Sam Brodey

Sam Brodey

Online Editorial Fellow

Sam Brodey is an online editorial fellow at Mother Jones in San Francisco. Before coming to the magazine, he worked at Slate and PolicyMic while an undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter at @s_brodez or drop him a line at sbrodey [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The NFL Was Harder on These 6 Players for Smoking Pot Than It Was on Ray Rice for His Assault Arrest

| Thu Jul. 24, 2014 8:52 PM EDT

The National Football League handed Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice an unexpectedly lenient punishment Thursday following his offseason arrest for assaulting his fiancée back in February: a two-game suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Rice allegedly hit Janay Palmer (now his wife) so hard she lost consciousness—and then security cameras caught him dragging her out of an elevator in Atlantic City. Aggravated assault charges eventually were dropped against both of them (Palmer allegedly hit Rice, too), and the two later held a bizarre joint press conference addressing the whole incident.

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Belgium Might Not Be a Country by the Next World Cup

| Tue Jul. 1, 2014 2:42 PM EDT
The Belgian team before its match against South Korea

When the Belgian soccer team takes the field today against the United States, it could be for the last time—and not just for this World Cup. By the time the next Cup kicks off in 2018, Belgium may not exist at all.

Belgium was an invention of the 19th century: culturally and linguistically, it's divided cleanly between the Dutch-speaking region of Flanders in the north and French-speaking Wallonia in the south. Brussels, the capital of both Belgium and the European Union, is right in the middle. Recently, politicians in Flanders—which became wealthier than industrial, coal-mining Wallonia in postwar Europe—have pushed for independence, leading to serious strife between the country's two largest political parties.

Those parties, the Dutch-speaking New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) and the French-speaking Christian Democrats, failed to form a government last week when Flemish leaders walked away from coalition talks. The last time Belgium couldn't form a government was in 2010; it took the parties 18 months to finally do it. The N-VA is a separatist party whose support has skyrocketed in Flanders; in Wallonia, right-wing politicians are asserting ties to France, and French National Front leader Marine Le Pen—who has compared Muslim immigration to Nazi occupation—said her country would welcome the Walloons "with pleasure."

The crisis happens to fall during one of the Belgian soccer team's best World Cup showings. The Red Devils won all of their group stage games and are favored to knock out the United States for a spot in the quarterfinals. The team's success is providing a rallying point for the country, if only for a short time. The team is made up of players from both Flanders and Wallonia; as a Belgian journalist told Yahoo, "When the national team plays everyone gets behind them, everyone supports them…No one is thinking about politics when the team is playing. Everyone is together and united."

Right now, there's no scheduled vote on separation in Belgium—like the one happening in Scotland later this year—but the situation could escalate. So while Belgian fans will cheer on their Red Devils in Dutch and French today, when it's time to fly home, those cheers just might turn into arguments.

Neo-Nazi Banners, Blackface, and Homophobic Chants: World Cup Fans Behaving Badly

| Tue Jun. 24, 2014 3:45 PM EDT
German fans in blackface

Hooligan culture has long brought out the ugliest elements of soccer fan bases. But recently the consensus is that hate speech—and even violence—have gotten worse in soccer stadiums around the world, from Europe to South America.

That's why FIFA, international soccer's governing body, has gone on the offensive during this year's World Cup, slapping "Say No to Racism" patches on players' jerseys and on signs around the pitch during matches. FIFA also has a number of tools in its arsenal to punish offending parties, from banning individual fans and fining countries to even deducting teams' points or suspending them altogether.

Despite these efforts, racism and homophobia have emerged in the stands and on the field at this year's World Cup in Brazil. Here's the worst of the worst so far, and how they stack up to past misbehavior:

1. Neo-Nazis on the loose. During Saturday's match between Germany and Ghana, a shirtless man ran on the field during the 53rd minute. On his body he'd written the symbol of the Nazi SS, as well as the letters "HH"—short for "Heil Hitler." Shockingly, he paraded around midfield for a few moments—with no security personnel in sight—until a Ghanaian player took it upon himself to escort him away.

guy on field
A man with Nazi-associated markings runs on the field. Marcus Brandt/DPA

It was hardly the first time neo-Nazis have used the World Cup as a platform for their views. Last week, for example, Russian and Croatian fans were spotted in the stands with banners with anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi symbols. One Croatian player, Joe Simunic, was banned from this year's Cup after shouting slogans from Nazi-era Croatia following his side's qualifying victory. And in 2006, English fans were arrested in Germany for displaying Nazi symbols on their bodies.

Despite FIFA's promise to punish hate speech—and even deduct teams' points for offenses—there's reason to believe this isn't the last incident of this kind. Anti-Semitism and racism are on the rise in many parts of Europe and in its soccer stadiums; in particular, the 2018 World Cup host, Russia, has a disturbing trend of violent neo-Nazism and racism (and, as Mother Jones has reported, homophobia). Some players have already called for a boycott.

2. Blackface and yelling "monkey." Also at Saturday's Germany-Ghana match, German fans were seen wearing blackface and Afro wigs, happily taking pictures with other fans. While it's unclear how many there were, an Instagram user posted a picture of two and said he'd counted eight Germans in blackface at the stadium.

FIFA is currently investigating, and despite its tough talk on racism, it's unclear how the issue will be handled. Like the United States, Germany has a history of whites putting on black makeup—particularly in theater—and some Germans still consider the practice acceptable.

At the 2012 Euro Cup, Dutch players were harassed by fans and Italian player Mario Balotelli was verbally abused; at the 2006 World Cup, Spanish fans allegedly taunted black French players during an elimination match.

Even the World Cup's tremendously diverse host country has been waging a high-profile battle with its own racial tensions, which sometimes manifest themselves at soccer games. Arouca, a former Brazilian national player, was taunted several months ago in Rio de Janeiro by fans repeatedly chanting "monkey" at him, along with other nasty slurs. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tweeted her disapproval after the incident, writing, "It is unacceptable that Brazil, the country with the largest black population after Nigeria, has racism issues."

Rousseff also pledged a "World Cup without racism," which would certainly be an accomplishment for an international soccer competition. At the 2012 Euro Cup, Dutch players were harassed by fans and Italian player Mario Balotelli was verbally abused; at the 2006 World Cup, Spanish fans allegedly taunted French players during an elimination match; and in the 1970s and 1980s, racist taunting was so common in soccer stadiums in Europe that it was hardly newsworthy at all.

3. Mexico's popular homophobic chant. Mexican fans have brought the infamous "¡EHHH…PUTO!" chant, reliably shouted during goal and corner kicks, to the World Cup. "Puto" is historically an offensive slur for gay men, and when Mexican fans shouted it during their side's match against Cameroon, FIFA promised an investigation, which could've resulted in a fine for the Mexican soccer federation.

On Monday, FIFA concluded that the chant "is not considered insulting in this specific context" and refrained from issuing any kind of punishment. Anti-racism activist group Football Against Racism in Europe condemned FIFA's lack of action, stating, "If the decision is that the use of the word 'puto' is not homophobic then this [is] disappointing and contradicts the expert advice of the Mexican government's own anti-discrimination body, CONAPRED, and numerous other experts." (Last week, CONAPRED denounced the chant, saying that it "reflects the homophobia, machismo, and misogyny that still exists in our culture.") Mexican soccer officials have been mostly silent, but coach Miguel Herrera defended the chant's use, calling it "not that bad."

Worse still, when Mexico took on Brazil last week, Brazilian fans adopted the chant—not exactly the kind of cross-cultural sharing FIFA hopes for during soccer's biggest event.

It's About Time for Obama's First Visit to American Indian Land

| Wed Jun. 11, 2014 3:39 PM EDT
President Obama signing the Tribal Law and Order Act in 2010.

This Friday, President Obama will step on American Indian land for his first time as president. He'll be visiting the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, which straddles one million acres of the Dakota plains, to meet with leaders and discuss issues facing American Indians. The last sitting president to visit reservation land was Bill Clinton in 1999, so this week's visit is a big deal.

In a June 5 op-ed in Indian Country Today, the president promised to do more for American Indians. But he also argued that his administration has already delivered great progress. Is that the case?  

When Obama visits Standing Rock, he will find a community where 86 percent of residents are unemployed. That's only the sixth–worst unemployment rate among Indian reservations: the worst is 93 percent, at the Sokaogo Chippewa Community in Wisconsin.

On top of unemployment, the American Indian community faces a number of other challenges: sky-high rates of adolescent suicide, rape, obesity, alcoholism, drug use, physical abuse and even post–traumatic stress disorder.