In This Episode
ESPN NFL analyst Mina Kimes comes on to give her hot take on how analysts should and shouldn’t talk about sexual assault and institutional bad behavior. One idea: Never again utter the phrase “off-field issues.”
And introducing “With Adorables Like These” – interviews with Crooked staff and guests about the animal companions they love. This week’s guest is Scooter and his human Dayanita Ramesh.
Ana Marie Cox: Hi, I’m Ana Marie Cox. Welcome to With Friends Like These. Now one thing that some people don’t know about me is that I am a big football fan. And I married into a Villanova family, which means I’ve gained an interest in college basketball by osmosis. But even if you aren’t a sports fan, you probably realize that fandom is for good progressive feminists like myself, problematic. Even after the industry’s reckoning on race, which was led by athletes, there’s still a lot to be uncomfortable with. Double standards about sexual assault, corruption, double standards for men and women’s sports, how people even talk about that stuff. That’s why I wanted to talk to Mina Kimes. Mina Kimes been on the show before, we talked about a big story she wrote on the Olympic gymnastics team scandal. But since then, she’s been promoted by ESPN out of reporting and is now the channel’s only female NFL analyst. She is also the only female Korean-American analyst. This interview was recorded in early April. So there are references to Baylor University’s March Madness win, as well as what were then new allegations against the Houston Texans quarterback, Deshaun Watson. This is all still relevant. So we do talk about sexual assault. If you’re not up for listening to a conversation that contains that right now, take a break. Come back later. We’ll be here for you. Coming right up, ESPN’s Mina Kimes.
Ana Marie Cox: Mina, welcome to the show.
Mina Kimes: Glad to be back.
Ana Marie Cox: You are an NFL analyst for ESPN.
Mina Kimes: That is my title. Yes. Officially.
Ana Marie Cox: You are—just to get out of the way—you’re the only female NFL analyst on ESPN.
Mina Kimes: Yea. So we have a lot of really great NFL reporters, and hosts, including the host of the show I’m on NFL Live. But my job being an analyst is being an opinionator. So doing analysis is exactly what it sounds like. And that is, that is new.
Ana Marie Cox: Yes. And I want to sort of dove into that a little bit further. But first, I actually going to tell you something I found just kind of poking around before the interview, which is that The Guardian ranked you as the second best commentator on ESPN.
Mina Kimes: Yeah, I didn’t know my mom was writing for The Guardian, but that’s cool.
Ana Marie Cox: Runner up to Domonique Foxworth, who I’m also a fan of. I believe a friend of yours.
Mina Kimes: Yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And they liked him because he’s willing to criticize the league and talk about banjoes.
Mina Kimes: Banjoes. Huh.
Ana Marie Cox: That’s what they said. I haven’t heard that particular soliloquy. But I want to read to you what they said “whereas Foxworth works with a player gone corporate gone Rogue personality, Kimes works in the reverse space. A former business reporter, Kimes brings an objective, intellectual numbers-based approach to understanding the game, a rarity among ESPN’s growing lineup of hot-air blowers. Insightful and informative. She’s a brilliant writer. Her podcast provides an excellent look at the league and pep talks.”
Mina Kimes: Well, I think I’m not a rarity. I do think we have a lot of folks who are using numbers, including—
Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] I won’t ask you to comment on your colleagues. I’m actually, but I am curious, what do you think of that write-up?
Mina Kimes: I do, I will say I do try to, people always ask me, what experience do you drawn from your prior career, not as a sportswriter, but as a business writer? I was a business journalist for about eight or nine years before moving over to sports. And I think I would, the obvious answer is I do use numbers, statistics, and I like them. I think you can learn a lot of things from them. I think the information you get from is also growing in really cool and exciting ways, a lot of which is being led by statistics people at ESPN. But also I was a investigative reporter and I think maybe ask questions in a way that stems from my background.
Ana Marie Cox: You know, it didn’t occur to me to ask you this till just now, but I feel like having that numbers-based financial background, investigative reporting background, it gives you a kind of amusing—I’m torn between using the words armor and foundation for your opinions. Because being a woman on the Internet in general, and having opinions at the same time, is tough. And you probably know that more than most because having opinions about sports is really tough. So do you think, I was going to ask you just straight up, like, how do you deal with it? But part of me wonders, like his having that kind of like, knowing your shit helpful?
Mina Kimes: Actually, mentally, it is helpful because you get the same feedback and then if you know what you’re saying is coming from a place of facts, that feedback hits you different. It feels different because you realize it tends to be oriented towards things like tone and appearance or just general feel. And, you know, I always tell people when they ask me how I’m affected or not affected by backlash or criticism, I’m only effected when I feel like there’s a grain of truth, or when it’s like substantive. And I think bringing quantitative analysis to the conversation, you know, it gives you a little bit of, it gives you an arsenal to deal with that, frankly. You said armor, I’ll say arsenal. And I’d say it gives you confidence, which is going from the shift from being a writer to an analyst, the biggest difference is not the content of my work. Which is very different. But the fact that it requires much more confidence in my presentation and as a person. And so having research—and I’m sure you feel the same way when you’ve read up on someone or a topic, you feel more confident in every aspect, asking questions, doing analysis. I feel exactly the same way talking about football.
Ana Marie Cox: But we also are going to have to talk about things that are not exactly football, and you have to talk about things that are not exactly football. I have many questions that deal with you, but unfortunately, as you and I predicted and we talked before the show, there are things in the news to talk about. The first one being Deshaun Watson, who is in the news when we first talked. Now, as of today, 22 sexual misconduct allegations. So I feel, you tell me, I feel like what’s happening with him is a really extreme thing, and maybe not the best example for us to start with in terms of talking about how the league deals with these kinds of allegations. But I, you are, in fact, the expert.
Mina Kimes: Well I’d say, his case, cases, which is very much still in its infancy right now because the league recently—like this all just came out over the last two or three weeks, I want to say it was the first one. And it came out in a very bizarre way that I think is really important to our discussion of it, because when the first allegation came out, it involved a lawyer who was kind of divisive in the Houston area and may, and people thought originally that he was close with the owner of the Texans. And for those who don’t know, Deshaun Watson, who’s one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL and is very beloved and is this advocate for social change and all these things that have really endeared him to both fans and reporters, he had demanded a trade out of Houston. So this allegation, this lawyer who’s divisive and had this connection to the team, and I think everybody and by everyone, I mean fans, reporters, analysts, players, everyone, people thought: wait, OK, like what’s, what’s going on here? There’s a lot of weirdness. And then another allegation came out, and then another allegation, all through the same lawyer. And these are civil lawsuits being brought. They were telling a range of similar stories involving massage therapists who had said he either crossed a line or outright assaulted them. Then Sports Illustrated did a story involving a woman who was not affiliated, who was not suing him at the time and not affiliated with this lawyer, and didn’t even say that he had assaulted her. But again, told a pretty similar story. Then—and this is literally the day where we talked—two of the women came out and one of them did a press conference, but they put their names out there. So it’s extreme because of the number. It’s extreme because Deshaun Watson is one of the faces of the league. And a lot of the other cases we’re talking about, ranging from Ray Rice in 2014, through more recently, some other players, are less famous and thus more expendable in the eyes of teams. It’s unfortunately, though, not a really good platform to talk about the league’s handling because the league hasn’t actually done anything yet. So on shows that I’m on, usually when we give commentary, we’re responding to a punishment or lack thereof. Right now, we’re just saying this is a thing that’s happening, here is the reporting on it, but we’re not responding to any punishment or any action because there hasn’t been a moment to do it, there hasn’t been time for an action to take place.
Ana Marie Cox: Are you having to analyze it as a issue for him as a professional, though?
Mina Kimes: So at first, yeah . . .
Ana Marie Cox: Does this affect his trade chances? [laughs]
Mina Kimes: Pretty much they’ve gone out the window. I know, you laugh, but like this was something that we debated: do we talk about this as a football topic? Because up until the day before the story came out, that’s how we were talking about it. This was a, he is a player who is amazing and who teams were willing to send everything, all the draft picks, everything they could for a chance to get. And it was this juicy NFL story, and it was ahead of the draft so early in the draft picks. And suddenly, you know after the first allegation were like: well, maybe it still is . . . And as time went by became increasingly clear, no, this trade is very likely not happening. And frankly, it shouldn’t happen because any team that would make this sort of trade would be signaling exactly what they thought of the allegations and that, regardless of how mealy-mouthed you are that you, like various people, have been talking about this, I think we can all agree that that would have been outrageous.
Ana Marie Cox: How do you see that conversation evolving? Because to me, is it at least an improvement that you’re having the conversation off air about whether or not you’re going to talk about it explicitly, or still things kind of in the Stone Age?
Mina Kimes: No. Things, I mean, Jeez Louise, the way we talk about it now versus 2014 when the Ray Rice story happened, it’s evolved not just in sports media, but during games. You know, when, or during the NFL draft. If you go back and watch some of the broadcasts and the drafts and the shows and the way these things used to be discussed in the past, it, like many things in the past, would not age well at all. And I think collectively people in and around sports do a better job of discussing it now. However you, like I said, you still here off-the-field issues and you know, people try to find, I wouldn’t say, soften it, but they don’t want to get into nuance. And in part because a lot of times people are afraid of getting something wrong, and they haven’t cared enough to do the research. For me, something I get asked a lot, and I know we’re going to talk about is: well is there any room for redemption, are you canceling them? And the number one thing I always say I’m sure we’ll talk about that is: I always want to look at every story, every case, every instance, male, female, baseball, football, whatever, on a case-by-case basis, but most importantly, I just want to say what fucking happened. I just want to be specific. I think that in itself is the most important place we can start on any of these is just, if the guy is accused of rape, say he was accused of rape. If this woman was accused of domestic violence, say she was accused of domestic violence, don’t say drama or off-the-field or red flag—just say what it is! And that in itself isn’t a judgment. And that’s you know, it’s, you’re not saying anything, I think necessarily unfair. You’re just saying the truth. And we still aren’t even there.
Ana Marie Cox: Do those conversations before air, have they started to change?
Mina Kimes: Yeah, I mean, as someone who has those conversations not only with producers, but with colleagues of mine, primarily male colleagues, I do, I have noticed that there’s a greater level of knowledge around all of it: the way we talk about it, the fact that we talk about it, the urgency.
Ana Marie Cox: So Baylor University men’s basketball team just won NCAA championship. I’m mad about that personally because I just on principle hate Baylor. But there’s also a story there, which is that in 2003, that program was investigated because one person murdered another person on the team, one basketball player murdered another basketball player. And when further investigation was done, there was drug use, there was pay-to-play, there was like all kinds of wrong things happening—not any sexual assault that I know of. Unusual for Baylor. And they got suspended. They got to a no conference play for a year. It decimated their program. They didn’t have another winning season for like five years. I bring this up not just because I am biased against Baylor, but because when they won, the commentators were all like: oh, such a good thing for this program, these programs come such a long way. That seemed like a weird lacuna to me. But maybe I’m just too much of a TCU fan. I am willing to be convinced otherwise.
Mina Kimes: First I said, or as we just discussed, being specific, not using euphemisms, not trying to soften or description. The other thing is viewing these sort of incidents that you and I were talking about—and not viewing, but not characterizing them as adversity or obstacles to overcome. And that’s something, again, when you go when you when you watch old broadcasts—their recent, I don’t know why I’m saying old—but it’s an issue that I, and I think a lot of people, cringed over the years we would hear a crime or any sort of, you know, incident of the kind we’re discussing being characterized as something that an athlete is overcome. That’s, it sounds so crazy coming off of my lips, right? Like just that, how on earth would anyone think that’s how you should characterize that? But it is how it’s been characterized for a long time. And I think, it’s wild to me that it still happens. And I think that’s what you’re describing.
Ana Marie Cox: I think so. I mean, I tend to agree. I also was going to say, I thought you might be a little more sympathetic to the idea of not mentioning it. I’m glad to hear that you, it sounds like it would be good to put context on some things. Like that was my main argument with it seriously, is that you should, if you’re going to talk about how a program has come a long way . . . [laughs]
Mina Kimes: I always say, that sometimes some people object with—I’d love to hear your thoughts—I feel like there are, one thing I found, like I’m an analyst. Most of the time we’re talking about X’s and O’s. Literally it would be not only unapproved, but I think demeaning to certain incidents, if I was saying: well, and Antonio Brown had three touchdowns, oh, and by the way, he was also accused of sexual buh, buh, buh—and then just moved on. So there are certain situations, I think, where we’re talking, where it’s inappropriate, it doesn’t feel pertinent to the conversation unless I’m talking about that athlete’s life and biography and who they are. And then the other thing is, if you’re not equipped to talk about it, just don’t do it. And that hasn’t stopped a lot of people.
Ana Marie Cox: I was going to say that’s—
Mina Kimes: Maybe that’s like too much of a hall pa—like, I don’t know. But that’s how I feel sometimes listening to it.
Ana Marie Cox: Obviously, like I have the long memory of a rival fan. Right? That’s why I could think about that. What I was thinking about when I was putting together the questions for you, though, was something that, know, my husband has said when I bring this up, which is you can’t blame the current players. Right? Like when a program has some history to it. I am sympathetic to that argument. I really, really am. But I also think that sports fans have been allowed to live in a vacuum for a long time. And just consume their entertainment as though it was, existed in a bubble. This past year, we have seen that bubble be punctured just really sharply, right? And so maybe I’m asking too much for on top of all that, be reminded of a murder case while One Shining Moment is being played. [laughs]
Mina Kimes: I would say, like you don’t want to blame the current players. And I agree with that. I think that’s accurate. Then don’t make this a story of triumph for the program. Make it a story of triumph for the players. And, you know, I mean, choose your words carefully, because once you start talking about a program or any entity or person that was around when the bad things happened, then you do, you are obligated to change what you say.
Ana Marie Cox: Yeah, I agree. And I don’t, I want to be clear, I don’t damn the people that didn’t mention my particular pet peeve here, or who don’t mention during the X’s and O’s conversation, like every single bad thing that any player has ever done. Right? Because I agree, as a fan, you know, of perhaps social justice warrior fan, but still a fan, I don’t particularly want my football interrupted by a soliloquy, or even an aside [laughs] about stuff that isn’t happening on the field right now. But when I think about the Baylor question, it goes to this institution’s question, which you’re right, like maybe one way out of this for someone who’s doing analysis or commentating is just to leave the institutions out of it. Right?
Mina Kimes: If you’re going to tell someone story, you have to tell the whole story. You don’t have to tell their story, frankly. And that’s the decision I make all the time when I’m talking about sports. I mean, frankly, most of time, just because I’m the analyst, I’m talking about stuff that happens on the field. I think the commission only feels glaring to me when the story is introduced at all. When we hear about the adversity or the biography or the year or how did this player end up here? And then you have to tell the truth. But that’s a decision you can make, not whether to tell the truth, but whether to tell the story to begin with.
Ana Marie Cox: The reason, one of the reasons I brought up institutions is partially because I do want to get to talk about the league, I guess.
Mina Kimes: Sure.
Ana Marie Cox: But also because that puncture of the sports bubble that happened—it’s always, always been a little needle pricks to it, but like I said, some big daggers to it this past year, from the pandemic to George Floyds’ death—I feel like it is perhaps good to remind people who watch sports that there is a, there is a whole structure of power that is happening, you know. Like, again, not during a game perhaps, but that you’re participating in something, like when you watch sports, like it’s a, it’s a thing. Like if you—and I believe this is something you and I talked about a lot last time you were on—that just as a female football fan or sports fan in general, I guess, too, there’s always a double awareness, or at least there is for me, and I I think there’s for you, of like I’m both enjoying this thing, and there’s also like some stuff that I don’t like about it. Right? And I think a lot of straight white men get to watch sports and not have that double awareness.
Mina Kimes: I think a lot of people also just choose not to. I mean, you’re right, but just to take you back to Watson, because this is a story that’s in the news right now and I’m having a lot of conversations with people in and around football, people who love football, and I have friends of, I found that I have male friends who are analysts, who some were white, who are saying: like, this is, I just, this is, I’m struggling with this, this is hitting me hard, I am deeply affected by this. And then I have some who are just totally oblivious to it. And you can’t even, it doesn’t even occur to them that this is a thing that’s bothering people right now, and people are battling with how to talk about it.
Ana Marie Cox: I have to ask, do you feel like you knew Deshaun Watson? Not necessarily as a person, but as from reporting on him? I’m sure you’ve had interactions with him.
Mina Kimes: Yeah, I’ve never interviewed him or profiled him. And I think that would be a very complicated experience right now. And I know it is from people I know who have. You know, I’ve had the experience, though, in the past where I’ve reported on people and then learned some things—nothing like this, but some things have kind of changed the way I feel and for me, it’s always been a reminder that watching someone excel at something and spending a few hours with them doesn’t mean you know them. And that’s relevant to this story. And I think, again, to other stories, because what often happens is, you know, that sometimes it’s involves good athletes, just famous people in general, and everyone says: yeah, not really surprised by this. But sometimes you’ll have people come out and say: well, this is the person I know. And this is often the case, by the way, with sexual assault, domestic violence, crimes against women—people will say: well that wasn’t my experience with him. Well, you know what? Your experience is not universal, and I think that’s something we as a society still struggle with, we struggle to understand, and we especially struggle to understand it when we’re talking about people who have delighted, entertained us, impressed us in other ways.
Ana Marie Cox: We’ll be right back with more Mina Kimes in just a minute.
Ana Marie Cox: I want to talk about those other punctures to the sports bubble that happened in the past year and perhaps ongoing. You’ve had kind of an inside view this year that has been, sports have been enormously affected by politics and by the world events. And I know you’re an X’s and O’s person, but I’m more curious about that view from the inside, from talking to colleagues, the meetings you’ve had and that kind of thing—less what you’ve said on the air, less that that kind of stuff—but more what that’s been like.
Mina Kimes: Yeah, well, you know, I would say we do talk about culture society, sports race—God, race over the last summer is, on a lot of the shows I do, outside of NFL live, I’m on Highly Questionable, Around The Horn and we get into it a lot, and we can’t not, I think, especially over the last year or so. And, you know, I’ll never forget, like one year ago, I was flying home from New York when the NBA games were canceled after Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus and that moment was such a stark reminder that sports are the stage upon which a lot of these issues play out for the nation in real time. And then you get to the summer whereas the protests on behalf of Black Lives Matter are happening round the summer, you see so many athletes leading the way, and debating how with, whether, if, sports should be the stage again for these issues to play out, and whether or not they’re a distraction or an amplifier. And you see a range of opinions from athletes on that. I think for me, it was just a reminder of, OK, my job here is to, really it’s not dissimilar from what it is when I’m just actually talking about sports. It’s to take in information, educate myself, become smarter, and then give educated opinions, and convey and synthesize this information in a way for our audience that can actually make them smarter, entertained, all of those things. And I felt that burden over the last year, probably more than I ever had before.
Ana Marie Cox: What do you mean by that?
Mina Kimes: Not only do I feel like, did I feel—do I still feel like I want to discuss whatever I’m discussing on television and sound—and not just sound, but say the quote unquote “right things” because I don’t want to talk out of my ass, but now I’m talking about things with major consequences. Things that, you know, I, I mean, again, especially over the last, like—covering a league that’s 70% Black, talking about issues like criminal justice most, predominantly this year, that affect these men. That’s an enormous responsibility. I’m on television in front of hundreds of thousands of people, I’m conveying that these players are talking about this and why it’s important. That’s a big burden. And I already feel a burden because of who I am, you know, and what that means. But that amplified that only more for me. And I hope I live up to it, but I often feel like I fall short.
Ana Marie Cox: What do you mean by who you are, the burden of who you are?
Mina Kimes: Well, that’s more for the Xs and Os-sized things, but like you said at the beginning, my job at ESPN, NFL analyst, is unique for a woman to have that job. So not only, you know, intellectually I know that I shouldn’t feel additional pressure to not get things wrong, to be perfect or whatever, but my heart knows that there are people turning on television who—forget judging me to a higher standard or believing that I’m a diversity hire, something I get told pretty much every day—but also people who, like I have the ability to change their minds, or open their, their hearts to what a person can do in this space. I always think about Asian-Americans or young women expanding their ideas of what kind of jobs are possible, what kind of—not just what kind of jobs are possible, like what kind of self presentation is possible, quite frankly. So that is something I feel acutely as a responsibility, even talking about something as dumb as the Cardinals pass rushing in 2021. [laughter] Pretty self-agonizing.
Ana Marie Cox: I believe I have told you, you have one of the best Zoom room backgrounds of anyone in television.
Mina Kimes: I’m not in front of it. I feel bad.
Ana Marie Cox: It contains, among other things, a Pavement album cover, which you’ve won my heart, already.
Mina Kimes: Different kind of representation. Every day, a 38-year old white man in America turns on ESPN and feels represented by me.
Ana Marie Cox: And falls in love. But so you have a beautiful background. You do have also, I noticed, a Korean flag. Have you had that there a long time?
Mina Kimes: No, I put it there, I’m sure you can actually probably figure it out just by looking at my clips. I think probably about six months ago or so. I just found it in my house and I was kind of looking at my backdrop and thinking about the things that people turn on their TV and see. And, you know, if I’m going to appeal to that 38-year old white dude who grew up listening to a Guided by Voice and stuff, I might as well appeal to another population that I care about very much. And so I stuck it in my plant.
Ana Marie Cox: Do you hear from young women, young Asian-American women? What do you hear from them?
Mina Kimes: Just said they’re excited to see themselves on TV. And see themselves represented in a way that’s of different and, you know, especially now at a moment, I think, when Asian-Americans are more conscious of their Asian-Americaness and how they’re perceived by many other people in this country, more than ever, and feeling that pain and fear—and at times fear—I think it’s meaningful to feel pride and to have that pride broadcast, you know, at 2:30 pm Eastern on ESPN
Ana Marie Cox: In case anyone wanted to tune in.
Mina Kimes: Yes. Or 4:00, for NFL Live, Eastern.
Ana Marie Cox: Last ad break.
Ana Marie Cox: Were you worried about backlash when you put that flag in?
Mina Kimes: Nah. I get a little time. Actually it has, it has amped up. So a lot of the bad stuff I get—I would say ninety nine, nah, 95% of it is sexual, not racial. It’s about gender. And so it’s not always sexual too—sorry that is probably the wrong way to put it—it’s about me being a woman. But I have noticed recently, it’s amped up a little bit on the racial side, too. There’s a guy on Instagram who responds to everything I post calling me a racial slur that I won’t repeat here, and that, I have noticed that kind of thing picking up over the last few months.
Ana Marie Cox: I’m curious, what do you get asked a lot, what is the thing that people want to know?
Mina Kimes: Gosh, I would say the greatest hits compilation for me: what is it like being a woman sports media and how do you deal with the backlash? It’s actually changed a lot, is the truth, because I used to say: oh, it’s, you got to process it this way, and talk to these people, and this kind of thing. And what I say now is: I really don’t read it anymore. Because something I’ve learned a lot about myself over the last years is that I’m incapable of growing the sort of tough skin I’ve been advocating. And so I just look a lot less. And I don’t, I like have my Twitter set where I only see mentions from people who follow me. Let me tell you, that is a game changer! If you’re listening and there’s one thing you walk away from this with: change your settings. There is probably, there’s people screaming in the ether and I just have not seen it for a year now. And that’s great. So I get asked that. I get asked: how do you cover football, given what we know about the game? And that is a whole other hour long conversation.
Ana Marie Cox: I think that’s what we did the first time we talked.
Mina Kimes: Yeah, yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: So everybody who’s curious, go listen to that one.
Mina Kimes: So I get asked that. I get asked: who should I draft in fantasy?
Ana Marie Cox: Can we cover that just after?
Mina Kimes: I can hit you on that, yeah. And then as it pertains to what you and I were talking, or have been talking about, sort of, which is off the field issues, kind of red flags and how do we talk about it, which I think is really important. Mostly just actually start by calling it what it is, I’ve said. The next thing I get asked is: well, where is the room for forgiveness, and you’re just trying to cancel people. They didn’t used to call it cancelling, that’s, of course, the last couple of years or so. Used to be—
Ana Marie Cox: Second chances.
Mina Kimes: Second chances. Yeah. And now it’s all looped under the cancel culture umbrella. But you know, like 2014 when Ray Rice, when that incident happened, when he struck his fiancée, I believe, not wife the time—I might be misremembering. It’s been eight years.
Ana Marie Cox: There is elevator footage.
Mina Kimes: Yeah, it was on camera and that’s what made it so explosive of a story. And then also the fact that the NFL mishandled it every step of the way because it was very new to this kind of exposure, not new to these incidents. And so I would get asked a lot, well, like, so Ray Rice was cut: OK, do you believe in second chances? And Ray Rice, actually a really good example. He remains a really good example because the reason why Ray Rice didn’t get a second chance wasn’t because he committed domestic violence viewed on camera. It’s because he was old and he was no longer useful to an NFL team. And we’ve seen time and time again that players who are very good and young do get second chances in the league. Just this happens always. And I say Ray Rice is a good example, not just because of the utility aspect, but because Ray Rice did do everything you have to do. That you have to do—it sounds imperious—but when people ask me what does it take, I point to him and I say: read any interview with Ray Rice over the last few years. Because this is a man who thought deeply and had a lot of really difficult conversations about what happened and not only came to terms with it, he was honest about it. He was honest with himself. He was honest with his family, and he accepted his punishment and moved on. And I think that there is space in [unclear] society, in the NFL and in other leagues for second chances. Obviously every case is different, and different actions, require different punishments and whatever. And, you Joe sports fan, can never have to forgive anyone. You a man or woman who watches this team doesn’t have to find in your heart. I’m just talking about leagues. But I also think we still have very, you know, still very few cases like Ray Rice, where people are willing to do that kind of work and be that kind of honest and transparent, unfortunately. And a lot of that has to do with what I said earlier, which is the way in which they’re valued and the way in which so many people in and around sports are empowered to not have to do that.
Ana Marie Cox: So when we talked earlier about you coming on, one of the things you said was that you were happy to come on and you felt like you could be more free to discuss things, because, of course, I am not ESPN. We, I do not have the reach, let’s say—
Mina Kimes: I don’t know. I hear this is a very popular podcast.
Ana Marie Cox: —of the 2:30 Eastern time slot on ESPN. I wonder if there’s anything that I’ve missed that you need space to talk about. Here we are where it’s safe. It’s your safe space Mina. What, what could I have asked you about that you wouldn’t talk about on ESPN that you can talk about here?
Mina Kimes: I want to, I want to ask you a question? I’m wrestling with the responsibility of talking about stories like Watson, and I wrestle with the fact—and I’ve had conversations with many women in and around, I keep saying “in and around,” in my industry. It’s because I use that phrase in and around the NFL a lot. It’s like a very NFL-ese type thing. And one thing that a lot of us are saying to each other is, why does it always have to be us? Why can’t our male colleagues be the ones leading the way on this? Why can’t they be pushing to have it on programing? Why can’t they be doing the work and asking questions? And then I get so tired of feeling like it has to be me. But then I, I’d say, well, if not me, who else? And I, and I wonder, as a sports fan, do you feel disappointed when these issues aren’t discussed? Do you, when you see a woman like myself, or any other person on camera, do you want us to talk about these things? How does it make you feel when we do? And I’d love to know that.
Ana Marie Cox: I would say that, again, having to do that balancing act, that double awareness of a feminist—not just a female sports fan, right, but a feminist social justice warrior sports fan—I’m going to say that I get the part about when not to talk about it, you know,? And I’ll also say I don’t think it should be on women to talk about it, especially. I think that I, I don’t think I have ever seen a man bring it up on his own, though. And I will celebrate that day. I really will. Like the bar shouldn’t be that low, right? But like it, that is what has to happen. You know. I do wonder if they realize they’re outsourcing that, outsourcing that emotional work. And I wonder if they realize. The depth of pain that some people have who were in your industry, right?
Mina Kimes: Now, you just are saying something very similar to how I feel often. I mean, literally the other day when we were talking about, we played a video of a Watson’s accuser and we put at the top of the show, and it took me like quite some time to recover. And that’s obviously, I think, a pretty unique feeling in my world.
Ana Marie Cox: It is literally unique. It is, that makes me mad. [laughs] It’s literally unique for you to have the response. As a woman, I am sure that you have some male colleague at ESPN who has probably been sexually assaulted or harassed himself, as well. And it’s sad that those people can’t, aren’t empowered to use that emotional intelligence, let’s say.
Mina Kimes: We have a long way to go, but I want to I want to make a point that I feel like is important, which is this isn’t just about sports. I do think, you know, any sort of culture, industry where men are deified, frankly, you’re going to have that consequence. Because it’s easier to brush aside the people who are less important—not just important, like heroes, like economies are built around these men. But also just industries that are male dominated, period. You know, there’s nothing, it’s not just sports themselves, in and of themselves that I think have created this sort of culture. I’ve worked in other male-dominated fields and there is a lot of parallels, I’ll tell you that. And I think a lot of the, a big reason why, when it comes to issues with gender and sexual violence, domestic violence, it feels lagging behind issues like racial justice that we were talking about—a lot of it just has to do with the lack of representation of women. And so to try to I guess, pin this or tie a little happier bow, the fact you asked me about these conversations I’m having—on the show I’m on, NFL Live, two of the four regulars on any given day are women. And we are pushing, and we are advocating. And our male colleagues understand, they’re listening. But I’m just saying, like the fact that it’s that 50% composition—that’s frickin different and it’s new and we have a lot of female producers as well. And when we ask how can we change this, it’s just having more women in these spaces, I think, frankly, at least at this point.
Ana Marie Cox: Mina, it is always a delight to talk to you. Thank you for coming on the show.
Mina Kimes: Thank you so much. It is a delight for me, too.
Ana Marie Cox: You may know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Did you know it is also National Pet Month. We hear it with friends like these are introducing a new reoccurring segment that happens to incorporate both of these awesome causes. Introducing, With Adorables Like These: conversations with animal companions and the people who care for them. A lot of the time will be going behind the scenes at Crooked Media to meet the adorableness of the folks who make our podcast possible. And sometimes the adorables companion will be someone whose name you recognize. If you’re curious about what these critters look like, and obviously you should be, check out our various social media. On Twitter that’s @crooked underscore friends, and @ CrookedMedia will be on Instagram as well. This week, we’re starting off with Dayanita Ramesh, a member of our social team herself and her possibly high senior pup, Scooter.
Dayanita Ramesh: Hi, I’m Dayanita, and I am the social media manager for Vote Save America.
Ana Marie Cox: How long have you been companions with your adorables? And where did you get them?
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah, so Scooter, my husband and I adopted Scooter when we were still living in D.C. in 2007. And Scooter is a senior dog, so we think he was about six or seven when we adopted him. So I think he’s about 10 or 11 now. So I’ve had him for, this will be like the fourth year, and it’s been amazing. And he’s he’s a great little dog.
Ana Marie Cox: Did you want to introduce the other dog even though he’s not here?
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah, sure. So, I have another dog, a little Chihuahua named Poncho we adopted last year. They are really good friends. They nap together. They are usually hanging out in the backyard when it’s nice together. It’s really sweet to see. And he’s also a senior, so it’s really sweet to see these two senior dogs like hanging out together.
Ana Marie Cox: They’re enjoying their retirement.
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah, [laughs] basically, yeah. My husband and I have joked that, like, our house is just becoming like a retirement dog, just for old dogs and I’m fine with that.
Ana Marie Cox: I absolutely love him. I mean, look at him. He’s got the dopiest little smile and he’s just so chill. He’s just incredibly chill. What breed is he?
Dayanita Ramesh: I’m not sure exactly. He’s definitely a mix. Like he kind of looks like a Shiba Inu, you know, like a Chihuahua-Terrier mix. I haven’t done like the genetic testing or anything, but I’m really curious. But he gets really puffy, like after we give a bath and he like he looks like a Shiba Inu.
Ana Marie Cox: Is there a story behind the name.
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah. So I don’t know how he got his name. That’s just the name that he came with. The kind of funny thing was my husband and I: Oh, we love the name Scooter. And like when I found him on Petfinder, I was like, I can’t believe this. Like there’s the dog, like the breed that we want. Like we wanted a senior dog, like whose name is Scooter. Like, it just it all felt very meant to be, so. And Poncho, our other dog, that also just the name that he came with.
Ana Marie Cox: So we believe that all animals are emotional support animals. How have your adorables been supportive to you.
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah. Oh my gosh. Especially this past year. I feel like they’ve kind of done like over time, like emotional support. Just they—I don’t know, like they always just want to hang out. Like Scooter kind of like has the smile, so every time I look at I’m like, I just instantly feel better and, yeah, I mean just like one of the great things about dogs too is like they get you outside, they force you to get away from your desk, you know, not look at any screens or anything. So I feel like I have like a new new-found appreciation of the outdoors, like thanks to my dogs. I like notice things like, because they—Scooter likes to stop a lot on walks. So I feel like I just have to like look around a lot more like and I just like to appreciate just what’s like, what’s around me outside more.
Ana Marie Cox: I have to say, Scooter looks like he might be high. Is that normal?
Dayanita Ramesh: He’s don’t that know before. Yeah, he’s very full shill. I don’t know like, we do get Ponto CBD because he’s like really nervous so, but Scooter is just like a natural, he’s just high on life, I guess.
Ana Marie Cox: He just has like that, that, that dopey grin.
Dayanita Ramesh: He’s very, yeah.
Ana Marie Cox: And then he looks at you so lovingly. It’s just—
Dayanita Ramesh: He’s usually, he’s always with me. I’m like working in my office, he’s sitting on the sofa.
Ana Marie Cox: What cause would your adorable support?
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah, I don’t know. I guess, I probably thinking of this probably isn’t super creative but definitely like any, yeah, fighting back against climate change. I mean like they’re, they love being outdoors, like I feel like, yeah, you know, animals notice some things change with the weather and everything. And so yeah, I feel like, you know, Scooter, Scooter would want some speedy action on climate change I think.
Ana Marie Cox: Go Scooter. And then last question: do you ever do the voice of your adorable, and could you please say something in the voice of your adorable?
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah. Um . . . [laughs]
Ana Marie Cox: You could say something about climate change if you, if you’re looking for something to say or you could say something, whatever their personality, whatever is personality is.
Dayanita Ramesh: Yeah. So with Scooter, whatever, like especially whenever we are ordering takeout or anything, my husband or I, one of us will just be like, in Scooter’s voice like: hey um, can I see the menu? Um, you didn’t ask me, you didn’t ask me what I wanted. Or like when we go get something, he’s like: can you, can you pick up my takeout order? I made an order, can you to pick it up. That’s so embarrassing. No one outside of this house has heard that.
Ana Marie Cox: That’s why we do the interviews. But I can’t get over his expression. It’s so . . . and how much he loves you. Oh, wow. Oh, a little tired. Was this, did is wear you out, Scooter?
Dayanita Ramesh: It’s a lot. We were nervous.
Ana Marie Cox: Oh, well you did great. This is fantastic.
Dayanita Ramesh: It was so fun.
Ana Marie Cox: Thanks to Mina Kimes and Dayanita Ramesh for their time. That is it for the show. I want to give a special thank you to a new member of our team, Jordan Waller, who is producing the adorables segment. She also works over at Pod Save the People, which you should definitely listen to if you don’t already. The rest of the team remains. Louie Leno, who engineered the episode. Our booker Izzy Margulies and our senior producer, Allison Herrera. Whitney Pastorak is campaigning to get her adorable, Wally, a spot in Budweiser’s Pupweiser campaign. You can get a look at his adorableness yourself on her Instagram feed, which is @Whittlz. Take care of yourselves.