Kasey Symons 00:08
Okay, welcome everyone. We're just going to give everyone about a minute to sort of access the event and join us. We've got quite a few coming in. Hi, everyone. Welcome. Great, lots coming in quick. That's good, because we want to get started pretty close to on time. So we've got lots to talk about today. So we don't waste any time. So, I'll just give it just a few more seconds. Wow, 60 already. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming. So many people, so grateful that you're spending your morning with us. Thank you. Okay. Beautiful. All right. So we're about one minute past 10 which is on time for me. I want to get started pretty close. So I think what we'll do now is just get started. As I said, we don't want to waste any more time because we have such an amazing panel and such an amazing discussion to have today. So we'll get underway and everyone can just keep joining us as we go along. But before we start our event today, I of course want to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land. As we gather for this event physically dispersed and virtually constructed, we take this moment to reflect on the meaning of place and in doing so recognise the various traditional lands on which we come together today. I acknowledge that I'm hosting this webinar from the lands of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation. I also acknowledge the traditional custodians of the various lands on which you will work today and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are participating in this webinar. I pay my respects to Elder's past, present and emerging and celebrate the diversity of Aboriginal peoples and their ongoing cultures and connections to the lands and waters. So thank you, everyone, for joining us today for this event. I'm Dr. Kasey Simons. I'll be co hosting this event today. This will be the first of three events that the Sport Innovation Research Group is hosting in a sport fan series that will focus on fan connections, narratives and consumption. And we're thrilled to begin the series with such a wonderful group of guests who I will introduce shortly. The Sport Innovation Research Group would also like to acknowledge that this series of events is being supported and facilitated by the Social Innovation Research Institute. And we thank Paul Lavey, especially for all his assistance. So thank you, Paul. Before we begin, just a little bit of housekeeping. So we're gonna have a Q&A at the end of our discussion this morning. And because there are so many of us attending today, and we'll just use the chat function to facilitate this, so if you have a question, please pop it in the chat throughout the event as it comes to mind and I will select as many as we can to get our panel to address. I do apologise in advance if we can't get to all of them. But we'll post details at the end where you can find everyone on social media so you can continue the discussion online. This session will also be recorded as well as sent out to all attendees by email so you can reflect back on the discussion at a later date. So without further ado, welcome to today's event Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back, a fantastic topic for discussion, but it's also the title of the coming book by acclaimed sports writers, Jessica Luther, and Kavitha Davidson who are joining us today from the US. Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back : dilemmas of the modern fan, is a book that tackles the most pressing issues in sports, why they matter and how we can do better. For the authors sticking to sports is not an option, but simply quitting your fandom is also not an option. So how do we navigate these issues? The book investigates the many different things that can impact on the fans connection to the sport team or athlete they love and includes chapters such as watching football when we know even a little about brain trauma, coping when the sports you love the anti LGBTQ plus, rooting for your team when the star is accused of domestic violence, to getting the job that you love, cheering for a team of the racist mascot, consuming sports media even if you don't look like the people on TV. This is just to name a few. Jessica and Kavitha interviewed fans, academics and experts, journalists and media presenters to give history and context to each issue and open the discussion to help them develop a critical lens to begin to work through some of these really complicated problems. And I'm so excited that we get to talk to them both today and and find out what they discovered while putting this book together. So welcome to Jessica and Kavitha, just to introduce them both. Jessica Luther is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, ESPN the magazine, The New York Times Magazine, Texas Monthly, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and By Sports, among others. She is the author of Unsportsmanlike Conduct; College Football in the Politics of Rape and has written extensively on the intersection of sports and violence off the field. Kavitha Davidson is a sports writer and posted The Lead an in depth daily sports news podcast produced by Athletic. She's on the board of directors at the Yogi Berra museum and Learning Centre. She was a writer with ESPN W and ESPN, the magazine and a sports columnist at Bloomberg, covering the intersections of sports and society, culture, politics, race, gender and business. Her work has also appeared in NBC Think and The Guardian and Rolling Stone. So welcome to our authors Jessica and Kavitha if you just want to say a quick Hello, so everyone could see you. The camera should flash to you when the mics are off. Hi, Jessica. Welcome.
Jessica Luther 05:29
Hi, thank you so much thanks to Swinburne University and to Kasey for having us here. today. We're so excited to talk about our new book.
Kasey Symons 05:36
So excited to have you. And Hi Kavitha. Welcome. Thanks for joining us. I know it was a tough time for you to get online.
Kavitha Davidson 05:43
Yes, I'm so sorry. I'm a little bit out of breath. It's because I just I just got down to DC, I'm actually here for the march for racial justice and for a good cause. But I'm so happy that I could join you and my brother in law is actually Australian and I think that they're actually on this call. So hello. I feel a little bit honorary to be here, so thank you for having us.
Kasey Symons 06:02
Excellent. Thank you both so much. And thank you for making it work in your schedules and making the time difference work We so appreciate it. I also have two other people to introduce as well. So I'm also really honoured that I have some expert help to co host this event today. So I'm going to introduce my co host and I just have to say up the top I'm going to find it really difficult to work with her today because her Richmond Tigers defeated my West Coast Eagles last night, so I might have to talk to Jessica and Kavitha about ways to navigate being a fan and happy to co host an event with a rival the next day but Welcome to the wonderful Rana Hussain. Rana is a diversity and inclusion leader making important inroads into Australian sporting culture and community at large. One of a handful of women of colour working in the Australian Football League, Rana is a pioneer and a passionate advocate for social inclusion and reducing discrimination through the vehicle of sports media. So welcome, Rana. Hello, thanks for having us.
Rana Hussain 06:55
Hello, I'm sorry sorry about last night.
Kasey Symons 06:59
No, you're not
Rana Hussain 07:00
I'm not at all is a great the great
Kasey Symons 07:03
That's as much Richmond talk is all that you have today. No more. Okay and our final guests that we have with us today is the of course wonderful Dr. Ryan Storr. Ryan is the academic course advisor and lecturer in sport development at Western Sydney University. His research focuses on diversity and inclusion in sporting contexts with a specific focus on LGBT plus inclusion. He's also the co founder and vice president of Proud to Play an LGBT plus sports charity based in Melbourne. Hi, Ryan, thanks so much for joining us, particularly on Wear It Purple Day. We really appreciate your time today. We know you're quite busy.
Ryan Storr 07:40
Yeah, no, thank you very much. I'm very excited to have some discussions. It's very topical time to be having these debates. I'm sure we'll have lots to discuss.
Kasey Symons 07:51
Yes, absolutely. So thank you, everyone for being part of our panel today. So how our discussion will work today is I'm going to throw up in a bit of a thoughts think starter and to get the discussion rolling, but then I'll hand the reins over to Rana, who will ask them questions of our panel and keep the discussion going. What I wanted our discussion to begin with today, and I asked the panellists to reflect on this ahead of time, is, I guess thinking of a moment, whether it be big or small, that we've all experienced in our fan life that might have just pulled us out of that fan experience a little bit and made us a bit more aware of this bigger issue that maybe sport didn't love us back in the way that we might have once thought and got us sort of thinking about some of these complicated issues. So if we all share a moment like that, I think that'll really illuminate that we all come to fandom and the sports world in quite different ways and have different experiences, which really ties back to a lot of the themes in this book and will help us go into a bit of a broader discussion. So I wonder if, Jessica, if you wanted to start by sharing a moment that you reflected on during the week to share with us.
Jessica Luther 08:55
Sure, one moment, okay. I think anytime that you work on gender violence and sports, something I feel like we all maybe would agree we should deal with. You make people very angry, they don't want to do that kind of critique alongside of you. And that's definitely, as a professional. That's been a big thing for me. I will say like on a personal level, one of the stories I tell is that my husband was invited into a fantasy football league with some other guy friends of ours that we had known for a few years. And he doesn't care about football. So American football, and so he said, Well, my wife should join. And I was told that I was too feminist that I would like, bring the i would i would police the humour of the group. And so I was not invited. And that was like a feeling. I mean, I really felt like an outsider in that scenario.
Kasey Symons 09:52
Wow. And I think when I said like small little, little things, I think a lot of people might think that's quite a small moment, but it really speaks to so much so Thank you, Jessica, for sharing that. Kavitha, what was something that you reflected on during the week to share with us today about a moment that affected you in this way.
Kavitha Davidson 10:09
Yeah, I think that I always think of this question and I'm just going to be obnoxious for a second because I'm in a hotel room. And I'm going to choose a virtual background that represents my fandom. So here I am a Yankee stadium which for all all the good in the world I cannot be at in person right now. But that's it's a good thing. Um, but I think whenever I answered this question, I think about it in terms of myself and my fandom and in terms of my profession, and in many ways, those two things intersect, right? Like none of us Jessica are always telling people not like none of us do this for a living if we don't actually truly love sports if we weren't fans first, right? So my identity as a sports fan starts with me being a Yankees fan starts with me growing up in New York City, and I'm a part of Upper Manhattan that is very close to the stadium, and all of that, and when Derek Jeter retired, I was already a sports writer. And I had kind of kept on my journalist hat and and made sure not to delve into fandom when he announced he was retiring and all of that just to maintain objectivity. I went to his last game as a fan. I didn't sit in the press box, and I went with my best friend from high school. And the night that I got back, I wrote a column about why Derek Jeter meant so much to me, and he wasn't even my favourite player, to be honest, but he was so consistent in every era of, of my fandom of my Yankee fandom. He was there from the time I was seven years old until the time I was 25. You know, when I thought about all the tunnels that my life had gone through in those years, but the constant thing was always Derek Jeter. So I wrote what I thought was a very non controversial column, just about what Derek Jeter meant to me. And frankly, if you've read my writing, I've written a whole lot more controversial things. I'm Derek Jeter is great. Um, and one of the comments that was left on there, you know, and I just talks about the fact that I was the first member of my family who was born in America. My parents are immigrants from India, they moved here in 1981. I was born in 1989. And I talked about how you know, they loved cricket. They didn't really love baseball. My mom now actually really loves baseball. And it's something that we bond over. And Derek Jeter was a huge part of that. And one of the comments on that column was, well, Kavitha , now I understand why I disagree with everything you write. You're a 25 year old immigrant, and you probably only know cricket and how did you get a job writing about American sports other than affirmative action, of course. And that's a really stark example of the way that I've always been 'othered' in this space. And it doesn't even need to be that stark. Frankly, Jessica is an educated white woman in America and is still very much 'othered' in this space, you know, and all of us have these these kinds of experiences. So that professionally, um, you know, this was me crossing that professional barrier to talk about my personal fandom, and that was one of those instances where it hit me at all angles. And I'll always remember that comment, word for word. And I kind of hold it up as, you know, as a, as a badge of honour, like this person was questioning my Americanness. And frankly, we're seeing that in this country a lot with vice presidential candidates, for example, um, in ways that we can just throw back and say, you know, in with a lot of pride right now, sure, you don't think I'm an American, but I'm covering your sports. What do you actually think about that?
Kasey Symons 13:37
Yeah, well, there's so much in that that is just so wrong. I'm really sorry that that was brought, like called out in that way for you Kavitha. But I also feel like it's really brought so much of your passion more to your writing and helped to collect more of these issues that we get to access through how do you talk about them through your podcasts or through your writing. So really appreciate all the work that you're doing there. Um, how about you Ryan, would you like to share an experience that you had, from your perspective?
Ryan Storr 14:05
Yeah, I kind of got two small ones. One of them is basically just like being around, especially when I'm starting to do my PhD and just go into like networking events and sport events and even diverse inclusion type type things. And just kind of been a gay man working in sports. I even have like friends. And if I meet people, I kind of tell them about the work I do. It's kind of like, oh, a gay, doing sport and doing this. And it's kind of like it's a bit of a shock still, because it's just we're not kind of supposed to take up these spaces and be part of them. And, and I guess the other one then is kind of, I'm a big sports fan. And I've done it for many years, and been a sport for development researcher, we kind of look at this very evangelical view of how sport can build bridges and be a social level and do all these wonderful things. And often it can be kind of you get caught up in that. So I guess from my perspective, it's recently been over the last couple of years. It's actually been really confronting doing LGBT research, I've done a range of probably six or seven research projects over the last four years or so. And although they're kind of titled LGBT inclusion in sport, it's not it's very much exclusion. Some of the stories I've heard around how sports and people within sport and administrators and people in high level positions have used their power to try and exclude people from sports. So it's kind of been really confronting in that respect, and it wasn't until he kind of like get to the sixth project. And you kind of start seeing these common themes. It's kind of like gods, there's a lot of work going on here to try and exclude people from spa and not allow people to play. And I guess recently as well, I've been involved in a lot of policies and discussions around trans exclusion. The efforts that people are going to to try and exclude trans women in particular from sports is outrageous, like people are actually going out of their way spending time and effort and money and resources trying to exlude and marginalise people. And that's not the sports and the sport sector. I know. And I like to try and think about why I continue to work in it. So I guess it's kind of actually having hard evidence that sports don't love certain people, especially LGBT communities although in the chapter which we'll discuss there are efforts and we are starting to see change within sport to try and make it more inclusive and to LGBT plus people.
Kasey Symons 16:27
Thank you, Ryan. And I think I'm glad that you haven't walked away from sport because we need people like you in this space still doing that work and we really appreciate it. Rana, what about yourself? Was there a moment you wanted to share?
Rana Hussain 16:38
Yeah, I mean, I don't think I ever felt like sport was for me. It sort of has been a process of sport winning me over really. But I really relate to Kavithas experience. And I suppose one thing that I always I often think about, so I've loved Australian rules football football for a long time and was going to games all the time. And I remember one game, I finally sat in the members section, which is quite an exclusive section of the stadium. And a man came up to me and shook my hand and said, Oh, welcome, and just started explaining the game to me. And I've had so many experiences like that, where people's assumption on seeing me is that I don't know the game. And I haven't lived with it. That I don't know the rules. And so just those little moments every time make you go, yeah. When people think sports fan, they're not thinking me. And so it's, it's alienating and it's such it's often done with such niceness and with good intention. They're really excited to see me at the game, but they haven't stopped to think this is potentially just part of her life. So we could talk for hours abou it.
Kasey Symons 17:55
I think we could. And I think that's such an interesting way to come at it too that even if people do think they are actively embracing you or bringing you in that that still is an othering experience too, which is I think a lot of people don't think about that side of it as well. Thanks, Rana. I think the story I was just going to share quickly said I won't take up too much time. But I think I said to be a bit more cognisant of this when I read Anna Krien's, Night Games, the book that she put out in 2013, which I'm sure a lot of people here probably aware of. But if not, she follows a sexual assault trial that is linked to and has connections to some Australian rules football players. And I think that book, I read it while I was still working in the football industry, and I knew the story and I knew a lot of the other stories that she included because she speaks about a lot of high profile, sexual assault cases that happen in the sporting landscape, both in Australia and internationally. And I was aware of them and I knew them but I think what she did in that book was able to explain them in a way and insert her own personal experience that made me reflect on how I thought about sexual assault survivors. Hhow I felt about the gendered language that we use for victims. And the victim shaming that I was actually complicit in as well just because of the structures that I was part of. And it made me think a bit more about myself as a woman in that space, and the dialogue that I was also contributing to. So I will always remember reading that book. And I think it's also very similar to the book that the other book that Jessica has written as well Unsportsmanlike Conduct. So I'd really recommend anyone who hasn't had a chance to pick up that one to have a read of that as well, because it's really important dissection of those issues. But I'll hand it over to Rana again now to get some discussion in with our special guests. So we don't want to hear from me all day. So Rana do you a start off the conversation?
Rana Hussain 19:39
Absolutely. Congratulations on the book, by the way. It's a great read. It feels like you jumped into my brain and took all of my angst and put it into a book. It's incredible to kind of see it all listed out there. And when you do look through the chapters and you've read through it, I guess a question that comes to mind for me, and it has come up my whole life and in particular reading your book, why do we go back to sport? Why do we still go back to sport even though it's so often harms us or hurts us or excludes us?
Jessica Luther 20:15
Yeah, I think one reason is that sports are great. I mean, they're so fun and I enjoy watching them even in this particular moment where I feel a lot of conflicted feelings about whether or not we should be even having sports. And I basically feel like we should not be having sports for lots of reasons. I still am watching it. We were talking before we went live here that the US Open, tennis is my favourite sport starts next week, and I'm gonna, I'm going to watch it and I'm probably going to be screaming alone in my living room about it and having a ball at certain points in time. So I do think that sport itself I think a lot of people participate at some point in their lives, even as young children and they at some point they probably have had the positive version of sport that we all idealise, that I think Ryan was talking about before, and that we all kind of hang on to, you can't tell now, but I'm actually six feet tall. And so I played basketball in middle school. I feel like my parents are probably watching this right now. And they will talk about like all of my aggression out on the court and like how fun that was to watch. And that I still have like even now talking about it, I feel really happy thinking about that. So I do think there's a lot of positive stuff in sport, including it as entertainment that brings people back in the last thing I'll say about it is sport is often and this is the tension here that there is a community that you do create fandom communities that you want to be a part of. And I will say that social media has been really important for me in the last few years. I'm sure this is true for lots of people, especially those of us who love women's sports, where we have found these communities of people who love the same stuff we do and safer places maybe, more inclusive places, and I enjoy that a lot about sports. I like those kinds of conversations and being able to have friends who also love that and we can chat about it. So I think it's all those things keeping me back.
Kavitha Davidson 22:19
Yeah, I agree with with everything Jessica said, just add a very simple level sports are fun. Not everyone needs to think sports are fun, that's also okay, that doesn't make them less of an American, less of a male 90 of all the, you know, constructs that we that we put around what being a sports fan means and how it points your identity, but I think especially as a woman, I think sports have helped me find my voice literally my voice, right, like we're so often told to be quiet and demure, and there's nothing that gets this loud, like a bellowing sound that I didn't even know I could make out of me like a home run or you know, like a stack on third down. It's It's It's I don't know, I'm using American football terms and I'm sorry, but, um, you know, there's something very just instinctual and, and just very primal about it. But it's okay. Right. And in theory, because it's in the, it's in the, it's in the confines of what should be a safe world that allows us to be tribal and to find community. And, you know, we're not actually in reality going to war. So it's kind of okay to hate those Red Sox fans, we don't actually hate them. Some of my best friends are Red Sox fans, but, um, you know, it just allows us to create these identities around our communities around our families that, that we feel extremely tied to, you know, my identity as an American and my identity is my identity as a New Yorker. And my identity as a New Yorker is very much tied into my identity as a Yankee fan. And in a neighbourhood that I grew up that was very close to me. And it's just impossible for me to separate any of those things from each other. Andthen I'm just a, an even deeper level sports hjst allow us to make connections to people that I don't think that we would normally do in in our very kind of stratified society I have sports fan friends who aren't as educated or didn't grow up in the same neighbourhoods and probably are way wealthier than how I grew up and just the the kind of cross these these strata around society. So all of these reasons are the reasons that that we come back and I think that also, you know, it's okay to have your like, everyone has their own various reasons it can be tied to your, your grandparents passing this down and that kind of thing. It's, yeah, there. There are lots of reasons why we keep coming back to sports.
Rana Hussain 24:43
In the context, then of extreme misogyny or physical harm, even within the games itself. Political and ethical discomfort and transgressions. Does it say anything about us that we are willing to sit with all of that and still engage and still love the sport. I'm interested in what you think about that.
Jessica Luther 25:07
Well, Ranaa with the hard questions right off the bat. Hmm, I think that this is just sort of this such a normal thing that we do just in pop culture, our relationship to pop culture. In general, like we're always dealing with these tensions whenever we're consuming something. I'll bring up the C word whenever we're consuming something under capitalism, like there's always going to be these ethical choices that we're making and that we're compromising on our principles in some way in order to be consumers of these things. And I think that is definitely true in sport as much as anywhere else. And so we do a lot of work to either ignore or try to make sense of this cognitive dissonance that like, I know that when those football players pound into each other, that that's probably damaging their brains, but there's the other part of me that's like, wow, that was an amazing hit. Right? And I feel both like joy and gross at the same time. And I feel like I'm just doing that work all the time. But there are certainly movies that I have watched where I have, like, I'm like, I'm not gonna tell anyone that I enjoyed this, because I know that they're problematic. And I'm doing that kind of work with all the time. So I'm not, I don't know if I have a great answer to your very great question. But I do think it's, that's the work that we're always doing.
Kavitha Davidson 26:35
Yeah, I think that there's a very, very narrow demographic of person who can walk through life without anything being problematic. So sports is just one of it's just one of the many things that that we interact with, and that we encounter that that are and when they reinforce problematic dynamics toward ourselves when we're women and we experienced misogyny and we keep going back. I think it's very easy to turn to these fans to ourselves and say, Well, you've internalised that, um, but the other side of that is, we're also taking ownership of that and we're trying to change it, frankly. And our mere presence in the space is an attempt to change it. The reason that sports are able to uphold all of these things is because that very narrow sliver of the populace has been in charge of them for so long, and that they've always been geared toward that narrow sliver. So, um, you know, I think that, you know, I think it was Jessica actually who said that just being a woman sports fan is around go back to itself. It is, um, that's activism, just being in a bar and wanting to watch a game man being at a bar in times of COVID in general, probably, you know, but, um, but, you know, I think that, yeah, they're, they're just there's so many ways that these forces come out in our lives, and our I think one of the reasons that we single out sports is because we don't intellectually think that they're a worthy pursuit. We don't think of them as in the same level as art as music as as film and theatre. And that comes down to who are the arbiters of that? Right? Who are the arbiters of the artists who deserve to be cancelled. And if you include athletes in that group, then people then can be seen people are making the judgments that sports aren't worthy of gifts of being given the same considerations or the same houses or the same excuses, because they're not as highly intellectual pursuit. They think that everyone on this call can can serve as evidence that that's not the case. Right.
Rana Hussain 28:47
So on that, then, what power do we have a Support Centre? You kind of touched on it then and how much do we actually own the games and is it us pushing back that will create change?
Kavitha Davidson 29:05
I think on some level Yes. I come from a sports business background and I you know, I have a lot of problems with capitalism but I highly believe in the power of money within a capitalist system on and I think that when fans do when anybody votes with their dollars it does actually make a difference but the reality is it takes a much bigger steps for that it takes corporations to actually real like leave the room and realise where the consumer is and actually put their you know, put the force of their collective power their collective financial power behind some of those things, but on an individual level, you know, if you are if you don't do this professionally, if you're not a writer, if you're if your views on this and your words are not reaching thousands, or or whatever, hundreds of thousands of people, I think it's still makes an impact. If you are, for example, out a bar, and a guy comes up to you. And you point out that this thing that you're watching this, this player was accused of this thing, and I have this issue of and maybe he doesn't want to be reminded of that, but it'll still stick in his brain a little bit like he'll still kind of be reminded of it. Every time he sees that player come up to bat or come up, come to the mound. And those small tiny acts do actually make a difference in the same way that Rana when you're describing the microaggressions of somebody who is well meaning trying to welcome you into a sport that you know very well, it's the thousand cuts that kill us right on this stem. So by the same token, I think it's 1000 tiny acts of revolution that do actually make a difference on the other end.
Jessica Luther 30:55
Oh, yeah, that was excellent. I will I don't really have much to add but I will say one of the struggles with this book and answering that question is that we are talking about major systemic issues, right. And the things that we really want to see change take a lot of work, they take a lot of time. One of my metaphors like when I discuss changing anything at a university, it's like a giant cruise ship with a tiny rudder, you could only turn it so much, you know, before you're going to finally change the direction. And that that's what we're talking about a lot of these things in the book, so that it is yeah, at the same time, I think people will read some of this and as individual fans feel complicit feel implicated in these things, because they have consumed them and they haven't thought of them critically, and this isn't a thing that they considered. And so that's a tension here like what is an individual to do in order to change these giant systems that are in place but I do give you that such a wonderful answer there. So I'm going to let her thousand small x be the official answer.
Rana Hussain 32:00
No, both great answers. And you talk in the book about how much so much of this is sitting with that all of that discomfort and messiness, I think you call it. And I think that's really what we're all doing at the moment. I want to bring Ryan in and talk a bit of a talk get a bit more specific. Ryan, obviously, you've got with your professional background, we want to look at chapter five, a little bit closely. Come on in and tell, First of all, I'd love to hear your thoughts actually, on chapter five.
Ryan Storr 32:32
Yes, actually, all comes in quite well there because just as you were speaking, I was thinking last year I wrote a few articles about the idea of role models and athletes when for example, Martina Navratilova was speaking out kind of anti trans comments and he had his little flower and then we had a very ongoing saga with Margaret Court. And there was discussions around Well, we're celebrating have achievements, but then it's kind of like, what can we actually separate a Grand Slam champion and role model from making very very disparaging remarks. And people were kind of there was certain commentators saying, It's okay, She's the it's the role model aspect and she should be celebrated. And it's kind of like, actually, I'm really not sure whether you can just say what you want, because it has impact. And I did some research with LGBT young people last year. And all of them said, Every time I hear these comments, it doesn't make me feel welcome in sports. So we actually need to understand that do happen have an impact. But one of the things I was thinking about when I was reading, also, I'm a tennis player in a big tennis fan. So both chapters on tennis and Serena Williams stuff and things all kind of brought it together for me. But one of the things I'm really interested in is you talk about in the chapter specifically so for anybody who hasn't yet read it, it's an outline of some of the discriminatory experiences and instances that happen within sport and there are a lot of examples unfortunately. And but there are certain sections where we actually look and find out about subcultures in athletes in groups of sports and fans actually creating their own identities and subgroups. And I've been very fortunate enough to actually work and do research with some of them. So one of the ones that I have was NFL supporter groups. So that is like pride groups who celebrate and go to matches. And then this instance of ALF, our Australian football and understanding the motives for why being involved still so one of my original questions, were kind of like, Why do people still keep coming back which we answered, but then I wanted to get your thoughts on the different groups of marginalised groups, whether it be for example, women, or lesbians or trans people or AFL supporter groups, and what it is about certain subcultures that maybe do drive people to still continue to work in sports. And I guess an example would be from my research which found was that some people who created the pride groups had just had enough of discrimination and homophobia, the sports weren't doing enough. So they were like, we're gonna take this into our hands and we're gonna drive this change. And and it kind of went from there. So really interested to hear some of your thoughts around different subsections of maybe society and how your thoughts on maybe different things which drive them.
Jessica Luther 35:24
Well, that's so interesting. I do think, yeah, there's a section of that chapter at the end, where we talk about different ways that LGBTQ plus people have created their own spaces and sport and I love that part thinking about making safe, inclusive spaces. At the same time, there's always that other feeling of like, they shouldn't have to do that. Like it. It sucks that like they have to create their own space in order to be included. And I'm trying to think, are you asking why they do that?
Ryan Storr 35:57
Yes, I'm just interested. Sorry, in terms of like, different groups because obviously the various chapters are for LGBT people, it might be that they're driven to keep doing this work because they've had enough of homophobia and want to make a difference. I wondered if from any of your research or writing the other chapters, there was different incentives for different groups in continuing to maybe do this work and keep loving sports when they don't love us back?
Jessica Luther 36:19
Oh, I don't know. Hmm, that's a great question. I never thought of it this way. Kavitha, do you have something on this?
Kavitha Davidson 36:26
Um, I. So I don't think that we've ever actually asked between different subgroups. But I think the common thread is always there's just a comfort in knowing that struggle and protection is there in a similar way. And I think that, you know, we experienced this in in many ways and ethnic groups, in gender groups and LGBT groups. But at the same time, there is always that question, you know, whenever whenever a women's group emerges as a fan group of a men's sports team. The question is always What? Are they creating a pink ghetto? Right? Are you? Are you actually integrating yourself into this broader thing? Are you separating yourself? And it's like, Is that is that good for you on an individual level? Is that good for you on a collective level? Are those two things at odds? Sometimes, you know, what makes us feel safe might not be good for the group as a whole? I've never actually stopped to think about how, how those things differ between those groups. That's really a fascinating question.
Ryan Storr 37:30
So I didn't mean to throw you, I'm just really interested.
Jessica Luther 37:33
no, then that's really good can be but you saying that makes me think of when ESPN W. Like, we see this in all different kinds of ways within sports. So even when ESPN W debuted there was a huge discussion about whether or not that just gives ESPN an excuse to shove all the women's stuff into one place where they're always like they don't do anything with it right now. So at least we now have a place. So we we see it all in all kinds of ways within sport. But yeah, I don't know if you have a great answer for like, comparing the different groups and the reasons why they do it.
Kavitha Davidson 38:06
Well, I can see that one of the motivations because I did write for ESPN W. And this was something that I very much struggled with, that I do think applies even like, if you're not talking about media strategy, and something like that, is that it'll allowed, you know, the entire staff was women, the people making the marketing decisions were women, and that doesn't happen unless you take ownership of that space. So I think that that would be the through line for a lot of these subgroups in the subcultures is that if you're not going to do it, nobody's nobody in the broader in the broader industry is going to give you that power to actually dictate how to cover your own community and how to market and cater to your own community.
Rana Hussain 38:53
We're speeding through this hour. It's so frustrating because there's so many tiny points. I'd love to be picking up. Ryan, was there any any thing else? Because I do feel like we need to move on. Kasey has given me the wave. But was it? I feel like you probably had another question in there.
Ryan Storr 39:12
I know, we can definitely talk about this or even open up the chat. But I think one of the other questions was around inclusion of specifically LGBT groups within sport. And fandom is the role of kind of what you were mentioning before around capitalism, but the business case for diversity. So there's a lot of research coming from America around the business case for LGBT inclusion in sports. I did some research around it last year, and there was anecdotes For example, when some clubs did pride rounds and then did the scarves it was the biggest selling piece of merchandise in the club's history. So there are lots of reasons why the business case kind of works. But we're still yet to see this because when I think about it, let's say 10% of the population here in Australia and elsewhere are LGBT. Why you wouldn't want those as fans because if they're posted on social media that they're buying merchandise that buying tickets helps your business become better. So it just doesn't make good business sense to exclude people.
Jessica Luther 40:07
There is no better example of how entrenched these negative things are homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, sexism, racism, then the fact that business and capitalism is willing to not engage with all these potential buyers right? We see this all the time with women's sports can be then I were just talking on this the other day, like they're constantly selling out of women's jerseys because they don't ever produce enough and then it's like, once again, there's a surprise that all these teams will want women's jersey I think Sabrina Ionescu, the number one w NBA Draft, I think that as soon as she was drafted, they like ran out within like 30 minutes or something. And they were not prepared. And so it's that's so true. And it's it sucks. I keep saying it sucks. Um, but it is so frustrating when you look you're like even money won't change these things.
Kavitha Davidson 41:04
Now, before I became a journalist when I was in college, I worked for Nielsen, which in the states is a company that measures rating television ratings, they measure advertising, the effectiveness of advertising dollars, all kinds of things, demographics. And I used to make this case for women, I used to make this case for Latina X viewers, and I used to make this case for LGBTQ viewers, I still make these cases, which is it is just good business to not be a bigot. It just is in the long run. Specifically, when you're talking about LGBTQ viewers, and spat and fans in America, I'm sure that this research would bear out in many other countries as well. But you are talking about a demographic that over indexes and education over indexes and income and over indexes and all of the all of the key aspects that advertisers find valuable in consumers. So it doesn't ctually made very much sense that you were ignoring them in this space, except for some Neolithic idea that gay people don't like sports. Like that's really just what it comes down to. And then when you present the evidence that gay people like sports, but women like sports that you are leaving money on the table by ignoring this data, it still somehow doesn't register. And that is just because I think there's something I don't know what it is. But there's something specifically about marketing and advertising. That is very, very set in inertia. It's very, it's very difficult to change something that has always worked specifically in that part of industry. Um, I think that we're starting to see that change. I think that we've seen a lot more advertising geared toward girl and girls and women fans, I think that we've seen more pride nights. It's become bad business not to have one when you were the last MLB team, which my team was to adopt a pride night people notice especially when you represent the largest city in the country. So, yeah, I it is a huge point of frustration for me, especially coming from the business side of things that people are just willing to leave money on the table because it is very old notions that they still hold on to. It takes effort to uphold someone said that earlier on the call, it takes effort to uphold that.
Ryan Storr 43:22
And I wonder if some of that shift has been led by the different types of people now infiltrating the industry at higher levels as well. Kasey, I'm going to throw to you. I know you've been waiting, and I've been very mean not throwing to you. So take it away.
Kasey Symons 43:39
Thank you. I mean, I'm really it's really hurting me to interrupt this conversation because I think we could all just sit here all day and talk through these issues because I'm finding it just so wonderful to hear these experts talk about this to talk about the issues in the book and to keep these conversations going but we do only have an hour. So we will wrap up shortly by eleven and we will start getting to some questions for our authors and our panellists as well, but while we give some people some time to pop some questions in the chat, just one final question to wrap up the event. And I guess this is coming from, I guess sort of my background, potentially Ryan's background, as well as researchers and just speaking on behalf of some of the academics that might be with us today who are researching in the sports fandom space or want to do more, I wanted to ask you both. If there was any, like really significant gaps in the research that you found while you were researching this book and the chapters that really frustrated you that you wish there was more information out there that our research community could really work towards? And what sort of research would you like to see that you think might help fans navigate some of these issues and and also help you as sports writers to to help to bring more attention to these issues?
Jessica Luther 44:52
Well, that's a good and hard question. Most of the stuff that I tend to think about is around gender. We tend to imagine, and this is probably true of race and all kinds of identities we tend to, like Rana was saying before, we tend to imagine a very specific kind of person is a sports fan. And then everything is based off of that. So white, hetero men are sports fans and we just don't have space to meet and then on not just as fans also as athletes, right, so I'm thinking of when I was doing research for the brain trauma chapter. We just don't do research on women and concussions like that still almost nothing. There's almost no good science on pregnant athletes, like no one has taken the time to imagine them as athletes and people worth studying. We don't know anything about periods, which happen all the time. Like women are having, people with uteruses are having periods all the time and yet no one has really figure out the science around that. And so, you know, all of these ideas of I feel there's always a dearth of information around, as we were just talking about who's actually watching how are they engaging with the sport? How are they investing in it? And in what ways are they putting their money and their time and their resources in? I feel like that's always something that we're reaching for. It's, it's annoying on some level that we need, like stats in order to back up the thing that we all know we're all sitting here and we know the certain things to be true because of our own lived experiences. And then all the people that we've talked to and, and moving through the sports world, but it does always seem like we don't have a good grasp. And and I'm not naive enough to think that as Kavitha was saying with marketers that if we had that data that suddenly all these he'll be like, Oh, I was wrong, we should be more inclusive and how we handle all these issues in sport, but it is sometimes frustrating that you can't just put your finger on it like I just I want Be like one of those people in Congress or something where like, the big chart comes next to me and I can like take the stick out and like point to the facts as I'm making my arguments on these things. And I feel like those are the places where I often wish there was more stuff.
Kavitha Davidson 47:21
I think the big thing, the big gap that I've seen, in addition to everything Jessica just said is mental health. Um, I remember doing a panel with Brian Hainline, who was Chief Medical Officer of the NCAA overseeing college sports in America. And he said over and over and over again, you know, we're talking about the debate over whether we should be paying players and concussions and everything like that and we are not studying the actual emotional and physiological and psychological effects of sports on on on these athletes, and we are definitely not studying how they differ between men and women athletes. There is a huge gap there that I think will always stick with me and just in general, the mental health aspects. I mean, we're seeing in a very anecdotal way we're seeing the effects of, of mental health on NBA players in the bubble right now everything that is going on, with boycotts with strikes with, you know, push for racial justice absolutely has to do with racial justice, but also has to do with the emotional and mental toll of what the last couple of months in the in the bubble and dealing with racial justice in America has looked like. So I think that that's, that's one very tangible area that we can do better at. I will say overall, though, like the reason that I approach my journalism in the way that I do is because I took a graduate level class when I was between my freshman and sophomore year of college that I had to petition to take that was called the socio historical foundations of American sport and Game Over. That has been my approach to my journalism since I was 18 years old. And my approach to how I've always viewed the world through the lens of sport, but how I've also always viewed sport through my own worldview, and that has always been impossible for me to separate. And back then it was you know, this was one of them freshmen, this was 2007, the summer of 2007. This was such a nascent part of academia. And I had wished that there had been a whole programme for me to take these kinds of classes. And now we're lucky that we have programmes like yours and me definitely come a long way since then. But just the idea that sports are something that deserves to be studied and to be taken seriously in this way is such a new thing that we're definitely playing from behind, but we're making good strides. I'm very grateful for all the work that everyone on this call is doing toward that end.
Kasey Symons 49:58
Thank you for your answers for that one. I think this is a lot for us all to think about moving forward in the research space. So thank you so much. We're going to move forward to some questions from our audience. So I'm just going to read through some questions. And if you just want to jump in and answer them, that would be great. So we've got a question here from Emma, do we need to differentiate between the problematic aspects of sports that have the possibility of change eg exclusion of communities, and those that are embedded eg dangerous physical contact? Did either be have some thoughts on that question that you'd like to share?
Jessica Luther 50:35
Can you read it one more time,
Kasey Symons 50:37
Sure. Do we need to differentiate between the problematic aspects of sport that has the possibility of change eg exclusion of communities and those that are embedded a dangerous or physical context? So I guess we're talking about the the social issues versus the on field, issues of physicality and dangerous practice. As fans, we need to differentiate how we navigate them or do we navigate them all as well. I guess umbrella issue?
Jessica Luther 51:03
Hmm. I've never thought of it that way. On some level I think the stuff that's embedded is as changeable as anything else. That's my, my gut reaction to that question. So even, like, what's the whole thing now in American football about whether or not they're going to change the kickoff? Because that's one of the most dangerous parts of the game. And there's a lot of anger about whether or not they're going to change it, because there's all these bad ideas about masculinity and toughness, and all these sorts of things in it. But it is changeable, right? This is one of the things about sport and we bring this up in the doping chapter. Like they're just made up, like everything about the actual playing of sport is just made up and people change the rules all the time. And a lot of the time that is to make it safer. And a lot of the time that is because people are petitioning and pushing for those changes. And so, you know, I think about where we've come on brain trauma. A lot of that is because of worried parents about their children, and how that sort of funnelled up over time, to the more professional levels. So I don't know if we need to necessarily differentiate those things. Because even the sport itself, there's a lot of cultural stuff. I mean, I know that, that that the embedded stuff, but you know, the exclusion of communities, to me, that's also right there in the culture of sport, just maybe in a different part of it. So maybe, I mean, like I, I'm, like thinking through this as I'm talking, I can see why we would separate them out. But I also think that what's going on there is the same kind of stuff within our culture.
Kavitha Davidson 52:45
Yeah, I mean, I think I think my question would be, what would be the purpose of separating those two things? Is it an intellectual exercise, is it acknowledging that racism is a construct and is something that we can actually fix and there is no such thing as safe Football, I think that we've all kind of come to these that realisation right. But if the if the purpose is to better these institutions, I don't know how much good is actually done from separating those things. The through line is that despite, like, the racism and the things that are fixable, versus the structural, like physical parts of the game that are not, we still we still find these things essential and necessary. So I, just on a practical level, I don't know what's separating them does.
Kasey Symons 53:36
Thank you I've got a question here from Emily. And I wanted to ask this one because I think it speaks to a specific chapter in the book as well that I think you both will be able to highlight the work that you've done in this space. And Emily is a big fan of US sports, and she's actually identified herself as a Browns fan and she says go Browns, so good luck, I guess. She said that she's struggling With the dissonance between supporting athletes that share her values, while the owners of the team do not so how do you engage with teams and their owners and their owners donate money towards racism, misogyny, homophobia and their own sort of personal ventures. And I guess it's a bit of a different space that we have here in Australia with ownership. Um, it's not something that a lot of sports do, but we do have, I guess, similar issues in different ways. So if you both like to maybe speak to that question and highlight some of the work that you did in your chapter on this.
Kavitha Davidson 54:30
So I'm going to go first as someone who when you know, when you talk about we have a whole chapter about how to love your team when you hate your owner, I could have interviewed myself for that entire chapter. But, um, I think that it is that it's extremely difficult, right? I don't think it's any different than if we order something from Amazon and we hate how Jeff Bezos conducts his business. I don't think it's it's different from, you know, ordering from a clothing company. That employees underpaid labour. And I do think that the way that I get around it and we you know, we have a lot of people in that chapter who have different viewpoints and one of them literally just said, I can't watch anymore. I'm done. Like Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team is too much for me to handle. And this was before all the recent stuff, okay. how I handle it is by saying this is absolutely true, my dollars are going to this billionaire who votes for things I don't agree with who supports politically things I definitely don't agree with who aligns himself politically with people I don't like and agree with. But at the same time, I'm still supporting a labour structure that exists there. These athletes are workers. They are the product that I am paying for. And hopefully by these other reforms, we can at least redirect some of the money away. From this one dude at the top to the hundreds of people that he employees that are actually enriching our lives and bringing something to them.
Jessica Luther 56:12
I don't have a better answer than can be the just said. But the one thing that is so interesting to me, Kasey, that you brought up is that ownership doesn't work the same everywhere. I think in the US, we have this idea that like this is how it has to be. I co host a podcast called Burn It All Down with four other very smart women. And we recently talked about this when we had there was this huge new ownership group for an NW SL the National Women's Soccer League team in LA, which was amazing. There are so many people involved in purchasing and owning
Kasey Symons 56:47
Ooh I think Jessica might have frozen. Is Jessica frozen for everyone else? We might have just temporarily less Jessica.
Kavitha Davidson 56:56
She usually comes back
Kasey Symons 57:00
Well we might wait for her to rejoin us. But I think we are getting pretty close to time. But I might just bring up the point that was raised in the chat, which we addressed earlier on Kavitha, if you want to speak to this, is that idea that we talked about marginalised groups has been sort of finding their own spaces in the online space being somewhere where there's facilitated upward growth area for people to come together and find each other and connect. But I guess we've sort of seen in the chat that some people are calling out that social media can be a really dangerous place and sort of facilitate a lot of pools of hatred and be really volatiles. So I guess the question is, is that representative of the wider community? And do you think that the online, I guess space is just representative of what we actually do fine in the physical space as well?
Kavitha Davidson 57:47
I think it is, in some ways, I think that we're kidding ourselves to think that it's not, I don't think that the loudest voices are are the most numerous. I think they're just loud and I think sometimes they're gone. And you know, I've received my fair share of death threats and and sent Homeland Security. I know what online abuse looks like. But the communities that you find are so far reaching Jessica and I didn't meet in person until after we had signed a book deal together. You know what I mean? We found each other through Twitter. And it was because we were tweeting the scenes I'm going to shift. Sorry, the same stuff is things about about sports. I literally have a teacher that has put women's sports on TV on right now. We got Jessica back.
Jessica Luther 58:36
I'm so sorry. I want to say that it was my Wi Fi or something smart like that, but I just hadn't plugged my computer in.
Kasey Symons 58:44
That's okay. We'll forgive you. I think that was just your timely reminder to tell me that time's up. And you needed to get out of here because we're right on the hour.
Jessica Luther 58:52
Kasey Symons 58:53
That is okay. Um, as much as I think we all want to just keep talking forever about a lot of these issues because we're also passionate about And we have so many stories to share, we do have to wrap up the event there. So I really would like to thank Jessica and Kavithamfor joining us today Rana for being my co host, and for Ryan to come in and contribute to the conversation as well. So thank you for my little silent clap representative of everyone on the call. We've got some information about your wonderful book. So we'll get Paul to pop the slide up so people can get the info, Loving Sports When They Don't Love You Back : Dilemmas of the Modern Fan is out September 1. So that's so exciting. Congratulations again. You can order the book now. So you don't have to wait till September one, it's available for pre order. We found the best way to do that, if you're based outside of the US is to do it through Book Depository, because they have free international shipping. So you know that the postage isn't going to be more than the cost of the book, which sometimes we have to deal with down here in Australia, but this is a great way to access it, that you don't have to worry about that. Like I said, I know I could talk all day to this group about these issues. So if you feel the same I will get Paul to pop up everyone's Twitter handles, so everyone's details there. So you can continue the conversation online and keep the dialogue going. Just forgive Jessica and Kavitha if they don't respond in a couple of hours, because I'm sure they need to get some sleep at some point. So just be mindful of their schedules. And we also have the details there for the Sport Innovation Research Group. So you can subscribe to our newsletter, and keep across our events and the work that we're doing in this space as well. So be sure to head there. One, just move to the next slide is as I mentioned at the top of the event, today is actually the first of three events. So we have two more events coming up over the next month at the Sport Innovation Research Group are hosting with support from the Social Innovation Research Institute. To save these dates. We'll send everyone an email who attended today with the information and share the next group of amazing guests that we have to help us talk through these issues. So I really hope that you can join us for the next two weeks, they're going to be just as great. And just finally I just really want to thank everyone for today being part of the discussion, we're doing it all a bit tough this year, I think. But for me, one of the silver linings is that we get to find these new ways to still connect with each other and even across the globe, which is amazing. And that's something I'm just really grateful for. So thank you for spending your morning with us. Take care and jump online and chat to us all because we definitely want to keep these these conversations going and stay connected. So take care and enjoy the rest of your day.