This week on HWTP Sports Talk, David has a conversation with author Jesse Berrett about American politics and the NFL. He also speaks with USA Today Sports writer Nancy Armour about policies regarding maternity in women’s tennis, and with Washington Post writer Jerry Brewer about the NFL’s new policy targeting athletes who choose to kneel during the national anthem.
Jesse Berrett – on where and how the NFL fits in with American politics and culture
Jesse Berrett, a teacher and historian in California, published a book this month called “Pigskin Nation: How the NFL Remade American Politics.” In it, Berrett explores an especially heightened era of football and politics in the 1960s.
“People don’t want to think about sports as being political,” Berrett tells David, but he explains that his book illustrates how the NFL has always been interwoven with American politics and culture.
In this particular decade, Berrett says, the NFL began to market itself in a particular way which politicians, former players, etc. picked up on. They chose to further that image the NFL was selling “and used it politically, because the NFL seemed so powerful and useful and appealing.”
Berrett’s book also explores how the NFL as a franchise made its way into the mainstream – a fascinating history that not many Americans are familiar with.
Read more about Berrett’s book, “Pigskin Nation,” and purchase it here.
Nancy Armour – on Serena Williams being denied a seed in the French Open following the birth of her baby
Sports writer Nancy Armour also joins David on the show to discuss her latest article for USA Today Sports: “Is French Open punishing Serena for having a baby?"
Williams, often regarded as the greatest female tennis player of all time, was not given a seed for the upcoming French Open. Officials say this is because they awarded seeds based on rankings, and Williams did not qualify for one at No. 453.
Why the low ranking? – Williams recently had a baby. She had announced her hiatus from tennis because of pregnancy on Apr. 19, 2017, and gave birth on September 1 that year. She had many serious complications, which resulted in Williams having a cesarean section.
The birth of her daughter “literally almost killed her,” Armour says. “This was not a simple delivery by any means.”
In her article, Armour argues that the French Open is essentially punishing Williams as a professional athlete by not offering her a seed because she chose to have a child. “Williams obviously could not play tennis during that time, so an exception should have been warranted,” Armour tells David.
“You are asking these women to either put your career on hold and have a baby, or keep playing and hope that you will still be able to have a child when you want to,” Armour says. “To me, that’s not fair.”
“If you have a child, you should be able to do so without penalty,” she adds.
Jerry Brewer on the NFL’s new anthem policy
David also caught up with Jerry Brewer, a Washington Post sports reporter, about the NFL’s new mandate that players must stand for the national anthem if they are on the field or face fines and/or other penalties.
The statement from the NFL reads, in part:
“This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem. Personnel who choose not to stand for the Anthem may stay in the locker room until after the Anthem has been performed.”
In Brewer’s view, this shows yet again that the NFL’s management is willing to sacrifice ethics when their bottom line is at stake.
The socially proper thing to do during the national anthem is obviously to stand, Brewer says, which is exactly the point – the act of kneeling instead is meant to garner attention so the players can deliver a message to the American public about police brutality in this country. The NFL’s new policy will take away players’ freedom to peacefully protest for their cause, he says.
We are a republic that is supposed to show respect for each other [more than] symbols” like the American flag and national anthem, Brewer tells David.
"It’s very dangerous in this country when you start dictating to Americans what is American and how they should be expressing their patriotism,” he adds.