S1: The following podcast contains naughty language.
S2: Hi, I’m Stefan Fatsis, the author of the book Word Freak In a few Seconds of Panic and Misses, hang up and listen for the week of June. Twenty ninth, twenty twenty. On this week’s show, we’ll talk about the decision of the New England Patriots to sign quarterback Cam Newton to maybe succeed Tom Brady. We’ll also examine the new wave of on field expression in pro sports from women’s soccer players kneeling en masse to the NBA, letting players put social justice messages on the backs of their jerseys. Finally, we’ll interview Jivaro Edwards, the interim athletic director at Morehouse College, about the historically black school’s decision to cancel fall sports. The cause of the Corona virus. Oh, we’ll also talk about the original decision.
S3: LeBron James is 2010 taking my talents to South Beach TV show, which was the subject of an ESPN TV show over the weekend. I’m in Washington. Joining me from Palo Alto, California, is Slate staff writer and slow burn season three host Joel Anderson. What’s up, Joel?
S4: I’m good, man. How you doing, Stefan? Beard’s coming in. Great.
S3: Looks good. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate that. You had another shockingly bad food take this past week that I want to ask you about.
S4: Oh, I don’t believe it.
S3: But what do you what are you referring to pretending that mustard isn’t the only proper hotdog condiment. Main hotdog condiment. What the fuck is with people and catch up on hot mustard is disgusting.
S4: First of all. But second of all, I’m not saying that I prefer ketchup on hot dogs. I’m just saying that, like, when you go to a hot dog place, they tend to have a cat dispenser. So obviously those two things go together. I’m not saying that that’s something I commonly do, but I understand it like there’s no mustard dispenser there. Were you? Well, there is, but I think mustard is terrible.
S5: I mean, there’s mustard tastes good. I’m moving on here. I like mustard. The mustard is good. Mustard, delicious.
S3: That is our friend Gene Demby of NPR is the cause of the podcast Code Switch. Good to have you back.
S6: Jane, what’s going on here? I’m so glad to be with you.
S3: We’ve got to congratulate you, man coati Hamas, which is number one on Apple podcast and I Tounes, he beat Joe Rogan at Unbelieve.
S7: Know my guy is such a strange moment. I wish it would’ve happened under the difference.
S3: So I think the circumstances. But yeah. But I think Shereen Marisol Mirage’s, your co-host, she sat we’re like the gym on New Year’s only for racism.
S5: Everybody, Janet Ketso and Jim wanted the two most famous people that have retweeted you and engaged with you now as a result of your newfound fame.
S6: So we got started out by Jaylo, which is bananas. And I know this is very sweet, but Reese Witherspoon put us in her newsletter so that I could read it.
S5: Yeah, you did. The Syrians say something like that actress. Something that actors. Actress. Actress was I think people know who Reese Witherspoon is, but maybe not.
S3: As everyone has figured out, Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor, author of The Queen, host of Slow Burn Season for David Duke. Josh is off this week, episodes one through three of Slow Burn Our Up. Episode four drops on July 8th. But Josh tells me he’s got something special planned for this week to tide everyone over.
S8: If you haven’t started listening to Josh, slow burn. You need to. It is fantastic. But don’t listen right now. Listen to us. First.
S3: It’s been 24 days since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell took the bold step of saying that Black Lives Matter, which are 24 more days, that Colin Kaepernick is unsigned. Though NFL dot.com is now reporting that and I’m quoting here, There are conversations happening with friends and associates of the free agent quarterback who if any second, while we hold our breath waiting for Cap to get a job on Sunday night, Cam Newton did. He signed a one year team friendly contract with the New England Patriots. Newton is 31. He’s coming off three surgeries in less than three years, one to a foot, two to his throwing shoulder, which are both important body parts for a quarterback gene. New England Post Tom Brady was assumed to be turning over its offense to second year QB Jarrett Stidham. But you knew there was no way that Bill Belichick was gonna do that, at least not without some competition from someone other than 34 year old Brian Hoyer, who has a job while Cap, who is 32, does not. Cam Newton didn’t have a lot of options. And the Patriots didn’t have a lot of quarterback financially and football. Bill Barnwell of ESPN said this might be the bargain of the off season. Do you agree?
S7: Oh, yeah. I mean, so Cam obviously is a diminished version of himself, right? I mean, not the 2015 MVP. Cam Newton. But I mean, considering just how few people like play quarterback at an elite level, like he’s one of the few people who can who can get there in the world, who can get there. So getting him for was like the league minimum. And, you know, if this insensibly a leading contract makes a lot of sense for him, obviously, like he cares to compete. I mean, then I mean the chiefs. But he gets to compete for a Super Bowl in the next year, which was be an opportunity probably one had nowhere else in for Bill Belichick. You can see sort of the calculations for him. I mean, you know, he’s already been in the game for a couple of decades now. Like, his window is not gonna be open forever. How much time does he want to spend, you know, coaching a second year dude who never has who’s never started before to a place where they can tell that person is a competent helmsmen for a Super Bowl contender? I mean, this image makes a lot of sense. And Cam is still like a really I mean, I think we forget how good Cam was at the peak of his powers. I mean, he was like he was a dual threat, right? I mean, he had a cannon for an arm. He was obviously a humongous human being. He’s obviously diminish from that. But I mean, he is still like light years better than most of the quarterbacks in NFL even and even with all his ammunition.
S4: Yeah, it’s just hard to know what’s real here. Right. Are we going to see the Cam Newton of our memories? You know, the one that captivated us in 2010 and in 2015? You know, there’s one of a kind athletic marvel who, you know, I’ve been struggling with. So I thought for a number of years that the complaints about his accuracy were sort of racist.
S5: But I never do it. But the net.
S4: But the numbers show that yes, no, he does have some difficulties with accuracy. But that’s the thing. Like, are we are we talking about that earlier, Cam, that, you know, unprecedented athlete playing quarterback or are we talking about the guy who’s been injured basically every year since they played in the Super Bowl? And so it’s hard to understand even still how Cam was still out there. I mean, because he’s still young, still has a chance to recover. It’s not like he’s the only quarterback that’s ever been injured for multiple years and had opportunities. But we’re talking about a dude who I mean, until the Patriots stepped up, it was conceivable that Cam was going to even play in the NFL. This is bananas. Which is ridiculous. And so this is the part that I think of when I think of the racism, because it’s like the sort of racist double standard applied to guys like Cam and James and obviously CAP, while a bunch of mediocrities take up space on NFL rosters. Right. Because it was our Keam nick. So the Bears who said a few weeks ago how he knew the cap wasn’t playing again, is when they saw Mike Glennon. Right. And in my lifetime, black QB is like Cam, who’ve been athletic. You know what? People think that they lead with their athletic talent and they sort of overlook all the other things that you need to maintain in the league. I think about a guy like Vince Young who is done at 28, Aaron Brooks Dunn at 30, Kordell Stewart Dunn as a starter at twenty nine. Robert Griffin, the third isn’t even 30 years old. And it’s sort of doesn’t believe that he’s done with the league. And they have these very you know, these black quarterbacks that people consider to be dual threats have like these really short runs in the league. They don’t get a chance to sort of see out the second half of their career when the game slows down. They you know, they’ve seen all the defenses they’re going to see in the NFL. So that’s what I’m really interested to see with camped out. Like, what is the second half of his career going to be like? Is he going to get a second half of his career?
S3: Right. And can we for Cam, you know. Unlikely. But can people get over these stereotypes about black quarterbacks who suffer an injury who don’t have the same. You know what? What are the sort of gifts that they are bestowed with and credited with early in their career? You know, we’re all you know, we all want to see Lamar Jackson run and we want to discount the fact that, oh, you mean he’s also an incredibly accurate passer and is developing as a pocket quarterback? We don’t want to see that. We don’t want to acknowledge that. As you know, a lot of white fans don’t. So that that stereotype is ingrained. And the other stereotype with Cam that I think we’re going to have to see if people can let go of is this idea that he’s some sort of prima donna, which is also rooted in racism. Mike Freeman, sports writer, tweeted over the weekend or last night on Sunday night after Cam was signed for people who’ve never interviewed camera, any of his teammates and only traffic and stereotypes about him, not the following one. Cam has an excellent work ethic, too. He’s a good teammate. Three. He’s smart. This has been my cam talk. The fact that someone needs to step up and say these things is outrageous and it reflects where we are as a culture and sports fans.
S7: Yeah. I mean, it’s when you think about this, this is kind of wild, like is there a more sort of awkward mismatch between a quarterback and a fan base? Right. OK. As the guest cam, as a black quarterback, cam is also like a willy, essentially. Dude, like I went to his Instagram page right after, you know, to see, like, what was happening on his page.
S6: And I could I literally I mean, it was like literally illegible because you wrote it in some kind of weird font that made them less there.
S5: Lots of letter.
S6: Sounds like I actually can’t read this, but Cam is really where due to guys like sort of, you know, somehow sometimes like impenetrable press conferences, write good hats and hats. I mean, I was I mean, the hats, just like Pharrell Williams types, like Jacob Ranger has. But if you were someone who was already inclined to think of black quarterbacks in this way, Cam, when he was actively all you, Antonio, he would just like triple all your wires, right?
S4: Yeah. It’s so weird, right. Because I think you mentioned other data. It’s hard to imagine a weirder match. Right. You just sit between these fan bases. Know, I thought about that. I was like, OK, well, Randy Moss is played for the Pats. Corey Dillon has played for the Pats. I keep to Liebe has played for the Pats. Right. But that does also. Yeah. Guiseppe perceived as malcontents, but that’s different from quarterback, obviously. Ryongchon Sinco. That’s right. Sinco Right. But then again, that’s totally different from being a quarterback. And it maybe the reason that it seems so weird is because the Pats have had basically unprecedented quarterback stability over the last 30 years. Because, I mean, they’ve had Brady for 20, but they had Drew Bledsoe Flight eight before in the new plus four. Yeah. Right. So we don’t even know what it’s like. They’ve never even been in the market for a dude like Cam or anybody like that. So like to even flirt with a Lamar Jackson. Right. So that’s the thing that I’m sort of interested in seeing, like how Boston responds, you know, how you know. I mean, if you go on Twitter, I mean, the best jokes going right now are like Boston fans are reacting to great Cam Newton throw an interception or something like that. Right. But I mean, I really hope I mean, I don’t want to have to root for the Patriots, but I do I would like to see Cam put to bed. A lot of this narrative around him and around black athletic quarterbacks at this age. I think this is a really good spot for him. And, you know, Ben, I mean, how could it. I can’t think of a better landing spot for him at this point in his career right now.
S9: It’s in my notes. Joel, how are you gonna root for Cam and against the Patriots way? That’s right. I’ve done that.
S4: I’ve done that before with Vince Young and the University of Texas and only other time.
S3: But good cognitive dissonance, man. Can you and you handle it. The thing that I think people are going to sort of skate over is that that this might be some sort of problem for Bill Belichick. Right. That the challenge of bringing in a player who may be on the downside of his career, who’s looking to rebound after having Tom Brady for 20 years at the quarterback position, is going to be some sort of issue. But, you know, Tom Brady was a fucking weirdo. The Patriots had. Yes, Ron Koski. I mean, the notion that Cam Newton is some sort of distraction is offensive. And I don’t think that I don’t think Belichick cares. Belichick wants to make sure that they can get to 10 and six next year with a shitty receiving corps. They bulked up their running game. They’ve invested in their offensive line. But he has to make sure that they can make the playoffs and try to win that division, which will be a lot more entertaining. Frankly, Buffalo’s pretty good.
S6: The Buffalo Buffalo were surprisingly good lezzer. It was very strange. What a marvelous time to be a lover. No, no, I think you’re right. I mean, I think I mean, obviously, they’re they’ve changed the offense. They look like they’ve changed the personnel to be more like in line with cam straights. And I mean, it wasn’t like Tom Brady was that good, like last year. I mean, there was like a lot of play copied for Tom Brady last year and has been there for a while now. Like I mean, he’s been an above average quarterback for the last two seasons or so. Right.
S7: But if if that likes it, look at some points. Not even that. Right. So it’s not always if like there’s going to be this huge drop off between Tom Brady. How old are you? Forty one. And in Cam Newton at thirty one.
S4: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of the weird thing about it, right? Because not only are people there are some people, some people that cover the NFL that are. Buying the Cam Newton will have to beat out Jarrett Stidham to get on the field, which is I mean, it’s absurd on its face, right? You’re right. And then the other piece of it is like why I don’t, you know, going from an aging, declining Tom Brady to a motivated and healthy. Cam Newton, who could be reaching the peak of his career. Like, it doesn’t seem that doesn’t seem like a drop off for the Pats at all. It seems like they may have upgraded the position. And then just think about I mean, they’ve got Josh Daniels and whatever you want to say about Josh Daniels. Fine. But it’s not like Brady at this point. His career was a one of a kind QB talent, but they still got a lot of production out of him. And, you know, I mean, he made Tim Tebow seem like a, you know, a moderately competent NFL quarterback. So you got Josh McDaniels working with Cam Newton. Do we know that the Patriots are really good at adjusting on the fly? They’re figuring out how to best utilize their talent. I mean, man, I just you know, I would say I think I’d be I don’t want Patriots fans to be happy or excited in any circumstance. But, like, I don’t know how you couldn’t be.
S3: If you’re looking at this with an open mind and then you look at the financial part of this and there’s just zero reason not to do this. Michael Janetti, who runs SPO Track, which looks at cap stuff and salary stuff, said that even if Cam maxes out, it would be seven and a half million dollars. The Patriots will be paying a total of nine million dollars for three quarterbacks. There are 19 quarterbacks, he wrote, set to make more than that alone this year.
S6: Wow, that’s crazy. That’s a bargain is a bargain for a dude who could be like, you know, like if he if he made an all pro this year, nobody would be. They wouldn’t be like, inconceivable.
S3: Right. He don’t even some bargain didn’t even need to be an all pro. He needs to get them literally to 10 and six and into the playoffs. Absolutely.
S4: I mean, what’s the stretch here? I been in the in his division alone. I mean, other quarterbacks, Josh Allen, not, you know, not the good defensive end, you know. I mean. Right. Sam Donald in to a Tigo Vullo or Ryan Fitzpatrick. You don’t I mean, it’s not right. It’s not a stretch to imagine just working out really well. But for the fact that we may not have football at all. You know, I mean, like I mean, that’s that that other piece of this is that well, Cam’s going to look great with the Pats. But I mean, we have. I mean, how would what makes us think that we’re going to actually see football this fall? I mean, support for the fact that we’re going through the motions.
S3: We’ve going through the motions. The NFL still is saying training camps are going to start near the end of July. I mean, the end of July is like three weeks away. That’s tomorrow. Yeah. I mean, I see no evidence to believe that the NFL can possibly start on time on September 10th. But, you know, NFL is going to NFL and they will turn every training camp into an Orlando like NBA baseball if it means getting these games onto television.
S7: That seems like such a bad idea. I mean, I’m not even to go down this rabbit hole, but like, the Orlando bubble is like one bubble way. I mean, we’re talking about, you know, 32 NFL teams having to manage and administer their own all these protocols. And I mean, that’s that is a accident waiting to happen. I mean, we’re also talking about. I mean, Matt, orders of magnitude more people involved. Right? I mean, you know, NFL roster is, what, 50 50 plus people, 50 plus players trained in training camps like 80 players. That’s exactly right. I mean, this is not going to go well.
S4: It’s a wormhole worth going down because, I mean, it’s just it would do it again. We’re just all talking about what the football season is going to look like and who’s going to do this. And, you know, Cam is gonna be a great fit. And Tom Brady, he’s got a lot to prove. And it’s just like, shit, man. We might not see them for another, you know. Right. Fifteen, sixteen months, if that. And even that could be generous. You know, I mean, like, we’re not we we’ve shown no evidence that we’ve got this pandemic under control, especially right now. So it’s it’s like to assume that we’re going to get to see Cam with the Patriots. I mean, whatever. I mean, which actually makes it more ridiculous. Why doesn’t somebody just sign cap right now?
S5: Because I mean I mean, you don’t know about the plan.
S7: You know, you can get all of the credit for being the team that was brave enough to sign Colin Kaepernick without ever having had to like do any of the, you know, the NFL stuff or whatever. Right. It might he might ever actually play. Yeah.
S3: Before we on the second, we should also probably mention that it was a little on the nose that this new news broke at the same time that the Patriots were punished for cheating again. The NFL fined the pagers at one point, one million took away a third round pick in twenty twenty one because their television crew was filming the sidelines of a game between the Bengals and the Browns last year.
S4: I mean, the Pats may I mean, there’s nothing more symbolic of it, like the rot in the corruption within our country than the fact that, like the Patriots get to succeed and do like whatever and nothing deters them. Even all these accusations and substantiated allegations of cheating. And they kind of glide through it and they sign Cam Newton at the end of the day. You know, I mean, it’s just it just seems so appropriate for like the moment that we’re in right now.
S10: Absolutely. And they. The New Psychotrauma.
S1: So we finally saw the post covered 19 return of an American professional sports league over the weekend, the National Women’s Soccer League became the first U.S. sports lead to get back to the game Saturday with eight of its nine teams playing in a 23 game challenge cup. The ninth team, the Orlando Pride, pulled out after six players and four staff members tested positive for the Corona virus, which obviously speaks to the much larger questions of whether there should be any games in the first place. But in a possible precursor to what fans will see in the return of the NBA and other leagues, the games themselves were overshadowed by the national anthem before it. Every player from the North Carolina Courage in Portland Thorns took a knee during the anthem and wore T-shirts that read Black Lives Matter. The league then tweeted a photo of the players and wrote, In case you haven’t heard. Black Lives Matter on the same day. In a report from The Undefeated, we learned that the NBA Players Union and the league were working together to allow players to wear personalized social justice messages on their uniforms. Stefan, the NBA will obviously be under a lot more scrutiny than the NWSL when it returns. But how do you envision fans responding to, say, John Mirant wearing fuck over his uniform?
S3: Number twelve as a general comment on the state of the world? I would marry down with John Mayer at and fuck up his jersey. I really would hope that half of the Hawks wear Brooks and the other half wear our beret to honor the black man shot and killed in Atlanta in recent months. The former by a cop, the latter by a retired cop. I think this is a great idea by the NBA and the players union. They want and have to find ways to ensure that players have ways inside of their lockdown’s season bubble in Orlando, assuming there is one to campaign for social justice. It’s gonna be as important as the games themselves. On some level, I think this provides putting the names on the jerseys or putting slogans or phrases on jerseys a forty eight minutes per game platform to send messages. Chris Paul, the union president, told Mark Spears of The Undefeated. People are saying that social justice will be off of everybody’s mind in Orlando with these jerseys. It doesn’t go away. Also, this is a space that’s been used frivolously in the past. When you think of the original SFL or Major League Baseball’s players weekends for the last few years, I mean, this is this is a gesture of intelligence and progressivism. And it’ll be interesting to see what players choose. There is going to be some sort of, I think, pressure on players to put the right thing on the back of their jerseys. What do you think, Jane?
S7: I mean, I agree with you completely. One of things I’ll be interesting to watch when that be, not just that they’re wearing these messages, but how the commentators talk about those messages. Right. Like a K is one thing. If they’re wearing these these, you know, hashtags or names on their jerseys and no one is sort of dialoguing about them or in the broadcast way are you’re going to need Mike Breen and Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson to talk about. You know what? What’s being said and hopefully say something intelligent about it. But because otherwise, to have it be remarked upon is almost would one would be like the easier thing to do. But also doesn’t actually do, I think, what the players needed to do, which is to say I’d like to continue to draw attention to the fact that these things could be fairly easy to ignore, because how much do we pay attention to, you know, what’s on the back of player’s jerseys, you know, from game to game, like normally. Right. So you would have to make sure that the broadcasts and the people covering it were also involved in that sort of amplification as well.
S4: Yeah. And, you know, I, I wonder because there was an interesting scene from one of the games, the NWSL games over the weekend, where one of the players, the Chicago words Red Stars player Casey Short, took a knee before the game and her teammate Rachel Hill didn’t. And Hill suffered the backlash. You know, he’ll help. So just for clarification sake, Casey Short is a black player. Rachel Hill is a white player. And the white player suffered the brunt of a backlash for not kneeling with her teammate, which shows you just how wild things have become in like the last year. Right. There’s so much of a change narrative.
S3: Yeah. And that that photo and that image of the video was amplified because the another white player, Julie Erts of the national team, was comforting Casey short while the other player was standing there. And you saw those images a bunch. All right. There was like the first game. Everybody kneeled on these teams. In the other games, there was a real mix. Some players kneeling with their hands over their hearts, some player standing, some player standing with their hands out of the arts, some player standing with an arm on the one hand on the shoulder of a player that was kneeling.
S4: Yeah. Right. And so, I mean, to the idea that, you know, there may not be I mean, we I think we were trying to figure out before this got started, like other any players at a MAGGA adjacent, you know, like what Howard Gordon Hayward, Phil, you got to be doing it. If you know, all these guys are, you know, kneeling and wearing a marberry, you know, uniforms. And then there he is right there, you know, just Hayward. No, whatever the hell he is. Right.
S5: So he’s going to wear all lives matter on the right. Right. I mean.
S4: It really is setting up some really interesting dynamics that will add some, you know, a little drama to the games. Again, assuming that there are games in the first place and that there should be games, because I think the other part of this, and I hate to sound like a broken record on this, but the optics of a mostly black workforce trapped in a bubble for entertainment during a deadly and ongoing pandemic just sounds really dystopian. All right. Guarded by federal and local troops. Yeah. And I know it’s not that deep, but I can understand those who like me who look at that and say really like I mean, you know, I mean, maybe that, again, without sounding like a broken record again. It says something that in a country where this virus is disproportionately taking a toll on black or brown people, that black people are mostly black workforce is being forced to play, not necessarily for their entertainment. I just feel like it would make more sense to for them, for the players to not play. Yeah, I’m just say that this is what we are playing.
S3: I’m not going to push back a little because the union obviously has been deeply involved in all of these conversations and the league has worked very closely with the union to reach all of these agreements. And so did my Nene’s initial point, like how are they going to get amplification from the networks to make sure that they’re talking about it? Well, you know that you know, the that Charles and Kenny are going to talk about it. Absolutely. And you know that while Charles don’t talk about it.
S5: I mean, that can go either way, right? Everything is Shaq, right. And Shaq. Yeah, right. I mean, Shaq is a cop. I mean, that’s why he is the sheriff. That’s right. Literally just can’t make for good TV one way or another.
S3: But this is all sanctioned by Adam Silver, the commissioner of the NBA. So I think that. Yeah. Mike Brown is going to bring this up during broadcasts because it is now part of the NBA programming plan for the end of the season in the playoffs.
S7: But one thing that’s so fascinating, just like that to circle back to this point about like whether certain players opt out of make sending messages, is this thing that we’ve been talking about on the coaches podcast. We did episode recently about why, why, why people were so activated. Right. And one of the things that came up when we from the responses we got from white people was the sense of peer pressure, but not just peer pressure and more importantly, peer permission. So there’s a there’s there’s more space for someone who may not be the most active person to just, like, make a stand. Right. Like to to to say something without having to bear it, without basically being carried it forward. Right. Like, there’s there’s a way that we said the danger is sort of collectivize. Right. And so when you have everyone and wso in the first game kneeling, that takes the pressure off for any individual person, you know, I mean. And so one of the interesting dynamics about this both was happening in the NWSL, in the NBA, is that no one person is going to become the face of this protest. Right. And then because it’s normalized now, we will see, I think more people who like it will be the Gordon Heyward’s. It will be the other end of Worsoe player who did who did not kneel, who will be the people were standing. And I think those dynamics are just really interesting to watch the ways in which the current is pulling people in a certain direction. The people who decide to not be vocal at a time when it’s easiest to be vocal.
S4: Right. And also think that, you know, we talk about like the Heyward’s and the the Rachel Hill’s right. There’s a way that they can dodge all of this because the NBA didn’t say they didn’t mandate social activism. I mean. Right. Gordon Hayward could just, you know, put a pink ribbon on the back of his jersey and that could be sufficient or, you know, whatever charity that he’s for. And it would be really tough to sort of critique him under those circumstances. So there’s a way that they can dodge all of this without necessarily saying that black lives matter in the NBA, at least. But I also think about, man, the NBA is so I mean, the NBA is progressive. Only when you line it up against the major professional sports leagues. But when you think about like with these women, leagues have been doing. You know, women’s professional sports leagues have been doing. Like the WNBA. There is no analogue to Miami or the NBA. You don’t I mean, he does this. Yeah. You know, I mean, there’s there’s no Renee Montgomery in the NBA. You know, the Atlanta Dream Guard who became the first player this year to say that she was going to set up the upcoming season to focus on social injustice and voter registration. That’s something that Corey said he might do. That’s something that Renee Montgomery actually did. And so you just think about like I mean, even the NBA doing this, it’s great. I’m glad the tide is moving in this direction in terms of, you know, making these public stances on activism and putting, you know, social justice, so to speak up front. But it’s just like men eat. The men get all the attention for doing the stuff all this time later. And the women who’ve been way up front, way ahead of the game on a lot of this stuff.
S7: Yeah, I mean, and then a lot of it has to do with the compensation and also sorts there is because the NBA players are so well compensated, know they have so much stuff to lose. You know, this debate, these calculations have to me, whereas the NWSL players who, you know, obviously in a just world will be paid much more. Right. I think that the calculations are much clearer for them. Right. The more calculating, the more clear for them because they don’t have to worry about sort of what does this mean for my endorsements? What does this mean for like all that is not the same level. They don’t have to make the same sort of decisions. The economic decisions. I don’t know.
S3: I’m going to push back on that a little bit, because I think that particularly in a sport like women’s soccer, they’re not compensated that well. So to make a decision to do something can have repercussions. Women soccer is an overwhelmingly white sport. Two things have really struck me in the last couple of weeks. One is that Crystal Dawn, national team player, one of the best players in the world, was on the same team, obviously, as Megan Rapinoe when Rápido took a knee shortly after Cap Dead and Rápido took all of the blow back. You know, U.S. soccer put in a policy that athletes have to stand for the anthem. She was on on when her team came to Washington to play. The owner of the Washington team decided to play the anthem while the players were still in the locker room so that Rápido couldn’t kneel. So she became this lightning rod for this topic. And Crystal Dunn, her teammate, remember this past week telling Bleacher Report in an interview. I remember telling Rápido, I’ve got to stand, dude, because I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I saw the way U.S., U.S. soccer responded and treated Megan. They kept her out of some games. They kept her out of camps. And I was like, yes, that’s bad. But to me, I was thinking they could rip up my contract. So to be a black athlete in a predominantly white sport has, I think, a different set of calculations. And this has liberated some of these women soccer players to be more, you know, in the forefront of this movement. Lynn Williams, player for the North Carolina team who scored the winning goal in that game, the first game of their tournament, said this might rub some fans the wrong way. But I honestly think that if you see it as being a flag issue and not a human issue at this point, I just don’t really care. And if athletes can get to the point where they say, I just don’t really care. League should get to that point, too. That’s where progress starts to happen.
S4: I agree with both that, Stefan. I mean, I do think, though, that in some ways, though, Megan Rapinoe got that backlash. She also benefited in a way that not very many black players would. Right. You know, she got to become a national hero. That’s not what happened to her. But again, it all kind of goes back to Cacioppo. She got she got to tell off the president. Yeah. Right. Right, right. And that’s not that’s not something that a lot of black athletes have been able to enjoy, that sort of, you know, lionization for taking a stand when they’ve been out in the front from the very beginning. But would which isn’t to just a mega peno has done and continues to do. It’s just that, you know, again, the calculations were a little bit different for her. Right. But that’s the point, right.
S3: The Crystal Duniya didn’t feel safe enough to do that.
S7: No, that’s right. So maybe, you know what? You you say it like there should probably be. Especially the NBA is deciding, like, are we going to put our backs into this a little bit, not back. And so we’re gonna but we’re gonna be a little bit more amenable to to these messages then, like maybe we should be seeing some of these very, very well compensated NBA players who have been sort of outspoken about this, not to the extent of Megan Rapinoe or many. And also players or Colin Kaepernick. We should see them being pushing even further because no one is going to like you can’t shut LeBron up. I mean, he’s the biggest name of this boy that one of the most famous people the world like any any of the sort of top five or six players in the league have a platform that very few people in public life enjoy. And so if any of them wanted to. Right. I mean, that would be hard to manage, especially right now. What kind of run ramifications. They might absorb. I mean, what kind of what the let the negative ramifications might be for them? Because there’s this is like an unprecedented time in which we both are actually amenable to hear people give really pointed critiques about policing and inequality. And they have all of the comforts to do that without repercussions.
S3: And I think that the NBA players certainly have that. And I think a big question going into the fall is whether the NFL players will take a similar approach. I mean, I think if you look across the Atlantic and you look at what the English Premier League and what other soccer leagues in Europe have done, these have been united, unanimous decisions by leagues and players. I mean, they’re wearing black lives matter across the back of every jersey and the Premier League for the first 12 games of their restart. And this is a sport that has been filled with racism and players getting racially abused for decades, that where leagues have been pursued as not taking strong enough action to curb this kind of abuse. And now you see the sort of united front by the leagues, by the players to do something at this moment in time. So will the NFL do that? Joel, I mean, is that conceivable?
S4: I don’t think so. I mean, just consider that we haven’t really heard any NFL owners even say black lives. You know, I mean, I guess that we haven’t heard anything from them. We’ve heard from Roger Goodell. But we I mean, these are still people that are overwhelmingly supporting the president. Dramatic social changes, not necessarily in the interest of the people that own NFL teams. So I can’t imagine we’ll see them supporting it in any large scale way. But, yeah, it will be interesting, see what the players do as a response. I I guess also with the NBA and it’s kind of hard to circle back on this quick, is it? They can wear these jerseys game after game. I just wonder, like it would point of diminishing returns. Terms of starting a national conversation are like keeping the attention on these things, but do you think that we get to whatever version of conference finals are if we have basketball in the first place? But if we if we get to the correspondence, do you really think that people will be focusing on, you know, Kyle Kuzma, you know, making a statement about, you know, I’m not Aubrey, I don’t, I just don’t know. I mean I’m, I’m not saying that it’s not valuable. I just wonder if, you know, it’s going to be as momentous as we think it’s going to be. Isn’t that.
S3: It’s not up to the players, Jane, to keep that pressure?
S6: It absolutely is. And I think, you know, we also should consider the the different respective audiences of the sports way of the leagues. Right. I mean, I think the last Nielsen numbers I looked at for the NFL, surprisingly, I think like 70 percent of the NFL audience is white and maybe it might be hard and that actually might be like seventy five. And this is from four years ago, which surprised the hell out of me as a you know, as you were here. Right. Like as a person grew up in a football family.
S7: But like, I think the NFL is audience. The television audience skews older. It’s very, very white. And so there’s a way in which I think that there’s just like a bunch of I mean, just leave aside, like the ownership class to like there’s there’s a way in which I think the NFL is like naturally much more conservative than the NBA is on this, which is much younger, I think is like 20 years younger or the median age much more diverse. I think when the soccer, the women’s soccer league might be like a much wider league than the NBA or the NFL is. But also, I my hunch is my read is that it’s or it has a fan base that might be much more amenable to these kind of things. Right. I mean, like you look at some of where the fan base is, like, where are you going to be? Like, I like, you know, it’s like Pacific Northwest. Like I mean, these are places where they otherwise are hotbeds of liberalism. And so I imagine that there’s just a much more like there’s a more comfortable but their fan base might be here for in a way that the NFL audience just with it, you know, with its like with its, you know, love for like martial imagery, you know, to me might not be for it.
S8: Hey, everybody, just a reminder that even though this is a Slate plus only episode, we will be doing a fourth segment.
S3: And on that fourth segment, the normal bonus segment, Joel, Jean and I will talk about ESPN Show on Sunday night about LeBron James decision. So stick around for that. The annual football game between Morehouse College and Tuskegee University is known as the classic, the Maroon Tigers and the Golden Tigers have been playing each other since nineteen oh two. This fall, after years of dwindling attendance, the game was set to move to Birmingham, Alabama, hopefully generating new interest and a boost in revenue for the two historically black colleges. Then last week, Morehouse’s president, David Thomas, announced that in an effort to remove as much uncertainty as possible from the crisis facing higher education in the pandemic, the school was canceling its two fall sports seasons, football and cross-country, calling off the Tuskegee game. Thomas said was, quote, the equivalent of canceling Michigan. Ohio State. Harvard. Yale. Go down the line. Morehouse plays at the NCAA Division two level and became the first scholarship school to call off fall sports because of the corona virus. Here to talk with us about the decision and the challenges facing HPC youth sports programs is Morehouse’s interim athletic director, Jivaro Edwards Jivaro. Thanks a lot for coming on the show.
S11: Hey, thanks for having me, Stefan. This is a good opportunity for us to, you know, kind of share what our thought process was. Yelton his ball.
S3: Absolutely. And that’s where I wanted to start. I want you to tell us about the decision to cancel fall sports. I imagine it wasn’t an easy one, obviously, but given the circumstances, it seems like Morehouse might be ahead of the curve.
S11: Yeah, we we went into it trying to just gather as much information as possible. We went via the NCAA guidelines. We use CDC guidelines. And I wanted to really look at the standard of care that we needed to provide for our student athletes. The big thing for us that kind of gave us a clearer line of sight. We aren’t kind of, I guess, driven by the dollar. Right. The power fives are truly driven by, you know, potential revenue loss from not having a football season. But they also have resources to provide a standard of air that the student athlete could come in, be properly tested properly, that the proper follow up. And with that in hand, you know, we didn’t necessarily have those same resources. So for us to clear line of sight is that the safety and health of our student athlete draw.
S4: I’m wondering about, you know, obviously HBC, you have difficulties with resources in the first place. But can you just elaborate a little bit more about this the the problems that the Corona virus has placed on you guys? Because, I mean, just from keeping, you know, facilities clean, from housing to figuring out food, it just seems like there’s a lot of extra stuff that you all would have had to have dealt with.
S11: Yes. So we have not made a final decision on what we will look like in the fall. From a from a student re socialization plan. Yet we are kind of looking at like a hybrid model where we would bring, you know, maybe freshman back some student leaders and maybe like ROTC or something like that. But we have not made that commitment yet. So with that, there’s a there’s got to be a standard of care that we’ll need to provide for our students and for their safety and health. And with us being, you know, an African-American, all male African-American institution, you know, we are exposed to the African-American community has been exposed to hit harder by the corona virus with the exposure. So we want to make sure that the decision we make is one that’s going to put the health of our community first. And Dr. Thomas thought that with the information that we have, you know, it would probably be better if we did not have a false sports agenda. We just really wanted to put the health and safety of our students first and our student athletes.
S6: Speaking of the student athletes, what’s been the response to the cancellation of the season?
S11: You know, it it hit them hard and they were crushed. You know, just to be kind of fully transparent, they were crushed because when you look at what you’ve worked so hard to do and as a you know, as a rising senior, you know, who would have thought that you played your last game, November in November of twenty nineteen. So they’re crushed. And we are here, you know, to to help them understand. Hey, you know, there these are some of those things that are just not control the things they can’t control. Right. If there is an opportunity and we have from a conference standpoint, looked at maybe, you know, having a football season in the spring, that’s not, you know, beyond the realm of possibility. But. You know, here again, it’s something that’s just being talked about. Not not anything that’s etched in stone. Our conference leadership, that’s by Greg Moore and the other aides in the SIRC. You know, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. So, you know, we are considering all opportunities. But for right now, you know, as long as the curve is on an uptick and our student athletes could possibly be exposed. We want to prevent that from happening.
S3: In terms of financial decisions of our own, it doesn’t seem like it was that hard. I mean, HBC use rely mostly on gate receipts, attendance at games. It sounds like you’re going to in some ways maybe save money by not having a football season. But that’s obviously not what’s important here. But I imagine it did make the decision making a little less, you know, loaded than it might be at the Big Five institutions.
S11: So I really am confident about how we did and what we did from a decision making process. We had a clear line of sight. And, you know, it was it was purely on the information that we gathered with what the NCAA has given us. And after having these discussions with our training staff, our two associate A.D. with Dr. Phillip Thomas and Reuben Moore and then our compliance officer, Deborah Rogers, she has been working diligently with the NCAA and making sure that all things compliance wise and making sure that our student athletes, you know, would have the opportunity, depending on where they are, semester wise and redshirt wise and things of that nature, so that we could have all the information, give it to Dr. Thomas. And, you know, make a clear decision based on proper information.
S3: Let me just follow up on that real quick, because at the bigger schools, it’s there’s the the the the pressure to play without fans. You still got the TV contract. This feels like a more sort of holistic decision, like a more rational decision. You don’t have people standing on your, you know, yelling at you. We got to play football. We got to play football.
S11: Right. You know, this year was going to be a higher revenue, extra revenue for us because we were actually playing in a few classics. But with that being said, we you know, we had to put the student athletes health first and our communities health first. And without that extra pressure, whether it be political, whether it be, you know, revenue, whatever it was, you know, really a holistic decision that put our student athletes health first in our communities health first drawn.
S4: I know that the Sweat commissioner, Charles McClellan, said something along the lines of I don’t anticipate Morehouse being the last institution to make this call. You all are, you know, members of the SIAC, you know, Clark, Atlanta, Tuskegee, Savannah State. I mean, what conversations have you all had with these other institutions? And like what sort of feedback did you get from the conference? Because obviously, if you guys decide to stop playing now, there’s a hole in the schedule. Right. So what sort of feedback have you gotten from your conference opponents?
S11: So they’re kind of in a holding pattern because there are other implications there, because some of this some of our member institutions are our state school. You know, the Albany states, the Fort Valleys, the Kentucky states, you know, schools that that Savannah states that have ties to, you know, you know, the state schools and state university systems. So they have to kind of be in a holding pattern. Our Council of presidents are you know, some of them have not made that decision yet. So, yes, there are whole that we, you know, with with our decision that creates, you know, some holes in the schedule we have by the NC to way in the championship model. You know, they have paired the schedule down to, you know, only needing six or seven games on the schedule to compete, you know, for championship. And that would just be a conference schedule only. So, you know, there there are some things that we could do from a conference standpoint that the schools that, you know, if they are going to participate, you know, we could come up with a conference scheduled that would accommodate and fulfill whatever things criteria they need to to compete from a championship level at the RNC to a playoff status. But, you know, we’re still waiting to hear back from, you know, the rest of the president’s in the in the conference. And, you know, from there, we’ll we’ll go from there.
S6: How does this affects, I guess, eligibility for the players? Right. I mean, I imagine you said you mentioned. For richer perspective, this may have consequences for people today, is it? Is it possible that players who were like fourth year players might get excited? I mean, they stick around. Do you think that changes sort of the calculation for any of the players in terms of what their collegiate career looks like over the next year?
S11: Yeah. So I think the NCAA, I think, is fluid with what happened in the spring. They did give waivers for or those student athletes in the spring. Right now, they have not made a decision on the ball because they are planning on playing, you know, football. So far so. But like I said, it’s fluid. If things change, then I think the NTSB to weigh will be flexible. You know, right now they’re just planning on playing football. So they are you know, whatever is in place at this point is how they’re going to govern themselves. Now, if there are changes that need to be made, I’m sure the NCAA will be blew it. But I can’t speak directly to that right now.
S3: Right. Well, as more schools decide not to play in the fall, NCAA is going to have to at some point make a make a decision on what to do about these athletes. One of the kids I was I was interested. I saw that the quarterback at Morehouse, Michael Sims, got a little bit of online attention. He tweeted after the cancellation was announced a year to become great. All I see is more time to elevate this kid, a good football player.
S11: He’s a great he’s he’s a leader. He’s he he is what you know, he is the epitome of what a Morehouse man is. You know, Mikey is has been the poster child for what the NC to way and what a what a student athlete should be. So he’s our guy.
S4: You know, you you’re a college football ref in the PAC twelve. And you said you are there right now. You know, you’re getting ready. They’re proceeding as if there’s going to be football. Correct. Do you actually think there’s going to be football? Do you think you’ll be working a game in Pullman, Washington, later this year?
S11: You know, I just I just prepare myself to be ready. And that’s that’s what our directive is. My my my opinion, I really don’t know, because, you know, they are driven by, you know, other forces. So my job is to be ready one way or the other. So that that’s what we’re doing. You know, our crew will have a meeting in a couple of days to to help prepare ourselves. So whatever that looks like, we’ll be prepared and ready to go.
S4: I couldn’t help but think about when when I heard with Morehouse did about, but I couldn’t help but think about Spelman because ultimately, you know, a few years ago, they made a decision to completely cut their athletics department. And, you know, they’ve been operating without enough support with the last seven years or so. Have you all been in conversation with Spelman about about even just going through, you know, the process of not having sports for a semester on campus?
S11: No, they were not part of our conversation. They were not part of the conversation. And we are not considering dropping athletics at all. Yeah, we did not have bring them in. You know, as far as our conversation of canceling anything at all.
S3: How important was shifting the Tuskegee game to Alabama, to the future prospects for the sort of stability financially of an athletics program at a place like Morehouse?
S11: It was a win win for both institutions. You know, the mayor there at Birmingham is a Morehouse Morehouse graduate. So he approached us and, you know, we looked at it from an opportunity for both institutions to gain financially to expose Birmingham is a is a huge recruiting ground for both institutions. The alumni base is big there for both institutions. And it’s just an opportunity for us to bring in shine a brighter light on the game itself. So, you know, it’s a win win for both schools so far. You know, it’ll be like a two year deal. And if we need to go back and look at the thing in Columbus, then we can do that. But, you know, it’s it’s basically just a way to enhance the experience for our student athletes.
S3: Jivaro Edwards is the interim athletic director at Morehouse College. Interim for one more day, right? Yeah. Yeah. So you’re gonna go back to just just being Araf in the PAC 12 for.
S11: No, I have not. I have a I actually have that I run. That takes up most of my time. So I’ll I’ll go back to my my normal days of running my business. Yes.
S3: Were you brought in during this pandemic or is this been pre.
S11: No, I, yeah. I was prepared them. Yeah. I was brought in a year. Yeah I was brought in a year ago so I’ve been there a complete year and it’s been great. I’m a class of to. Graduate and former student athlete, football player and baseball player at Morehouse and also been the the alumni president for the Atlanta chapter for Morehouse College, though, so I have ties that bind and now I’ll still be around for sure.
S1: What a hell of a time to have been brought in as an athletic director. I mean, that’s that’s unbelievable.
S6: But yeah, I was thinking about the politicking when we’d have to do to be the Atlanta. You have the president, Morehouse Alumni Association anyway.
S5: And that’s that’s real. That’s a big thing.
S11: It’s been it’s been an interesting last two years for me. So I loved, you know, loved it all. And, you know, all I can say is Tiger. Tiger. Go.
S3: Morehouse, Jivaro Edwards, interim athletic director at Morehouse College. Thanks again for coming on the show.
S11: Thank you for having me. Thank you so much, guys.
S3: And now it is time for after balls. I did a bunch of reading about Morehouse and its football history. The school was founded in 1867 is the Agusta Institute, and it became Atlanta Baptist College, then Morehouse in 1913 after Henry L. Morehouse, corresponding secretary of the National Baptist Home Missionary Society. First game against Tuskegee was in 1982. As I mentioned, the weirdest game that had to be in 1919. Third quarter Tuskegee scores to take the lead next possession. Morehouse Ponts the Atlanta Constitution. Describe what happened next. The ball rolled over the goal line where it was muffed by a Tuskegee player and covered by Harris, the tiger captain referee. Shaw declared this a touchdown. And Tuskegee, after a long argument, quit the field, thus ending the game. Final score. Morehouse one. Tuskegee nothing. No wonder their rivalry is so bitter. That’s amazing. That’s great. Now, the cancellation of this year’s Morehouse football season has some collateral damage, including the silencing of the school’s marching band. Let’s listen.
S12: Ladies and gentlemen. Oh, you’re about to experience the best song on the planet. I introduce to you two thousand ninety two thousand twenty addition of the Morehouse College Marching Band.
S3: Good to have time. Show is a cheap tribute to Stevie Wonder. The undefeated ranked house of Funk, sixth among D2, HBC new marching bands last year. I’m sure they had high hopes for the 2020 season.
S4: That’s really low. Sixth among D two schools. I mean, that’s not I mean, they’re not they’re not competing against the fam use. And, you know, you don’t know what this is. You don’t know what they’re recruiting your class was like. That’s fair point. Right. Let’s make a move. That’s right. That’s it. Joe, what is your house of funk? So my house of funk. So, so much news happened over the weekend that it might have slipped under the radar that Under Armour is trying to back out of its huge contract with UCLA. The L.A. Times revealed on Saturday that Under Armour wants to end its record setting. Fifteen year two hundred and eighty million dollar agreement with UCLA that it signed in 2016, according to the Times. Under Armour wants to back out of the deal because of UCLA is, quote, inability to provide unspecified marketing benefits as required by the contract between the parties. Basically, what they’re saying is that UCLA cannot move product. OK. And it sort of makes sense because when was the last time UCLA was a real part of the national conversation in revenue sports? Other than that very brief Lonzo Ball blip. And to be honest that was a LaVar Ball blip. Right. So UCLA, what’s MIT. Something out west, whether it was John Wooden or Troy Aikman or simply from its vantage point in the beautiful glittery neighborhood of Westwood. Have you ever seen UCLA? Have you ever been on campus there? Yeah, I have. OK. Yeah, it’s gorgeous. It looks like a movie set for college film, which it has been a number of times. They filmed my old school there. They filmed The Nutty Professor there. They filmed Van Wilder there. They filmed Legally Blonde. There are a lot of movies. Right. So when you think of college in Hollywood, often they turn to UCLA and now Under Armour is telling us that UCLA doesn’t carry any sway out here on the West Coast or anywhere else, for that matter. And Under Armour wants us to believe UCLA is the one at fault here. Already, the company has scrubbed all mention of the Bruins merged from its Web site. The Times is reporting UCLA is already looking for a new apparel deal, probably picking up conversations with Nike and Adidas that they had in 2016 before going with Under Armour. Leave it to Matt Barnes to find the bright spot here. So Barnes, the former NBA Ford Bruins alarm and podcast host, broke it down. For those of us who grew up in a time when UCLA still meant something outside of L.A., Matt Barnes tweeted over the weekend. This could be a blessing in disguise, although losing that money will hurt you. A gear is trash.
S5: It’s how you get is trés in talking to these young athletes.
S4: They want to go to a school that can prepare them for the next level and get doc gear in the process. I feel personally that the UCLA U radio has hindered their recruiting and I mean is he.
S4: Because one of the more fascinating things Ethan Strauss wrote about in Victory Machine and later mentioned on the show with us is that Under Armour’s partnership with Steph Curry has not gone nearly as well as expected. Now, some of that was because Steph was taking a starring role alongside Kevin Durant instead of being the clear star of the Golden State Warriors. And some of that is because Under Armour is kind of wack. And plus, it’s not making money like it used to. Or rather, it’s not making the money people expected to make. According to Forbes, Under Armour wasn’t even doing all that hot before Corona virus. And the Corona virus has, as it has with all other economic. It’s taken a toll on its bottom line. Under Armour stock dropped 20 percent in February after reports emerged that the pandemic could hurt sales by up to 60 million dollars the following quarter. And now analysts predict Under Armour sells. This fiscal period will be down nearly 54 percent compared to the previous year. That’s a lot of money and obviously they’ve got to make it up somewhere. So UCLA is on debt, but who’s really the fading brand here? And I should also mention some bias. So I read Kareem Abdul Jabbar as Giant Steps autobiography when I was in high school. John Stubbs was published in 1983. And in the book, Kareem has sort of a dim view of UCLA and the CWA, which is understandable given the political and social awakening he was going through at the time. This is in the late 60s. He boycotted the Olympics. He changed his name from Lou Alcindor to Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Right. So obviously, he wasn’t spending a lot of time, you know, think about how beautiful UCLA was. But in the book, young Joel notices this picture of Kareem fully stretched out on the cleanest college lawn I’ve ever seen, reading a book in the shadow of a stereotypically stately college building on what appeared to be the most comfortable day in the history of the world. That’s what college looked like. And I wanted him so bad it never happened. Though I will say UCLA is the biggest school to send me a recruiting letter from college football. I mean, I know since, you know, you’re my college football career has been a theme on here just a couple of times. Right. And I was so stunned at UCLA who sent me a letter that they were interested that I forgot to respond to it. It was just kind of one of those, like informational recruiting letter. I thought, wow. You say, listen, we let enough forgot to send it insulin, but I didn’t get to visit the campus until the fall of 2017 for a profile on Josh Rosen. It was my first time on campus and it was as beautiful as it was in the movies and pictures. And I bought all of this UCLA shit just to have it. And man, let me tell you, as I mentioned, that Under Armour shoot it. So we of have a very comfortable. But it doesn’t take advantage of I mean, it the shirt was OK. Like, it was comfortable, but it doesn’t take effect. UCLA has these natural advantages of that gorgeous deep Sky-Blue gold combo. It’s like the most visually arresting college program in the country. And it just kind of fell flat. And I blame that on Under Armour. So let’s finally upgrade you UCLA. Matt Barnes is right. Nike, Adidas. Somebody was finally make this right and give UCLA some apparel worthy of its beauty.
S5: I love these Super Bowls.
S4: Now, Stefan, what’s your house of funk?
S3: Well, last week we discussed the demise of two monuments to racist sports figures, a statue of the baseball owner, Calvin Griffith, who said he moved the Washington senators to Minneapolis because, quote, you’ve got only 15000 blacks and quote, and a 10 foot memorial to football owner George Preston Marshall, who refused for decades to integrate the Washington NFL team. Another statue of a bad sports person came down last week, a bust of former International Olympic Committee president and racist, a Nazi sympathizer, Avery Brundage. It was on display at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, where Brundage was a benefactor. The museum announced that it’s going into storage. But there are also many more candidates for toppling. My pal Sepp Blatter, the crooked former FIFA godfather, has a bust on a tall pedestal at a museum in China. China loves Sepp Blatter because he once said that football was invented in China like 2000 years ago. Probably not true. Blatter only said it because he was after the China market.
S9: George Steinbrenner has a statue at the team’s spring training stadium in Florida. Steinbrenner was suspended from baseball for making illegal contributions to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign and also is generally an asshole. His plaque in Monument Park in Yankee Stadium in the Bronx is six times as large as those of Ruth, Gehrig, DiMaggio, et cetera. Joe Paterno statue at Penn State was mothballed in 2012 after the child abuse scandal there. But his fellow Big Ten football coach, Woody Hayes, has two statues, one at Ohio State and one in his hometown of Newcomer’s Town, Ohio. They do not, alas, depict Hayes punching Clemson nose guard Charlie Bauman in the throat in 1978, which actually would be a really good statue because action statues that capture a moment are the best statues, like the one of the things that Don had Buddy Martin on modern Rothesay. See him in Qatar and the one in Boston of Bobby or scoring his Stanley Cup winning goal in 1970. Plenty of all around decent sports people love statues. Clemente Banks, How Byrd, West Malone and Stockton Gretzky, Pat Tillman and Australian Rules football player named Tyler Harris got one last year. It’s based on a photo of her kicking a ball that was swamped with misogynistic comments. It’s a tribute to Harris. Speaking out about the incident, which she called sexual abuse on social media, there’s a Pat Summitt sculpture in Tennessee. Tennis pioneer Althea Gibson got a statue at the U.S. Open complex in New York last year. Australian tennis legend Evonne Goolagong Cawley has a statue totally worthy, but so does fellow Aussie Grand Slam winner, an anti-gay bigot. Margaret Court. Bud Selig has a statue outside Milwaukee’s stadium. Bud Selig, that should be that one should be an action or statue also of him throwing up his arms while declaring the 2002 All-Star Game an 11 inning tie. Jeff Bagwell has a statue. Maybe he did steroids. If that’s no sort of thing done, defame the good name of Jeff Bagwell. Soccer. All right. After his performance in The Last Dance, the future of Michael Jordan’s statue outside the Bulls arena should be an open question. Just a little. Kobe Bryant, despite his complicated legacy, already has two statues, one in Taiwan and one in China. He’s getting one in L.A. The Taiwan statue. USA Today reported features a pretty naked Bryant holding a basketball and struggling against a black mamba snake that’s digging its fangs into his left Achilles tendon. What? That’s what the Achilles tendon that he injured in toe. Oh, my God. Yeah. I guess I want to see it now, though. There are pictures online. Ray Lewis has a statue at the Baltimore Ravens stadium. Was he involved in two murders at the Super Bowl in 2000? Who can really say at least one fan started a petition to have the Ray Lewis statue removed, not because of his connection to the murders, but because because he took a knee with players during the national anthem. So now I have to say, keep the Rams Lewis statue up one more in twenty seventeen. The Cincinnati Reds inducted Pete Rose into their Hall of Fame and they unveiled a statue of rose sliding headfirst as statues go. It is a really good one action statue again, but after the ceremony, there were calls for it to come down, not because Rose is banned from baseball for gambling, but because a woman said in court documents that she had a sexual relationship with Rose in the 1970s, starting when she was 14 or 15 years old when Rose was on the team. Yikes. Don’t build statues to people. I mean, here. That’s the case against Karl Malone, by the way. Just go ahead. There’s a case against everybody that’s ever had a statue erected in their honor.
S2: Well, almost everybody. I would leave up the one of Goolagong. That’s our show for today. Our producer is Melissa Kaplan. To listen to past shows and subscribe or just reach out, go to Slate dot com slash, hang up. You can email us a hang up at Slate dot com. If you’re still here, I’m guessing you might want even more. Hang up in our extra segment this week. Joel, Jayne and I will talk about ESPN Show over the weekend about LeBron James decision in 2010.
S6: It felt really padded out that we we spent. I mean, this maybe just like the decision is over, there’s maybe 20 minutes of content here. And the rest of it is sort of like just sort of looks like context. That is not really germane. Right? I mean, it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. And so we get to even when you get to the stuff about, like how LeBron, his team, made this decision. That still feels really screwed it over.
S2: Like it feels really like top line for Gene Demby and Joel Anderson. I’m Stefan Fatsis. Remember Zelma, baby. And thanks for listening.
S1: And ESPN is ongoing attempt to own the Sunday nights of abandoned sports fans. They aired an hourlong show revisiting LeBron James decision 10 years ago to leave the Cleveland Cavs for the Miami Heat. An hour long show sophomore. Right. Of Sunday’s show also managed to break some news. Viewers found out the idea for the decision. TV broadcast came from a 38 year old Pistons fan in Columbus, Ohio, named Drew Wagner. Wagner reportedly pitched the proposal to Bill Simmons for his mailbag column in November 2009. And Simmons later related to James’s team and ESPN executives. And that’s apparently the origin story. How we got this unforgettable and even transformative moment.
S13: Eight months later, the answer to the question everybody wants to know. LeBron, what’s your decision in this fall, man? Very tough. And this farm will take my town to South Beach and join the Miami. That was the conclusion you woke up this morning. That was the conclusion I woke up this morning.
S4: It was as awkward as it just sounded there. So we were talking about Sunday’s autopsy of the original decision. And Stefan, I know you had some critiques that you wanted to bring up here, so have at it. All right.
S3: Well, a few things leapt out at me about the production itself and the premise of the show and also about what the decision 10 years later says about LeBron personally athletic empowerment, more broadly journalism. The second half of that sentence stuff was way more substantial than the first. So maybe let’s save the good stuff for later and talk about the production itself. ESPN is, as you just said, Joel is trying to turn Sunday night into sort of pandemic destination for documentary programming. And that’s fine, right? Yeah. The Jordan doc, Lance Armstrong. Those were full blown movies. And then this series by ESPN Don Van Natta, who full disclosure, I’ve known since we interned together at a newspaper after college. This is more like E 60. And we get to see more of like Don’s computer screen because we needed to know that some of these interviews were conducted, pre pandemic mentions of Don working in shorts and on Zoome calls and shots of them walking around his pool, talking on his phone. Not my style, but whatever the back story about how the decision came together. Really. Isn’t that interesting? And much of it’s already been reported. There was some infighting among LeBron people, some haggling over the terms of the TV deal. The only news is really inside baseball. Bill Simmons stole a letter writers idea for LeBron to do a show to announce his decision. Pitched it to LeBron. And ESPN didn’t give money or production credit to the letter writer Van Natta tracked the guy down. Know, you go with what you’ve got, I guess. It did remind me, however, of just how much of a hostage video decision. TV was unbelievable. I totally forgotten how awkward it was.
S6: You know, that was the thing that jumped out to me as well, was like, oh, my God. It’s hard to remember a time when LeBron wasn’t like the person who had all this command. It was not like this. I mean, he was like talking in his monotone. He seemed so nervous. He was twenty five. I was it was a decade ago. But it I remember a being I remember watching this and feeling the same way I felt watching the decision was like, I just get to it just get so we just get to it. The experience watching this sort of revisiting of that moment felt like really drawn out. You said we got to see all this other stuff that was sort of like just like kind of like ancillary to that, the whole thing. And I do think there’s obviously a bunch of big questions about the player empowerment that we should get into. But I was really surprised at why this this happened the way it did. Like I mean, it felt really padded out. Like we we spent. I mean, there’s maybe just like the decision is off, there’s maybe 20 minutes of content here. And the rest of it is sort of like just sort of looks like context. That is not really germane. Right. I mean, it doesn’t really seem to go anywhere. And so he gets a until you get to even when you get to the stuff about, like how LeBron, his team made this decision, that still feels really screwed it over. Like it feels really like top line. I don’t know if I don’t feel like I knew much. No, no. Much more watching this than I did before. Right. I knew that we know a little bit more about, like, how LeBron team reacted. Right. We know that they were, like, nervous. Oh, they they realize how poor they went over almost immediately. But outside of that and we know that, you know, LeBron LeBron had buffet dinner Connie West before he made the decision. But like, I don’t which is the weirdest was crazy, but. Yeah, right. It wasn’t it wasn’t terribly illuminating. And I do think there were some big questions that it could have asked, but it didn’t really, like, get at them as satisfyingly as it could have.
S4: Know, and they talk so much. I mean, LeBron and Maverick talk so much about, you know, controlling the narrative and the power they have. And I mean, we can talk about this later, but I think they sort of overstate the influence that LeBron has a little bit. And one of the things I go back to is why in the hell is Jim Gray there? If you if you control the narrative. If you’re a guy who’s trying to, you know, change a narrative and tell, you know, Maverick Carter said something along the lines of we’re in the storytelling business. You had no relationship with Jim Gray. He has appeared in what Jim Gray and I did. One of the actually one of the more illuminating scenes in that show from from Sunday night was Maverick Carter going up to Jim Gray and saying, hey, you know, we’re gonna ask some questions for the branch Gamescom, which I mean, what, you know, a great moment when everybody had their own website, by the way, to write it and trying to draw traffic to it. But, you know, in Jim Gray is like, are you serious? Like, he was so derisive and so, like, rude. I was like, oh, you guys have no relationship. So what if you have all this power? Why did you, like, go into business with Jim Gray? Right. Obviously, things would change today. Right. But they learned a lot through that. But it just kind of overstating his power and media influence was one of the things I noticed throughout this, too.
S3: Right. I think that’s framing it through a 20/20 lens. Looking back at 2010, when he was 25, they were not quite as of what they were, not nearly as evolved as they were as sort of a production. If they didn’t have eyes on Hollywood the way they they would five or seven years later. But what what I thought was the most glaring thing is that there was no real mention of taking control of the narrative because of who LeBron James and his team were. They were young black men asserting their imprint on business in sports and entertainment. I mean, the first two guys I mean, Don is a lovely guy like Dominator. He’s a white guy in his late 50s. On the first you guys interviewed in this documentary are Buzz Bissinger. I know both of these guys as well. And I’m not name dropping. I’m just saying I know them and they are nice people. Buzz Bissinger, who is in his 60s, wrote two books with LeBron. Scott Rabb of Esquire, who wrote two books about LeBron. Scott is one of the best people on the planet. If LeBron were redoing that part of his life. I don’t think he’d be writing two books with Buzz Bissinger. And I don’t think he’d be writing. I don’t think he would be hiring Jim Gray to do the interview for what was perceived at the time as this huge moment in his career. Would he?
S6: No, you’re absolutely right. And I think to both the points where he feels like so much about the media landscape has changed in general. Right. That like and they had nothing to do with LeBron. Right. Although, I mean, LeBron might have been, you know, like sort of leading indicator of where things were going. But I mean, we were trying to get there anyway. Right. Because remember, this is like before I mean, Twitter was at that point had only just started to sort of blow up. Like I mean, there’s a way in which all of us engage with, you know, notable people and we say we have that sort of more direct line to them than we had. And is that because LeBron. Right. Is like this, just like the media landscape has sort of changed fundamentally? Right. It’s been decentralized. It was weird. Like, why Jim Gray? Like what? Why him of all people? It was fascinating to listen to the, you know, the behind the scenes stuff, the ESPN folks like why why don’t we just do have Stuart Scott or Bob Bobbly like somebody who would have, you know, put a bozsum gravitas and just like it would have made sense. But it also as we.
S7: I think the conceit around like access and controlling the narrative was really interesting and was interrogated because like the way it meant that it was talking about, it was just like in the before times we we were the people who were the you know, we were the mediators. Right. We were the people. And it was like Bubel, like access associates, both journalism. But access journalism is is always is a really corrupting. The access is really corrupting. Right. Is all this stuff. This is not there’s stuff that questions you that don’t get asked because you have to maintain the access, whatever. Yeah. Like there’s a way in which LeBron James or whoever else is might be more opaque. Right. It might be opaque in a different way, they say, than they might have been 10 years ago. But it wasn’t as if like that. It wasn’t. I mean, this is like the access question is sort of fundamental to like the tensions that ESPN always I’m like, are we are we a news organization or are we entertainment regulation and how? I mean, we all have to like we’re still beholden to these leagues and the certain things we can’t say. So it’s the same dynamics are there. And so it wasn’t as if, like, things were great and gravy before. Like, I mean, there’s a there’s a shot of Walter Cronkite when he’s talking about the golden days of like when we were the people who were bring you these stories, like, you know, of the shot of Walter Cronkite and Bill Clinton. I’m like, man, that’s not that’s it. There’s nothing valuable for the world that Walter Cronkite. Cronkite got to kick it, you know, in Massachusetts and go sailing with Bill Clinton. There’s like nothing inherently better about that arrangement, you know, to me.
S3: Wow. Right. Yeah. It almost felt like that. It was a little resentful in the end of this of the show was was felt resentful to me. Like we hope that there still will be a place for objective arbiters to go in and tell these stories. Well, fuck that. And Bomani Jones was the smartest person in this documentary. And he said it clearly, you know, they’re not trying to tell the best story. They’re trying to tell their story. People need to acknowledge that that’s what was going on here. And I think that 10 years ago, LeBron wasn’t and a lot of athletes weren’t at the point where they recognized that. The goal here is to tell my story. We still need to use Jim Gray of all phone call to be the intermediary.
S4: Right. And we’re just pretending again, I’m kind of circling back to pretending that, like the access journalism of the old days was so much better. I mean, there’s so much that we did not know and that was not reported about athletes in the 70s and 80s and 90s with that. So let me just think about all the, you know, domestic abuse cases that were swept under the rug. You know, the latent racism and racist practices of, you know, executives, coaches, managers, all that sort of stuff. So and sexism. So it’s not like, you know you know, we got a full picture of who these who the athletes were. Even back then. We heard with these middlemen wanted us to hear and thought, I’m a, you know, a sportswriter about trade. It does make my job more difficult. But I don’t know why anybody should give a shit about like Wahhab difficult. My job is if you know, I mean, like I mean, I would I want people to engage with my work because it’s interesting and, you know, inspiring or whatever, but not. Because you feel like, you know, I have some sort of right to, you know, some sort of right to engage with athletes on my terms. You know, and I don’t think he. I don’t think they made a good case for why that was why we should miss that era of journalism or that level of access. Right.
S6: It’s funny. You think about like, you know, some of the ESPN making this like for Ray, it’s a like winning Sunday nights because there’s no sports on. But remember, like, we were watching we’re watching The Last Dance. And one of the problems with that was that the person who with whom the central figure in that, Michael Jordan, they had all the access to him and it ended up his gravity sort of ended up getting in the way of any really good or illuminating stories only. Right. Like, it was like, oh, well, Michael Jordan had to end up have it had had to have sign off all this stuff.
S10: Well, like you probably could’ve told a much better story if Michael Jordan was a smaller character, like a smaller is at least a smaller source in their holes in the whole process. Right.
S6: And so there’s like, you know, we’re talking about how how important it was back in the day that, you know, these these figures interacted with the media. But like I mean, we don’t know anything more about Michael Jordan than we did know than we do we do now. We know he listens to Kenny Lattimore. Right. So, I mean and so in a lot of ways, I was hopeful. Right. Like when I found out that LeBron and his team to in were involved in this, that we would it would be like a more of a traditional journalism right around like he would be able to fill in maybe more traditional journalism right around which you would like, where you would find out stuff because you sort of make it right. Pinions mosaic for people and you would be able to dig deeper. But it didn’t do that either. So I mean. But but. But I think generally speaking, the presence of the athlete is not necessarily like the presence of an athlete or politician. It’s not necessarily like this dissing like they’re not like when was the last great athlete interview? So, you know, to me, like the ones who, you know, like it’s not just like, great get in is not necessarily like it doesn’t it felt weird to sort of hang hang the episode alive, the episode that can see well.
S3: And what also felt weird to me is that, like, if you’re gonna make an hourlong show about a news program about LeBron making the decision, there’s so much navel gazing in this sort of structure that you’re sort of saying, hey, we’re we’re knocking down the wall here and we’re letting you see how the journalism sausage is made so that we can tell you this backstory about how LeBron and his people made this TV show 10 years ago. I just want to hear about LeBron. And these people made this TV show 10 years ago. I don’t think journalists are inherently that interesting. They’re not. I don’t think they’re not.
S4: We can we can say this even necessarily about having access to athletes, because there’s more podcast, Instagram, Brodkin, you know, Instagram streams, all the software athletes, quote, telling us their stories and like, how much interest is there in that? Like, the Players Tribune was not a success. I mean, like, ultimately in the end, like, you know, they had to sell it because it wasn’t doing what people expected it to do. So, I mean, yes, you know, maybe it’s great if we have a direct line to the athletes, but even them telling the stories that we supposedly haven’t heard before. It’s not like it’s made for compelling content yet. Right. So there’s that. But one quick thing I did want to get to related to the sort of the breakdown of the decision that really upset me is that I don’t think there’s been any introspection among Scott Raab, Buzz Bissinger, Don Van Natta and some others about the response to the decision. Because, I mean, we see, you know, all these you know, these critiques from, you know, Buzz, Bob, Brian Terry, Pluto, Bill Simmons woes, Woody Paige, all of these guys going down. All that was terrible. This is such a horrible idea. And then, you know, you see, you know, you spliced with pictures of fans burning this jerseys. And I think that explains some of the moment that we’re in right now that we’re hearing people explain away unreasonable white anger even now, like what the response to the decision was fucking ridiculous.
S5: Yes. Oh, you are. Bad. I know.
S1: I’m a mess. I’m messing up the audio. But I just think it is ridiculous that we have to pretend that it was okay for people to respond in that way to call LeBron the whore of Akron. I mean, you should be ashamed of yourself.
S4: Scott Ross. Sound like who who does that? Used to be a Samia’s. I’m sure you’ve got it. Yes, I like you guys. I mean, that is you have you have had enough time at this point to say, oh, I look like a sad, pathetic person. That was bad. Like, I’ve had a chance to think about it. This is just basketball. It did not actually affect my life. But we didn’t hear that. We heard people doubling down on the idea that LeBron did something wrong. And because we got mad at him and we were stupid about it, that it was justified. And that is exactly part of the problem we’re having in this country right now, that Mike White anger is justified under any circumstances. And I just I just couldn’t believe they walked away from that. And that was their takeaway. LeBron screwed up. We in you know, but he learned from it. He was humbled. Get the fuck out of here.
S10: Some personal decision was actually a turning point in my fandom of LeBron. Like I always owe this man cool. He’s he’s he’s the shit. Like, I made that happen. I saw we saw how how much of his why people off and I was like, oh, LeBron is my dude now, like now it’s like it was definitely like a moron. Oh, well, if this isn’t like this is ridiculous. Okay. So and so. Then I became like a unabashed fan. I remember. I think I don’t have. You were there, Joe. But we were at a bar like we were watching these Converse finals airplane. It was me, my then roommate. I might have been you, Joe, and my boy. So I we were watching. We was like, we’re surrounded by Celltex fans and we’re the only people for the heat. That’s right. I think I was there for that, was I? And I was just like. And it was like we were the only black there was there. And like it was like we were allowed to shit. It was it was amazing. Like, I mean, it was actually a turning point for me, in part because they react, like you said, the reaction to it was so obviously racialized. Bob Brown’s like, oh, he’s just a twenty five year old kid. He’s twenty five years old. Like, he could continue to do the long tradition of black people being kids and children, you know, unless, you know, unless they’re actual children and you want to throw them into the Mall, the Capitol justice system, then they’re adults. But like like it was like this where, like, I was so condescending. All of it. All the way around. Oh, it was just that was like one of the things that both your points was went so unexplored in this thing that how. How much of the way that was received seemed so nakedly about the fact that it was a black dude who was saying, like, I’m doing this thing on my own.
S3: Well, race is really unexplored in this and I’ll take things. One is that Scott Rabs books about LeBron are actually really great and the title is What is Fucked Up. And so Scott has really wrestled with whether that was a mistake or not. When when he did it. But Scott’s like an amazing writer and they’re really funny and they’re really entertaining and they’re about him. I mean, not to pitch Scott here, but the other part that that that made me a LeBron fan here after the decision is that this was like an athlete at his pinnacle saying, fuck the system, I’m gonna do this my way and re craft the way that we get to make these decisions about where we play, with whom we play, for whom we play. I’m going to leverage my power. You know, maybe you didn’t do it in the most elegant way and maybe he did it in a way that backfired in terms of some of the public reaction. But this was the beginning of athletes finding a smart way to take control of their careers. That’s why I became a LeBron fan after the decision.
S6: Absolutely. And it also like changed the template for obviously, you know, Kevin Durant had his sort of ill considered man accepted thing. But like it it definitely like carved out space for other athletes to sort of be really, really I mean, because when it changed, like the sort of the cycle of of of the NBA like news new season, Rammy, because the summertime became almost as important as the season itself, because like, you know, when major players are moving there, you never knew who was going to change teams. Right. But it also, I think, changed. It created a template for what not to do. And so other players, when they would make these decisions, you know, obviously they were not having all been well received. But like the players were not. It wasn’t like it was, you know, Kevin, the race thing dropped in nothing. He controlled. Right. Like it was his big, big move. Right. That kind of thing just was it was inconceivable right before. I think, like we all follow the Shaq was going to the Lakers because as reported through traditional channels and and all those things and I think that is one of the actual real legacies is like the way not just the way we saw about player empowerment, but like, obviously we sell a player empowerment because we have heirs that we’re talking about. You know, the five or six best dudes in the league, like, you know, those are the people. Right? Like that kind of like agency. But for the most part, like it has been remarkable to watch the way that other players have made decisions about their careers. He sort of I mean, people have been like, yes, I want to win a ring. I want to win a ring in with it, with type of players I want to play with. I want to play in a city that’s fun to live in. Right. And before I free agency was a thing that people would finally come around and obviously in a couple of decades, a free agency. But I think people were. Well, I don’t think we would ever seen a player of his magnitude make that decision, but I do think that it’s been fascinating to watch the tenure since in which players have made make had to make decisions and the choices they’ve made to talk about about how to go about it. Steph Curry didn’t make a big deal about the fact he was resigning with the Warriors right in his eye. And that was praised almost like as he was like a.. LeBron right on the same thing happened with James Harden when he read up with the Rockets and things like that. And so it’s interesting to see, like, how the shadow of that decision has played out in the way people announce their sort of their future career decisions.
S4: Yeah, I think that’s a good point into that right there. And Slate plus members, thanks for hanging in with this. Join us next week. We’ll be back with Josh and Stefan and me, and we’ll probably just shut out our celebrity friend GM from afar. Thanks for coming in, bro. I appreciate you having people call my people.