February 2, 2014
Guests: Yamiche Alcindor, Deon Haywood, Dave Zirin, Wade Davis, Amy Nelson,
Roman Oben, Chris Kluwe, Mason Tvert
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Is Richard
Sherman in the tradition of Muhammad Ali?
Plus, Steve Kornacki carries the (INAUDIBLE) our football sorrows at a
And the marijuana push creating a haze around the Super Bowl.
But, first, as Rod said to Jerry, show me the money!
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Today is not just any given Sunday, today is going to be all about football
because it is Super Bowl Sunday. In less than nine hours Super Bowl XLVIII
is about to begin across the river at MetLife stadium in New Jersey. And
folks here in New York might actually hear the game or at least the fans of
the Seattle Seahawks. Because according to the latest reports in the last
72 hours, fans from Washington State have purchased 17 percent of tickets
while fans from Colorado have purchased only eight percent.
Yes, you all, the Super Bowl is all about proud fans, bright lights, big
stars and as Cuba Gooding Jr. characterized did well told us in the movie
"Jerry McGuire" it`s all about showing the money.
But money for who, for what, the league, the owners, the players, maybe the
fans? Well, we know the NFL is getting theirs. The revenue of more than
$9 billion last year and a commissioner who hopes to reach annual revenue
of $25 billion by 2027. And the 32 NFL teams on average each team is worth
Now, while there is salary inequality across the NFL and I`ll get back to
that in just a bit, whether you`re a winner or loser in the Super Bowl
tonight, you`re going to be making bank. If you`re player on the winning
team tonight, you get an extra $92,000, not to mention those blinged out
Super Bowl rings that each cost about $5,000. The losers get $46,000
apiece. Later tonight, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks are going
to play the big game in MetLife stadium, most expensive stadium in the
world became with a price tag of $1.6 billion.
Now, the stadium, which is home to both the New York Giants and the New
York Jets, was built using no public money. But it`s not the fans who
benefitted necessarily from that deal. According to "New York Times"
MetLife stadium was built on 750 acres of state-owned land in New Jersey.
Both teams received 20 acres for training facilities and 75 acres to
develop. And while the team`s each pay approximately $6.3 million in rent
and other payments; it`s the taxpayers who are still paying off the $100
million in bonds on the old stadium that was demolished. And neither team
has to share revenue from parking or suites or concerts with the state.
But for the team owners, MetLife stadium is a means to an end without it
they say it`s doubtful that New York and New Jersey will be hosting this
year`s Super Bowl and the Super Bowl invigorates a local economy, right?
Well, the estimates for the economic impact of this Super Bowl are that it
will inject between $500 million and $600 million into the economy, but,
hey, not so fast. Because sports economists put the impact at more like a
quarter of that total with most of the money benefiting New York and not
New Jersey, the state where the game is actually being played.
So, why a discrepancy over economic impact? So Critics say it is so that
NFL could drive up future bids by cities wanting to obtain the rights to
having the Super Bowl on their turf. And if you are a true fan of the game
and you thought you were going to score some tickets, well, the prices for
Super Bowl tickets have dropped in the last few days the average person
would still be difficult at best to afford one.
According to ticket Web site Razor gate, the cheap seats dropped from a
whopping $1,500 to a more affordable price of just under $1,300. And even
if you`re able to afford a ticket, good luck getting one because only one
percent of the tickets are even reserved for the public. For 30 straight
years, football has been the favorite sport in the U.S., but are the fans
who made it that way getting left on the sidelines?
At the table, Roman Oben a former NFL player who won the Super Bowl in 2002
with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dave Ziren, sports editor for "the Nation"
magazine, Amy Nelson, a contributing editor at "Animal New York," and Wade
Davis, a former NFL player who played for the Tennessee Titans, the
Washington Redskins and Seattle Seahawks. Wade is also the executive
director of "that you can play project."
It is so nice to have you all here. Happy Super Bowl Sunday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me begin with you. If I just asked the question,
who gets paid off the NFL or who gets paid as a result of major football,
professional football, what`s your answer?
AMY NELSON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, ANIMAL NEW YORK: Well, I mean, there are
plenty of people who get paid and, guess what, Melissa? It is the top one
percenters. I love the fact that you just dropped that one percent line
because the Super Bowl is really home to one percenters, if you don`t have
average fans, really, who are obviously able to afford the game. And we`re
talking about a league that is laughably tax exempt. We are talking about
the league that has built the majority of public stadiums off taxpayers`
money. We`re talking about in a league New Orleans, your city, its owner
has given been inducement payments for years, millions of millions in
dollars just to stay in New Orleans.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because after the storm there was this possibility that
Benson was going to leave and here the city was sort of desperately saying,
no, we need our good news stories. We need our team. And instead of that
sense of like, of course, the team and the city is one. It was like, all
right, well then pay me to stay.
NELSON: Right. And I hate even saying this out loud the rich get richer
because it is so clich‚ and we hear it all the time, but with the NFL, it
is apt and so fitting because that`s, you know, it is a business. There`s
no incentive for them whatsoever to really include regular fans because
it`s a business and it only happens once a year.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So Dave, there is nothing more likely to get me in
trouble this afternoon or this morning and yet I want to say this anyway.
There is actual wage inequality within the context of the NFL. Because I
just know, just from reading your pieces and others. You start read in the
comment section and folks are like, yes, cry me a river for all the poor,
professional football players, right? But there is, in fact, a huge gap
between the folks who are at the top and sort of the working Joes who are
at the bottom of this game.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: No, absolutely. And we can start
with Roger Goodell who makes just under $30 million a year as NFL
commissioner. Well, let`s be clear about settings.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what is his head injury risk?
ZIRIN: Although given his recent comments about the Washington football`s
team name, I think he has had a few head injuries. But let`s be clear
about something, the Super Bowl is like Woodstock for the one percent. It
is where they gather to celebrate their wealth and their excess. There`s
no site in the United States in a given year that has more private plane
traffic to it than the Super Bowl. It causes traffic jams at local
But NFL owners, let`s be clear how they make their money, these are the
welfare kings of the United States. We`re talking $18.5 billion, $900
million a year over the last 20 years for NFL ownership. So, what you end
up having is what I call it a neoliberal horse because you have neoliberal
economics projected on cities through stadium construction under the guise
of sports, which people are more likely to support than if you said, hey,
let`s give $900 million, let`s give a billion dollar gift to a billionaire.
Most people would oppose that. But when you cloak it in the guise of
sports, when you cloak it in the guise of sports we`ll take this team and
leave then they say it is good economics.
And you know what? That is every single study from the Brookings Institute
to the Cato Institute says that stadium funding is not good economics. If
you flew a plane over New York City and dropped the billion dollars on the
street and people could pick up the money and spend it in local stores that
would do better for the local economy than building a stadium.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there are so many levels of this, right? So, one is the
question of stadiums and the infrastructure and the ways that may actually
maybe suck more than it gives back, right? There is the question of the
inequality from the commissioners at the top to the guys who are making
league minimum maybe for only a couple of years and risking all kinds of
But it is also a great privilege to play this game, a game that people love
and to make a better salary than most ordinary folks make in the context of
their lives. How do we balance those things and wanting to talk about the
unfairness and inequality? But also saying, hey, this is a game and a
sport and a job that I love that is actually pretty well paid.
ROMAN OBEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes, I mean, as a player, you know, you`re
so oblivious to all these other numbers and stats and the economy of the
game and who benefits. But one thing that was compelling to me is that
these Nielson ratings of these fans that can`t afford to go to the game,
that`s what they use to measure to sell the spots at $4 million every 30
seconds. And then with the local businesses, you know, hotels can triple
their price for the weekend, but you can`t triple your costs of a burger at
the restaurant for a weekend because over the course of a year, you won`t
really benefit as a local business as much from the Super Bowl coming one
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And a hotel, I mean, if a lot of folks are staying
in chain hotels, that money isn`t necessarily benefiting local economy.
It`s benefiting Marriott (ph) or whatever the national, you know, chain or
international chain may be.
I wanted to look at it. Well, just look at NFL revenue. It is estimated
that NFL revenue, we are going to have $5 billion in media and television
writes, $1 to $2 billion in sponsorship and another $2 billion in
attendance and ticket sales, another billion in merchandise and licensing.
This is big money. Does money inherently corrupt or is there a way to have
big money as part of something, but also have it operate in a way that is
more fair and more just?
WADE DAVIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: I think the one thing about the NFL is that
its socialism with the owners and capitalism with the players, right? You
know that there is this revenue sharing aspect amongst the owners where
they exist in this really beautiful space. But if you were to talk to
owners outside of the football realm, they would be really against the idea
of socialism where its players are in this capitalistic like a free market
entity where as long as there is value to you, we actually want you. But
as soon as you get owed we discard of you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Actually, I want to talk more about that when you get
older. Because I think a lot of folks don`t realize that you can be on
your own dealing with health consequences for a long time after your days
of playing in the league are over.
So up next, what happens when the NFL commissioner gets ambushed by one of
his own players? It was kind of amazing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, it was.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the state of
the league`s speech, his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference. Meanwhile,
Goodell addressed questions ranging from expanding the playoffs to league`s
marijuana policy and adding a centralized instant replay office, it was
this question by San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis who was there
for Sports illustrated Monday morning quarterback that may have caught the
commission a little off guard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VERNON DAVIS, TIGHT END, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: Roger, we played one of
America`s most dangerous and most lucrative games, but still we have to
fight for health benefits. We have to jump through hoops for it. Why
doesn`t the NFL offer free health care for life especially those suffering
from brain injury?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In response for commissioner went so far as to say he thinks
the health care benefits provided for the current NFL players are the best
in the world. But the commissioner also acknowledged that the league has
fallen short when it comes to providing health care for veteran players.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOODELL: We all still have a lot of work to do for former players. The
cost of trying to provide health care for every player that`s ever played
in the league was discussed with the unit. It was determined that these
changes were the best changes and that`s what we negotiated. But we will
continue to make more efforts and do a better job, particularly with our
former players in providing them opportunities and to give them the proper
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In comparison to other sports such as NBA and MLB where
players are eligible for lifetime health care packages, players in the NFL,
if they have played at least three seasons, received a whopping five years
of health care after retirement. Then for the most part, they are cut off.
Is that fair?
OBEN: Well, I was the one when Commissioner Goodell talked about we did
all the research. I was on the benefit`s committee that did all the
initial research and it saw that it would cost $1.4 million per player to
insure them for the course of a lifetime. So, if you invested in better
union, if you play 3 1/2 to four years, you get five years of insurance,
continued insurance, then you have a $25,000 a year that caps at like
$300,000, which is 12 years.
I played 12 years, so I was lucky to be in that first class of people that
would get lifetime, so -- not lifetime, but up until where that 3 $00,000
caps out, so. And everyone says +The league should do more, the league
should do more with this collective bargaining negotiation, it really comes
down to one side saying what we`re willing to accept and the other side
what we`re willing to give up. And somewhere along the way, they meet up
in the middle and it`s not a perfect system at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: But Davis really does make a key point here about how
lucrative the game is and also how dangerous it is. I mean, I think about
the fact that we`re in these fights right now about pensions and employees,
public employees, you know for example, all over the Midwest and other
places where, in fact, this fight was about whether or not once you have
put in your time, you deserve to have that support for a lifetime. And I
just keep thinking, I mean, really, particularly in this context, the
physical toll of having done the work for the NFL and enriched so many
ZIRIN: Exactly. And typical career runs 3 1/2 years, then you find
yourself 25, 26 years old and sometimes with health problems that last you
the rest of your life. I did that book with John Carlos from the `68
Olympics. John Carlos walks with a terrible limp and that it cost hundreds
of thousands of dollars to do hip replacements and what not. That happened
after he tried out for the Philadelphia eagles after his track career. One
hit on that harsh veteran and then the rest of his life he`s paying these
What the NFL says is there is no way we can do this. And the NFL PA In the
last collective bargaining agreement, I thought fought heroically to make
sure that at least there would be revenue for retired players. Because
there was a time where there was just nothing with these guys. They were
out on their own. Early onset dementia, depression and then the NFL
playing hardball with a lot of players who were then like are missing their
medical appointments because of early on-set dementia and saying well, this
is proof that it`s fraud. All kinds of aspersions put on the players.
And at the bottom of all of this which no one wants to talk about is about
wholesale hard-core greed on behalf of the ownership and then wanting to
make sure that they get as much back from their investment as humanly
possible and seeing the players as extensions of equipment. And when that
equipment runs out, well, it`s on to the next one. It becomes a meat
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this goes back to your point, Wade, about the
capitalism that operates for the players, right? This idea that OK, we are
going to revenue share at the top. I`m not sure I call it socialism but
certainly, some kind re-distribution for the very -- for the tiny minority.
But then for other folks, if you`re on an extension of the equipment, I
like this language, then once you`re no longer valuable, we also no longer
have a responsibility to you.
DAVIS: Yes. You know, and CBA agreements tough because you have players
who are trying to get as much money as they can out of the gate, you know.
And then they`re like, well, OK, how can I get money now to protect myself
knowing that there is no money for when I`m done and retired? And they
haven`t even taken into account the fact that they may get hurt, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it drives up that initial asking price because you know
you`re going to have to put aside this portion to pay for these bills
DAVIS: It`s a double-edge sword. Can I get all the money I can now, but
then, am I forward thinking enough to think about hey, what my career may
only last only three or four years. How do I have something in the reserve
in case I get hurt?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how it effect other major league sports are doing better
than the NFL? Is it just because the cost of caring for former NFL players
versus caring for former baseball players or is there something about the
structure of the system itself?
NELSON: Well, you have to historically look back at the structure of the
system. I mean, if you look back at the major being baseball union, there
is a long stored history not just only on the strength of the union but the
strength of the union to fight for the players` rights. They have the best
rights for players in all four professional sports.
But I think, you know, one thing good for Vernon Davis for actually, "a,"
asking Goodell this and b, sort of as much as we have this awareness of
concussions and as much as the NFL, in my opinion, make player safety first
and all these initiatives to try to make the game healthier and better and
sort of extend the life quality for its players after they are done
playing, you know, we still come down to the fact that they aren`t
providing for their players.
And we just did a segment on the economics of this game and how much money
for a tax exempt organization the NFL and its executives and all the other
sort of trickle down people who benefit. Yet, Goodell yesterday or the
other day was saying costs that we looked at the costs. Well, if you look
at the cost, then also look at the rest of the economics of your game. I
think it`s entirely possible to be able to afford to pay for lifetime
health insurance for your players.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. We were just looking at a concussion timeline starting
back in the 2013/`14 season and then coming forward and you can just see
that, you know, there are these new rules for hitting with the crown of the
helmet, the concussion case going to court, the NFL agreeing $765 million
in a settlement and then you see a decline in Pop Warner participation of
almost 10 percent. Then you have, you know, players exiting because of
concussion. You got, you know, funding of research, all of this. And so,
you have the sort of intensity over these questions over the course of past
year, but not -- mean, maybe we can`t afford the commissioner`s salary
versus not being able to afford this.
ZIRIN: This is going to lead the gladatorialization of the sport where the
people who can afford to go to the games trickles up and the people on the
field trickles down last year, the four most exciting players in the NFL --
Russell Wilson, Robert (INAUDIBLE). What do all four quarterbacks have in
common? They came from stable, middle-class homes and they played other
sports. That is exactly the kind of player who is not going to play in the
NFL in the next generation.
HARRIS-PERRY: I got to tell you, a thousand times as I`ve been listening
and we`ll talk more about Richard Sherman. You know, part of the question
we`ll ask is the extent of which he`s reminiscent from Muhammad Ali from
some of his public announcement, but the other piece for me as always, I
just want to run up and put my hands around his head and say don`t let
anyone hit it. You are so brilliant, right? That there is a part of me
that thinks, you know, a young man of that level of intelligence and
capacity, not that I`m surprised to find that in the NFL, I`m not. But
rather that because we know what we know about head injuries, it makes me
nervous for his brain in the same way that the battle of Muhammad Ali`s
life has been what happened in terms of his head injuries.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, absolutely.
Up next, not just pro football players asking tough questions, we are going
to tell you how some college players are trying to change their game
HARRIS-PERRY: When it comes to football, NFL players are not the only
athletes fighting for more rights and care. A new effort is being led by
former Northwestern University starting quarterback Kain Colter for the
first time in the history of college sports. Players are asking for union
representations so they can be recognized as employees in addition to
college athletes. One of their main goals is to obtain better medical
protections and coverage for college athletes.
On Tuesday, Ragomi Huma, president of the NCAA -- excuse me, of the
national college players association filed a petition on behalf of
Northwestern football players with the national labor relations board. At
a press, Huma told the media why this action is necessary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAGOMI HUMA, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL COLLEGE PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: This is a
period of 60 years where as the NCAA knowingly established a paper place
system while using terms like student athlete and amateurism to try to
skirt labor laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: At that same press con, Kain Colter spoke about why student
athlete voices need to be heard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAIN COLTER, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Student athletes don`t have a voice. They
don`t have a seat at the table. The current model resembles a dictatorship
where the NCAA places these rules and regulations on the students without
their input or without their negotiation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So then, the NCAA responded to these allegations in a
statement from the chief legal officer, Donald Remy, who wrote this union
backed attempt to turn student athletes into employees undermines the
purpose of college and education. Student athletes are not employees and
their participation in college sports is voluntary. We stand for all
student athletes, not just those the unions want to professionalize.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dave Zirin will pop off the edge of my table. So, I`m going
to go to you first on this.
ZIRIN: I think that statement reminds me about Joe Biden`s statement about
Rudolf Giuliani. It is like a noun, a verb and student athletes, four or
five times in four sentences. And by the way, so just so people Donald
Remy does not work for free. He is not an amateur in terms of the NCAA.
Look, this is amazing. This is historic. This is the first crack in the
NCAA cartel. It is a brilliant act of daring on these players. And what`s
so disheartening is the approach of the NCAA toward them because for all
their bladder and polabber (ph) about student athletes, here are young
people thinking critically. Where do they get this idea? In a class about
labor laws. They`re going to class. They`re talking to each other.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re about to get a whole bunch of people fired talking
about these professors teaching you about organizing and labor laws.
ZIRIN: How dare they make you think critically, you know? And it is like
they`re basically saying we`re not just going to be part of the meat
grinder. We are not going to be happy with the system where coaches make
millions of dollars a year and players don`t even get basic medical care if
they get hurt. And they don`t even get four-year scholarships. They
renewed on an annual basis. They`re not even talking about money and pay.
They are talking about basic rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so I have a dear friend in high school who was
highly recruited as a college football player. And I`m thinking all the
things they trot out for you, and to say, you know, come here, look at our
nice, you know, rooms and, you know, here are all the great things and our
graduation rate. Let`s (INAUDIBLE) of things.
But I`m wondering, if I was a D-1 school, could I distinguish myself from
my competitors by allowing unionization on my campus and, thereby, sort of
actually creating a circumstance to be more likely to get some of the top
players. If it is going to be, you know, a competitive environment in that
way, would that be one way to do it?
NELSON: It could. But it opens up a huge potential for enormous issues.
I mean, the one thing about trying to solve the NCAA is that everyone`s
been trying to solve college athletics. Like the issues of whether or not
we pay these players and profiting off of them.
No one has really ever come up to my knowledge with a really effective,
smart, logical way to fix this. I think it`s amazing what these players
are trying to do especially at a time when labor unions are pretty much
being assaulted against, you know. And two years ago at the Super Bowl,
our protests for Indiana`s right to work law.
So, I think, I mean, I know Dave you are 100 percent on that train and I
think it`s great, but when you try and look at, also, private institutions
are covered by the national labor relations board, but public ones aren`t.
So, you are going to have a two-tiered system here when you`re trying to
implement, you know, salaries. I mean, it is massive, massive sort of look
at trying to change a system that has been corrupt fundamentally for year.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So Dave them called them a cartel and Kain called
them dictatorship. I mean, if I don`t know NCAA, at Nerdland we don`t
normally shows up for the economic conversations on this show, to explain
why, why is it being described as either a cartel or as a dictatorship?
DAVIS: I think the biggest reason is you have these athlete who are
bringing in a lot of money to schools and you have coaches, as Dave said,
making millions of dollars and players are risking their lives, you know,
for this game. And some of them may get hurt in their first year. Their
scholarship is done. Their school isn`t paid for. So, if I`m a student
athlete, right, should my student part be paid for because even though I
may not be an athlete any more, I was. And the reason I came to your
school in the first place, you showed me all these bells and whistles and
so let that continue.
OBEN: Yes. I mean, I`m compelled that if I`m Oklahoma, UCS -- I mean,
some other schools that are northwestern that do pretty in the surplus, I`m
saying, look, these kids at northwestern are caring about us. We are the
ones to bring on the money. They`re balancing at probably even budget or
even a little less. Their stadium doesn`t have multi-corporate sponsors
around it. So the fact these northwestern kids who really are scholar
athletes care about the upper echelon of the student athletes that are
bringing in all the money. I think it`s excellent.
ZIRIN: Right. And just to back up, just want people know the phrase
student athlete was created by the NCAA as a legal term in the 1950s after
a man named Ray Denson died on the football field and his wife attempted to
sue for workers compensation. That`s where the phrase was created. So,
this is corrupt from Jump Street from ground zero.
And what the players are doing, I totally agree with what Amy said that
this thing is huge and complicated. But what Northwestern is doing, they
are doing something that has never happened before. They`re demanding a
seat at the table to actually figure out these problems. And that`s what`s
still missing right now. The NCAA and the presidents, they all want to
figure out how to do it and a lot of them in very good faith, but the
student athlete, quote-unquote "are not part of the discussion."
HARRIS-PERRY: At least not in any kind of organized fashion. I mean, so
there may be former players and that sort of thing, but the idea of an
organized active student in that moment.
Amy Nelson, thank you so much for joining us. I hope you will come back
often. Dave, Roman and Wade, I`m going to see you guys in a little bit.
But up next, I`m going to sit down with a couple of my fellow MSNBC
weekenders and some fellow football fans to talk Super Bowl.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If people are looking for appointment television on the
weekends in the dead of winter, all three of us have weekend shows. You
can always have an Up, Nerdland, Disrupt party. No need to wait for the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The two teams facing each other on the football field in
just have two of the loudest and proudest fans in the NFL. Bronco fans got
so loud last year that quarterback Peyton Manning asked them to pipe down
during important plays. While Seattle fans actually broke the record that
a nearby seismometer picked up magnitude measuring the same as monitoring a
minor earthquake. And yet this afternoon at MetLife stadium in New Jersey
that atmosphere will be largely missing.
Super Bowls are already relatively quiet events but with only 35 percent of
the tickets going to the actual teams on the field and the price of the
ticket averaging more than $2,500 just ahead of the game and the fact that
New Jersey is not only cold, but also 1,600 miles away from Denver and
2,400 miles away from Seattle.
Today`s game could be one of the quietest. Of course, most of us fans
never get to go to a Super Bowl in person. Instead, we watch it with
friends and families at home and in bars throughout America. And we watch
it even if our team, like the Saints, just didn`t make it this year.
Now, recently I had a chance to sit down and ground in some of our woe for
our team sorrows with two of my colleagues here on MSNBC, Karen Finney and
Steve Kornacki, neither who seems made the Super Bowl either to talk
football and what else, politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Steve, I feel like there was a dream we had at the
beginning of the season, a dream of a pregame show with our teams and that
dream is dead.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST, UP WITH STEVE KORNACKI: It lasted later into
the year I thought. If you looked at where the Patriots were supposed to
finish this year on paper, they shouldn`t have won the division, shouldn`t
have made the playoffs. They never won a game in the playoffs. So, I kind
of took it as, unfortunately, we ran into this Peyton Manning buzz saw a
couple weeks ago. But I was hopeful until the end. We`ll always have
that. I`ll always have that wonderful October New England/New Orleans
My prediction, Patriots 36-27. I did call it.
HARRIS-PERRY: The game that literally made me come on to the set and
KORNACKI: Yes, you did. It was the first on-air choking in MSNBC history.
I think that is a choking comparable to the one that your team that put up
the week before. Sorry.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Karen, I`m interested. All of us are political folks.
We all cover elections. We report on politics. Is there anything about
politics and football that have a connection? What are those things that
are like each other?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, DISRUPT: Blood sport.
FINNEY: I`m just saying. I mean, it`s a competition. You got a team.
You know, working in politics, working on campaigns. It`s a competition.
You`re trying to win. There is, you know, there is a light at the end of
the tunnel. There`s an end game. There is, you know, the Election Day,
same thing with sports, right? There`s team, there`s good, there is bad
HARRIS-PERRY: And especially football. It feels like there`s intensity to
it. And for me, there`s also a partisanship. I love the Saints because
it`s my team. Like it did could be a rational, right? It is my team.
KORNACKI: It actually illustrates and I always like think about with
politics where I tend to think that most peep o of politics is driven by
tribalism. And made people you decide sort of which tribe you are in and
then you kind of work backwards. OK, this is going to be my tribe which in
trouble now and we are going to backwards and rationalize why what they did
was OK or what their alleged is OK.
HARRIS-PERRY: But here`s the reality. All three of us, drown in our
sorrows and chicken wings and Gingerale (ph), we`re in the position that
most folks are in when they go to watch a Super Bowl, which is that their
team has long been out. Why do you think people watch anyway?
FINNEY: There is something about it, still, you know, the two teams, it
comes down to two teams it is which one you like the least or you hate the
least or maybe you like one or don`t like one. I mean, I think there`s a
fascination of what is going to happen, right? And it is kind of one of
the few collective moments in our culture where like everybody, pretty
much, is watching, right? And you`re going to talk about it the next day
and did you see that play, you know? I mean, we don`t have many of those
HARRIS-PERRY: My thanks to Steve and Karen for taking the time to share a
few laughs and drown a few sorrows in ginger ale as we all wish a better
season for our teams next year.
Up next, what had New Jersey Governor Chris Christie concerned about the
big game this week?
HARRIS-PERRY: If you have been following news coverage in the weeks
leading up to the Super Bowl, then you will have by now caught wind of the
second big story about the event, other than the game. In fact, if you
follow the news around any of the Super Bowls in recent years, you already
know how the story goes because it makes the same headlines around this
every year and the story goes like this.
The game attracts an influx of men looking to purchase sex in a flood of
sex traffickers looking to meet that demand by forcing unknown numbers of
women into sex for money. Political leaders have been making the case for
the explosion in Super Bowl sex trafficking since at least 2011 when the
event rolled into town in Dallas.
Now, that year Texas attorney general Greg Abbott said that quote "the
Super Bowl is the greatest show on earth, but it also has an ugly
underbelly." It is commonly known as the single largest human trafficking
incident in the United States.
He`s right the Super Bowl/sex trafficking link has become common knowledge,
but it is knowledge that stands disputed as completely unsubstantiated by
reliable facts. In 2011 the global alliance against traffic in women
produced a report about sex trafficking and major sporting events including
the Super Bowl and found that quote there is a very wide discrepancy
between claims that are made prior to large sporting events and the actual
number of trafficking cases found. There is no evidence that large
sporting events cause an increase in trafficking for prostitution.
Those seem to be the facts and, yet, the claim about supporting events and
about sporting events and trafficking doesn`t come without consequences for
the very women that law enforcement is looking to protect. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is likely excited for his
state to play to this year`s Super Bowl. But earlier this week there was
one issue related to the game that had them concerned. In a series of
tweets sent out on Wednesday at Governor Christie wrote, we are only a few
days away from the Super Bowl, a time when sex trafficking is at high risk.
So, to anyone out there even thinking about it, do not even try it. We
have eyes and ears on the ground and on the web. If you do try it, expect
to get caught. And when you are caught, expect to be prosecuted.
With me here are Deon Haywood, executive director of Women with the Vision
and New Orleans-based community organization who works to improve the lives
of marginalized women, Dave Zirin, sports editor for "the Nation" magazine,
MSNBC`s host, yes, MSNBC host Joy Reid and Yamiche Alcindor who is national
reporter for "USA today" who has been reporting on sex trafficking in the
U.S. last two years.
It is so nice to have you at the table.
So Deon, you are up for home. And I just -- you know, you and I had these
conversations before, but help people to understand because I think folks
are really legitimately concerned about sex trafficking. What is the
difference between sex trafficking and sex work?
DEON HAYWOOD, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN WITH THE VISION: So, I`ll start
with sex work. So, sex work is anyone who makes a decision to involve
themselves and sex work is a way to make income and sex work varies. It
can be dancers, strippers, however you want to say it, phone, porn,
whatever. But it`s normally used to describe the issue instead of saying
prostitution, which people like me and others feel is very demeaning and
shaming use in the word. But more of sex work because it is work. It`s a
way to generate income for women. So, that`s sex work.
HARRIS-PERRY: And a key aspect of that, like I just want to point out, is
consent, right? So, it may be technically illegal as a result of the laws
on the books, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s consensual and so, it means that we`re talking
about adult people, right, and we are talking about adults who are making
consensual choices around their economic realities.
Now distinguish that from the language about sex trafficking that, you
know, sort of prompts the kind of tweets that we saw, for example, from
Governor Christie and just a general concern that the American public has
about sex tracking and events like the Super Bowl.
YAMICHE ALCINDOR, NATIONAL REPORTER, USA TODAY: A lot of times when you`re
talking about sex trafficking, you are talking about younger people,
minors, people that are being forced or coerced and this could be adults.
If we`re talking about coordinated and we are usually talking about someone
who has that someone under their control, it`s either a pimp or some type
of they call them traffickers sometimes. So, it is people that are
actually forcing you to engage in this and forcing you to sell your body
and also usually comes with violence. That`s kind of the concern and
that`s what the definition is of trafficking and the federal law.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, Deon, it is obviously, there is a real challenge
here, right? Because if we`re talking about the main thing distinguishing
it being the question of the consent versus force and coercion, these are
tough things to figure out, especially maybe for a local police force that
doesn`t have a lot of training in this, but tell me how the concern about
trafficking then ends up being practices against sex workers during moments
HAYWOOD: Because it don`t make the distinction. If anyone that they see,
especially, when the law is local, any local law normally prostitution is
illegal everywhere in the country. And so, if law enforcement knows
they`re supposed to arrest people involved in prostitution, that`s all they
know. Majority of the women we work with are women who consent and make a
decision to be involved, but those are the women who we see arrested more
than that, women and transgender women are arrested for sex work.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you end up with a public concern about sex trafficking
that turns into a police-made criminalization of consenting sex workers.
So, the very folks that we think are out there to protect, we end up
ZIRIN: Exactly. People should go to hash tag not your rescue project.
And here are the words of sex workers. And because, you know, there is a
thing called the save your industrial complex, which I would argue that
Cindy McCain has been a big part of. She has been pushing this as her
issue of stopping sex trafficking and she first did so at a 2012 halo anti-
terrorism conference. And she raised the issue as one of national
security. And all of this does is criminalize and raise the temperature on
something that I would argue should be decriminalized and should be
unionized. Because once you start stigmatizing and attacking sex workers
all you`re really doing and all the people who do the work say this and all
you`re doing is making their lives that much more difficult.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Yamiche, weigh in for me. You have Greg Abbott saying
probably putting this on the agenda for us that the Super Bowl is the
single largest sex trafficking problem. When we look back at these events,
six months later, a year later, what do the arrest records tell us?
ALCINDOR: So, I wrote a story about two weeks ago about this and I called
basically every host city and accent did actually happened, what actually -
- what did you actually see? The Dallas PD, which maybe there are other
police forces involved, but the Dallas PD that year in 2011 made, made no
arrests for trafficking or for prostitution, actually.
So, in Indianapolis I had a pretty telling conversation with the head of
the human trafficking unit there. First he said they actually changed
their name as the Super Bowl was coming to not just the sex unit, but the
sex trafficking unit. And he said that he thought Dallas, as well as
Miami, may have been exaggerating their numbers because when he called them
he said I heard that there were tens of thousands of women that are going
to come to my city and we didn`t see it. They made really two arrests in
Indianapolis. And they did find a girl who come there from Cleveland but
it was anecdotal and not all.
So, Joy, what do you think is going on? I mean, I like this idea that
there is a save your industrial complex, but these I`m wondering what the
industrial complex aspect is like. What is the financial or political
incentive around this?
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it`s really
interesting that you say that because it starts to appear that maybe the
incentive is around the prison industry. Because I know when Miami hosted
two Super Bowls in a row, all we, not all, but a lot of what we were
hearing anecdotally in advance, was here it comes. We are going to have
this wave, particularly of minor girls being trafficked into Miami who are
going to be brought here and basically traded around during the event.
Now, it`s not just the Super Bowl, by the way. This happens a lot around
the political conventions. When we went to Tampa, the stripper capital of
the world, hosted the Republican national convention, you heard a lot of
the same sort of rumors that you never really saw these sort of post-game
or pos post-convention numbers to see how people. You just had a few
sensational stories, including one of a former NFL player that was arrest
would a very young girl in a hotel room. So, we know it does happen.
There are minor girls that are being exploited during the big events
whether it`s Super Bowl or whether it is the all-star game or whether it is
a convention. It is just interesting that there isn`t typically follow up.
So it is interesting that you have much promotion of it, maybe to this
incentivized it. But at the end of the say, I actually have not seen the
HARRIS-PERRY: So important because nobody wants to sit here and say, that
doesn`t happen. That just made up, right? We want, I mean, we care a lot
about survivors and about victims, sexual assault of trafficking. But the
notion that there is an incentive to criminalize particular kinds of bodies
which become the ones that go and get picked up in this moment.
HAYWOOD: Well, for me, it has a lot to do, I tell people, we`re not
telling people it doesn`t happen. But what we are saying the people
arrested normally arrested in areas that are overly policed -- urban areas,
poor areas. So, these are the area where the police are, which is why they
can pick up women or target women, you know, in New Orleans and New York
and other cities, we have seen where women are being arrested for having
condoms in their purse. Not that they`re seeing with a John or a date.
They were actually stopped because police found condoms in their purse and
assumed that they must be prostituting themselves. And so, then, they were
HARRIS-PERRY: And so you end up with this criminalization of the very
people, again, who presumably there`s this sort of public concern to help.
And the data that we have seen and there have been some articles on this
recently that are quite good. We`re talking four arrests at the last three
Super Bowls for trafficking. And think about the amount of money that goes
in. And we would be so naive if we don`t think lobbying groups around the
prison industrial complex around law enforcement that are going in there
And I`ll tell you this. This is why it`s so important to go
#notyourrescueproject because you can see this. Cindy McCain has already
said, she is a traveling a year in advance to Arizona to do the work, to
make sure that there is no sex trafficking. And I was like, the actual sex
workers in Arizona, their attitude is not, thank you, Cindy, our savior.
You know, reaching up as if it`s a prohibition film or something. Save us
from the sin of our bodies. Instead it`s like, no, this will make our
lives more difficult.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a complex topic, a lot on it. I appreciate you all at
least starting to work to correct it. Particularly appreciate your
journalistic efforts that say, OK, if this is happening, then there ought
to be some evidence and let`s look at what that evidence is.
Deon Haywood and Yamiche Alcindor, thank you.
Coming up, a closer look at the big issues around the big game -- race,
gender and even marijuana. Super sized show on this Super Bowl Sunday.
There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In Super Bowl XLVIII later tonight, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
will try to become only the second black starting quarterback to ever win a
Super Bowl. The other being, of course, Doug Williams, leaving
Washington`s team to a blowout win in Super XXII.
Wilson`s chance to join Williams is just one of the few reasons why our
guest Dave Zirin in his piece for "The Nation" on Friday to ask those of us
not Denver Broncos fans to root for Wilson to make history. Big reason why
those of us who watch football and the NFL enjoy it as much as we do is
because of history, not just the epic plays, but also the players who
change the game and how we see it.
Today, about 70 percent of NFL players are African-Americans and hard for
fans to think of a league that isn`t dominated by black men, particularly
at positions like runningback, defensive end, wide receiver and cornerback.
And, now, finally thanks to players like Wilson, quarterback.
But it`s worth remembering, the shoulders on which those players stand.
Modern day pro football was desegregated in 1946. A full year before
Jackie Robinson became baseball`s first black player. And when Kenny
Washington, number 13 of top and Woody Strobe (ph) number 34 signed on with
the Los Angeles Rams and Bill Willis (ph), number 60 on the left and Marion
Motley (ph) joined the Cleveland Browns.
The head coaching ranks weren`t desegregated until then Los Angeles Rangers
hired R. Shell (ph) in 1989, the second black coach in NFL history after
(INAUDIBLE) Pollard who coached the Akron pros in 1921. A black coach
didn`t win a Super Bowl until Tony Dungy Colts defeated Lovie Smith`s
Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI.
But as we celebrate the progress of black men and pro-football, we`re
mindful that issues around race and manhood are still a factor in the sport
even today. Those made clear recently by the controversy which erupted two
Sundays ago after Seahawks all-pro corner back Richard Sherman made the key
play to help Seattle win the NFC championship, during a passionate post-
game interview, Sherman proclaimed himself the best cornerback in the game
and called himself the best cornerback in the game and called the 49ers
player he bested a sorry receiver.
After the interview, Sherman received racist taunts online and was labeled
as a thug, writing at MMQB.com last week, one of the things Sherman said he
learns from all this was that, quote, "It`s not all black and white. Race
played a major part in how my behavior was received."
Sherman wrote, "But I think it went beyond that. Would the reaction would
have been the same if I was clean cut without the dreadlocks. Maybe if I
looked more acceptable conservative circles, my rant would have been
understood as passion. These prejudices still play a factor in our views,
because it`s human nature to quickly stereotype and label someone. We all
Joining me now to discuss race and manhood in today`s NFL are former
offensive tackle, Roman Oben, number 72 champion of Super Bowl XXXVII and
veteran of 12 NFL seasons with the Giants, Brown, Buccaneers and Charges.
Also here is Dave Zirin, sports editor for "The Nation" magazine.
Joy Reid, managing editor of "The Grio" and soon to be host of a new
weekday MSNBC show, I`m sorry, I`m a little excited about that.
And also with us is Wade Davis, former NFL player and executive director of
the you can play project.
So, I`m going to actually start with ask you, Joy, soon to be host of your
own show because, you know, it was fascinating to watch, you know, Marshawn
Lynch being castigated for being too quiet. Richard Sherman, being
castigated for being too loud and I just felt like, can a brother live?
JOY REID, THE GRIO: Right. Like how can you be? And it`s interesting.
Because we`re just bonding over the fact that we turned out, Wade and I
went to the same high school. I grew up in Denver. I practically had
orange crush in my sippy cup.
So, I was a Bronco fan for life, but I am really torn in this Super Bowl, I
have to tell you, for one reason that is Richard Sherman. When I watched
that game, you know, I saw the ending and I thought to myself, that was a
little much and then I thought that will blow over. I did not think it was
a big deal. It was like, OK, that wasn`t too cool.
And then you move on from it. But then to see the reaction to him, to see
the way he was treated and the way he was called the N-word and then have
it reach the point of politics for John McCain to have to add his voice to
it. For people to say that he is now the reason you should root for the
broncos. I feel like I`m on the side of empire. My heart is going to the
I almost want to have Seattle win so that Richard Sherman can come out
there and do another victory lap because you know what? A man in sports is
supposed to be sort of bombastic, supposed to be strong, and we sort of
celebrate those qualities, but if you look like Richard Sherman adding to
the fact that he is a dark conflicted black man and he has the dreads and
all those players of disincentive in our society to by be that way when
he`s an intelligent Stanford graduate and we discount everything else about
him. I am enraging that it just makes me want to root for --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen, Roman, I want to ask you exactly, the
phrasing you just used, Joy, to be a man in this sport. So, I want to ask
you about that. But before we do, I want to listen for a moment, my
colleague Chris Hayes had an opportunity to interview Mr. Sherman. I want
to listen for just a moment to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS HAYES, MSNBC: People talking about you, one side of it is people
calling you a thug and then people run in and say, oh, he`s got a Stanford
degree. And it feel like sometimes the subtext, he`s one of the good ones.
Like don`t worry, he`s got the Stanford degree.
RICHARD SHERMAN, SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: I think that`s showing some of the
close mindedness of society and how they want to label people. They want
to feel like there`s black and white. That it`s either this category or
this category. There`s no middle ground. And I think I encompass just
about every part of both.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you certainly have had that. I mean, you are the tall,
broad shouldered football playing man who also sits at the table at
Nerdland and encompassing both of those and just being able to again, let a
brother live on that.
ROMAN OBEN, FORMER NFL PLAYER: And I came from an area where you had to
appreciate what Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and what they went
through in the `60s and there was still just this notion of you don`t
deserve to be loud and obnoxious on your success. You better appreciate
where you`re at because of all this happened before you. There`s been a
big generational gap I think.
You know, I grew up, you know, we had the Black Mount Rushmore, the
Frederic Douglass --
OBEN: But I think this generation`s Black Mount Rushmore is Diddy, LL Cool
J, Russell Simmons and it`s this --
HARRIS-PERRY: They have President Obama, too.
OBEN: But I think, I mean, Richard Sherman, it`s calculated in what he`s
done. He`s very smart and just a lot of people. I mean, these tweets,
they weren`t 70 year olds tweeting. These were 25, 30-year-old. Tell us
how you really feel.
HARRIS-PERRY: And some of them also African-Americans who were doing, who
were performing the respectability stuff, saying he set us back some period
DAVID ZIRIN, THE NATION: Andre Iguodala saying he set us back 500 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so funny, 500 years.
ZIRIN: Yes. It`s terrible. But America is a country devoted to the death
of the paradox. And that specifically, too, with people who are not
supposed to step out of their box. So, and Gerald Early, the great
academic from Washington University, used that Baldwin quote to describe
Muhammad Ali, because it`s like -- oh, well, if you box, you aren`t also
supposed to be an anti-war advocate. If you box, you aren`t supposed to
say how pretty you are. You`re stepping out of your box. You are a
And Richard Sherman is in so many ways a paradox. And I think that`s one
of the reasons why people came at him so ferociously like how dare you be
so loud. And also, the Stanford thing is also the reason why I think there
was such pushback. I agree about the whole respectability politics, just
because you go to Stanford does not make you a good person, or just because
you`re president of Stanford doesn`t make you a good person, Condoleezza
HARRIS-PERRY: Just provost.
ZIRIN: But the idea that people can push back on the races and say you`re
calling him a thug, straight A student Compton, 4.0 at Stanford. I mean, I
think it gave a confidence to sort of champion Richard Sherman in the last
WADE DAVIS, FORMER NFL PLAYER: What I think is funny about what Dave said
is like to put him back in his box. If you look at most of the tweets that
were said about Sherman, it was like Peyton Manning is going to put you
back in your box. This all-American white man is now going to exercise all
of your bad demons by now punishing you because you stood up and did
something that we don`t deem acceptable.
I also hate how Stanford has now used show his humanity. Imagine if he
didn`t go to Stanford. What would be said about him? It`s almost like he
should have gone through this car wash and come out clean and respectful
because he went to Stanford, because I never heard a school mention around
an athlete as much as I have Richard Sherman.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to challenge you, Joy, this notion, for those of us
looking for a team to root for. Not for Seattle because of what they did
to our saints, twice. I have that same feeling. They`re being mean to him
and I`m going to stand up for the black man. But then I`m realizing, OK,
meanwhile, as I said in the beginning, we`re talking about potentially the
first African-American quarterback since Doug Williams to be able to win
and whose connection isn`t went to Stanford. It`s actually his family
connection back to Norfolk State, a historically black college.
So, it`s interesting to me that we also had almost, within some African-
American communities more of a response to the kind of Ali figure -- the
bombastic aspect then to Russell who has this deep connection back to
historic black institutions rather than to a Stanford.
REID: And meanwhile, I mean, to that point, you know, the city where I
rooted most of my football loving life, Denver, we have to try to re-create
John Elway over and over and over and over again. I really honestly can`t
imagine the Denver Broncos having a quarterback like Seattle does because,
unfortunately, they built this myth around the idyllic quarterback and it`s
basically somebody like a Peyton Manning.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not just Denver, right? It`s worth noting that the
last positions desegregated were free safety, middle line backer, center
and quarterback right.
REID: The brains of the team.
HARRIS-PERRY: The brains of the team.
ZIRIN: Russell Wilson breaks tons of taboos, not just African American
quarterback. We`re not there with head coaches and certainly not with
front office but we`re there with quarterback. But Russell Wilson has the
chance to be the first mobile, scrambling quarterback.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, not the step back --
ZIRIN: The first under six foot quarterback.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, the quarterback.
ZIRIN: Yes, 5`10".
HARRIS-PERRY: The little quarterback.
ZIRIN: Wade was talking in the break about the pressure to run that 40-
yard dash and 4.4, and the scouts. They are so 19th century in their
measurables. And Russell Wilson did not meet the measurables, who is a
third round pick, and here he is in his second year, two-time pro-bowler
leading his team to the Super Bowl and I love the fact that he is going to
cost a lot of backward looking scouts their job if he wins this game.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, we`re going to stay on some of these
issues around race and manhood and the NFL.
When we come back, Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin gave his first
televised interview since abruptly leaving his team in October and I want
to show you what he said, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The word bullying, pro and football weren`t often used
together in the public sphere until this NFL season which concludes today.
Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Jonathan Martin left the team on October
28th in the middle of his second pro season and second with the team.
Alleging that offensive guard Richie Incognito and other teammates harassed
him. How far did it go?
Last week on NBC`s "Today" show, Martin gave his first interview since
leaving the team to NBC sports analyst and former NFL coach Tony Dungy who
is also an informal adviser to the Dolphins.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY DUNGY, NBC SPORTS ANALYST: Tell me the first thing that made you feel
JONATHAN MARTIN, NFL PLAYER: Comments of a racial nature. Aggressive
sexual comments related to my sister and my mother. I`ve spoken to my
former teammates in other locker rooms across the NFL and I asked them,
does this stuff go on? Is this normal rookie hazing? And the consensus
was, this was not normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We should note that Richie Incognito denied the bullying
accusations and also a stop snitching culture in the locker room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTIN: I did mention, members of the organization knew I was struggling.
DUNGY: Who did you talk to?
MARTIN: I had conversations with my coaches immediately above me. I
didn`t get into specifics. You are not supposed to, quote-unquote,
"snitch" on your teammates.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Martin told Dungy he`s ready to play again, presumably with
another NFL team. But it remains to be seen what kind of reception he
So, Roman, you and I talked about this earlier back when it first happened.
I had some thoughts about it overtime. Do you have any different
perspective on it? How are you feeling about it?
OBEN: I want to see all the texts and the bottom line gave Richie
Incognito a self-imposed pass to say what he wants because he thought he
needed to toughen this guy up. So, I have been on the team where you have
guys like Richie Incognito and they`ll find anything in your personal life
and your family just to see if you can take that, because if you can`t take
that, you can`t take going against, you know, J.J. Watt on third down.
It`s wrong and it`s wrong as had to take this coming out to the public
light for us to see what the locker room culture is really like.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, at this point about, we said this before, a man`s game
in which we have expectations of what manhood is, right? And part of those
expectations around manhood tend to do with toughness that is both physical
and also this notion of kind of a mental or emotional toughness not
allowing anything to get to you because the game itself is emotional.
And so, I wonder, because now that we heard some of the texts that have
gone back and forth, like there`s a little bit of Martin giving back some
of what he`s giving. Why is this something that crosses the line?
ZIRIN: Well, because I think there is a real issue from Richie Incognito`s
camp of what I would call racial blindness and not understanding how
certain insults can be perceived. This was Richie Incognito`s lawyer, I
want to be clear about that, who released these texts. And the texts are
meant to defend Richie Incognito as somebody who was just playing around
with Jonathan Martin.
And this is what he released. He released a text from Jonathan Martin say
I`m going to go to bleep in front of your house, basically go to the
bathroom in front of your house, and then Richie Incognito`s response was,
"Ha, ha, LOL, we`re in the state of Florida, I can legally shoot you, LOL",
in reference to Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.
And so, it`s this idea of like, Richie Incognito, I have no doubt in my
mind thought he was giving it back but not realizing that when you give it
back like that, that is not going to be funny. And I think Jonathan Martin
found himself in a position of being like, who am I dealing with here that
is making a joke like this and how am I going to survive in this locker
OBEN: Yes, there`s always this notion in the locker room that, hey, we all
wear the same color, we all wear the same jersey, so all bets are off.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s no race.
OBEN: We can go back and forth, you get a stick and I get a bat and you
get a bat and I get a bulldozer. I mean, Richie Incognito was the type of
guy that has that approach and guys like that on every team and those other
guys had to look at the situation and say, maybe, I shouldn`t. There`s
(INAUDIBLE) guys now, we can`t do this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask them. One thing to say, OK, a guy like Richie
and to really see this as Richie`s individual problem. Is it that or is
there a broader cultural question?
I mean, I guess in other words, when I see the texts in relationship to
each other going back and forth sometimes with some pretty tough things
being said by Martin to Incognito. I think, oh, well, you know, maybe
there is something going on in the like Richie and to really see this as
Richie`s individual problem. Is there a broader cultural problem?
When I see the texts in relationship to each other going back and forth,
sometimes with some pretty tough things being said by Martin to Incognito.
Well, you know, maybe there is something going on in the culture of this
place that even if I find it disturbing from the outside, you know, it`s
not Congress -- I don`t have a right to know, right, right from the public.
So, maybe this is just kind of how it is.
DAVIS: I think it`s part of a competitive environment. I don`t think it`s
particular to just the NFL. If you look at Britney Greiner, and when she
would play games there would be fans who would yell explicit, awful things
to her because it was a competitive environment.
So I think we have to be mindful it`s not just about the NFL, it`s sports
and competitive culture. As we talk about in the break like, when I`m
playing dominos I may say something stupid or inappropriate. I think that
we as a culture are used to having this language that is just very violent
that we`re not conscious of the impacts it can have on a person.
HARRIS-PERRY: Once Martin says it, once he says, all right, for me, this
oversteps the line and this is too much. Does that then put his -- I think
this is the part for me I find most distressing. Does that put his manhood
at stake? Beyond whether or not there is a culture and whether anyone was
right or wrong.
If he draws a line, if he`s like, all right, right there, that`s too much.
So much of a response was, toughen up, man. Buck up, man`s game. Here we
REID: I`ve been amazed at how universal when I asked people about this
particular issue that they are 100 percent against Martin. I have met very
few people who have taken aside the reaction is generally is, he just
couldn`t take it, basically questioning his manhood. Questioning his
mental toughness because as a society, we say we don`t like bullying and we
have programs that stop bullying in school and we continually take the side
I mean, part of the reason to go back to our political, part of the reason
Chris Christie became so popular was precisely the in your face attitudes
and even towards women, towards teachers that people saw is refreshing and
raw and keeping it real.
We do sort of root for the bully universally. You know, my kids played
soccer and forget the kids, the sidelines. The moms, the people who are
pushing the kids to be tougher and meaner and to go after kids and to
almost hurt their opponents. It`s universal.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it empowers. We talked about, for example, on this
show, some of the cyberbullying that occurs, not only the young people but
to women for example who write in the public space and sort of what can
happen on Twitter. But that idea that if you are not tough enough to take
it, if you apologize. If you`re humble, if you are soft, right? Then in
some way it just, it`s like there is blood in the water that just empowers
REID: Going to be confusing because at the same time we also expect black
athletes to have a certain dignity, this quiet masculine dignity. So, you
can`t be Richard Sherman, you`ve got to be Jackie Robinson and hold it in
and at the same time you also have to be super.
ZIRIN: But the other thing, too, there were NFL players who defended
Jonathan Martin. That did happen. And specifically Brandon Marshall and
the entire Chicago Bears organization and I interviewed a lot of players
And what they all said is that it really varies locker room to locker room.
What is the culture in that particular locker room? Is it supportive or is
it a bullying culture? It does vary.
The thing Jonathan Martin did which was so brilliant, is that he forced a
lot of NFL players to confront what we mean by manhood. Is it more
humanhood? We should rephrase it and get rid of the language about manhood
and is it more an expression of your humanity to stand up to bullying than
to side with bullies.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, as we go out, one of the things I want to do is
listen to Jonathan Martin talking to Dungy about his feelings about I was
trying to do everything I could to be part of this culture before I had to
finally just exit. Then when we come back, we`ll talk about a former NFL
player who claims he was booted from his team because he spoke up to what
he believed in. I do want to listen to Martin as we go out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNGY: As an outsider I see the stories of the text messages going back
and forth and they seemed friendly and seem like you`re sending him a text
and he`s sending you a text. Is that not a sign of friendship?
MARTIN: It is like I said, I was trying with all my being to do whatever I
could to be a member of this culture and of our unit as offensive line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He has been one of the most outspoken athletes on the issue
of marriage equality and an ambassador for LGBT community through his work
with the organization athlete ally. But last month, former Minnesota
Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote an article on DeadSpin.com about being cut
by the Vikings in 2013, saying he was, quote, "pretty confident that his
advocacy for same-sex marriage rights led to his release." The Vikings
Kluwe alleges that in a special teams meeting in November of 2012, Priefer
said, quote, "we should round up all the gays, send them to an island and
then nuke it until it glows." Priefer has denied the allegations and the
Vikings (INAUDIBLE) internal investigation.
But the story raises questions about the risks athletes may face when they
speak out about causes in which they believe.
Joining me now from Irvine, California is Chris Kluwe.
CHRIS KLUWE, NFL PLAYER: Good morning. How`s it going?
HARRIS-PERRY: Pretty good. So, I want to get your reaction to the
statement I`m sure you heard before, but just so the audience knows that
context, this is the response to your piece issued by the Vikings. They
say, "Any notion that Chris was released from our football team due to his
stance on marriage equality is inaccurate and inconsistent with team
policy. Chris was released strictly based on his football performance."
What`s your response to that, Chris?
KLUWE: Well, I think it`s interesting that they claim it was based on my
performance when my stats were exactly the same as my career stats had been
over the past seven years and those stats had been good enough to get me a
very lucrative contract. The only thing that changed from that year to the
year was that I started speaking out on same-sex rights and human rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you, when you wrote this piece released in May of
2013, excuse me, you were released in May of 2013. The piece doesn`t come
out until early January.
So, Pat, talk to me a little bit about why did you wait? Was it the same
sense as we heard from Martin who we were just talking about a culture that
could potentially be problematic if you come out and speak your mind?
KLUWE: Well, I knew what the reaction would be whenever I came out with
the piece. And one of the reasons I waited was because I didn`t want to
drop that on my friends and teammates during the season because that would
be a huge side show that, you know, pretty much destroyed any chance you
have at having a normal season. So, for me, this was something that I
wanted to have it in this dead time, right now, where, you know, players
aren`t around, they don`t have to deal with stuff that shouldn`t just be me
and several people within the Vikings organization.
And the other thing I wanted to try to do was prove that I could still
physically play in the NFL because I knew people were going to levy that
argument at me. But for whatever reason, you know, I go to tryouts, I kick
the ball the same as I`ve always kicked it and just not able to get on a
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Chris, you and I think of ourselves, we
share an identity in a way. Both of us think of ourselves as allies to
LGBT communities and efforts.
But I let me ask, because there is a challenge in being an ally whether
it`s around racism, whether it`s round LGBT questions, and that is part of
what you`re meant to take as an ally, is you`re meant to take some of the
hit of people don`t have the identities don`t have privileges have to take,
right? So, if you`re going to be anti-racist ally, you`re going to get
some racialized comments. If you`re going to be an LGBT ally, you`re going
to catch some of the flak and the hell even that is caught by queer
So, I guess I`m wondering here, because I know there`s angst about this.
Like how can you be a good ally, and how are you thinking about your role
as an ally in the context of also saying, I`m being injured here
professionally as a result of my stance as an ally.
KLUWE: Yes. And hopefully what this shows is that this is something that
happens to me and this is something that happens to millions of people
across our country on a daily basis. I mean, there`s still a large amount
of states where you can be fired as your sexuality, no other reason. And
we have to ask ourselves as a society, is that how we want to live?
Is that, are those the values that we want to teach our children? That,
you know, despite who you are, it doesn`t matter to someone else. They can
fire you for being gay.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to come out to you, Wade, because you are former
player. You are out and your work is around getting young men and women
engaged in sports, doing this work. Tell me both what you think about
Chris` claims here and sort of what this means and also what effect this
might have on some of the young people you work with.
DAVIS: You know, I think this story is an interesting story because as
someone who does this work, I see it from the gay perspective and from an
NFL perspective. The one thing that I think we have to be mindful of is
that the NFL is a business, right? So, if Chris was a distraction,
regardless of what he was advocating for, the NFL will say, does your
productivity match the level of distraction?
Look at Terrell Owens. He was a distraction for every year he was playing,
but he was a top five receiver. So, teams said, I`ll put up with your
distraction. As soon as his productivity left --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a cost benefit distraction.
DAVIS: It`s a business that people need to parse out the idea what Chris
was being an advocate for. Like his owner was fine with it. Chris said
that his players were fine with it, as well.
So, I think we have to be mindful that a distraction in itself can, if
you`re productivity isn`t at a certain level, cause you to get cut. Now,
the advocacy piece is very different.
ZIRIN: The whole distraction thing is an absolute sham perpetuated by
ownership as a way to highlight and scapegoat political players and get rid
I mean, look at the most successful athletes of all time are also some of
the most political athletes of all time. But if we did a Mount Rushmore
political athlete, Bill Russell, 11 championships in 13 years, Mohammed
Ali, heavyweight champion of the world, how we can stick of team sports if
we want to. Jim Brown, last championship Cleveland ever had for goodness
sakes. Billie Jean King and all the tournaments she won.
These were not people -- Steve Nash for goodness sakes. These were not
people who were seen as distractions. They were people who were winners.
I think it`s a reflection of 21st century corporate culture when we say
sports and politics don`t mix, what it really means is sports and the
politics of ownership don`t mix. Or sports and the politics of commerce
And that is a distraction, when you`re talking about political issues, a
distraction from what I think the NFL wants, which is as bland and as
flattened a product as possible that can appeal to as wide an audience as
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris, I only have 20 seconds, but I want to give you the
last word on telling me about your hat. What does principle 6 mean?
KLUWE: Principle 6 is to draw awareness of what is going on in Sochi right
now. And just the fact that the Olympic charter states you shouldn`t
discriminate against people in sport based on any reason, and, you know,
they should follow their own charter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris, I appreciate your stance and your roles and
appreciate you letting us talk about you and to you at the same time, which
could be tough.
But your story stands in for a bunch of important things that we care about
here. Chris Kluwe, thank you so much.
KLUWE: Yes, thank you for having me on.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, Denver versus Seattle. The two teams from the two
states that have legalized recreational marijuana. It shows one of the
reason some are calling this year`s Super Bowl the "Bud Bowl".
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Just one second, we`re going to talk about the
marijuana aspect of this game but just so that Joy Reid can some day go
home and visit her family in Denver, I did want to (INAUDIBLE) Joy was
talking about a post-Elway moment around quarterback for Denver but it is
true also in the history of the NFL that Denver had the first African-
American starting quarterback Mr. Marlin Briscoe in 1968.
So, I don`t want to miss that that is also part of --
HARRIS-PERRY: That is also part of Denver`s legacy. Joy can go home and
visit her family at some point.
OK. But outside MetLife Stadium are the series of billboards from the
Marijuana Policy Project, with the message to the NFL, let your players
smoke week. The NFL bans the use of marijuana by its players and can
suspend the players if they failed a drug test, up to four games for the
first time offense.
But the billboards make the argument that weed is a lot less dangerous than
alcohol and for that matter, less dangerous than football. One study found
that football players are three times more likely than the general
population to have neurological diseases later in life. Former Surgeon
General Joyce Elders pointed out, marijuana is less toxic than many of the
drugs that physicians prescribe every day.
Football players are often prescribed pain killers to manage the pain
caused by spending a lot of time running full speed into 300-pound men.
Abuse of and dependence on pain killers can and has sky rocketed in recent
years. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
pain medication overdoses kill more Americans each year than cocaine and
But according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, a fatal marijuana
overdose is extremely unlikely because it slows hand-eye coordination and
reaction time. Marijuana is not a performance enhancer, but it is illegal
under federal law, even if the two states teams this year, Washington and
Colorado are the same two states that have legalized recreational use of
Joining us now from Denver, Colorado, is Mason Tvert who is communications
director for the Marijuana Policy Project.
Nice to have you, Mason.
MASON TVERT, MARIJUANA POLICY PROJECT: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so, how is it that this Super Bowl actually ends
up providing an opportunity for you to tackle, pun intended, the issue of
TVERT: Well, the Super Bowl is one of the biggest events of the entire
year. And we thought it was a great opportunity to raise awareness of the
NFL`s marijuana policy and really about marijuana policy in general.
Because the NFL`s policy that punishes players simply for making the safer
choice to marijuana instead of alcohol is really demonstrated of how a
large segment of our society still treats marijuana. And we need to start
seeing that change so it catches up with public attitudes and public
policy, at that point.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, yes, we were looking at a recent Gallup Poll showing
that 58 percent of Americans believe that marijuana should be made legal
with only 39 percent saying, no, that was as of October 2013. So, you do
actually have a majority of Americans saying it should be made legal, but
it does feel a little different to say that than to say, players ought to
be using it. I mean, I get your point about it`s safer than alcohol, but I
also don`t think it`s a good idea for players to be drinking during the
TVERT: Well, what it comes down to is this -- the NFL allows players to
use alcohol and if it`s going to do that and it`s going to even go so far
to promote the use of alcohol, not only among the fans, but among players.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, there is that.
TVERT: Has a deal with uber to get players rides to and from the bars to
keep them out of trouble. Why can`t it simply allow players to use
You know, the NHL and the National Hockey League, they don`t have a
marijuana policy and no one seems to mind. It doesn`t seem to affect the
game at all. So, this is really just a foolish policy that needs to end.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mason, that`s interesting. I haven`t thought about that.
But clearly your point that it`s not just about the use by players but a
lot of alcohol commercials and sort of promotion associated with sports
Wade, you want to jump in here.
DAVIS: I think the idea of black men smoking pot is a problem. You know,
just this idea that you have --
HARRIS-PERRY: Seventy percent of the league is African-American.
DAVIS: But, you know, OxyContin is a lesser form but if medical marijuana
is something that players could use, that`s a positive thing. I think that
if medical marijuana could be something that players can use, that that`s a
positive thing, you know. Similar to how Magic Johnson, his advocacy of
around AIDS has helped to kind of shift that.
If the NFL got behind like players using marijuana, it could really shift
the discourse around, you know, how young people are being stopped and
frisked and police for that.
ZIRIN: Yes. I mean, to me, it`s cruel and unusual that in a sport with so
much pain players, in particular in states where medical marijuana is legal
are being denied that.
And about the racialized aspect, you know, there wasn`t a marijuana policy
in the NBA until the 1999 collective bargaining agreement precisely
because, you remember 1999 around Allen Iverson and all these new
generation of players that aren`t clean cut like Jordan. That dove tailed
together very smoothly.
You know why the NFL doesn`t want a policy on this, because they don`t want
teams that are in states like Colorado and Washington state using that as a
recruiting advantage for free agents.
REID: But you have to remember, too, the NFL still is a part of sort of
the whole overall sports marketing that does at the end of the day have
children at the end of that chain. And I think there is a reluctance to
promote any behavior because kids do look up to athletes.
So, I think part of the reticence, too, around -- and it is interesting so
much promotion of alcohol because these are sports that have been emulated
at the little league level and kids idolized these players. So, there is a
fine line for a lot of parents and that is considered the wholesome sport.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me because the notion of children at the end of
the line and the issue also Dave brought up about pain I want to come back
to you, Mason, as soon as we come back because I want to ask you about pot
and pain because we talked about health care early, early on.
We`ll have more when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about how this Super Bowl is bringing
up issues around the legalization of marijuana and, Mason, I want to come
to you because I want to show this image.
This is the Smart Approaches to Marijuana ad that is placed really large
near the Super Bowl stadium that suggests that motivation, perseverance and
determination are aspects of playing the game, but that marijuana provides
none of the above and it says marijuana kills your drive. Don`t lose in
the game of life.
And then a response to it that shows, you know, alcohol saying overdose
deaths, violent crime and serious injury and then showing cannabis saying
none of the above and saying, prohibiting adults from making the safer
choice is not a smart approach.
And so, on the one hand sort of comparison between alcohol and marijuana.
The other is that the other institute for cannabis research, medical
cannabis research suggests that marijuana may be particularly useful as a
treatment in pain that we know many NFL players experience significantly.
So, are these the arguments then that your organization and others are
TVERT: Yes, you know, the NFL has no policing marijuana use by players.
If it`s legal under state law, the federal government is willing to
recognize state laws that make marijuana legal for medical and adult use,
why can`t the NFL. You know, they don`t punish players who fail to pay
child support or get speeding tickets.
There`s really just no need for them to be doing this. But they are. And
in doing so, they are steering players away from using marijuana and toward
using more harmful substance whether it`s alcohol to have fun or pain
killers and other harmful narcotics to alleviate their pain.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, David, I want to bring because he points out the
point about child support, Joy said at the end of any narrative are kids.
Do you want to jump in on that?
ZIRIN: I did because, OK, so the NFL doesn`t want to send a message to
kids that marijuana is OK. They`re right now is sending a message to kids
that sexism is OK and that the objectification of women is OK, that over
the top militarism is a prerequisite to patriotism. That will be a huge
message today when we watch the Super Bowl.
So, if the NFL wants to go down the moral road about the lessens they`re
teaching children, they coddle players who commit acts of domestic violence
and attack players who smoke recreational marijuana, then let`s have that
discussion, but let`s have it honestly about the actual moral lessons that
all too often seep out of the game.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, Wade, you want to jump in on that?
Sometimes Dave just dropping the mike --
DAVIS: I totally agree with Dave. I think that there is a larger
conversation to be had. And I just think that if a medical doctor is
saying that it`s safer for players to smoke marijuana than it is to take
prescription drugs, who is the NFL to say otherwise?
OBEN: I mean, ownership policies are conservative, and for years,
marijuana has been put in the category of street drugs. You have story
tests and you have drugs abuse test. And marijuana, heroin and cocaine, I
mean, it`s all put in the same category unfortunately, and there was an
article in I think "USA Today" that said players who took all the pain
pills, and they developed the pain issues. The guys who smoked or used
marijuana didn`t have those pain problems, didn`t have pain addiction when
football was over.
So, maybe, from a pain standpoint, it does make sense, but it has to be in
a liquid form. We`re not to that argument yet because there`s still this
perception of a guy smoking a blunt not for pain just because he wants to
smoke it. And you don`t want -- I think they don`t want to give that
perception. I do agree. You do have to have the conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although there is that point that actually at least some
survey research suggests that a lot of folks are. I mean, there`s an
unscientific survey suggesting that 48 current and former players, front
office executives, head and assistant coaches actually do, in fact, sort of
half of them are making use of it.
And so, maybe it`s already there and it`s just a question of changing our
attitudes towards it. Mason Tvert in Denver, Roman Oben, Dave Zirin, MSNBC
host Joy Reid who can now go home to Denver, and Wade Davis -- thank you
all so much.
But up next, we already know what one of our favorite Super Bowl highlights
is going to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Millions of football fans across the country will tune in
tonight to watch the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos compete to
take home the Lombardi Trophy. And plenty of non-football fans will tune
in as well to watch, some of them exclusively to watch the commercials.
As one of the most-watched and highest rated television events, Super Bowl
is a coveted spot for advertisers who pay around $4 million for a 30-second
ad. Advertisers make commercials that target their audience, and for the
championship of a sport known for its hyper masculinity, those commercials
often draw on gendered stereotypes to promote their products.
But one commercial during this year`s game is going to do something very
different. It will aim to inspire girls to become interested in engineers
GoldieBlox, whose creator, Debbie Sterling, was our foot soldier back in
July, is a toy that encourages kids especially girls to follow along with
the main character, Goldie, by building simple machines and learning basic
GoldieBlox was one of 15,000 small businesses that have been competing
since last summer in the big game contest. For a 30-second advertisement
spot at the Super Bowl. Debbie says the commercial will focus on the
message that is behind her company, empowering girls.
Tonight, to one of the television`s biggest audiences, GoldieBlox will show
girls that they can shatter stereotypes and define their own playbooks.
That`s our show for you today. Thanks for watching. I`m going to see you
next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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