Sports, Politics, and Patriotism – 11/28/18

Sports, Politics, and Patriotism – 11/28/18


>>ALICE GREENWALD:
Good evening. I’m Alice Greenwald, president and C.E.O.
of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and it is my pleasure
to welcome you to tonight’s program. As always, I want to extend
a special greeting to our museum members
who are with us this evening, and to those tuning in
to our live web broadcast at 911memorial.org/live. So this evening, we are joined by Howard Bryant
and Christine Brennan to discuss a timely topic: the intersection of sports,
politics, and patriotism. This theme is central to
our current special exhibition, “Comeback Season:
Sports After 9/11,” that opened this past June. “Comeback Season” focuses
specifically on the role of sports
in the aftermath of 9/11 and explores how sports, teams,
and athletes helped during a very dark time to bring people together,
to console a grieving nation, and to give us all
something to cheer about. One of the reasons
we’re looking at sports as a window into
that particular period of time is because sports occupy
a unique place in society, often reflecting
the issues of the day. Sports provide
a common denominator, a place where differences
in socioeconomic status, career sectors,
and other affiliations tend to disappear
and become irrelevant. For the span of a game,
we are all fans, there to cheer on our teams, and we share an unspoken
but acknowledged common bond. In the aftermath of 9/11, sporting events spoke
to our shared pain and our collective aspirations. They reminded us
of our resiliency as a nation. They offered a communal setting for expressions
of commemoration and tribute, displays of gratitude
to those who serve, and affirmations of
a shared patriotic commitment. Traditions were established then
that still exist today, nearly two decades later. But it is precisely because
sports serve as a social canvas that they also become reflective
of particular moments in time. Sports can unify,
as they did after 9/11, and they can also accentuate
tensions and divisive aspects of our society and our lives. We are extremely fortunate to have with us
Howard and Christine to share their insights into how expressions
of patriotism became embedded
in American sports, why they persist, and how they complicate
the world of sports today. Howard is a senior writer
for ESPN.com and “ESPN” the magazine. He regularly appears
on ESPN programming, including “SportsCenter”
and “Outside the Lines,” as well as several
ESPN radio affiliates. Howard has been
the sports correspondent for NPR’s “Weekend Edition
Saturday” since 2006, and he’s the author
of five books and a two-time winner of the Casey Award for
Best Baseball Book of the Year from “Spitball” magazine. His latest book is
“The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America,
and the Politics of Patriotism.” Christine Brennan is an award-winning national
sports columnist for “USA Today” and a commentator
for CNN, ABC News, “PBS NewsHour,” and NPR. She has been named three times as one of the country’s
top ten sports columnists by the Associated Press
Sports Editors and has covered
the last 18 Olympic Games, both summer and winter. Christine was
the first woman sports writer at the “Miami Herald,” the first to cover
Washington’s NFL team as a staff writer
at the “Washington Post,” and the first president of the Association
for Women in Sports Media. The NCAA and the Women’s Sports
Foundation honored her in 2012, during the 40th-anniversary
celebrations of Title IX, the law that protects people from discrimination
based on sex in educational programs
or activities, like sports, that benefit from
federal financial assistance. Christine is also
the author of seven books, including the 1996 national
bestseller “Inside Edge.” I want to thank
both Christine and Howard for sharing their time
and their insights with us. And without further ado,
please join me in welcoming Christine Brennan
and Howard Bryant in conversation with
our executive vice president and deputy director
for museum programs, Clifford Chanin. Thank you. (applause)>>CHANIN: Thank you, Alice. Let me welcome Howard
and Christine, as well. Before… there’s
so much to talk about, and I, I really want to really offer great praise,
Howard, to the book itself. We’ll talk specifically
about some of it. It brought me back
to some of the earliest days when I started following sports,
which we’ll talk about. But if we roll it back
before 9/11, and as Alice describes,
sports is and isn’t, and it constantly changes,
it seems to me, its role as just fun and games
or its role as, you know, this canvas
for social expression. And depending on the times, and depending on what point of
view you have about the times, people switch their arguments about what the role of sports
is. But I’d like to ask each of you,
at the most basic level, what is it that you think brings
people to sporting events, and to the intense
identification that so many people have
with sports in general or the particular sport
of their choice? Let me ask Howard to start.>>BRYANT:
I was going to defer to you, since you’re the first
in everything.>>BRENNAN: No, no. Well, you’re the first tonight.
BRYANT: You’re the first.>>BRENNAN: Please, go.>>BRYANT: Well, actually,
you know, thanks for having us here. I mean, this has been… When you asked
in the summertime to do this, I was honored to do it and looking forward to it, and I’m glad we got a chance
to make this happen. I think that, to me,
the number-one thing is, it’s a tribalism, really. I think that there’s an identity
that we have in, in our culture, especially… it’s such
a big country, anyway. It… sports allows you
to sort of narrow down that feeling of identity,
some feeling of belonging. And I think
that it’s one of those… It’s, it’s something
that has existed so long when you begin to think about
even just the pop culture. It’s something that you,
you feel that it’s important
to identify with, even if you don’t like sports. “Did you watch the game? Did you watch the Super Bowl?” There’s this unifying thing,
and especially today, when, because,
you have so many channels and there’s so much media and
internet and everything else, there aren’t very many events
in the culture that everybody is watching or that are a common
sort of theme. If you’re in New England, and you don’t know anything
about the Red Sox, people look at you
like you’re insane. I mean, it’s a unifying thing,
or something, again, or New York, or whatever, if you’re not part of that. And it becomes, it becomes
part of your, I think, it becomes part of your,
your family. I think
that for a lot of people, when they think about sports, it usually comes back to some
connection to family members. “My dad watched the game,” or, “The game was on
in the kitchen,” or whatever, and you just remember… I talk about it
with broadcasters, mostly. It becomes sort of
the, the wallpaper of your life. You remember
sort of your own lineage through, through these games. And what Christine and I
talk about… You know, we’ve talked
about this. I mean, you write about it
all the time, as well, about the illusion
that this is important. It’s really not important, but we make it
really, really important.>>BRENNAN: Yes, what he said,
and… (laughing) Can you tell we’re friends and
like-minded in many, many ways, which is… A great honor to be here with,
with you, Howard and Cliff. And, Alice, thank you
for that kind introduction, and Harmony,
and everybody who planned this, thank you, thank you, thank you. It’s just a, a delight
and honor to be here, and also…
so moving and sobering. Got a chance to see the museum
and see the sports exhibit, which is spectacular. And I highly recommend it,
if you haven’t seen it. And if people are listening
on, on the webcast, to come,
make a point of coming here. It’s, it’s just beautiful, and it remind you of
so much good in this country in, at a time
when, obviously, there’s, there are so many things
that we’re troubled by. And I live in Washington, DC,
so I’m right there, folks. (laughing) And, uh…
>>BRYANT: Lucky you.>>BRENNAN: Oh, yeah, yes. I do love DC, but wow. It’s just extraordinary. Anyway, I think, to add on
to what you said, Howard, the, the… another word
I would use is, it’s an escape. Now, when we were growing…
when I was growing up, the sports section really was
an escape, and, you know, you grabbed
that sports section, and I couldn’t wait
until the “Toledo Blade”– I grew up in the suburbs
of Toledo, Ohio– the “Toledo Blade” would hit
our doorstep, it was an afternoon paper. And I would literally stand
there sometimes, and wait… I knew the paperboy, and then the paperboy was
my brother, so when the papers came
to our house, I got it about an hour…>>BRYANT:
I hope you knew the paperboy.>>BRENNAN: I knew the paperboy
then, for sure, my younger brother. But at the time, you know, I knew he was coming,
whoever was delivering it, and I would wait,
I’d kind of hide, because there was a little
window right in the door, and I’d kind of hide,
and I’d hear the thunk. And then I’d wait, because I thought,
I guess I was, like, you know– how old was I, ten or 12–
I thought it would be weird. So I waited
until he was further away, and I went
and grabbed the paper, and I read all about
the Toledo Mud Hens, the Detroit Tigers,
and, you know, all the things I cared about–
Toledo Rockets football. And it, it really was
this, this place I could go and read about. And of course, again,
no ESPN at that point. So this is it. This is the first, I get
pictures I get a chance to see, the first I get to read
about it, the first I can see
what the box score was like if it’s a baseball game,
et cetera, et cetera. So that was an…
it was the escape. And I still think,
for many people, Cliff, it is an escape. Or they, they hold it up
on a pedestal, hoping it is an escape. I would maintain, actually, sports is much more now
a mirror of our society, which I know
we’re going to get into. And that is what I think
troubles some sports fans. I know you get this, I get this,
on Twitter, whatever. “Oh, stick to sports.” LeBron gets that, right?
>>BRYANT: Yeah.>>BRENNAN: “Can’t we just
enjoy the game? Do we have to deal
with X, Y, Z?” And I know we’ll be dealing
with all those things.>>BRYANT: Yes, yes.
>>BRENNAN: And my answer, of course, as yours, is,
“Yes, we do.” But I do understand when
someone goes to a baseball game, and from 7:00 to 10:00 at night, they’d like to escape
with their spouse and their kids and enjoy the game
and not worry about the fact that the center-fielder could be
on performance-enhancing drugs and the right-fielder might be
charged with domestic violence. I understand that concept. News flash:
things have changed. We have information now
that we didn’t have before. Thank goodness
we have that information.>>BRYANT: Yup.
>>BRENNAN: As a consumer, you can now know much more
about what you’re buying, just as you would a car. If you’re going to buy tickets
to a game, shouldn’t you know
about the behavior of people? If you’re going to go watch
the Washington NFL team, and this Reuben Foster story that has kind of exploded today,
rightly so, you should know that. And so that is my take. I know it’s yours, as well. But I do get the concept,
that old-school feeling, of just going to a game and escaping
from the real world. I do understand that concept.>>BRYANT: Yeah, and it’s also
a demand. It’s a demand that people have even when they,
they know better, because the last thing sports
is right now is, is an escape for some of the reasons
why we’re here. And you can’t go
to the sporting event and not have the specter of 9/11
on top of you, every game. It’s, it’s frightening,
in a lot of ways. And to me, I think that…
I think that what happens is, we want to hold on
to what we know, even if the world around us
is changing. And even if the industry of
sports itself is forcing us into a direction
we may not want to go. And so, I, I can appreciate it,
as well. But the, the number
of different areas where sports is not fun– when you’re talking about… whether we’re talking
about your taxpayer dollars, about where in this town,
right, before, I mean,
because I lived here– and I was covering the Yankees
during 9/11– and we remember, immediately
after the mayor left office, he gave the Yankees
and the Mets quite a gift, two publicly funded stadiums.
>>BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.>>BRYANT: And so… totaling,
I think, $2.6 billion. So all of these different events
and these different concepts, they do not escape. You can’t go to a sporting event
and not have it affect, or have there be some effect,
on your daily life.>>CHANIN: Well, let’s come
to the 9/11 moment, because Christine saw
the exhibition downstairs, and, you know, we really wanted,
in putting that together, to look at that four-month,
six-month window after 9/11, where sports really served
as a venue for people to express something, whether it was their jubilation
in the moment of release, whether it was common sorrow, whether it was
just a way of escaping. But… and, Howard, you’re… You had a piece
in the “Times” earlier this year that, you know,
couples where we are today, in terms of the kneeling
with the flag and so on and so forth, back to September 11. And, you know,
“What was once ostensibly, you write, “a unifying moment
in the country “has helped transform sports, “with flags and flyovers,
kneelings… “kneeling and protests, “into the most divided
public spectacle this side of Congress.” But come back to that,
come back to that moment.>>BRYANT: To 9/11?>>CHANIN: Yeah, that moment.
>>BRYANT: Yeah.>>CHANIN: Because, you know,
granted, we live here, those of us who work here
and are here, we are in that moment much more
than most people are, I would suspect, on a daily basis. But that moment remains
extremely powerful.>>BRYANT:
Yeah, and very personal.>>CHANIN: And the purity
of what that was, I think, remains true.
>>BRYANT: Yeah, no doubt. Chris, you were with us that
Sunday night, weren’t you? Yeah, Red Sox-Yankees,
Sunday night, the ninth. We go have dinner. It was Chris, me, Jeff Horrigan
from the “Boston Herald.” And, and we’re walking
wherever we were, I think we went up…
we were on the East Side. And we were walking past
a photo… a museum, or I think
it was just a, a gallery, and there was
that famous picture of the, of the airplane that got caught
in one of the buildings here, in the ’40s, I think it was. And I remember
Jeff Horrigan said… He still reminds me, every day,
he’s, like, “Remember that? When we walked past that
on Sunday before 9/11?” Tuesday morning, of course, you know,
you were working down here, and we remember that day
pretty specifically. I remember we were waiting
to find out what to do, because we were covering
baseball. And it was useless,
it didn’t have any value. It was, like, I mean, on that day
and every day after that, it just didn’t… I remember, myself, thinking,
“Why am I doing this?” And being
one of the only reporters– because I was working
at the “Record” in New Jersey– being one of the few reporters
who actually lived in Manhattan, they sent us down
to Ground Zero. And so you weren’t
a sports writer anymore. Now you were a reporter,
and you had to go to work. And so I remember
so much of that. I remember, mostly… I remember, I think,
just from a personal standpoint, if anyone has ever seen the
movie “The Devil’s Advocate,” the… the film
with Keanu Reeves and Al Pacino, when he goes to, you know,
Al Pacino is the devil, and he goes to meet him
in this final scene, and you’re walking
down the street, and there’s nobody there. I was walking down Eighth Avenue
right by Times Square, not a single person
in New York City. And I was, like,
“This can’t be happening.” I mean, it was unbelievable, to not see a person
in New York, in Times Square at 8:00 in the morning. And so, you know, it was, it was incredible,
just from a couple of things. I think the other thing that
I remember, as well, about that was the players
not quite knowing what to do and where to fit and where everything was
going to… You know, what was their role? And, of course, you remember, the Mets immediately got
involved. And they had a relief station
in the parking lot at Shea. And the Yankees didn’t really do
anything. And they were being criticized
for not being patriotic enough. And George Steinbrenner,
of course, who was not going to let the
Mets upstage him on anything, especially something like this, had to do something. And one of the things
that he did was, he hired Ronan Tynan to come
sing “God Bless America” in the seventh inning, and they’ve been doing it
ever since. It really wasn’t
anything necessarily out of, out of patriotism. It was more out of competition. And it’s…
now it’s become a staple. And so, you know,
I could go on all day about all the different things
I remember about, about that moment. But what I remember mostly
about it, too, was, for those two months– and the Yankees go
to the World Series, and they play a phenomenal
World Series against the Diamondbacks– and you just remember, just a feeling of tension
throughout every single game, and things have happened
that remain. Now we have metal detectors, and we have conveyor belts
going into security. Started then,
it’s never gone away. They’re here now. It’s been almost 20 years. You know, I remember,
certainly, the World Series, when George Bush threw out
the first pitch. It’s a very funny moment,
in that… We were all told
the president was going to be at the ballpark
for game three. But, obviously, you don’t want to advertise
during that climate. So we go to the ballpark, and everyone’s telling us
to look up, and there are snipers
on the roof, surrounding Yankee Stadium, and on the building
across the street. And… but no one knows if the president is actually
in the building or not. So they, they bring
the president in, but they dress him up
as an umpire. So it’s like something
out of the “Naked Gun.” They never…
but they never tell the umpires that the president
is one of them, so all the umpires are looking
around going, “Who’s that guy?” (laughter) And then they look at him,
and they, it’s, you know, it’s the president. And so it was…
there were some pretty… some moments of levity there. But I think what
it really was, too, was this… Sports was this, was this place
where people were waiting and looking at each other,
“Is it okay to be happy? “Is it all right to cheer? Is it okay?” And so at the ballpark,
suddenly it became this place when something good happened,
that it was, like, “It’s okay. You can actually, like,
live again.”>>CHANIN: Yeah.>>BRENNAN: Yeah, I was here
in the city, actually, for the two weeks leading up
to 9/11, which, of course, at the time,
I would never have known that, that would be a thing,
to be leading up to 9/11. I was covering
the U.S. Open tennis, and I think it may be
the only time, Howard, that I covered every day
of the U.S. Open tennis. I mean, often I would come up
for a couple of days or come up for the final weekend
or something, but I was here. And I, I met someone for lunch
right around the corner here. And, you know, I remember
looking all the way up at the buildings. And, of course, the shuttle that we would have
coming back into the city, the hotel wherever we were,
on the East Side somewhere… The bus, of course,
every day coming in from, from the tennis center,
you know, you’d see the Twin Towers
just looming, as… and it was just a given. And the Williams sisters played. I believe Pete Sampras won
the men’s final, and that was on the ninth. The Williams sisters, eighth, and September 9 was
Pete Sampras. And then a whole group
of us journalists were gathering that night, and I won’t go
into the details of the story, but one of us– and she’s told
the story many times– she was trying to figure out
her flights, and trying to get,
see if she was going to upgrade, and she was actually going
to fly through Boston, and she was going to do it
on Tuesday. And thankfully, because she couldn’t get
into first class, an upgrade, she took a later flight, because otherwise
she would have been on… going from Islip to Boston, and then she would have been
on one of the planes. So we always, we are in touch
about that, the thought of, you know, just kind of blithely talking
about, as we all do, “Oh, I’ll take this–
no, I’ll take that flight. I’ll go a little later,”
you know, whatever. And so there was that. And then on the tenth,
I took the train home to DC, where I live, and looked at… I remember as we came
under the river and came out to New Jersey,
and I looked at the skyline, and if someone had told me
I told you this, Cliff, before, as we were getting ready, if someone had told me,
“In 24 hours,” you know, like, a time traveler
tapped me on the shoulder, you know, “In 24 hours
those will be gone,” it just would have been
stunning. So it meant something, I think,
even more to me personally, just because I was here
in the city for so long. And then I agree with you, there was that sense that
sports writing was absolutely the least important job
on the planet, right? And… and you wanted to write
a column. And even then, whatever column
I wrote right off the bat, I remember thinking,
“This is just, who cares?” You know? And the idea, the question was,
“Everything’s shutting down. When will they start to play
again?” All of that, again,
it seemed absolute as irrelevant as anything we’ve probably
ever done as journalists. I will say, though,
soon after that, I found out
about the Glick family, and Jeremy Glick was
on the plane that crashed into Shanksville.
>>CHANIN: Flight 93, yup.>>BRENNAN: And he was one of
the… well, we thought four, there turned out to be
a lot more people that were trying to storm
the cockpit… an athlete himself. And I got to know the family
really well, and I wrote several columns in talking to the, the family
and the sisters. And there was a skating
exhibition that was planned at Madison Square Garden,
several weeks after 9/11, already planned, as an
anniversary for a plane crash. The entire Olympic team,
or the world championship team, was killed in 1961,
40th anniversary. And Scott Hamilton,
Brian Boitano, everyone was going to skate. Well, they turned it
into basically a 9/11 memorial. And Jeremy Glick’s youngest
sister was a figure skater. And she came out onto the ice
at Madison Square Garden– I came up for that,
wrote to DC to cover it– and skated a tribute
to her brother. Now, she was not an elite-level,
Olympic-level skater. But Scott Hamilton
and Dorothy Hamill and Michelle Kwan, and everyone who was there
that day, just cleared the ice, so this young– I believe
she was a middle schooler– could skate a tribute
to her brother. And, and I’ve been in touch
with the Glicks for many, many years. In fact, Harmony knows I took a picture of, of Jeremy
on the wall there, just to send it
to Jennifer later.>>CHANIN: Jeremy’s sister
is actually on the board of the museum.>>BRENNAN: Which one, Jennifer? Well, there are several,
they all start with J.>>CHANIN: Alice, I… Huh? Jennifer, yes, I’m sorry.
>>BRENNAN: Jennifer. Who was the one.
>>CHANIN: I drew a blank, yes.>>BRENNAN: No, that was it.>>BRYANT: Yeah, and, and Cliff, it’s really important
to remember, when you think about it
generationally, and we’ve talked about this
before, I think that if you are
of a given generation, you know, if you’re
of my dad’s generation, World War II is
the demarcating line, you know? It’s the moment
of his generation’s life. For my generation,
it was the Cold War. I mean, when we were kids,
we all… We were afraid
of the Russians. I mean, the Olympics were
important because of what? The United States versus…
>>BRENNAN: The Soviets.>>BRYANT: Beating the Russians
or losing to the Soviets, or them not coming
or us not going.>>BRENNAN: Right.
>>BRYANT: And so it was that. But for this generation, 9/11 has completely dominated
their worldview, like it or not. It’s not something
that they have a choice in.>>CHANIN: Yeah.>>BRYANT: And so for my son’s
generation– he was born in 2004– sports,
with the flags and the flyovers and the soldiers
and all of this, which is not something
that we remember… You had moments. Obviously, Whitney Houston
singing the national anthem in ’91, when the Gulf War
started. But those moments went away. If you go back
and look at the footage of that, you see all the, the flags
at the Super Bowl and everything else,
and during the… During the, the NCAA finals
with Duke, the very next season, all the flags disappeared,
the flags on the uniforms, the flags
on the back of the helmets, all of it was gone. But in, in post-9/11 America,
all of that… All of those optics have
not only remained, but they’ve also been used
for commercial purposes.>>CHANIN:
So let me come to this issue of sort of the overlay
of two things. Because as we were saying, sort of the clarity
of what was needed in the immediate aftermath
of 9/11, and how sports figured in that, is something
that we all acknowledge. And yet, Howard, you write
about something, and I’d asked you to define
specifically what we mean
by “the heritage,” because that is a phenomenon
that you track the history of in your book. But it really overlays
something else onto the sports scene that’s not a contradiction
to 9/11, but it is another thing
happening at the same time.>>BRYANT: Yup.
>>CHANIN: That 9/11 has. So these are two things
with profound meanings, but they don’t necessarily fit
together all that well. So take us back
to the heritage itself. Describe it for us.>>BRYANT: Yeah, well, I mean,
I think that, to me, it came back to the, the notion
of, “Stick to sports.” I think one of the reasons why I started doing the book
in the first place was this…
(glass clatters) You almost broke that. That would have been something.>>CHANIN: You would not have
been the first.>>BRENNAN: He told me
to create a diversion… >>CHANIN: We’ve had spillage
up here.>>BRENNAN: That wasn’t
the time.>>BRYANT: No, no– no, I think
that what it is, is that the, this idea
of “stick to sports,” and it had become more and more
and more prominent in the culture, where… I mean, we always got…
we always get emails from people saying, “I just want the game.” We’ve had that. But this, I think post-9/11,
became more pronounced. And I think for me, the,
the question that I asked was, “Well, when did a black athlete
ever stick to sports? When have you ever had to,
if you were a black player?” Black players got involved
in politics at the behest of the culture. If you go back to… If you go back to Jesse Owens, and Jesse Owens
in, in World War II with… in, in Berlin. If you go to Jackie Robinson
testifying against Paul Robeson for you know, as an anti…
as an anti-communist in front of the House
Un-American Activities Committee in 1949. You can take as many different
examples of this as you want. I mean, it wasn’t until… It wasn’t really
until the Civil Rights Movement, where you had black athletes
advocating for black issues. They were talking
about American issues and were asked to speak. And so what
I found interesting about this was the entire notion
of “stick to sports.” One, it’s ahistorical, because black athletes have
always been talking about this, whether you’re talking… whether you go back
to the ’20s or ’30s, or whether you go into the ’60s, or, or Muhammad Ali in the ’60s
and the ’70s. You had a period
in the late ’70s and the ’80s and into the ’90s, up until…
up until Ferguson in 2014, or actually, you know,
Trayvon Martin being killed, where the players were, were
silent or co-opted. But this notion that sports had
somehow been pure is ridiculous. And not only is it ridiculous, it’s, it’s not…
it’s not paying attention to the, the story
of the black athlete. And I thought that what was
interesting about it was that, that people were telling
these African-American athletes, who were suddenly, after all these years
of Michael Jordan and all the players not getting
involved in anything, and I refer to them as being… hiding behind the tinted glass
of their Escalades, now telling them to be quiet, and telling them that politics
was not appropriate in their industry at a time when
you can’t watch a sporting event without the politics
of the military in the game. So which, you know,
what’s it going to be? Do you want these sports to not
have a political bent to them? Because if you do, then you shouldn’t have
induction ceremonies taking place on the field. And you certainly shouldn’t have
the military on the field paying for all of this
and not even telling the public, which is what…
which is what’s happening. And so you had this collision. You had this collision
of patriotism taking place on the field, but now you had
this renewed activism on the part of the player, colliding. And to me the reason is
because of 9/11. The reason why… The, the reason
why you’re having F-14 flyovers at Cowboys games is because of the commercialism
of this day. And my argument,
of course, is that, one, “stick to sports”
has never existed, but, also, neither patriotism
nor protest should be for sale. And today, both are for sale.>>CHANIN: Christine,
your sense of, you know, this tradition of… certainly within the world
of black athletes, but where it comes and goes in terms of the sports
that you follow most closely.>>BRENNAN: Well, I think,
you know, again, Howard, we’ve got the ultimate expert on, on a lot of these topics
here, which is, which is, fantastic. You know, it’s… you know,
I think of Muhammad Ali, and I think… we were actually
a Joe Frazier house, my dad, and, and I’ll tell you why. And you may already have
guessed. So my dad was admitted
into the Army at the very end
of World War II. Couldn’t wait, played a year of football
at Drake, and then, boom,
couldn’t wait to get there and was in the occupation
of Germany, et cetera,
for several years. Very patriotic. Vietnam comes along, and it was, obviously,
a troubling time for everyone. But for a lot of people, a lot of people
who had been in the military, as my dad had been a sergeant
in the Army, you were kind of a “love it
or leave it” kind of guy. You know,
“This is the United States. This is what we do.” And that’s what I grew up with. And my dad was super-smart and quickly, you know,
understood as things were starting
to deteriorate, it was a much more nuanced
thing. But I do remember
when Muhammad Ali, of course, as you know,
his story, but as he is protesting and refuses to go to fight
in the war. Of course, Cassius Clay, and changes his name
to Muhammad Ali. That was not popular. And I’m telling this story
on my late father, who would enjoy it, because using him
as a touchstone in history. So Joe Frazier, of course, those legendary fights
with Muhammad Ali, well, we cheered
for Joe Frazier, because my dad was not a fan
of Muhammad Ali. And basically,
when you’re a little kid, and whatever your mom…
especially in sports, at that time, it was my dad. Obviously, now moms, millions
of moms are into sports, just like their husbands
or their brothers or whatever. But back then,
it was more the dad thing. And then, of course, here I am, this, this girl
that can’t get enough of sports. My dad was my own personal
Title IX, as Title IX was being signed
by Richard Nixon right at this same time,
in June of ’72. And so, anyway, we’re cheering
for Joe Frazier, right? And I’m sure we were not alone.
>>BRYANT: No.>>BRENNAN: And I got
to tell you that my father, who passed away in ’03, my dad would have been
as surprised as anyone, and probably pleasantly so, when this nation stopped
a couple of years ago and observed
those four or five days of tribute to Muhammad Ali. And, because he would have
totally understood that this great country had
a sense about it to embrace those
who had not been embraced and to understand mistakes
that had been made or misperceptions
that had been made in… on behalf of, of those
who were fighting those battles, as Muhammad Ali was. And my dad would have seriously
and poignantly mourned Muhammad Ali. And so with that in mind, I… Of course, you can’t go
to the ’60s and the ’70s without talking about someone
like Billie Jean King. And more and more now,
I’m thrilled– and I know, Howard, you feel
the same way about this– that when we talk about
social change in sports, we are also talking about women. And Billie Jean King,
fighting for equal pay, wasn’t just a tennis story, even though that’s
how it was framed, and that, of course,
is a great starting point. But it was, in fact,
very much a story of America, and women like Gloria Steinem
and others, the women’s movement coming
of age, and that’s Billie Jean King, and, of course, now,
75 years old and… 75 years young, and still doing the
amazing things that she’s doing and touching
a whole ‘nother generation of girls and boys
and men and women with her advocacy, so…>>BRYANT: And also not sticking
to sports, obviously, once again. When you’re dealing
with these topics. The issue is, is that
you’ve got such a platform. The platform is enormous, because so many people are
watching. You’re gonna, if you want
eyeballs on something, just have it take place
at a sporting event. And so people say, when they talk about
these different protests, or when they’re talking about… when they talk about Kaepernick,
for example, or when they talk about… or Venus fighting for equal pay,
still– Venus Williams, that is–
well, you know, “Why can’t you do just this
outside of your job?” Well, because
the, the platform is huge. Why do you think…
I remember talking to, for the book,
talking to Russel Honoré, the three-star general, asking him how he felt
about the flags and the flyovers and the… and all
of the induction ceremonies, and, you know, why
the military belongs in sports. And he doesn’t believe
that it does. But he also said,
“We need to man the force.” And this is a place… You’re not going to get
this kind of advertising anywhere else. So if you’re a protester, you’re not going to get
this kind of attention. And if you’re trying to recruit, which is what the Armed Forces
is trying to do, obviously. You’re fighting however many
wars we’re fighting right now, and we’ve gone for 20 years. You need to actually man
the force. And so, General Honoré said
to me, you know, “If some 14-year-old at a,
at a Dallas Cowboys game “sees a jet flyover, “and that inspires that kid
to serve their country, “we’re not going to get
this kind of advertising anywhere else.”>>BRENNAN: Well,
and, of course, as we’re talking
about the social activism of the ’60s and ’70s,
I mean, obviously, it’s, it’s, that’s kind of
the general time period, you know, I do think– and I don’t know
what you think about this– but there’s a pendulum. I mean, we see it in, my
goodness, we see it everywhere. We see it in politics,
an answer and a reaction and an action,
back and forth it goes. And, and, for example, you know,
you mentioned Michael Jordan. I would mention another name,
Tiger Woods.>>BRYANT: Also.>>BRENNAN: And the art
of corporate acquiescence. Tiger…
>>BRYANT: You’re being kind.>>BRENNAN: Yeah, well, 1996,
Tiger comes out, you know, “Hello, world.” And he has the ad that I thought
was terrific, a commercial. Some of you may remember, Nike. You can find it easily online. “There are golf courses
I cannot play because of the color
of my skin.” It was an incredible statement, and I thought such an
important statement to be made. Well, within a few days, the cascade of criticism
from some of the fellow pros, from others
in the golf establishment, the sports establishment, and, of course,
just general golf fans. “How dare he? How dare he inject politics?” To the point
we’re talking about. So young Tiger Woods had
the right instincts, or Nike had the right instincts
on his behalf. Whatever it might be. He had, he would have had
to sign off on that commercial.>>BRYANT: Or his father had
the right instincts for him.>>BRENNAN: Exactly. Which, which, I think good old
Earl had some good instincts for his son, as it turned out. But within a couple of weeks, that commercial
basically was gone. And Tiger then made the decision
to move forward in a much more safe manner,
which is unfortunate. Bill Clinton invited him to the 50th anniversary
of Jackie Robinson. And Tiger said no, and
then he told us at the Masters– he was asked specifically,
“Why aren’t you going? “When the president
of the United States, President Clinton, invites you?” And he said,
“Well, I’m going on vacation.”>>BRYANT: And offers to fly you
with a jet, to come get you.
>>BRENNAN: Of course. And Tiger already has a jet, and he could have flown anyway.
>>BRYANT: Exactly.>>BRENNAN: And he basically sat
there, as only Tiger could, especially Tiger in that,
in his, you know, whatever, his 20-something era. And basically,
“I’m going on vacation.” And it was, frankly, appalling. But that was,
that was young Tiger. And so basically,
for what, 20, 25 years, Tiger just decided to take…
go follow the Jordan model. It’s his right,
it’s a free country. But you certainly can imagine I
wrote a few columns about that.>>CHANIN: Let me ask,
we have two periods of intense polarization
in the country. I mean, the ’60s being
one of them, into the ’70s.
>>BRYANT: And now.>>CHANIN: And currently,
the last number of years. How do you think
the platforms that athletes have in these two different times have changed? The, the impact of advertising,
the corporate relationships with both the leagues
and the players, seems much more developed
than it was 40 or 50 years ago. But, you know, is the platform
that Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell,
and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, that they stood on, the same platform that now LeBron James and Colin
Kaepernick are standing on? How does it differ?
>>BRYANT: Well, it differs because the money is enormous. I mean, the money is, it’s, it’s so big,
it’s unfathomable, considering that, that
Hank Aaron, I believe, in ’76, the year he retired, Hank Aaron topped out
at $240,000 a year in salary. LeBron James makes
$35 million a year. And, and so when you start
to look at it that way, the, the, the dollars are just
astronomical. And what comes with
those dollars is also the… the, the relationships,
the corporate relationships. You know, these guys aren’t
just athletes anymore. I… one of my favorite moments
and, obviously, it’s, it’s just something
that can only happen today. I was on the field
a few years ago at a Yankee game
with Alex Rodriguez, and he and I are sitting there
talking, and he says, “Yeah, you know, I was having lunch with
Warren Buffett the other day.” (laughing) And then I was speechless. I mean, who has lunch
with Warren Buffett when you’re a third baseman? I mean, this is what these guys,
I mean… but then again, he earned almost three quarters
of a billion dollars in salary alone, not including endorsements
or anything else. And so there’s that. And then there’s also
the social media part of the platform, as well. I remember doing a story
on Carmelo Anthony, and he was saying
that one of the reasons why the players got involved
post-Ferguson was the amount of viral videos
that they see now. That they don’t need us anymore. That they’re not using
traditional media as a conduit anymore. They can sit there on Facebook or YouTube or Twitter
or whatever, and… and they’re watching
these confrontations between these, you know,
black kids and the police. And they’re watching them
in real time, or they’re watching them
themselves, and they’re making
their own decisions. And so now you have, you have
a generation of players who feel
a direct responsibility, because they’re not using us
as a conduit, and they can, they can
circumvent traditional media. And then, of course,
when that happens, you recognize the power
of the player. The power of
the professional athlete today is more, is greater
than it’s ever been.>>BRENNAN: Well, I think… (clears throat): You know,
looking at today, which I think is important– I think we may be headed there
with Kaepernick and Trump, and, and everything
that that entails. You know,
the social activism today I think is extraordinary, and I think will go down
in history as a great gift to this country. Certainly, the ’60s, they have. And, you know, again, to think
of the black-power salute at the ’68 Olympics
in Mexico City, and they were both sent home, and their lives were altered
forever. And, and now, we look at them,
of course, as heroes.>>BRYANT: Yeah.>>BRENNAN: But I think it’s…
I think more now, we are… because
it’s such a fractured time, because the president is
Donald Trump, because of the level of,
you know, disgust with him and, by many in the country, I think we’re probably getting
a quicker snapshot and a quicker analysis
than ever before. Also, because of the speed
of everything and Twitter and just the fact it’s all there
right in front of us. You don’t have to wait a week to get “Sports Illustrated,”
right? You don’t have to wait 24 hours
to get your next newspaper. So, of course, it’s sped up. And I think the analysis,
I think I’m… I feel pretty comfortable myself
saying this, that the whole situation
with Colin Kaepernick will be studied
in the history books, or the holograms or whatever, however kids are studying,
you know, 50 years from now. I’m, I’m pretty sure of that. There are so many facets
to this. So I, I won’t…
there may well be questions.>>CHANIN: Let me come in
a little bit on Kaepernick, because it is
such a, an emblematic issue in relation to all this. But, you know,
the most recent developments sort of turn it on its head,
as well. So Kaepernick is blackballed,
essentially, from the NFL for his kneeling
during the anthem, and he’s not able
to play football anymore. It’s clear that, you know, there’s no interest
in bringing him back. And yet, you know, Nike– and Nike has been sort of an
actor in many of these events, in spite or perhaps because of
him being out of the league, but symbolizing a movement– Nike has now launched
a campaign around him. And so what you mentioned
before, Howard, the commercialization of this
is now transformed, because it’s no longer, “You’re going to sacrifice
your commercial viability if you take
this kind of a stand.” At least in the Nike view, “You’re going to enhance
your viability, and you want to be associated
with the corporation.” How does this,
how does this happen?>>BRYANT: Yeah, well,
I think to circle it back, I think the most important thing
to remember is that the professional sports
leagues are using 9/11 as a way to silence athletes. They’re using this veneer
of patriotism, even though they’re profiting
from all of it, to keep their players in line. At the end of the day, when you deal
with, with an industry, it always comes back,
as you know, to owners versus players. It comes back to labor. And, and right now,
I think that, Kaepernick aside, although he is emblematic
of a labor battle, as well, considering that you have
Reuben Foster, who three times this year
has been… Was he arrested three times?
>>BRENNAN: Mm-hmm.>>BRYANT: Arrested three times
for domestic…>>BRENNAN:
Twice for domestic violence.>>BRYANT: Twice
for domestic violence, and he gets picked up by a team, and Colin Kaepernick,
who has committed no crime, and not only
has he committed no crime, he was simply advocating
for something he disagreed with, which is completely un-American. There’s no other way
around that. However,
the leagues themselves have… They have gone into business
in such a way with the idea of patriotism
and the idea of soldiers and the idea
of all of these different, these different
sort of… the, the fallout from,
from 9/11. They’ve used it as a way
to control the workforce. And so when you have someone
like Kaepernick do what he’s done, the argument is, is that he’s disrespecting
the military, even though he, what he says has
nothing to do with the military. I understand, obviously, the different feelings
that people have. However,
from the standpoint of business, the standpoint of control,
what the leagues are doing, what… you know,
what they’ve done is, they have made…
they’ve made a clear line, whether we’re talking about
the Boston Marathon bombing or whether we’re talking
about 9/11 or however, you know, this is the point
that I was trying to make about how what was
a unifying moment is now being used to make money and also to control
the, the athletes. And Kaepernick is a really
interesting character in this, because… I’ve been
of two minds on Nike. When all of that happened,
I… part of me was thinking, “Well, one, Nike is doing…” You know, now you’ve got… You’ve got one group, the NFL, that is profiting from
patriotism and from militarism. And now you have another
corporation, Nike, which is profiting from
the forgotten folks out there who support Kaepernick. So they’re profiting
from protest. Nike and the NFL are
business partners. And so the corporation is really
who’s laughing at everybody, when you think about it. On the other hand, I felt… The way that… The way that, in totality, the NFL and a lot of these
municipalities were trying to boycott Nike, the way they’ve tried to
essentially destroy this person, you know, I thought that… that Nike getting involved
in this had a lot of value. I think my mind changed on this, simply because when you think
about the, the way that the NFL
has gone out of its way to destroy this person, who simply had an opinion,
really, I thought it was nice to see
a counterbalance.>>BRENNAN: Well, Nike shut up
Donald Trump, first of all. So that’s, that’s a positive. Isn’t that interesting, though? Because, to follow up
on what you were saying, Howard, here is Trump–
this story had basically waned.>>BRYANT: Yeah.>>BRENNAN: It, of course it
started in the summer of 2016, with the…>>BRYANT: Which, by the way,
Christine, which is very interesting, because Muhammad Ali
had just died less than three months previous.
>>BRENNAN: Right.>>BRYANT: And everybody was
talking about…>>BRENNAN: How great…>>BRYANT: How great
Muhammad Ali was.>>BRENNAN: Right, then the idea
of civil disobedience…>>BRYANT: Exactly.
>>BRENNAN: And again…>>BRYANT: And then
this happens.>>BRENNAN: And first
you have Kaepernick sitting at a pre-season game, and, like, kind of,
people noticed a little, and like, “Oh, look at that.” Then you’ve got
the Green Beret telling him, “If you’re going to do this,
kneel.” And then, of course,
it became a big deal. And then, though, if we’re looking
at the arc of the story, there was a lot of attention, and then Kaepernick
really wasn’t talking. And it, it waned. It waned until September,
late September of 2017, when Donald Trump goes down
to Alabama for that Senate race and, and issues
his famous “S.O.B.” line. And that was a Friday night– I actually was in the green room
at CNN. I was going to go
on Don Lemon’s show talking about Aaron Hernandez. And that’s… he had, you know,
that’s had just happened.>>BRYANT: Also sticking
to sports.>>BRENNAN: Yes, exactly–
well, but if I’m on CNN, we’re not sticking to sports,
right?>>BRYANT: Yeah, exactly.>>BRENNAN: That’s,
that’s the… Culture and sports, that intersection
is now a superhighway, right? Where they,
where those two meet, our U.S. culture and sports. And, anyway, and then
we’re literally flipping. Don, Don Lemon says,
“I think this is a big deal.” I said, “I do, too,” because I’m looking at Twitter, and I’m seeing
all the NFL players, “Protest, protest,
we’re going to protest.” And I, I was not…
didn’t take a rocket scientist. I’m happy to say I said this, but a journalist
would have not had his or her, you know,
journalist card much longer if you didn’t say this, that there would be hundreds
of protests that Sunday. So Trump gins it all up. He just throws that little,
you know, that hand grenade, and, boom, it takes off. Again, Kaepernick is now
out of the league, if you move on to this year. And again it wanes,
until the Dolphins, it breaks
that the Dolphins have this… they’re going to do
the player conduct and going to have
potential fines. It blows up again. The NFL says,
“Well, we can’t do this.” And then it’s quiet. But then, then,
so, again, it took Trump. But now, Nike– what is Nike? It’s a business. What is Trump? Whatever Trump is, but,
obviously, he’s a businessman. At least that’s the idea, right? Capitalism, right? Free enterprise. Nike makes a business decision,
and Trump doesn’t like it. He said, “What’s Nike thinking?” And I think Nike’s thinking, “I’d like to have
50 years of market share.” Because, another, I think,
key point here, younger Americans are
all about social activism. Those Parkland kids are
18, 19 years old. When they’re 50, they’re going
to run this country. And… they and kids like them. And, you know, God love them,
and thank goodness for them. And so what you’ve got here
is a whole, now, generation that is socially active
and that is going to buy Nikes because of Colin Kaepernick and
because of the social activism. So maybe it doesn’t play so well with Dad and Mom
and Grandpa and Grandma, but it’s playing well
with the kids. And who’s your future fan base? It’s those 18-year-olds.>>BRYANT: And Nike was also
calculated, I was going to say,
in one other way, too, because what Nike did,
in a very clever sense, was, all of those folks,
or a lot of those folks who had been criticizing Nike
for 30 years for their unfair
labor practices, are now, like, “Yeah, go, Nike.”>>BRENNAN: I know.
>>BRYANT: So…>>BRENNAN: Well, yeah,
there is that part.>>CHANIN:
Let me bring LeBron into this, because you describe, you know,
his activist trajectory in your book, and in more recent years, he has really stepped forward
in this. And, you know, he actually
took Trump on directly, in terms
of social media comments and so on and so forth. So… and I want to get to some
audience questions, as well. But, you know, let’s talk about
not just LeBron’s development, but where he is right now. Because he’s
the crossing point…>>BRYANT: Yeah.>>CHANIN: …of extraordinary
accomplishment, still on the court, and this major
corporate presence with Nike and many other corporations,
as well.>>BRYANT: Indeed, yeah,
well, very, very quickly, and I know everyone,
people have questions, and I hate
when we have these events and people don’t get to ask
questions they may have. Very quickly, there’s a saying
in the clubhouse, whether it’s baseball,
football, whatever, that the smartest guy
in the room is the guy with the biggest
number of zeros on his paycheck. LeBron James has the biggest
number of zeros on his paycheck. In other words, he’s the guy that everyone’s going
to listen to, and what he does,
people are going to follow. Just as was the case
with O.J. and Michael and Tiger and the rest of them. And so what LeBron has done is,
he has essentially told, by his actions
after Trayvon Martin was killed, “It’s okay
if you want to stand up, “if you want to say something. I’m doing it.” And a lot of the other players, now that they’ve got a cover
from the big guy, they may feel a little bit
more emboldened to, to speak. And then on top of that,
what he’s also done, because he is
of this new generation, when we talk about wealth, LeBron James is, is worth
a half a billion dollars. He’s 32 years old. And so, you know, he’s, he has got a level
of financial protection. It’s also going to be
very interesting to see what happens
to LeBron James, because can you really be
an activist when you are the overlord? Considering his movie company
that he owns and the other production
companies and his connections
with T-Mobile and State Farm and all these…
all these corporations that ostensibly
people are going to protest, can you be the protester, and the corporate entity
at the same time?>>BRENNAN: Thank goodness
for LeBron James and the way he speaks out. I’m from northern Ohio. He’s from northern Ohio. And even though he’s come and
gone and come and gone again… (clears throat):
It’s wonderful to see. If you’ve spent any time
in northern Ohio, in Toledo, there’s, you know,
we have trees. It’s beautiful,
it’s green, you know. But, and Cleveland,
and then you go further, Akron, Youngstown, et cetera, obviously Youngstown
in the news, with the GM plant closing, what a, what a delight it is
to have someone, and I’m not even speaking
at all racially here, at all. I mean, just as a,
as a touchstone, as a… as a hero
for a community and an area. Opening that school, amazing. The story of the bicycle, he wanted every kid to have
a bike, because, of course,
he had a bike, and he got a chance to see
other places because he rode his bike, and got to meet people that
he otherwise wouldn’t have met. And he’d like to have kids have
that same opportunity. So and while that’s going on,
as I’m sure you recall, he’s getting, you know, hammered
by tweets by the president
of the United States, which was just unthinkable,
and yet, there it was happening. How history will judge that,
huh? I, I think LeBron will win
that one, as well. But just
when you think about it, LeBron, for all the athletes
who get in trouble– and we’ve covered a lot of them,
black, white, men, women… Not so many women
but some women, Tonya Harding, covered Tonya Harding– talk a little bit about Tonya. Marion Jones cheating, sadly,
tragically, unfortunately. You know, you think about…
think about LeBron. I mean, the trouble that
he could have gotten in, right, as a high school kid, you know? All the things
that could have happened. The people that
he surrounded himself with. I did a column, right,
that first year he was a rookie. And I talked to the adults
who were around him, and his foundation
that was beginning. And I thought, “Oh, my gosh,
this is impressive. “Whoever helped him
get this going, “this is a young man
who, who’s figured it out and is going to go places,” because he had
a terrific group of adults who were helping him
along the way. And we are a better nation
because of LeBron James. Kids are better
because of LeBron. He’s interesting, he’s fun. And, again, it’s probably easy
in some ways for athletes… I shouldn’t say it’s easy. It’s easier for athletes
in some, now, because those lines are divided, because Trump has, his tweets can be so…
so, so awful, that it’s probably… It may be easier to speak out. But that doesn’t mean they’re
not going to get incoming, because they get it on Twitter, and they get it
from all the social media and everyone
who doesn’t like what they do. So I’m not saying it’s easy, but I’m saying
I think we’re seeing more of it across the board. We’re seeing, with
female athletes speaking out. Lindsey Vonn, you know,
at the Olympics, speaking out. All the Olympians who did not go
to the White House. We never actually got
a clear number, but a lot of them ended up doing
work days in the community, going to schools, rather than
going to the United States… to the White House,
to see the president, the Olympic team–
by far the lowest number I think we’ve ever seen go
to the White House after the Winter Olympics
in Pyeongchang. That just happened
a few months ago. And Adam Rippon speaking out
against Mike Pence, stories that I wrote,
and a story I broke. So we see it all. But I think LeBron, really, is probably that, that big name,
along with Kaepernick, entirely different reasons that
they’re at the front of the pack and in the headlines, but as I said,
I think 50 years from now, those, those two names
will be studied as much as any…
as part of our culture, not just sports, but as part
of our American culture.>>CHANIN: Let’s see if we have
a comment or two, or question. Please raise your hand
and wait for the mic. Right here in the front.>>MAN: So we’ve talked
about sports and athletes and politics. We haven’t really talked
about athletes as politicians. I know, you know, there’s people like
Bill Bradley, Steve Largent… Who do you think…?
>>BRYANT: Jim Bunning.>>MAN: Who?>>BRYANT: Jim Bunning.
>>BRENNAN: Jim Bunning.>>MAN: And Kevin Johnson.
>>BRYANT: Kevin Johnson, sure.>>CHANIN: Colin Allred
was just elected in Texas.>>MAN: Who do you think… Do you think
that some of these athletes who are speaking out
about politics now are going to become politicians,
elected politicians themselves? Is LeBron going to run
for office? (Bryant laughs)>>BRYANT:
Yeah, I think that… I think that what’s interesting
about this is that the players have
an opportunity now to do anything they want. I mean, I think that’s what’s
been really sort of interesting about watching their development and sort of recognizing that the
player doesn’t have to be quiet, that their, their citizenship
expands when… I think that the players
have been told for so long that, “Anything you say is going
to hurt your brand.” Or, “Anything you say is going,
you’re going to be polarizing, and half the…” You know, “Half the population
is not going to root for you,” or, “They’re not going to buy
your sneakers,” or whatever. But I think that
what you have seen today is that I think players…
I think the public has, whatever short tolerance
they have, there’s always
this other group of people who are appreciative
of what they do.>>BRENNAN: And I think
a very interesting, like, kind of a sidebar that probably hasn’t gotten
as much attention in this election yet… Of course, what did get a ton of attention
was, of course, the election of
so many women to Congress, in particular,
the House of Representatives. And… over 100 women,
first time ever. And I actually tweeted out
on Election Day, or the day after, whatever, that this is also a victory
for Title IX. Because if you look at the ages
of these women, Jennifer Wexton,
the big Virginia-10, beating Barbara Comstock
in one of the the early flips, Democrat-Republican. Jennifer Wexton is 50. I don’t know her personally, even though she’s only,
probably, like, an hour from me. But I know of her. We know,
we know people like her, right? 50-year-old lawyer,
and now a congresswoman-elect. You looked at
some of these military women. There’s Amy McGrath
in Lexington, who didn’t win
but was as notable and as publicized as anyone
in the election, all of the women basically
in their 40s and 50s who won these races. Well, without knowing this
as a fact, I think we can pretty,
be pretty sure they played little kids’ soccer. They played tee ball. They probably played some sports
in middle school. They may have played
in high school, may have done house league,
may have done, you know, varsity, JV, field hockey,
volleyball– you name it. Guaranteed,
they all played sports, because Title IX,
as it came of age and as our… as it’s moved
through the demographic, our, our periods
of demographics, that they…
this is that group. These women
in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who played sports
and learned how to win, and even more important,
learned how to lose at a young age, learned about teamwork
and sportsmanship. For generations, we were telling
50% or 51% of our country, “You cannot learn
these life lessons. “We will forbid you “from learning how to lose
at a young age “and winning. “We will not let you
play sports. Your brothers, yes–
not you.” Well, now, and for 46 years,
since Title IX, we are now telling girls, “Yes,
you can learn those lessons.” And now we’re calling some
of those girls Congresswoman. And I guarantee you we’ll be
calling some of those girls president of
the United States. The common denominator
for all of these women who will be leading the country
in the next 20, 30, 40 years, whether it’s politics or
business or academia, whatever, will be that they played sports
due to Title IX. Not that I’m a big fan
of Title IX or anything. (applause)>>CHANIN (laughing):
Another question. Gentleman there,
please wait for the mic.>>MAN: I see, since we are talking
about the parallels of politics and sports, and we see, like,
the new age of the WNBA, and they’re talking
about equal pay and getting their…
getting their just due as… and, and the NFL, do you see the more that people
talk about their… what their… what their…
what they deserve, will it grow the sport? Like, as we talk about
30, 40, 50 years from now, will it, will it benefit
the league, as well as the individuals
who are… who make up
so much of these leagues?>>BRYANT: I don’t think
we should talk about 30 or 40 or 50. We should talk
about three or four or five. I think that one of the hardest
things to deal with today is, generationally,
you have a high number, I mean, you’ve got
a generation of people, if you were born… you know, if you born after 1980–
’85, ’86, somewhere in there– you don’t know the United States
as a strong pro-labor country. You are not used to fighting
for yourself. Most times, the employees are the ones
tearing each other apart, because we don’t believe
that we deserve anything. When the NFL had its issues, and I’m very proud to see
that the WNBA isn’t doing what the NBA and the NFL did. When I started covering
football, you remember this, when the rookies were starting
to make more money, the veterans, instead
of going after the owners, they went after the rookies. And so that’s when they created
a rookie wage scale. The NBA did it ten years
earlier, in the mid-90s. Remember when Glenn Robinson got
that big contract as a rookie? The veterans, instead of fighting
for a bigger share of the pie, they went after
their own players. So it’s nice to see the WNBA, the women sticking together. And I was, I was talking to
Martina Navratilova about this, and about whether it was…
why the women stuck together back in ’73, why did the women stick together
better than the men? If you look at how the, the
Minnesota Lynx have done it, and how a lot of the players
on the WNBA side, how they stuck together better. And, and now you look at
what they’re doing in the WNBA, contract-wise, you start to see
a little bit more solidarity than you do with the men. It’s encouraging to see. How that response… the response they’re going
to get from the league itself, that’s going to be…
it’s going to be really telling. But I think that, I think
that it’s really encouraging to see the, the WNBA players
recognize that, “Wait a minute,
we do have value, and we’re willing to see
what our value is.”>>BRENNAN: And the story
really kind of exploded in our consciousness and became a big story
outside of the… transcending sports,
with that ridiculous travel that the Las Vegas team
had to do. And you may have heard
this story. If not, you can look it up. It was like a “Planes, Trains,
and Automobiles,” just trying to get to one game
in Washington. By the time they got to DC
after spending the night, I think it was
in Denver or Dallas, you know, sleeping in, in,
you know, in airport chairs, and doing the same kind of thing
that some of us have done, but as professional athletes. Contrasting it
with all the, of course, the, the airfare and the jets
that other teams, NBA and others, have.>>BRYANT: And let’s not forget
that they were inspired also by two other things
that took place. One, you’ve got, you know, the greatest soccer players
in America are the women’s national team. And they’re getting less
than the men. And they win all the time,
and the men never win anything. And then on top of that,
you had the hockey team, the women, the women’s, they were hosting
the world championships in the United States.>>BRENNAN: And they struck,
and they…>>BRYANT: And they had to
strike to get what they wanted.>>BRENNAN: And they got
a better deal.>>BRYANT: Exactly.>>BRENNAN: And then
still played and won.>>BRYANT: And still played
and still won.>>BRENNAN:
And it is interesting, because if you think about it, the way the women have,
have held together. And maybe it does go back
to Billie Jean King. I mean, because, you know, when
she’s fighting those battles, and if you haven’t seen the
movie with Emma Stone, see it. It’s, it’s good. But there’s that iconic picture
of holding the one-dollar bill. They became professionals with
each of them getting a dollar, and then, now they’re pros. But, but this was a heroic stand
in the sports terminology, not necessarily
in the military term. But an incredible risk that Billie Jean King
and the others took back then. And who do you see… It’s fascinating,
you mention the soccer. They’ve done it
a couple of times. Julie Foudy, Mia Hamm,
et cetera, back after ’99, after Brandi
Chastain and the Rose Bowl, and taking off her shirt
and all that stuff. Well, then it was in,
like, 2000 and 2001, they did it,
and they had to do it again. Well, that’s Julie Foudy,
and that’s that gang, and who do they look to
for advice?>>BRENNAN: Billie Jean King.>>BRYANT: Billie Jean King,
sure.>>BRENNAN: So then the hockey
players you mentioned, a year and a half ago,
they did this. They’re the ones that won, then won the gold medal
in Pyeongchang, one of the more… Probably my most fun event
to cover this year was watching
that U.S.-Canada hockey game. It went to overtime and then
penalty kick, or penalty shots, and the U.S. wins it, first time in 20 years
the U.S. beats Canada and wins the gold medal. It was terrific,
just absolutely a great game. Well, Foudy is there,
Julie Foudy, now working for ESPN. And she’s waiting to hang out
with the players. She’s covering it, and she said,
“I’m a little embarrassed.” And I said, “Oh, no, no,
don’t be embarrassed. Do what you want to do.” And she’s hugging them,
and they’re thanking her, because they looked to her
for advice on their holdout. So the hockey looks to Foudy, Foudy and the soccer players
look to Billie Jean King. It’s a direct link, and it… And it is a wonderful storyline.>>BRYANT: But, also,
let’s not forget something else, and that the difference
is the money. The qualifying offer
for Major League Baseball, if you want, to if the
team wants to retain a player, I think this year,
it’s $18 million. How do you stick together…
>>BRENNAN: Right.>>BRYANT:
When you’re being offered, at the very least, $18 million? Whereas the women are making
$90,000 a year.>>BRENNAN: Exactly.>>BRYANT: So the money
is so great, you’re not… You know you’re not going to get
any sympathy from the public. “Oh, man, you turned down
$18 million, poor baby.” You know, I mean,
no one’s going to look at you as some sort of labor leader. They’re not going to view you
that way. On the other hand,
the definition of exploitation is you not receiving
your percentage of the pie. So if the owners are making 60%
or 67%, and you’re making 33%, even if your 33% is
eight or nine billion dollars, the players believe
they have an argument. It’s hard to argue that.>>BRENNAN: And what you were
just saying about how it’s tougher to fight
for it, if, you know,
and to be a cohesive unit, then how remarkable, really,
is Venus Williams?>>BRYANT: Oh, exactly.>>BRENNAN: Because there she
is, making her millions upon millions upon millions, and she’s still out there
fighting that battle. Wimbledon was the last of the
four Grand Slam tournaments to, to have equal prize money,
and that happened in 2007. And interestingly,
U.S. Open was the first. Can anyone guess? It was… the other three were
all in the 2000s. U.S. Open? 1973.
>>BRYANT: ’73…>>BRENNAN: Very good. So again, the impact
of Billie Jean King. But how remarkable then,
that Venus, with all her money– she could kick back, have
a drink with an umbrella in it. She doesn’t have to do
another thing. And instead, she’s writing the
op-ed for the “Times” of London and fighting like crazy,
and then got that prize money. It makes it
even all the more remarkable. Also, we’re a little bit
apples and oranges here, because if we’re talking
professional sports in the truest sense, for women,
it’s really just tennis and golf where they’re making tons
and tons of money. And, again,
I think some of those golfers, you would have a hard time… In fact, I know for a fact, I’ve asked them why they won’t,
like, boycott the U.S. Open to get
somewhat better prize money. Because if you look at what, what the U.S. Open
men’s golf winner makes compared to the women’s,
it’s a joke. But they won’t,
they’d never boycott it. But also, they’re making
millions themselves. Not as much as Tiger Woods
and Phil Mickelson. But they’re,
they’re doing very, very well. But the difference
when we talk, say, about soccer
or about ice hockey, these are
national governing bodies.>>BRYANT: That’s right.>>BRENNAN:
And these are Olympic sports, where you’d even make
a stronger case that capitalism actually
should be thrown out the window. This is for the good…
these are nonprofits. For the good of the game.
frankly, you should pay the women more if you want to encourage more
girls to play that sport, right? The carrot in front of,
in front of it. So there’s
a lot of issues there when you deal
with our Olympic sports.>>CHANIN: Let’s see if we have
one more before we finish. The gentleman in the back there. Yeah.>>MAN:
So I have a two-part question. First, thank you
for coming out tonight on such a cold night.
>>BRYANT: It’s not that cold.>>MAN: It’s pretty cold for me.
(laughing) So two-part question. One is just,
what’s your take on patriotism, and what I think
is starting to morph into a form of nationalism, being an integral part
of sports, when in other industries and other forms
of entertainment, you’re not seeing that same
level of naturalism or patriotism? And then the second question is,
second part of the question is, as you look over the
next three, five, ten years, do you still see sports
and patriotism/nationalism being as intertwined, or do you see it
getting stronger or weaken?>>BRYANT: Well, I think
that it’s… I don’t think
it’s going anywhere, and I don’t think
it’s going anywhere for a couple of reasons. I think the first one is,
it’s the power of 9/11. I think that this country has
not reconciled with everything that
that day did to this country, what it did to the industries. I also think that the
industries, especially sports, all of them, have mastered
the financial element of it. They know how to make money
off of patriotism. It’s a huge, huge,
huge moneymaker. And when you watch TV, and you see during
the Salute to Service month in the NFL, you see the teams are dressed
in camo. You know, they’re wearing
camouflage for a sporting event, which I think is inappropriate. And no matter how much you say, “Oh, well,
a small portion goes to us, but rest of it goes to…” Well, you can give that money
to military families. You can give that money
without dressing them up in a costume like this, especially when you’re fighting,
you know, when, when if you, you hop
on the Cost of War website from Brown University, when essentially 40%
of the world’s countries have an American presence
of military in it, and there’s no money
for anything else. I think that
it’s not going anywhere. I think one of the things that was encouraging to me
working on this book was the number of, of veterans
who don’t like what they see. There’s a section in the book,
a chapter, chapter seven is called,
“Props,” because they don’t want to be
called… They don’t want to be treated
as props. They need jobs. They need respect. They need medical care,
they need attention. They don’t need billionaires
making money off of them. And this is the government
that’s doing this. And this is something that is…
is inappropriate to me. I also think that, I remember asking a Red Sox
executive last year, you know, “Why do you guys still sing
‘God Bless America’ “in the seventh inning? It’s been almost 20 years
post-9/11.” And he told me point-blank, “Because we don’t want to be
the first one to stop, “because we’ll get killed
for looking unpatriotic. “We don’t even know why
we do it. “Nobody pays attention to it. “Nobody cares. “It’s just that if we…
if we stop, you know, “we don’t want
the president coming down on us calling us unpatriotic.” I said, “So in other words, you’re all just following
the leader?” And, like,
“Yeah, pretty much.”>>BRENNAN: Yeah.
>>BRYANT: So, to me, that’s, that’s even worse. At the very least,
if you’re going to do something, do it out of conviction. And if you’re going to do it,
do it with transparency. If you go look at the report from the late John McCain
and Jeff Flake, “Tackling Paid Patriotism,” you have the Milwaukee Brewers charging the Wisconsin
National Guard $80,000 a year to sing “God Bless America.” I mean, this is a moneymaker. This has nothing to do
with patriotism. And it undermines everything
that we’re talking about here.>>BRENNAN: Yeah,
I think it’s a great question, and I think some of it may…
the answer may hinge on who is elected president
in 2020. Because if we’ve got
four more years of Donald Trump, then I think we know,
you alluded to, you don’t want to get
that tweet, you know…>>BRYANT: But the leagues were
doing this under Obama, as well. They’ve mastered the money.
>>BRENNAN: Well, they were. Right, but now
we’re in a whole… It’s, it’s been almost
weaponized, you know, in a way that…>>BRYANT: It has been
weaponized.>>BRENNAN: Yeah, and,
and again, the weapon can just be the… just be Twitter
and social media. But that’s a powerful weapon,
especially for any company. Again, I think Nike has done
something very interesting. Ask they gave cover,
I think, to athletes… We really haven’t seen
too many athletes this year, NFL players kneeling. But in some ways,
victory was achieved, because of what Nike did. Again, Nike is
a very complex company, and there are lots of issues
and lots of tangents about the Nike conversation. But at its core,
vis-a-vis Kaepernick, what Nike was saying was,
you know, “We’re with you.” And that kind of
shut everybody up. So a couple of thoughts. Will there be other companies
that jump in, one way or the other,
on some issue, maybe even unforeseen,
in the next few years? Certainly,
with the 2020 Olympics, you had at least one
U.S. women’s soccer player, Megan Rapinoe, taking a knee. Happens to be
one of the best players, greatest pass in U.S. soccer
history, male or female, to Abby Wombach’s head in the 2011 Women’s World Cup
in Germany. Look it up, it was amazing. Well, Megan Rapinoe,
if she makes the team, she may kneel. There may be something
going on there, or they may ask her not to,
but whatever. She’ll certainly say
in her interviews. We may see,
as the election’s ramping up at the same time
as the 2020 Olympics– it’s going to be, you know,
dovetailing– we may see more athletes, in fact, I guarantee you we will
see more athletes speaking out against the president
of the United States. There’s just no way around that. We saw that
at the Winter Olympics. The Summer Olympics are much
bigger than the Winter Olympics. I do think, though, we can’t put
the genie back in the bottle in terms of the, of the patriotic outbursts
at sporting events. And I think that’s here to stay,
I agree with you, for quite some time. But I do think a lot
of what we’ll see from athletes, protest, or concerns,
or quotes, just, or comment, a lot of it will be linked to
Trump and the election in 2020. Because we have seen a rise,
if we were charting this, and we’re not necessarily,
but if we’re… Spikes of it–
you know, the 1960s, and then we got
Tiger and Jordan, and then I mean,
we are spiking way up. Look at the NBA,
look at Popovich. Look at Steve Kerr. On and on it goes. And I think
it is completely tied in, parallel with,
with the president now and what will happen
with his future, which, in many ways is the, the sports community
will, will follow and will go along
and take that lead, whichever way
it may take those athletes. So I wish we had a better
crystal ball to look at. But I… it’s
a fascinating conversation. I promise, for myself– I know for Howard, too–
we’re on it. We are going to stay
on top of it, for sure.>>CHANIN: Let me, I know
Christine has a train to catch, so we’re going to call it there. I mean, when we started thinking
about the sports exhibition that we have downstairs,
“Comeback Season,” you know, people asked us,
“Well, sports, what does that have to do
with anything?” And I think
this evening’s panel proved it has to do with everything. I do want to ask
those of you who are interested, and I suggest
that you be interested, Howard will be outside. He can sign a book for you. We have some available to buy. “The Heritage: Black Athletes,
a Divided America, and the Politics of Patriotism.” Thank you for coming. But please join me in thanking Howard Bryant
and Christine Brennan. (applause)

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