Bucks Are The Champs, Olympics Controversy + Kristen Ledlow | Crooked Media
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July 27, 2021
Bucks Are The Champs, Olympics Controversy + Kristen Ledlow

In This Episode

This week on Takeline, Renee and Jason talk to Kristen Ledlow about the Bucks winning their first NBA Championship in 50 years, the historic game 6 from Giannis Antetokounmpo and the positive social justice push from WNBA & NBA athletes. Later in the show, Jason and Renee discuss the controversy surrounding Olympic fencer Alen Hadzic and how it compares to the treatment of Sha’carri Richardson. Plus, it’s a Crooked crossover as What A Day host Akilah Hughes joins to play Take Survivor.

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Jason Concepcion: It’s unclear to me whether SafeSport is there to actually protect the athletes or whether it’s there to protect the U.S. Olympic Committee from, like lawsuits. You know what I mean? Like, it feels like whatever the mission is there, allowing a person with multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct to the point where people on his own team are like: I don’t feel safe around this guy.


Renee Montgomery: Jason! Say that again. People on his own team!


Jason Concepcion: People on his own fencing team say this is a disgrace that he is allowed to be here, and I don’t feel safe.


Jason Concepcion: It happened last week with the Bucks are world champs after Giannis Antetokounmpo drops 50 on the Suns. His last three games were a masterpiece containing numerous plays that will be on greatest NBA finals plays of all time. Highlight reels, Renee, it has been a season. You saw Milwaukee firsthand when they took down the Hawks—sorry about that—in the Eastern Conference finals. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about what the Bucks accomplished in Game 6 this year, winning the finals, winning their first finals in 50 years, since the days of Kareem and Oscar Robertson.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, I think, you know just what it represented, you know, for Giannis, it was the third game this series with at least 40 points and 10 rebounds. But, but what he kept saying in the press conference, like, you know, I did it the hard way. He wanted people to know.


Jason Concepcion: He wanted people to know that.


Renee Montgomery: He wanted people to know that he did it the hard way, and meaning that he, Milwaukee is a small market. Milwaukee is, free agents aren’t banging down the doors to play for the Bucks. He had a group of guys, PJ Tucker talked about it, who they consider themselves dogs. And I mean that in the best way possible. When you’re a do in sports, like that’s the biggest compliment somebody could give you. And so they felt like they were this overlooked group that didn’t lean on superstardom that the NBA leans on, basically. And they went out and they put on their hard hats and they were dogs. And again, they look, they beat us in a series where we were rolling. I mean, we were beating healthy teams, much less a unhealthy Bucks team. And they just went about it. They put their hard hat on. I mean, it wasn’t things that I can think of that they did in general, other than they just played hard every single second. They made it hard. And they did the exact same thing to the Phoenix Suns. And so, I mean, you can’t do nothing but respect that. And I’ll just add this. Having lost to the Bucks, it does make it a little easier pill to swallow when you lose to the champs. So I ain’t mad at it at all. That’s all I’m going to say, then, OK. What is your thoughts, Jason?


Jason Concepcion: I, it’s great for the league. It’s great for the players. It’s great for the city of Milwaukee. Giannis, in the NBA, I really struggle to think of a more likable star than Giannis. Like everything about this guy feels like it was written, you know, by a Hollywood screenwriter: his upbringing in Greece, coming over to the U.S., you know, drafted outside of the top 10, nobody really knowing who he was. And then, you know, becoming the type of player he is. And not only that, but the kind of player who I think cuts against a lot of our preconceived notions of things that a great player should do and say, you know? Much has been made of the fact that Khris Middleton was essentially the closer on that team. The way that Giannis carries himself, and the ways that he talks. Like there’s a clip that was going around during the finals where he’s talking about the free throw line, and he’s saying, I’ve air-balled them from there, you know, I’ve hit the, I’ve hit the backboard, you know, it’s, there’s nowhere to go but up. There’s no—and you, that’s like you would never hear Michael Jordan or LeBron saying, I’ve airb—talking about that in the way and the tone that he was using with this very self-effacing, like level of humility that it’s really, really it’s really intriguing and exciting from a player of his stature. The way he let people into the celebration that he was having with his family on Instagram live, the way he let people see when he went to Chick-fil-A to order his celebratory 50-piece nuggets.


Renee Montgomery: 50-piece nuggets, baby!


50-piece nuggets. The way he, the way he asked the Chick-fil-A employee’s consent, if he could put her on camera to be in front of 150,000 people. He’s just like a fun person to root for. And it’s great to see a, you know, a market like Milwaukee succeed in a time when, you know, to Giannis’s point, free agents, big name free agents are often leaving the place that drafted them or leaving the team they left after the team that drafted them, to go to some other location, usually in a big coastal market, in order to join up with free agents that are also superstars so that they can win a championship. Is it that, is that the easy way? I think it’s the easier way. I think both ways are still extremely hard as we saw from what happened to the Brooklyn Nets this season. But it’s just, it’s just a wonderful thing for the league. And it was a wonderful thing to watch, you know. And I guess the one, the one thing that annoyed me,, and you tell me how you feel about this, is people saying, oh, they got lucky. The Suns in the bucks got lucky. You know, that if the Lakers are healthy, if the Clippers are healthy, the Suns don’t come out of the, don’t come out of the East. If the Hawks are healthy, if the Sixers had their act together, the Bucks didn’t have to face them, like they they had the easiest path to the finals. That annoys me because there is so much luck every year for every champion. But like—?


Renee Montgomery: Every time.


Jason Concepcion: What do you think about the conversation around luck?


Renee Montgomery: So Jason, literally so that people can get an idea of it? I have a very I had a very amazing coach. Her name was Cheryl Reeve. She’s the head coach still for the Minnesota Lynx. And she talks about that. It always takes a little luck to win a championship. Athletes know that. You want to know what the athlete’s part of luck that we talk about all the time is? It’s staying healthy. Like that. You have to be lucky to stay healthy. There’s no if ands or buts. Sometimes you might hit a lucky shot. You know, we saw Kawhi Leonard shot balance on the rim and stay up there and hang up there, and, you know, he’ll say it’s skill because, yes, we practice those shots a lot. But the way that it fell, you know, we call it a little bit of luck. But for people to discredit a championship, yes, that’s annoying. People try to discredit the bubble championship. That might be, if we put an asterisk behind it, it might need to be because that was the hardest season ever. Not an asterisk because, oh, this shouldn’t count, for the bubble. And then now to this one. You can’t put an asterisk or discredit a championship just because certain teams have players that weren’t healthy. Like that literally happens every single year.


Jason Concepcion: Every year.


Renee Montgomery: Yes. Maybe not to the magnitude of this year, in a shortened season, in a condensed season. Maybe not this year. We’ve had maybe more injuries, but every year somebody, a key player gets hurt. Come on now. And then to discredit somebody’s journey. I’m telling you right now, the Milwaukee Bucks don’t feel like this was an easier season because people got hurt. They got hurt. Giannis knee bit the wrong way. He got hurt.


Jason Concepcion: Donte DiVincenzo, who is who has been an important part of their team all season, injured, did not play. You’re absolutely right. Injuries are a—


Renee Montgomery: Trae Young stepped on the ref’s foot which changed the dynamics of our whole season.


Jason Concepcion: That’s part of it. Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: You know, like, while I can still yell and joke, like ah, that shoe, if he didn’t step that ref’s foot! But of course, that’s just you got to toss it up to the game, chalk it to the game. So, yeah, I feel you. There’s no way that we can ever, if somebody plays 80 games in a season or 70 games in a season, there’s no nothing. They played a full season of tough night-in-and-night-out work. So yeah. No discrediting any of it.


[voice clip] No one up here has been drinking. First and foremost, how much champagne have each of you consumed? Just I feel like it’s important before we get into this interview.


[laughter, snickers]


Renee Montgomery: OK, so that to me was one of the best moments from the post-win festivities by the Bucks after they defeated the Suns. And we’re lucky enough to be joined by the person who asked the really important question that night. She’s a Turner Sports NBA reporter, host, and also my co-host of WNBA Weekly. My homie, Kristen Ledlow, welcome to Takeline!


Kristen Ledlow: Thank you. You know, I felt like you can’t, there comes a point in the night where, like the hard-hitting journalism and talking about momentum shifts in the third quarter have to be set aside. It’s like I’m watching what you’re doing, should we acknowledge that before we dive into this?


Renee Montgomery: Yes! Listen, yes, you should always acknowledge it. And look, we talked about it, you were in the building for the Bucks and Giannis scored that 50 piece nugget. It was seen all around the world. What was that performance like to see in person from him and just the emotional celebration afterwards? I mean, you were there/


Kristen Ledlow: No. It was stunning to witness, not just what he did— because that was quite obviously stunning—but to, I think the number of Bucks fans that were either in the building or in the surrounding, like several square feet, totaled what would have been good for the fifth largest city in Wisconsin. So like as I hear them, I’m like, wait, so just so just everybody that lives anywhere nearby is here, right now. And what was funny is, so we have a car that comes to pick us up from the hotel, takes us over to the arena. And I was riding along with Isaiah Thomas, our Hall of Famer, Isaiah Thomas. He doesn’t like when I call him old Isaiah Thomas and young Isaiah Thomas.


Renee Montgomery: Shouts to Isaiah Thomas!


Kristen Ledlow: Hall of Famer Isaiah Thomas, and he said, as we’re pulling into the arena, he goes, Oh, man, I would be so looking forward to spoiling this party. I mean, there were just thousands and, like as far as the eye could see. So he was betting that the Suns were going to win solely because of the scene that it was as we were pulling into the arena. But to witness that, I mean, again, one of the most stunning performances that we’ve seen in NBA finals history was one thing. But to watch that like 90 or so thousand fans celebrate a first championship in 50 seasons was . . . stunning, I’ve said far too many times, but I really can’t think of another word.


Jason Concepcion: You are so immersed in, you know, people who are around and covering this game and have been doing so for years, whether it’s your work with TNT, NBA TV, Inside Stuff, et cetera. It feels like to me from the outside looking in that there’s a different energy from those circles about the Bucks win. There’s a real kind of like joy and happiness that it happened this way for this team, for Giannis. Would you say that’s accurate? Is is there like a different energy from people who have been, who follow the sport very closely, like, you know, in comparison to, say, if the Lakers won again or if the Nets had won? It feels different.


Kristen Ledlow: It really does. And that’s a great question. I hadn’t even really thought of it. But, you know, so often casual, I would say casual NBA fans or just sports fans in general, their primary complaint is, oh the seasons already decided before the season begins, well, I don’t need to see LeBron and The Warriors face off in yet another NBA finals. But realistically, if you look over the course of league history, the NBA itself has always been defined by dynasties. It’s been one really great team, season after season after season until somebody finally comes in and dethrones them. And then typically that team is good for season after season after season. And so I think one of the reasons why this feels so exciting is because the season didn’t feel decided before it began. The postseason itself didn’t feel decided before it began. In fact, it felt wide open for the first time in maybe five or six seasons for sure. And so I think that’s one of the reasons that people were so excited. But I think another is, is simply to watch this emerging superstar in Giannis claim his corner in the industry itself. And that was I mean, when you add that to what it took to get there from where he started, it’s simply a story that you couldn’t have written any more incredibly. And it’s a person that I think all of us can get behind and root for. Unless, of course, you’re a Phoenix Suns fan, then I would imagine this story didn’t feel like quite a fairy tale. But I think it’s a combination of all of those things as to why perhaps the casual fan would feel more rooted in it than usual, the Hall of Famer would feel more excited about the emerging superstar. I think they’re just a combination of factors that made people more excited for the Bucks than I would undoubtedly agree with you than in winters past.


Renee Montgomery: You know, that’s interesting because you talk about the history of the league and the dynasties. And I want to get to something real quick when we talk about the NBA and legacy, because I think you had just a really powerful moment on your show with Caron Butler when you were covering the NBA bubble and the players had agreed to come back and play after the season was halted in response to the murder of George Floyd. Now, you covered the league for so long. What, like with everything that’s going on, how the league has been at the forefront of everything going on when it comes to social justice and you’ve covered the league and these players, what impressed you about just how the players have transitioned from standing up for social justice to now, you know, completing another season? Like what has just impressed you about the players the most? Just in that push of everything?


Kristen Ledlow: We’ve created a culture in which there’s, there are a lot of microphones, there’s a lot of noise, and there are a lot of people speaking very loudly into them as well. So to be given one that somehow sounds a little louder than the rest in a moment where the millions of people paying attention, are desperately looking for hope, they’re desperately looking for something to hold on to when it feels like the bottom is falling out—to be given a microphone in a moment like that and to cover the many men and women who are given microphones in moments like those, I think that day that you mentioned with Caron, one of the very first things that I started out saying was I quoted Mallika who said that day, there are those who chronicle history and those who make it. And on this day, I feel very fortunate to be a chronicler of history, and that is very much what this last year and a half has felt like in some ways. And on some days I’ve been asked to speak myself, and on some days I’m simply asked to cover those who are speaking and to have the opportunity to chronicle all that has been in a stretch of days where those who are watching, those who are paying attention, are desperately seeking something to hold on to, has felt like just such a gift.


Jason Concepcion: Wow. What is it what is it about these leagues, the NBA, the W, that place them at the forefront of these kind of conversations? Obviously athletes in other sports in other leagues are outspoken as well but there seems to be a different energy around the NBA and the W with regards to social issues in the way that they are part of the conversation, the way they move the conversation, the way they amplify conversations—it feels decidedly different than than our other sports. You’re so close to these sports, what do you think it is about these sports that, and these leagues that allows that to happen?


Kristen Ledlow: Candace says often, and I don’t want to butcher it because she says it beautifully every time, that the WNBA is, I believe, she says, the majority of the minority.


Renee Montgomery: Majority of the minorities.


Kristen Ledlow: Yes. Right. So it’s not that we all have simply chosen to speak for those who don’t have a voice, it’s that we are the ones who didn’t have one. And so this isn’t as if we’re identifying areas of the culture we’ve created and giving them a voice, it’s simply taking the one that has been given to us and previously wasn’t heard. And so, again, she says it’s so much more beautiful than I can, but that’s one of the many reasons why I believe that my dear friends in the WNBA, Renee included, have chosen to be at the forefront of these conversations. And basketball in and of itself has seemed to be, in my lifetime anyway, at the forefront of our culture. And so it’s not surprising to me that there are basketball players whose voices are the loudest when they’re asked to speak up. I think it just required a moment where everybody stopped long enough to listen.


Renee Montgomery: No, I completely agree. I felt like, you know, I feel, in times like those that’s when leaders stand up and a lot of times in sports, that’s what you’re creating at all times, those leaders. And just to transition a little bit to Olympic hoops, but still talking about leaders, the men’s basketball team had their first loss since 2004, losing to France on Sunday. The women on the other hand, have not lost the game since 1992. Now, we know they played Nigeria on Monday.


Kristen Ledlow: Oh. Yeah [laughs] . . . You don’t even to bring that one up.


Renee Montgomery: Throw that out there in case, in case people didn’t know, the women, I’ll say that again. It is, I did not misspeak. The women have not lost the game since 1992. Now as someone who’s covered basketball as long as you have, how do you see the Olympics playing out for the U.S. basketball team. Is it Operation Gold as normal, or there’s some people that are starting to kind of glance at the panic button on the men’s side and being like we lost two and the exhibition, now we lost one in the actual Olympics. So what are your thoughts?


Kristen Ledlow: Yeah, you know, I think that glancing in the panic button’s direction is fair at this point. [laughs] This is an 82-two game season we’ve got in Tokyo. Realistically, as often as the conversation surrounds, you know, the world catching up, you know, the world has caught up to the United States in terms of basketball talent. And a lot of ways that is true. In other ways, we have got a roster stacked full of the very best individual talent in the world, and I don’t believe that that’s arguable. Unfortunately, a roster of the best individual talent in the world is not, at least in these last couple of weeks, translating into the best team in the world. And so whether that’s roster issues that need addressing, or the offensive scheme we’ve chosen in which to put on the floor, period . . .uh, at this point, again, you can’t argue that we, being Team USA, have the very best talent on the roster. But that doesn’t always mean that you’re going to walk away with a gold medal hanging around your neck. On the other hand, because the women’s team hasn’t lost since I was, I guess I was like 3 1/2.


Jason Concepcion: Our women’s 3 on 3 team also unbeaten right now.


Renee Montgomery: Shouts to the women’s 3×3 squad too.


Jason Concepcion: Kelsey Plum, Jackie Young, Stefanie Dolson.


Renee Montgomery: Stefanie Dolson.


Jason Concepcion: They are crushing people.


Kristen Ledlow: I think that’s been like the most fun addition to the Olympics, the summer, right?


Jason Concepcion: I agree. I agree. It is so watchable.


Kristen Ledlow: It’s is so such good television. Yes.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah. There’s never a play off. Everybody’s cutting and moving. It’s really fun to watch.


Kristen Ledlow: If you’re trying to sell somebody on the game of basketball, it’s like, oh just watch this for a little while. Like, if that doesn’t keep your attention, I don’t know what’s going to. So again, because that was the last time the women lost, I don’t feel like I’m in a fair position as a 3 1/2-year old to analyze the state of that.


Renee Montgomery: So operation gold.


Kristen Ledlow: At least one team is coming back with a gold medal.


Renee Montgomery: Bad a boom, bad a bang!


Jason Concepcion: Around that anxiety around Team USA, it’s so interesting because, obviously, again, the men’s team USA, the women are doing great. It weirdly feels like the kind of casual sporting public only really checks in on Team USA when we lose. Right?


Kristen Ledlow: Absolutely.


Jason Concepcion: You know, obviously like Redeem Team, that was a reaction to a loss. The Dream team, the first great Dream Team was a reaction to losing in ’88 or, you know, not winning the gold medal. If we, if we lose this year, if we don’t medal, what’s sure to come is like a reaction, right, and is it strange to you like I guess, is it strange that we just kind of like, don’t care unless Team USA fails?


Kristen Ledlow: I don’t know if it’s that we don’t care unless they lose, I think it’s more so that we’re not having an ongoing 24-hour conversation surrounding the team unless they lose.


Renee Montgomery: So do we take it for granted then? Is it almost like we assume we’re going to win, until we lose then and it’s like, what we lost?


Kristen Ledlow: Yeah.


Jason Concepcion: It’s some kind of, you know, it’s a natural human instinct when you know that you’re very good at something to go, OK, well, how much can I scale it down?


Kristen Ledlow: If we were presenting some sort of comparable roster to literally any other that were there in Tokyo, then maybe the conversation’s fair, maybe it is the rest of the world has caught up and well look, but the roster is not comparable across the board.


Renee Montgomery: And we’re losing!


Jason Concepcion: You mentioned that, you know, Gregg Popovich, coach of Team USA, was recently quoted talking about Patty Mills and the way he performs when he’s playing for his national team. The rosters of the national teams for other countries are dotted with NBA players, many of them role players, Nando de Colo, for instance, for France. But Daim Lillard said recently, man, when these players go home, they’re just different. Are they different? What is it about them? Is it just the inspiration of playing for their home country? Is it something else? It’s like why do they perform so well?


Renee Montgomery: I think there’s a pride that comes with playing for your—it’s the same as were we want to make the Olympic team. Look, I was a part of the Olympic pool for Team USA, and there is a certain pride when you can represent your whole country, as opposed to 1 of 12 teams in the WNBA.


Jason Concepcion: There’s a difference.


Renee Montgomery: So I think that’s a fair statement. But it’s also very entertaining that the NBA players are like, yo, what’s good? Like all of sudden now, you—?


Kristen Ledlow: Also fair, by the way, I think it’s also worth not simply measuring up the talent on Team USA’s roster in comparison to the talent on any other roster, but also the way in which those rosters are assembled. And realistically, rather than gathering just the very best and most dominant All Star individual players that we can, perhaps it’s worth examining the way in which we build the roster. Because, you know, look at the teams that are beating Team USA and no, on any given day, this is not a roster full of players that should beat this roster full of players, but perhaps they’re more suited for playing together.


Renee Montgomery: No. I mean, that’s the big debate. We’ve heard about it on the women’s side as well. Like, what’s the best complete team? I mean, Trae Young, he went to the Internet to basically say that he didn’t make the team, showed his shoes—which were lit, I love the red, white and blue coler waves.


Kristen Ledlow: I met the criteria, yes, for being selected.


Renee Montgomery: Yeah, to that point—the criteria. I see where you’re going with this. Now I mentioned at the top when I was intro’ing you about WNBA Weekly, which was really the first show dedicated to nothing but the WNBA. Now we just had our All Star game and now we’re in the second half of the season, but like, what storylines are you most excited about heading into the second half of the WNBA season? Because there are a lot.


Kristen Ledlow: First of all, I have missed getting to be in the studio with you the last several weeks, not just because—


Renee Montgomery: Because you’ve been successful! By the way she’s missed because she’s only been covering the NBA finals, so she had to leave us for a couple of weeks. Shame on you Kristen!


Kristen Ledlow: Just for a couple week. I will be back. Oh, man. There was so much hype surrounding the NBA All Star game and the way in which that it was going to be formatted the season. I was so psyched to get to watch like Team USA take on Team All Star, because there was a lot of conversation surrounding it as well, like are these equally-matched All-Star teams? And turns out they are. You know, which again, goes back to a point that you’ve made several times on our show, which is: put together a roster of WNBA talent, three of them, send us all over to the Olympics and we’ll come back with bronze, silver and gold. And that’s no disrespect worldwide, but that’s just speaking as highly as is appropriate of WNBA talent. So quite obviously, I’m psyched about the postseason. I’m always excited—OK, I was a Candace Parker fan long before we worked together. I want to point this out.


Renee Montgomery: I was waiting on it!


Kristen Ledlow: No, I know, I know. I know. I know. I know. I know. But like, I feel like I need to to preface it for those, who like I was a Candace fan long before we met, long before we worked together and long before she agreed to do a show with me. Like, you know, so that’s, like it’s still a: What?! So, you know, I was rooting for her always. But I’m really excited to see what she does for her hometown, you know? And so for me, that’s the like can’t miss, night in and night out, who am I always going to be watching? Who am I always going to be rooting for?


Renee Montgomery: And look, you don’t have to give a disclaimer for your fandom. I like this. We hear all the time reporters on the NBA side who they’re fans of on the NBA side. So, look, I’m here for you saying that you want to see what Candace can do for the city of Chicago, here homecoming.


Kristen Ledlow: That’s something by the way, you and I, Renee, have talked a lot about off the air, that I think needs to be said on the air, which is just the coverage of the W period has been very celebratory for just season after season. Whereas if we want to talk about covering the WNBA the way we cover the NBA, then we are talking about what you’re wearing walking into the arena. We are going to be critical.


Renee Montgomery: Trash talking! Peace!


Kristen Ledlow: Without a doubt, we’re going to talk about the two that we’re going back and forth on Twitter. We’re going, it doesn’t have to be celebratory to get people to watch. It has to simply be part of our culture’s conversation. And that’s one of the things that I’ve really loved about what’s happened in this last season, in this last couple of seasons, just the coverage itself is starting to shift in that direction.


Renee Montgomery: Love it.


Jason Concepcion: She is a host and reporter for Turner, Kristen Ledlow, thanks so much for joining us.


Renee Montgomery: Thank you Kristen!


Kristen Ledlow: Thanks for having me. I was so excited.


[ad break]


Jason Concepcion: Renee, the Olympics are underway and the opening ceremonies took place July 23rd. As of this recording, the United States of America is in second place in the gold medal count, right behind Japan. There’s a lot of controversy about whether this Olympics should take place. But that being said, are you watching it? Is anything stood out to you? Any sports that you’re being introduced to? How’s your Olympic content been?


Renee Montgomery: Yes. Well, my Olympic content has been all over the place. I have been in a very tough moral dilemma, Jason. I really have. We have things starting at 3 a.m. And 4 a.m.


Jason Concepcion: I know!


Renee Montgomery: I have to adult the next day. I’m supposed to be talking to the next day so I want to get sleep. But I also want to watch stuff live. Because then when I wake up and I check Twitter and everybody’s telling me everything that happened in the men’s game versus France, and I’m like, Ah! And even though I watched it at 4 p.m. on Sunday, it just wasn’t the same, as I already knew what to expect. You know, sports just aren’t the same live. So I had to to just say that because I have really been struggling. Like I want to watch everything. To answer your question, I’ve got to catch a couple of 3×3 games, and I think that that has been the breakout of the Olympics in a sense of we all knew it was coming. There was, you know, in the basketball world, you know, I’ve done a lot of different things with Red Bull and other companies trying to push 3×3 to make it more stable here in the United States. But to see it now on the Olympic stage, I mean, it is as good as advertised. And I think that it can get your, all different types of viewership. But what I’m really waiting on is: bring me the track and field! #LetShaCarriRun. She should be out there. But track and field is my favorite part of the Olympics, so that’s what I’m really waiting on, Jason.  What about you? What are you looking forward to? What you into?


Jason Concepcion: The 3×3 has been super fun. Like really, really, really fun. As a basketball fan, it is, there’s always something happening. You can kind of zone in on any player on defense or on offense at any point during any play and learn something about the game. And there’s no plays off. First of all, these players are, you know, on a 5 on 5 game in the W or the NBA, sometimes, you know, you’ll see someone who’s tired. They’ll jog up the court.


Renee Montgomery: Yep!


Jason Concepcion: They’ll go to the corner, they’ll go stand in the corner. They’ll do something to take a take a possession off—they’re no possessions off in the 3×3. It is cutting and moving off a made basket. You’re trying to get the ball back. You’re trying to get the ball to your inside person. You’re trying to space. There’s so much happening all the time and it’s been super, super fun to watch. Skateboarding has been really fun and ping pong. I think that there, I agree with you, it’s hard to follow sometimes .I personally think this is going to be a hot take, hot take from me. I think there are too many sports. I think if your sport—


Renee Montgomery: Oh goodness.


Jason Concepcion: I think if the, I think if you have an international competition that is bigger than the Olympics, then you shouldn’t be in the Olympics. Like for soccer—football for the rest of the world—I don’t think soccer should be an Olympic sport because I think the World Cup is way bigger than the Olympics. Like that’s the pinnacle competition, right? So I don’t, baseball, I don’t know if they should be there, like that’s—but track and field, weightlifting. The Philippines just won their first ever Olympic gold medal behind Hidilyn Diaz.


Renee Montgomery: OK.


Jason Concepcion: Congrats to her. Congrats to the country. First gold medal in close to one hundred years. But like stuff like that, track and field, weightlifting, Greco-Roman wrestling—all that kind of stuff. One hundred percent should be in there. I think that there’s a lot of other sports that maybe shouldn’t make it. But I’ve been really enjoying 3×3 and really enjoying the skateboarding—super fun. And ping pong—excuse me, table tennis. I call it ping pong. I’m sorry if that’s disrespectful to the table tennis athletes, but I enjoy watching that a lot.


Renee Montgomery: We mean no disrespect here!


Jason Concepcion: You mentioned Sha’Carri, we should say—so of course, Sha’Carri Richardson was not allowed to participate in the Olympics due to a positive test for marijuana, a substance that everyone agrees is not a performance enhancer, but is technically against the rules and it is a banned substance by the IOC. There is, one of the controversies currently revolving around the US and the Olympics in general is the inclusion of Alan Hadzic, who is a fencer. Mr. Hadzic has numerous accusations of sexual impropriety lodged against him by three individuals, those three individuals are supported by numerous witness statements, and he was initially suspended from fencing activities. That was overturned on June 29th. SafeSport, which is the nonprofit independent agency that was created in 2017, in part as a reaction to the Larry Nassar abuse incidents, as allowed Mr. Hadzic to be part of the Olympics. He can’t stay at the Olympic Village. They’ve created this entire structure around keeping other athletes safe. He has to have somebody with him when he’s around other athletes. And it is notable to me how far Sports Safe and the U.S. Olympic Committee is going to bend the rules or amend the rules in order to allow this person to play, versus the situation with Sha’Carri, where it’s like: well, those are the rules and the rules are the rules, and the rules are the rules, and that’s it. What do you think of this and, how—


Renee Montgomery: Jason! This is a hot mess!


Jason Concepcion: How many times can we see two, two sets of rules for people in sports, in various forms of life, before we change this?


Renee Montgomery: This is a hot mess. #LetShaCarriRun. This, it’s just silly to me because I’m just, it just blows my mind that there’s certain rules that whenever it’s brought up, and for instance marijuana, it’s like, no, no, no, that’s been set in stone since 1998 and we can’t change it.


Jason Concepcion: Right. We can’t do that.


Renee Montgomery: Of course not. We’re not going to change the rules for anybody. That’s silly. All the athletes have to play by the same rules. These are tweets that I kept seeing about when it came to Sha’Carri. Oh no. Athletes don’t get to get preferential treatment. No, we’re not going to create a whole different set of rules. Yes you did. Look what they did for Alan. I mean, that’s literally a whole different set of rules.


Jason Concepcion: I 100% agree with you. He’s not saying the Olympic Village. He’s got to have somebody around him. They’ve created this entire structure around him, so that this person who again, he’s not even a starter, he’s there to replace somebody if somebody gets injured, he’s coming off the bench. Sha’Carri was a, is a star.


Renee Montgomery: At what point does SafeSport and whoever else like, why didn’t they give Sha’Carri that same type of energy? Why didn’t they keep that same energy when it came to Sha’Carri Richardson that they kept for Alan? Like if he’s going to be able to stay 30 minutes away from Olympic Village, take his own flight, get all these other preferential treatments—and look, they are preferential treatment because he has to have a baby sitter with him at all times. Well, why didn’t they put a baby sitter on—


Jason Concepcion: Yes. They just created a job for somebody. You just hired—


Renee Montgomery: Why didn’t we get a babysitter for Sha’Carri then? Hey, Sha’Carri, you can’t do marijuana while you’re at the Olympics so we’re going to have a babysitter with you that make sure that you don’t do it in case you have a relapse. Why didn’t they give her that same energy, is all I’m saying, because a lot of people have very strong opinions about how, well Sha’Carri knew the rules and she broke them. Well, does Alan know the law? Because if these allegations are true and he has broken the actual law in the United States, well, what makes this so different? And that’s what I mean by people have so many opinions when it comes to one thing, but when we look at the system and how the system is breaking things down, well, why did Alan get to perform and Sha’Carri didn’t? That, that’s the question that everybody has to answer then. Both of them apparently broke some type of rules that needed some preferential treatment. But one got it and one didn’t.


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, it’s it is really, really startling the levels that we are willing to go to, apparently to allow this guy to compete. He was suspended from Columbia, where he, where he also competed as a fencer in 2013-2014 because of an investigation into similar allegations. This has been going on again for a while. It’s honestly startling. And I think regarding SafeSport, obviously something needed to be done when the hideous Nassar crimes came to light. It is still a black eye on the US Olympic Committee that that went on for such a long amount of time, that people knew about it, and it was not brought to light for as long as it was going on. But I think regarding SafeSport, it’s unclear to me whether SafeSport is there to actually protect the athletes or whether it’s there to protect the U.S. Olympic Committee from, like lawsuits. You know what I mean? Like, it feels like whatever the mission is there, allowing a person with multiple credible allegations of sexual misconduct to the point where people on his own team are like: I don’t feel safe around this guy.


Renee Montgomery: Jason! Say that again. People on his own team!


Jason Concepcion: People on his own fencing team say this is a disgrace that he is allowed to be here, and I don’t feel safe. The fact that Safe—it’s in the name SafeSport, safe is in the name of the agency—the fact that SafeSport somehow is powerless to do anything about this is insane to me. That is ridiculous. And they need to figure out as an agency, like what’s your, what’s your mission?


Renee Montgomery: Well, they’re really a nonprofit created as an independent agency in 2017 to safeguard athletes in Olympic-related sports from sexual, emotional, and physical abuse.


Jason Concepcion: Right.


Renee Montgomery: They oversaw both decisions that we’re talking about. So, yeah, they we really have to figure out what side does SafeSport—


Jason Concepcion: What’s your mission!?


Renee Montgomery: What do they—like because are they protecting the other fencing athletes from Alan? Maybe that’s like, you know, I’m seeing it multiple ways. Is that, like hey, we know the decision that was made, so this is the best way that we can protect the other athletes from Alan, is that what they did? I don’t know but I’m just trying to figure out because I don’t, I just think that man, that’s a lot of effort put into letting somebody with a history and allegations perform in the Olympics, which should be an honor to represent your country. I feel like we’re doing a lot for Alan. That’s just my personal. I feel like we’re doing the most.


Jason Concepcion: I want to read this this snippet from a BuzzFeed article about this incident. This is from the article “On May 20th, Angen and a group of Team USA fencers, including two Olympians, emailed the US Olympic Committee expressing their “deep concern” about Hadzic’s potential presence in Tokyo.” These are members of his team, again. Continuing in the article “a few days later, in an email reviewed by BuzzFeed News, the Olympic Committee replied that they had shared the matter with SafeSport, provided a list of mental health services, including a subscription to the meditation app Headspace and another, quote “app that provides athletes with a suite of online tools and courses that help athletes identify, understand, and address their mental health.” “That was their only response,” Angen said. “It was unbelievable.”” They gave them a subscription toSHeadspace.


Renee Montgomery: I don’t know if Headspace would make me feel safe.


Jason Concepcion: No, this is going back eight years. This is going back eight years some of these allegations, it’s really nuts. And again, not a crucial member of the team. A bench guy! A fill-in in case someone gets injured!


Renee Montgomery: It’s really scary. And then just to see, and just kind of, Sha’Carri Richardson had been working to perform in this Olympics for a minimum of four years. Most athletes worked their whole lives. And the reason that is so tough is because, yes, she broke the rules by partaking in marijuana, in a city that it was legal in. But to, for somebody’s hopes, dreams, aspirations, blood, sweat and tears to be taken away that easily over, we know her biological mother. And then not to mention, here’s another thing: Megan Rapinoe, along with other athletes, are sponsored by a CBD company. And yes, I know there’s a difference between CBD and THC, and I understand that there’s a difference. But when all of this is around the cannabis topic and we have athletes openly expressing that they’re using parts of cannabis, you know, like when you talk about marijuana, there’s medicinal purposes that people use for it. Even when you talk about like anxiety, pain, you know, people use it. Cancer patients are known to use it. We know that there’s benefits. And now athletes are coming out saying they’re using CBD. And now it makes it even more crazy that this Sha’Carri Richardson situation is happening, because look what’s going on.


Jason Concepcion: It’s really nuts. It’s really nuts. I mean, it just shows you like how how structural racism and structural injustice kind of works, right? It’s not always about, you know, rank brutality or someone calling someone a slur. What it often is, in the way that these structures interact with people’s lives, like on a daily basis, is are we willing to give one person the benefit of the doubt and not the other person? Are we willing to figure something out to allow one person to compete or to have a job or to do something to interact with society or the economy or whatever, and are we not willing to allow that for another person? And that’s basically what we have here, right? With Sa’Carri, that’s the letter of the law sorry. We looked into it. We’d love to change the rules. Maybe we’ll look into that later. We agree that marijuana is legal in half the country, but we can’t change the rules right now. We can’t do that. For Mr. Hadzic, it’s OK, well, we’ll give everybody else a mental health apps that they can listen to and we’ll make him stay off campus. But, you know, listen, due process is what it is.


Renee Montgomery: Crazy. Give him his own flight!


Jason Concepcion: Yeah, give him his own—but due process is what it is, and the wheels of justice must turn and the investigation must be allowed to run its course. It’s just, it’s ridiculous and it makes you insane.


Renee Montgomery: It’s silly. And then, you know, Megan Rapinoe, she had an article in Forbes come out about this whole situation, not specifically Sha’Carri, but her being sponsored by CBD company. And she makes a very valid point as to why we need to stop the foolishness, stop the madness, she said: we’re expected to perform on the biggest stages and highest levels, yet we can’t use all-natural products to help us recover? She also went on to say: it’s not right and these policies need to be changed to reflect where our culture is. That’s the point where our culture is now. You know, there wasn’t a, there wasn’t a lot of research when it came to marijuana, medicinal uses of it when a lot of these rules were in place. They didn’t know all the effects, how you could break it down, only use certain parts, and this and that. But now that we do know, we can’t just keep the same rules and policies and regulations as if we don’t know. It makes no sense. We need to adjust with the times. And so this was just a great opportunity for the Olympic Committee to adjust with the times in real time and say, OK, Sha’Carri, we know that she broke the rules, but as we know with where we’re going in medicinal use for marijuana, we understand that that’s not a big deal, and so she can, come on USA, she could have still ran the 4×1. I mean, come on. Like, that’s that’s the thing, there shouldn’t even be a stigma as to oh, well, we’re not going to have Sha’Carri run the 4×1 because it’s maybe not a good look that she got dinged for using mari—what are you talking about!? She should definitely be at least running in the 4×1. It’s like we’re past this, right? Like, aren’t we past this?


Jason Concepcion: Apparently not.


[ad break]


[Take Survivor]


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.


Renee Montgomery: Let’s go!


Jason Concepcion: Takeline is a Crooked Media production. The show is produced by Carlton Gillespie and Zuri Irvin. Our executive producers are myself and Sandy Girard. Our contributing producers are Caroline Reston, Elija Cone and Jason Gallagher. Engineering, editing and sound design by Sarah Gibble-Laska and the folks at Chapter Four. And our theme music is produced by Brian Vásquez.