Four years ago, in a far away land, I just stuck to sports. Mind boggling, isn’t it? Four years later, I firmly accept and promote that my identity and personal aspirations do not allow me to “just stick to sports.” We’ll come back to this.
Around two week ago, I said goodbye to the Sting at WRUR, the physical birthplace of “Everybody Talks,” a weekly radio program and the inspiration for this column.
It’s hard to remember what consumed my mind sports-wise before “Everybody Talks.” Oh right — I kept up to date with most MLB news, rooted for the New York Giants, loathed the imbalance of the NBA, and maybe admired the Williams sisters over the summers.
So what inspired “Everybody Talks”? Well, I grew up listening to sports talk radio and always felt something was missing. It wasn’t an anomaly for the hosts to start talking about food instead of the task at hand. And as a woman, my knowledge was always a shock rather than a given.
I’ve always been fascinated with combinations, and I wanted to speak about sports with an angle that was more meaningful and more forward thinking. As an international relations major and a resident feminist, social injustice is a common narrative woven into much of my literature.
I never imagined this movement would blossom before my eyes. When I began the show, I would always lead with the tagline, “a sports radio talk show with a feminist twist.” But, when I got to junior year, a new routine was established. “So much happened this week,” I’d say. The idea of the twist dissipated. My discourse was centered around the issues for minorities in sports. If anything, the deviation during my program was if I spoke about what made it to the front page of ESPN on that given day.
There was so much to talk about in this world concerning society and sports. There is an abundance of stories waiting to be told that are below the surface. But there are also multiple ways to approach telling and analyzing these happenings.
An example of this came from last weekend’s New York Times Sunday Review. Howard Bryant’s “How Did Our Sports Get So Divisive” sheds light on why the resistance to kneeling for the anthem became so contentious. Did you know that standing for the anthem is actually a recent American tradition, circa 2001? We aren’t talking about the amount of money that is transferred between the armed services and our professional sports. Stick to sports, right?
These discussions reflect where we are as a culture and can be more than just about the game that is played. In my years at the University, we experienced the kidnapping of two football players. This year, I’ve made sure that we haven’t forgotten about this story. While ESPN may have sensationalized it, there’s a lot we can take away from the events at 22 Harvest Street. The situation revealed an example of an unhealthy team culture at UR, doused with unprofessionalism and dishonesty.
But I expect changes to come from an entirely new coaching staff. And speaking of the UR Athletics staff, Jane Posse, the associate director of recreation, reminded me of the days when men’s and women’s athletics practiced in different buildings. Yep, you guessed it, Spurrier Gym housed women’s practices in the mid ‘70s.
Now with a department housed in the Goergen Athletic Center, both male and female coaches see the relevance of my mission. Women’s Basketball coach Jim Schieble and Lacrosse coach Sue Behme believe the conversation must go on to ensure progress.
“With the opportunities women have rightfully been given through sport, society has come to realize that women can achieve amazing things without [compromising] their perceived feminism. In short, women can be considered very talented and competitive athletes while also being feminists,” Schieble wrote in an email. ”Without continued discussion, society may begin to fall back to a previous thought process that sometimes considered that dualism not possible.”
Behme added: “Girls and women need visible and active women as role models and mentors. Without discussion and visibility at all levels, we will not continue forward progress.”
A pipe dream of mine would be for the University to focus more on these intersections. There are academic institutions around the country, which have responded to this discourse about sport, equality and society. Northeastern, University of Maryland and the University of Tennessee have all dedicated resources to this discourse.
Embarking on this journey has evolved into a great love of mine, but it hasn’t come without anguish and doubt. In the past I’ve written about why I’ve persisted in light of upsetting stories appearing left and right, but I’ve also realized that these stories take a considerable amount of time to percolate. Too many of them are labeled as niche rather than worth our attention. And those that do impact society or make a front page take too long to do so.
While the world was reeling in the election of Donald Trump, I was instead broadcasting the news of Larry Nassar’s firing in that same November. The basement of Todd Union and a few straggling listeners heard Nassar’s name before the whole world did a year later. It took too long.
Senior sprinter Sean Corcoran agrees, and sees these niche stories as what can take down the powers that be.
“Why did it take so long? Why only in recent years have we valued people above sporting and monetary interests?” he wrote to me in an email. “These questions lead to discussions that provide a chance for people of privilege to see a new perspective. That’s how we are changing the current adult and adolescent attitudes, but if a person has no idea of the plight of aggressions, then they are as good as mute in the progress.”
Senior Claire Dickerson of Field Hockey and sophomore Brenna James of Women’s Basketball contend that there is still a ton of progress to be made at UR. While James wants to see parity in attendance at men’s and women’s basketball games, Dickerson acknowledges how her sport must grow.
“[Field Hockey] also isn’t as popular as other sports, so no one bothers to learn the rules,” she wrote. “It’s predominantly played in more privileged parts of society, so the lack of minority players is noticeably staggering.”
As I leave you today for the last time in the section that I’ve called home for almost four years, I want you to think about where we were in 2014, and where we are now.
Let’s see how far we’ve come.
My first year here at UR was also Becky Hammon’s first season coaching in the NBA. And now, and maybe due to a powerful ally in Pau Gasol (if you have not read his letter on the Player’s Tribune, please do), Hammon might have a chance to coach a team of her own.
Gasol’s words represent feminism at its best, where support is cultivated from figures with more prerogative and pull. Something I also learned — and this applies especially in the sports world — do not isolate those with privilege. For the movements to flourish involving not only feminism, but race and class, they must be inclusive.
Turn on the TV today and you can see three women discussing the Women’s College World Series like it’s the NFL draft. Read articles from The Undefeated, a site that always examines race and culture in sport. Advocate for and learn about those who have been silenced. To name a few: USA Gymnastics’ Fierce Five, athletes who take a knee, and NFL Cheerleaders.
This is not the end. I can never really say goodbye, and neither should you. Let’s be relentless.
If we stop, we’ll become stale. If we refrain, those who hold the most power will never know how we feel. I will always stick to sports, but when you stick to sports, you are also sticking to society.
“Everybody Talks” was a radio show on WRUR’s the Sting that highlights women’s involvement in sports and the social issues that surround athletics. Learn about what’s next for it on Facebook and Twitter.