Women In Sports: Laura Keeley

I met Laura when she started covering Duke for the News & Observer while I covered UNC for Inside Carolina. She quickly established herself as one of the best beat writers not just in the Triangle area, but in the country.  Prior to her time at the News & Observer she worked at The Tampa Bay Times and Bloomberg News.  She is one of the most talented writers I have ever been around.  In a big shock to everyone, she announced her departure from sports writing about a week ago. Here is her story:

Laura, I’ll just let you kind of take the reins here and kind of get a little bit of your background and break the news—I guess the news already broke, but Laura is unfortunately leaving the industry. She told me, you told me a couple weeks ago and I … it still hasn’t really hit me, I don’t know. Alright you take it, just talk, just go.

It’s totally bittersweet. I was talking to a friend outside of the industry about this, just because it’s like, I obviously have not hated my job and I’ve been the Duke beat reporter for the Raleigh News and Observer and the Charlotte Observer for the past four years, and there have been some great moments. I don’t regret a second of it, so it’s weird to be like, “Yes, I’m leaving. I am moving to New York City and going to Law school at Columbia.” It’s just, I’m obviously excited but like I said, bittersweet. But that is the job I’ve had for the past four years. Prior to that, I covered primarily high school sports for what is now the Tampa Bay Times, what was the St. Pete Times when I worked for it. So, those are the five years I’ve spent post school in the industry, and I have learned a ton and seen some crazy stuff and got (inaudible) in cool places. So, you know, definitely no regrets.

What went into the decision of you wanting to leave the industry? Because I look at your work and it’s so good, and I’m not just saying that because we’re friends. But then I look at your job and it just seems like such an exciting one, and one that so many young journalists would want. So what went into that decision?

Yeah, I agree with everything that you said. And it’s funny, I was hired to do this job when I was 23 years old—which, now looking back, is super laughable. It’s laughable how much I didn’t even realize that I didn’t know. But at the time I was like, “Yeah, sure I can do this, whatever.” And I did do it, so you know, it all worked out for everybody, but I don’t need to tell you and everybody else 23 is young, and I’ve done, I feel like, a tremendous amount of personal growing since then. So I’m 27 now. And I just feel like kind of as I grew up, and as the sports media landscape, particularly the college media landscape, continued to ,like, evolve, that it just kind of became less and less of a good fit. I’m somebody who like—I run a lot, I train for marathons, probably more than I should. So I run six days a week, and I have a group of people that I like to run with, and that is a big part of my day. And I have other interests, like I’ve been doing some volunteering stuff that does lead into why I’m going to law school. So I feel like I’ve always had a life outside of this job and that becomes a dicey proposition. You meet plenty of good reporters who are totally married to their job, and its tough. If you want to be really good at this, working a lot of nights, you’re working a lot of weekends and when things happen, you drop everything and you go get it. I feel like my current position covering Duke was still fairly compatible with having a life. You’re on a lot of weekends but it’s fine, it’s whatever. Kind of looking beyond my current situation, and I’ll be honest with you, and I told this to my bosses, I don’t make enough money to stay covering college the rest of my life. I just don’t. So it’s like, okay. I am going to have to leave here eventually. As much as I do love this area. So what is next for me? I don’t have a ton of interest in TV. Otherwise I would have gone into TV journalism. And I don’t want to travel like I would have to travel in order to cover the NFL, the NBA, or the NHL. And, like, to cover the NFL—just because I could never act like it was a big deal who the 53rd man on the roster was, like this was a life or death, like, paid to be fake. So it’s like, alright. I don’t really want to cover pro sports, and it’s like, but I don’t really want to move from market to market like every two to three years for the next 10 years and at times to climb up the pay scale just because that’s what you have to do. So that’s kind of where I was at. Obviously I feel like I could’ve stayed covering Duke for a long time. I don’t feel like I was probably going to get fired from that job. So I just kind of reached a point where I was like, what is best for me? And this is something again I talked about when I was telling my editors about the leave. College is, the game is changing, especially at Duke. Duke has a very aggressive in-house media operation. And Duke is ahead of the curve. But all of the big schools are headed in this direction. Duke at this point now has its own Players Tribune website, where they have players that write their personal essays. They make like mini documentaries. So Duke, at this point, views me as competition, to be honest. They’re not super interested in working with me in the old traditional sense. You need a certain level of cooperation with the school to tell full stories. Especially dealing with Duke basketball. So it’s just been a lot of different factors, I’ve gone on and on forever, but you asked what went into the decision.


I don’t make enough money to stay covering college the rest of my life.


I think those are all valid points. Because I feel like a lot of outsiders look at this industry as this big glamorous money-making thing, and I cannot tell you when I covered UNC, I cannot tell you how many people tweeted at me. Like when I had layovers, or my flight got delayed, or I got stuck somewhere because of snow—. Oh my God, that time I got stuck in Tallahassee, God bless my soul. People would tweet at me like, “oh, you don’t travel on the private jet with the team?” No! People have a very over-glamorized idea of what this industry is like. I talked to Nicole Auerbach on my last podcast about this, and her and I just talked about the grind. And she was telling me that probably 90 to 100 days out of the year, she’s on the road, and when you divide that up, that’s a lot. It really is. It’s a grind, and the pay is not what it should be. And it is getting so much harder with social media and the schools having their own media entities. You have players who have their own Twitter, Facebook, and Instagrams; they produce content. You have the schools who have their own writers, videographers, everything; they produce content. It’s starting to kind of be like, what’s the point? Kids are breaking their own recruiting news on Twitter. Schools are doing their own feature pieces on students. So you kind of have to wonder, is this shifting? And it’s a little bit scary, I think, for people that cover teams, especially college ones.

Totally scary. Because like you said, where do traditional reporters fit into that mix? What do you offer, and looking at UNC, the obvious answer is well, you can really go to war on something like a scandal. But it’s like, I can’t tell you how difficult it is to show up to work with people who do not want you there. Is that really what we’re going to? Like traditional media is going to have to have an absurdly adversarial relationship with the people they cover? That’s not fun; nobody wants that. Yes, that needs to happen sometimes; on some stories, there will be disagreements. But if that’s the only niche you have, to try to anger the people you have to deal with, that’s a tough way to do it. So yeah, I think it’s totally scary and I think this is a conversation that needs to be happening in newsrooms around the country. What is our niche? What do we do best? How do we go forward with minimal cooperation from these schools? I’m sure some people will listen to this and be like, you’re not supposed to work with them anyhow. Figure out another way. Yeah I get all of that, but at the end of the day, you do need a certain amount of cooperation and access from these teams to these players to be able to do anything meaningful and cool and in-depth, and all those things that we all want to do.

You were also one of the only women on the beat, kind of in that Triangle area. I talked to Lauren Brownlow and I talked to Brooke Pryor about that, and we discussed how few women there were on the local beat, and it’s interesting because when I talked to Nicole, I was like, “I’m sure it’s way better on the national level but this, and this, and this on the local.” And she was like, “Um, not quite. I’m one of like three women who covers national college basketball,” and she listed off the other ones. And I was just like, “holy hell.” This is, that’s true. Did you kind of realize that heading into the industry? Were you prepared to be the only woman? Or one of the only women, I guess?

You know, it’s funny. It’s something that, again, I feel as I have grown up, my view on this has evolved. I think people can pleasantly surprise you. I feel like I have never felt more like a female in a male-dominated industry [than] when I was covering prep sports in Tampa. You were just getting out of the car, walking across this disgusting, sweaty, swampy football field. Talking to these coaches who are just like, small-town Florida boys, have been there forever and ever and talking to, you covered a bunch of recruiting. High school boys have never been my favorite demographic.

I’m not sure they’re anybody’s favorite demographic. I’m sure we’ve offended all of the high school boys that listen to my podcast, but go on.

Yeah, but I will say, people were crazy nice and respectful to me. And I feel very fortunate that very few coaches and really no non-professional players have ever made me feel uncomfortable. There have been some exceptions, but I do feel very fortunate. But in the beginning when I was younger, ask me what it’s like to be a female. Well, I definitely think that people remember me easier, remember my face easier than the next white male. There’s 20 white males and one female. They’re going to remember that female. It’s easier, but as I’ve gotten older, athletes and everybody definitely relate different to women than they do to men. I’m not saying for better or for worse, but they just do. Our interactions can be a little bit different than when they’re talking to a guy, and I’ve never nailed down whether I think it is a benefit or a hindrance to be a female in this industry and to be one of the few females. I will say though that I think the Triangle media scene is full of absolutely amazing guys to work with. Some of my best friends—Andrew Carter who works for us, Joe Giglio who works for the News and Observer, Bret and Stephen Strelow who work in Fayetteville, Steve Wiseman who works at the Herald, Durham Herald Sun, great guy. Herald was fun. Adam Spiff in Burlington. The list goes on and on. Connor in Burlington. It was great always going to work and seeing those guys, so I think if I was working in a more cutthroat, petty market, maybe I would feel differently about it, but here, I felt like I was welcome and respected, and I definitely didn’t feel like being a woman in this area was a disadvantage for me.

It’s interesting that you say that you haven’t figured out if it’s a hindrance or an advantage because I think there are some times that I feel that way too. Because players and coaches will kind of sometimes talk to you a little bit more, or react to you a little bit differently, or give you a little more because you’re not just another old white dude—because the industry is filled with them. I’m not saying that in a disrespectful way; there’s nothing wrong with being an older white male. But the industry’s filled with them, so even in any way that you can stand out, it gives you a little bit of an advantage. But at the same time you also, or at least in my experience, is you experience a little bit of subtle sexism. And it’s nothing, I never experienced anything extremely blatant, but all the women that I’ve talked to, it’s like little things here and there. Like, men won’t tell dirty jokes, or “here, let me help you with that. Oh your hair looks nice today.” It’s like, are you telling Mr. Joe over here that his outfit’s on point? It’s that kind of stuff. Which I don’t necessarily think that they mean it in a disrespectful way, but it kind of singles you out. And I think that’s the tough part. You feel a little uncomfortable with the unwanted attention.

Yeah and it’s like look, if you’re going to make a dirty joke, like I’m sure it’s not one I haven’t heard. It’s just like, I feel like that stuff does bother me. And again, I do feel like most of the times it’s done by older men who were kind of raised in a different era who are trying to be polite. But it’s like yeah, I don’t want singled—like, I don’t want to be treated any differently. Like you can tell your off-colored joke and I won’t melt. I don’t know what you think is going to happen. I’ll probably laugh.


I just decided that I didn’t need to let these people who were attacking me and making me angry and sad, I didn’t need to let them live in my pocket, on my phone.


What about online? Because social media and the Twittersphere is a whole other animal. And I’ve had women tell me that they’ve had ridiculous things tweeted about them and about their appearance. Stuff about rape. Just unbelievable things. Have you had any of those experiences in the world of social media?

Yeah, I used to pay way more attention to Twitter than I do now. And I think part of that, I’ve had the benefit of knowing—I’ve known for over a year that I was headed to law school. So that made it easier to kind of ignore some of the Twitter discussions and some of the ridiculous things that people say. But I’ve definitely developed a thicker skin, there’s no doubt about it, from when I first started this job. For me, it’s just like, the personal attacks. People would come after me personally. It’s just like, why’d I go there? And I found this and I don’t know how much experience you had and I really think this is a thing, but like, NC State fans I felt were relentless about me. I don’t know why that was, or like, I feel like they definitely felt like I was picking on them anytime I would offer any type of opinion, and it got relentless. In the beginning I was like, I’m not going to block anybody just because that’s dumb and I oppose the restricting of information just on principle. But then I was like, I forget I read, it might have been a Wright Thompson thing because he got off of Twitter, and I don’t know if it was him or somebody else but somebody wrote—I just decided that I didn’t need to let these people who were attacking me and making me angry and sad, I didn’t need to let them live in my pocket, on my phone.

That’s a great way to put it.

Yeah, and so I’ve, like halfway through my tenure, about two years in, I got pretty aggressive with the block button. You know, I don’t need this. I don’t need you coming up with some type of personal attack or some, “make me a sandwich,” just ridiculous stuff. I don’t need this. I feel very passionately and strongly about violence against women. And this is something that I feel like comes up more and more and more with sports culture today, and I can’t decide whether we’re just talking about it more or if it’s becoming more and more popular, which is a terrifying thought. I can think of like, I had strong opinions about the Baylor case a few years ago; I had strong opinions about the Jameis Winston case and how the police handled that. And it’s like, the games I cover, and most of the stuff I cover is not all that important in the grand scheme of things. But like, a female’s safety and health and wellbeing—super, super important. We’re talking about life and death here. I don’t want to be silent about things like this. Especially when you see male reporters or just coaches offering ridiculous takes. Just for example, like last week. Dennis Dodd from CBS Sports. So, I don’t know Dennis; he’s obviously a national college football writer, well respected, blah, blah, blah. So the, I do not know his name, the Mississippi State, five-star recruit that was filmed punching a woman. Punching a woman senseless on the ground. Mississippi State lets him in. Everybody acts like, everybody goes on their savior complex, blah, blah, blah. Like we’re going to write this, we’re going to save him, blah, blah, blah. It’s really nauseating. It’s like, watch the video, he's beating the living crap out of this woman on the ground. And you’re just like, I don’t think that there’s a place for this in major college football. No punishment whatsoever. Like being suspended for one game against some terrible team. So anyhow, kudos to a lot of the male reporters that did hold Dan Mullen, the Mississippi State coach, accountable and did ask him tough questions and may have done it a month before the Mississippi State AD, so I was grateful that there were men who were willing to take up, like, this is not okay. How do you explain this? But Dennis Dodd decides to write a story, which Mississippi State clearly leaked to him, about how this kid had helped three women change a flat tire.

Everything’s fine; you changed a flat tire! Everything’s fine now!

Yeah, a friend, Kerith Burke, is like, “So what? I’d like to know more about this karma system where you help three women and then you get to beat the shit out of one.” And it was so off color and it was just like Dennis, what are you doing? Why are you acting as this Mississippi State spokesman? Spreading this clearly leaked story. And Mississippi—they did it for that reason. They knew they couldn’t sit up there and tell it, that that wouldn’t play well, but they found a reporter that was willing to get it out there. So stuff like that just absolutely makes my blood boil. When I do kind of get up on that pedestal and point out what I think everybody needs to hear, it’s not ok to treat women like this. Then I do get some blowback, but at this point, I literally do not hesitate just to block people and that’s their prerogative and my prerogative.


But a female’s safety and health and wellbeing—super, super important. We’re talking about life and death here. I don’t want to be silent about things like this.


I think it’s sometimes really hard to be a woman in this industry when it comes to stuff like that because we repeatedly see the sport being valued over women’s lives. And it’s mind blowing and it kind of gets hard to be around honestly and it’s like, oh not everyone is like that, oh this, and this, and this. But it’s like, come on man, I’m tired of the excuses. It started for me to become an internal struggle a little bit because I’m over here covering these sports and these players and these teams and these coaches and everything, and some of them are really terrible people. And I understand that everybody is different, but it’s all part of a bigger culture, and why is everyone not doing something to fix it? That was the frustrating part for me as a woman. And there were often times where I felt scared to speak up about this stuff because I didn’t want to offend anyone because it’s not my place to talk about this and this. No, it’s always your place to talk about stuff that’s wrong, especially that’s happening in your industry. And I think that that’s a conversation that needs to continue to happen, but it needs to also be an action. So we’re talking about Dan Mullen and the recruit and we’re talking about this player that did this, and this, and this. But are we, are coaches, are players, are programs actively doing something to fix it? That’s the frustrating part.

I agree absolutely, and it does—. I definitely at times have felt not good about my role and the college football machine. Everybody in the media is a pong in this machine, and it gets tough whether you feel that way about, like you said, how people clearly value football games over the lives of women, whether you don’t feel great about concussions and we’ve all seen guys just absolutely get wrung up and you’re like—. I feel like there’s a lot of reasons that people might feel uncomfortable. And yeah, let’s talk about this, and ultimately, do I cover Mississippi State? No, but like, do I sleep better at night having inserted my voice into a conversation? And I’m not just like Joe Schmo off the street; I am a college sports reporter. I struggle with that internally. It’s like, does my silence kind of implicitly endorse this type of behavior? Honestly, you can’t take every single instance to kind of jump on, but sometimes I feel like some things are just so grievous that you just have to be like, look, I just need to go on the record, this is not ok. And we have to do better. College sports, just society in general, has to do better.

Did you ever feel the need to act or I guess take a certain career path as a woman? Nicole and I talked about this a lot, about—actually, all the women that I’ve interviewed, we’ve talked about this. About how women kind of get pigeon-holed into certain things. Like, if you’re on camera, oh you do sideline. You’re the pretty sideline girl. That’s the role of women. Or you’re just an anchor that reads off a teleprompter. Or if you’re writing stuff, you only have these certain limited roles. There can only be one out of every 10 or something. I had a conversation with one of my friends who’s in the industry. I won’t mention his name because it was off the record, but he’s a black guy in the industry, and we were just talking about how being any type of minority, whether it be a woman, whether it be a black man, whether it be a black woman. The industry makes it seem like there can only be a certain number of you that make it. So you suddenly feel in competition with every other woman or every other black man, or every other non-white male. Did you ever feel that way? Did you ever feel pressured to go a certain path or compete against other women?

I did not ever feel pressured to compete against other women. And I think—it’s funny, I’m remembering the “Mean Girls” scene, when Tina Fey is like, “you got to stop fighting with each other.” And I found that colleagues like you and Nicole and Amelia Rayno in Minneapolis, Dana O’Neil, Shannon Ryan, who I’ve met briefly from Chicago. I feel like the females in this college sports industry all are very helpful and we’re not competing with each other. And for me, I grew up wanting to be a sports newspaper reporter. I like writing. I want to be a writer. That’s what I do. And thankfully lawyers write a ton too. So I don’t know if I necessarily ever felt any pressure, but I can definitely see in the TV industry where that is a thing. You look at what roles women and minorities are allowed to play on TV, and it’s certainly very selective. You look at the national media scene and national writers and voices, and I think Dana O’Neil is a great one. But there’s not a ton of examples. I guess I never got far enough down the line where I felt like I had to choose, if that makes sense.

Yeah, that definitely makes sense. I feel like we’ve been talking forever, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. Alright, the final, the big question—is there any chance of a comeback for Laura Keeley to the sports industry?

I mean, never say never. Obviously I’ve learned my lesson there. It’s hard to imagine after the financial commitment I’ve made to Columbia Law School coming back. But like I said, I feel like it’s kind of foolish to try to plot paths. But no, at this time, I definitely feel like I’m exiting stage right and I will take tremendous memories with me, and I don’t regret a second of the work that I’ve done. I think I’ve learned super valuable lessons about asking tough questions and having uncomfortable conversations and accepting the fact that there are going to be times where yes, you’re the least popular person in the room. But you know what? You don’t get to, like, shrink away and try to disappear into the wall. You still have to be there and do your job. So I am super grateful for my experience, but I do think that this is the end of the chapter of my sports writing career.

For the full interview you can listen to the podcast here.

Women In Sports: Nicole Auerbachst

So Nicole and I actually met when I started doing the Women In Sports series (does that mean people are actually reading?!). We instantly bonded over our love for Hamilton (the musical, not some random dude), and having wine and/or pizza for dinner.  Nicole is one of the very few female national college basketball writers, working for USA Today, and in my opinion, is a pioneer in her own right.  She has previously worked for The Boston Globe, The Detroit Free Press, The Cape Cod Times, and The Trentonian.  Here is her story.

When was the first time you noticed that you were noticed that you were a women in industry?

Well, honestly at the student paper we always were trying to get more girls to join. Obviously sports had the least percentage of any other staff. We had 3-4 person beats for ice hockey, for men’s basketball, and then football and I never covered any of them with another woman. But it was actually during my internship at The Trentonian which was in the summer of 2008. So I was covering the Trinton Thunder, the double A team in the Yankees organization, and I remember the first two or three games they wouldn't let me in the locker room. And it was 2008.

What? Really?

And I’m like are you serious? I am on deadline. I need this - literally these games would end in a 10 minute window within my first deadline. There's no other woman on the beat and they just weren't used to it. And I remember I stormed back in and my editor called them and blah blah blah. They tried to pass it off as oh, she's an intern, that’s why we were doing it. She's not a full time employee, and I was like that is not what you were doing. Anyway, so it changed and I was able to get all the quotes with all the guys and all the guys wore towels, like they always did and I was able to build relationships with some of those players The following summer I interned at The Cape Cod Times, and which was an amazing internship. That’s the premier collage baseball summer league.  Chris Sale for example of the White Sox, he was the Allstar Game MVP that summer, and lot of guys are now in the majors and they're all doing really well. I would basically get to pick what game I would want to go to each night and then write about it, just bounce around the 10 teams.  And early in the season I made it a point to go and meet all these different managers.  A lot of them were high school coaches from the area who coached these collage kids literally every summer.  There's some that have been doing it for 30 years. So one of these coaches - I honestly can’t remember his name, I could certainly Google it but I don’t like to think about him very often - so he and his team had won, and one of his best player who had hit maybe 2 or more runs in the game was a temp player, and so I interviewed him about the game. Then I asked about him about his players - are you guys going to sign him for the season? And what’s the deal with his temp status? And he got all defensive and angry. And then I asked him a couple more questions about the game itself, for maybe a couple of defining plays, and he literally ends the interview dumbing down an explanation of a sacrificed bunt or something really dumb.  And he goes, "Did you understand everything I said?"  And I was like "YUP!" And I drove straight to my office, and just yelled about it to my boss and he was like you do not have to cover that team for the rest of the season. I was like I’m not.


 I remember the first two or three games they wouldn't let me in the locker room. And it was 2008.


I’m so angry for 2008 Nicole. I am so angry.

That was actually 2009!

I’m so angry for 2009 Nicole!

But It was amazing because in both situations my editors were awesome, and totally had my back.  And like I said, I had the power there. I chose who got coverage, and I literally was like, oh they're playing? Not going. And when I went back and wrote about that game, I made sure not to quote him. I was just like, I don’t have to deal with this person if I don’t want to and my editor had my back on it. So that was great.  But those were two really really frustrating moments pretty early on in the career. Kind of even earlier, you and I were talking before we start recording, a little bit about similar women in the field and mentors and different people. You know that was kind of before I had some of those women in place to call up and handle some of that. So thank goodness I had fantastic male sports editors that really had my back in those moments.

I feel like you got started right before there were a lot of women in the industry, before you know more than now obviously, so I cannot imagine what it must've been like.

Yeah and social media and the fact that everyone knows what everyone looks like, even print writers, and stuff like that, that sort of has changed the game so there definitely is another level of crap that I think we go through now. Even when I’m talking to Lisa Olson or Christine Brennan, who I am so grateful that I get to call and they pick up (I consider them close friends and mentors), and they're amazed at some of the crap that I've gone through. Not even those examples, because those are almost even more just old school, stuff that women shouldn't have to deal with in 2008, 2009. But more just the comments and just the way that social media kind of changed the game. So it is a different ... I’m trying to thinking the right word, but it is a different era almost.

It’s a different type of ... pioneering? I don’t know if that is the correct word but it’s a different type of shit that we have to face. What kind of stuff you have gotten on social media? Dare I even ask?


“You are so sexy. Who's telling you all that stuff about football to make you sound smart?”


You know it's interesting. As you know people who follow you, who follow me, are aware that they're following a women who is going to tweet about sports. So my followers are great. What I would say, and I remember saying this on The Audible with Stu Mandel and Bruce Feldman, that if I tweeted an opinion about who should be starting a quarterback at I don’t know, wherever there is a quarterback controversy.

Pick UGA. My alma mater always has a starting quarterback debate.

There ya go, okay! Who should be the starting quarterback at Georgia. I'll get people who will respond, and you know it also depends on if the tweet get shared, and it's beyond kind of my immediate follower base. But I'll get tweets with people saying "You don’t know anything, you're a girl!" Like, "You don't know anything about football," or this or that. Or my favorite, "Get back in the kitchen." And to that I'm always shocked. I'm like the kitchen is an amazing place.  That's where all all the food is. That sounds like a great place to be. So I don’t know why that’s an insult, but I get all that. It'll all be gender related, or it will be, you know, if I will break something, break news, you know maybe it’s, oh you only got that because you're doing so and so. Whatever it is, there's always a gendered or slut shaming element to it. And I was telling them and I said, Stew, if you tweeted the same opinion about the starting quarterback or you know, whatever it is, people argue back at you about the content of your tweet, not about your gender. I was on the podcast and I'm begging them, like, people argue with me about the content of my tweet! So then I got a bunch of tweets from people like, I will argue about your content! I was like yes! I am all for that. So I mean that sort of just how it manifests itself on a daily basis.

I think I've become a little bit more outspoken or comfortable sharing my opinion on some of the domestic violence and sexual assault cases and issues that are going around, which thank God the awareness has increased. I have also worked with different survivors. I did the story with Brenda Tracy, she's the Oregon State gang rape survivor, who just went and talked to Nebraska and she's incredible. So I have written about it. I have also shared my opinions about it, and that - you get a stronger reaction. It’s amazing if you write about or tweet about just straight news stories about sexual assault or domestic violence, there are violent mentions. Violence is in your mentions. It's almost like that subject matter, if people really disagree with you, well they're going to threaten things that are tied to the thing, the subject matter. It’s really nasty and really horrible and I just end up you know, blocking people. I have had to alert people in my - I don't know if they got the legal department involved but there were definitely higher ups who were monitoring certain people who were harassing me. It’s a really ugly place and I know you have done a lot of video work and I've noticed since doing TV work for the Big 10 Network, there is also an extra kind of social media presence. I get a lot of Facebook messages. So apparently Big 10 Network viewers are big on Facebook. I will get messages that are either like - oh my favorites one was like, “You are so sexy, who's telling you all that stuff about football to make you sounds smart?” I was like ... is this supposed to be a compliment? Because I really don't see how you thought this was going to work. So I get stuff that's either like someone must be telling you something or just entirely based on looks, good or bad looks. You should do your hair different!  You shouldn't wear that color! Really? You're some fashion fashion consultant middle aged man on the couch writing me a Facebook messages? It’s just very weird that people can interact directly with me - like I am not by any chance famous. I’m not by any chance like the athletes we cover and the coaches, which makes it even more amazing. Like if I was a student athlete, I would not be on social media. The fact that people are saying whatever they are saying to me or whoever in our industry, it’s so much worse for the people who actually playing the games and the coaches making the decisions. There's just no filter. The fact that people can say something, and if that person chooses to look at their @ mentions or their Facebook messages or whatever, that they can see it is just this game changer, and I am not a fan of that part of social media at all.


If you write about or tweet just straight news stories about sexual assault or domestic violence, there are violent mentions, violence is in your mentions.


It’s like the feedback back you never asked for! You're giving out this information to people, you're talking about this stuff, you look how you look because that's what you look like, and it’s like unsolicited feedback. I didn't ask for that? Why? Men don't get that.

No and it's not about the article you wrote or the content. I would just so much rather get feedback on the content, argue with me on the content. Tell me that my opinion is wrong for xyz. But yeah, it's something that is so different for male colleagues. I mean I always, I actually try to talk about it a lot with them, especially on the college football circuit just because like they are very really, barely any other national [female writers].

That's actually very alarming. I didn’t notice that until you pointed that out, that there are so few women that cover stuff on the national level. Because when we talked before this, I said there are so few women that cover the smaller beats and the local beats and then you say that, and it's just disheartening.

I mean yeah, you got of the big games or the Cotton Bowl and you're there for the whole week and literally only interacting with guys the entire time. Because you're interviewing men, you are eating dinner with men, you're talking to men, your editor is a man. I mean it’s very much like that and so if things like this come up, or Amelia Rayno, who is a friend, when she went public with her sexual harassment stuff in Minnesota, I got a lot of text and calls from my male colleagues and people asking: is this, is this you know what it’s like? And this and that. And I was trying educate them and talk about  it. Because women, even print writers, even if I'm not doing a video, I'm always thinking about what I am wearing, and I'm thinking about how I'm asking a source for their number. I'm thinking about what tone I'm using in a text message. What time I'm texting and calling, all of these things and their mouths open and they're just like, I never thought about any of that stuff. I’m like right, because you're a guy , you don’t have to. These are thing that people judge, maybe not judge, just automatically think about you.

Assume, yeah.

Yeah, and think that it’s maybe something they can comment on, or they can jump to a conclusion about any of those things. And the men, they just don't have to think about it. I'll be talking the coach or player or whatever and I'll a half hour interview and then I'll end it and I'll always look down at my notebook and say, "Hey, so and so, I was just wondering if it would be possible to get your phone number in case I have any further questions and maybe keep in touch in future". I always phrase it that way. And these guys, my male colleagues, are like wow, I never think about that, because they could just say, "Hey what's your number? Keep in touch." But I can’t ask the male coach. "Hey, what’s your number Keep in touch!"

And it just sucks because you know, your male colleagues they can go out they can get a drink with player or coach or assistant couch, and it’s not a big deal. I told Lauren [Brownlow] this story when I covered UNC.  Chapel Hill was a small town, the UNC community is a small one and so you're around the same people all the time.  I became friends Bobby Frasor. Bobby and I were in the same group of friends. We hang out all the time. Bobby is great he and I still keep in touch, but there were seriously several message board threads about my relationship with Bobby, and what was going on, and how long we've been dating, and it’s just like come on. It's like you have to go out of your way to prove you're a professional, but also it sucks because it hurts your contacts because you can’t form casual friendships with people. It’s infuriating.

I think with the college players now though, they're just so used to seeing women around the sports things.  They all know who the Erin Andrewses are and they've watched Hannah Storm deliver sports and Sage Steele. They're just so used to it, it's normal and I think players realize that and coaches too.  I think that sometimes there's certainly advantages to being a woman in the position.


You should do your hair different! You shouldn't wear that color! I’m like really? You're some fashion fashion consultant, middle aged man on the couch writing me a Facebook messages?


I was actually going to ask that, yeah, please go on.

Yeah I certainly think of a lot of stories I pitch, or some of the angles I think of are different. I think that maybe, potentially, I am able to get someone to open up about something in a different way than a male colleague might not; particularly maybe a family or touchy subject potentially. And I have also done stories like that, so that kind of helps build credibility along those ways. But you know, I did a story last summer about what college football programs were actually doing to educate their players about domestic violence and sexual assault. Were they bringing people in? And what was the message? And I talked to maybe a dozen head football coaches, and I found out that Tennessee has brought in Kathy Redmond Brown who has been raped when she was a student at Nebraska, and she goes around and speaks as a survivor and she talked to other teams. And I also met Alexis Jones who, her message is a bystander intervention message.  She talks to Elite 11 quarterbacks and she has gone to USC and Texas and UCLA and all of these places. So I wrote about these women who are getting brought in. I wrote about what Mark Richt, what his message is, and all these things.  And it was kind of this comprehensive package. No one else wrote anything like that.  I mean everyone wrote individual stories each time last off-season, that there were arrests or videos of people punching girl at bars or whatever it was. But I think that was a story and an angle that I was thinking about, well okay so there's been a string of these things, what are people actually educating? What is the message? And finding that schools had been bringing in certain women in recent years to raise awareness and to make sure people understand consent and this and that. That is an issue that effects women in a different way. So I just think A) the way that maybe I am able to interact with people, maybe I am more memorable if I am the only women in the room? So I certainly think there are advantages, but I think mostly I think it's just come at it from a different angle and that's kind of why you always want diverse newsrooms in terms of minorities, but also women and just the more people who come at things with different angles and ideas, the better. So I think that’s been probably a really big strength that I've been able to bring to USA Today and I think that, that’s kind of the story that I point to as an example.

Oh yeah, I haven’t talked much about advantages of being a woman in the industry and there are definitely are some. There have been times where I've seen that guys have opened up to me little bit more just because of the way -  I don’t know - just the way I interact with them, the way that I talk to them, it's not the same old thing. And you know it’s not another old man type of thing. It's a refreshing thing for them.

What type of advice you give to girls coming into the industry now? Because I look back at when I started out and there so many things I wis I would have done different. There was an example that you used earlier about when you speak out about rape and sexual assault on Twitter, the stuff you get tweeted back at you. It took me a very long time to speak out about stuff like that, because a lot times I'm sometimes nervous to state my opinion. I was always very nervous to be myself. I kind of felt  pressured, like I needed to fit this certain mold. Okay, I am women in the industry, that means I need to do sideline or I need to just read the teleprompter. I wish that I was told that I could be more than that. That I could be like Katie Nolan, and be funny, and have my own personality and do that stuff. I could be like Rachel Nichols and do investigative stuff and real journalism. I could be more than just a sideline reporter or reading off a teleprompter. And I wish somebody had told me that before I started this.

I'm really glad you brought up Rachel Nichols. She is amazing and she is also the nicest person, so down to earth. But I think what her path and you mentioned Katie Nolan's, hopefully are showing girls who are in collage, maybe considering this that there are multiple jobs in this field. I mean for the longest time, even though I was writing exclusively for print newspapers, everyone always asked me, so do you want to be sideline reporter? And I was like, but that’s not even at all what I'm doing and I don’t.  I want to tell stories and write them. But people - and this wasn’t in a mean way, this was friends and family who genuinely wanted what was best for me - they just didn’t know what jobs there were for women. And I think that what's really helped hopefully, with people like Rachael and Katie, is that people are seeing that there is a lot of different ways to do this industry as a women. Dana O'Neil and I have had this conversation a lot too because there is generation of women who are in print journalism, but there is gap and Dana believes that gap is because for a long, people either were told or felt that the only path to be a woman in sports was sideline reporting and TV and maybe being a host. So the advice I would give would be, if you love to write, write. If you love to do radio, do radio. There are so many women on sports talk radio now and ESPN has done incredible job of giving women voices and platforms to give their opinions. I am so grateful that The Big 10 Network has hired me for last 2 years and I will do it again this fall, as a studio analyst for college football.  I get to give my opinion and I get to analyze things and I’m not the girl asking the guys the questions. And that was something that really important to me and I just would hope that girls who loves sports, who love journalism, realize that you don’t have to be the girl who asks the guys the questions for their opinion. You can give you opinion and that’s something that like I've said, about now kind of speaking up more on some of those issues. I did not feel like I could. I was sort of like, well I'm not a columnist, you know eventually later in my career maybe I'll be able to do that. But there are way that you can analyze things, and there are ways that you can show your personality and your beliefs and things that are not obnoxious, that are not above your pay grade, that are inappropriate for your job, or whatever it is. But there are ways to make it clear that you have an opinion that matters, and you can share it and you can argue it, and I think that guys are clearly not afraid to do that. I mean my Twitter mentions tell me that all the time. But also guys who are starting sports blogs or this or that. I mean they're not afraid to be opinionated and that’s something that women are.  I wish I had felt more comfortable being opinionated or felt my opinions were strong enough.

For the full interview you can listen to the podcast here.

Women In Sports: Ngozi Ekeledo

Ngozi and I met during my last year as a reporter at Inside Carolina.  She was (and still is) on the television side of things, working as a sports reporter and anchor for ABC 11.  Prior to her time there, she worked at KMVT, ESPN, and The Big Ten Network.  Although we didn't get to spend a ton of time together, we definitely had enough chances to talk about our experiences as women in the industry and we still keep in touch.  To put it simply, Ngozi is awesome in every way possible.  Here is one of our many awesome conversations.

I discussed a lot of stuff with Lauren Brownlow and Brooke Pryor about the discrimination of women in the industry as being women sportswriters, but it’s a different story for you. You're on TV, so there is a whole other level to it. So what made you want to get into TV, especially Sports Broadcasting TV?

Just for me, just growing up, I played sports, I think like a lot of us. I played softball, I ran track, I played basketball. Two ACL surgeries kind of ended any dream of wanting to continue on the next level. But I've always loved writing. I tell people originally I always thought I was gonna be an author and write books, which would still be a goal of mine. I would love to do that. But, I did kind of what everyone else said I did. High school newspaper and then when I got to school—'cause we didn't have AV Club or anything in high school—I got to Northwestern and we had our College Club that they do at that first week of school. And the Northwestern News Network, it's like the Campus TV Show. They had a table set up. And there were these three guys there and they asked, “Hey, do you like sports?” And I said yeah, and they were like, “Oh, we have a sports TV show.” Hey that sounds cool, I could definitely major in this. I haven't done much video, so I tried it out and we used to have to do these segments called "Road to the Rose Bowl." So funny. It was like a green screen and we'd talk about the Big Team Matchup. So they let a freshman do that because they were terrible. So I went out and shot some stories and I was like, this is really cool, I like the visual part of this. Not just being able to write about it, but telling stories and like a more visual medium. So I got hooked from there.

When was the first time you kind of—I don't want to say got discriminated against, but kind of just noticed that you were being treated differently because you were a woman?

 I think that, I don't really have super, terrible incidents or anything just yet. I think for me, just... 

Just yet.

I don't know, that's a choice of words. But I, I think it's kind of different from some of the other people you've talked to too being what I remember going to the National Association of Black Journalists and they have a whole session on this, the “Double Minority,” being a female and black in sports. And I remember going to a session on that and they talked about that. I feel like things have had to do more with that type of—the spectrum versus, oh, you're a woman. I mean, you definitely hear the things. “What do you know? You're a woman, you never played this, blah blah blah.” But it hasn't been terrible. I meant, there's the coach instances and things you deal with, like, covering certain coaches. I remember we were going into the locker room at the NCAA Tournament and one of the coaches was asking when are you going to interview me, or whatever, and I was just—you have to make a joke. I use sarcasm usually.


You'll never email my boss this, about what he wore on air. You'll never say "I love that tight dress you wore."


I use sass, but yes...

Yes. Sass or sarcasm. You know, you do get frustrated where it's kind of, “deal with it,” more from viewers I found. My first year here, I got all these emails that were just, kind of, quite frankly, they were inappropriate. You'll never email my boss this, about what he wore on air. You'll never say "I love that tight dress you wore." I had a Facebook fan page for my station and I closed the comments, I closed anything where someone could comment because that's all it was. It was messages from men that were, “Can I take you out?” and things like that. I don't know. It's just kind of—are people even paying attention to what you say sometimes because on TV, as we know, it's visual but I'm also saying things to try to report and that's probably where I've dealt with it the most, to be honest, that kind of stuff.

Have you ever felt pressured to look a certain way, whether it be, not, you know, getting too dressed up, you don't wanna be too pretty because you don't wanna—I don't want to say bring on the comments, but—and again, I keep going back to the people that I've talked to, and it's so funny how everybody shares a lot of these experiences. Lauren, for example, when she first started out, she was, you know, “I dressed kind of frumpy to fit in so that I didn't stand out, I was just kind of one of the guys.” But for you, because there is a visual aspect, do you feel pressured to dress a certain way, not a certain way, look a certain way, sexy, but not too sexy, that kind of thing?

I just remember one comment I got from someone who is in the position of hiring a few years ago where they had watched my tape and they were giving me a few critiques or whatever and he was saying, “I would never hire you, this market, we're still more of the traditional look of blonde hair, blue eyes. You're just not sexy enough for this market.”

Wow.

Yeah. And I just remembered being, “Alright, well I guess this is all I can be.” There's people who [have said], “You look too young,” and I'm like, well, I don't know. It's things like that. I'm not sure how I can change that. It's, I think it's a little different for me because I'm an MMJ too, so it's kind of—I need to be comfortable and I'm out in the heat shooting football games. I'm probably going to be, on a casual day when I'm shooting, I'm gonna be in a t-shirt or something. Shorts and tennis shoes. But when I'm anchoring, I pretty much just wear dresses. I don't know; I try to feel comfortable myself and not let other people dictate how I should feel about what I'm wearing or my look.


I would never hire you in this market, we're still more of the traditional look of blonde hair, blue eyes. You're just not sexy enough for this market.


And that's, that's really hard because—and obviously when I worked at Inside Carolina, my camera was nowhere nearly as heavy as yours, but, you're on the sidelines, it's 95 degrees in North Carolina. I'm wearing shorts and a tank-top and then I get these comments: “You should cover up.” Dude, I'm on the sidelines, it's 95 degrees. I'm not gonna. There's very much a double standard. Because there's guys wearing shorts and t-shirts, but the minute I do it, it's, “Oh, you need to cover up.” It can get really infuriating, and why does it even matter what I'm wearing? And I think that's the frustrating part when it comes to TV because everybody knows that there is a certain appearance thing to it. But the fact that someone is like, we want more blonde hair, blue eyes—that's borderline racist. And I've obviously never dealt with that aspect of it and I'd be interested to hear, because you said it at the beginning, that you kind of dealt with being the double minority and I, yeah, I did wanna talk to you about that and your experiences with that.

Yeah. I think it's interesting because it's kind of, in terms of look, my hair is naturally curly. I would love to be able to wear it naturally curly on air, but I feel like, the natural movement and everything is still something that's coming along. A lot of news directors, kind of, you have to stick with the conservative look, and it's kind of—when your natural look isn't deemed this way, a look that’s conservative or good enough, you're kind of, man, that's a little frustrating. But, I don't know. I mean it's interesting and I've tried to advise people— other, I guess women of color, minorities, what to have—you have to stay true to yourself because there's so many opinions in this industry, there are so many executives, there are so many people that have opinions of what you should be, or what works for them, and it's very subjective. And it's kind of, you have to remember who you are, because it's very easy to lose yourself if you think it's gonna get you somewhere faster. It seems like they almost press upon you, there's not enough networks to support everyone in this field, if you are a woman.

Yes.

That's where it feels like it all kind of comes down to who you are. “Well, she did this and so maybe I should do that.” I think one of the most important things I've learned is that you have to be you and stay true to you and have some principles about yourself that you're gonna keep, no matter what.

I definitely felt that pressure. I felt the pressure to kind of have my career go a certain way. I didn't see many women that had their own shows, or that were funny on air, or they showed their personality until the past year, so I thought, oh I just need to do sideline. And the more that I was going towards that career, the more I was like, wait a minute, I don't wanna do sidelines. I don't particular enjoy it. I like sitting down, having conversations with people, I like long reads, I like that type of stuff. And so, being a woman, number one, you're in competition with every other pretty woman. Every other woman, period. It's how they make you feel. But especially on TV, every woman that's attractive type of thing.  And then number two, you're expected to act a certain way and only fill these certain roles. And so it wasn't until Katie Nolan and Rachel Nichols recently had a show too, and Michelle Beadle on SportsNation, that I kind of realized that, hey, I don't have to be this robot of what everybody expects me to be. I can have thoughts and opinions and be goofy and clumsy and myself. That's exactly what I would say to you. Don't change because one executive or one producer wants you to look or act a certain way.

Exactly! And things like this I really appreciate. You know, your website and everything you're doing because I think this is very important to have because, like you say, it breaks the mold. I feel like, you've said it. People expect the path, at least for women from what we've traditionally seen, it's like, you only have a few things that you can do, and it's, no, that's not true. We can do so much more. There are so many more avenues. You don't have to do it the traditional route where , you know, you started out on the local market, move your way up, and blah blah blah. But I love this. I'm gonna do a blog, I'm going to do podcasts, because it's cool stuff. It's the stuff that I think people our age at least are interested in; they don't want a robot of a person. They want someone that's kind of multi-faceted.


I think executives need to see that women should have those opportunities just as much as men because it's like, why not?


Have you ever—I have—there's been times around male colleagues, and not necessarily the people that I work with that are in my company, but just when I'm out in the field or doing interviews, where I kind of felt I'm viewed differently, as a woman. “Oh, you have an advantage because you're an attractive woman and so you know the players would talk to you.” Have you ever felt like you have had an advantage as being a woman in the industry, or is that just not a thing at all? Have you seen any advantages, I guess is my question?

I haven't felt like advantages in terms of sources that talk to me over that, I guess, just because I, I don't know if I've been here long enough to know people. I'm still kind of developing with people here, so that's something I'm still working on. But it's not, I don't know. I feel like, yeah, maybe a coach would talk to me, but I feel it's not because I'm a woman; I think it's just because the coaches here seem pretty friendly, you know what I mean? They don't seem like they're guys where I don't have time for you, or I'm on a tight schedule. They're just, “Oh, well thank you for coming out. I saw you were shooting. Thanks for doing that.” At least in a less-controlled environment, so obviously, there are environments where there is S.I.D.s, “Hey, this is how we're gonna do this,” and everyone kind of follows that. I will say the one thing that does frustrate me when I'm out [is] that my male colleagues treat me differently… when I'm shooting, when I'm carrying my gear, people are, “Oh, you don't have an assistant to do that?” Or “They make you carry all that gear?” and blah blah blah. I know you are trying to be nice and everything, but I can carry this camera, I can carry the tripod, I can do this. You know, if I couldn't do it, then I wouldn't be doing it. I don't know why that irks me so much, but I hate it so much and I'm just, I can carry this, I go to the gym.  

I lift, bro. Well, I think it's because it's subtle sexism and I've had conversations with women like this. Lauren Brownlow told an anecdote when I did the Podcast with her.  A lot of women kind of, that I talk to experience the subtle sexism. It's when men think they're being nice, when they're like, “I don't want to tell a dirty joke around you. I don't want to curse around you.” It's really subtle, but it starts to get kind of annoying. You feel like a burden a little bit.

Yeah. It's stuff like that. I have three brothers; I'm not sheltered. I don't know. Any stuff like that, I guess, and that's why I can't recall it so much because it's subtle. And at the moment I'm thinking, okay, come on. But then I'm like, wait, but this person is cool and I know they didn't mean it, but it's, it's just kind of—aaahhhhh, I don't know. I don't make press box situations where it's, you know, if a guy doesn't think, isn't taking you seriously or something or you're at the game taking notes and he was trying to explain it and you're [like], “I know what this is.”

Yes. That happens in social situations for me as well. The stories that I could tell. So, final question. What can we do to fix some of these issues that we have? What do you think is kind of the solution? I guess where do we go from here?

I think that, (a), I think it's creating more opportunities, like you said, that are different. I mean, all these young girls that I know that would talk to me in, like, the last year, it's really been recently where they're not telling me, well, I wanna be like a sideline reporter, I wanna be this. It's now people are “I wanna be like Rachel Nichols, I wanna be like the next Katie Nolan.” It's like seeing that there are more opportunities than just being a sideline reporter or being an anchor and then going and being a host or something of some magazine show, you know what I mean? Things like that. It's like people being, “Oh, you can write, and you can do this, or you can do podcasts, you can do this.” I think executives need to see that women should have those opportunities just as much as men because it's like, why not? What makes them any more different? And I think also too, another thing is to cut down on some of the—we talked about before where it seems everyone can have a piece of the pie in the industry kind of thing. It's, people just—sometimes you just really have to focus on yourself. I don't know if you've felt this, but I would feel so much stress comparing myself to other people. When it's literally in the last year I'm just kind of cutting out negative energy, cutting out worrying about things that I really have no control over, people that have no control over any situation in my life. Cutting out some of that baggage and really just focusing on myself and trying to be happy because I think it's so much of thinking about the next thing or doing this, or how can I make myself better at this, blah blah blah. Or you just kind of don't even—just enjoy the moment.

No. I know I said final question, but—and you and I have talked about this a little bit before—social media, I think, also really, really has a negative effect on our industry. I mean on society in general, but don't get me started. But it's like you see, you know, the anchor over there, the reporter over there, the host over there, and her life looks so much better and why am I not like that? Why don't I have 10,000 followers, and why don't I have hot Instagram model pics, and the comparison that we, the comparing that we do—it just becomes toxic because it's starting to feel not good enough when you do that.

And that was for me, and I know I probably should say this, but I deleted my Facebook page almost a year and a half ago, my personal Facebook, because Facebook for me was just kind of, okay, it's just filling my mind with a lot of things I don't care about. And then Twitter for me too, it's—I try not to be on there all the time, because I am not that funny, so I'm not gonna be retweeted. It's a great tool, obviously, for our jobs, but I think some people take it so seriously that it's, it's really not that serious. You can buy what, 20,000 followers for $5, so that really tells you what you need to know about it and then, you know, I don't know, I just feel like it's kind of, all of it is kind of just, it doesn’t really matter that much. It's great. You can see my personality, but I don't—also don't want to give you everything.

For the full interview you can listen to the podcast here.

The Black Lives Matter Conversation

The first time I saw a video of a black man getting murdered by the police, I sat at my computer in disbelief.  I watched the video.  I read the articles.  I scrolled through the trending Twitter topic and the more I saw and read, the sadder and angrier I got.  I had nothing to say, so I said nothing.  That was my first mistake.

I am not black.  I will never be black and I will never actually understand the struggles that black men and women experience on a daily basis in this country.  I cannot fully understand the feeling of being afraid for my life, every time I step outside.  I cannot begin to fathom being not only discriminated against in my everyday life, but also targeted.  Hunted.  Killed.  Simply for the color of my skin.

But I can listen and I can speak out.  I can help.  I can do anything and everything in my absolute power to call attention to these injustices and demand these people be treated equally.  Because when you sit around and simply watch injustice, murder, happen - you are part of the problem.  It is always our place to say something, to act, when innocent people are being killed; when fathers, mothers, children, are being murdered.  They are not just hashtags, trending topics, newspaper headlines.  They are someone's husband, someone's child.  They are loved, they are missed.  I think about the people of color I have in my life - my significant other, my best friend, people i consider family - and I am terrified every day of the dangers they face simply for existing.

I recently had a conversation with my good friend Reuben Faloughi about racism and white privilege.  Whether he realizes it or not, Reuben has been one of the most important educators in my life.  He has introduced me to numerous books about systematic racism, had countless conversations with me about white privilege, and challenged me to think outside of my comfort zone.  He has forced me to not only recognize the injustices that happen to black people, but to speak out about them as well.

"What can I do?" I asked him. "How can I help fix this? I'm just one person.  One white person.  I don't want it to seem like I'm taking over the cause, I just want to help the cause."

"Start the conversation," he responded.  "Use your platform as a white woman to educate. People will listen to you.  This is everyone's fight."

And so I'm here.  To have the conversation.  Educate yourself.  Try to first understand.  Then talk about it, educate others.  And act.  Speak out.  By doing nothing, saying nothing, you are adding to the injustice.  Here are some places to start:

The New Jim Crow By Michelle Alexander

White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

Mass Incarceration is Destroying America By John Legend

Alton Sterling And When Black Lives Stop Mattering By Roxane Gay


"I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a 'more convenient season.'"
-Martin Luther King Jr.

Women In Sports: Lauren Brownlow

I've known Lauren Brownlow for about five years now.  She was the first woman on the UNC beat to approach me when I started my first job out of college working for Inside Carolina.  Lauren is one of the most intelligent, funniest, kindest and straight up good at her job people I know.  She's covered the ACC for over 10 years, working for publications such as the Sanford Herald, The Durham Herald Sun, ACCSports.com and Fox Sports Carolinas to name a few. Currently she's a radio contributor and writer at WRALSportsFan.com. She was also always there to lend a straightener in the bathroom whenever I needed it.

What kind of sexism or discrimination have you encountered in the field?

For the most part, any sexism I've experienced has been much more subtle if that makes sense.

Go on... 

Just as a for instance, you know when you're starting out in the business, you can sense that maybe people of influence in your line of work or that you work for or work with maybe don't want to get as close to you as they would to some of your male colleagues. That is a very real thing, that's always been a very real thing.

Can you explain that to me? What do you mean?

Well, you get the sense that, like, as much as you try to sort of engage in a friendship, right? Like an outside-of-work friendship or something where, I mean, I view it almost as much as networking as anything else, right? We're all adults here, let's go have a beer, whatever. Let's get together with our significant others because I've been married or engaged almost since I've been doing this job so it's not like I've been some single girl on the prowl, you know? 

Yeah but honestly, even if you were single, that shouldn't change how people in this industry approach you. And I get what you're saying. When I covered Carolina I was on and off single depending on if I had a boyfriend at the time, and it was always a strange dynamic, and I felt like sometimes the men on the beat or even the players or coaches would walk on eggshells. And you've known me for awhile—I'm very much a bro, and so it's like I would always try and relate on that bro level, and I think once a lot of the players or coaches got past that hump, then they were able to talk to me. For some reason, this is the first example that sticks out to me. We would have interviews with Larry Fedora three times a week after spring practice or fall practice and he would almost every time compliment me on something I was wearing. Which, okay, yeah that's nice and, you know, some people say I might be reading too much into it, but it's like—he doesn't compliment any of them on what they're wearing, you know what I mean?

Not to single out Roy Williams, who is a very nice man and has never treated me with anything other than respect, and I know Robbie Pickeral from the News and Observer was on that beat for a long time and she speaks highly of him as well, so it's not like he treated her any different either. But there was this one time during a press conference I was literally the only girl in the room. I think this was before you even got there. And he was like, "Oh, I do have a dirty joke I could tell you guys about, but there's a lady present." And I was the only lady. And I felt like such an idiot. I was like, first of all, I love dirty jokes; please tell the dirty joke, Roy, like, c'mon. I would be less offended by this joke than half the men in here, and then it's like, oh really? We can't have fun because of the lady in here! Like, come on.


I spent a long time early in my career sort of trying to, you know, hide myself a little bit almost.


I remember you've told me that story before and the more that I think about that and other instances, it’s like they're trying to be respectful and nice, but in doing so, they're singling you out and it makes it even more uncomfortable. Just treat me like a person. Just treat me like a writer. I understand what you're trying to do, and I in some way appreciate it, but it's not helping the cause.

No it's not, and I think that's, for me, when I say it's more subtle, it's stuff like that. It's stuff like I couldn't get an invite to somebody's house for dinner with my spouse or fiancée, but then I would see my male get colleague get that invite, you know? To go hang out. Something like that. You're singled out in a way that's meant to be polite and respectful but, in the end, it makes you feel singled out. And I spent a long time early in my career sort of trying to, you know, hide myself a little bit almost. Like hey, I'm gonna dress like a man, which is not a good look for me. But, you know, I'm gonna wear polos and be unflattering and all of that stuff, and just make sure I blend in as much as possible, right?

And that's the other thing, and Brooke Pryor and I touched on this a little bit. The looks thing. It's like if you're attractive, you only made it because you're attractive. If you're not up to the people's standards, then you shouldn't make it, you need to be more attractive. So it's like, what's the middle ground here? What do you people want from me? It's like a lose-lose situation, and that's the frustrating part because it's like, I wanna be presentable, I wanna be attractive, but then it's like, "Oh, she's trying to put a vibe out there, she's trying to, you know, coax these men in." And it's like, no, that's not it at all.

Yeah, this is just what I wear. It took me a really long time. I would say it took me almost 5 or 6 years, probably, when I started freelance covering all the other teams as well.


There are a lot of times I feel like I have to prove what I know. 


When I arrived? Be honest.

Well, that certainly helped because, you know, the more the merrier on the beat, right? It's just for me, it was like ok, I can be myself, I can look more attractive because that makes me feel good. I don't want to look like a frumpy before picture or something; that's not me, that's not what I look like most of the time. I would rather look nicer, and so I kind of started stepping out in that way more and becoming more comfortable with myself, and that was definitely really good. But more subtle examples too I guess is, you know, with the players and coaches and stuff, I feel like sometimes, and this could be completely self inflicted or at least partially, that there are a lot of times I feel like I have to prove what I know. And it's subtle, right? And it could just be a sportswriter thing too. It could just be that they look at all of us like they're idiots who never played the game or whatever, right? But I always try to make it clear to them that I know what I'm talking about or that I want their technical opinion or approach to something, that I can handle that information and spin it back in a way that makes sense, you know what I mean? Like hey, I actually know your sport pretty well, but I'd like to give people an inside look as to why a play did or didn't work, but I want you to know I know what I'm talking about so that you give me the real answer as opposed to the cliché BS answer that is useless.

Absolutely. You automatically go into it with the attitude like, okay, you have to assume that the cards are kind of stacked against you and it's sad. And you don't need them to dumb it down for the woman, and not saying that, you know, a majority or I can't even think of many that did do that. But I get what you're saying. It's kind of like a sports chip on your shoulder where you have to prove yourself before you get in there. And I don't know why the player that comes into mind that I never saw treat anybody different no matter what was Marcus Paige. God, let me just throw out how Marcus Paige is the best. He just answered every question no matter who you were with the same amount of respect and intelligence, and I really appreciated that about him.

We've talked about a couple of the women on the beat. It's very interesting because I feel like this industry creates a very competitive dynamic, not just amongst everyone, but more so in the community of women. I feel like this industry makes it seem like, oh, there can only be one or two of you that succeeds and you have to fight all the others kind of thing. I didn't feel that way on our beat; I felt like everyone got along pretty well as far as the women were concerned, but do you feel like there's an added level [bit] of competitiveness when it comes to women in this industry?

I think there definitely can be, and it probably exists more in terms of the TV side of things. And it's unfortunate, but it's so much a looks-based industry now, especially for women. So it's like, you know, you can set yourself apart by being better at your job on the TV side from a technical standpoint, but it's like you gotta look better than her too, and just stuff like that is just brutal and I hate that part of it for all of you guys because I've met some really, really talented and smart and really, really good sports minds in terms of on the TV side. And you come in with a certain stereotype of TV women in sports, you know, even as a print person you do. Like, oh, well they're the ones that are here because they look good. Well that's definitely not the case. I've learned that through the years—you, Jen Daniels from WTVD, who was a beautiful girl but she got it, she knew her stuff really, really well, and more than a lot of the men did. But I can imagine that yeah, there is this sort of feeling of, okay, well there's only room for so many of us, and that part of it kind of stinks. I never want to view things that way, and I don't. I tend to kind of view things as I'd rather help lift up another woman in this business than crap on her, I'd rather crap on some other dude if I have to. I get sad when women leave our industry! I was sad when you did... 


If a male reporter got information, no one would question where it came from, but for us, it's like, oh well you must have slept with someone to get that. 


I'm back! I'm coming back, baby. And honestly, a lot of the reason that I kind of needed that break was because I was getting frustrated with being a woman in the industry. I saw my career kind of going towards, you know, the sideline department. Not that there's anything wrong with that; sideline and court-side and all of that. God, you have to be so quick on your feet, you have to know so much stuff. That is a very tough position. But for me, it's just, it was like fitting the stereotype, you know? And I just wanted to do so much more, and I wanted to talk about so much more, and I wanted to learn so much more. And so, you know, the year break was very good for me and it was very informative, and I kind of did realize that I felt like I needed to compete with other women who were on air, and I don't want to be like that, you know? There's plenty of room for everyone. We need to do that; we need to support each other.

Not every woman in this business is like that though. There are certain women that will step on your throat in a heartbeat. And there are definitely some that—and I hate to say this, but I think we've all seen it—there are definitely some that will sort of do things with coaches or players that sadly help perpetuate that stereotype that we all have to kind of fight off. And look, it's their prerogative; it's 2016. If those guys are such cavemen that they assume that because one person slept with them that we're all going to do that, that's their problem, that's not the girl's problem. I want to make that clear. But it does still kind of suck because then you're fighting an uphill climb. But I hate that it's always put on the female reporter.

It's a very fine line because you want to build a rapport with coaches and players, but it's tough because you have to make sure that the line doesn't get crossed. And while some women do cross the line, it's hard because how do you do that [build a rapport] without coming across as like, oh hey, I do want to sleep with you. It's tough. It's a very fine line. I wish I could tell you the amount of message board posts that there were about me and various random people, like associated with Carolina football or basketball, and I'm just like, come one. One that I remember, and I sent it to him because he and I are still good friends—Bobby Frasor. There was a long thread and, for the record, nothing ever happened between me and Bobby. Bobby is in my group of friends. Bobby's the best. But there was this long thread, and Bobby and I just screenshotted it and sent it back and forth and we thought it was the funniest thing. And it's just like, where did this come from? It's amazing the stuff people get in their heads and run with. And it's like guys never have to deal with this stuff. Men never have to deal with this stuff. And it's funny and it's like “haha,” but it's also like, come on man; it's just infuriating that I even have to address this stuff.

Yeah, I mean, if a male reporter got information, no one would question where it came from, but for us, it's like, oh, well you must have slept with someone to get that. Stop.

What would be your one piece of advice to young women wanting to come into this industry? 

I think I would tell them to do probably what I didn't do for too long, which is just to be yourself and be comfortable with that. That's how you can craft your own voice and your own niche and your own personality in this industry. Most of these guys, especially your colleagues, they do want to be your friend. They will be supportive of you and you can make really good friends in this business. I have, for sure. So you can do that, but you have to be yourself. You don't have to try to be like Doris Burke—who I love, by the way, and I would totally be Doris Burke if I could, but I'm not Doris Burke; she is her own awesomeness. You have to just be you and don't try to emulate anybody else, and if you do that and you're good at what you do, then I think good things will follow you.

For the full interview you can listen to the podcast here.

Women In Sports: Brooke Pryor

Brooke and I met during my time at Inside Carolina covering UNC.  She was one of the only other women on the beat during my tenure and was even a student then, working for the Daily Tar Heel. She's covered a lot of different teams and sports since her time at the DTH, working for The Colorado Spring Gazette, Carolina Blue Magazine, The Durham Herald Sun and The North State Journal where she is currently a sports reporter.  We've shared plenty of war stories and plenty of margaritas.  Here is our conversation:

When you decided, “Hey, this is what I want to do [meaning sports journalism],” did you know you’d be treated differently because you are a woman?

It should have been a warning sign when I got to the Daily Tar Heel orientation the first day and Jonathan Jones called me “freshman girl” for a long time. I was just referred to as “this is the freshman girl.” And I went to an all-girls high school, so we got the whole girl power thing going on there, and I’ve never really been the odd one out and didn’t really think anything of it. And then kind of little by little, it started to occur to me that okay, there are three other girls on the desk or four other girls—Kelly Parsons being one of them. I would go to games and a lot of times, it’d be the smaller sport and I’d be the only media person there anyway, but as it got to football and basketball I thought, okay, you know, there’s never a line in the bathroom. You were the only other person there, like fixing your hair or something, and I was like, this is kind of odd, but that’s cool. It took me a long time to realize that there were not a lot of people like me in my field. And it was kind of odd, kind of nice because everybody knows who I am even if it’s just calling me “freshman girl” or something like that. It took me a long time to realize I was different.


 I was being introduced to men and male coaches and their first instinct was to hug me. 


When was the first time you noticed being treated differently?

I will say when I started working at the Herald Sun, I guess 2 years ago now, I noticed when I talk to players or coaches—because at UNC it’s, you know, pretty regulated; there’s not a ton of room for coaches to say something or players to say something. But I started covering NC Central and it’s much more informal, and when I was being introduced to men and male coaches, their first instinct was to hug me. And I was like, that’s weird, we just met, I don’t know you, would you hug a man? No, you would shake their hand. But it was like “welcome to the family!” and that just kind of struck me as weird. You wouldn’t do that as like hey, here’s the new guy on the beat, you know, Joe Smith—nice to meet you man. This is Brooke—oh have a big hug! It was kind of odd.

You mentioned NC Central. You and I have talked about a bunch of the different places you’ve covered, because you have covered a lot of different teams. Is there one event, or what’s the worst discrimination that you feel like you’ve encountered just because you are a woman?

Last year, I was working on a big story that was kind of sensitive; it had to do with player harassment. A male coach of a women’s team was being accused of harassing his players from some players that were disgruntled, and their parents and they had been removed from the team and I was busting my butt to get this interview with this guy. Just going to school trying to reach out to him. And I’ll never forget, I was at a conference for women in sports media through an organization—AWSM: Association for Women in Sports Media; it’s amazing. And I got an email from another writer who worked at my paper and said, “Hey, this guy doesn’t want to talk to you; he feels like I would be more sensitive to this story and he feels like he’s known me longer. So I’m just gonna do the interview and then I’ll just give you the information.”

Wow. 

And I was livid. This coach had only been at the school a year longer than I had been covering so the excuse of he knows me better was ridiculous. And being more sensitive? Oh, I was so mad. It was early in the morning, I was pacing my hotel room, I threw my phone. I got so mad, and I called my boss and I said, “This is not okay with me.” And he backed me up. He was awesome. He said, “No, you know what? Either he talks to you, or we don’t do this at all.” And we eventually got it negotiated to where I talked with the coach that was being accused with his lawyer present, which is fine, I get that, you want to be covered. No more he said, she said stuff, but that was the worst that I’ve had it as far as the whole “oh, you’ll be more sensitive to my story.”

Can you think of any other examples in your everyday coverage? Are there things that you encounter that are kind of like “come on, man” or even feel like maybe set you back?

Yeah, I’ve had some coaches where for whatever reason they feel like they don’t want to give me cell numbers or, you know, respond to my direct messages if that’s the only way I can get in contact with them because they won’t give me a cell number. I try to reach out through DM; I slide in there, and they just don’t engage. And then I hear later, “oh, well so and so told me he doesn’t feel like you should have his cell number, so he just told me everything and then thought I could relay it to you.” And it’s kind of like, c’mon, what do you think I’m going to do with your cell number? Would you give it to me if you thought that I would be willing to act in an unprofessional manner with you? You know that kind of thing where it’s just frustrating because I’m the everyday writer that’s there and why wouldn’t you want me to be able to contact you? You know, just a level of trust.  And I’d heard the same coach was giving his number to other guys who were on the beat who only showed up occasionally but yet I’m not trustworthy enough to have it.


If I tweet about eating a burger somebody will tweet, “Well maybe you should have more salads.”


Is there anything you can do about this stuff? I mean, I guess that’s the frustrating part. It’s like when this happens, what do you do? Do you speak out about it? Do you keep quiet? What’s the real answer here? Because it’s one of those things if you don’t speak out about it, it’s gonna keep happening. But if you do speak out, does it get any better?

Yeah, well it’s one of those things, can you really tweet about “oh, so and so didn’t give me their number”? Then you just look ridiculous. And you’ll get the trolls that are like “well, why do you want it? Are you trying to text him at 2 in the morning?” That kind of thing, and it’s like no, I just want to be able to do my job. But yeah, it’s a weird thing. I make sure that people that need to know about it, like my boss and sometimes not necessarily other people on the beat because there’s the competitive stuff, but people that I work around at other capacities … like, “Hey, this is what this guy is doing. He’s not being fair, and he’s not being respectful of me, and he doesn’t think that I can do my job.” That kind of thing. Just make sure that people know that this is the kind of person that he is and I’ve found that, you know, for other people when you mention “so and so did this” I get, “Oh, well that’s weird; he did that to me too.” You know, so just kind of talking about it and making sure that that’s a dialogue that’s happening so that if anything else monumental happens with any coach or any players that there have been run-ins in the past then maybe eventually there’s enough to do a story or a blog post or a podcast or something like this.

You mentioned the Twitter trolls. What type of stuff do you get on Twitter?

My mentions are not that bad, and I know that so many women have it so much worse than I do. Sometimes I get people commenting—if I tweet about eating a burger, somebody will tweet, “Well, maybe you should have more salads.”

Holy Shit.

Right? I’ve gotten that a couple times and I was like what? A) How do you know what I look like? I’m not anywhere you should see me regularly. And B) I feel pretty good about my body and it’s none of your business how I feel or don’t feel or if I want a burger for the third day in a row.

That dynamic is very interesting to me because and I just want to throw this in there. If you are an attractive woman in sports, you only got there because you’re attractive. If you’re not up to Twitter standards, you need to be more attractive to get further. It’s such a double standard, and it’s like you’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t. You have to be attractive apparently to make it far, but if you make it far and you’re attractive, then you only made it because of your looks. 

Yeah, there’s really no way to win in those situations and it makes me so mad. Okay yeah, I’m eating a pizza or yeah, I’m having popcorn and wine for dinner—again. I’m really comfortable with myself and I have developed a pretty thick skin just as a byproduct of being me I guess, so that stuff doesn’t bother me a lot, but sometimes it does. When you get a tweet that says, “Okay girl, watch what you’re eating, watch your weight”—well, who are you to dictate my happiness and to dictate my own body image? I’m so thankful that right now, I don’t have to get on camera because I think more of that would come and I don’t know if I could handle that.

But do you feel like you’re kind of holding yourself back with fear of maybe somebody coming after you and saying those types of things?

I don’t know. Nobody has asked me to do it yet for my job. We’ll see what happens when it gets more into football season, and I’m definitely open to doing camera work, but yeah, sometimes it does feel like I do hold myself back just a little btt from worrying about the comments and what are people gonna say and that kind of thing. So maybe I compensate by doing stuff like the podcast where at least, you know, if I don’t want to get on camera, then I can spread my voice and spread my thoughts this way. That’s something that I definitely have to work through and realize that, okay, people are going to have their opinions and I have to just not read comments and not think about if they’re gonna say, “Wow, your hair looked really shitty today.” Well, okay, but I was spot on with this analysis of the running back position so shut up.

How do we move forward in this? How does working in sports get better for women?

I think having people who will speak up and say something when either their male colleagues, or coaches, or players, or whoever are saying degrading things. The thing that pops in my mind that just happened was Rachel Nichols; did you see that? She was on The Jump and when Brian Windhorst was like, “Oh, he must be sliding in your DMs,” and she was like, “No, that’s not what’s happening.” Being able to quickly correct that thought that people have or that train of thought that people jump to—“Oh, you’re a woman and so and so follows you or you have so and so’s number, shenanigans must be happening.” Just stopping it where it is and setting the record straight immediately when it happens rather than being quiet about it and waiting until something else happens. Just stop making excuses.

For the full interview you can listen to the podcast here.

Accepting Anxiety

Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. One more time. Just one more time. I focus on my breathing as hard as I can but it’s too late, the tears start streaming down my face and the uncontrollable sobs follow shortly after. I call my best guy friend.

“It’s happening again, can you please just talk to me?”

“Sure,” he responds nonchalantly. “So I had a weird thing happen during my workout today,” he continues.

We talk for half an hour, it feels like a year, and I make it. I make it through another attack.

“Why do you think I’m like this?” I ask, hoping he’ll have a real answer for once. Hoping he’ll have the solution. He always knew how to talk to me. He is one of the very few people in my life who knows everything about me and still loves me. He is true friendship embodied. He is my best friend.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Why are any of us like we are?”

I was a dramatic child to say the least. I threw bad temper tantrums from the minute I realized I could get my way simply by screaming and flailing and being too adorable to get angry at. I used to do this especially adorable thing where I’d bang my head against things—fridges and doors mostly­—until I got my way. Then, one time, it was a window and that was the last straw for my parents. I still have the scar on my forehead to remind me of how uncontrollable my emotions were even at age 4.

I’ve had a lot of stressful things happen in my life. I know, haven’t we all? Let me try that again. I’ve had a lot of life-altering stressful things happen in my life. Escaping a war at age 6. Adapting to a new country at age 7. Losing my mother at age 11, followed by the demise of the relationship with my father at age 21. But to be honest, I kind of just ... adapted. I survived. I’ve always known how to do that—survive. I’ve always known how to take care of myself; it’s just what I’ve done. It’s just who I am.

But it wasn’t until my late 20s that the anxiety started to happen. It was kind of like my body’s way of telling me, “Whoa, hold on a sec, did you actually survive, or did you just push it all to the side and keep it moving?” I didn’t know what it was at first; I would just cry out of nowhere. I thought I was just being an over-emotional girl.

The first time my doctor told me I had anxiety, I rolled my eyes. Yeah, okay lady. I’m not one of those people. I’m normal. This type of stuff doesn’t happen to me. Anxiety isn’t real; it’s an excuse. I just need to suck it up and deal with it. I’ve been through a lot worse, so I sure as hell can get through this. So, thanks but no thanks on that whole thing.

Shame was the first emotion I felt. For the first time, I wasn’t in control; my emotions controlled me. I was ashamed and embarrassed. How could someone as strong as me, someone who had survived so many things, suddenly be so weak? People suffer from anxiety in many different ways. Some have trouble breathing. Others feel a heavy weight on their chest. Me? I cry. A lot. Except this time around, it isn’t so adorable. Oh, he didn’t text me back? Well, that means he doesn’t care, which means he doesn’t like me anymore, which means it’s over, which means I will never find someone else, which means my life is over. Gasping sobs follow shortly after. That is how anxiety works. One little insignificant “normal” thing will go wrong, and suddenly everything is wrong.

Accepting my anxiety was hard for me. I’m fine. I’ve always been fine. I know how to take care of myself, and I don’t need anyone’s help. I never have. I practically raised myself; I know what’s best for me. To think I would need to rely on someone or something other than myself was a scary thought. But my anxiety was scarier, so I started to try and accept it. I started to deal with it. And the more I dealt with it, the more I talked about it, and the more I realized how many of my friends and acquaintances dealt with it too. Why did we never talk about it? Why didn’t I know that you were going through the same thing? Why didn’t you tell me? Why?

I think it’s hard for a lot of people to understand anxiety. That can be said about a lot of things, but especially about anything related to mental health. I can describe a million times the feeling of my world ending because of a single text message, but people will never be able to fully feel it. And even when people do feel it, do experience it, they don’t want to talk about it. They’re ashamed. They feel like no one can relate. No one could possibly understand these crazy thoughts running through my head. God forbid we aren’t looked at as “normal.”

Let me fill you in on a little something I’ve picked up in my 20-something years of not exactly being normal. Normal is relative. It’s also pretty boring. You’d be surprised to find out how many people—normal or not—are dealing with the same things you’re dealing with. So why are we so afraid to talk about it?

“I mean, I get that we all have our stuff, but why does this have to be my thing? Why do I let small things affect me so deeply? I wish I could just care less,” I say as my breathing slowly goes back to normal.

“Yeah, but then you wouldn’t be you,” he responds.

He’s right. (He’s right a lot, but no one tell him that.) The dramatics, the caring so much it hurts, the empathy to the point of pain—without all of it, I wouldn’t be me.

Donald Trump: A Refugee's Perspective

You know what the Internet needs? Another Donald Trump think-piece, I said to myself as I thought about what my first *official* blog entry would be about.  The media definitely doesn't talk about Donald Trump enough!  I know, I know ... trust me, I know.  I myself have actively tried to avoid 99.9% of Donald Trump pieces the Internet spits out because honestly, what is there left to say?

A lot.  As a Bosnian refugee with Muslim family members and that whole being a woman thing, I have a lot to say about Donald Trump.  Before I dive into the Donald however, let me dive a little more into me and my background.

I am very well aware of my whiteness.  I am a white woman in America and I understand the privileges that being white in America provides (that's a whole other entry and topic of discussion).  But before I was a white woman in America, I was a Bosnian girl in former Yugoslavia.  For those who don't know much about Yugoslavia (and trust me, most people in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia where I grew up didn't even know Yugoslavia existed let alone that it was a country) it has a long and complicated history filled with war, turmoil, and hate.

I was born in 1987 in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, right on the cusp of what is now known as the Bosnian genocide.  The dictator known as Slobodan Milosevic had just come to power and Yugoslavia as we knew it would soon cease to exist.  I won't go into the historic details too much and you can read all about Milosevic and the Bosnian war here, but I will speak of what I know and the war's effect on me.

Slobodan Milosevic hated Muslims.  Slobodan Milosevic hated Bosnians.  Slobodan Milosevic hated anyone who wasn't a "pure" Christian Serb.  He used his power as the leader of Yugoslavia to get on TV, radio, in the papers, anywhere you could think of and talk about the horrible effects these people were having on our beloved Yugoslavia.  The Bosnians? They're a threat to everything we stand for!  The Muslims?  They'll ruin us!  We must band together against these people before they destroy us - and they will destroy us.  We have to strike first!  Slobodan Milosevic brought people together against one common enemy.  He made them feel like they were part of something.  He made them believe that if they followed him and everything he stood for, they would be on their way to a better Yugoslavia.  Make Yugoslavia great again.

I remember hearing my first bomb when I was three years old.  I was sitting in the kitchen with my mom in our high rise apartment eating crepes when it happened.  She immediately scooped me into her arms and ran into the hallway, covering my head with her hands, kissing me repeatedly. 

"What was that noise?" I asked.

"Oh, they're just testing some stuff," she responded, cradling me back and forth, still kissing me.

No matter how hard I try, that is a moment that I will never forget.  That is a memory of Bosnia I will always have.  The next few weeks, months, years were mostly a blur to be honest.  I was young and my parents tried to shield me from as much of the war, of the genocide, as possible. But they couldn't shield me from everything.  I remember peeking through the basement window of our apartment building (we often had to spend nights there in case of bombings), seeing snipers take out people running in every direction one minute, and collapsing to the ground the next.  I remember hearing loud noises and seeing buildings go up in smoke just a few miles away while screams filled the air.  I plugged my ears.  I remember my 11 year-old brother holding my hand and talking to me about WWE wrestling and how much better the Undertaker was than Hulk Hogan (no he wasn't).  I remember piling into a car with all my cousins trying to escape the attacks, only to be stopped by Serbian soldiers and forced at gunpoint to spend the night on a gym floor with hundreds of other Bosnian refugees.  We were piled in like cattle.

How cool! I thought, as I ran around the gym with my brother.  It was like a fun sleepover with my cousins and him.  When I was much older I found out that every single one of us in that gym was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp or killed.  No one knows why they let us go.  Does it even matter?

It took us over two years to finally get to the U.S.  You read that right.  It took my refugee family and I over two years to finally be admitted into the United States of America.  Even at six years old, I saw the amount of work, strain, and dedication it took my mother to get her children to a safe place.

One of my first years in America at the 1996 Olympics reppin Bosnia and killin' the denim game.

One of my first years in America at the 1996 Olympics reppin Bosnia and killin' the denim game.

People think the United States is just casually letting refugees into the country at a rapid rate. You wanna come hang out in America?  Sure, come on over right now!  You need some shelter?  No problem, welcome! That's not how it works.  That's not how any of this works, but Donald Trump will have you thinking that.

So here is where it all comes full circle (as I'm sure you've been waiting for the connection).  I don't know much about Donald Trump's policies or political agenda and I'm not even going to pretend to know.  But I do I know enough abut Donald Trump.  Donald Trump is Slobodan Milosevic.  He is a rich, old, white man in power who uses his money and absurdly large media platform to instill fear, hate, and separation with the promise to fix it.  Make America great again.

People think things like war and genocide and concentration camps can't happen in the U.S. We're too evolved.  We're too rich.  We're too powerful.  We're too something.  We're too everything.  Look around.  Look at the wedge this man, this election, has created between people.  Look at the things he spews from his mouth, the fear he has instilled.  Look at the segregation. Look at the riots.  Look at the shootings.  Look. I mean really look.

Thoughts turn into words turn into actions turn into how did we get here?

My mother brought my brother and I to America for a better life.  Cliche, right?  No. It's the truth. She wanted her kids to be raised somewhere they'd be treated like equals. Somewhere they could be themselves.  Somewhere they wouldn't have to worry about the religion they choose to practice, their gender, their sexual orientation, or their ethnicity.  Somewhere they wouldn't be punished or killed for simply just being.  Somewhere they wouldn't be scared.

The Bosnian war ended over 20 years ago.  I am 28 years old, living in America now and I am scared.

The Beginning Or The End?

I've officially been out of the world of media - or should I say journalism since technically I still work in media - for about a year now.  It took me being approximately two weeks removed from the industry to realize that I missed it.  Holy hell did I miss it.  Looking back, the 3 and a half years I spent working in sports journalism were 3 of the most chaotic, challenging, frustrating, enthralling, and wonderful years of my life.  Good or bad - I wouldn't change a single experience I had.  Okay I maybe would have gotten in a few less Twitter fights and reacted quicker that time I got tackled on the sidelines (s/o to Ryan Switzer for my first concussion) but you get the point.  I would however, have appreciated it more.

I was having coffee with a friend of mine ( YO Akhil you da bom dot com) a couple of months ago, telling him about how only 12 months removed from the industry, I miss it every single day.  Like ... EVERY single day.  I wish I had stuck it out.  Instead of the regular "yeah, that sucks oh well bye girl" response I usually get, his kind of threw me off a little bit.

"Ok ... do something about it."

Do something about it?!  What do you meeeeaannnn do something about it?!  I've chosen my career path in social media, there's no WAY I can do something about it now.  At 28 years old (uh, when did that happen) my fate is fully sealed.  I peaked in my early 20s.  There's no going back now.  RIP my career in journalism.  The end.  Goodbye forever.

"Start a podcast or a blog," he said, like it was that easy.

Hold up, wait a minute, maybe it is.

The one issue I had with working in sports journalism was that there were times where I felt like it was very limiting.  Don't get me wrong, I loooove sports.  I grew up with an older brother who made sure I knew more about Michael Jordan and the 96-97 Bulls than I did anything I learned in school.  I even did my 3rd grade book report on the man (so did Brock Miller and mine was way better SUCK IT BROCK).  But the longer I worked in sports, the more I realized that sports is about sooooo much more than the game.  It's about all the stuff that you don't hear about behind closed doors.  It's about politics.  It's about the players, the culture, the drama - it's about the entire lifestyle.  And boy oh boy trust me, it's definitely a lifestyle.

I've experienced some different-than-most-people type of things in my life (most of which I'm sure will at some point come out and be discussed during this whole blogging slash podcasting venture) and there are so many other things I want to experience; SO many other things I want to discuss and that is exactly why I'm here.  I'm hoping this blog can be a place where real discussions can happen and mostly where I can get all of my ridiculous, ranting thoughts out in a somewhat organized manner - and force you people to read them. PLZ READ THEM.

What's that?  Have I figured out a theme or at least know what kind of things I'm going to be blogging and podcasting about?  Eh, I think so.  Sports will definitely be involved, culture too. I assume there will be a lot of social issues that come up and things might even get a little political. Music too. There will definitely be several entries dedicated specifically to Tupac, my long lost soulmate.  Anyway,  first official entry is a few days away *dramatic music* stay tuned... (And I'm gonna try my hardest to make it not suck I promise you guys).