The Goodbye Kyrie Edition

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Joel Anderson: The following podcast includes explicit language. Sorry, Mom.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hi, I’m Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, and this is Hang Up and Listen. For the week of October 31st, 2002, and this week’s show will assess the latest Kyrie Irving crisis. The Nets point guard endorsed an anti-Semitic documentary and then did not apologize for endorsing an anti-Semitic documentary. Will also talk about the continued rise of Deion Sanders and Jackson State and what might be next for the coach in the school. And Claire Watkins of just women’s sports will be here to discuss the championship game of the National Women’s Soccer League, won by the Portland Thorns and their young American superstar Sophia Smith. I’m in Washington, D.C., and I’m the author of The Queen and the host of the podcast One Year. Check out our new season of 1942 with new episodes coming out every week. Also in D.C. is Stefan FATSIS. He’s the author of the books Wild An Outside Word Freak and a Few Seconds of Panic. Hello, Stefan.

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Joel Anderson: Hey, Josh.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: What do you got for us, Stefan?

Joel Anderson: What do I got from which realm of of existence. So, Scrabble shortstop. What? Yeah. What’s some what’s percolating the most in the in the four team playoffs? Everyone makes the playoffs in our softball league. Alas, we lost in the LA in the semifinals. Oh, so my and my run of incredible hitting came to it. Came to an end, I’m afraid. You’re in charge? Yeah. Yeah, sort of. Yeah. Clearly, I’m a playoff joker. Scrabble played the tournament on Saturday, Went four and three. Not bad. Whatever. That’s about 500. That’s better than Jimbo Fisher.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: With that inspirational note. With us from California is the host of Slow Burn Season three and six and Still Undisputed.

Joel Anderson: Got here man of the D that.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Still Anderson priming himself for the big battle in Austin in a couple of weeks.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Hi, Jeff.

Joel Anderson: Hey, man, I’m actually scared about Texas Tech. I think they could lose to Texas Tech. You think they can lose every week, though, Joel? Well, that’s true.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I’m pricing on that. If they beat Texas, then you you wouldn’t retroactively care if they lost to Texas Tech.

Joel Anderson: Well, it would hurt. But yeah, beating Texas is always satisfying. You know, it always saves a mediocre season. But if we if we pulled it off this year and lost to tech, I still think I’d be a little bummed because like, well, we were really close. But the one thing I actually don’t want is to this is going to sound counterintuitive. I don’t want them to make the playoffs. I don’t want them to play Georgia or Ohio State in the first round. You just don’t want to have fun. Job. Why don’t you take inspiration from my friend Ben Mathis? Lily, Michigan fans were just glad to be there last year and pathetic to them.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I forgot in my after ball last week that this was a realization I just came to, that it’s kind of a free for all against Texas, actually, because since you your primary mission is trolling here, or at least it’s like one A and one B If Texas beats TCU, then you can just kind of talk about their three losses and like, oh, like grade. You beat TCU, like congratulations on your three last season. You’re really back. Awesome.

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Joel Anderson: Amazing fair. Yeah that’s I mean this much is true. I mean, the thing with Texas is that even when they win, I get the win. It doesn’t you know, they get the lineup and to the eyes of Texas in front of everybody and get to show how much of a winners program they are. So I’m surprised that Josh didn’t mention, by the way, that Brown upset Penn on Saturday, ending Penn’s undefeated season. We have. Yeah. Why have we not talked about these Ivy battles?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: What let’s let’s get on with the show. Okay. In our in our Slate Plus segment this week, we are going to talk about the World Series and how there are no black American players. Instead, World Series a perpetual issue and one that we will dig into. You have to be a Slate plus member to listen to that. And if you are a member, you get ad free podcast, you get bonus segments, you get to support us and you can join by going to Slate.com slash hang up Plus.

Joel Anderson: And the postgame press conference following the Brooklyn Nets fourth straight loss Saturday, ESPN reporter Nick FADEL confronted Kyrie Irving about his tweet Thursday that promoted the film Hebrews to Negroes Wake Up Black America, which is filled with anti-Semitic disinformation. Here’s a clip from their back and forth that night.

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Speaker 3: And to follow up on the promotion of the movie in the book, you please stop calling a promotion. What am I promoting? Put it out on your platform. But I’m promoting it. Do you see me doing do you see in front of me that out there people are going to say that you are putting it out there just like you put things out there, right? Yeah, but I think it’s nice to put things out there for a living. Right? Right. But my stuff is great. So let’s move on. Let’s move on. anti-Semitic. Let’s move on. Don’t dehumanize me up here. I’ve. I’m not I’m not doing another free to play. I can post whatever I want. So say that and shut it down and move on to the next question. However, you have to understand that I don’t have to understand anything from you. Not stop me. Nothing. No people that you’re making a move on. But by posting one. Next question. Any question you guys have any more questions, then they’re going to say, You guys have any more questions? So this might be a clue. This is going to be a clip that he’s going to marvel at. Is this any more questions?

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Joel Anderson: You all can’t see the video of that. The Kyrie morphed into a literal Cindy Internet troll in that moment. But look, Kyrie hasn’t publicly backed down or apologized in the wake of the controversy, though he did apparently delete the tweet Sunday. Nonetheless, Irving’s tweet drew condemnation from Nets owner Joe Sy and the NBA released a statement Saturday night that didn’t directly address Irving’s post but decried hate speech. So Josh last week felt like a sort of inflection point for addressing anti-Semitism in sports. From Kyrie’s comments to Kanye West’s inflammatory remarks about Jewish people, which led to the closure of his prep school, Donda Academy and Jaylen Brown and Aaron Donald announcing they’d be leaving West Don to a sports agency.

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Joel Anderson: So what did you make of these stories and what, if anything, do you think should be done about Kyrie?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Yeah, you mentioned an inflection point about anti-Semitism in sports, which is definitely true. But the thing that kind of overwhelmed me in thinking about this stuff and thinking about what to say is how similar it was to this conversation that we had a couple of years ago when Deshaun Jackson tweeted out this fake Hitler quote, and Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post did a piece that kind of addresses the second half of your question, Joel, where he says, time for Nets to show some backbone and move on from Kyrie Irving.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But that piece also dug into what the content of this documentary was that Kyrie tweeted out. And it is the exact same stuff that Deshawn Jackson was tweeting like same exact fake Hitler quote, same exact fabricated quote from Herod Harold Wallace Rosenthal that’s been bouncing around for decades. That’s, you know, about lies, about the Holocaust, Holocaust denialism, all of the same kind of anti-Semitic tropes.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the thing that kind of dawned on me. Is that Kyrie Irving this guy who. Declares himself a free thinker is incredibly unoriginal. It’s kind of a joke to say somebody does his own research, like we talk about that with, you know, Aaron Rodgers and vaccines or whatever.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But go figure that all of these like free thinking people, all these people who do their own research, all these people who refused to be cowed by the mainstream media, they all do their own research and come up with the exact same shit that people have been coming up with about Jews for millennia. And so I just don’t understand. And yet I do understand Stefan why this stuff keeps coming up and recirculating and why it’s the exact same conversation every time.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Kyrie Irving at this point is predictable. He is boring. He is not. Someone who is worth listening to on seemingly anything and that clip that Joel played in his intro. It’s just exhausting. And the conclusion of the Dashawn Jackson thing was him seeming sincere or who who the hell knows what’s going on in his head, in his heart, but doing a lot of the kinds of things you would do if you were sincere in terms of apologies, that you would make people that you talk to, people that you would listen to and seek out. And so it’s hard.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And I’ll let you talk in a second, Stefan, because you don’t want to excuse. Any of this kind of behavior. But the fact that it is so persistent, these kind of this slander. Like I said, it’s been going around for millennia. I can’t necessarily fault someone for, again, like falling into the same trap or circulating the same lie that, like millions of other people have circulated. And so if I was just being excessively generous, I would say, all right, you know, Kyrie, you’re unoriginal. Like you are not actually somebody who has deep thoughts, even though you profess to.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But like, okay, that’s the same for, you know, a lot of us. The question is, what do you do when this is pointed out to you? And that’s the big difference here, is that, you know, Deshawn Jackson and a lot of other people said, oh, I really fucked this up. Like I understand now, or at least I profess to understand in Kyrie is like way past that place. And so I just feel like I’m kind of done with them or done having any expectations of them and who knows where where the nets are. But that’s where I am.

Joel Anderson: Mike Vaccaro suggestion was that it’s just time to call bullshit on this guy, that it’s just not worth it to have him around from a sports or human rights perspective. Kyrie Irving is saying all of this in one of the most Jewish places on earth. Literally. Brooklyn has about 600,000 Jewish people live in Brooklyn, according to a piece in Hadassah magazine from 2018, and quotes the borough’s official historian Ron Schweiger, who says that there are more Jews right now in Brooklyn than anywhere else in the world, including the city of Tel Aviv.

Joel Anderson: Kyrie Irving is a bullshitter. I mean, there’s no substance to what he says. There is no he’s not intelligent. He is a smart person who thinks he is smart, who says things that he has read other places and does no actual research to determine if they are valid or not. And it’s difficult to argue with people like Kyrie Irving, right? I mean, that’s why that clip that you played, Joel, is so infuriating to listen to. On Twitter, Zito Modu wrote. I think he sort of summarized this extremely well. The impossible thing with people like Kyrie and all the other free thinkers, in quotes, is that any pushback to their nonsense, whether generally or from individuals, becomes evidence to them that they’re right. They’re just the entitled few who have discovered truths no one else has.

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Joel Anderson: So the question for the Nets is like, why are we putting up with this shit again? Like, why are we tolerating a guy who is a vaccine denier and a COVID denier who got a coach fired who has been nothing but a headache when he’s not scoring 35 points a game. Still a very good team. Apparently they’re one in five. Kevin Durant is frustrated already. What’s the upside to keeping this guy around? He has no right to be there. He has a right to say whatever he wants. He doesn’t have a right to to employment.

Joel Anderson: Have you guys thought about what would happen if Kyrie Irving continues to play this season and he has a 40 point triple double or hits a game winning shot? And the NBA’s social media accounts have to say Kyrie can’t be serious, 40 point triple double tonight or whatever like that. That da da da da da da da da da.

Joel Anderson: Yeah, I mean, can, can, can you can you envision a scenario in which Kyrie Irving can continue to be to just play basketball in the NBA. Pretend as if all is normal here that, you know, we can just go back to it being all about basketball and yeah, there were multiple people yesterday that said that it looks like it’s time for the Nets to blow it up. And and at first I was like, man, that seems really difficult. But actually what I thought about is like, what are they keeping him for? Because they’re not a good team. They’re one in five right now. They have and I found this out over the weekend, the lowest number of season ticket buyers in the league, the Brooklyn Nets. So it’s not like they’re they have this rabid fan base that is demanding the Kyrie and Kevin Durant show.

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Joel Anderson: Yeah, no apologies who ever pointed this out on Twitter but. If you’re a fan of the Brooklyn Nets, you have been a fan of the Brooklyn Nets for very long because the Brooklyn Nets haven’t been a team for very long. It’s pretty easy for someone to get excited about the Knicks and just take the subway to Madison Square Garden or to be a fan of any other team that you can watch every game of online.

Joel Anderson: Absolutely. Like there’s there’s so that the Nets have nothing to gain by keeping this guy or their team. And we actually do sort of have precedent here, although it’s not nearly the same caliber of player. But does everybody remember Meyers Leonard, who used an anti-Semitic slur when he was playing with the the Miami Heat? He was using it by playing a video game live stream, and people overheard him use an anti-Semitic slur. The NBA suspended him for a week, fined and $50,000, and he was traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder. This isn’t, what, March 20, 21. He hasn’t played in the NBA since. And, you know, I mean, obviously, Kyrie Irving is a much better player than Maurice Leonard. But there is some sort of precedent for the NBA taking a stand here. And you just wonder. I mean, what would you gain by holding on to Kyrie Irving at this point? It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, I guess the argument would be just from a purely basketball standpoint, there’s more hope for the Nets than maybe for the Lakers. Like, they’ve got a lot of talent on that team still. They’ve got, you know, Joe Harris in South Korea with injuries. Yeah, they’re one in five. But it’s a long season and it’s hard.

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Joel Anderson: Ben Simmons is getting nothing but better. Every everything we’ve ever thought about the Nets is always theoretical. Like they’re always supposed to be better than they are, and they never are. And I feel like we’re doing the same thing right now. I mean, they’re one in five. They’ve been horrible. They have a terrible defense, the same terrible defense they’ve had for the last three years. But there’s still a chance and I just any any.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I’m just saying like, yeah, like if you have him on your roster and you have Kevin Durant on your roster, you’re like, these guys have won, you know, several of, you know, three of the last X number of NBA championships. I mean, it’s not necessarily magical thinking.

Joel Anderson: I’ve never watched this show The Wire, but like that there’s a lot of fun.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Obviously in the.

Joel Anderson: IT And I was like, yeah, I know. Thank you. All right.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Sorry.

Joel Anderson: No apologies. Yeah, but I have seen this clip. The thing about the past, Josh, is that it’s the past, okay? Which I don’t I mean, this is in 2018. That would have been a great thing to have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. This is 2022 going into 2023. But go ahead.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I the thing is the nobody the thing is that nobody in or around the Nets is having fun or has been having fun for years now. And that is maybe 84% due to Kyrie Irving. I mean he you know, the reason that the Nets were theoretical last year is the Kyrie tank their season and so he’s he’s not a guy that I would necessarily extend a lot of grace to for for that reason. But you know the nets kind of screwed up by claiming with the vaccine stuff that they were taking some sort of moral high ground and he wasn’t going to play. And then when they started to play poorly, they’re like, oh, actually we changed our mind and we’re now in the moral middle ground. I guess now they’re in the the moral like trench.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I don’t know if there’s such a term exists, but again, when I was going through my like journey of whatever length we posted the last time we talked about this a couple of years ago, I reread this really great Adam Sandler piece in The Atlantic. He’s black and Jewish, and he kind of tried to answer the question of why do a lot of people or some people refuse to break from Louis Farrakhan, who said the most incredibly vile stuff about Jewish people, like for his, you know, for four decades and is I was actually thinking about is is he more influential than Kyrie Irving? Probably. But he probably has fewer like people that listen to it. I mean, over the length of his career in professional life, he’s probably influenced more people than Kyrie. But Kyrie has a much bigger platform now than Louis Farrakhan does.

Joel Anderson: That’s I mean, I never even thought of that comparison about who’s more influential, but that is that’s shocking. Like you kind of blew my mind even when I’m bringing that up. I got to I got to sit down and think about it. But yes.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But yes, So it was a really interesting piece. And it was around someone who is one of the leaders of the Women’s March refusing to denounce Farrakhan. And Adams earlier talked to her and they had an actually like good and interesting conversation. And like, the world is a complicated place and people are complicated and the Nation of Islam has done a lot of good things and a lot of terrible things.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so the. Thing that makes the Kyrie situation as impossible is that you can’t have a conversation with him or you don’t. Why would you want to have a conversation with him if he’s not somebody who’s interested in listening or hearing what anyone has to say? And yet you said he doesn’t really do his own research.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, look, we don’t. Most of us don’t do our own research. We defer to people that know. Right. I don’t I’m not like a geophysicist. I’m not a virologist. I don’t. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know personally. And so we have to make a decision about who we trust, who we listen to. Do we get our news from YouTube? Do we get it from wherever?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And he. Is somebody who has made a lot of bad decisions in that regard, has fallen into a lot of the deep rabbit holes, sinkholes that a lot of other people before him have fallen into. And there’s nothing special about those patterns of thought. And there are people who so many people who’ve been able to kind of extricate themselves from those patterns of thought. And maybe he will at some point, but he just seems so far gone that, again, I just don’t know what you do with what you do with him or why you you would even have any interest in engaging at all.

Joel Anderson: Well, then let’s have choices, right? I mean, one of them is whether to keep him or not. Another is whether to let him sit in front of a microphone after a game. Don’t have to. He doesn’t have to. The team doesn’t have to allow him to do that. He’s sitting at a podium with the Nets logo behind him. If the team is sick of that, they could shut that down. I mean, the problem with Kyrie Irving.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But aren’t there NBA rules around how you have to be available to the media?

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Joel Anderson: Maybe there are. Maybe there aren’t. You don’t think like the $10,000 fine is something that the Nets would be willing to pay to keep his you know, to get him from. To stop him from spouting off about this shit. I mean, sure, he can still do all that. He’s got gigantic platforms. He’s got 17 million followers on Instagram and 5 million followers on Twitter or whatever. He can say whatever he wants, whenever he wants to say it. But at this point, you know, this is this is an act. He has made himself into some sort of if he wants to make himself into the victim. He even said over the weekend that, you know, when it came to his vaccination, that I had to deal with that real life circumstance of losing my job for this decision. Well, it sounds like he lucked out that time. Maybe he doesn’t get the lockout out again. Right.

Joel Anderson: And Stephanie, you mentioned earlier you said something about, you know, is that maybe Kyrie was a smart person. And I would ask, actually, is he a smart person or does he talk like a smart person who spent a couple of months at Duke? And I remember, you know, I just I don’t know if somebody said this on Twitter or who I was. Maybe I was having a conversation with somebody. But we were we were talking about the fact that Kyrie represents and I don’t know if it’s a generational thing. I don’t know if it’s is you know, these people have always been among us, But the people who believe that contrarianism equals intellectual ism. Correct. And who are so deep in their bullshit that they cannot tell the difference between the two. And if we remember, this started with Kyrie when everybody was like, What’s up with that dude? When he started passing along the idea that the earth was flat. And later it morphed into JFK was assassinated because he wanted to end the bank cartel in the world, which is, you know, also sort of another one of those anti-Semitic tropes. Right.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And we haven’t mentioned the Alex Jones thing that he shared either.

Joel Anderson: Right. The Alex Jones thing, man, he you know, so it’s he has been doing this for a long time. And he as you mentioned, he’s very influential. And I think he found out it was a way to appear smart to a group of people who will also idolize him. And there are a lot of people and we’ve even you know, we’ve talked to people who’ve come on here and defended Kyrie and everything else. And I just, you know, over the years, you know, he is in a particular stratosphere, especially when he joined the Nets. I just didn’t want to hear anything from him. And I only wanted to allow myself to appreciate him as a basketball player.

Joel Anderson: But even now, I think we’re beyond that. And I mean, for a guy who thinks you’re so smart, how did you end up in the same place as Kanye West, who himself says he’s never read any books? Right. If you’re that smart, like, how are you passing along and indulging in the same bullshit? So, you know, maybe maybe now we can, you know, maybe now we can see the difference here that, like Kyrie is not a smart person. In fact, that he’s a person who is, like I said, he’s dabbling in some of the oldest, stupidest, most toxic bullshit that has been around as long as humans have existed. And he’s trying to pass it off as like academia.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: He’s a gifted person. But I think. We have come a long way, I think, in appreciating how brilliant and intelligent the vast majority of athletes are. And so there’s a risk, I think, in saying that someone who is clearly so gifted and so brilliant in certain ways is an idiot and stupid or whatever, you know, pejorative terms you want to do. But I think you have to you have to earn those those labels, those classifications.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And he has done the work to earn, I think, whatever negative thing he would want to say about him and. The Kanye, you know, thing of like sharing a photo of Kyrie saying there’s still some some real ones left. I mean, those guys can. Those guys can have each other. Have fun. Have furniture.

Joel Anderson: Club meeting in a better world. Kanye would have been would have disappeared a decade ago when he started first indulging in this sort of toxic bullshit. And we would have done the same thing. Like in a better world, Kyrie’s vaccine stance would have been seen as so irresponsible, so ridiculous, so dangerous that we no longer had to hear about him or talk about him. And like, maybe we finally reached that point. I hope we have. In the next segment, we’re going to talk about prime time. I.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: This past weekend, ESPN’s college game day passed on the Ann Arbor’s and Happy Valley’s and even the Knoxville’s of the world and made its first ever visit to Jackson, Mississippi, home of the Jackson State football team, and most importantly for ESPN’s purposes, home of Jackson State’s head coach Deion Sanders. This year, in his third season at the historically black college coach, Prime has the Tigers undefeated, including a 35 to nothing win over Southern on Saturday. Here’s a little bit of what Deion said on the College GameDay set.

Speaker 3: There’s my I had a mother who worked her butt off so hands would meet and I was only embarrassed at her once in my life. I lied and told some of my homies that I played with that she was a nurse and they called her cleaning the hospital as a custodian. I made up my mind from then on that I would never lie, especially about my mother. But I had to believe, right? The reason I left, because there was a lack of belief in me that I could rescue her one day when she would never have to work another day of her life. So when I say I believe it’s not just about football, it’s about the single mothers. That day, when I say I believe it’s not just about the single mothers, is the fathers in the hospital in Dallas. When I say I believe, I’m talking about everybody who has the audacity to believe when they’re facing adversity. Hell, yeah. Yes.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Joel We’ve talked about Deion a couple of times before on the show. You did a really good after ball a couple of years ago about why you didn’t think Jackson State should have hired him for reasons we’ll get into. But what did you think of this weekend’s spectacle and what do you make of what he’s accomplished?

Joel Anderson: Yeah, so like a lot of the Deon experience, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity, an incredible exposure for Jackson State and one that I wish everyone else that is at or cares about is HBCUs had the benefit of, you know, college game day is great for that. And it probably gave people a window into HBCU because, I mean, I can’t imagine that there are a lot of people who aren’t black who follow HBCU sports. And even then it’s like mostly southern black people that that know about the pageantry, the spectacle, the halftime bands, you know, the culture of HBCU football. Like, that’s great that those school, you know, Southern and Jackson State got that sort of a platform for everybody else. But in terms of what he’s accomplished, that, too, is great. Like I can’t you cannot quibble with with Deon has been able to do it Jackson State certainly on the field and in generating interest off the field.

Joel Anderson: But all of the same concerns that I ever had about him in the first place are always there. Which is that. He’s not in it because he cares for HBCU’s. He’s in it for himself, which is, you know, if he was in a FBS school anywhere else, I probably wouldn’t care too much about it because I think fundamentally a lot of those coaches have much the same.

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Joel Anderson: But HBCU does have a different mission. It doesn’t really matter if they’re good at football and it shouldn’t really matter. Those schools serve a different purpose and they serve a different student base. And when Deon is gone to Georgia Tech, Arizona State, wherever, like those schools are still going to be there and that same mission is going to be there. And so that the the real testament to what Deon has done in Jackson State is will it last? Will it outlast him in HBCU’s? And he’s really good. He gives a good sermon. But will he be back, you know, when Jackson, Mississippi, is going through, you know, the same water problems when Jackson State players need more equipment in 2026, will he be there? I mean, that’s sort of the the question for me, I don’t know.

Joel Anderson: Is that a fair criticism of Deion personally, though? I mean, he’s bringing his brand, which is what he is to this place that was starved for money, starved for attention, starved for a bigger piece of the college sports pie. He got Walmart to build them a practice field. He got sponsors for the conference. He’s gotten he got a pension to be paid to the water crisis in Jackson. I mean, there’s a lot you can criticize Deion Sanders for and we’re going to. But it feels like, you know, watching the college game day and watching John Wertheim 60 Minutes story about him over the weekend, that there is a good person in there that cares about the place that he is devoting his current attentions to and his attentions are going to change.

Joel Anderson: But for now, it’s kind of cool that he’s out recruiting power five schools for some players and that he has managed to raise the the physical plant and attention for a historically black college that will benefit from the Deon effect probably. I mean, I don’t know if it’s like Flutie effect, but there’s certainly more black athletes that will look at Jackson State and other HBCUs and say, Yeah, maybe I should go do that too. That’s one of the things he’s taking credit for it, right, Josh?

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It was interesting or it has been interesting to see the response to him from within the conference and from within the schools that are there, pure institutions and Wertheim piece on 60 Minutes, it was uniformly positive from the kind of higher ups of Jackson State, from the commissioner, the SWAC, talking about how he’d never been around a superstar before. There’s a little bit of kind of obsequiousness to it, but I think everybody there was quoted in that piece seemed to think his heart was in the right place and that he was overall good for the institution and the institutions. But then there was this dispute with the Alabama state coach, Eddie Robinson Jr. Maybe the most amazing fact about anyone is that he is a SWAC football coach named Eddie Robinson Junior, who apparently has no connection to Eddie Robinson, the fallen coach.

Joel Anderson: Former Houston or the linebacker.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So there you go. Eddie Robinson Jr. Stefan. What is your Eddie Robinson Jr know? So they got into this dispute where Eddie Robinson Junior was essentially accusing Deion of being fake, being in it for himself. Like they got into this like kind of tiff after after the game about handshakes and everything. And Eddie Robinson Junior says, I’m living on the shoulders of the SWAC. SWAC, I’m SWAC that he’s this outsider. He’s come in and he’s acting like he owns the place. When other people have been building up these schools and fighting this fight with no attention for decade upon decade and Deion Joel as he is kind of uniquely able to do turns Who’s SWAC SWAC into this like rallying cry?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: There are people chanting it on the Gameday sat there, people chanting it on, you know, in the stadium during the games. And it’s, you know, it’s funny. It’s there’s something kind of powerful, I guess, in seeing people are hearing people chant there is the kind of like revivalist sort of quality to this whole thing with the fans and both in the stadium and outside.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But also he does just have this way of making everything about him. And there is, in any realm of life and human experience, investing all of your hope. And that’s what this conference seems to have done. Investing all of your hope into one flawed human being is not.

Joel Anderson: I don’t know if that’s ever.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Worked out in life.

Joel Anderson: And Joel, isn’t the question like, what’s the conversation going to be in a year or two or three? After Diane leaves, there’s always the risk that Diane’s going to leave something behind that we will discover later that will be discovered later, and that will spoil this era of good feelings. All right. Well, that’s kind of why I just I sort of take exception to the idea that because Diane has been able to get a lot of attention to himself, that there wasn’t a lot of support for ABC’s already.

Joel Anderson: Do you know which school led the fox in attendance? Every year before Deion Sanders got there, it was Jackson State. Like Jackson State has always had a great fan base. Do you know that Jackson State has more NFL Hall of Famers than all of the schools in Mississippi combined? I’m talking about old Mississippi State, Southern Miss.

Joel Anderson: And like most of the SCC schools, you know, I mean, like Deon is I mean, like, let’s stop. He’s I mean, I think there’s a danger of treating him like Christopher Columbus here, like he he discovered something that was already there but was able to generate enough heat and enough attention to himself, which is fine. Like, I think it is benefiting the players that are within that locker room right now, which is fine. But that’s not that’s not what he’s claiming that he’s doing. Like he’s not just saying, hey, I’m a really good football coach and people are hating on me because I’m good at football. No, what he’s saying is that he’s doing mission work. And actually, Kevin, can you play this clip from the 60 Minutes interview, please?

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Speaker 3: Sanders took the job at Jackson State three months after George Floyd’s murder. Timing. He says that was no coincidence. It was relevant because it’s a lot of folks sit back on Twitter things and talk about what they’re going to do and. And I wanted to go do it. Do what? Change lives. Change the perspective of HBCU football. Make everyone step up to the plate and do what’s right by these kids.

Joel Anderson: Respectfully. What the fuck are you talking about? Like. I mean, how is being good at football and sex at stake? What in the hell does that have to do with George Floyd or changing people’s lives? You know what I mean? Like, again, I don’t want to. I mean, because Deion Sanders, for the job he was hired to do, he’s done it. He’s a very good football coach. Jackson State has played above itself and gotten attention. You know, in the modern era that it has not had in many, many years.

Joel Anderson: But like what he’s saying is that he’s doing something different, that he is essentially like doing mission work. And I mean, is it really mission work if it all goes away once you leave? You know, he’s openly talking about, hey, you know, I might be I might go I mean, I’d be crazy not to. Well, I mean, like the people that are invested in care and HBCU’s, they’re there because it’s about more than themselves and more about what the next opportunity is. And I think that’s when you when you’ve noticed a difference in the reaction to Deon from people within the SWAC and HBCU community and people outside, I think that is what the problem is, is the D.A. pretending as if he’s doing something that they’re not. But the issues that he’s Deion Sanders, of course he’s going to get attention. Of course he’s going to be able to get money and tap into people that other people are not. But I mean, that doesn’t mean that, you know, I mean, just because you’re a good football coach doesn’t mean that you’ve done something great.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: I found it kind of admirably honest that in all of these interviews, he’s admitted that he’ll listen to any offers that come his way. And I think it would. We all know that that’s true. And so I think. There’s a sort of nakedness about who he is and what he’s doing that I think it would be worse if he came in and said I was, I’m never going to leave and this is where I’m going to be forever. And then just kind of pulled the rug out from everyone.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But I think the counterargument, everything you said, Joel, is that he is who he is. He admits to who he is. We’ve known who he is and he is leveraging his humanness to do what exactly what he’s done. And it’s gone way better than I thought it was going to go. Like, I thought that there was going to be some kind of scandal around, like what happened with Prime Prep, his school in Texas, which was just an unmitigated disaster from beginning to end, which he said, you know, he should have. He’s essentially blamed it. And I don’t know enough to to know who to trust here on the person, the other person who ran the school.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But like, there are allegations that the D.A. choked people. There were athletes there who felt like they’d been sold a bill of goods and didn’t get out what that school, what they’d been promised. And, you know, he didn’t stick around there and say, you know, I made promises to these kids and I want to make sure that everyone at the school got, you know, what they what they felt they’d been promised or what they deserved. That’s not a thing that happened.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so I was concerned. And I think you were concerned all that the same thing was going to happen to Jackson State, that the whole thing was going to be a house of cards, which there is, I think, a level of sincerity here and accomplishment on the terms of like being a football coach at the school that exceeded my expectations. And so I do want to acknowledge that.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But yeah, What do you think, Stefan?

Joel Anderson: Well, I don’t know how to evaluate his ability as a football coach. We can evaluate his ability as a salesman and as a recruiter at a time where it is easier than ever for college football coaches to get talent to come their way because of the transfer portal.

Joel Anderson: And it’s not, by the way, as you pointed out earlier, Joel, it’s not like HBCUs haven’t been in the news in the last few years for recruiting athletes who chose not to go to power five schools. That was the thing. We talked about this in basketball. We talked about this. We have the athletic director at an HBCU on the show during the pandemic. It’s not like Deion Sanders has has revived or re imaged what an HBCU is. He has leveraged his celebrity for one school and, you know, tangentially the conference that most HBCU is playing to generate some media attention, revenue, improve facilities and get some better athletes. Those are all honest accomplishments, who they serve ultimately, and whether they serve Deion more than the school. Only time is going to really tell, right?

Joel Anderson: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, yeah. And I don’t you know, I don’t want to come off too hard here on Deon because, look, we don’t know what’s going to happen. You know, maybe he’ll stay. Maybe when he leaves. The improvements we’ve made will continue to help that that Jackson State program continue to thrive. And I have to be honest. I mean, people that follow me know that I wanted him to be the head coach at TCU over Sonny Dykes. But but but see, the thing is, is that I fundamentally believe the mission of people that play FBS football in those schools is much different than that of the HBCUs like that. So to the extent that anybody might think of that, some inconsistency, I think of FBS football is business. I think of HBCU athletics as something else together entirely.

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Joel Anderson: And I guess, you know, stepping back for a second and you know, thinking about college game day and everybody sort of paying attention to HBCUs now, I would actually sort of ask media and people that think that, you know, you know, Deon has discovered a new world, like what do you think it is like? Why do you think HBCU sports hasn’t gotten the attention of the resources that it’s gotten before? Like, do you think black people are bad with money? Like, do you think that HBCUs have worse coaches and they just don’t know the game? You know, and I always know that I always wanted to write about this guy or do something on him.

Joel Anderson: So the last. HBCU coach to move from HBCU to FBS was a guy named Willie Jeffries. He went from Southern College, South Carolina State to Wichita State back in 1979. Which state eventually discontinued his football program? Willie Jeffries went back to Howard, but that’s that was 1979. The only head coach from an HBCU to get hired by an FBS school since that’s we’re talking 40 plus years was Jacobson at Alcorn State and he was white. He was at the Southern Miss.

Joel Anderson: Right. And so, so so people can look at HBCU football. I don’t know which sort of the cognitive dissonance is here that like black people don’t know football, therefore they can’t use HBCU football to do something greater or go to that platform. But for people that think the Deon has like done something unique here and which he has, but like, why do you think that, like HBCU football hasn’t gotten this sort of attention before? Like, do you think it’s the fault of those people at those schools, or do you think that there’s something else working here?

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Joel Anderson: And that’s and that’s also kind of what I would like Deon to say or to be more explicit about that. Like I’m able to do this because I’m me, but like, don’t think that Eddie Robinson Junior isn’t doing something special here to, you know, Rob Broadway when he was at Grambling in North Carolina and see that they weren’t doing something special, too. And I think that’s that’s why you’ve seen a lot of this pushback from people that care about HBCUs, because be honest, pretending in much the same way as everybody else that they didn’t know how to do it until Deon showed up.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Up next, Claire Watkins of just women’s sports on the National Women’s Soccer League championship game.

Joel Anderson: On Saturday night, the Portland Thorns beat the Kansas City Current to nothing to end a tumultuous season in the National Women’s Soccer League. The championship final reflected much of the progress that the league has made. More than 17,000 fans filled soccer specific Audi field here in Washington, and the game was shown in prime time on CBS. A first leaguewide attendance, thanks to strong new franchises in LA and San Diego, increased to 70% this year over last. Topping 1 million fans for the first time.

Joel Anderson: But the finale also was a reminder of what the league has been through. The Portland team owner, Marit Paulson, didn’t attend the game, let alone the trophy presentation because he and other team executives were central figures in the Yates report documenting repeated sexual and emotional abuse by male coaches in the NWSL. Claire Watkins is a staff writer at the media startup just women’s Sports. She was at the championship match and is with us now. Welcome to the show, Claire.

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Speaker 4: Thank you so much for having me.

Joel Anderson: All right. Let’s start with the game. The run up was dominated by the Yates report and the Thorns central role in it. You wrote after the final that, quote, the players were put under a level of pressure that could have warranted a full collapse. Instead, they played for each other and for the supporters that have been with them every step of the way. The game seemed almost like a catharsis for them.

Speaker 4: Yeah, there’s been a lot of discussion in the past weeks for the Thorns players specifically about kind of finding the joy in their work. And for them that has always centered about being out on the field. And so I do believe when you have kickoff, you know, kickoff to final whistle for them, that is the best part of their day. It’s the best part of their job and it allows them to step away from the other off field distractions. And I do believe on the ground, the coaching staff, training staff, they have a good support system around them and they looked incredibly well prepared for this game and like they were in a good mental state to execute as well as they did.

Joel Anderson: So you were obviously you at the game. Can you talk a little bit about what the atmosphere was like there? I mean, 17,000 fans. So on CBS, it seems like it was a pretty live scene.

Speaker 4: Yeah, it was great. It was about the biggest and best we’ve seen so far. The NWSL, interestingly, is it’s a neutral site final, which sometimes has to do with just bandwidth to be able to pull off a big event. So they like to have a large run into to championship weekend, though sometimes coincidentally, it ends up being in the home market of one of the teams playing. Obviously, Washington, D.C. is the home market of the Washington spirit who were not in the playoffs this year. So true neutral final.

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Speaker 4: But it felt like not only did Kansas City and Portland fans travel quite well, had a lot of just women soccer fans come out from from the area, from a couple different cities, maybe different NWSL markets to be part of the festivities. And it was a very good mix of of league activation and and fan led events. And yeah, it was really, really exciting. It was by my standards, I think the best true neutral site event the NWSL has ever had in that neither of the teams playing was a local team and yet it was a huge, huge event for the league.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Kind of nice to talk about the NWSL and talk about a soccer game. Go figure. And the star of this game was the star of the season, the MVP Sophia Smith, who’s a young U.S. women’s national team star as well. And she even had the kindness to provide us with a memorable moment of the shrug after her goal. Tell us a little bit more about Sophia Smith maybe her goal that the shrug and kind of what it says about who she is for this league and in the world of women’s soccer.

Speaker 4: Yeah, the the celebration was kind of surprising. She’s not really a huge goal celebrator in that she doesn’t always have things planned, which was part of why it was actually kind of incredible to see. Yes. Sophia Smith She’s 22 years old. You have to remember that she left college early, which is not the norm for many soccer players in the United States. So had she gone through her full four years at Stanford, she would be a rookie this year. So she is at the level or the age of the other NWSL rookies that we saw this season. And yes, she you know, she got second in the Golden Boot race. She wins MVP there. You know, the other major player who is in the running for that was Alex Morgan, who also had an excellent season. And I think Smith kind of took to heart maybe this idea that people thought that she was given the award a little bit too soon. Just sort of chatter that you have when people are really passionate about certain players.

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Speaker 4: And the shrug was really fantastic because Smith is just a very humble player. She she always diverts attention over to her teammates. She’s incredibly good with media. But then when the moment came. She had something that she wanted to say, and she wanted it to be very clear. And so, yeah, we thought maybe it was a michael Jordan kind of a shrug at the very beginning. But she said, no, it was more of a well, that’s that MVP’s doing MVP like things in the biggest game of the year.

Joel Anderson: I like the fact that the Twitter feed Art put sports side by side and her shrug with some 1616 painting. It was just perfect. But she has a talent is really promising. I mean, not promising. She’s there now. I mean, she has talked about wanting to be the best player in the world. Coaches from the national team, coach Vlado and Panofsky to her coach in in Portland, Ryan Wilkinson, have all basically said she has the ability, she’s fast, she finds space, she can shoot, she creates. She’s the real deal.

Speaker 4: Absolutely. Portland is a team of stars. They have Becky Sauer Brown. They have Christine Sinclair. They have Crystal Dunn. Sophia Smith was the best player on that pitch on Saturday night. And it’s not. And there are very specific things that she does where she is possibly already one of the best in the world. When you see her dribble with the ball, when she enters the penalty area with the ball at her feet, she’s untouchable. There’s now this expectation that she can draw in three defenders and she’s still going to find a way to get a shot off. I think also what we’ve seen for her this year is, again, she’s younger. She’s moving up in that U.S. women’s national team system, which as we know, can be very entrenched. Veteran leadership is a big role there. She’s becoming more confident. And I think that that actually it’s that element, that mental element of, yes, I’m going to drag three defenders and I’m going to get this shot off, is now starting to match her physical gifts. And that is why we’re able to see her pull this off in a game of this magnitude.

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Joel Anderson: Right before the playoffs begin. Sophia, you know, it was asking Thorne’s fans to support the players. And it seems like, you know, throughout that the Thorns fans have been, you know, really rabid, stuck with the team, feel like it was a really difficult time. So if you could talk a little bit about what it means that for the league, that one of its most troubled franchises, you know, the one that was at the center of the scandal, won the championship, it seems like it could be an indication of how resilient the franchise and the league might be.

Speaker 4: Yeah, and it’s becoming something of a trend. If you remember last year, Washington spirit, they won the championship last year as well in the middle of an ownership battle. Sometimes it feels like women’s sports teams get very, very good at compartmentalizing or even perhaps in a weird way, it becomes a galvanizing experience, right, where you think there’s a lot going against us right now. So we’re going to key in with one another and execute on the field. But yeah, that has actually been the story since the Yates report. And I think that we heard from Commissioner Berman this weekend as well, that the NWSL does want to get this right. The NWSL really does want to fix the culture that has been so broken in recent years, pretty much since its inception. And so transparency is actually welcomed, as difficult as it is. And I think the NWSL is going to push for further transparency. And so in a very weird way, with more information coming out and the truth being unveiled, that’s liberating for players. They don’t have to carry that burden anymore once it goes out into the public.

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Speaker 4: And then we also saw sponsors stick by the league. Sponsors have been really fantastic in this whole thing because one of the issues with cultures of toxicity and abuse is people play on your fears that if you speak up, the infrastructure around you will collapse. And that’s been an issue in women’s sports for a very long time. So the the renewed support by fans, by sponsors, by the league itself in trying to pursue the truth has been really powerful. And I think that is the true hope for the future going forward.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And the conversation about women’s sports and women’s sports leagues. You know, we’ve heard it around the WNBA and various iterations of basketball and soccer leagues in this country. It’s like, should it be supported? Because you need to support women’s sports. It’s a social cause. Is it? No. It needs to be a business that stands on its own. No, it’s like entertainment. And that’s why the NWSL, I think, found itself in such a tricky spot. If you’re arguing that it’s important to support this entity because we need a league like this in the country, well, we don’t necessarily need this particular league for this particular people. We need these players. We need a platform for them.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so it actually is kind of amazing that we’re talking about, you know, an expansion team with there’s going to be a fee over $20 million and potentially a bidding war. You have these new teams in San Diego and L.A. with Angel City FC that have all these attendance records. And so given that kind of how tenuous this, you know, women professional women’s soccer has been in this country, how kind of massively foundationally messed up this league has been in its infancy that it actually seems to be on such solid footing. It’s a kind of remarkable story.

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Speaker 4: Absolutely. Yeah. I think it does come down to when a lot of this was revealed. And I want to be kind of clear about this as well. It’s not just the envy or cell. It’s not just women’s soccer. You look, you know, U.S., U.S. Soccer ran the NWSL for years when much of this was happening. They are an entity that is under the Olympic system. They’re a national federation. Look at some of the things that happened in USA Gymnastics. There are other stories out there that I want to be always clear that one of the the actually again, hopeful things is that the NWSL is committed to transparency. And so acting like the NWSL is unique in this is actually probably doing a disservice to some of the other stories that haven’t probably been told.

Speaker 4: But to your point, when all of this came out and even when the investigation started and there are two, right, there is a U.S. soccer investigation with Sally Yates and now there is going to be a further one, I think a little bit wider in scope by the NWSL itself and the and obviously Players Association. The players immediately the current players of the NWSL said this league can’t go anywhere. We do not want that. That messaging was incredibly clear from the first moment that all of these things started to come up. And that has, I think, been a central grounding force for everybody else in what they’ve decided to do with the league. So when the players came together, the union is very strong. They negotiated their first collective bargaining agreement earlier this year. They said, we’re going to fix it from the inside. And you have to trust that we’re going to be able to do that. And that’s kind of been the direction that everyone has been pulling ever since.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And Stefan, maybe a positive is that it’s new enough that structures and even individual people aren’t entrenched enough that they can’t be replaced and things can be reconfigured.

Joel Anderson: Right. I think that’s exactly right.

Joel Anderson: And Claire, I’m going to quote something you wrote in Defector last year after the Athletic’s report about the former Thorns coach, Paul Riley. You said that the NWSL has been exposed for operating at an intersection of ineptitude and malice that has left players stuck in between needing the league to survive and needing everything holding it up to collapse.

Joel Anderson: And what we have seen in the year that’s transpired since then is that the players and the players alone and their advocates like the union are the ones that made sure in the face of this horrific reporting and investigations about abuse at the highest levels of women’s soccer in this country, the players are the ones that have ensured that this survived and the players are the ones that are effectively responsible for a $20 million expansion fee valuation and a $35 million valuation or $35 million sale for the Washington spirit earlier this year and tens of millions of dollars in funding being raised by other teams in this league. So when we talk about like, oh, they’ve come through this crisis, well, they’ve come through this crisis because they decided to take charge of the operation and get rid of the people that were destroying it.

Speaker 4: Yeah, exactly. And I think also just further action is needs to be taken. This is now a space to watch. As you said, Margaret Paulson was named in in the Yates report and other executives at the Thorns were let go. In the wake of that. He is still the owner of the team. He has not been asked to sell. Nobody knows if that’s the next step or not waiting for that PR investigation to close first. There are other owners involved, right? Arnhem Whistler in the Chicago Red Stars. We still also just don’t know if there’s a wider scope in what happened in Louisville. Other teams that might also be implicated in this new investigation.

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Speaker 4: And when the Yates report came out, they basically said we’re going to leave it to the league to decide actionable steps. And what Commissioner Berman said this weekend is that they are still sort of in that that stage of finding the facts and then they’re going to give recommendations. So there’s still a lot of work to be done. But like you said, no one is irreplaceable. And I think that is has been the message, a positive message actually in the last, I would say actually year since since we got this first reporting in The Athletic about Paul Riley.

Joel Anderson: Claire Watkins is a staff writer at the new website just women’s sports. You should check it out at just women’s sports dot com and sign up for Clare’s three times a week newsletter about women’s soccer and other women’s sports. Clare, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Speaker 4: Yeah, of course. Thanks so much for having me.

Speaker 5: Bah bah bah.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But now it is time for After Balls, sponsored by Bennett’s prune juice, endorsed by Kenny Sailors, who says it was okay. And it is now the time in the show when we adjudicate who is or is not SWAC and our contestant today is Eddie Robinson JR. He is from New Orleans. Joe went to Brother Martin.

Joel Anderson: I was going to say, did he go to Saint Augustine?

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But you didn’t go to Saint. Are you going to Brother Martin? He was a walk on at Alabama State and I was just chuckling. Looking at his Wikipedia page. He did play for the Houston Oilers from 92 to 95 and then went on to play for Jacksonville, Tennessee, went to Jacksonville, Tennessee and Buffalo. And on his Wikipedia says he was the ultimate professional and obtained the nickname. Can I seek space and am steady Eddie for his methodical preparation and on field knowledge of the game nickname.

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Joel Anderson: Okay well you know that’s his nickname was Osman see Sir Frederick Weiss.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Study at a he needs a better nickname whether it’s a can Isaac or an and I think that’s.

Joel Anderson: A good name man. I can imagine you walking into a barbershop and some baby like Mr. Eddie Eddie. You know, you want to be called steady, Eddie. Not the most original Eddie nickname, though. Sometimes the classics work, you know.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: So you’re telling me that Steady Eddie is, in fact, SWAC?

Joel Anderson: Oh, very much so. That guy’s Southern dyed in the wool man. Hard to be more swac than having to name Eddie Robinson Junior and being a SWAC defensive player of the year and now be a SWAC coach then and playing in the NFL and playing in the NFL.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: The gavel has been Clanked Stefan What is your Eddie Robinson Junior.

Joel Anderson: Big game in Division three men’s soccer Last Friday at Gaelic Park in the Bronx, New York University held the unbeaten untied and number one ranked University of Chicago to a nil nil draw. But the result wasn’t why the game was news. It was news because both teams were coached by women Kim Wyant for NYU and Julianne Sitch for Chicago. It was apparently the first time that two women have coached against each other in an NCAA men’s soccer game.

Joel Anderson: David Wildstein of the New York Times wrote a good story about the historic match up that explored some of the underlying data about women’s coaches. According to the Department of Education, in 2020, 95% of men’s NCAA teams had coaches who identified as men. It’s still the 50th anniversary of Title nine. We’ve heard a lot this year about some encouraging progress of women in men’s pro sports. Becky Hammon, as an assistant with the Spurs before taking the top job in the WNBA. Rachel Malkovich, who managed the Yankees class, a team in Florida this season, a few assistants in the NFL. That’s all great.

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Joel Anderson: But a bigger problem remains the preponderance of men coaching women’s teams. The Dow numbers show that less than half of women’s teams in 2020 had coaches who identified as women. The highest percentages of women coaching women in NCAA sports, offered by more than 20 schools, were ones played only or differently by women like lacrosse, field hockey, softball.

Joel Anderson: Soccer is a glaring example in the NCAA. Overall, two thirds of women’s teams were coached by men. In 2020, the number topped 70%. In D-1 Girls Clubs, soccer is dominated by male coaches. The reporting in The Washington Post and the Athletic and the Yates report last month documented sexual and emotional abusers hired sometimes repeatedly and tolerated by male owned and operated teams in the NWSL. Even now, after everything that’s gone down, the league finished its season with just four women head coaches at its ten teams. At a news conference before the NWSL final on Saturday. One of those women, Portland’s Ryan Wilkinson, noted that abusive male coaches aren’t restricted to this league. I need to continue to state this, she said. I’ve played in a lot of different countries. I’ve lived in a lot of different countries. It’s everywhere.

Joel Anderson: So what’s the answer? Maybe it’s pretty simple. Hire more women. Four of those six NWSL jobs held by men are interim because the predecessors were ousted as part of the league scandals. It was reported on Monday that one of the permanent jobs is going to a man. The rest, I hope, will go to women, as should more coaching jobs in high schools and colleges, too, in women’s sports and like at NYU in Chicago men’s. Because the notion that the gender of a coach matters to players or matters at all is slowly vanishing as long as their coach is knowledgeable, respectful and effective. I just don’t think that intelligent young athletes care about the coach’s gender. Just as intelligent young people don’t care how a person chooses to identify.

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Joel Anderson: Julianne Sitch, the Chicago coach who played professionally and who was hired last spring, told David Wildstein in The Times that she never sensed the slightest. Resistance from players and families about her gender. Kim Wyant, who was a goalkeeper on the first U.S. Women’s national team in 1985 and has run the men’s team at NYU since 2015, said the same thing. Players just want to know, Can I get better? They are looking for a leader who is invested in the team. Do we feel respected, whether male or female? If you can deliver all of those things, you can succeed.

Joel Anderson: The most common explanation for the dearth of women in coaching college or pro is that the demands of the job are too great, that the pressure to win and attract fans and generate revenue requires 90 hour workweeks that are incompatible with families and child care responsibilities that still fall predominantly on women. But the culture of modern sports, the one that says the coaches need to sleep on cots in their offices and will be judged by their last winter loss was naturally created by men.

Joel Anderson: So maybe the problem is that more women might not be qualified or willing to coach. Maybe it’s that men have made coaching an undesirable profession for women and control who gets hired. And maybe it’ll take scandals like the one in the NWSL, as well as progressive leaders at non powerhouse schools like Chicago and NYU, where the athletic directors are respectively a woman and an African-American man to redefine what’s required and expected of a coach and therefore who is likely to want to become one.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That’s a really good point about how men made coaching bad in so many ways. But yeah, that’s a promising story.

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Joel Anderson: So much false hustle anyway. By the way, that is where you move up that point. A lot of that is false hustle, right? Sleeping in the office, all that bullshit. That’s not necessary. No, none of it’s necessary. And none of a sort of the life or death shit is necessary either. I mean, I’m trying to imagine a male coach at any level tweeting what Julianne Sitch did after her team’s 14 game winning streak had come to an end. What a game she wrote to top you. A That’s the University Athletic Association. Two top AA schools facing off and making history. I’m incredibly honored and humbled to be part of this moment. I want to give a huge shout out to U.S. who helped make this happen to my staff. You all rock. And I’m very fortunate for all that you do. To the team. Wow. You inspire me daily, and I feel very honored to be coaching such an incredible group of young men.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Loser talk.

Joel Anderson: Isn’t that what what Nick Saban tweeted out the other day after? We should really talk someday somewhere about the culture of coaching. Because it’s possible that men have totally screwed up sports from start to finish. Yeah. Yeah, just. Just making it all unfun, droll, just, you know, miserable experience for a bunch of people because they all want to live out their Kobe alpha male fantasies or whatever. So yeah, it couldn’t hurt to think of some other ways to try to make make the games enjoyable and make them actually games.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That is our show for today. Our producers Kevin Bendis tools and and subscriber just reach out go to sleep dot com slash hang up. You can email us and hang up at slate.com. And don’t forget to subscribe to the show and rate and reviews on Apple Podcasts for Joel Anderson and Stefan Fatsis. I’m Josh Levin Remembers Elmo Baby. And thanks for listening.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Now. It is time for our bonus segment for Slate Plus members. Hello, members. And In the Athletic, Evangelion wrote a story that begins the first World Series since 1950 with no black players born in the United States underscores a failure Major League Baseball has been aware of for many years and one that extends beyond the field of play. It’s a good story. It’s a comprehensive one that gets into a lot of the issues that we’ve discussed before, but that bear repeating. And that also gets into why there might be some signs that things are changing. A lot of black American players at the top of the most recent MLB draft.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But Joel, before we get into all this, there’s a point that kind of popped into my head during our HPC segment that I, I think admirably restrains myself from saying there. So we could, you know, keep it, keep it trim, keep it, keep keep the show at a reasonable length. But I think that occurred to me as HBCU football feels sort of like what would have happened if the Negro Leagues went on existing after Major League Baseball integrated that. This was a thing that was kind of talked about and thought about a lot is that you have this enormous amount of fan interest and investment in these leagues with all these star players.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And then kind of what gets happen when all that energy gets sucked out and sucked away. And it’s like kind of what you were saying with HBCU sports, that there have been people that have been there for decades, that have been, you know, investing, that have been working in it. But all of the the money and the the all those Hall of Famers, the Walter Payton’s and everybody who went to Jackson State are there anymore. And so kind of predictably, the the fans and the dollars move away.

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Joel Anderson: Yeah. No, I mean, I think that the one thing that HBCU still have is that they have the institutions there. And so there’s still this built in fan enthusiasm for the experience, not necessarily the games, the experience.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: It’s just an interesting counterfactual to think about like, what if the Kansas City Monarchs just never folded? Like, what if that team had been in existence for the last seven years? Like, what would that mean or look like?

Joel Anderson: It would be really interesting to see, like if, you know, people would care about the culture of baseball in quite that way, right? Because the Negro Leagues, the thing about it is not just that it was the place for black players to play, but like these were cultural and local institutions for those communities. And they went to those games, supported those teams. The players were part of the communities. So yeah, that would have been really interesting. And you just with.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Gordon Sanders get the Kansas City Monarchs on baseball game day.

Joel Anderson: And go and proclaim.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That he had saved the Negro Leagues.

Joel Anderson: I mean right man You know, and actually so the thing that’s sort of interesting about this too, is because, you know, I’m a 40 year old black man, man, I grew up when baseball was like, really important, Like I played baseball, went to some leagues like me and my friends had bats and gloves and would go out and play and then like, I don’t know, you know, at some point during my life, baseball stopped becoming as meaningful a sport. And and the reason I say that is because so there is some interest in the sport. But when we when we talked about this topic and it came up that, oh, there’s not going to be any American born black players in the World Series. I mean that sounds familiar dog Like what? Why? Where’s that coming from. I was excited Oh headline And then I looked up and this is a headline from October 2005. And the reason I know this is because I was there, I covered this Houston Astros first series team in a half century with that black player. That was 17 years ago. So we’ve just been doing this over and over again.

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Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so now we went from one team and the World Series doesn’t have a black player to both.

Joel Anderson: The Phillies finally joined us. Right. And I just think that, like, this has nothing to do with interest and everything to do with institutions, same as the HBCU, that you know, that this is the way that it’s been set up, whether people want it to be that way or not. And it’s going to take real institutional will to get black people interested in the sport again. And maybe that’s not of interest to people, but like, that’s just what it is. All the total number of black or African-American players on opening day roster has declined for the last 2030 years. It was it’s like 7% at the start of 2022, 18%, 19% in 1995. This is a perennial problem.

Joel Anderson: What strikes me as interesting and when you were mentioning the Negro Leagues, Josh, one thing that strikes me as interesting is that baseball and football have sort of parallel but different problems. You know, the football problem is focused on coaches are being shunted aside. The Washington Post did this multi-part series about how coaches are overlooked and bypassed and and discriminated against in the NFL.

Joel Anderson: Baseball has this two pronged problem. You know, it’s got a a dearth of black front office and on field coaching but at the same time don’t know any black players anymore or fewer black players. So baseball has over the last years has having geologist story documents sort of try to do all of these things to improve its racial profile hiring executives, one of whom was hired, like they hired an African-American woman to handle diversity issues at Major League Baseball. She was gone within like a year. And it seems like there’s a constant sort of we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that, and we’re doing this and we’re doing that.

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Joel Anderson: But it does seem like it’s been much change either in the. Hiring practices of the teams or in getting more black players through and into the major leagues, through the pipelines, and maybe some of the things that they’ve done that are great, you know, reviving baseball in inner cities. I went to one of these academies in D.C. last spring to watch the D.C. High School Baseball final. These are obviously positive things that are creating more opportunities and getting more black kids to play, but it doesn’t seem like it’s working entirely yet.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, I think Major League Baseball would argue that it is working, that for the top five picks in the draft this year, black Americans, that six of the top 18 were kids that came through baseball’s youth programs. There were more black players, nine drafted in the first round since 1992. And so I think. There is an institutional will there and an institutional interest there, but there are kind of larger, you know, girdle.

Joel Anderson: The institution of baseball and the culture of baseball are sometimes the same, but not necessarily. And would you guy to do if you’re going to like protect the lifeblood of your sport, which is why people are so optimistic about soccer and like the diversity and the number of people that are playing and its growth among women athletes? Well, in baseball, as a eight year old, if you’re a black parent, you’ve got to make a decision, Can I afford to get my kid into these little baseball travel leagues, spend thousands of dollars to sign them up and register, and then you got to go and like be around that culture of baseball man, which is not traditionally been that welcoming. Like, would you rather send your kid somewhere where there are a bunch of other kids, like in basketball or football or whatever, or track where there are more people that look like you and the culture is a little bit more welcoming and it’s a little less expensive.

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Joel Anderson: Or do you want to send them to the youth travel leagues where it’s going to be expensive? You probably don’t live around a lot of these people, or if you do, I mean, you’re going to be the anomaly, right? And that’s that’s the thing. Like the MLB can do what they want, but like, they’re not responsible is they are partially responsible, but they’re not totally wholly responsible for the culture of the game.

Joel Anderson: I think culture can change, though, and I think that, as you pointed out, Josh, it is bubbling up. And you know, what I know about travel baseball in D.C. is that there are a lot of African-American boys that play baseball in Washington now. And I’m sure it’s way higher at a much higher level than it was 30 or 40 years ago. So those are positive. And I also wonder whether like having members of the media who clearly like baseball and are also black makes a difference. You know, people like Clinton Yates at ESPN, who’s a gigantic baseball fan. I mean, I don’t know. Do those things matter? I mean, I mean, it all must matter on some level. I mean, D.C. is a black city. I mean, those are the kids that are there, right? You know what I mean? Like, they don’t have to be playing baseball in the spring, in the fall, too. That’s true.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Well, this is very reductive. And I think it’s different would be different on a case by case basis. But I think broadly speaking. If the if there aren’t black a lot of black players or black people in baseball, that’s worse for baseball than it is for black people. Like there are other sports or activities that people can do.

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Joel Anderson: You go where you’re wanted.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Sure. And I think maybe we can end with Dusty Baker, who I think everyone, Joel included, is rooting for that guy to win a World Series.

Joel Anderson: But he is.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Kind of sitting there and there’s just like the perpetually amusing spectacle of like these old men wearing baseball uniforms, like, they’re still players. But there’s something there’s a pathos. I mean, he’s like the ghost of baseball past sitting up there in his his uniform. And when you have these new coaches getting hired, there are more Latino coaches. And we should say, like the overall percentage of minority players in baseball hasn’t gone down because they’re more Latino players than they have ever been.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: But the the new kind of round of managers that are this pool being picked from the new less black major League pool is just like all these like white utility guys that I grew up watching and catchers and and stuff like that. And you’ve still got Dusty Baker, like sitting there in that dugout, like, waiting to, you know, chewing on his toothpick and and waiting to win his championship. And so that to me, you’ve got these kind of lagging indicators of like who the managers are, and you’ve got these leading indicators of four of the top five picks in the draft.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: And so even if things do change, we’re going to be in a period here for the next little while where it’s going to, you know, not it’s not going to look like what rosters looked like when we were kids. Joel And it’s definitely not going to look like rosters that Stefan grew up watching, you know, in the seventies. And if it’s going to ever get to that place, it’s going to be in fucking 2040. Like if, if things change and they probably probably will never get back to that.

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Joel Anderson: I mean, it’s been it’s been a half a century since the pirates fielded that the first all-Black lineup in baseball. And we’re here talking about how there are no black American born players for the first time basically since the sport integrated. Right. So I was watching a just by chance, a Bo Jackson highlight video when he you know, in Major League Baseball, he makes this great play and all of his teammates come up to him in the outfield and all of them were black. And I was like, God damn, I remember when baseball used to be like that. Yeah, that was kind of cool. I mean, not even I didn’t even it wasn’t even like intentionally that I was identifying with them, but I was like, Oh, that looks cool. That makes me want to play. And so, like, you wonder about the wages of losing guys like Kyler Murray or whoever else. Like what baseball might’ve looked like.

Joel Anderson: One quick thing before we go, a funny story about Dusty Baker. We’re watching the Astros the other night, and my wife, who’s not a sports fan, comes by and sees the screen and she’s like, they let that old black man be out there like that. What is his what is that? What’s he up there? I was like, no, he’s a child’s favorite. He’s a he’s a tie. So he did you know, every all of us are still coming to grips with, you know, the changing face of baseball. So. Except, Dusty Baker, I want to root for you. I really want to root for you. And I want the Astros to win. I think I know where you not the don’t tell anybody that you got a phone call from Bill Cosby before you were before the World Series to congratulate you. Okay. Don’t I mean, you should you should know.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: That I managed to somehow not see that headline. So.

Joel Anderson: Yeah. Don’t don’t say that out loud. Yeah. Okay. We we were we were rooting for you.

Josh Levin, Josh Levine: Thank you. Slate plus members for rooting for us. And we’re rooting for you, too. We’ll be back with more next week.