’t stop after what happened at the Pan Am games. You’ve been writing and talking about the importance of opening up the Games, Olympic Games and a national team events to to protest and and free speech. Have you felt emboldened by the last few months and how has it given you sort of a push to do more?
S13: I definitely felt emboldened by the last few months. I just feel like because I do what I did when it wasn’t popular, people respect my take and my stance and my voice even more narrow because it has emerged again and it’s even more powerful than ever before, because the new generation, you know, we’re not like the older generation. We you know, we can’t shut up. We can’t sit down and we are not easily satisfied. So I feel like that powerit and that energy and those feelings everyone has kind of put on me because I’m the one who, you know, who has shown that I don’t care if it’s popular, if it’s not popular. People know that I’m sincere. I’m broke. And I lost everything this fall. I’m even more broke. So I feel like the energy that I’ve been getting from my athletes, my peers, you know, my supporters has definitely pushed me to keep speaking. You know, we got a lot of important things coming up. You know, we’re trying to talk to the IOC here in the next couple of days. We’ve been talking to the U.S., OPEC, about what they need to do with this athletes group that they’re going to use to fight the IOC. You know, there’s a lot of big things ahead of us, but I just I just feel like, you know, I don’t know. I feel like a lot of people look to me because I’m the one who did it when it wasn’t popular. And I’ll take on that challenge because literally, I have nothing else to lose.
S5: I want to ask you about that, because you you. I mean, it’s real easy to just kind of tug past where it was hate mail and death threats, you know, simple like what does that actually look like in terms of your life? I mean, did you feel like you were in danger? And, you know, what was that that incoming of hate like for you to experience?
S3: And were there consequences financially for you, too?
S11: Oh, definitely. I lost about 80 percent of my income. I lost sponsorships. I lost great opportunity.
S13: Monju, I had a child at 14 years old. I’ve always had to take care of him. You know, I’ve always been the leader of my family, taking care of my family so that. The biggest hit for me, losing money, is it necessarily bad? But if I can’t take care of my family, that’s where, you know, it hits me the most. So 80 percent of my income was lost as far as death threat. If I was on, I wasn’t too scared because I feel like a lot of people who bretonneux you via e-mail and via Internet or Twitter or Instagram. Then they’ll never see you in your life. But because, you know, I was broadcast on CNN, ESPN and all these shows, I feel like anybody at any time can literally walk up to me and do what they want to do. So I’m back on. I had to have my gun on me when I would play certain places when I left from Lima, Peru, to come back to the United States. I made sure I had something on my hair, glasses. You know, I made sure I didn’t have any. USA uniform and it all.
S11: I was really careful and cautious for a while.
S13: For like a couple of weeks. You know, I cook for myself for a while because, you know, you never know who can punch you out. And I’ve never had to do that in my life. But it’s bad to say. But I wasn’t scared because, you know, I was raised, you know, in impoverished neighborhoods all my life. So, you know, I’m kind of used to, you know, looking looking over my back, looking over my shoulder, watching my back alive.
S12: So you grew up in Ferguson, Missouri, right? Yes. And there was the killing of Michael Brown. Obviously, that brought a huge amount of attention to that community. But a lot. And Joel was there and did a lot of reporting on this. But a lot of what I think people started to understand as more reporting went on is about the longer term interactions between the police and the people to live there about policing for profit and the ways that that that worked in that community. Can you talk a little bit about your experience there and how that has informed your view of the world?
S13: I feel like growing up in Ferguson, because I was younger, I was really naive to a lot of things. You know, when you’re a kid, your parents are your grandparents. They try to not put the world on our shoulders because they want you to live a free life, basically, you know, initially. And so I used to asked my grandmother questions all the time because my uncle, who was older than me, he used to always go to the store, is walk the streets, go to the gas stations, go to the parks with a group of friends like my uncle always, you know, rolled in a group. It was always like six or seven of them. And he would always come home and complain about how the police were harassing them for no reason. You know, they would just walk the streets and the police would tell them they had to go home, you know, three o’clock in the afternoon. What are you supposed to be doing? You know, once you get out of school and I used to always ask my granny, like, wow, you know, why are they arrested? Why can’t they go to the park? Why can’t they do this? Why can’t they do it? And my granny would never truly tell me because, you know, I was younger. So I really didn’t understand until I guess when I went to high school, I saw a lot more because then I was older and then I was doing those things and the police would literally just follow us. You know, we will walk on the street and they would just follow right behind us and when. And just literally would just follow us. So I feel like the terror and, you know, just being intimidated and threatened constantly by the police reminded me that, you know, they could do anything they want to do and do away with it. And I’ve figured that out. And I knew that once I was at high school and I was terrified.
S11: So we supply the police.
S13: We were run. We would hide, we would have up and like, OK, it’s hard for us to go home because we were attacked and constant terror and, you know, just fear. And we didn’t even. I don’t think we realize why. But, you know, we just kind of knew that if something happen, it will be us. And that then it was it was it was horrible. And then, you know, coming home from the for the Mike Brown protesting, you can feel the tension in the air. It was literally just walking on the street. People were just crying because they felt so overwhelmed and so emotional and just so angry about what had gone on with this young man’s death. It was heart wrenching.
S3: You chose to use Michael Brown’s death in the aftermath as a way to sort of educate yourself. You said you felt like you grew up a little bit naive about what was going around around you. What kinds of things did you do? And how did it sort of change the way you thought as a person and as an athlete?
S11: I read some books, a close friend of mine.
S13: We read a lot of books together. We read about Potion Matic, US Play Syndrome, Sleep Disorder from back to Joy to Groove. We grab books. We’ve looked at YouTube videos from Muhammad Ali, John Carlos Smith. We’ve been back so far. Frederick Douglass, Malcolm X Rand. Books about it. Movies about it. We just did a lot of self educating to see why is it that black Americans always go do the same things all the time, year to year, and it’s been going on since the beginning of time. You know, we I went to lots of freedom schools in Mississippi where we have classes every Saturday to just educate us on black history, good and bad. So I did a lot of research, a lot of reading and just a lot of understanding and study in listening just to understand why people like people feel the way we feel when it comes to those threats. And, you know, where does the stress come from? Where does the trauma come from and why we are considered, you know, less than human beings in America, just stuff of education, honestly.
S5: So what you’re saying is very moving, a very powerful which is why I’m so surprised that you said that you thought the 12 month probation was fair that you received from the USOC. Can you explain why you feel that the punishment was fair?
S13: I felt like the punishment was fair only because as an adult, I do have to take responsibility for the things that I’ve done that I did sign the contract. You know, we’re forced to sign it. But I do. Exactly.
S11: And, you know, I did break the rules.
S13: And so I say, you know, it’s fair. But this is my part to, you know, to say that I didn’t agree with a contract or, you know, I just I knew what I signed and I knew why it and I broke the rules. So that’s reason why I said it was fair. And I also said it was fair because I felt like in those 12 months I could conder up something else to do. I didn’t even know this even more got written to them and, you know, hit them where it hurts again. Because, you know, I’m I’m I’m you know, I’m coming to my last couple years of being a check of your athlete. So, you know, I was just, I guess, fair. But I find another way.
S6: Let’s talk about you as an athlete when you are practicing now, when you’re thinking about competing and your goals.
S12: Why do you feel like it’s important for you to succeed and do well in the hammer in your chosen event? Like what? What are the things that are motivating you to be great?
S13: The main thing that’s motivating me honestly this time around, I think, is myself. I feel like I’ve been doing track for everybody else besides myself for as long as I can remember. And I feel like this year, knowing that I can succeed. And I don’t have to succeed. Is that the driving force? Every day of practice. I know that I can do this like I am equipped emotionally, athletically, spiritually to make this happen, because if I don’t, no one will care. No one knows what Hammer is. Let’s be honest. So I want to do this because I know I can. And I know that if I do do this, that will help me to help my family and that will help others understand that you can come from literally nothing and you can have literally everything taken away from you and you can still rise. You can still be successful and accomplish something that you’ve always wanted to accomplish. But I have to know that I can do it for myself first, because if I don’t think of myself in that range, you know, I can’t do anything because I’m the only one to stay in the race. I think everything comes after that. You have to put yourself first in that situation and then everything follows.
S3: And one of the things that you clearly hope will follow is putting pressure on the IOC. You’ve already succeeded in getting the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to form this athlete group that you mentioned to get some statements from them saying that they’re going to advocate for change within global sport. And there’s this rule 50 in the IOC that bars demonstration on grounds of politics or religion or racial propaganda is the word they use. Clearly, I imagine it’s got to be important to you. Is it a goal for you to make the Olympic team? If there are Olympics in 2020 one so that you can bring this to its to its rightful place. Its conclusion?
S13: Absolutely. I feel like that is my main goal coming into the next year is to make the team when it’s Tamara Drobny, United States is stacked. It’s about seven girls that can possibly make the team. We only get three reps. So, yes, this is he is my goal because I feel like once I make the team and they see me, they won’t know what to do.
S5: You said you have AIDS for people who don’t know. That’s the University of Houston. Right. And so you’re living in Houston now. You’ve been to the last couple years. You told people how great Houston is for people that don’t understand. But why it’s such a great place for athletes to come out of there. You know, I love Houston.
S13: I’m not going. I really believe that I’m going to buy my first house here because I love the city. I love the academy. I love the culture here. I love the black people here. The university that Houston is historical. The coaches are amazing. Athletes are amazing. And I think it’s one of the best places I’ve ever been. So I love it.
S5: There you go. See, that’s. That’s all I want. I just want to say what a powerful way to end this saga.
S6: I think it’s like after all that we’ve talked about, just like focusing on the Houston.
S3: The message that Houston is really what matters here, Joel. I respect that. Doesn’t want to.
S5: I don’t want to reduce her to, you know, to Texas. This is Moltz. She’s got multitudes. And I just want to plumb some of that.
S3: So when Barry throws the hammer for the United States, she’s a former Olympian. She’s trying to make the Olympic team next year. And she is leading a movement to try to get the International Olympic Committee to sanction protests at the Games. Gwen, thank you so much for talking with us. Thank you for having me.
S11: Appreciate it.
S3: And now it is time for after balls. And after speaking with Gwen Barry, I was curious about the history of Hamara throwing because I don’t know anything about the history of hammer throwing. So I went to hammer throw dot org. Of course, hammer throwing one of these throwing events and track and field was developed into a sports centuries ago in Ireland, Scotland and England. Legends trace it back in various forms to the pile Tom games held in Tara, Ireland, around 1829 B.C.. That’s long time ago. Centuries later, STK mythological hero Khu Holon was said to have gripped the chariot wheel by its axle, whirled it around his head and threw it farther than any other mortal. Because, of course, he did. Joel, what’s your coup, Holon.
S5: Bobby Mitchell, we briefly mentioned him in the earlier segment about the Washington NFL team. Mitchell is the pro football hall of Famer who will have his number. Forty nine retired by the franchise. The team announced the decision to honor Mitchell on Friday, a day after a memorial honoring former owner George Preston. Marshall was removed from R.F. Stadium as we covered a little already. Marshall was an unabashed racist. Consider the final subhead of his Wikipedia page is titled Racism, and this section runs four hundred and forty words. Anyway, Marshall was perhaps the most influential voice among NFL owners who decided to maintain a ban on black players from 1934 to 1946. And Marshall was the lone holdout among those owners for years. He didn’t integrate his team until 1962, when Washington was the only NFL franchise without a black player. That changed when Marshall drafted Heisman winner Ernie Davis with the number one pick that year and soon traded him to Cleveland for Mitchell and a couple of other players. Here’s Mitchell recalling his response to the news of the trade.
S14: I just settle in to a life in Cleveland and all of a sudden someone is saying, get out of here. And I said, what is so much Washington? It wasn’t till later that I said, well, I’m gone to the Washington Redskins, of all places.
S5: And so Mitchell became the first black football player for the Washington NFL franchise. Imagine the pressure that came with that groundbreaking designation. Mitchell talked about that, too.
S15: I was a hostage. I would have loved to just be glad to play football. The things you go through to get to Sunday chess.
S5: I just want to play in spite of those difficult circumstances. Mitchell excelled. He played for the franchise from 1962 to 1969 and was named First Team all pro three times. When you retired. Mitchell had the second most all purpose yards in NFL history. He was ultimately inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1983, and his number forty nine will be only the second number to be retired in franchise history. So much of Mitchell’s story already knew because Mitchell is originally from where my father is from Hot Springs, Arkansas. They both attended Langston. The only black high school in town. My father didn’t personally know Bobby Mitchell. But he knew his younger brother, Joseph. My father also knew of Mitchell’s earlier exploits on the football field and track, which earned Mitchell a scholarship to the University of Illinois in the mid 1950s. My dad also told me that from those years, Ford, the Langston High cheerleaders had some sort of cheer that went something like, quote, Give it to me, like Bobby Mitchell. But he couldn’t remember the rest. It’s probably for the best anyway. I asked my dad if Bobby Mitchell was the best athlete out of his little Arkansas high school. His answer surprised me. He said, well, he was probably the most well known. Anyone who’s played football for some time with some degree of success knows all of the players who had the talent but didn’t see it out to the finish. For whatever reason, my dad said some guy, Austin Brinton, was the best athlete he ever saw at Langston. But then he dropped out of school, whereas Bobby Mitchell went off and made something of himself. He made good he got excellent breaks. My dad said so. That said, if my dad wants to make it an open question about who was the best football player to ever come out of links in high school, let me offer a suggestion. My father, Joel Wayne Anderson. Now, look, I’m obviously biased here. And all I really know about my father’s high school football career is that it happened in the 1960s. And then my aunt Sandra K. once told me, hey, your dad could really scat. So my dad, he’s five foot six. Probably not much more than one hundred and forty pounds. Do not let her size fool you. He told me of playing through concussions and broken teeth. One of his favorite football stories used to tell me was about getting hit so hard that he once went to the wrong huddle. But he also played really well. He made the all state team among the black schools in Arkansas a few times. My dad said, and he was not bragging at all. Just before his graduation in 1965, his senior class at Langston High went on a trip to Washington, D.C. My dad doesn’t recall much about the trip, but he absolutely remembers getting to meet local hero Bobby Mitchell. Mitchell, my dad’s coach, had coordinated a brief meeting with the team during the visit. So remember, I’m making the case here for my dad as Langston’s best ever player. Here’s some evidence. My dad played alongside two other guys who would go on to have long careers in the NFL. Ike Thomas and John Little. But that day in Washington, D.C., Mitchell gave the only autographed ball to Langston’s captain and best player. My father now, of course, my dad and keep up with that ball. He went back home and gave it to his little brother. My uncle Donnie, who promptly lost it. Now it’s unaccounted for. Anyway, my dad had earned a football scholarship to a small school in South Dakota. It’s called here on college doesn’t exist anymore. My dad didn’t know anyone there and he didn’t have anything to bring with him. He didn’t have any winter clothes. He told me I didn’t have any money to buy toothpaste. My father didn’t last. There more than a year before he was back home in Hot Springs and drafted to Vietnam. There wasn’t any more football after that. My dad hardly ever talks about his football career because he’s let it go over the years. He built another sort of life away from the game, one that he should be proud of and one that I am very proud of. I wish I’d ask you more about his old football days before I asked him about Bobby Mitchell’s Father’s Day gave me a great excuse to make up for lost time. So thanks for indulging me in their own ways. Both Bobby Mitchell and my dad deserve their due after all these years.
S8: That was excellent. And one thing that struck me in reading about Bobby Mitchell was that he was always annoyed at being remembered as the first black player and not as a Hall of Fame player. Like the first thing that gets mentioned about him is that he was a part of this racist history of of the team, that he was the one that broke the barrier. But, you know, even if he wasn’t the best player from his Arkansas high school, he was still a very, very good football player. And that’s how he wanted to be remembered.
S5: You know, he he talks of the fact that Jim Brown was driven by him, that they were teammates together, and that Jim Brown very much respected him and was driven by Bobby’s, you know, success to, you know, whenever if Bobby went out there, did something really good. Jim Brown would have to, like, get the ball on the next play. So, you know, his bona fides are pretty up there for sure.
S8: But your your your dad clearly the best player here on college history to NIDA.
S5: No video to confirm it, but I’m inclined to believe it.
S8: Stefan, what’s your Cohalan?
S3: Robert. William Deetz, 86, Michigan quick with his fists in the ring. That’s another one of the short Corona virus obits that The New York Times published a few weeks ago. Quick, with his fists in the ring, I imagine that Robert William Deetz boxed as a kid and died off the stories for decades. And then I looked him up and talked to his daughter and his nephew. Nobody called Robert, William, Deetz, Robert or Bob. He was Ducky Ducky Dietz. He got the nickname not because he wouldn’t duck a fight, though. He wouldn’t duck a fight. Not on the street, not in bars, not in the ring. He got it because when his three older sisters would take him swimming at Belle Isle in Detroit, they couldn’t get him out of the water. He’s like a duck. They said. Ducky grew up in the city’s working class east side. His grandfather came from Germany. His father was a tool and die man. He didn’t start boxing until he was 20. He trained at Motor City Gym with Ray Barnes, who’d lost the Sugar Ray Robinson in 1950. Joe Louis would stop by. Ducky had a V shaped jaw, puppy dog eyes and a crop of dark hair. A sportswriter called him a poor man’s Elvis Presley. Ducky fought mostly as a light heavyweight around one hundred and seventy five pounds. His first pro bout was in 1957, when he was twenty three. He won and he kept winning twenty of his first twenty three fights, 18 by knockout at places around Michigan with names like Wizner Stadium and Light Guard Armory and Jefferson Beach Ballroom. Ducky was a slugger. He’d come out swinging and knock guys out early or get knocked down himself in six fights that he won. He hit the canvas in the first round. He had a good style with bobbing and weaving. His nephew, Mike Deetz, himself an ex boxer, told me when you threw a right, he’d come under and boom hit you and knock you out. At the end of 1961, Ducky got his break. Heavyweight legend Rocky Marciano saw him fight, took him to the London Chophouse, signed him to a contract. Marziano worked with the Duva Brothers manager, Carl and promoter Lou. They moved Ducky to New Jersey, put him up in a hotel, took care of his expenses, told him all he had to do was train and fight rocky legs, deeds, because he has his style of fighter, the bombing type who’s always throwing hard shots. Lou Duva told the Passaic Herald News Ducky’s first fight in New Jersey wasn’t Gladiator’s arena in Tolowa on January 19th, 1962, against a newcomer named Gogo White Ducky knocked him out in the second round. Seventeen days later, he was in Boston Garden, knocking out another first timer. Sunshine Burns in the first round and four days after that. On February 10th, Ducky found himself in Madison Square Garden. The headliner that night was the unbeaten young heavyweight from Louisville, as UPI described him Captious Clay, before his fight against Sonny Banks. Clay told reporters, I’ll knock him out within four rounds. Then I want Sonny Liston. Banks knocked Clay down in the first, but Clay won on a Teekay O in the fourth. He’d get and beat less than two years later like play. Ducky went down in the first that night, but got up and took a six round split decision over Tom Girardi. A local paper described it as a slugfest, but Marziano and the Dubas through Duckie back in the ring and Tahtawi. Just six days later against Herschel Jacobs, who had lost to Rubin Hurricane Carter a month earlier. Fourteen hundred people watched Ducky hit the deck three times in eight rounds. It was a savage bout in which both fighters were marked and bloodied. The Passaic newspaper recounted with the Detroit Light heavy taking the worst beating. Three fights in 10 days. Four in less than a month. Ducky didn’t fight again until April. A rematch against Jacobs. This time, Ducky took a terrific beating. A reporter wrote, and the fight was stop. In the seventh round, the Patterson news said that Carl Duva ordered Ducky to retire after the bout. In reality, Ducky quit injured and neglected, disgusted, disillusioned. I went to the hospital and they didn’t even take time to come and see me, Ducky would say. Years later, I took my money and came home. I told them to stick boxing. The money wasn’t much. The most ducky made with six hundred dollars for the garden fight. He got three hundred for the next one. The promoters made forty five hundred. He said Ducky fought once more in Detroit. A third round T.K. over Chuck West Miller, who would go on to train Floyd Mayweather, senior and junior and star in a reality show about his family’s mortuary business. And that was that Ducky took a job as a millwright at Ford fixing machines on the factory floor. He worked there for 38 years. He also ran a boxing gym at the Cannon Rec Center on the east side. He knew Thomas Hearns and his family and the trainer, Emanuel steward. He coached kids every day for more than three decades. They were his life. His boxers and his daughter. Avam Ducky was separated from his wife. But fully engaged in his daughter’s life. He’d pick her up after an overnight shift at Ford and take her to school. They’d watch heavyweight fights together, ducky talking style and tactics. He was an awesome guy. Avam Dietz told me he drew people to him. Ducky’s record shows two fights in the 1970s when he was north of 40 fund raisers for the gym. He won, both won by knockout. His nephew Mike told me there was one more in 1977 and another fundraiser against the light heavyweight champion of Pennsylvania. Ducky was 43. His opponent was 24. Emanuel Steward worked the Ducky’s corner. Mike handled the spit bucket. Ducky knocked that guy out to ducky and gnarled, swollen, arthritic hands. He broke every knuckle, but won mostly on one hundred or so street fights. A disjointed nose, battered cheekbones. In the end, there was all heimer’s and bone cancer. But Ducky kept telling stories about his boxing life and he never complained. Toughest guy I ever met in my life by far. Mike said the sweetest guy, too. He was nice to everybody. So loving, Mike said. But he was the kind of guy you just didn’t call out. He puts his stuff on and the bell rings and he’s a stone cold killer. Rest in peace. Ducky Dietz, may you be quick with your fists in the ring wherever you are.
S5: That was great. I love Ducky and Rocky Marciano. Champion boxer. Kind of a scum ball manager.
S3: Yeah. Boxing. Boxing. Boxing. Not the most wholesome profession.
S5: I mean, he fought as much as NBA players play basketball games. I mean, for that little states.
S3: The crazy thing about this story, too, is that he did not get an obituary in the Detroit Free Press. The line quick with his fists in the ring was written by his daughter and down in the Peyto obituary that ran in the paper.
S2: So I hope this makes up for that. It did, ma’am. Good job. That’s our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just reach out to state dot com slash hang up. And you can e-mail us at Hang-Up at Slate dot com. If you’re still here, I’m guessing you might want even more hang up. And our bonus segment, Josh, Joel and I will talk about a story that I wrote for Slate last week about a proposal to ban slurs from competitive Scrabble.
S16: I mean, I’m just actually trying to imagine being a black Scrabble player, an opponent, a nonblack opponent, using that word against me and saying, oh, that’s just all the stakes of the game. I mean, like, I doubt it. I would I would actually feel like you were trying to pin me under those circumstances, you know? But maybe that’s like that’s all part of Scrabble culture that I, I could probably you could take it less personally because it’s competition, I guess. I don’t know.
S2: For Joel Anderson and Josh Levine. Stefan Fatsis remembers Elmo Baity. And thanks for listening.
S12: Now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members. Stefan, you wrote a piece last week about a reckoning in the world of Scrabble around the use of slurs. Can you just give us that background and what the debate was about last week?
S3: Yeah, sure. This goes back like 25 years, actually. At the time, a woman was playing Scrabble, opened up the Scrabble dictionary and realized that the word Jew J. W was in there, meaning to bargain with an offensive term. She complained and eventually there was like a letter writing campaign. And Hasbro, the games owner, decided that they should remove all of the words that are identified as offensive from the Scrabble dictionary in which you could buy in any store. The players didn’t like that because Scrabble players just feel like these are just strings of letters. When you play them on the board, there is no meaning attached to them. You’re not making any statement or using them in the ways they were intended for communication. And that applies to all words, not just bad words. So there was a deal reached where all of the so-called offensive words were permitted in tournament and club Scrabble. They were removed from the official Scrabble dictionary that you can buy in stores. But now, with the protests nationwide, the head of the Scrabble Association came out with a proposal to take just slurs out of the club in tournament word. So you could still play shit and FOK and all the other derivatives and anything else that’s defined as offensive by standard dictionaries. But there are about 80 ethnic, racial, gender based other slurs that he’s proposing to have excised from the book.
S5: A total of like 238 words, you know, a in reading your piece. And it seems like there is a sub, a significant number of players who believe that the inclusion of slurs have held the game back in some sort of way. Is that right? That there are there are like a mass of people that are like, oh, occasionally, you know, deploying slurs in games is really hurting us.
S3: Yeah. You know, people make this argument that if oh, if we take these out, then that’ll make the game more appealing. We don’t have to explain to people, why can you play the N-word? Why can you play any other dirty word in Scrabble and that somehow that will matter? I don’t think that’s what this is about, though, and I explicitly don’t. And no, it’s not what it’s about, because the head of the guy making the proposal has said this is about the the idea that we’re not inclusive, that we’re sending a bad message, not that we’re going to increase membership necessarily, but that it’s just wrong to hang on to these slurs and pretend that when you lay them down on a Scrabble board, pretending his interpretation and the interpretation of other players, that they really don’t have any meaning.
S12: The bigger story here, I guess, is that every entity in the world is trying to figure out whether to respond and if if so, how to respond to the protest movement that’s going on, the kind of understanding of the fact that things that have been accepted in the past may not be acceptable. And as you made clear in your piece, there are 200 something words here. But the only one that you did not spell out in the piece was the N-word. Right. And it kind of comes down to that, the question being. If you put down the N-word on a Scrabble board and you have all these cars, sort of high minded ideas about, oh, words are divorced from meaning and it’s totally different, it’s like, is that OK? Like, that’s kind of what it. If we’re going to get down to, like, the real nitty gritty treston of what we’re talking about here, that’s what we’re talking about, is should you be able to play the N-word in Scrabble?
S3: Yeah, I mean, that’s part of it. I mean, certainly I mean, you know, people have argued also that, look, people are offended by what offended them and what may be personally offensive to them. And that’s not to say that the N-word isn’t offensive to everybody because Merriam Webster defines it as like the most offensive word, don’t use this, you know, in our language. So, yeah, that’s the top of the scale. But there are certainly other words that are going to bother people and should bother people in the context, in the context that they are used, you know, and the. But the thing is that this is a subculture. Right. So there are plenty of African-American players in Scrabble who literally have come out and said, I don’t care. They are letter strings. I have had the N-word played against me. I have played the N-word. Not me personally, but that’s what people are saying. And it’s going to come up eventually. The letters in Ginger’s got another anagram surging. RG I n g are not super uncommon. It is possible for them to get played and they do get played. I’ve seen people post on, on Facebook and part of the conversation saying I played this once, you know, and my opponent looked to the woman that was sitting at the next table who was black and she kind of shrugged and smiled like there’s an implicit understanding that once we start to play competitive scrabble, what you’re doing is trying to win and you’re not trying to send any message. But as I wrote in the piece, those letters are still sitting on the board.
S5: Right. I mean, I’m just actually trying to imagine being a black Scrabble player, an opponent, a nonblack opponent, using that word against me and saying, oh, that’s just all the the stakes of the game. You know, I mean, like, I doubt it. I would I would actually feel like you were trying to offend me under those circumstances, you know? But maybe that’s like that’s all part of Scrabble culture that I. I could probably you could take it less personally because it’s competition, I guess. I don’t know.
S3: I mean, I did in the competition all it really is. I mean, and this is a really hard thing to grasp. I mean, that it’s possible to divorce words from their meanings.
S4: And it seems disingenuous to a lot of the best Scrabble players in the world. Don’t speak English.
S3: There are players. Yeah.
S12: There are some cases where literally people are playing words that they don’t know what they mean. I think a lot of the time people are playing no words that they don’t know.
S3: Absolutely. And, you know, like most people that don’t play Scrabble competitively and don’t study words, you know, even like the two letter words are going to walk up to a Scrabble board and go, well, that’s bullshit. What the hell is a. Well, it’s a kind of lava. That’s not a word. I’ve never heard it. And that’s the most common thing you will hear from someone who’s not part of the culture. If you’re in the culture, you make a sort of intellectual decision that words really aren’t. The meanings of these words really aren’t important. And it’s easy for me to say. Right. I’m a straight white dude. I can make this skin. And I’ve, like, worked for a dictionary company to write a book. I can just look at them as things to study or things to use in a puzzle like playing Scrabble. But everyone’s not going to feel that way. And I completely understand the argument on the other side because there are good arguments to be made here that it would serve no harm to remove the N-word and other slurs from the game. You just have to get used to whatever the list of words that is acceptable, which is what Scrabble players do anyway. But if you want to make the sort of holistic linguistic argument that these letters combine and, you know, by taking them out of Scrabble, we’re not taking them out of culture. We’re not taking them out of society. So let us just use them, you know.
S12: But proper nouns aren’t used in Scrabble. You’re like every word that anyone has ever conceived of is eligible in the game. So it’s a little it’s a little bit B.S. to make the argument around, like, oh, we we know it’s a slippery slope. Once we start banning this word, then we’re going to be banning other words. And you know, Joel, to your point, I think this is the way and maybe this is what Scrabble folks want, but like this is the way that a subculture remains a subculture. Like, if you want this to be the rules within your group, then that’s a great way to, like, not have anybody else want to be in your group. Right.
S5: Right, right. I mean, I although I will say it seems like they’re already sort of policing language at the highest levels of the sport. Right. Because you you wrote stuff in the North American finals last decade. They were told not to play offensive word. So in some ways, Scrabble, you know, the people at the top of this thing, they understand that we really can’t have our planet and word in public, bro.
S3: Right. But you know what’s changed a little bit that I think influences the conversation is that it’s a lot easier to watch Scrabble games because. You know, the only time Scrabble was ever sort of in the public eye was if there was a national championship and the winner got to go on the Today show and that one year in the final game, the deciding game, one of a bingo is the seven letter words that was played was darkeys. And for the purposes of showing the board, you know, on the Today Show studio. They changed it to darkens to avoid that. And then when Scrabble was on ESPN, as I mentioned, the players were instructed not to play any offensive words. So it’s sort of using the the over-the-counter dictionary. In that case, the problem now is or the difference. Now, it’s not a problem necessarily, but it certainly makes the issue more public. Is that Scrabble games or streamed online? Like on Twitch, you know, the finals of national championships are live streamed. And there’s always been this, I think, slightly mistaken belief that if only the game were a little different or if only we had better, you know, outreach to TV and streaming companies, Scrabble could take off. I mean, it never really has. You know, six years on ESPN in the 2000s, but since then, you know, it’s still a tiny subculture. So to your point, Josh. Yeah. I mean, you know, you could also say that Scrabble is always going to be a tiny subculture. Yeah, that’s true. It’s not going to be a mainstream sport. The concern here is, you know, I think the proposal to get rid of them comes from the right place. But a lot of people, including players of color, have said that it also feels a little bit patronizing to me. Like if you’re doing this as the gesture, as a magnanimous gesture, as one player wrote, well, you can leave me out of it because I don’t care if these slurs are allowed in Scrabble. I just want to play the words that by the rules of the game are acceptable. And these words currently fit those rules. They meet the criteria.
S4: So as of the time we’re recording this, this is unresolved with Stefano. Update us on on what ends up happening. I will. And Slate plus members, thank you very much for your membership. We’ll be back with more next week.