When not wrangling copy for the MoJo crew, Ian writes about immigration, sports, and Latin America. His work has appeared in ESPN the Magazine, Wired, and Slate. Got a comment or a tip? Email him: igordon [at] motherjones [dot] com.
Editor's note: Tracy Treu worked at Mother Jones from 1998 to 2006 and is married to former Oakland Raiders center Adam Treu, who played 10 seasons in the NFL.
I'm so fed up by people blaming Janay Rice. We're asking for incredible bravery, and we're giving little compassion to this woman. Because it's so easy to say: "Well, she's the fool who married him. Why doesn't she just leave?" There are just so many components to it that people aren't aware of.
The NFL is a culture that values secrecy. When you're with an NFL team, the message to you is clear: Don't fuck anything up for your partner, and don't fuck anything up for the team. Don't be controversial. Don't talk to the media. Stay out of the way. Support the player and be quiet.
When you're with an NFL team, the message to you is clear: Don't fuck anything up for your partner, and don't fuck anything up for the team.
I saw this firsthand. The Raiders didn't formally sit us down—they're not structured like that as an organization to sit the wives down and school them, and say, "This is what we ask of you." But it is definitely passed down by the veteran wives in the league. The veteran wives will talk to the rookie wives. So will the administrative or coaching wives. It's made very clear to you, and not in a hateful way, by any means: "Let's work together for this one common goal: to win the Super Bowl." That will mean, for the coaches' families, that you're not going to get fired and you'll get to stay here for another year. And that might mean, for some of the marquee players, that they're going to get a better contract.
They really don't want anything to be a distraction from that goal. I remember getting a lot of grief for planning my first pregnancy poorly because I had our daughter during the season. You only have babies in the offseason. There are lots of informal rules like that.
And the media is the devil—the enemy. I had my husband come home and tell me, "Don't ever talk to the media." Guys would get teased; they'd rib each other if they were in the news, or if the wife got mentioned. There was a sportswriter for the Oakland Tribune whom I'd sometimes see at games, and Adam would be like, "What'd you say to him? Were you talking to him? Don't talk to him." And that's not just Adam's personal preference; that's what he'd been told. I don't know everything that was said in meetings, but that's how it came down to me: "Did he call you? What did he say to you? What did he ask you? Don't tell him anything."
It's motivated by this you-versus-the-world mentality. You know: People are going to try to take us down. People are going to try to distract us. Do not let anybody distract us from our singular goal. Looking through past notes and playbooks, a lot of coaches use a lot of war analogies and wartime quotes—they liken it to going to war. They use that to build camaraderie, and they want the wives to build camaraderie amongst each other to support the players.
Adam was the kind of player who was just hoping to make the team year to year. So it was like, don't fuck this up for him in any way. "Don't give them any reason to cut you," he'd always say. But my husband was never a marquee player—he was the long snapper. So, you know, he was very anonymous. Ray Rice is in a premier position. He's not a long snapper. He's a running back.
This is what Janay Rice was risking: embarrassing the Ravens, embarrassing her family, screwing his teammates out of their prized running back, losing money, losing security.
And I'm sure that sort of thing was going through Janay's mind: If I tell, and if I take away their best running back, and they lose on Sunday, that's my fault. I did that. I set that ball in motion. This is what she was risking: embarrassing the Ravens, embarrassing her family, screwing his teammates out of their prized running back, losing money, losing security. Janay was under an incredible amount of pressure. She probably thought to be quiet was to make this go away. Because she needs it to go away.
Janay met Ray in high school. They have a daughter together. So we're asking her to walk away from this, and it's like, "How?" This is all she's ever known. A lot of these wives don't work. They can't. They're only living in a place for six months. Maybe the guy is playing on a new team every two or three years. He wants her home. You know, he's not coming home and cooking himself dinner. When Adam played, I don't think any of the wives worked. So what's she going to leave and go do?
To be blunt, the money pads that a little bit. You get this paycheck coming in every week and you suck it up. I worked at Mother Jones when he played, and I needed that totally separate outlet. But many of these women move into town for six months during the season, and they do whatever they need to do to help their spouse win. (Which, you know, you really can't do much. It's not up to you.) Then they go back to wherever they're from for the offseason. Then they repeat.
I don't really think that's changed much over the years. If a player has a partner, that partner needs to not be controversial. I don't know if teams do research on players' partners—I'd assume they do, but I don't know. "Be seen and not heard." That's the assumption. Well, that and, "You're just lucky to be here, so shut up." He's making great money, so you support him and shut your mouth. You're put in a subservient position financially. He's the star. Keep him happy.
Quiet support stops the second you are abused. Speak up. It's not a secret worth keeping.
And, in the end, why not just show up and shut up and be supportive? After all, Adam and I felt damn lucky to be in the NFL. He was a walk-on at Nebraska. Playing pro football was a dream. It made me incredibly happy to watch him play.
Most of the girlfriends and wives feel the same gratitude and happiness, and I encourage them to be supportive of the team. But that quiet support stops the second you are abused. Speak up. It's not a secret worth keeping.
I wonder now what the Ravens will do for Janay and her daughter. And I wonder, with the league's new, stiffer penalties for domestic violence, how many abused women will stay quiet—because that means the end of a career, the end of the insurance, the end of it all.
With the NFL season set to kick off tonight, Native American advocacy groups have ramped up their campaign against the racist name of the Washington football team. Their latest target? One of the [Redacted]'s biggest corporate sponsors, FedEx.
In an ad commissioned by the Native Voice Network called "FedEx Fail," a would-be FedEx customer is turned away when trying to ship a variety of items while wearing several different offensive costumes. But when he returns in [Redacted] gear and a cheap headdress, things change. "You are in luck," the Native American clerk tells the customer. "We at FedEx are Washington Redskins corporate sponsors! We embrace this sort of racism!"
"The point of the campaign is to build awareness that the Washington team name is racist," said Laura Harris, executive director of Americans for Indian Opportunity (AIO). AIO is the main organizer of NVN. "FedEx has a great diversity statement for their employees and corporation," she said. "We think it's hypocritical of them to support an NFL team that uses a racist name when their diversity statement explicitly states they are against racism…Their sponsorship is not appropriate and not in line with their corporate policy."
Notably, when colleague Matt Connolly and I contacted FedEx back in November about the name controversy, here's what a company spokesperson had to say:
We understand that there is a difference of opinion on this issue. Nevertheless, we believe that our sponsorship of FedEx Field continues to be in the best interests of FedEx and its stockholders.
Washington's football team, which plays its home games at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland, opens its season Sunday afternoon on the road against the Houston Texans.
Twenty-five years after Bull Durham introduced the world to the minor league world of Crash Davis, Annie Savoy, and Nuke LaLoosh, a group of writers and photographers descended on Durham, North Carolina, to document life with the hometown team. The result is Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark, a rich photo book interspersed with smart, poignant essays about the game's rhythm, its injustice, and its occasional grace.
The essayists introduce us to a familiar cast of characters: the elderly couple who've missed just 50 games in 30-plus years; the aging veteran playing out the string in Triple-A, four years removed from a World Series appearance with the Yankees; the Duke philosophy professor who, before succumbing to colon cancer in 2013, would "adopt" a player every year, bringing him cookies and the occasional CD filled with classical music; the Cuban first baseman whose league MVP award will get him no closer to the big leagues; the general manager who helped revitalize the club in 1980 and who claims at the start of one essay, "I'm a gifted salesman. I hate it, but I am."
Meanwhile, the photos highlight the play between the sort of regional authenticity that clubs sell to local fans and the generic ballpark experience found in dozens of baseball towns—Corpus Christi, Rancho Cucamonga, New Britain, wherever—around the country. There are still lifes; there are landscapes; there are stadium workers and players and fans in varying arrangements and formats, including the occasional tintype.
Running throughout Bull City Summer, though, is that old sense of the minor leagues as something special, something sui generis. "The majors are baseball's height, but the minors are its depth," writes Adam Sobsey, "and what we have here may be richer."
All photos from Bull City Summer: A Season at the Ballpark, Daylight Books. Conceived and edited by Sam Stephenson. Photographs by Alec Soth, Hiroshi Watanabe, Hank Willis Thomas, Alex Harris, Frank Hunter, Kate Joyce, Elizabeth Matheson, Leah Sobsey. Essays by Michael Croley, Howard L. Craft, David Henry, Emma D. Miller, Adam Sobsey and Ivan Weiss.
Center Field #2, 2013 Alec Soth
Holly, 2013 Alec Soth
Outside the Ballpark #2, Durham, North Carolina, June 2013 Alex Harris
Light in a Summer Night #7, 2013 Frank Hunter
Approaching storm, Goodman field Frank Hunter
Vendor Frank Hunter
In collaboration with Colby Katz, Allen Mullin, Ben Berry, Emma Miller, Ivan Weiss, Michael Itkoff, Mika Chance, Matali Routh, Ryan Vin, and Sara Schultz: A Futile Attempt to Take a Portrait of Everyone who Attended the Latest Regular Season Game, 2013 Hank Willis Thomas
Pitching practice (Team psychologist), April 2013 Kate Joyce
In late July, with child migrants still surging across the US-Mexico border, President Obama met with Central American leaders to discuss a response to the crisis. Not satisfied with Obama's plans, Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina took his agenda to the media, writing a Guardian op-ed criticizing the United States for the lasting legacy of both the Cold War and the drug war in his country.
Around the same time, Guatemala hired a lobbyist to help push its interests in Washington, DC. Given Pérez Molina's sharp criticism of the United States' history in the region, his choice—former Reagan official and noted Cold War propagandist Otto Reich—was a shocker.
If you've forgotten about Reich, check out this 2001 profile from The American Prospect, this 2002 New Yorker piece, or his National Security Archive page. Highlights of his Latin American misadventures include:
Running the Reagan-era Office of Public Diplomacy for Latin America and the Caribbean (OPD), which, as historian Greg Grandin wrote in Empire's Workshop, "was officially charged with implementing a 'new, nontraditional' approach to 'defining the terms of the public discussion on Central American policy.'" What it actually did was work to ensure US support of the Nicaraguan Contras in their offensive against the Sandinistas.
Overseeing OPD's "white propaganda" program, which placed pro-Contra op-eds in the mainstream media without acknowledging their links to the Reagan administration.
Confronting and intimidating those journalists Reich believed were sympathetic with the Sandinistas or the Salvadoran rebels. This included a memorable trip to the NPR office in DC—Reich referred to NPR as "Moscow on the Potomac"—during which he alerted reporters that OPD was listening to and transcribing their Central American reporting.
Helping write the Helms-Burton Act (which tightened the Cuban embargo) as well as lobbying for Bacardi to eliminate Cuban trademark rights so the rum maker could pilfer Cuba's official Havana Club brand. (Reich is Cuban American and staunchly anti-Castro.)
Perhaps this is stating the obvious, but hiring someone with Reich's history in the region is probably not the best way to, as the lobbying disclosure form puts it, "develop a strategy to move forward on the change of narrative from Guatemala to Washington, DC, allowing representatives in the North American political parties that are willing to abandon the reference to Guatemala of the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the last century, and are eager to talk about the present and future of Guatemala of the 21st century." (The rest of the form is embedded below.)
Nor is it the best way for fellow cold warrior Pérez Molina to avoid references to his role as a military leader during Guatemala's 36-year civil war, which claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Guatemalans, many of them indigenous Mayans, with assistance from the United States. But then again, trying to make sense of the country's politics can be futile. "Just as you think you understand," University of California-Santa Cruz prof Susanne Jonas once wrote, Guatemala will "show you that you understand nothing at all."
Even as more people have spoken out against the team's derogatory moniker—everyone from President Obama to Gene Simmons—owner Dan Snyder hasn't given an inch, repeatedly arguing that it's simply not offensive. This week he even went on a mini media tour, giving radio and TV interviews as NFL training camps kicked into gear.
In the meantime, Snyder has doubled down on his commitment to keeping the R-word. Here's a list of some of the dumbest things he's said about it in the last year (as well as some additional reading, for context):
"It is a symbol of everything we stand for: strength, courage, pride, and respect—the same values we know guide Native Americans."
"A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride."
More from the Cooley interview: "It's honor, it's respect, it's pride, and I think that every player here sees it, feels it. Every alumni feels it. It's a wonderful thing. It's a historical thing. This is a very historical franchise…I think it would be nice if, and forget the media from that perspective, but really focus on the fact that—the facts, the history, the truth, the tradition." (See also: "Former Redskins Player Jason Taylor Says Redskins Name Is Offensive")
In a Tuesday interview with ESPN's Outside the Lines: "A Redskin is a football player. A Redskin is our fans. The Washington Redskins fan base represents honor, represents respect, represents pride. Hopefully winning. And, and, it, it's a positive. Taken out of context, you can take things out of context all over the place. But in this particular case, it is what it is. It's very obvious…We sing 'Hail to the Redskins.' We don't say hurt anybody. We say, 'Hail to the Redskins. Braves on the warpath. Fight for old DC.' We only sing it when we score touchdowns. That's the problem, because last season we didn't sing it quite enough as we would've liked to." (See also: "Timeline: A Century of Racist Sports Team Names")