In This Episode
Happy Labor Day. We thought this week would be a great time to give all you listeners a break from the news cycle and here what we think are the best, interviews, segments and, of course, Take Survivor moments from Takeline. Enjoy!
Jason Concepcion: Hey, there California listeners, you’ve probably heard our Crooked founders, Jon and Tommy, at the top of the show—due to some really wacky, undemocratic, super weird laws, a small minority of California voters have forced a recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. I just want to reiterate it here, because it’s such an important issue. If, like me, you are a registered voter, check your mail for a ballot, fill it out and return it by September 14th. Make sure you vote “no” on question one; should Governor Newsom be recalled? No! And to leave question two blank. I also want you to know that what I just said was not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate, OK? This is important. Visit, VoteSave America dot com/California to learn more.
Jason Concepcion: We’re thrilled to welcome 9-year NBA veteran Jeremy Lin, currently of the G League, Santa Cruz Warriors, formerly of the Hawks, the Nets, the Lakers, and of course, very close to my heart, the Knicks. Jeremy recently sparked a lot of conversation regarding the increasingly dangerous climate for Asian-Americans, on a Facebook post from a week ago. Quote, “Being an Asian-American doesn’t mean we don’t experience poverty and racism, being in 9-year NBA veteran doesn’t protect me from being called coronavirus on the court, being a man of faith doesn’t mean I don’t fight for justice for myself and for others.” It’s our honor to have Jeremy Lin here. Jeremy, thanks for joining us.
Jeremy Lin: Thanks for having me. It’s good to see you again. Virtually.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Jeremy Lin: I’m actually really contemplating my background now that I see yours with the purple lights.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. His is nice. Yeah, Jason got the good vibes going on.
Jeremy Lin: I’m like, that was not part of the media prep for this where I have supposed to have the coolest background and the bookshelf and all that. But no, it was awesome to see you. And then Renee, congrats again on everything, making history with donorship—that’s super cool.
Renee Montgomery: Thank you.
Jeremy Lin: So I think, you know, I’m definitely rooting for you and that was a big step. So—
Renee Montgomery: Let’s go!
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, let’s go.
Renee Montgomery: Thank you. I like that.
Jason Concepcion: So, Jeremy, tell us about this post. What were you trying to highlight? What issues were you trying to bring to people’s attention?
Jeremy Lin: I mean, I think the biggest thing by far and away the post is about, you know, that’s the thing with headlines, it’s not a woe is me, look, I went through this—it’s totally about the Asian-Americans who are getting beat, burned, spit on, yelled at, punched, stabbed, robbed, and there’s just a lot going on there across the nation. And, you know, I can’t explain to you how many people, even in the bubble, in the G League bubble, how many people came up to me after the post and said I had no idea this was going on, I had no idea what was going on. This is actually, our whole team ended up talking about it. And it was just amazing to see that, you know, obviously, near and dear, and so with the headlines and the things I’m looking at my news cycle, I’ll see a lot of these things. But I was just blown away at how much support the rest of the G League players, even people I never met before, staff members, players, all of that were just like, wow, that was amazing and I had no idea, I just started Googling stuff and I was shocked at what I saw.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. You know, you talked about the G League. I covered the G League this year and it was a big topic because obviously the NBA, the G League, the WNBA, the focus is to be more inclusive and so do you think, like why do you think that there’s such an emphasis when it comes to Black Lives Matter—you know, it’s widely accepted that there’s racism and different things going on—but why do you think that there’s a difference when it comes to Asian culture in that people necessarily don’t know what’s going on?
Jeremy Lin: That’s interesting. I think it’s such a complicated, I mean, the answer would probably be complicated and something far beyond what I could say from an expert opinion, but from if you’re going to ask me right now, based on what I know, I think it’s multiple things. I mean, I think there is this model minority thing that has been multigenerational where it’s kind of just like, look, you know, as an Asian-American, you put your head down, you work hard and you abide by the rules, whatever the people in power tell you the rules are and you don’t say anything. And I don’t think that’s the right way to go about it but I think, you know, when you think about the first immigrants coming over and the language barriers and they’re just trying to make a living and they’re just trying to survive, the last thing they want to do is ruffle feathers. And so I think there’s a lot of that. In terms of how the black community has unified and rallied and drawn support and also built awareness, that’s something that’s to me personally, I’m really inspired by that. And so that’s something that like, you know, I want to do it. And the crazy thing is I grew up in sports and loving sports, and actually the people that, like I grew up watching and being inspired by we’re all Black athletes, you know? It’s pretty cool, you know, and I have if you look at my wall growing up, it was just like all the NBA players. Every time I did any type of school or anything, it was like MJ, MJ, MJ.
Renee Montgomery: [unclear] athlete! [laughs]
Jeremy Lin: And so, but I think there’s just a lot that we’re trying to do in terms of building awareness amongst the Asian community and also having the Asian-American community not only unify within ourselves, but also to to unify and build solidarity amongst mainstream society as well. And I think there’s just a lot that goes into it. But I agree with you in the sense that, like, yeah, there isn’t as much exposure to it.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Talk a little bit about that meeting you had with your teammates and how did that conversation come forward? Like how was that broached?
Jeremy Lin: So to be honest, our coach, our head coach, Kris Weems, he did this really cool thing where maybe once or twice a week he would just read these stats and he wasn’t standing on his soapbox and giving some type of speech. It was just hey I’m going to read you guys some facts and so he would read us facts from a calendar. And so during February, it’d be like February, on this day, this is what happened and read stuff. And it was like so-and-so got lynched or so-and-so got raped, and it was just like a lot of these like very real stories and he was just reading them and the descriptions and stuff like that. And then after he finished one of them, he also said, I just want to say too, in relation to a lot of these things, because Coach Weems is African-American and so he was talking a lot about social justice and that, and reading a lot of these African-American stories and things that are real stories. And so, and then he also mentioned that, and he was like, I did not know that happened, Jeremy, but we stand by you. And was one of those things were only a few of my teammates had heard it. And then we didn’t make it a big deal. It happened and it happened really fast and so a lot of people didn’t know about it and then he kind of brought that up and then that’s kind of what spawned that. And then a lot of my teammates came up to me after and started talking to me or asked me about it and stuff like that.
Renee Montgomery: Was that the first time that something like that has ever happened to you, was like that, that’s your first experience with that?
Jeremy Lin: Uh, no. I mean, well, if you’re talking about, like, racist comments, for short, not even close. Growing up is you’re Chinese import, go back to China. I got to college it was chicken chow mein, look at your eyes, can you see the scoreboard orchestra, you’re a chink, chink, chink, like—
Renee Montgomery: And was this athletes saying this or just you talking about in school or was it, like who was doing this? Was it just like schoolmates doing that?
Jeremy Lin: It was, you know, it varied from people from school to opposing opponents, you know, the sixth man club at away arenas, to you know, I’ve had stuff happen in an NBA arena from fans and spectators, you know? This many years ago, but again, this is just something that I’ve always kind of seen and experienced growing up.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah. Talk a little bit about, you know, the Asian-American experiences is different, as you mentioned, from the Black American experience, because there is no unified cultural voice. You were from Taiwan, were from China, were from Vietnam or from Cambodia, I’m Filipino. When I was growing up, nobody knew—I grew up in a white area—nobody knew what that was. Like, I didn’t, I was Chinese to everyone. Like, no what, I was like, no, I’m from the Philippines. Nobody had any understanding what that was. As you were coming into the, your awareness of just your own identity, what was that like growing up and trying to embrace or grapple with this Asian-American identity?
Jeremy Lin: I mean, it’s really hard and it’s still evolving, right, and so, like growing up, the area that I grew up in is primarily white, but then I grew up in an immigrant, a Chinese immigrant church. And then I played basketball and as I got into elite levels, AU levels, it was primarily African-American. So I almost had these different sectors in my life, like if it was school, it was white. If it was church, it was Asian. If it was if basketball, it was Black, primarily. Right? And then and so for me, I was always kind of like trying to figure that out. And it got even more complicated. Like, you know, when I grew up here during Linsanity playing basketball here, I’m always like the basketball player, but it’s like but he’s Asian, but he’s Asian. And that was always a thing. So I never felt like I really belong here, especially on the floor. Right? Like on the bathroom floor. Then I went overseas last year and played in China, and it’s like I look like them, I speak the language, but I’m a foreigner, and I’m under the foreigner rules and I’m treated as a foreigner and everything—you know, there’s a huge delineation between the locals and the foreigners. And so now I’m kind of I don’t really belong anywhere. And when you talk about not having a unified voice and you also talk about just being mashed into one group, it’s so true. And this is a true story: one of my teammates, even just now in the G League level, as we’re talking about it, he was just like, hey, man, like, I mean, I would love to learn more about Asian culture. Like, I mean, I, I even love sushi. And I’m like—
Renee Montgomery: Oh, no, Jeremy, I know you lying, Jeremy! Jeremy, I know you lying!
Jeremy Lin: Because we’re talking about Chinese food and we’re talking about the best Chinese and where the best Chinese food was, and so I think, you know, I mean, these are not these are not to, because it was so heartfelt, and you could see it in my teammates eyes and in his heart that, like, he wanted to know more and he wanted to relate and he was genuine and he had tremendous respect for me and he cared for me. I’ve had teammates in the past in the NBA who, again, the same thing, like people who live next to me, my neighbors who are teammates who were I was super close with, and then one of them came up to me, was like, I don’t understand, Jeremy, how can you be Asian and Chinese? Like that doesn’t make sense, how you can be both? And I had to explain, like, oh, well, this is how—and he wasn’t trying to make fun of me, he wasn’t trying anything, he was just like man, I’m trying to learn. You know, for a lot of my teammates I’m the first Asian teammate that they’ve ever had and even some like the first Asian friend that they’ve ever had. And so I’m like, man, you know what? Like, if it wasn’t for basketball, I wouldn’t have met a whole bunch of different people from different cultures and learn—and I have to learn and ask these same types of questions for other people growing up. And so, I mean, that’s the beauty of the game, right? It brings us together.
Renee Montgomery: It does. And so you mentioned it, so I have to ask about it. What was Linsanity like? Just to switch gears a little bit, because, I mean, that was a phenomenon, like that’s why they called it Linsanity. It was insane. You were in New—like, can you just talk about what was that like to just be propelled to superstar status instantly?
Jeremy Lin: I mean, it was, it’s kind of, like the first thing that I always say that kind of catches people off guard was just like it was really, really scared. Like it was really, really scary. I mean, I don’t play for the fame and like, I don’t, and I struggle in the spotlight sometimes, you know, even now when I get recognized sometimes, like [whispering] “Oh, that’s Jeremy Lin,” like a few tables “Oh, that’s Jeremy Lin,” like, I’ll start sweating, like I’ll start actually sweating. And so I think for me it was scary just how fast things change. I mean, I was on my brother and sister in law’s couch and I had been there for four weeks and nobody cared. And I was walking in and out of the apartment every day, being in an elevator with other people, I was taking taxis to MSG. At MSG, people were stopping me and being like, OK, this is only for players, you know, and I’m like, I’m a player. And they’re like, no, you’re not. And I’m like—
Renee Montgomery: [laughs] They need to do better. They got to do better.
Jeremy Lin: You know? And then a week or two later, it’s like, I can’t go anywhere. I can’t go outside, there’s paparazzi camped outside my house, there’s paparazzi camped outside my grandmother’s house. I’m getting 200 text messages after every game. I’m in a taxi and now the taxi driver recognizes me and I’m on the screen, which I’m like, can we turn this TV off in the back of the, you know, in the New York cab’s, I’m like the TV off, I don’t wanna see myself. And it was just like everything flipped upside down and I was scared. And I think that’s the biggest thing is like I was scared and it became like this ghost or this shadow or this like phenomenon that I was trying to run away from. And as I have gotten older, I’ve come to really appreciate and embrace it. And now you see, like, you know, back then it was like, no, no, no, don’t talk about me as an Asian, like, talk about my hoops, like talk about what I’m doing on the court. Don’t just say, oh, look, look, look what he’s doing, he’s Asian, but what he’s doing! I’m like, don’t do that.
Renee Montgomery: You just wanted to be a baller.
Jeremy Lin: Yep. And now it’s like the opposite. I’m like, oh, you want to? Go ahead. I’m Asian, you can keep talking about it. Oh, you don’t want to talk about? Talk about it as much as you want now because I think as I’ve grown, I’ve come to appreciate it, I’ve come to understand the world a little bit more. I’ve understood how, what some of the injustices are and I’ve evolved, and now it’s not about me and my recognition as a basketball player, it’s about the next generation. It’s about the life that the people that came before me were trying to allow us to live, and it’s about making change. And so I think it is, I mean, that’s kind of my whole like thing with Linsanity is, it’s like continues to evolve depending on what season of life I’m at. Like, I have a different perspective on it.
Jason Concepcion: It’s so interesting. I was, full disclosure, I was in New York at that time. I was fully caught up in it. It was a lot for me because I had your one-on-one duel with John Wall on DVR, like I was like Jeremy Lin, I think he’s going to be good. I was actually saying that to people. And so when it happened, it was like a lightning bolt because it’s like, first of all, the Knicks are winning, number one. Second of all, it’s being spurred by this Asian-American guy, looks like me. I never thought this would happen. And I became like, so possessive of that experience in a way that I had never really experienced through sports before. And I’m sure a lot of that people felt like that. You mentioned like, evolving seasons of your life, like at what point did you start to feel comfortable with the idea that people would look at you and think, I’m inspired by this person, this person is representing me in a way that I feel proud of?
Jeremy Lin: I would say maybe like six years after. And I’m going to give this, like, really weird analogy, but like, I’ve always resonated with anybody who has gotten fame at a young age or gotten fame overnight. And so, there are people like that I draw to, in terms of like Bieber or Tebow or Johnny Manziel or like the people who have kind of experienced something somewhat similar. But I’ve always said, like the reason why Bieber’s music resonates with me is because you kind of, like the seasons that he went through is kind of what I went through. Like in the beginning, it’s really cool when it first happens, and then you get scared, and then you go from scared to like angry and bitter because you’re like, I can’t believe people are trying to use me, I can’t believe we’re trying to take advantage of me. And then you go from, like, bitter and angry, to jaded. And as you become jaded, you just run away, you’re rebelling and you’re like, screw everything. And then after that, you kind of hit low points and you get humbled. And as you get humbled, you start to appreciate some of the things that you have before because they look different now. And after you appreciate that, and you go through that season, then you get to the final season, which I think is just embracing it. And when you really get to that point where it’s like, no. no, no, I’m not jaded, I’m not bitter, I’m not angry, I’m embracing everything about it. Like, to me that was like a six-year journey. And once I got past all of that, I was just like, oh, wow, like, I really did do things that have never been done on a basketball court, on a NBA floor before. Oh, wow, I really did inspire people. But while it’s happening and while you’re like somewhat just a little bit removed from it, you’re kind of like, dude, I don’t want to be known for this. Like, I’m more than that, or like forget this or whatever. And so even now in the G League, like people were like, opponents and stuff like, we would play a game and then someone would ask me for a picture after.
Renee Montgomery: That’s crazy.
Jeremy Lin: And so they’re like “I grew up to [unclear], like I grew up watching that, that was incredible” you know? And it’s like, oh, my goodness, like, it really did touch people. And I think that’s, that took me about six years to really get to that point. And so I’m there now and that’s why I’m like, I love everything about it, and I’m open talking about it.
Renee Montgomery: No, that’s beautiful. And so it is inspiring to see the maturation process and you created your own foundation. Now, can you just talk about that? Like what made you, because just hearing you talk, I’m glad you created your own foundation, because people need to hear that because it’s such a different perspective that I mean, it’s just not the norm experience, so what made you create your foundation? And then tell us about it.
Jeremy Lin: The one incident that made me promise to myself that I would work with underprivileged children if I ever got the chance—when I was in middle school, I went to go pick up one of my AU teammates, one of my best friends, and he—I lived in Palo Alto, he lived in East Palo Alto, it’s just across the highway, you literally just jump over the highway. When I was growing up, East Palo Alto had the highest crime per capita of any city in the US. And so we’re coming, were about to play a big game, I picked up my teammate and he’s African-American and I was like, hey, man, you ready for this big game, how’d you sleep? He’s, like I didn’t sleep that well. I was like, why? He’s like, oh, there’s gunshots like in the middle of the night and I got really scared, and I started asking questions, and that’s when I realized, man, I’m right here, you literally just jump over that little juncture of the highway, interstate, and you go over to the other side and it’s completely different. And that’s when I said from now on, like, if I ever get the chance, I’m going to be doing some type of work there. And I ended up living in East Palo Alto for three weeks in high school and working with one of the apartment complexes and the things I saw, I mean, you saw like fifth graders who had to sell drugs just to make money. You saw gang violence. You saw some of the kids in our little camp that we were working at, they were getting chased down by other gang members with bats trying to [unclear] and it’s in the middle of our programs. And like I mean, the stuff I saw was just amazing, like in the sense that it was just like I couldn’t believe it. And it was happening so close to where I grew up. And so I started my foundation my my rookie year. And now this past year, we partnered with five AAPI organizations that are serving underprivileged youth in the Bay Area. And it’s just near and dear to my heart. And again, going back to like social justice and Asian-American issues, Asian-Americans struggle a lot with income equality in the sense that a lot of people know that, like certain Asians, families are well-off, but people don’t know about, there are so many Asian families that are struggling and one in four are underprivileged and 12% in California are in poverty. And there’s huge income inequality. And now you add in COVID. And so these organizations are doing everything, like some of them are just chasing down these children that they can’t even hear from anymore. They’re like where are they? We haven’t heard from them. Where are they? And some of them are providing meals. Some of them are trying to find ways to continue their education, otherwise, they’re going to fall further and further behind with COVID, and being isolated and not being able to go to school. And then some of them are about just getting meals or youth empowerment, anti-bullying, mental health, leadership development—like, across the board, a wide-ranging spectrum of things that are serving AAPI youth in the Bay Area. And so that’s what we’ve been focused on this year. And the thing about COVID across the board, it’s just made the gap even wider.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Jeremy Lin: And this is not just within Asian-Americans, just maybe gap wider, period. And if we’re not cognizant of that, there are some serious long-term effects that will happen if we as a society don’t rally together to try to help.
Jason Concepcion: Last week, some comments about baseball star Shohei Ohtani, who’s just my idol right now, caused a controversy. While on First Take, Stephen A. Smith made the claim that the Japanese-born pitcher and hitter’s use of interpreter hurts his ability to connect to capture an American audience. We should note that he has since apologized for these comments and that he was referring to the marketability and promotion of the sport. But let’s also note that according to Forbes, Othani is, despite Stephen A’s comments, one of baseball’s most marketable stars. He has six million dollars in endorsements here stateside, ten million dollars in Japan and internationally. That is more than Bryce Harper or Chris Bryant. Renee, what do you make of the idea that international players playing in America are not marketable if they can’t speak English?
Renee Montgomery: I think that that’s very old school. I feel like, you know, we think of traditional marketing and I think that’s probably what Stephen A was referring to in a sense of, you know, traditional marketing is I have a product, I hold it here and I say, try Bolt 24, I love the product, it’s great for me.
Jason Concepcion: Pitching?
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. And that’s how you get the check and that’s how you continue to sell a product. But as we see with this digital age, there’s so much you can do now. You know, you could do illustration or animation of Ohtani now endorsing a product. You know, like you could have captions on a text of him prom—like there’s so many different ways now to get around a language barrier in this digital age with just the creativity that we do with digital marketing, that I just think that that’s old school to think that you have to be able to articulate verbally that you endorse a product, you know, like I think that that’s old school. And I think Stephen A realized that very quickly when he made his statement. For people that don’t know, he said “when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube or to the ballpark, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter.” Now, you know, like I said, a few hours later too, he tried to verify his comments, saying he was just talking about the marketability and promotion of the sport. We later know he came out with a full-blown apology online, another apology on First Take. But I think that, you know, journalists have to really adjust with the times. The times are changing and the way things are done, process are changing and the journalists got to keep up. What are your thoughts?
Jason Concepcion: I think that on for one, I’m glad Stephen made the apology and I’m glad that he clarified that he was talking about marketability and the promotion of the sport. I also think that these kind of conversations about notable people, celebs or anyone speaking English, doing things to, to more, you know, smoothly and efficiently appear to be part of mainstream society, are often like code for something else. I guess like the thing that I thought about was like, why does anybody care what Shohei Ohtani marketing, you know, income is or if they are—if this guy is hitting the ball like a like a colossus, which he is, if he’s doing the things that he’s doing on the field, it’s unclear to me why exactly that matters, except that Stephen A and other people who might complain about this are maybe not so concerned with the health of, and marketability and visibility of America’s pastime, and are more just kind of annoyed that they can’t directly ask Shohei Ohtani a question, or have to go through somebody, or just annoyed in general that someone is here and not speaking English, and succeeding. Like it’s, I always, I remember the first time my parents were like, oh, yeah, we were, when they were growing up in the Philippines, they’re like, yeah, we loved the Beatles. And I was like, wow, that’s so crazy that you grew up in another country and you’re, the music that you were listening to was English music. And it’s the same thing now, like you watched television from Europe, from anywhere, and you will see American hip hop, American music, you’ll see American stars selling stuff. And I think we’ve, I think we’ve just become so used to being the pop culture center of the entire globe, our stars are the world stars, our music is the world’s music, everybody watches our movies—that I think that it’s jarring now when somebody comes from outside that and is not like trying to integrate in the way that we expect. Because we just expect like, oh, our culture goes all around the world and why wouldn’t you learn English? Why wouldn’t you, why wouldn’t you do that stuff? It’s just like a very American-centric perspective that I understand why Stephen feels that way, because it’s you know, that’s the way the world has been for several decades, but it’s just it’s not the way the world is now, to your point. What do you think?
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, and, you know, I think. I think too, we know that certain things transcend cultures. So music, you talked about it, , you can hear a song, I can hear a song from BTS and I can, like, think it’s lit no matter if you know what they’re saying or if you don’t. And it’s the same for our hip hop culture in other countries. They might, they might know a whole rap song and not know any English. I’ve had teammates, so I played overseas for ten years, I’ve had teammates in the locker room, they can rap bar for bar with me on JayZ lyrics, anything, but then afterwards, you know, their English might be a little broken. But, you know, that experience going overseas for me was so vital because there’s obviously the stereotype that Americans are arrogant and different things of that nature. And there’s, we are spoiled to a certain extent.
Jason Concepcion: We are spoiled, for sure.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, and Stephen A is talking about that spoiled American sense that, wait, you’re not Americanizing yourself to fit into our culture to make sure that we can digest you easier? No, that’s not his, that’s not his problem. You know, like Ohtani doesn’t need to make sure that we can, like that we are easily digesting what he has to do. He’s going out there and he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to do. He’s being baseball’s most marketable star. He’s knocking balls out the park left and right. He’s a generational talent, and we’re just not used to that. We’re used to if we want you, you better give us what we want and how we want it. And that’s not happening anymore. We see different stars. Even with Naomi Osaka, I watched her documentary.
Jason Concepcion: Yes.
Renee Montgomery: She talked about there was this this uncomfortableness that when people found out she’s playing for the Japanese national team and she was like, it was never I was never deciding between America and Japan. I was always playing for them. But we were all like, she said, basically the media was like, oh, you’re playing for Japan. And she’s like, I’ve played for them always. You know, like and if you watch the documentary is true, she has. But as Americans, again, we’re like, if you had the choice, why would you pick us? And it’s like we maybe aren’t the center point of everyone’s life like we thought we were. And maybe we were, but it’s changing. Things are changing. That’s all I’ll say. Things are changing.
Jason Concepcion: I think about the Dream Team documentary and all the famous clips that we remember of Jordan walking down the Champs-Elysees, or Barkley and Magic walking around Barcelona and getting mobbed by international fans. That’s what we think is normal, right? We think that’s normal. Could Michael Jordan speak French? Could Charles Barkley speak Spanish. Right? Or Catalonia or any other? But we are just like, yeah, that’s the way it should be. We export our stars and everybody accepts it and they love it and that’s great. But if you send your stars here, they better learn to speak English or else there’s going to be a problem. And that’s to your point. It’s just not the way the world works anymore. And we are now getting a very, very small taste of what the rest of the world has been experiencing with the exporting of America stars to different markets. It’s just really interesting. And of course, you know, Spanish-speaking players are a huge part of the MLB. This, the comments, Stephen A’s comments, while directed at Shohei and about Shohei clearly pertain to the 25% of opening day rosters in 2019 that speak Spanish as their first language. It’s, it’s just an old, old-minded thinking. It’s not the way media works anymore and not the way fame works anymore, not the way sports works anymore.
Renee Montgomery: And you know what, I hope that this starts to shift another culture that, you know, like again, traveling a lot for basketball, I got submerged into so many different cultures. No matter where I went, almost every single person spoke some English, like I could be in the grocery store and I would be like, cow moo, and then they were like, oh, yeah, OK and they would tell me where the beef is in the grocery store. But like everywhere else in the world, makes an effort. Like just a least a little effort. Everywhere else in the world makes an effort to learn English, baseline broken English a certain amount. But Americans, there’s a lot of us that we don’t know, like not even like: ola, como esta? Like we don’t know, you know what I mean? Like, we can’t count to ten. We can’t do a lot. And I think that says a lot about America.
Jason Concepcion: The rise of, it’s only really been in the last several years with the rise of popularity of reggaeton and Bad Bunny blowing—
Renee Montgomery: Reggaeton, baby!
Jason Concepcion: And Bad Bunny blowing up. Like going to multiple parties and-or bars and/or places where Bad Bunny is playing, and I know for a fact that many of the people there cannot speak Spanish or understand what Mr. Bunny is saying. But that’s the, Mr. Bunny, it’s only the these last several years where I really felt like, oh, there is a shift, at least to acknowledge the large population of the American citizenry that also speak Spanish. But we’re slowly getting there. Where have you ever felt, when you were playing overseas, did you ever feel like a pressure to, like, learn Russian, learn anything like that?
Renee Montgomery: Uh, da. Yeah, I did. That’s yes, in Russian. But I didn’t feel a pressure to. I put pressure on myself, like I wanted to know. Like, I’m the type, especially to it’s difficult because being a point guard overseas where your whole job is to communicate and communicate the plays, communicate what’s going on in the game. If I don’t know a certain thing, like, you know, like I had to learn to say, like “Davai Dyetka”, like, let’s go. Like, I had to be able to talk to them in their language for certain sports terms because I need to be able to do that on the fly. I don’t need them to have to be thinking on the fly like, oh, how do I translate that or what does she mean? So I took it upon myself to learn some things. As a lot of people know, my fiancé say, you know, Dominican, she’s from the Dominican Republic, well her parents, her mom is. But she was born in New York. But so that’s a bilingual family. Like they speak straight up Spanish only in the house a lot of time. So I just, I value multiple languages just because if you traveled, if you’ve been around the world, you start to see how small we are as Americans in a sense of there’s other cultures, other worlds out there. And Americans, we kind of like, yeah, yeah, we know it’s out there, but it’s America’s where it’s at, baby! Like we really have that feeling like, yeah, yeah, y’all do your thing, but when you come here, we’re Americans. And it’s like, you know, just I’m blessed to have been cultured at a young age to know that we should be learning, like everyone in America should have a baseline of Spanish. Like, I think that that’s something that we should have. But, you know, now we’re starting to see that shift, it’s going to happen. We’re going to see it more and more. And, you know, like for me, like when it comes to the media, we weren’t doing interviews all the time. Like, you know, here for the NBA, it’s not necessarily right after every game that we’re doing interviews and different things of that nature. But they did make an effort to make sure that when I did do media, I was comfortable. I had an interpreter and the interpreter was working both ways. A lot of times too, the actual interviewer would talk to me in English. So, you know, it might be broken English. It might, you know, but I could still understand enough to answer it. So, again, making the effort to try to talk to me in English because they knew that was my first language. I think that that goes, like that says a lot about them, because I’m talking to a audience that doesn’t speak English. Their first language is Russian, but even still, they’re talk to me in English. And that just shows how other countries are more apt to cater to maybe a different culture. And again, I know America is that culture that the world kind of understands, watches, whether it’s our athletics, our culture, our music. We know that transcends all other countries, but that still doesn’t necessarily give us a pass to not try to, you know, cater or be understanding to other cultures. I think that’s where we kind of drop the ball as Americans. We’re spoiled! That’s it.
Renee Montgomery: Joining us now, he’s the head coach of the 11-time national champion UConn Huskies women’s basketball team. He’s led the US women’s national basketball team to two gold medals at the Olympics. And that’s literally just two of the things on his long list of accomplishments. But the most important thing is that he is my coach forever, Coach Auriemma. You know, I love you. The Godfather! Welcome to Takeline. And coach, now this year, we know we had another great season, got bumped out of the Final Four by Arizona, and current dream rookie that we drafted, Aari McDonald. But how does The Blue look for next season? What are you expecting from your star Paige? We know she had surgery, so you know how she coming along, and what are you expecting next year?
Geno Auriemma: Well. I’m expecting them to grow up a little bit and not be so immature. You know, we played Baylor last year right, in the Final 8 game. So that game took a lot out of us, it was a physical game, you know, it was a tough game. And after we won that game, some of the younger guys and maybe some of the older guys, too, you know, we just have it, you know, you have to have a mature team to win a national championship. I think they went into the Arizona game and we spent—people probably won’t believe this—we spend more time preparing for the Arizona game than we did for the Baylor game.
Renee Montgomery: Really? How so?
Geno Auriemma: Well, just more things to go over, more things, you know, we have, we knew Baylor’s personnel. We have played them. We didn’t know Arizona that well.
Renee Montgomery: Right.
Geno Auriemma: So we wanted to and—smart me, right?
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: I tried to like: OK, here’s the advantages that we have over Arizona. Let’s try to take advantage of those. Here’s the matchup, you know, situations that favor us. Let’s try to take advantage of it. The only problem is the matchups that favor us wasn’t exactly our strengths.
Renee Montgomery: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: So, you know, so they went in. So after we lose the game, you know, their media, well, you know, we didn’t know that was going to be this hard, you know. We didn’t think it was going to be—and I’m like: how the hell do you think that the final the semifinal game for national champion ain’t going to be hard?
Renee Montgomery: Right. What?!
Geno Auriemma: Who the hell you guys talking to?
Renee Montgomery: They see that thousand win jersey behind you, and they think that that’s going to be them.
Geno Auriemma: You know what some of these guys are today in college? They’re like this, they go: coach, we came to Connecticut, you won 11 national championships and, you know, we have this many, All Americans, you know, coach, I wanna make, you know, make me an All-American. And I’ll be like: yeah, you know, like, what am I like, Subway? Well, you go hey, make me a sandwhich.
Renee Montgomery: Have it your way. Burger King, baby.
Geno Auriemma: Yeah. You go like: yo make me a sandwich. Sure, I can make you a sandwich. Make me an all-American. What are you shitting me? How ‘m going to do that?! How I’m going to do that? All I can do is give you the platform to become one.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: And push you and push you and push you. The rest is up to you do. So I said, I’ve never been asked that question before.
Renee Montgomery: That’s crazy,
Geno Auriemma: I said ever in my life by anybody who’s made All-Americans on our team. I’ve never been asked that.
Renee Montgomery: I definitely didn’t ask you that.
Geno Auriemma: No. Hell no. So that the thing is, you know, a maturity level that you have to reach that I think kids coming out today think maybe it’s a little bit easier than it’s going to be. You know, they don’t realize how hard it’s going to be. So what has to change this year? Well, obviously, we need more help for Paige. You know, she makes shots, she scores. And Kristen had a great NCAA tournament, Kristen Williams. So I think she’s building on that right now based on what I see during these summer school workouts. Liv really struggled, and she’s, you know, working harder than she’s ever worked. We’ve brought in a couple new kids, both new freshmen, and we have a kid transferred in from Ohio State.
Renee Montgomery: Oh, yeah, I saw that.
Geno Auriemma: So, we definitely have way more pieces of the puzzle this year. We have a little more experience. We have everybody back that, you know, very few teams can say that. So I like, I like our chances.
Renee Montgomery: OK.
Geno Auriemma: This year and we’ll see, we’ll see what happens.
Jason Conception: You mentioned Paige. You’ve coached so many great players over the course of your career. How do you fit Paige into that? You know, I was just thinking looking at, you know, whether it’s Rebecca Lobo, Diana Taurasi, Maya Moore, and now Paige, there’s a, there’s a you can kind of trace the evolution of the game. How do you how do you fit Paige into that kind of like lineage of player?
Geno Auriemma: I think talent-wise, skill-wise, God-given talent, you know, I think I’ve had certainly a bunch of players that have come with that. You know, that somebody like Stewie comes to mind, you know, where you just need to, like, harden her, and she’s got things that you can’t, you can’t draw up, you can’t teach, you can’t coach. I mean, you know, you’re 6’4”, you know, 7’1″ wingspan, and when you go shoot a jump shot, you jump, you know, this high off the off the floor. So there ain’t a guy in men’s basketball that would have an easy time blocking that shot and she needed hardening, OK, somebody like Diana come here, she don’t need hardening, she came in real hard. Yeah, you know, she needs to be, like, reined in a little bit, like, come on. All right. You know, do it, do it. You know, pick your spots. You know, somebody like Maya comes, you know, my head goes, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. Every day, every day, every day, every day. You know, Maya needed to learn perspective, like, how do I play with four other great players on the floor at the same time? You know. You know, and Renee, you know, because she’s sitting right here, you know, was vocal, demonstrative, confident, cocky, walking around like, you know, I got this, you know, and projected an air of confidence that the rest of the team went: hell, yea, you know, that’s who we are, we’re her. And Paige? Paige is quiet. She doesn’t say much. She’s quiet in her game, like all of a sudden you look up at the end of the game, she had 27 and, you know, 12 assists and you go, wow, how does she do that? It just, you know, she’ll go a spurt where she’ll be like, unbelievable. And then the rest of the time she’s quiet. So her evolution has to be, she’s got to get harder every day in practice and realize that the game is going to be real physical against her. And I asked her really good question this past summer, three weeks ago, I said, if you were guarding you. I said, how would you guard yourself?
Renee Montgomery: What she say
Geno Auriemma: She said, well, I wouldn’t let me, wouldn’t let me shoot at three. I said, OK, so next time we’re working on getting open to shoot at three, don’t half-ass it, because that’s going to be the key. What else? She said: I would be really physical with me. I said, right, so now when we’re in the weight room and we’re doing stuff, you need to know I got to do this. You know. What else? I said, well, they’d force you left. I can go left! I said, I can go left too, but that don’t mean I’m gonna score very much, you know, so, you know, and I said, and, you know, these things come with maturity and come with growth. But there’s things that she sees and things that, plays that she makes that are just, you know.
Renee Montgomery: Incredible.
Geno Auriemma: They’re God-given, they’re God-given.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, I called the games, as you know, I called a few of the UConn NCAA games this year and the maturity level. And I look at it and you see all these new faces and I always wonder, like, what’s the difference in the recruiting process versus when I was there? Because players are so different now, just even as I’m watching players, you know, like when we were there, we didn’t have nails and eyelash—you know, we didn’t really. But this is a different type of player now that I see in the tournament. And it’s the evolution. So what’s like been the biggest difference for you, just recruiting this new age of players as opposed to before—and excluding the pandemic of course, because that was unique.
Geno Auriemma: Yeah, it is crazy. You know, like I’ll say something like, I’ll say something like: what’s with those nails! And they’ll be like: what? I go: who color’s their nails. I said where you going, to the prom. I said: what are doing here. You going out on a date? Where are you going? You said you come here to play basketball like, so what are you going to do with the game on the line, you know? It’s a jump ball, you go: Oh, don’t break my nail. You know, like, [unclear] like what are we doing here? I said there’s a time and place for everything. But today’s kids is like: yeah, like that’s my, that’s my jam man. like that’s my, that’s my, that’s what I do, you know. See that’s, you know and the eye lash thing you know. So I’m like, yo, you either real basketball players.
Renee Montgomery: Oh my gosh.
Geno Auriemma: Or you’re like [unclear]. I said, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a statement by you that says, hey this, this is serious, I’m two different people. When I come play basketball, I come ready for work. And when I go out, I go out. Those are two different people. OK. So, trying to explain that is a little bit of a challenge. And then the idea that, you know, I came here because I want what you have, coach but can I do it the way I want to do it? I said, well, those two things don’t go together.
Renee Montgomery: Right.
Geno Auriemma: Like, if you already know how to do it, I would ask you how to do it, but you don’t. So you’re, you’re depending on me to show you how to do it. So when I go—it’s like, it’s like if I come to Atlanta and I say, hey, Renee, how do I get to the Georgia Dome? And you go, well, you go down here, you make a right, third left, you make a—and I go, you know what, I rather go a different way. Then why the hell you ask me?
Renee Montgomery: Right.
Geno Auriemma: Then go ahead, get lost, and bumble around and find your own way
Renee Montgomery: And then come back and ask me again.
Geno Auriemma: But because they got GPS, see, they think everything’s.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: You know that you don’t have to put a lot of yourself. You don’t have to invest a lot of yourself. You know, you just kind of like go: I got it. Well, if it was that easy, everybody else would have 11 national championships.
Renee Montgomery: OK!
Jason Conception: Responding to recent court decisions, the NCAA board of directors has changed the rules, declare that athletes can and make money off their image and likeness. Have you begun to think about, like, how your program is going to grapple with these changes or what the effects might be?
Geno Auriemma: Yeah, I’m, I’m anxious to see what the effects are. I’m anxious to see what the effects are. So let’s say, you know, let’s say you’re Paige, who you know was, she was famous coming out of high school. You know, I called her Paige Kardashian
Renee Montgomery: Oh, my gosh. [laughs]
Geno Auriemma: I said, you know, dang, man, and I said, you’re famous, you’re famous for being famous. I said, you haven’t done a darn thing and everybody’s talking about you like you’re the greatest thing ever. She goes, you know, to her credit, she goes: I don’t get it either. I said, I’m just you know, that’s just the world that we live in, that’s your world. So now she’s going to be able to capitalize on that. And AZ, a big name in recruiting. So she comes here. So now she’s going to be able to capitalize on that. How much? Who knows? So in the future, now, you know, you’ve got three or four or five, high school, potential college, All Americans, and how does that affect the team when some are getting great opportunities and some are not? Some getting opportunities, that’s some are like a little bit of interest, some a lot of interest—like I use this analogy, I say listen, if LeBron and Anthony Davis are getting X, everybody else on the Lakers knows I’m getting something other than X, like way, way other than X.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: OK. And they’re cool with that. They’re men and they understand it’s a job and it’s a business, you know. Guys that work for Apple or Google or whatever, they know there are certain guys at certain levels of that company that get X. You, wherever you are you get Y. Now does an 18-year old understand that, does a 19-year old understand that? I don’t know. I don’t know. So I think these kids may be under the impression that the minute this law was passed, here come the checks.
Renee Montgomery: Like everybody.
Geno Auriemma: Like everybody is getting paid. And the truth of the matter is going to be very few of them are going to get paid. And they’re going to have to actually do something to get paid, whatever that is. You know, it’s not going to be just because you’re a nice kid and you know, UConn’s number 1 in the country.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. So it’s interesting because like, you know, at UConn, we fly charter. You know, we, you know, my first time eating at Del Fresco’s was with you guys, and CD’s teaching us which forks and everything to use. And so I think that there’s this interesting dynamic coming, maybe not with men’s basketball or football, but in a lot of the women’s sports. Do you think that they will get to a point where college athletes could possibly make more than the pros?
Geno Auriemma: In women’s basketball? I can see that happening. I can see that happening.
Renee Montgomery: What do you think that would look like? How would that, that? You know what I’m saying? Would that not be, like, what will that look like now college athletes could possibly be making more and then when they graduate and go pro, they’re making less.
Geno Auriemma: Yeah, it depends. It may depend on where you go to school, let’s say. So let’s say you’re at UConn because that’s what we’re talking about, and now we have this huge UConn nation that follows UConn women’s basketball and it’s actually national. OK, around the country, we’ve become like Duke men’s basketball. Which side are you on? You either hate us or you love us.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, [laughs] facts. Facts.
Geno Auriemma: OK, you hate us or you love us. Nobody that has no opinion. All right. You know, you can say to somebody, hey, what do you think of, you know, Kentucky women’s basketball? They might go, I don’t know. But you say, well, what do you think of UConn women’s basketball? Oh, man, I love them. I love their coach. Next person: I hate them whenever they’re on TV I root for anybody but them. OK, but everybody’s got an opinion. So if you play here, you are inundated with media attention. Social media attention. Now, you grow that over four years. See, that’s the key. It grows over four years, provided you’re really good. Now you leave and you go to the WNBA. Will that stay with you? Hopefully. Or will some of that, you know, well, where will you go, let’s say you go play for the Atlanta Dream—do they have a big enough platform that you can use to enhance everything you already have? I don’t know. All that remains to be seen. No question about it.
Renee Montgomery: That’s crazy. That’s just blowing my mind.
Geno Auriemma: It’s crazy, right?
Renee Montgomery: It’s blowing my mind because a player, a football player just signed a $20,000 deal, you know, so the first day out the gates. So it’s like, wow, if that continues: Wow.
Geno Auriemma: Yeah, yeah. I mean, and when they get when they get to, when they get to the NBA or the NFL or wherever they’re going, what’s going to be the determining factor? Well, I would like to think in sports, how good you are.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah.
Jason Conception: Yeah.
Geno Auriemma: Doing TikTok videos when you’re in the NBA, that ain’t going to get it right?
Renee Montgomery: Oh, it might, though. That’s big money now, coach, I’m just saying
Geno Auriemma: It’s big money. If you’re a 13-year old, if you’re a 14-year old and you’re TikToking your butt off, you know, you can make some money. I don’t know if they want a bunch of 20-year olds TikToking. And you might be that, may be way, that’s too old, that’s way too old for that crowd.
Jason Concepcion: Last week, after Simone Biles withdrew from several Olympic events, the sports media, various people on social media all had an opinion and descended into a chaotic conversation about Ms. Biles’s legacy in sport. There were some, I think, pretty unfair comparisons across the board to Michael Jordan, to other athletes, as well as some discussions about athletes’ mental health within the context of other athlete-driven mental health conversations that have taken place recently. We should note that it was announced just today that Simon will compete in the balance beam final on Tuesday. But I think one of the problems we saw last week was how the discussions around Simon were framed. Renee, I have some thoughts on how we need to change the narrative around these types of stories so they don’t just become basic sports discussions. And I’m sure you do as well.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, definitely. I mean, was Simon Biles’ case—it was very interesting because the story, it was a slow roll, right? It was the first, she’s opting out, and no one had an understanding of why. So we got to see everyone’s unfiltered thoughts. We got to see, oh, no, is this another Naomi Osaka’s situation? What’s going on? We’re getting tired of this. Athletes aren’t like they used to be. Whatever happened to the Mamba mentality? We started to see all this kind of language when before we knew about the twisties, like. And in full disclosure, I didn’t know anything about the twisties until I found out about the twisties from Simon Biles. But the real problem, and I think it’s kind of hitting on what you’re saying, is how we address situations going on with athletes that we maybe never seen before? How do we address situations going on with athletes that maybe we just don’t even know? Because the everyday casual fan, they have no idea about a lot of things like, OK, we didn’t know the twisties, but a lot of casual fans don’t necessarily know somebody has a bone bruise. What’s the timeline or what can a person fight through? What’s the norm? They’re just not in the locker rooms. They don’t see it all the time. So how we address athletes and maybe the things that we don’t know or understand going on with those athletes, I think that’s the real thing that’s happening now. Even with the Naomi Osako, when she says mental health, people are like, well, what actually is going on in your life that makes you not be able to perform? And it’s like none of your business, but is my mental health. Like people are having a hard time with the not knowing and with the OK, well, if this athlete is just going to do their own thing, then like fans almost getting mad. Like, well, then I don’t have to watch her, I don’t have to be a fan if they don’t want to compete. And it’s like, no, they’re taking care of themselves, first of all. But this is just a new world, basically, that we’re in and I don’t know if the media nor fans know how to handle it Jason.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, I think even within the kind of like broader conversation that has just come to the forefront of kind of like sports media discourse recently about athlete mental health, even within, even in the context of that conversation, I think I think someone Biles, the conversation about her is different. Because the thing that got to me was when people were like, oh, Michael Jordan, Michael Jordan never quit for his mental health. Which, you know, he quit the sport for two whole years to go play baseball because he was traumatized after the murder of his father. When you point this out to people, they then say, oh, but he didn’t do it in the middle of a game. He didn’t do it in the middle of game six against the Suns. He was under contract, though, right? I mean, so what really gets me about that is what a tremendous, like disservice it does to the things she’s been through. As many will know, Simone and over 100 young women were sexually abused by Larry Nassar, the team doctor. All of this was covered up by the USOPC, the US AG for years. It was brought to the forefront. People were informed about it. They didn’t kick it up to the authorities. It wasn’t until an athlete actually pressed charges that Nassar’s downfall was triggered. But this these allegations were buried by the people that were supposed to protect all these athletes while that was going on. She won, you know, like 19 world metal medals, six Olympic medals, including four gold medals, and in that context, like to put that ordeal in the context of an athlete, like overcoming an obstacle is actually like, that’s gross. You know what I mean? Like to put that in the context, to put that in the context of Michael Jordan having the flu is just so fucked up. And I think the thing that really frustrated me the most was number one, like, of course, if she quit at any point in the past, forget now. Forget, you know, during the Olympics, she owed nobody anything after what she’s been through. But the fact that during this whole time where she’s like 16, 17, 18-years old, and there is no like a players union for gymnasts, you know what I mean? There’s no protection. All the people that we’re supposed to protect her were actively covering this up. During that time, the thing that all those women were told was like, we don’t believe you and so therefore, we’re going to move on from this. And now when someone says, like, I can’t go, the reaction of so many talking heads, sports fans, etc, is like, we don’t believe you. What’s the reason? We don’t believe. Like someone came at me was like, yeah, but like this is the Olympics, this is the middle of the competition. So I’m like, yes, she must have a good reason then, right? Like, why don’t we trust that she has a very good reason. Forget the twisties. Like anything else that she’s been through is a good enough reason to be like, I don’t want to do this anymore. Because the USOPC, the USAG, these are not like new different organizations now that the Nassar thing happened. Like all that stuff is still ongoing. A lot of those testimonies are still under seal. They didn’t just, like, rip up the entire organization and be like, OK, here’s a fresh start, you guys will compete under this whole new organization. She’s working for the same organization that covered all this stuff up and she did it. And she’s been she’s been straightforward about this, she competed this year because she felt like there needed to be a survivor on the team so they couldn’t cover this up. They couldn’t actively cover up what happened, couldn’t just move on from it. In the light of all that, like, you can’t talk about this like it’s Michael Jordan game seven, or any other athlete winning a Super Bowl or something. It’s just completely different. And it just is so frustrating. And, you know, and like, I don’t actually, I actually don’t blame a lot of the people, like on social media who are like, who don’t know how to talk about this because this requires a whole new language to talk about. This is entirely like, for most people, sports is entertainment. They work an 8, 9, 10, 12-hour shift, delivering packages or whatever, and they come home and they just want to watch the Olympics and not think about stuff. Where this particular story, and many others, but this one in particular requires people like, you got to do the work. You have to know about this other stuff in order to be able to talk about this in a way that does it justice. And I understand that people aren’t ready to do that. And so it’s just been so frustrating to watch this happen.
Renee Montgomery: You know, a lot of times, Jason, it seems like people, whenever they see a situation going on with an athlete, or said athlete, you can replace Simone Biles with any athlete, LeBron James, any athlete—if that athlete is going through something, people tend to, and it’s not for a fault, it’s just natural, people tend to compare their own situation to what’s going on with that athlete. So somebody might see what a very rich athlete is going through and be like, oh, well, I mean, I have to work 12-hour shifts while raising four kids and—
Jason Concepcion: I wish I was doing that. I wish I could be doing that right now.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah. And we have to stop doing that. We have to stop looking at other people’s situations through our lens. Like if we always look at everyone’s situation through our own lens, of course, we’re all going to be, oh, yeah, give me this or let this happen to me or not. And I’m not talking about the abuse. I’m just talking about in general, when we start to talk about mental health, when it comes to athletes, a lot of times it almost gets brushed away because people look at their circumstances in their everyday lives and be like, well, at least they have this. But when you look at what’s going on with Simone Biles, the pressure that the world has—I mean, I said, Twitter gave her her own emoji. Why? Because she was the most talked about athlete going into the Olympics. So you have to add on that worldwide USA pressure is there. She’s the most talked about athlete. It’s a fact. Twitter already put it out. So then you add on top of that that it’s a known thing, Jason, you said it. We’re here. I’m here because I want to make sure that there’s a survivor, that somebody has to be held accountable. A lot of people may not know because, like you said, to do the work, they turn down like a $200 million something settlement because they wanted to understand, they wanted people to understand.
Jason Concepcion: They want it to come out.
Renee Montgomery: Yes, they wanted the details to come out. Look, Aly Raisman, this past weekend, I was on Bob Costas, his new show, Back on the Record. Aly Raisman was also on that show and she spoke about it. She said, we turned down that money because we want to know who knew what and when did they know it? The gymnasts want answers. And so and even listening to her speak, she talked about, when she talks about what happened with them for sometimes days or even weeks, she’s almost just like un-manageable in a sense of she can’t, it’s hard for her to deal with to talk about that. So just hearing Aly talk about, it’s hard for her to even function in everyday life when she talks about this situation. Think about what Simone Biles is dealing with, again, being the most talked about Olympian, also dealing with the twisties. And this is something that people need to just think of this is like a physical injury in sports. If you can’t comprehend why she can’t compete, just think of it as a torn ACL or a pulled—like you just have to get your mind to shift to this is a physical problem. Even though, you know, she could come back from it, it’s physical in a sense of she could really hurt herself and it’s not OK. I mean, she even made the statement Simone made a statement: if you look at the pictures and my eyes, you can see how confused I am as to where I am in the air. So we already are dealing with the trauma of what’s happened in the past. You’re dealing with the pressure of being the most talked about Olympian, like period, and then you’re dealing with an injury to yourself. That’s a lot. And people don’t know how to process that other than saying, aw, she can fight through it, or because that’s her only, you know, like that’s that takes psychology. That takes other things, that takes work, as you put it, Jason. And it’s not for no fault of anyone else, we’ve never given athletes any time. We’ve never given athletes effort. It’s always been are you healthy? OK, play. Are you not healthy? OK, you don’t play. We never asked, are you mentally healthy? Are you physically healthy? Is are you healthy? Go play. And so I just think we’re just seeing a shift in the tides. I mean, if you just look at it, I, I’m, I have to just say it’s so impressive for all of those women. We talked about it. It was over 100 women to turn down $200 million, even if you had to split it between the 100+ women, that’s a lot of money. But to know that this could continue, that they’re still working for the same organization, the same people, that they might not have enabled it, but you knew about it and you didn’t stop it. That’s I mean, that’s just such a messy situation. USA Gymnastics after this Olympics, I mean, honestly, it should have been before this Olympics because we were talking about they wanted to sweep it under the rug for the 2016 Olympics, and here we are at the2020 Tokyo Olympics, that’s really happening in 2021, which is a whole ‘nother year and it’s still not being resolved. So everyone needs to keep being loud about USA gymnastics. We need to keep praising the women for their bravery. But we need, like we need to as a general population, not let this go until they clean house. They’ve got to clean it up over there. That’s disgusting.
Jason Concepcion: They got to completely tear it up. It is absolutely insane. And then think about, you know, a lot of these women have talked about that the Olympics is for them, not necessarily a time of celebration. It’s when all those memories and all those things are brought back up. So they’re dealing with the pressure that no one can understand and that no one can really possibly try and, try and put their selves in the middle of. Unless they’ve been through something similar to that. And everything that they have done to this point makes them really beyond any kind of like sports criticism, like, that’s it’s just insane to me to be like, oh, how could you do this? She’s, forget like, she’s already won 25 medals, worlds plus Olympics, like—
Renee Montgomery: Who does that?
Jason Concepcion: Yeah, what more does she need to do? And even if she hadn’t won those right, even the girls who didn’t compete, beyond criticism to be like they don’t want to play anymore. And I think you’re exactly right. You said something that is, that I think about all the time. If you if she said, oh, my Achilles is sore, people wouldn’t even question not even for a second, wouldn’t bat an eye. But you say but it’s something to do with the brain, something to do with mental health, and all of a sudden everybody is an expert and says, well, why can’t you just fight through? Why can’t you just fight through it? And I think in a really kind of sad way, it’s a reflection of how bad we all are, we are as a country about dealing with our own like mental health, you know what I mean? Like that that is the message that we, that we get all the time is like, oh, you’re just sad, just push through it. No. Like, that’s not, that’s not fair and that shouldn’t be—
Renee Montgomery: You should try to make yourself happy in your everyday life. But Jason, a lot of people may not be happy in their everyday life. So they’re like, look, I deal with sadness all the time. That’s what I was trying to say about the lens, like, just because you’re dealing with something, it doesn’t make it OK that you’re not happy either. You know, like that’s the thing like misery, the statement misery loves company. Yeah. Let’s like let’s change that. Let’s get out of that. Because just because you might be sad doesn’t mean that they should have to fight through their sadness, like they might need help. And speaking of that, on that idea, can we stop silver shaming people?! Like I just—
Jason Concepcion: Silver’s a great metal. Who, has anybody out there won an Olympic any metal? You know what I mean? You know how hard that is?
Renee Montgomery: I started seeing stuff about, aw, we’ll settle for the silver and this and we had to settle for a bronze. And I’m like, do you guys know that this is a competition of the greatest athletes in the entire world. And if you make that podium that means you’re the top three at that event. Yes, baby, you did that. And we all need to be acting like Raven Saunders and turning up and twerking and getting our medals and being happy. Like that is, we have to start celebrating more than we just kind of condemn, is what I would just say.
Jason Concepcion: Super excited about this next guest. He is a two-time NBA champion, 11-time NBA All Star. Very soon, he is going to enter the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame. His new book, “Letters to a Young Athlete” is available now. Chris Bosh, thank you for coming on the program.
Chris Bosh: Man, thank you for having me. I’m really excited to be here. Thank you guys so much for having me.
Jason Concepcion: You talked about how you thought you’d be playing right now and that your career was cut short in a way that you didn’t expect. And it’s great to, when we came on, it’s great to see you. You look great. It’s just great to see you.
Chris Bosh: I appreciate it.
Jason Concepcion: I’m sure that there are, you know, we’ve been through a traumatic time, on Earth, like this last year, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people, you know, who know you and might read this book, might pick it up, and who have obstacles in their path or dealing with situations where life has changed in a way they didn’t expect and now they have to figure out what’s next.
Chris Bosh: Yeah.
Jason Concepcion: What could they find in your book, and what would you say as you’ve gone on your own journey, has helped you find your way through this path of surprise, of a place that you didn’t think you’d find yourself?
Chris Bosh: The most powerful part to me was the conclusion, when I read the conclusion again, I was like, damn! I don’t even read the conclusion. I need to start read the conclusions more because like, this one is really good. I keep forgetting how good it is. You know, we did a good job. Only because I forget how it ended myself. I forget the—
Jason Concepcion: Right, yeah.
Chris Bosh: The, the harshness of the truth.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Chris Bosh: And that is my last—I won’t spoil it—but that’s one of my last messages to the reader. And I always tell people, you know, play every, have every situation—it’s tough to say, like it’s your last. How cliché is that?
Jason Concepcion: Right. Of course.
Chris Bosh: But damn, that really happened to me. You know, when the coach says: play every game like it’s your last. Like ah, yeah, take it easy.
Jason Concepcion: Yeah.
Chris Bosh: Man, that really happened to me. So, you know, I just want people to enjoy what they do. And if you don’t have that thing—I’m not saying everybody has it, I’m so lucky to have basketball and so much to the fact where I’m empathetic to the person who loved theater and didn’t have theater class, you know? Tons of my friends, you know, that didn’t have the same opportunity because of lack of resources. But I think we live in an age now where we can kind of, we can get rid of that thought, we can conquer that thought. We can do the things that we want to do. And as long as they’re positive and you really connect with it and it speaks to you, oh, man, that’s—I’m telling you, I lived it, man. And that’s after, and don’t get me wrong, I felt, you know, I read a lot of books and like after basketball is done, it’s like: well do what you love. I said, man get that out of here! You know, my conscience told me right away, do what you like. Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, man, I said I didn’t want to hear it because it was so simple, yet it’s something that needed to be done. And I’m so glad that I followed it. I wouldn’t have, I wouldn’t have published a book, been able to to be a part of a publishing team without it.
Jason Concepcion: Finally, Chris, what are you reading right now? What’s on the nightstand right now?
Chris Bosh: Right now, A Promised Land by Barack Obama.
Jason Concepcion: Oh! Hello.
Chris Bosh: Woooh! Boy. Master class man, first Black president, you know, I feel that it’s a must read, not, you know, not only for all human beings, but especially as a Black man in America. I encourage all Black men to read that. That’s in our history. And, you know, we need to read that. And it’s, it’s—he’s taking me to class.
[clip from Untold] I was trying to find any way to escape . . . I want the story out there. Like what happened, go frame by frame.
Jason Concepcion: That was a clip from the new five-part Netflix docu-series Untold, which brings fresh eyes to various epic tales from sports. One of those tales is the infamous “malice at the palace” the night that no one could forget when a melee between the Pistons and the Pacers spilled into the stands. One of the players at the center of the brawl was Pacers forward Jermaine O’Neal. He’s featured centrally in the in the episode. He talks in detail about that night in Episode 1 and joins us now. Jermaine O’Neal, welcome to Takeline.
Jermaine O’Neal: Thanks for having me.
Jason Concepcion: Jermaine, one of the docu—the episode closes with Steven Jackson, yourself saying: man, I don’t want to talk about this, I’m done! I’m done talking about this. So thank you for talking about it one more time. Did you sense, obviously at that time the Pacers and the Pistons were big-time rivals, but did you, was there a point before it, before everything kind of occurred where you sensed that the atmosphere was just a little bit different?
Jermaine O’Neal: Well, honestly, you know, back then everything was super intense. Like the rivalries were real, friendships were put aside, you can never—that’s one thing that people don’t realize, that half of us on the Pistons and the Pacers actually were friends, right? So, but you couldn’t tell because it didn’t matter, right. We had a job to do. We got a job description that we had to fulfill in every single night. And we knew that we were in each other’s way to get to the ultimate goal. And that was, that was, that was something that fed into cities, right? They came to Indianapolis and it was a hard place for them to play, being in Detroit was a hard place for us to play.
Renee Montgomery: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting because, I have so many questions. I’m going to—like as you know, I’m an athlete and I feel like if I saw one of my teammates run into the stands, yeah, like “malice in the palace.” So what was your thoughts when you saw Meta run into the stands? Like what’s the first thought that went into your head?
Jermaine O’Neal: Well, let me let me say this first. One of the things—because that’s a very good question, very good question. [laughs] I got to say thank you to Netflix for allowing this vision to be a part of an incredible, you know, series of docs. The Way brothers, Floyd Russ the director. I’ve been trying to do this for ten years and I wanted to tell a story, not again, not to avid basketball fan, but to the person that I’m actually seeing in boardrooms and in business deals that are asking me about this but are not NBA fans, right? And so it was important for me to be able to tell a story that came from the people’s mouth that was involved. And it was difficult to get everybody there that we’ve got in this doc, but it was, it was something that was important to me because we took a lot of heat from that, right?
Jason Concepcion: Oh yeah.
Jermaine O’Neal: And I’ll get to your question. But it was important, too, because it became a cultural issue. If you [hit a doc], like, people are really, really saying crazy things. Some of the most respected people in media and that I respect, you know, were just taking jabs and wasn’t doing the very thing that put them in that position and that was getting information, real information, right? It was a quick to judgment scenario. And to a point, it allowed people to take jabs at us. You know talk about hip hop, talk about braids, talk about tattoos—and that was a problem for me. But I had to make sure I said that because that’s close to my heart, because I was still living it 17 years later, as people asking about this stuff all the time and it’s anniversaries for whatever reason. And I’m like, man, let’s just created a doc, tell the story and then we can move on with our lives. But back to, first of all, I couldn’t, it was it was a situation where you saw it coming, right? And the reason was that we had just beat the hell out of the Pistons on national television. We knew that was our year, right? We knew we were better than those guys. And they’d have phenomenally phenomenal team, and they had a lot of, you know, just come off a championship. So they had that pedigree. So we were going to be difficult, but we knew it was our time. So when Ben started throwing all of the armbands, you know, already in a tough environment, right, in Detroit. Right? Tough environment. We started seeing people get riled up. So we’re standing there, we’re looking around, and then you see little things starting to be thrown, right, so that’s another thing people didn’t talk about, right? It’s like little things started to be thrown because if we are out and our energy is running through the crowd and we’re like this and tell them to do, yell and scream, the fans typically do what we ask them to do, right. And so they were mimicking what Ben was doing. And he threw, he kept throwing the armbands. And this guy—I don’t really say his name too much because he still has a special place, you know, in my dislike—
Renee Montgomery: To this day? To this day?
Jermaine O’Neal: Well, I don’t think he’s regretful for what he did, right? And so I think we’re all a little bit more mature. But he should, he was, instead of being really an ass about it, he probably should have been in some sort of sport because his aim was impeccable for him to even hit him with that cup.
Jason Concepcion: It was. Like I mean, it was. Like none of the liquid came out of the cup until it hit him! Like it was it was incredible. It was uncanny, the way that cup came down.
Jermaine O’Neal: He definitely chose, his decision on occupation, was definitely off [unclear]. And I think now, honestly, knowing what I know about Ron and how he handled pressure, right? Now, I think it’s important for you guys to know, when we did this doc, we didn’t record it together, so we did it all separately. Right? And so the first time I saw what he said was when they gave me the first rough cut of it. And I never knew how he handled pressure. Like I never heard him talk about that, because mental health back then wasn’t a real thing. It was like the death of a career if people thought that you were crazy, right? And so to hear him talk about the five count, right, and how he dealt with that, that it all makes sense to me. Versus now when you think about him running in the stands, he was already to a point of erupting, you know, literally. And so watching him run into the stands kind of threw me for a loop. But watching everybody else run towards us is what really got me going.
Jason Concepcion: You mentioned the way some of the most respected figures in the news media really were talking about this incident, from Bob Costas to everybody on CNN on down, you know, there was a I mean, I’ll never forget the weeks following this, but that moment played into a very specific, irrational fear in this country of, you know, black violence against white people. And it just snowballed to the point where people were calling you thugs, Bob Costas was calling you thugs, and it seemed like, and you mentioned this in the in the doc that like there was no platform, no way for y’all to put out your perspective, to say this is what happened to us, this is what we were seeing. Like, go through it and see it from our perspective, there was no opportunity to do that. And in fact, in the wake of that, you know, the NBA and David Stern put in there the dress code rules, which seemed directly aimed at tamping down this kind of perception of the league is too Black, too influenced by hip hop, et cetera. What were those days like where you just couldn’t, you know, I’m sure you had a lot of people advising you at that time. Were they telling you just don’t say anything at that time? And what would you like to say now about what was said during those weeks
Jermaine O’Neal: Well, one, we couldn’t. I think the thing that people don’t realize, you know, everything from, you know, this this whole process went on 7 to 10 years, like literally like the final thing on this happened ten years later, right? And so, you know, we basically had a muzzle, a muzzle on us because we had not only all the criminal stuff that we had to go through, which took a long time, but we had civil, and civil was the killer, right, because now people are suing you. So you have to be careful what you say and go through this process, and at the same time, while a narrative is being created on you, that isn’t really the truth. Right? You know everything, all the clips of the punching, right, you see all of that. But you don’t see you don’t see the guy grabbing me around my neck, like literally before you saw me slide over there for the punch, I had just got a guy that went up behind my neck and grabbed me, and I throw him on the table, I look to my left and I see Anthony Johnson. So you go back and look at the clip, you see Anthony Johnson in the Brown, who’s my teammate, had a broken hand. He’s on the floor. The [unclear] is actually standing over him. And so I run over there and I hit him, right? And at that point, it’s about leadership, right? In a situation where you can’t even believe that, wait you got on the NBA jersey and now you have fighting for your life because, you know, they’ve blocked all of the exits and there’s not a police in the building. Right? So, you know, it’s one of those things that was tough for me, honestly, because it opened, not only me, Steve and Ron up for criticism, but the league that I care about so much, that gave me an opportunity to live a dream—the Pacers, right gave me an opportunity to be the player that I was. You know, obviously, Portland drafted me, but Pacers gave me an opportunity to create a footprint. And I’m just watching people just culturally just gut us and we’re being told you cannot say anything. And so this narrative, it was almost like a, it became a part of our body armor. Right? Now, we’re wearing this thing every day, year over year over year over year, and it’s becoming a real conversation that, to be quite honest, shouldn’t have been. Now, I did understand that the league has a bottom line number that they have to get to. I understood that. I understood it was a penalty to pay for anything, but to the level that we had to pay—or at least from my perspective, had to pay—I was not OK with that. Especially when I took the NBA to court and won. People don’t know about that.
Renee Montgomery: Did people issue an apology? Did you ever receive any apologies basically, after you had won?
Jermaine O’Neal: I did not, I did not. And I understood why, I understood why, because it’s a business. And again, the NBA is a special place, it’s a very special place. And I don’t, even to this point today, I don’t feel like I need an apology because I just understand it. I have the right now to right the wrongs by putting the doc out. And that’s that’s kind of my OK, here you go, and if you choose to come to a conclusion now, you have, at least you have the real information.
Renee Montgomery: No, I like that. And something else that kind of gets lost in the story is that the season ended up being Reggie Miller’s last season and you especially had been vocal about winning a championship in Indiana. So as you reflect on this, what are your thoughts about Reggie and yourself not being able to get that ring?
Jermaine O’Neal: Special. Reggie’s always been special to me. To know how sports work, to know how players work, every player that’s on the team ain’t really for everybody. Right? And, you know, in a situation where Reggie was coming to the end of his career and just coming off of, you know, basically three years before that off a NBA finals and allow me to come in as a basically unproven player, he could have easily said, naw, if you bring him in, trade me. But he didn’t, right? And he had a conversation with me and said I’m going to let you be whatever you want to be, as long as you work for it. And that meant the world to me. And to be put in that situation, it was so bad and I guarantee you if you ask Reggie—Reggie probably had two more years to play, like literally by two more really good years to play. But, how everything was being dissected, and I tell you, we lived this, right, in our own cities, and everything becoming more race than actual facts, right? That was a problem. And I don’t think Reggie wanted to—matter of fact, I know Reggie didn’t want to have to deal with that, those questions and that level of attention has now become negative attention, and it’s not even about the game anymore.
[Take Survivor clips]
Jason Concepcion: Your pep talk for A-Rod, let’s start with you, Mero. Mero, pep talk for A-Rod.
Mero: Papi, Look at me. Look at me Papi. You are Alex Rodriguez, Papi. All right? You’re one of the best baseball players of all time. You went to the Yankees and you switched position. You could have been the best shortstop in the history of baseball. What you waiting for tonight, Papi? What you waiting for tonight? [unclear] Vamanos!
Jason Concepcion: Adam McKay, which character from your universe would have made the best coach for the ’80s Lakers?
Adam McKay: I’m going to go Brian Fantana.
Jason Concepcion: Oh, wow!
Adam McKay: I mean, here’s what I like about him. First off, he’s got the style, he likes to party. He’d be in the Forum Club, you know, about an hour left in the game, he’d already be in the Forum Club. He’d probably wear a neck scarf, kind of ala Doug Moe and Larry Brown. I miss the days of the neck scarf on dudes. Also, no idea what he’s talking about. No real knowledge of basketball, which with that team, all respect to Pat Riley, let’s face it, you didn’t really need like Magic Johnson was the conductor. So I’m going to go Fantana. The only problem is, would miss a lot of games from STDs. [laughter] And the second, the notion of sexual harassment started to emerge, which I think was the early ’90s—his career is over.
Jason Concepcion: Akilah Hughes, who will be the 2022 NBA champion?
Akilah Hughes: OK, so my original take is that, you know, anybody, any team that has the most UK players would win because I’m a big college basketball fan, but I realize that that’s hard. They go everywhere. So I’m picking the Brooklyn Nets. I love Brooklyn. I’m moving back. I can’t wait to be there. Their deck is stacked. Everybody who was injured is healing. [laughs] It is time. We have Kyrie, we got KD, we got James Harden, we got Blake Griffin. He can be there for the jokes. There’s all kinds of stuff for everybody. Also the food in Brooklyn, I think it’s going to power these boys up. That’s all I’m saying.
Jason Concepcion: Goodbye. That is it for us. Follow and subscribe to us on Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcast. And don’t forget to subscribe to Takeline show on YouTube for exclusive video clips from this episode. Plus my digital series, All Caps NBA, which airs every Friday. Check it out, folks! See you next week.
Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Carleton Gillespie and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Our contributing producers are Caroline Reston, Elijah Cone and Jason Gallagher. Engineering, editing and sound design by Sarah Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter 4, and our theme music is produced by Brian Vásquez.