🎧 TFG Pod: The Past, Present, and Future of the Athlete Activist

Dave Zirin has to be the most prolific journalist in sports. In addition to writing multiple columns a week and hosting the popular Edge of Sports Podcast, The Nation’s Sports Editor currently has not one, but two prominent books out in the span of two months.

Zirin joins the TFG Pod to discuss the whirlwind process and shocking aftermath of co-writing, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, with Eagles DE Michael Bennett. Dave explains who exactly should read the book and why Michael is such a prescient voice for our times. (And yes, he shares his thoughts on Bennett’s indictment last month.)

He also discusses his next book, Jim Brown: Last Man Standing, about perhaps the most complex mega athlete of the last century, and reveals the under-the-radar athlete activists whose impact we’ll be talking about in 10 years. Plus, Dave and Melissa examine Eric Reid and the NFL’s attempts to squash its anthem issues.

Finally, Melissa muses on why the NFL needs Josh Rosen and why it needs to send Ray Lewis into exile.

Order a copy of Things That Make White People Uncomfortable

Pre-order a copy of Jim Brown: Last Man Standing

The Rundown 

10:25: Dave reveals his surprising favorite movie of the Rocky franchise

11:50: On meeting Michael Bennett and the surprising twists and turns of working together on Things That Make White People Uncomfortable

16:05: Dave speaks on Bennett’s recent indictment for allegedly having a brush with paraplegic women at Super Bowl 52

19:20: How Bennett’s indictment has affected the book

21:42: Who needs to read Things That Make White People Uncomfortable the most

24:21: On the process of writing about a figure as complex as Jim Brown – how to evaluate a generational athlete activist with a unapologetic history of abuse toward women

32:39: On Eric Reid being asked about anthem protests during the Bengals meeting and what is says about the NFL’s business model

36:00: Under-the-radar athlete activists we’ll look back on 10-15 years and understand their impact

40:35: Dave on the secrets to being a prolific journalist

46:05: Dave’s possible next book project

Melissa’s Musings

48:15: UCLA QB Josh Rosen gets impressively real with ESPN the Magazine

50:05: Can Ray Lewis go away, please? 

Notable Quotables

Dave on why Michael chose to title his book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable

What Michael wanted to communicate is that he’s uncomfortable. He’s uncomfortable with the world. He’s uncomfortable expressing his thoughts. He’s uncomfortable being vulnerable. He’s uncomfortable crying. He’s uncomfortable being the type of sensitive father to his daughters that he feels like all fathers should be. He’s uncomfortable with all that but he does it … as he says in the intro, “If I’m comfortable, then you should be too.”

Dave on NFL owners feeling threatened by athlete activists

With a few exceptions NFL owners view the idea of players – not just protesting – but asserting their humanity as a tremendous affront to their business model. I think that’s the part that gets forgotten. Yes, they’re motivated by their individual politics. You can chart their politics by who gets their money. Yes, we know that [Texans owner] Bob McNair thinks about people of the world who don’t look like him or love like him. We know this on the basis of where they put their money. We also know there’s a business model – the same reason why it’s a big penalty if you take your helmet off on the field. They want these players with the exception on the quarterbacks to be largely anonymous. What the Kaepernick era has done is show us who these players are beneath the helmet. Not just their faces, but their actual ideas about the world and I think that drives NFL owners crazy.


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