S1: The following podcast contains explicit language. Hide your children.
S2: Hi, I’m Stefan Fatsis, the author of the book Word Freak and A Few Seconds of Panic. And this is Hang Up and Listen. For the week of June 8th. Twenty twenty on this week’s show, we’ll discuss the National Football League’s about face on the rights of its players to advocate peacefully against racism and police brutality and whether that about face is genuine. As sports leagues ramp up to resume play, we’ll assess the very different roads being taken by the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball. Finally, we’ll talk with Val Wynn, the director of ESPN. Latest 30 for 30 documentary B Water about the life of martial arts movie legend Bruce Lee. I’m still in the attic of my home in Washington, D.C..
S3: Joining me from another part of the city is Josh Levine, Slate’s national editor and the author of the National Book Critics Circle Award winner, The Queen, which is out in paperback. Hello, Josh.
S4: I get gassed up more when I’m not hosting the show. I got to do this more often.
S3: I now totally pumps up the sales when you’re not hosting.
S4: Appreciate it, my friend.
S3: And with us from Palo Alto, California, is Slate staff writer and the host of Slow Burn Season three. Joel Anderson. What’s up, Joel?
S5: What’s up, man? I’m about to be dethroned as a slow burn king this week.
S3: I was just about to say that we loved the slow burn season, the three about Tupac and Biggie Jol. But it is time to move on. It’s time for slow burn season for David Duke. It is reported and hosted, as some of you know, by Josh Levine. There will be six episodes, some programming details. The trailer went out on Monday. Please check that out. And the series will be available starting Wednesday, June 10th. Slate plus members will be able to receive the first three episodes on Wednesday. If you’re not a plus member, you can listen to Episode one on Wednesday and the rest week by week. After that, I managed to score a bootleg copy of the first episode. It’s fantastic. It’s really good. Josh, it’s really tough. Tell us a little bit about what we can expect.
S1: So, yeah, there’s a guy selling them out of the trunk of his car. You just need to know where where he’s parked.
S3: It was hard to tell who he was with the face mask and sunglasses, but otherwise just get them on the Internet.
S5: That’s very New Orleans of you, by the way. So in and out of the trunk of your car. I appreciate that. That’s very Gulf Coast thing to do.
S6: Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s it’s an honor to be in Joel’s company as a slow burn host.
S4: And it’s been a process to get this thing done. But I’m excited for folks to hear at the David Duke story is one that I wanted to tell for a really long time since I was growing up in New Orleans in the 80s and 90s. He was kind of a looming presence in all of our lives back then. But I didn’t really understand because I was just a kid then, really where he came from and and the background of it and then really everything that was going on around him during those years. So it’s been really interesting to report it out. It feels like a resonant and important story to be telling now. And I’m excited for folks to hear it. And as you were saying, Stefan, there is a nice bonus here for Slate plus members that you can get the first three episodes right away. It’s the first time we’ve done that. And as far as our schedule goes, this week’s episode of Hang Up is going to be available for everyone. And we’re going to go back to our Slate Plus schedule next week. That’s a lot of programming notes for the top of the show. But if you want to subscribe to Slate plus, you can do it either through Slate, dot com slash, slow burn or slate dot com slash hang out. Plus they go to the same place. But you’ll get a lot of good stuff with your membership at twenty, thirty five dollars for the first year. I would also like to say. Since I’m talking a lot here, that normal there’s a photo of Joel in the New York Times over the weekend as part of a piece about reporters who went to Ferguson and which told him and here’s a BuzzFeed and did a lot of great work there. And we should focus on that. But Joe, who was photographed wearing a Houston Oilers cap and before we started recording, Joe and I were wondering before this weekend, what was the last time the Houston Oilers logo appeared in The New York Times? You don’t have any idea. Do you, Joe?
S5: I mean, maybe there’s a retrospective, like maybe, you know, they did a story on War Moon getting elected to the Hall of Fame, maybe, you know, in the 2000s and the last decade or so. But other than that man, I mean, it couldn’t. I don’t know, maybe I’m being naive here, but I do have to be like since the 90s, I’d imagine. I mean, never in existence since 96.
S4: Let’s make this a group project e-mail hang up at Slate dot com. If you want to help us research. Prior to Joel Andersen on June 7th, 2001, the last time the Houston Oilers logo or iconography appeared in The New York Times. We appreciate your service.
S7: Joe, were you were you a big fan of the Houston Oilers song Scholars Uses to noise?
S5: You seem to know that neither nine one, one and one, which is also the Miami Dolphins fight song as well currently. I didn’t realize that until I was over, but there wasn’t a lot of creativity that went to. It’s like, that’s Uncle Twinkle, Little Star ABC. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Pretty much, yeah.
S3: Nine days ago, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put his name on a statement about the death of George Floyd that was explicitly crafted to say nothing at all. The NFL family. It started. Family is greatly saddened by the tragic events across our country. All you really need to know about the rest of the statement was that it did not include the words racism, police or brutality. So when NFL players contacted by league social media staffers working independent of their bosses responded by producing a powerful video telling the league to do the bare minimum and denounce racism and police violence. Goodell had an opening for a do over. He recorded a video with the production quality of the Apollo 11 moonwalk, but also sentences literally saying exactly what the players asked him to say.
S8: We, the National Football League, condemn racism in the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We have the National Football League. Leave. Black Lives Matter.
S3: Joel, you wrote about this in Slate over the weekend. You didn’t see Goodell’s statement as especially heroic or even believable. You called his new stance a morally bankrupt commitment to shifting with the winds of what its white fans find acceptable. Meaning I think that it was less a response to the protesting players whose position really hasn’t changed in the four years since Colin Kaepernick took a knee, then a recognition that it’s now politically safe to say the words black lives matter. Do I have that right?
S5: That’s right. It’s hard to view Goodell’s video Friday, which was, you know, came out less than 24 hours after the players video is anything other than a product of timing and a sharp change in public sentiment. But before I go off on that, I should mention that is still important to signal that some things are beyond debate, even if it’s not necessarily an authentic expression of review. So while it’s important to have sincere action undergirding those words, it’s also important as a civil society to say protest is fine. Racial discrimination is wrong, if only to signal to people that decency is the key to all of us living in peace. So it’s like how people know not to say the N-word unless you’ve got a strong chin. And I’d prefer if people didn’t want to say the N-word, but I’d be fine with it. If you’re afraid to say it. In fact, our very great boss, Gabriel Roth, said this about Mitt Romney at the Black Lives Matter protests this week. He tweeted this. He said, this is great, not because it says anything about his integrity, but because of what it says about which way the wind is blowing. So given that, as I mentioned in the piece, it’s really hard to emphasize how safe and uncontroversial the NFL timing was over the weekend. They only had to follow the example of Amazon, Netflix, say group Save for Talus with tick tock grinder, Ariana Grande, Kylie and Kendall Jenner and so on and so forth. Right. Don’t forget. Gosh. Oh, yeah. Fruit gushers. And they actually is a black person. I really do appreciate the support they got because some very tough times when I wasn’t making a lot of money in journalism. So I really appreciate them. But yeah, I mean, we’ve all seen the polling that shows that a majority of Americans believe now that racism and discrimination is a big problem and that the protesters anger is justified. And compare that to 2016, when Colin Kaepernick first started kneeling and nearly three fourths of Americans thought he was unpatriotic. And sixty one percent said they didn’t support his protests. So, so much has changed in a short amount of time. If the NFL and Roger Goodell were the few holdouts on this front, they ran the risk of not only seeming out of step with their black players, but with their white fans. But nobody saw was impacted by the sudden change. Quite like your boy Drew Brees at that, right, Josh?
S6: Yeah, I think that there were some. Drew Brees is a racer from Steffen’s and travel.
S7: I figured we would get to him. Something told me we would talk about Drew Brees.
S6: I had a hunch, the Drew Brees statement, that he didn’t believe in kneeling still, that he would never do it, that he thinks it’s disrespectful to the flag and the country because his grandfathers were in the military, which is a, you know, a statement right out of 2016. It’s really amazing how that kicked off this whole sequence of events. And Joel, talking about how, you know, the way the wind is blowing has changed so quickly. Brees, his own teammates, went after him an incredibly harsh terms and moving movingly in Malcolm Jenkins in an Instagram video talking about had, you know, he looked up to Brees and Brees still doesn’t get it. And they’re sick of asking for permission about, you know, how to protest and the methods of protest and ending with, you know, you need to shut the fuck up or whatever it was that he said definitely included the words that shut the fuck up. And then, you know, Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas and, you know, Michael Thomas is the one who ended up spearheading the move to create that player’s video, which then led to Goodell saying Black Lives Matter. Brees is an interesting figure because he’s done a lot of really good charitable stuff for the city of New Orleans. People in New Orleans love that guy. He came right after Katrina. He pledged five million dollars, you know, during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. He has a foundation that does a lot of stuff. He brought Super Bowl championship. I’ve got my Super Bowl shirt on here. And there was a chant over the weekend. One of the protests in Orleans of fuck Drew Brees. And so I think in the city, it’s gonna be really interesting to see how this affects people’s views of him. It will depend on what his actions are now. But the Saints are a team. An institution in the city that is very important to black people and white people, all people in New Orleans. And, you know, views on Brees are going to vary depending on people’s different viewpoints. But it’s just so remarkable how someone whose approval rating in the city was like 98 percent, it immediately plunged with just, you know, a Yahoo Finance like Zoome call. I actually watched the fall thing and it started with him not being able to unmoved himself. If only he had not been able to unmuted himself the whole time, then this all would have come out differently.
S9: Yeah. The amazing thing to me about Brisas video was that the very first thing he thinks is important to say is that he respects the flag and doesn’t condone any protests against it. And that’s, after all, two weeks of of national turmoil. I mean, part of the problem here is that Drew Brees is a mega celebrity athlete who has, as you just described, Jobster really close. And for athletes of that stature, very personal and different kind of relationship with the city that he’s played in. At the same time, though, he is a creature of privilege. He is white. He has been trained all along as an as an elite athlete to believe that he should always say something. So the the knee jerk reflexive thing to do in that situation for Drew Brees is respect the flag during World War two or fought for this country durr. And to believe that those actually have weight and that they are unassailable, that they are correct. They really don’t have any meaningful political or intellectual thought. And they didn’t four years ago either. They’re supposed to pass as unthreatening and universally accepted. And what Drew Brees has learned is that they’re not they haven’t been for a hell of a long time, but they certainly aren’t any more. I mean, for Drew Brees, who plays with, you know, his teammates are 75 percent African-American. And you’re still saying this shit four years later and you still think that this is the right thing to say in this moment of crisis is truly remarkable. And I hope he has learned something from this.
S5: Well, it also speaks to why people may doubt the sincerity of even some of the statements of other people, because there’s a photo on social media going around. Actually, I saw it via Kyle Kuzma’s Twitter account of Drew Brees kneeling before a game in London on October 1st, 2017 with his teammates like Drew Brees. Actually kneeled before. And so Jerry Jones, just so is Jerry Jones. So, I mean, I think about this because you mentioned Josh, you know, the way that his teammates came out against him and how they looked up to him and the relationships they have. And it makes me think about football locker rooms I’ve been in before. And it suggests that a lot of these guys just don’t talk. Yeah, know, I mean, like as Drew Brees ever had a conversation. Was he ever interested enough in what Malcolm Jenkins had to say or his teammates had to say about protest Black Lives Matter racial discrimination prior to this because they’ve been in the locker rooms? He kneeled once upon a time. Why was his understanding of this moment so poor? Why was it so bad? And it just suggests that people don’t talk. No, take a stance. They’ll take a public stance and maybe they don’t understand. But never really change the thinking that undergirds everything that preceded that. That’s what calls into question. What is the NFL going to do? What is Roger Goodell going to do going forward? Because if Drew Brees can kneel and still not understand four years later what he was kneeling about, then it makes you sort of question what everybody else is doing right now, too.
S6: Well, one of the persistent and most frustrating things about the response to Cap Bernick starting in 2016 was the people who said he doesn’t even know what he’s protesting. What is he even protesting? And then you’d say, I’m protesting police brutality and the systematic oppression of black people. And then I find people like, what is he even protesting? He hasn’t even said what like what is he so mad about? And what we’ve seen the last few weeks is that when you got maybe millions of people in the streets across America based on people’s hearing, gets a little bit better somehow. And maybe when you have the whole world yelling at you and telling you that you are wrong and the way you said is stupid and blinkered and offensive, then maybe you’re inclined to listen. So the problem was. Colin Kaepernick, it was never conquered Bernick. The issue was that there was no imperative, there was no kind of sanction or censure against people who pretended that they didn’t understand what he was talking about. Right. It is pretend.
S7: That is exactly right. And and I think it’s reflected in the way that Goodell’s statement has been covered, was covered over the weekend. The Washington Post, that a long story talking to people close to Goodell and people close to the NFL on deliberations. And the story wants to portray or at least Goodell’s backers want to portray him as acting boldly from a place of conscience that he always felt this way. But he was hamstrung by the owners whom he reports to, and that he took this decision to release this video without any involvement or consultation from owners, seven or so of whom I believe donated a million dollars apiece to Trump’s inauguration. So we’re all justified in being skeptical here, because, again, going back to four years ago, you know, what should have happened was Roger Goodell, who is the commissioner of the most powerful, certainly in its own estimation, sports league in America, had the ability to stand up and say, Kapre, Nick is not wrong. We respect our players. Racism is bad. We’re gonna do better to educate our customers. If you’re listening customers and we’re going to do better to educate our owners, I mean, there really wasn’t a very hard thing to do. And yet still, even after all of this, there are quotes in this post story from, again, someone close to the process saying this makes it very difficult for an owner to go in another direction, will face a backlash, no doubt, from a certain percentage of fans. What owner should go in a different direction? Isn’t the point here that that direction doesn’t exist in a moral universe?
S5: Absolutely. And I mean, I’ve also heard and read about Roger Goodell’s personal preferences along the lines of protest and, you know, having Colin Kaepernick back in the league and that he is in many ways more progressive than than his owners. Right. Well, it would point. At what point should your good intentions stop inoculating you from people, interrogating your actions? And one thing that Roger Goodell is going to have to think about is that it’s not even really him that pushed this. It was a row, a, quote, rogue. Twenty five year old NFL social media employee who put together this video in collaboration with the players behind Roger Goodell’s back. And basically they presented it to him and Roger Goodell had no other option. Right. So at what point is Roger Goodell going to have to stand up to either he’s going to have to stand up to these owners or he’s going to have to resign because he he should have enough dignity to say, well, hey, look, I’m not going to take the slings and arrows for you guys for so much longer, but for so much longer.
S6: The Mitt Romney analogy is perfect for Goodell. He is Mitt Romney and the owners are a bunch of Donald Trump’s, except the owners are, I think, smarter than than Trump and are able to keep their views a little bit more hidden. I mean, not that much more, but a little bit more. But anyway, Goodell could very well be somebody who privately thinks that everything that donors have done around capron. I can the views of donors are abhorrent. Maybe he’s maybe he’s like super far to the left. Who’s to say. But Joel is a. You’re exactly right. It’s that, you know, the thing that’s been so frustrating about whether it’s Mitt Romney or Jeff Flake or Ben Sasse or Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins or any number of other people who could, you know, constrain or be a check against with what’s been happening from the executive branch is that they say things but don’t do anything. And so do you. Maybe you actually deserve less credit rather than more.
S1: He could quit if he wants. I mean, he’s got enough money to be, you know, happy and provide for generations of Gödel’s, like, what is he you know, what is he doing in that job if he’s so, you know, it feels like he can’t fully express himself and is like a liberal views on race.
S5: Yeah, right. And I mean, the thing is, is that all of this comes back, at least in terms of the NFL. Back to Colin Kaepernick. Right. And his exile, continued exile from the NFL is real evidence of where the NFL, via its owners, stand on Black Lives Matter and protests. And I remember reading in one of those ESPN dot com stories that re-created those panicked NFL meetings from 2017, and it was either Don Van Natta or Seth Wickersham that pointed out that at least some of those owners truly loathed Colin Kaepernick, that they did not like him and thought that he was a problem, not just a financial problem, but they fundamentally disagreed with him. Where he stood, so we know that the owners are the real obstacles here. And so that’s why it would be very meaningful, even if they only signaled in a way that Mitt Mitt Romney did. Hey, was Jerry Jones. He loves cameras. He loves talking. Like what? Why have we not heard from him? Where’s Robert Kraft? Another guy loves cameras, loves being out front, you know, on prison reform and everything else. What where has he been in the middle of this?
S1: The ads the capper, Nick, is going to be on an NFL roster definitely increased this week. Don’t you think? I mean, maybe they went from zero percent to two percent. Yeah, but I think it definitely went up. I mean, you would you would still be shocked, Joel, if Kaepernick ends up on a team man.
S5: Cam Newton is even on scene right now. Yeah. You know, you know, which is sort of sort of a totally different reason. But I just there’s it’s really hard to discuss or to figure out, like NFL owners movements. I mean, who was it? It was the Chicago Bears lineman, Akeem Hicks, who said, how do I know that we were black balling Colin Kaepernick? We saw on Sean Glennon, you know, I mean, so there I’m still not convinced that we’ll ever see Colin Kaepernick in the NFL, if only also he’s been out of the NFL for four years. You know, I mean, like, that’s a long time. Eventually, you’d imagine there’d be some erosion there. But you said an NFL owner did. Well, I have such a low bar for them and they’re, you know, put in there believes that we I don’t I don’t I don’t believe that they’ll ever be I don’t think we’ll ever hear or see them say anything that would impress us regarding Black Lives Matter and and or racial discrimination. I mean, just consider it was just a few months ago that the NFL and Roger Goodell, we’re talking about tweaking the Rooney Rule because there’s so fluked few black coaches and front office officials relative to the percentage of players in the labor force. So the NFL has, like all these problems with racial discrimination at every single level within its league that they have not addressed. What would make me think that they’re prepared to deal with any of them right now just because there’s been a public shifting of the way?
S10: Yeah, the sociologist Harry Edwards was quoted in that Washington Post story saying of Goodell’s statement, It doesn’t mean anything if you’re sitting on top of one organization that has three black coaches, two black Jem’s and Colin Kaepernick hanging over the entire NFL organization like a shroud, you can’t stand up and say, oh, OK, we get it. It’s too late for that. They have to do something about it. And that’s why this you know, this first news cycle about Goodell’s conversion and the importance of making these statements public is a step. Yeah, but it’s a remarkable one, too. I mean, the other telling detail in that piece that really stuck with me was how someone described how Goodell became emotional when relating that he had received an email from an employee who used the word hopelessness. It struck him on a personal level and he was inspired to reach out and talk, blah, blah, blah. I mean, all these rich white guys only now realizing that black people don’t like racism. Give me a break. Do something about it. NFL.
S7: A little programming note here, after we recorded our next segment about baseball and basketball’s plans to resume play. There was news. Major League Baseball is reported to have made a new counter offer to its players while the proposal appears to meet the players around half way in terms of the number of games that would be played in a shortened season. It also calls for the players to take additional pay cuts, which they seem unlikely to do. So the substance of our conversation is pretty much unaffected.
S11: Here’s Joel.
S5: So much is going on in the world right now that you may be missed, that we should be in the middle of baseball season right now. It’s not clear when baseball is going to be back and not just for public health reasons. ESPN. Jeff Parson has reported that the owners and players are at an impasse over how many games should be played this year and how they should distribute the money generated by those games. Meanwhile, the NBA has been a model of labor peace. The league and the players union have agreed to a return to play plan that will have teams back on the court on July 30, first at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Stefan, there’s a huge contrast here. What do you think that says about these two leagues?
S10: Well, there’s a lot about the state of the relationships between the respective commissioners and players unions and the two sports. The simplest observation is that the NBA and its players negotiated directly to reach an agreement on both the terms of a restart where how many teams, what format and the health and safety stuff. Reporting is specifically cited the close working relationship between NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the union president Chris Paul, and also the direct talks with the executive director of the Union, Michele Roberts. Other leagues, including the NHL, Major League Soccer or the National Women’s Soccer League, have also negotiated with players to get a restart. Baseball’s management and union, meanwhile, have been trading proposals at the extremes of what each side wants. A huge part of the issue is a pre-existing culture of distrust. It’s important to remember that before the coronavirus, we’re looking at a potential work stoppage when the collective bargaining agreement runs out in 2021. The owners have done everything in their power to keep salaries down. And the unions answered. All this has been brinksmanship. One source told Parson both sides have created through ignorance and deceit their own universes. The owners are convinced they are victims. The players are convinced they’re aggrieved. It’s to echo chambers. I mean, I don’t know both sides and it is the right way to go there. But there’s some truth, I think, in that analysis.
S1: Owners are also key here, right? I mean, we just mentioned how, at least within this last week, we haven’t heard much from owners in the NFL, in Major League Baseball.
S12: You at least get the sense that it’s the owners that are running the show here. As far as you know, that end of the negotiations, whereas with all the reporting on the NBA, it just feels like it’s Adam Silver, Michele Roberts, Chris Paul and then actually Bob Iger, the Disney now and Bob Iger and Chris Paul have a good relationship. Bob Iger has been a mentor to Chris Paul, strangely enough. So, you know, Adam Silver got the owners to approve this plan where only 22 of the 30 teams come back and you got twenty nine of the owners to approve it. So even the ones that aren’t going to be allowed to play or like. All right. This seems like it’s for the best interests of the league. And so I think the thing we have to consider, along with everything you said, Stefan, is that the model and in baseball, the business model is so much more dependent on gate revenue and concessions and parking stuff. Yeah, tickets and everything. It’s like the league says it’s 40 percent of revenue. And so there’s actually, I think not even like a funny math, like in a real world way that owners will lose money by putting on games with no fans. And so that is a difference. You know, we’re not going to be able to run a controlled experiment here, but I’d imagine it wouldn’t have been as easy for the NBA if if their business model was similar to baseball’s.
S5: It’s also really interesting to me. Well, first of all, actually, before I get started. Can we just admit that I was right all along, that we were going to see sports this year because the money kept. Can we admit that? Yeah, not just. But not the SFL. Yeah. Yeah. I thought you were talking about that. I know you don’t like SFL. Josh get it started. So yeah. But I mean there’s gonna be a vacuum with no baseball. I mean there are some got to fill it. That’s right. That’s right. No, but I mean because seriously. Yeah. I mean I think that, you know, it just shows I’m just kind of shocked at the degree to which we don’t care about baseball in the middle of all this. You don’t. I mean, because I mean the real way there is. Oh, yeah, I see it. Okay. Offside. Are you guys used. You guys miss and Orioles Blue Jays games.
S7: I get the feel of Orioles classic. I don’t call a network. They were playing the Pirates last week.
S12: It was also the other thing is that the other thing that should be mentioned is the calendar, like the NBA also benefits from basically being able to go right into the playoffs, which is a huge. Make them only. They’re going to only do eight regular season games left. I’d imagine if baseball had played all of its regular season or most of its regular season. If you could just go directly into the playoffs, we’d have a lot more harmony because there wouldn’t be this year around.
S7: Losing all the great gulf between these two sides is just so big. I mean, the owners want and they want players to take huge, huge pay. I mean, they made the players agreed to take a pro rata share for how many games they played. That was their first step. And then the owners claim that the players agreed also to renegotiate that if there were no fans. The players dispute that. So but then the owners are planned. Well, let’s play 48 games because that cuts our losses and the players counter with 114 games, which was like a nonstarter completely with the most minimal sort of concession, deferring some salary or some payments until next year. And there’s no real middle ground. I mean, Jeff Passan and Buster Aulnay of ESPN are sort of coming up with these permutations and trying to run the math, which is kind of impossible to do because the owners claims of four billion dollars in potential losses are completely unsubstantiated. Dave Edwards on fan graphs did an analysis questioning whether the owners would lose anything under certain scenarios because of the way they count their revenue. But Passan came to the conclusion that, you know, that that under the owners proposal, they would lose something like 10 million dollars per team for the whole season and that if they met halfway, it would be like another two million per team and that the players should agree to a little bit more of a haircut. The owners like came back after their first proposal and told the players that they wanted to cut as much as 33 percent more from what they’d get paid. And most of that burden would be borne by the highest paid players. Brett Anderson of the Brewers pitcher had tweeted out, interesting strategy of making the best, most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys. And Blake Snell, pitcher for the for the Rays, had this incredible rant on I won’t call it a rant monologue on his Twitter feed.
S11: We listen to that from a church.
S13: You know what I’m saying? Like, I know your shit. And on top of that, so all that money’s gone. And now a play risking my life. And what if I get the wrona on top? And if I get the wrona, guess what happens with that? Oh, yeah, that’s state that’s in my body forever. That damage is not will be like the damage that was done on my body that’s going to be there for ever. So now I got to play with that on top of that. So yeah. I mean, you going to stand there for me to go for me to take a pay cut is not happening because the risk is through the roof. It’s a shorter season, less Bretholz. Yeah, man, I’ve got to know. I’m gonna get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine. Okay.
S5: That’s my new favorite baseball player. Farther away, Ivy. I was shocked to find out that Blake snows from Seattle, but put it. I did not see that coming. But I mean, yeah, I think he makes a good point. And I don’t know enough about the numbers, like, you know, because I’d none of us really know enough about the numbers to know where to fall on this. But it seems reasonable to me that if you’re asking the players to take a pay cut and risk their health, that maybe that seems unreasonable. I mean, it’s I don’t you know, it really depends on what you believe the owners losses are and been how deep those losses might be. But I could understand wanting your full salary or wanting a bonus. So one a fully guaranteed pro-rata salary is compensation for not only risking your health in risking long term complications to your health, because we don’t we still don’t know what corona virus can do to your body, but also you’re gonna have to make a lot of adjustments for living in this bubble or, you know, so, you know, segregating yourself or separating yourself from your family and your friends or if your family or friends have to be with you inside that bubble, it’s still going to deeply cartel whatever your life was about. And I could understand a player say, hey, look, you are billionaires. You know, you’re asking us millionaires to take these cuts with and risk our lives. And that doesn’t just seem reasonable to me.
S14: Paying the players a pro-rated salary based how many games there are. That makes sense to me. And Stefan, you mentioned before some piece arguing the teams aren’t actually losing money. Like, how how could they not be losing money? That doesn’t make sense to me.
S10: The piece was why, as I mentioned, Dave Edwards on fan graphs. And what he’s arguing is that television revenue.
S7: Playoff television revenue and other revenue that typically the owners, I think, shield from their general pool of baseball revenue mean that the the losses are much going to be much lower than what the owners coming out and just saying four billion dollars might be.
S14: There’s always TV revenue and and playoff TV revenue. He’s saying that there’s going to be more this year.
S9: Yeah. The other central revenue is not included in baseball’s estimate. Cuts in amateur spending aren’t being factored factored in. That there are a lot of other potential money saving courses of action here.
S14: They’re firing all their minor leaguers operations cost.
S5: Right. There’s got to be a lot of operations costs that will no longer be a part of the equation. Right?
S9: Right. So, I mean, basically what it’s arguing is that if you look at the numbers, four billion dollars is probably way inflated. We don’t exactly know how much. But at the same time, we don’t know what to trust when it comes to baseballs numbers. And that’s one of the points that the union repeatedly makes, that until baseball shows us genuine, you know, verifiable accounting worthy numbers that we can take and analyze. We’re not going to believe your your claims. And that goes back to this issue of trust, to your point about trust stuff.
S5: And, you know, we’re talking about how the NBA and Adam Silver and the players are all on one accord and they’re a model for labor peace. They still haven’t figured it all out. Right, because there’s still some uncertainty around which coaches will be allowed to be on the bench. And all this other workups, stuff like we know the NBA can say that it’s going to play and they can put together a schedule and they can have a site and everything else. But that does not mean that it’s going to work out the way that they say that it does. And like I like it seems to me the rockets, not knowing whether or not it’s safe for Mike D’Antoni to be on the bench is a big deal. Right. But like, they haven’t worked that out yet, but they still are saying we’re going to play these games. And so even though the NBA seems like they’re full steam ahead, they’re going to be complications that week that they can’t foresee and that we can’t foresee. And it just did because they’re playing. It doesn’t mean that they’re doing it right. It just means that they’re all on the same page.
S14: Great point for D’Antoni. Could they put a robot out there with a mustache just to have him, like, be able to look through the robot’s eyes without really make them much of a difference in there?
S5: Dave D’Antoni and his younger brother, a coach, too. Well, maybe they could just have him out there and stab him in. Clunes made a bunch of different options.
S14: I think we need to be open minded about the spinner. That’s that’s a great point. I think that the counter to that would be OK if things don’t work out. If you have a good relationship between all parties then and there, there’s trust there. You can figure out, OK, what’s our next step? What’s our next step after that? Everybody is, it seems, and maybe we’ll find out. There’ll be some reporting suggesting that this isn’t correct, that there’s some undercurrent of dissatisfaction. But everybody, if it seems like everybody is like on the same page, everybody agrees that this is the right strategy for right now. That doesn’t. Mean that, you know, they can’t change at some point.
S5: We’re looking at this, though, is a labor dispute and not a dispute about whether or not anybody should even be trying to play sports right now. You don’t I mean, like we like we’re already sort of accepting the terms of the the the discussion on the leagues as terms. You know, they’re saying, oh, we’re going to play, we’re gonna figure out how to play. But nobody is really still sort of questioning whether or not they should even be trying. And I think maybe some of that is because, you know, quarantine fatigue, we’ve seen people out in the streets right now, you know, protesting and everything. And so it doesn’t quite seem like people believe that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. But there are places in Texas and California and Arizona that are still like having these surges in infection rate. And so, I mean, I guess, you know, I understand again, like I mean this I feel like I’m a broken record at this point that, yes, I want to see sports. Yes. That like, you know, it’s great that they’re on the same page and they can agree on all this sort of stuff. And I want to see basketball, too. But it just doesn’t seem like anybody is really taking the health threat this as seriously as they should be. And I hope that we don’t have to find out in a really dramatic way like how dangerous this is.
S14: All right. I want to let you know that in this week’s bonus segment, we are going to continue the conversation we just had about the NFL. Roger Goodell, Drew Brees. Black lives matter kneeling. Colin Kaepernick and all of these many more subjects. Maybe not anymore. Just the subject. But we had a lot more to say and you’ll be able to hear it. If you are a slate plus member.
S15: In the early to mid 1970s, I was the perfect age to be a Bruce Lee found a fan that is of someone kicking a lot of ass and action movies. But I wasn’t and I don’t remember any of my friends being either. Why? No doubt because of some of the entrenched prejudices of suburban America and also the received messages of Asian stereotypes in pop culture. I mean, the song Kung Fu Fighting by Carl Douglas topped the Billboard charts when I was 11. My adolescent brain probably viewed Bruce Lee as another Asian caricature. Kung fu fighting on the big screen. To be totally honest, until last week I hadn’t ever even seen a Bruce Lee movie. And at this point, I probably wouldn’t have if not for the creative and philosophical documentary about the life of Bruce Lee Be Water. The film debuted on Sunday on ESPN and is now available on ESPN. Plus B Water is directed by Baldwin and he joins us now. Congratulations on the film, Ballan. Thanks a lot for coming on the podcast. Yes. Thank you so much for having me. The Bruce Lee that you reveal is driven first and foremost to shatter stereotypes and succeed in a racist America. But he’s also, of course, crazy, athletic, a genuine physical specimen. I assume you made the film before ESPN acquired the rights to air it when you started the project. Did you view Bruce Lee as an athlete?
S16: Well, I mean, it’s funny because you’re right on right and wrong. And your assumption because they they came on when I had the idea. But they were during production. They they were they had signed on already. And I didn’t think about approaching ESPN when we’re looking for broadcasters. We were looking at kind of the more traditional ones that, you know, Firepit documentary would be a more appropriate fit. And so my producer, when we were kind of running into walls just because of various issues of access and and cost, my producers like what about ESPN? And I, they were not on my list whatsoever just because, as you said, I don’t view Brisley as kind of the most straightforward sports figure. As you said, he’s athletic. He’s obviously this specimen of physical strength and agility. But he never really participated in competitive sports. But when you think of the idea of sport and just martial arts, obviously mixed martial arts is a huge field now. And that did not exist when Bruce Lee was around. People often call him, you know, that father of mixed martial arts and I think is interaction with Kareem Abdul Jabbar. And this is adaptation of specially African-American boxers like Muhammad Ali infuse this idea of Bruce being a sports figure. And what I came across to making this film is even though he was not a traditional sports figure and ESPN is also a 30 for 30 series, it’s not kind of a traditional it’s great for a documentary sports documentary series. I thought it was kind of a perfect vessel for Bruce’s story, the same way O.J. Made in America uses O.J. just as an athletic figure, but goes into kind of deeper context about racial history in America and the topics that I wanted to look at with the Brisley. And, you know, one thing about the film is how Bruce uses his, quote unquote, sport to connect to the American community when he first arrives as an immigrant. Right. And I I kind of connect to that idea, too, because every time I travel when I don’t know a language, when I don’t know a culture, it’s I go to a sports bar that I go to an outdoor like screening like a soccer game. That’s when I feel most connected with with, you know, different people from all over the world. And I think Bruce kind of used sport in the same way.
S5: Kind of go back to something you just mentioned a second ago, because I’m curious. Did you want to as much tell the story of Bruce Lee or were you looking at a way to, like, sort of reflect the lens of anti’s and racism and like use? Because obviously that’s a big through line in the documentary. Right. So, like, how organically how did the story happen where you like I need a lens to tell this story or Bruce Lee is the story I want to tell. And that became a part of it.
S16: When I first came out with the concept we’re doing a Bruce Lee film, it came about because, you know, I I live in L.A. now and I work in the industry. And there’s this conversation, this dialogue about inclusion, diversity, representation that has in some way become trendy. And I was thinking, OK, it’s it’s already hard enough for an actor or actress of color to make it in Hollywood today. How did someone like Bruce Lee become Bruce Lee in the 1960s when the Vietnam War was just starting to boil up 10 years earlier was. Korean War and then two decades earlier was World War Two, where the Japanese were obviously the enemy. So at America in the 1960s, the Asian-American male was very much the enemy, too. I think most Americans and so I wanted to kind of dive deep into those two kind of aspects, just like Bruce Lee and how he overcame that struggle and what that struggle was. So I’m packing, you know, the mythology. I think a lot of Bruce Lee films that I’ve seen in the past year about the impact, the legacy of Bruce Lee. And I didn’t know him as much as a person. I knew him as the icon. For me, I always try to make or I personally, when I watch a film or watch something about a hero, if I can relate to them, I you know, it’s it’s better to aspire to a hero you can relate to instead of a hero that sort of unattainable. That’s mythical and in a way. And so I always see that film as these two narratives, a coming of age of Bruce Lee and then the coming of history of America, the coming of history of the Asian-American male to the point where Bruce Lee is rejected to play the lead, you know, and the series Kung Fu. How can someone with the charisma, the screen presence of Bruce Lee, not, you know, who would not cast prodigiously? If you look back and in hindsight like Eric Crazy at cast Bruce Lee, obviously his father was involved in entertainment.
S5: Right. But for people that may not understand. Can you explain why he thought it made sense to even try to make a name in Hollywood at that time? Because it seems like, in retrospect, ridiculous, like how could he have ever, you know, gone up against that that intractable force?
S16: Well, I think when he first arrived to America, he didn’t have the goal or ambition to to follow in his childhood footsteps, you know, his childhood vocation of being an actor because he saw how the Asian American was viewed onscreen. It’s easy for an Asian to be a star in Asia because everyone looks like you. Right. But being Asian star in America is very difficult because the this the betrayal of an Asian at that time is reflective of society and how society views the Asian-Americans. And again, at that point in time, the Asian-American was the enemy. So they would be portrayed as the villain. They would be portrayed as kind of by collateral damage in war films. And also, they would be portrayed in in more comedic ways as the bumbling servant, the heavily accented sidekick. So Bruce wanted no part of it. He was just like, I know who I am. Right. I mean, I know who you know, I have a confidence and a charisma in me. I want to teach my Chinese culture and. Sure. My Chinese culture. And he felt that martial arts come through when China was the best way to do that. And it just happened that someone, you know, William Dozier, got a call from Jay Sebring, who is, you know, the haircutter or the stars at the time, saw Bruce performing in Long Beach in 1964, that that’s what started the whole Bruce becoming Bruce Lee. He never had this aspiration, but it was just a coincidence in many ways.
S17: There’s a segment of the film where you talk about Bruce being kind of mentor and friend to Hollywood stars like Steve McQueen and James Coburn. And so he’s given entree into this world in this kind of particular way that there’s some social cachet to having Bruce Lee just like cool Chinese guy as your friend and your mentor. And yet there’s still this this barrier and the ceiling. And I thought that was really interesting, that it’s not like he gets completely shut out of this world. He gets really, really close to it. But there’s still just this these barriers that can’t be bridged, even for people that seem to understand and appreciate his talent.
S16: Yeah, I mean, it’s we talked about it in the film. We have a cultural critic named Jeff Chang. We get some commentary and he I think he lays it out quite viscerally and primally that Hollywood’s race is because Americans race is right. America at that time or Hollywood at that time. In Hollywood today, it’s it’s this business. It’s show business. And they never thought that an audience, a large audience, suburban audience would not would accept an Asian hero. And I think just that mentality is permeates and cements itself into Hollywood and every industry and people are able to break out of it. And even in that time in the 60s, where people are quite growing more progressive and and. Finding Eastern ways and philosophy and lifestyle is part of their own daily lives. It briefly becomes like a pariah in so many ways that you or just keep it cool like Asian guy that we’re just going to hang out with to make ourselves seem a little more worldly. I would say not to say that was everyone that he met, but I think if they weren’t willing to give him a chance into the industry and they saw how much power he could exert, how much charisma he had, maybe there was a fear, too, of letting someone who has much more charisma into an industry where you can’t replicate that.
S18: If you had one Chinese guy, then maybe there would be two.
S19: And then the Chinese would take up the thing that Jeff Chang says in that in that sequence vows that Hollywood is racist because America’s racist and Hollywood makes America more racist. He talks about this vicious circle. And Lee had opportunities in the mid 60s, right? He was he was widely praised and became sort of a cult figure for his portrayal of Kato and the TV show The Green Hornet and was advocating for himself in terms of coming up with ideas for TV shows and getting meetings with producers. But ultimately, what you talk about is what comes back to haunt him when he cast the show Kung Fu. That was his idea. They end up choosing David Carradine to play the lead, which is one of the most horrific things that Hollywood perpetrated.
S16: Yeah, I mean, you know, it boggles the mind, again, looking at in hindsight. Right. But maybe there’s a silver lining that he didn’t get the rolling kung fu because then he would not have gone to Hong Kong again. Make a right. These amazing films Enter the Dragon might have never happened. It happened in Greece. Could have been just a great TV actor. But Tom Troon and and, you know, it’s sad that we don’t include this in the film. But he does make this statement. And when I spoke to him, it’s like Chris was always bigger than just that television box. He needed a bigger canvas. And I mean, maybe Tom is also trying to negate some of the impact that he he caused by not hiring Bruce. But he’s also a man that works for Warner Brothers and a big studio who again. I mean, Bruce is very diplomatic about it in his interview with Peter Berdy, where he says, you know, I don’t blame them. I don’t blame them for not hiring like an Asian actor for for an American series. But he I think he’s diplomatic on camera towards the press. Talking to Linda. He was quite angry and just couldn’t believe it again, because he believed in himself so much that someone else wouldn’t believe in him, which there’s a naivete to it. But it also creates this drive. He had again, to find a different path for himself to be fluid like water.
S5: Right. Stephanie mentioned it not. And I also I had never seen a Bruce Lee movie. Right. And playing on it after this. But I’m sort of I read about your sort of first introduction to Bruce Lee as a you know, as a pre-teen growing up in Montgomery County, just like a slow burn producer, Christopher Johnson Shadow. But I know that, you know you know, you became aware of him as a preaching. Can you kind of like, you know, explain that to our listeners so that they know that, you know, what sort of appealed to him to you immediately at that age?
S16: Yeah, I mean, I grew up in the late 80s. I was born ten years after Enter the Dragon came out. So I did. I wasn’t going to see his films in theaters like in Chinatowns or, you know, urban areas of America. My first introduction to Bruce Lee was when I was like, yeah, eight or nine years old. And I saw him on television. It was like entering a dragon was playing like a Saturday afternoon evening screening. And I just remember being kind of all inspired because I never saw a hero that looked like me on screen. I’ve seen myself on screen in negative ways in which I rejected him again. And as the bumbling sidekick, as comic relief. But to see someone who looks like me, who was being the lead in a film, that was something that was just life altering in many ways. And I think people don’t understand what that means, especially part of the majority culture who is used to seeing themselves in many multifaceted ways and and being played by. Well, that looked like them young and old. But those opportunities are almost nonexistent for a lot of people of color. They see themselves in the ways that are betrayed through film and television. And that’s why I think the the idea of representation, the idea of inclusion is so important because, you know, I mean, for the past few months, people have been stuck at home watching television, watching films and had little interaction with society outside. Right. With their neighbor, with their community. So what they see on screen almost turns into bare reality. Right. It turns into their idea of what your neighbor is, what your neighbor is going to do. Like, it creates these stereotypes. And that’s why, you know, authenticity and representation is so important, because it’s not just me how I see myself on screen, but it’s how other people see me on screen. And people kind of forget that. And it’s, you know, there’s two layers to it.
S17: So this film just feels like it’s in conversation. What’s going on in America right now with the protest movement? That seems like no coincidence to me that, you know, the two athletes that are really featured prominently in this film are black athletes who are also social activists and civil rights activists and Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. There’s also discussion and the film about the model minority myth and how Asians and black people often get pitted against each other. That was a main undercurrent in the L.A. riots. And so was wondering if you were able to find out sort of what Bruce Lee thought about the black civil rights movement, how he saw what he was trying to accomplish, sort of being in conversation with that.
S20: For me, just talking to the people who knew him best. I learned that Bruce Lee was very much a student as much as he was a teacher. Again, he was known as a teacher to these celebrities and to a lot of communities. When he first moved to America. But because he was a student of everyone in that, it informs his view of America. It informed his view of race. I think his upbringing in Hong Kong to, you know, where the systems of repression can be seen through British colonialism at that time. And even, you know, when he first arrived, he was too young to to witness firsthand like the Japanese occupation. But surely his education in Hong Kong taught him about that type of oppression as well. So I think that really solidified his viewpoint as an underdog against an oppressive ruler. But when he first arrived in America is his student, Jesse Glover, who was his first student, first friends was an African-American man. And he was a victim of police brutality. And that was one of the reasons that he wanted to learn martial arts, to defend himself against these systems of power.
S16: And that that person becoming your first friend in America can be really formative or. And I think I can’t speak for Bruce Sleeve Cleaver. Just there is a pattern of of these of these individuals who really helped mold him to become someone who stands up against racial oppression, against prejudice. His second one of the other people that he met very early on in Seattle was Amy Sando, his first love, his first girlfriend in America. And she was Japanese American and she was in the internment camps during World War Two, a young girl. Again, these type of experiences of America that you learned very early on are so formative and the way that you think about race and the way that you treat other people. And obviously, later on, as you mentioned, Kareem Abdul Jabbar was one of his most famous students. And Kareem told us that after they would work out, after they would train, he would give Bruce books about civil rights, about the black liberation movement. And Bruce was a prolific reader. So I’m sure Bruce absorbed all that information. It should be said that Bruce wasn’t considered kind of a civil rights activist at that time in the same way that Marlon Brando or Harry Belafonte. Right. But it’s yeah, it’s important to remember that he was a struggling actor who wasn’t walking. You couldn’t walk the front lines. You couldn’t stand side by side with Muhammad Ali necessarily. And Martin Luther King. But what the film tries to profess is that his his presence is his protest because he was never seen as being kind of a human as a hero. So him as a storyteller is the way that he represented.
S10: Thing and it reflects what you’re just talking about, that, you know, he met Kareem Abdul Jabbar when he was still Lew Alcindor and was an undergraduate at UCLA and later gave Kareem a role in one of his movies, The Game of Death. And you mentioned Ali and his admiration for Ali. And one of my favorite sequences in B water is when you have Lee talking over cuts of him fighting Chuck Norris in the way of the Dragon and Lee fighting Cleveland Williams in 1966. Let’s listen to a clip from that scene.
S21: All right, people coming in. Will you read that book? Well, I tell you what, I’m no good. No one like that is funny. I have no. Only.
S10: I mean, that seemed to me was so powerful because it reflected both Lee’s respect and admiration for Lee and boxers. And at the same time, it also showed just how much of a student of martial arts and sports and also the philosophy of fighting that he was he was very much a sponge.
S16: And going back to the idea of him being a student, I think that shows his humility in some ways that people if he talked about Brisley, never talk about Bruce Lee’s humility and his ability to blend all these different styles and and form it into his own. Obviously, that became its principal, the condo, its philosophy and its fighting style. And again, it informs his his montoro in a way of being moderate, being fluid. You’re never you never stuck into the form that you’re given. You’re I mean, you’re always kind of crashing around and flowing through it in many ways. And I think that’s I think if people know anything about Brisley, it’s not his fluidity, his agility, and it’s his stance against rigidity and tradition in many ways. And I think that also in you know, when we talk about Priestley in terms of civil rights and progressiveness, that is obviously a pretty strong example of that.
S15: The film is B Water. It’s directed by Baldwin. You can watch it on ESPN Plus. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
S16: Thanks so much for having us.
S15: And now it is time for After Balls. We mentioned that Bruce Lee cast Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the Game of Death. There’s a backstory to that movie. The Game of Death was being filmed in Hong Kong when Bruce Lee died. More than 100 minutes had been shot. Some of it was used for a documentary called Bruce Lee A Warrior’s Journey. And some of it was included in a work around. That was released in 1978 to cash in on Lee’s posthumous fame. The climactic scene is a fight between the five foot eight. Lee wearing what appears to be a yellow Power Rangers jumpsuit and the seven foot two Kareem in sunglasses and short shorts. It runs to nearly 10 minutes in its original, and there’s almost no dialogue, perhaps with reason. Let’s listen to one of the clips, little fellow.
S22: He must have given up the hope of living.
S15: On the contrary. I do not let the word death bother me.
S22: Same here, baby. Then what are you waiting for?
S7: What brawl commences, Karim has got some moves. He trained with layers. I think we mentioned and it’s fantastic, it concludes with lead choking Kareem to death. So let us honor Lee and Kareem with our after ball name. The name of Kareem’s character in the Game of Death Mantis. The fifth floor. Gardy Adam. Josh, what’s your math test? The fifth floor guardian.
S14: On the contrary. Doesn’t sound cool even when Brisley says it. I think we’ve determined. I wanted to give the hang up and listen. Twitter Thread of the Week award, which is a time honored and just hugely important and influential award I’ve covered at Harvard to thank the governor. I want to give it to Martellus Bennett for his thread in response to Drew Brees has comments discussed at length earlier in the program? It was a long thread. You should read it. We’ll link to it on our show notes. But it starts out with Bennett saying, tell me one white QB that truly stands for something other than their Captain America images. Look, I’m happy they’re saying something, but when they had a chance to make a big play for their black teammates and colleagues, most of them remained silent, showed ignorance or didn’t say anything of importance when it was really needed. We didn’t mention earlier Aaron Rodgers, who did actually say something. He was one of the players who did speak up after Brisas comments. So that is worth noting. And so that was, I think, powerful and correct what Bennett said. But he said something else later in the thread that I also wanted to mention. He says the NFL is racist. The main reason they don’t have black coaches is because of racism, not because they aren’t qualified. You already know how the white owners who hire coaches feel about black players. It’s the same way they feel about black coaches. The difference is they need the black players to make the league work. They don’t need the black coaches in order for it to work. I can’t hear if I said at the top of this Martellus Bennett longtime tight end and the NFL played for the Patriots. Really smart guy. Was thoughtful in the league and has been thoughtful outside of the league. A Houston native. By the way. Go. There you go. But it was that last tweet that really kind of shook something up for me and I thought was a really great point. That one being they don’t need the black coaches in order for it to work. I think we can flip that around, Joel. The league doesn’t need white coaches to for it to work either. The league definitely needs black players to work that we must stipulate. But the coaches don’t have to be any particular race. And the thing that I was thinking about was would anybody make an argument with a straight face that the league would be any worse if all of the coaches were black? To me, it seems like self. Evidently, the answer is no. But it just seems like I don’t know. It just the way that he framed it made me think about this in a different way. And I know you’ve been thinking about this stuff, too, Joe.
S5: Yeah. I mean, also I mean, there’s really no way to do a one to one comparison, but it’s instructive to know that many of the earliest black players that are in the NFL Hall of Fame, for instance, learned the game under historically black college coaches who were black. Right. So, I mean, there was some develop some talent identification and development. They were able to find players, develop them, make them great and send them on to the NFL. So, I mean, we do know that, like, black coaches do have some competency in that way, that they’ve produced, you know, generations of athletes that have gone on to great success in the NFL. But I mean, that’s not the same thing as running NFL team, obviously. Right. But the other thing I think about is maybe the players are sort of realizing that the white coaches are not quite as essential or that they’re sort of their reign over these programs is not it is sort of assumed and not a given. And I thought I thought about that because of the way that Florida State defensive lineman, probably the best player on the team, Marvin Wilson, also a Houston native. And I think of what, you know, Marvin Wilson said about, you know, the new head coach at FSU, Mike Norvelle, that, you know, Mike Norvelle had said in a tweet last week that he had spoken to all 85 of his players and, you know, individually. And Marvin Wilson came out on Twitter and said, oh, no, he didn’t. Coaches line. That’s bullshit, which is an unfathomable breach of protocol within a college football team or would have been even five years ago. And for players to speak up in this way now, let me know, or at least it seems to indicate that they have a growing sense of, you know, their importance to the game and their influence and power and that maybe they’re thinking of harnessing it in some ways. I don’t know.
S14: I guess the thing that we’ll have to wait and see is if, like, this is a kind of rum springer situation here where it’s like, all right. The players. Can say. You know, fuck Drew Brees or say fuck Mike Norvelle for like a month. And then once everything, quote unquote, calmed down, once everything quote unquote goes back to normal, then the regular hierarchy’s will reassert themselves. Or is this some sort of fundamental shift happening? I know you’re kind of pessimistic play nature and a lot of these matters all. But do you think that, you know, once Marvin Wilson says something like this, is that is Marvin Wilson going to, like, shut up now for it forever? Or other players going to now be like, yeah, I’m not going to say anything.
S5: That’s a great I mean, that’s a great question. I mean, because we’re sort of an unprecedent times. Right. So we don’t know what’s going to happen. But what we do know is that all of the pine power dynamics are against the players. The coaches control their scholarships. You know, they control their playing time. They control where they live and what classes they taken a lot of ways. Right. So they can make it really difficult for players, which is why the absence of a union or some sort of, you know, national body that looks out for the interests of athletes is, you know, this would be a really good time for them to start advocating for that or to start thinking about that. Right. But, yeah, I I’m cynical about this sort of stuff. And you see it with the Drew Brees situation in New Orleans, like Drew Brees said, as do the players like, all right, we’re good now. You know, we that’s our quarterback. That’s our guy. And let’s focus on winning. And it always sort of comes back to keeping the money train going, keeping the winning going, focusing on, you know, of this very narrow slice of their lives. And I’ll just be curious to see, you know, two months from now, you know, what Marvin Wilson is saying about Mike Norvo.
S14: Stefan, what is your mantis guardian of the fifth floor?
S10: It seems like a long time ago, but a couple of weeks ago, I compiled all of these sports related mini obituaries from The New York Times is Incalculable Loss Project, and a few of them jumped out at me. The one line life summary just wasn’t enough. Mary Rowman, 84, Norwalk, Connecticut, shotput champion and fixture in local politics. Turns out she had polio as a child. Became a standout athlete. And in her 60s, after the death of her husband started putting the shot and said American and World Age Group records into her 80s. Sean Christian Cavel, 47, New Providence, New Jersey. Enjoyed talking sports with family.
S7: He did more than talk. That dude was a second team all-American D3 quarterback at Moravian College in Pennsylvania. He threw for more than six thousand yards and 48 touchdowns. Half of them in his senior year set 12 school and five conference passing records. Then there was Borro Lalage, 68, Indianapolis, notorious for receiving the most holding calls. He was an all states center and middle linebacker and high school and an offensive lineman at Franklin College in Indiana. His team reached the 1972 NCAA Division two semifinals and he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame. I imagine the holding calls were a running joke with X teammates and family, but the one that really begged for more was this one. Paul Warrick, 86, Vineland, New Jersey, widely surmised he could have played Major League Baseball. Widely surmised by whom? What stopped Paul Warwick from making the show? Well, I read his obituary in the Vineland Daily Journal and Recollections from family and friends on Facebook. And I talked to his sons, Gary and Michael on Zoome. Michael sent me the eulogy he delivered also on Zoom’s. So I’ll answer my second question first. What stopped Paul Warwick from playing in the majors? Life did, but not life in the sense of choosing between baseball and a job or being drafted into the army or an ill timed injury. Life in the sense of who Paul Warwick was. He was born in Poland in 1933 and six years later fled the Nazis with his parents and four siblings. They traveled from Gdansk to LA of and then sailed to Havana. They stayed in Cuba for five years, flew to Miami, took a train to Philadelphia, lived among relatives in South Jersey and then moved to Brooklyn. Paul loved sports, especially baseball. His mother threw his cleats on the roof to keep him from playing on the Sabbath. Paul didn’t go to college. He attended a religious school in Baltimore. His mother wanted him to be a rabbi. He enlisted in the army in 1955 and was stationed at Fort Benning in Georgia for two years afterward. And Uncle put him to work in his lumber business in New Jersey. Paul eventually started his own. He married in 1960, had three kids, attended synagogue, supported his family, and he played a lot of sports while in the army. Paul finished third in a U. National four wall handball championship. He bowled, played softball, picked up golf in his fifties and was immediately good at it. He played handball with the owner and players on the Philadelphia Eagles. He teamed up with his son Gary and racquetball tournaments, and he was a tournament table tennis player once in the early 90s. Gary, who’s a sports marketer, took his dad to Arizona for the Footlocker slam fest, which you might remember was a slam dunk contest featuring non basketball players. Paul found himself across a ping pong table from Bo Jackson. Bo didn’t know ping pong. Paul crushed him. Somewhere along the way, the guy developed. Maybe he was born with it. Incredible hand eye coordination. His son Michael said he passed it on. Michael was a good high school athlete. Gary played basketball at NYU. One of Gary’s sons plays professionally in Israel. Another is the starting point guard at the college. In his eulogy, Michael remembered watching his father in a synagogue softball league game, tracked down a long fly ball effortlessly on the wrong glove outstretched. I was filled with wonder and pride. Michael said for all of his other athletic skills, baseball was Paul’s game as a kid. He admired the Tiger star, Hank Greenberg, because Greenberg was Jewish. But as an adult, he loved Richie Ashburn of the Phillies because Ashburn was undersized, fast covered acres in the outfield, just like Paul. That’s where the line in the obituary was born. Michael’s wife, Suzanne, wrote it, which answers my first question, who widely surmised that Paul could have played Major League Baseball. His adoring family did. If he was at a different place at a different time, if his parents weren’t right off the boat, who knows what could have happened. Michael told me he didn’t have a path. Gary said all time he stole some of Paul Warrick’s final years and he died of complications from the Corona virus on April 6th. His wife, Alice, had died 10 weeks earlier. The family found out that Paul was in the times when a friend of one of Michael sons noticed it and texted a screenshot. One hundred thousand covered dead, a thousand names in the paper. But there was Paul page one fourth column, 20 lines from the bottom, random to the nth degree. Michael said It definitely doesn’t sum up his life, but it was nice to get a little recognition. It was a little heartwarming, a little bittersweet for sure.
S5: That’s great stuff. Thanks, man. Yeah, man. Also, I mean, I just have to say, I mean, it’s sufficient to say that he beat Bo Jackson in ping pong. Matt did. He almost made the Major League Baseball has beaten Bo in anything. Seems like an accomplishment enough that merits no notice.
S2: That is 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 and you can e-mail us at Hang-Up at Slate dot com. If you’re still here, I’m guessing you might want even more hang up in our bonus segment this week. Josh, Joel and I continue our conversation about the NFL as a response to the protests over George Floyds death. It should have been deeply insulting to white fans who would not races in the NFL to say, hey, look, this is not how I feel about protests and Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick, but they always sort of assumed the worst about their fan base. Now and I’m talking about the NFL and Roger Goodell for Josh Levine and Joel Anderson. Stefan Fatsis remembers Zelma, Dedee. And thanks for listening.
S7: And now it is time for our bonus segment for Slate plus members, hey, Slate plus members, thank you for being Slate plus members. We thought we would just keep talking about Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick and Roger Goodell. Who wants to go next. Josh?
S1: Well, so I wanted to provide a special treat for you guys and for the Slate plus members. As mentioned before, I did just kind of it’s a testament to my research skills and acumen. I watched the entire Yahoo! Finance segment that Brees was on, along with some other people.
S14: And at the very end. There’s that. So there’s this, like, brief moment in history after Brees says the thing about kneeling and how it’s bad, but before it’s out in the public and he realizes that that was a bad thing to say. He’s like continuing to like, say, other like Drew Brees like stuff. And so I wanted to play you guys a clip from near the end of that segment. This is what Drew Brees wanted our take away from this Yahoo! Finance thing today. Listen.
S23: You know, honestly, I’ve been spending a lot of time with the business endeavors that I’m involved in and with frameworks and supporting all of our portfolio brands. Continuing to speak with your young emerging brands in regards to, um, our professional services division and just ways that we can continue to support other companies, other growing brands. And and think about what the future is going to look like and how many people will be out there looking for a change.
S1: That’s the change that he was really out there looking for. Is the one about young brands. This is Yahoo! Finance segment. Really did not go how Drew Brees and his business manager thought it was going to go. But I just thought people have been really focusing on the kneeling thing. We need to, you know, really pay attention to the young brands and whatever the hell he was just saying. But Brees was you know, there are reports and I’m inclined to believe them, that he has a deal with NBC to become one of the faces of that network. You know, next year, probably when he retires, he is somebody who has been like, really, really obsessed with commercial endorsements. You know, selling himself and his family as this kind of all American ideal. And he really stepped in it because a lot of people hate that guy now. And I’m curious, you know what it’s like? It’s obviously going to be a wait and see thing. But we talked about all of the invective that came at him appropriately from his teammates, but we didn’t address that. You know, two days later, after Brees apologized, after reports of a tearful locker room meeting, guys like Demario Davis, Malcolm Jenkins, Thomas, let me find out. Like, you know, he’s clearly listening. That’s what. That’s a start. That’s what we want. We got to move past this. You know, Joel, I guess you can look at that and one of two ways. Like, his teammates do have a personal relationship with him. So maybe they are inclined to actually try to help him or listen to him or, you know, have a relationship with them. On the other hand, there is a like let’s not make this a distraction kind of ethos in that in sports in the NFL. And so is it possible to read anything in anything from what his teammates have said? We take it all with like a bucket of salt.
S5: I think we should take it with a bucket of salt, to be honest. I mean, they have. A lot of incentive to make this go away now, at least as it regards Drew Brees and I do also think there’s something to be said for once a person has admitted a mistake and, you know, sort of publicly thrown themselves at the mercy of the court that, you know, all you can do is, you know, take them at their word and then see how their actions align with those words later. And so right now, they have no choice but to say, well, hey, he said he’s sorry. He responded to the Donald Trump tweet and basically said, I’m not with you, dude. You know, I’m with my teammates. And we also we’re not privy to the conversations they had and that, you know, Team Zoome meeting they had after those comments.
S1: So, so much of this is about the diminished power of Trump, isn’t it, Joe? Yeah. I also pushed back at Goodell and there just must be a calculus here. You know, I’m not going to say it myself then I want to jinx it. But like looking at the polls and looking at the way the electorate seems to be moving, like if Trump was looking super powerful and like he was going to be ensconced in power for a really long time and enough, we’d be hearing the kinds of things we’re hearing from Goodell and Brianna.
S10: Yeah, there’s definite a political calculation here, particularly on Goodell’s part, on the NFL as part. I mean, I think one of the things to think about and to look for is whether the NFL just treats Donald Trump the way Donald Trump used to be treated before he became president was just to laugh at him behind his back and ignore him, tell him to go away.
S7: The NFL, you know, I made this argument before. The NFL was one of the few institutions that was willing to tell Trump to fuck off before he was president. Now, maybe there is no actual threat. So the question for me is, will Goodell actually challenge Trump and have the NFL challenge Trump or just do what they did over the weekend and not pay him any mind at all? I mean, it’s gonna be a lot harder for them to, you know, tell Trump to shut the fuck up and don’t mention the NFL any more than it would be to just ignore him the way the NFL used to.
S5: I mean, the thing is, is that Donald Trump has always been broadly unpopular. But there’s the support that he has is very strong. Among the people that support him really support him. But more broadly, he’s deeply unpopular. And we saw this when LeBron called him a bum on Twitter. No response. And it’s not like he suffered any sort of reprisals or like there was any drop in his curating or anything. Steph Curry refused to go to the White House and so did the Warriors. And so, you know, they didn’t go nobody. They didn’t suffer any sort of a drop in popularity for Joel.
S1: The NFL has always imagined its, you know, median consumer as a middle aged white man. Right.
S5: Right. That’s it was always sort of frustrating about how it regards Colin Kaepernick, because we saw we saw that there is a deep and abiding support for Colin Kaepernick among a lot of people. He signed that Nike deal, you know, that was worth. Have a good 30 million dollars. And, you know, all these shoes and all this product goes off off the shelves because Colin happened because the line with the Nike brand in the course of those four to five years. They’ve never really grappled with the idea that, hey, not only are there black fans of the NFL, but they’re a non racist white fans, too. Right. Yeah. Right. And so but it’s it was always like it should have been deeply insulting to white fans who were not racist in the NFL to say, hey, look, this is not how I feel about protest and Black Lives Matter and Colin Kaepernick, but they always sort of assumed the worst about their fan base. And I’m talking about the NFL and Roger Goodell.
S7: Yeah. I mean, that’s the paradox of the NFL, isn’t it, Joel, that it’s omnipotent and Teflon, but it’s always afraid to to test just how much. That’s true. You know, the NFL perfectly easily could stand up and say, you know, we’ve disagreed the entire time with the president’s characterization of our protests and our players.
S18: And I think what’s the point of being Teflon if you don’t try to, you know, bounce something off?
S5: We didn’t. We just talk about this with, first of all, like Michael Jordan, for instance, that like what’s the point in being a billionaire and being one of the most popular people in the world if you’re not going to use the bully pulpit every now and again. Right. And that’s sort of the NFL. If you’re as popular as you say you are, if you know you’ve got these deep American roots and you’re the America’s game of the moment, then why would you be afraid of a guy who didn’t even win the popular vote for the presidency? You know, that feeling like he doesn’t like people in corporations.
S18: You know, you have the mindset of like I have so much. That means I have so much I can lose rather than I have so much. Fuck, yeah.
S7: There has to be there’s got to be a willingness at some point on the part of Goodell and a majority of the owners to say. We don’t really care about the Fox News backlash, and we’re willing to take whatever short term financial consequences that we might suffer if we might suffer any, because fans are foolish to when it comes to watching the NFL, they want to watch football. So this will be a test of the NFL sincerity and and in in its words and its actions.
S18: We should note, there is a post about this on Outsports that when Brees got called out for his longtime support of the anti LGBTQ group Focus on the Family a few years ago, he said his response was, I’m not sure why the negativity spread or why people tried to wrote me into certain negativity. I do not support any groups that discriminate or have their own agendas that are trying to promote inequality. So he’s just basically saying, oh, I’m sorry if you had the accurate perception that I was, you know, working with or supporting this group. It’s like very much defensive, not listening. You know, I’m sorry if you got the wrong idea. And so, Joel, you know, you talk about if somebody apologizes and says they’re going to try to do better, you should watch and see if they live up to those those words with their actions. Well, this is a pattern with Brees where he’s said this before. We should say, though, that his apology this time was more, you know, at least the words of it were more sincere and acknowledged that it wasn’t just that people misheard him. It was that he was wrong. So, you know, the key difference there is that his anti-gay LGBTQ alliance just got less attention and he got less backlash for it.
S5: And so when he said that, it just went away, it just I think an important thing to consider right now is are you prepared to publicly disavow your support of Drew Brees and the Saints going forward?
S18: I feel like Spike Lee really helped me with this when he went on, whether whatever was first taken or whatever. As a regular first take viewer, he’s like James Dolan can’t take away my love of the New York Knicks. Like it or not, it’s not up to him to decide, you know, there. You know, so now I’m not going to I’m not going to disavow the Saints. I might disband Drew Brees as a fan of the Saints. I think with my complex feelings about Drew Brees, the Saints and the city of New Orleans, less complex than the city of New Orleans might be a good place to button this, Stefan. What’s say? Should we thank our slate plus members?
S7: I’m about to thank our Slate plus members for being Slate plus members. We’ll be back with more next week.