Four years after quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem, and three months after the killing of George Floyd, sports is at the forefront of the national conversation about racism and police brutality, and athletes at all levels are using their voices to try and affect change. 

But even after decades of activism in sports, many athletes are told to “stick to the game,” and stay out of politics. Doug Glanville, knows that’s not possible. And he thinks sports – at their best – can provide a kind of blueprint for what better politics might look like.

Glanville is a former Major League Baseball player, and has been an analyst for a variety of networks and publications. He’s the author of a book, “The Game From Where I Stand” and teaches at UConn. He’s also a member of the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council, and has been active in police reform efforts in the state after a widely-publicized incident where he was racially profiled in his own driveway.

He joined John this week for a special live Zoom event for the Connecticut Mirror called “Race, Politics and Sports.”

Listen using the player above or read an edited version of the episode transcript below.


Full Transcript


Upbringing and Early Baseball Career

Dankosky:
Four years after quarterback Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem and three months after the killing of George Floyd, sports are at the forefront of the national conversation about racism and police brutality. And athletes at all levels are using their voices to try to affect change. But even after decades of activism and sports, many athletes are still told to stick to the game and stay out of politics. My guest on this episode, Doug Glanville, knows that’s not only not possible, but that sports at their best can provide a kind of blueprint for what better politics might look like. Glanville is a former Major League Baseball player and currently an analyst for a variety of networks and publications. He’s the author of a book, “The Game from Where I Stand,” and teaches at UConn. He’s also a member of the Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council, and he’s been active in police reform efforts in the state after a widely publicized incident where he was racially profiled in his own driveway. Glanville join me this week for a special live Zoom event for the Connecticut Mirror. Let’s listen. Doug Glanville, welcome to the special: Race, Politics and Sports. Really glad you could join us tonight.

Glanville:
John, it’s an honor to be here. Really great to be here at this important time. So wonderful to join. And I know we go way back in some ways, so it’s good to reconnect.

Dankosky:
Absolutely. And we’re thrilled to have you here is the timing for us is in some ways good, because we had a chance to have this conversation with you. But with the timing, I think is is really tragic that we have to talk about this again. I want to ask you first, Doug, how are you doing? Like, how are you coping with everything that’s going on right now in society?

Glanville:
Well, you know, I’d say it’s a period of a whole spectrum of emotions, right? I mean, I know in some ways the optimistic side of me reflects back to my time growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey, where it was a town that voluntarily desegregated. And I saw what’s possible in these relationships where people can come from very different backgrounds and find ways to work together. At the same time, I think of my volunteer coaches for Summer League Ball growing up who were police officers in my hometown. And so in some respects, what we’re facing and navigating is a lot of a convergences throughout my life. And so there’s some comfort in that because I guess there’s a hope of familiarity. But at the same time, you know, there’s a such a huge concern, not only just the fact that we’re in a pandemic and the health safety question, the fact that inequities are being exposed at a level we haven’t seen in quite some time. And although sports being somewhat in the center of some of these discussions, that’s something I’m proud of in some ways because I’ve felt sports deserves to have that opportunity. But at the same time, you know, as you mentioned, there can be repercussions in terms of how people, you know, in the “stick to sports” camp can push back. So it’s a roller coaster right now. But at the same time, I’m you know, I’m doing what I’ve always done. Just try to engage and and try to elevate the best of humanity, the best of sports to try to create understanding.

Dankosky:
How do you think it’s different today than it was when you were growing up in Teaneck, New Jersey? I mean, some of the same problems in society are still here now as they were back then. Is something substantially different, though, in your mind? About 2020 that when you were growing up?

Glanville:
Well, one thing just personally, it’s just my perspective has shifted. And I know growing up as a young child, I kind of had a certain twinkle about, OK, this is how it can be. And when I’m in a town that voluntarily desegregated and made inclusion part of the world view of how we would approach the world, you know, that was something that created a certain perspective, saying, you know, this is possible. This is a good way where people can respect each other from whatever background. And so as I’ve gotten older, I still have this optimism. But I’m also a parent. I’m a husband. You know, I’ve been through things. I’ve turned 50 this year and all these things kind of come together. And there is an element of that that says, well, OK, we’re still kind of grappling with these same issues. On some level, there is a step forward, there’s a step backwards. And to some degree, I realize that history has taken these kinds of cyclical trajectories. There’s progress, there’s pushback. There’s it’s not necessarily linear. But at the center of it, when you’re talking about just being human and loving each other and coming together, you want to see that advance and continue to just get better and recognize that our commonality is centered more than anything else. But it’s a challenge. And certainly when you have, you know, whether the political machinations in the background, the legal debate, there’s so many different ways it can fray. And, you know, these moments are ones where you try to figure out how to ways to bring it together.

Dankosky:
When you are a young ballplayer and you were coming up and you were thinking maybe I’m going to be a professional ballplayer. Did coaches or other players that you talked to, did they tell you about this piece of it, about how they thought you should conduct yourself when it came to social issues, political issues, whether or not you should you should talk publicly about these things. And I guess I’m wondering how that helped to shape you throughout the course of your life and your career.

Glanville:
That’s a great question, John. I mean, I think I look back and I mention that summer league team, which was headed up by a volunteer detective in my hometown. And I think, you know, that was a direct relationship to law enforcement. Right. These are teammates of mine. In fact, the cop his son was also on our team was now the captain, a chief of police, actually, of Teaneck. You know, we so we had a dialogue that was different because we were in the same uniform, so to speak. And and that seemed to be the the universal elixir of our relationship. Right. If we have exposure, we have intimacy, we are on the same team, then we can kind of have a perception perspective that creates an expectation that this can work, this can harmonize. And although, yes, teams aren’t always successful, we sort of forge that. And so I think that kind of followed me along all of these environments. And keep in mind, you know, I went to college, I had college coaches, signed professionally, and my parents were actually very concerned for me when I got drafted. I know it sounds strange when you celebrate as a first round pick it’s exciting, but at the same time they had a lot of trepidation because they saw baseball as a very old school old guard, traditional in a way that was not inclusive to what I’d been accustomed to growing up in my hometown, they were concerned about how they would push back. I was the Ivy League kid who didn’t tell the narrative that they were saving me from something. And and there was and it was a lot of tension. And it took a while for me to get any footing. But but I loved the game.

And I still believe that the game had a story to tell that could bring us together. And I think one lesson that I pull when you talk about looking at the situation we’re facing is when I think of sports or I think of baseball, you know, my major league career, minor league career, whatever I think of going to spring training and watching people from all over the world converge and say, we are Chicago Cubs, we’re Philadelphia Phillies, and we come from all over. And to some degree, after especially the early stages, you may not know these players at all. And you have preconceived notions. It’s human nature of the biases of where this player from the Dominican Republic and a player from Venezuela and Nebraska and Tennessee or wherever. And somehow we have to take that first speech by the manager and figure out how to coalesce as a team and take that common goal to try to be a championship champion together. And it can be messy, but you keep getting reinforced every single day. You have this opportunity to be reminded that there’s something bigger than self, there’s something bigger than the boxes we check, the boxes, we check for each other that transcends these identities.

And I think that was so powerful because for me as a professional athlete, that was reinforced for my whole life. I played till I was 34 years old. And every year it was the same kind of proof. And then I also found that being in the environment of sports creates something where there’s a prioritization on equity, there’s a fairness that’s woven into the integrity, the fidelity of your sport that you have to be fair in distributing the rules that govern. And you have, you know, three strikes you’re out, right? If I had three strikes and you had four, you’d be like what? It would be outrage. And even I if I had that advantage, I’d see there’s a problem with our sport. It would not feel right because you’re supposed to come as equal and find a way to win with the rules along the same lines. And we had this. And think about all the changes in sports or just baseball, instant replay, competitive balance tax, you know, all these things that have changed because they want to make the game fair, more fair. And it’s very similar aspirationally where I see our country. You want to seek this ability to unify and you want to find an ability to be fair. And when you have these combinations, I find sports reinforces that, which is why I think it has a great place in our consciousness about how we move forward.

Equality in Baseball

Dankosky:
What’s interesting, and there’s so much to unpack on there that while let’s just say baseball, the sport that you played, it does have this idea of equality, of fairness. That doesn’t mean that they’ve been very good about being inclusive. Right. They want everyone to play by the same rules, but for some reason, over the course of, you know, 150 years of people playing baseball, there have been just a handful of black managers. There have been just a handful of black front office executives. Right now, there are very few black players in the major leagues, fewer than than when you played. It seems as though equality in some ways is part of the sport’s ethos still. But the idea of inclusion, of working to have difference in terms of who runs the sport, that’s something they’re not really that good at.

Glanville:
No. And I think, as you mentioned, those rules and as my parents mentioned, for example, when I started, there was a foundational element. And this is the same challenge we have in our country, right overall right now, you have these foundational elements that define the history of the game, that tell the narrative in the story. And there was a time when that story was told to create these traditions, that there are people of all these backgrounds that weren’t at the table, they weren’t there. And if they were there, we’ll say it that way, they weren’t included. They were ignored. And so it flowed through power. It flowed through power. And this is and, you know, I use in my class Eric Liu, you know, power concentrates, meaning rewarding those that already have it and sort of pulls itself onto each other. Keeping people out power has a tendency to justify itself by telling its own story over and over again. It’s like, oh, this is what happened and this is why I’m in power and this is why I deserve to be in power. And so in those scenarios, you have to change the narrative. And that narrative that we’re looking at in our country is to find ways to tell those stories of some events that actually chronologically happen, but you realize that we omitted people that were actually there and influenced the future of the sport in this case. So that’s very true.

And baseball has struggled in defining its sort of civil rights future after Jackie Robinson, 1947, Robinson breaks and we know the story of the silent strength he portrayed, he evoked. But there was a torment to that. And in private or even in the latter parts of his career, he was truly an activist. I mean, this was not a silent man. He was marching, especially when he retired executive at Chock full of nuts. He was the first real like columnist, he opened a bank, you know, he was trying to find ways and avenues to engage, actively marching. And so that’s the Jackie Robinson that I think baseball still hasn’t figured out how to embrace. And remember his last speech, I believe, in Cincinnati, his last public speech at a baseball stadium was to say, “I want to see a black face in that coach’s box.” I mean, that was one of the things he kind of closed in before he passed away. So there’s no question that you take out Campanis in nineteen eighty seven and you knew after 40 years of Jackie Robinson breaking in, baseball was still grappling with this. And here we are in 2020 and we’re still trying to figure out those next steps. So there’s a lot of, a lot of things that need to change for that to happen.

Dankosky:
And that’s one of the issues with baseball, it’s always been one of the issues with baseball is we say Jackie Robinson, he broke the color barrier, he suffered in order to do that, and we admire this great man. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve done a good job supporting all of the other people who came up after Jackie Robinson, who maybe could have filled that coach’s box but didn’t. And that’s something that you see today. I mean, does this baseball disappoint you? Doug Glanville in 2020?

Glanville:
Well, I feel it has a lot of work. I still have a lot of faith. And it’s a game I love. And I want it to be part of the solution. I want it to be part of that future that really is more inclusive, especially when you’re talking about leadership. Now to Major League Baseball’s credit, the sealing rule with this requirement that was placed in baseball that said, you need to interview diverse candidates for any position, whatever it is in baseball. And they’ve done a pretty good job at the management level that’s not ownership and not necessarily general managers or fields, so to speak, managers. Other than that, they’ve actually had fairly decent inroads in terms of diversity. So that final hurdle has been a challenge. And as we just discussed about power, when you’re in those chairs and the and I’ll give you a perfect example. When Al Campanis in 1987 sort of called out this idea of blacks not having and I’m not sure I’m going to get the right word wrong, it might have been capabilities, but there was a word that it was very racially inflammatory to say you’re not able to do this or you’re not willing to do this role and pay your dues to become a manager.

So over time, a pipeline in the minors and started to kind of fill up gradually with diversity and when the analytics revolution really went to this next level where baseball started to look at these numbers, they started a different methodology of hiring managers and it coincided to somewhat where that opportunity, if you had this traditional ladder, would have yielded more diverse candidates. And at that moment, they said, well, wait a minute, we have this whole analytics world. We’re going to now create these apprenticeships. So they said you’re a special assistant to the GM, you’re a special assistant. And they were handpicked by the organizations outside of the Sealy rule to demand inclusiveness. So if you are the owner of the Marlins, you said, OK, this is my guy. And an offer was always guys, right? So they said, OK, you’re going to get groom and we’ll laterally move you into the manager’s job and then into that chair.

So now if you look at the narrative around black candidates, minority candidates, historically, there was always this thing hung over these candidates head. You don’t have experience, you don’t have experience, you haven’t done it. You haven’t coached, it was written all over the place. But then when the analytics kicked into this level that it says, you know what, that experience really wasn’t that valuable. We can groom you. And then there was a whole 10 year period roughly where all these sort of nouveau managers that had almost zero in most cases managerial experience, but were former respected big league ballplayers, they were all white. They didn’t have the diversity. So that’s an example of you could say unintended but you know, as I mentioned, an article for ESPN.com, you have to design for bias. You can’t just lean on it like, oh, or just magically I’m a good person and it’s just going to work out. You have to recognize that in all of us and you have to be prepared for it and intentional. And then maybe down the road decades, we have generations that make it a social norm, but we are in training right now and that’s why it’s important to be more deliberate.

Recent Activism in Sports

Dankosky:
Let’s talk about some of the the activism we’ve seen in sports over the course of just the last week or so when you heard that NBA players had decided we’re not going to play a playoff game tonight and some Major League Baseball teams followed suit, although not the entire league, as it turned out. What was your reaction?

Glanville:
Wow, that was that was my reaction, wow. I mean, and I was moved. I was inspired. I think that, you know, and I spent a lot of time, my class talking about power. That was power. That was and it was power that was collective. It wasn’t sort of like, OK, Kaepernicks over here, we’re not sure what you know, it was like, OK, we’re all doing this. And even when the Orlando Magic was kind of blindsided, everybody sort of got in line and said, OK, we’re going to do this. That was extremely transformational to see. And the fact that so many sports I mean, I went through for my syllabus, I went through notes and I started going through all the sports and researching all the shifts since covid-19 and just the activism, golf, NASCAR, whatever. And what you’re seeing, I think that is different is the fact that there’s this team concept around it and it’s throughout you know, you’re not just having a player or a Twitter debate or whatever. This is kind of institutionalized in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen in history. And it’s throughout it’s not just one sport either, and it’s sports that have different demographics, different diversities. And sure, they’re approaching them differently. But that is very empowering. And the Milwaukee Bucks, kind of set off a cascading effect throughout all throughout all sports. So, yeah, I was pretty stunned in a way. I wasn’t totally shocked in the sense of I know they’ve been sort of ratcheting up and talking through it. But that was a that was a huge step.

Dankosky:
It was a huge step. And it came at a time where because we had started this very bizarre basketball playoffs in the middle of a pandemic in which we were playing without an audience there. And you had these these large boards surrounding the court, you’d see something that I never thought I’d see at a at an NBA game. And this was not because of the protests from this week, but it was because of George Floyd. I mean, you would see Black Lives Matter in big letters that was being sponsored by the NBA. I guess my question for you, Doug, about this is when it’s players deciding to stand up for their teammates and we’re going to do something together, that’s one thing. When you see it sort of from the corporate level, the NBA or Major League Baseball hanging their own big Black Lives Matter sign on next to the court, does it co-opt it in some way or do you think that there’s some that there’s some positive power there as well?

Glanville:
I think there’s positive power there. I do think you have to be mindful of cooptation and and cooptation has a definite negative connotation on some levels. But, you know, sometimes it comes from allies, you know. You know, it’s like if you think about legislation. You have a great bill that you’re trying to get through and then you add on like, OK, let’s throw this other thing on here. It’s coopting it to a certain degree. But you’re trying to see what more you can achieve under this. And it is important and this is another thing that’s unprecedented is having the league being in this alignment. Adam Silver is a tremendous leader on these social causes and he tries to be ahead of it. And I think he adapts and he’s malleable. And that’s important because they truly have an ally, and I think it’d be a very different circumstance if you didn’t have that type of leadership willing to embrace it.

And so, yes, having Black Lives Matter on the court, you know, is you know, it’s shocking in its own way. But it’s also I think there’s a power to it. But everyone I think in the basketball arena who has been part of these protests recognizes that there’s more steps to take, you know, to enact beyond action. Right. You’re trying to figure out how do you create policy, how do you create a cultural awareness is all the things that need to come behind it. And these are the kind of early steps of this. And there’s no question that the ripple effect has been other sports. As you said, Major League Baseball, with a entirely different demographic, was posing the same symbolism in some ways. Right. The BLM patch and and many ways that they’ve engaged. So but that’s the question, what’s next? But we may not be at the next stage yet. We’re still within the symbolism, within the expression. And that’s an important step, too.

Dankosky:
Yeah. The flip side of the way the NBA handled it is the NFL. As I said at the top of the program four years ago, Colin Kaepernick takes a knee and the league doesn’t know what to do, I think, or the league decides they know what they’re going to do. We’re going to make sure this guy doesn’t play football anymore and we’re going to make it so that these types of demonstrations just don’t happen at NFL games anymore. And that was basically what the NFL did. That’s what Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, got behind for a number of years and now they seem to be changing their tune, too, and I don’t have to tell you, Doug, you know, baseball is the sport I love in the sport I grew up with. But NFL is the most popular sport in the world. And what they do kind of kind of matters.

Glanville:
Without a question. And, yeah, they had to adapt. They had to. And I mean, sure, there’s a business sensibility behind that. And I think Roger Goodell’s leadership has tried to adapt. In fact, I used it in a in class recently talking about these three quotes from 2016, 2018, and 2020. Very different tones. I mean, first it was like “this is, you know, OK, I get it. But you know what? Patriotism and bam bam bam” the next time it was a little bit and then 2020 was like, “we support Black Lives Matter.” It’s like, whoa, what happened. Right. So there was a shift and a recognition. On some level there was an understanding that your league is 80 percent black players and they’re experiencing things that are way beyond the field that have an impact. And this idea that black players can compartmentalize their life and say, well, you know, I’m just wearing the Dallas Cowboy uniform and that’s it, and not recognize that when I go home at night or when I try to buy a house in a certain neighborhood, all kinds of things have been happening since I was born. Right.

So it’s hard to be in these two spaces. Right. And not recognize that, you know, you’re facing these realities every day of your life. And so when you say stick to sports, for example, well, how do I do that? How do I do that for for one, I have to I’m always in this position of being more than sports. I don’t have a choice, even if I wanted to. I think that’s that’s one element. I think for other sports has always actually been in this conversation on some degree, and especially when you talk about the black community. Claire Smith, a colleague of mine at ESPN, always talks about black royalty and her point that she makes around it is that, you know, when you don’t have all these other professions to be able to be in the room to even make change, except if you are Jackie Robinson, you’re entertainers, you’re Harry Belafonte, who you know that that was the avenue that was the cachet to be able to engage. So how is that one person that might have a chance to do something, silent? I mean, there was there was another avenue you couldn’t be, you know, in other positions and be able to have much influence other than clergy, maybe, for example, with Martin Luther King. So it was very difficult to to accomplish a lot.

Dankosky:
What do you make of that? What do you make of the of the powerful athletes throughout history like Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods, are just two examples that come to name who have unprecedented name recognition. They at the top of their respective sports and they are, by and large, silent when it comes to these very important issues.

Glanville:
Well, you know, and this is something that I had to kind of evolve to understand a little more. I know in my class, actually, it’s helped me quite a bit to research. But I found Ken Shropshire is at Arizona State University and their effectively their sport and society program. And they they talk a lot about how the cyclical nature of it. You know, you have this period of 60s, 70s, and then there’s a period of sort of like economic empowerment where you start, you know, athletes that made this calculation, OK, I need to be very neutral and accepted and sort of not touch these issues so that, you know, it becomes more about sort of green. Right. And sort of and that and there’s some power in that to be able to say, OK, you know, whether you’re black or white or whatever, Michael Jackson, whether you’re black or white or Michael Jordan, be like Mike. To see Mike in that context creates some level of acceptance. Right. The 1990’s or so to speak, O.J. Simpson. But and so there is a cyclical aspect of that. And then, you know, we come back again to a different period of time and it depends on the climate of the country and all these elements. So I know that, you know, during my career, I understand that it’s not easy to to speak out, especially when you have all these other concerns about pushback and endorsements and career objectives and you’re a rookie and whatever it is. And so there is a lot of courageous players and athletes happening, you know, experiencing and exposing and expressing at this time. And I don’t take it lightly that it’s something that’s easy.

Questions from Members

Dankosky:
That’s former Major League Baseball player Doug Glanville. He joined me for a very special conversation that we had for the Connecticut Mirror. It’s called Race, Politics and Sports. We did it on Zoom earlier this week and we gave an opportunity to Connecticut Mirror members to ask some questions. And the first question that we had for Doug in the second part of our program was from Bilal Sekou. Bilal, someone I’ve spoken to on the radio a number of times. He’s a political analyst. He’s a political science professor at the University of Hartford. He’s also a board member of the Connecticut Mirror. He says this moment is really shown black athletes demonstrating power that many, perhaps including many of the athletes, thought they did not have. How do they use this power to continue to weigh in on social and political issues that marginalized people face? And should they?

Glanville:
Well, you know, I think well, as I mentioned, as there is those next steps and having a plan, you know, the NFL has the players coalition and they do quite a bit of work and legislation and they work on a lot of things to make reform. And that’s important to think about. What does this look like? You know, we’re seeking equity or seeking justice. What does that look like? That’s a very difficult transition to actually identify it or quantify it or or legislate it. Right. So those steps are our part of seeing those that future where we’re trying to go. I think that’s big. And I think it’s very important as to, I would say, see ourselves in each other. Right. I mean, the the idea of equity or justice is something for all right, we’re trying to and you want to be able to empathize and see each other’s experience and see the common thread actually through that pain. That’s what I really appreciate about baseball. I know it’s been messy when you talk about coordinating how these protests have been in baseball, but part of that is you have people from really all over the world, diverse backgrounds, Latin America, Japan, and there are some of which are not even from the United States trying to understand these elements. It’s not simple.

And I think as they search for different ways to express it. Forty two seconds of silence. I’m open to listening and hearing the different ways to express it, being that so many players are not necessarily from they’re not from the aggrieved party, so to speak, in the black community. They are of different backgrounds and they’re trying to figure out how to be allies and that that takes time and that takes exposure and discussion. But I do think in the end, when allies are able to support that can have a different kind of power than, say, the NBA. We have this where the power is really in the uniformity of being together and knowing you’re not alone and amplifying a particular voice of color in the scenario that has a certain power. But there’s also a power and people of many walks of life saying, no, we’re putting human the sort of humanity at the center, and we’re elevating that as something that we all should aspire to, that that also has a different power.

Dankosky:
Our friend Richard Sugarman, who founded the Connecticut Forum and has been very involved in educational issues in Hartford, has a question. He says, Can you talk a bit about female athletes and leagues and the leadership they’ve taken around social activism? What about the actions and commitment from a star like Maya Moore?

Glanville:
One word. Incredible. I mean, absolutely incredible. And I mean, I think, first of all, the female athletes have led in so many regards the boldness and the just absolutely unapologetic effort to create equity, whether it’s “I can’t breathe”, you know, whether being involved symbolism shirts and had so much to risk right in the salary and equity and just still going out there. And Connecticut should be tremendously proud of these incredible athletes from Brianna. And I mean, it’s just off the charts, right? Rebecca Lobo. And so Maya Moore is the quintessential example of saying, you know, this is so important to me that I’m like, I’m going to stop at the peak of my career and just say, you know what, social justice, I’m going to work on this. And she delivers. She delivers beyond wildest imagination. Right. And helping someone recognize that their innocence and become free. You know, that’s a high bar to reach. And that’s where all these athletes should look to. That is a league that’s had to fight tooth and nail just to to maintain and the courage it’s taken.

So and I’ll give you a quick story of we had the video that I was part of at ESPN called “Enough.” And it was just about it was in response to George Floyd and our country’s response to that. And so I wrote this essay and they put this amazing production team behind it. And there was a part in it that says about how activism, people will say, you know, critics will say, well, it’s not the right way or it’s not not the right place or it’s not the right time. And Martin Luther King said, well, you know, people tell you, tell you, wait, it almost always means never. Right. This idea of waiting and right way, right time. But in that period, the first sort of rendition we just had, I think Kaepernick and LeBron James, and we made a point to make sure we had the Minnesota Lynx and Megan Rapinoe.

And so that struggle that that to be able to unify around all these different identities, to kind of see that we’re working through the sort of experience through sports to be one team. And that team needs to include all these people from different backgrounds, WNBA, NBA and and I think that they have been they’ve been instrumental in so many of these protests. And so much of how we move forward and check out their latest collective bargaining effort, I mean, incredible, they they went in and made gains. I don’t even know in the history of sports what they’ve been able to add. Sue Bird, I mean, so tremendous, tremendous influence.

Dankosky:
You spoke of something earlier that I wanted to get back to, you used the word patriotism, which is, I think, such a fraught idea, and I think more so in the last couple of decades, sports has been tied up in this idea of patriotism. The national anthem is something that many people hold very dear. And obviously people get very upset if you don’t stand for the national anthem. But beyond that, sporting events have increasingly become tied up with military pageantry, flyovers and color guards. And there’s a sense that somehow sports, the military, the police, there are certain things that suggest patriotism. And I guess I’m just wondering how the idea of patriotism strikes you right now and maybe strikes you differently than earlier in your career when you were playing baseball professionally?

Glanville:
Well, you know, in this scenario, I mean, well, let’s just take the NFL. So just, you know, just to note, is that the first time that you talk about the flyovers and the anthem and everybody being on the field? You would think this was going on since 1805, but it was actually 2009. 2009 was the first year that everybody was out on the field. And as you said, the pageantry then and whatever contract the NFL with the military, they were trying to promote. And so there was a relationship that created this sort of tradition. So it’s not a very long standing tradition. Now, baseball, I believe, was at the forefront about the 1918 somewhere around there, Babe Ruth, and it was Boston, New York or something in the World Series. So that’s where the anthem sort of first came in, the sporting realm. So the fact that the patriotism and the way it can be used as a bludgeon of and this moving target is really the problem with it in these scenarios. Right. Because what’s the convenient truth to say? Well, oh, well, you know, these people are not patriotic, even though they’re exercising all these rights that we don’t seem to apply to people the same way. And so our country is founded on on protests and found that on all these ways to speak out on issues because you have certain freedoms. And it’s interesting that when certain people exercise those freedoms, we hear about patriotism and loyalty.

So my experience is, first of all, playing baseball, I stood for thousands of anthems, thousands. I never thought about it. Actually, at a certain point, it was always part of my life. And I just stood up and I wrote an article actually for I think U.S. News and World Report about why I still stand, because Kaepernick actually made me think about it. You know, I just because I’d just done it as part of what I do. And so, you know, those and baseball is a very obviously different sport where you have games every day and all these things. But I know there is an aspect of what I wrote in that article about saying, you know, I because I’m still breathing for others that can’t. Right. And I think I’ve historically recognized and feel fortunate that I’ve been able to find different tools, other tools. Maybe a lot of those is the slow work. Like you mentioned, the Connecticut Police Officers Standards and Training Council. I’ve always really been able to function well in the in the slow game and worked within sort of the system to kind of hold it accountable, truth to power. And that’s worked well for me in a lot of regards and sort of the changes and being part of the equation. You know, my class Jackie Robinson wrote a letter to MLK and King Jr. wrote a letter back about the infighting between the SCLC and the NAACP. And one thing that that King responded to and saying basically, we need both. We need People that are up in your face and are dealing with things, saying you’re not patriotic and you also need people who are at the courtrooms and legislating and working and and so there’s many ways to do it.

The tools that you believe that are at your disposal to be most effective, you should use them. That’s that’s what you have. And whether Kaepernick said, I need to kneel and this is what I need to do, or he believes he needs to be part of the Civil Rights Commission for his state, all that work is all valuable in its own way. And so, you know, patriotism, the challenge with patriotism is that it can be used in such a way that it starts to bleed into nationalism, which bleeds into can bleed into supremacy. Right. You know, so and there’s you know how it can be used knowing that is not the singular, monolithic definition and the fact that sometimes it counters when someone is part of using the process of our democracy, which is seemingly would be patriotic, you know, Jackie Robinson, you know, is he a patriot? You know, he had statements saying, you know, questioning the flag himself. Right. Is that not patriotic? So when you don’t have that much access to to the process and the process has had double standards, your whole existence on what is what’s fair or not fair or what what you’re allowed to do or not allowed to do, and you find yourself circling back in the same place. You know, you’re going to try different methods.

Dankosky:
I want to circle back to something you were talking about earlier about some of the things that you learned about sports in baseball and all these people coming together from different backgrounds and having a common goal and how this can really maybe be a model for how we do things a little bit better in the rest of life. That sounds like such an incredibly profound idea and ideal. It also sounds like it’s really much harder to do if you don’t have a whole bunch of driven athletes who are coming together and you just have a whole bunch of people, 330 million of us trying to come together around stuff. How have you thought about that? About what we can all learn from, say, baseball in terms of the way we have political discussions or the way we come together to make change?

Glanville:
Well, you know, one basic thing is there is a lot of people in this country, but there’s a lot of people that are sports fans. And so that connection is some of the ways we actually find constructive engagement amongst each other, whether you’re Republican or Democrat. But you like the New England Patriots, you can agree on that. And I don’t take it lightly that some basic thing to agree on actually is something you can build on. And and so coming together, I think there is an opportunity to kind of to use that sort of experience in sports and these athletes, first of all, stop trying to silence these athletes. I mean, that’s one because there’s a lot to learn from these athletes a lot. And and so that’s that’s one aspect of it.

Look, I understand people will say, well, hey, you know, I want to I come for entertainment and I don’t want to be bothered at some halftime show and different things. And it’s not like you’re watching baseball games out of all nine innings or like speeches from Malcolm X. I mean, it’s not what’s happening, but at the same time, we can have a little bandwidth here to really learn other things and challenge ourselves. I don’t think that’s unreasonable. And sure there’s creative ways to do that. And they think it can be constructive. But, you know, so I think that that is an opportunity to where sports and all these people that you mentioned, so many of them are fans of sports and they play sports in their community. And and so maybe looking at the virtues of sports in a different way is one. I think one of the challenges we have as a nation is we’re very segregated. We’re very segregated. Connecticut right here. You know, most of the black community, for example, is like 12 towns in the state. I mean, you don’t have exposure. And, you know, we could dig we can do a whole session on housing reform and all the ways that we can, but we’ll save that for another day.

Dankosky:
You could read the Connecticut Mirror. We’ve got plenty of stories about that.

Glanville:
Exactly. So but, yeah, I mean, that that is a challenge when you get reinforced by your own image all the time and you go back and and you don’t have that intimacy and you’re limited, I think that’s a drawback. And we recognize that that type of isolation is tough to overcome. So there’s a lot of things that need to be coordinated and work together. But but I do think sports has a lot to offer in that regard. And just in the lessons of what these players experience. And, you know, it’s not by no means is it perfect. No means like we had a steroid era. We’ve had sign stealing scandals. But but how you respond to those is really what starts to be the most important thing and how you decide to move forward from these and prioritize the integrity of the sport.

Dankosky:
When you talk about the differences in, say, a major league clubhouse of people coming from all over the world to come together as a team, there’s got to be different political ideologies in there. Different experiences of all sorts of types. I mean, do you have some some memories of times where you were able to bridge some sort of a divide with someone, maybe a teammate who you just did not see eye to eye on about anything other than the fact that you were both Chicago Cubs?

Glanville:
Well, absolutely. And I mean, well, I think of one of my early minor league experiences. I mean, this is, you know, probably wouldn’t come to a shock. But of course, I’ve drafted we’re in the Florida State League. I’m playing for Daytona Beach. I’m in the back of the bus to one of our trips. And I said I’d like the middle seat in the back. And I’m reading the African Slave Trade history. I just thought, you know, pick up some light reading. Right. But one of my teammates confronts me and comes up to me, says, why do you need to read that? Like what? You don’t need to read that. Why do you need to read that? I was a long time ago. What difference does it make? There’s no slavery today. He was just very offended by me reading a book. Of course, I was like, are you telling me what I can read? Like, I don’t understand. So that was you know, that was a moment. But I think when I look over that course of the season, that’s the guy when I was in the big leagues, you know, I went to lunch with and in Houston, you know, so, you know, it’s just things change.

And look, you may just double down on your biases. It may happen in whatever team you’re on. But there is some period where you just have to figure out how to do it together. You have to figure it out. That guy was one of the best pitchers on our team. I needed to catch the ball in centerfield for us to win. And so, you know, Jackie Robinson, I just look at his experience. How did he do it? How in the world did he do it? And but I see every person as an opportunity, every moment as an opportunity. And I and I don’t work off this premise that all these people are irredeemable or irretrievable or I think it’s sometimes it’s context and experience. And you’re right, maybe people won’t get that experience if you’re in towns that you don’t have any diversity and there’s nobody pushing back on you saying, hey, maybe you should rethink this. But, you know, we are the United States of America, so maybe there are some way to unite on something bigger. And I see sports as a way forward and a lot of ways. And so that’s what I’m hopeful for. And I certainly do what I can to continue to express that.

Dankosky:
Does it worry you, though, that politically it seems as though we’re so divided that some of those conversations that maybe we could have had as we were growing up to try to bridge divides almost can’t happen anymore because of the vitriol because of the tone with which people conduct conversations not just about politics, but about all manner of life.

Glanville:
Well, we’re definitely in a very difficult space right here because the absolutism. Right, the ideological boxes, we check we say, you know, and there’s a quote I used today, just about how we kind of say, “oh, well, I’m liberal or conservative,” but then therefore I have to check all these boxes, like unilaterally and unequivocally, like, that’s what I am, period. And I have the climate change and here’s my view on this. And but then when you actually look at the issues and you discuss, you don’t it’s not necessarily that vastly different in some cases or certainly isn’t. Ten out of ten. But we believe, you know, we’re in a stage of believing, OK, well, I have to therefore be on this side. And look, I think there’s a lot of moderate space out there. Sometimes we’re just afraid to embrace it. And so, yes, we’re going to have to figure out how we get to this next place if we really want to accomplish some of the things these athletes are raising. And I’m not saying by any stretch that’s simple. And I think we have a lot of pain. We have a lot of friction and tension politically it’s toxic and and it creates this, you know, zero playing field kind of feeling in what is between us. So I don’t want to underestimate that and think that, hey, let’s play a softball game and we’re all happy. But it’s a consistent foot on the accelerator. The continue to remind us of our of the best we can be together. And it has to come in every form fashion forum as possible, as many as we can. And leadership is going to matter to set that example and recognize that we’re all in this together.

Dankosky:
We’ve got another question here coming in from Mark. It says, Was there a way for Colin Kaepernick to make his point without the side issue of disrespecting the flag? Or did that level of discomfort and controversy ultimately contribute to it? And it’s a great question. This idea of disrespecting the flag is something that, of course, immediately came up. It was some the way in which a lot of people interpreted that action. But maybe without that action, people wouldn’t have talked about it at all.

Glanville:
I mean, and some of that, as you mentioned, there are different interpretations and different backgrounds and sensitivities to certain certain things. I certainly know that Kaepernick, you know, talked to someone with military background to decide what to do. He was sitting at first and then he said, “oh, kneeling would be more respectful.” So he didn’t do that. He got advice to do that. But we know that people are going to have different people who are in the military saying supporting him. And there’s people who are saying this is horrific. And I think as time has gone on, he seems to be being validated more and more as we’ve seen our response throughout sports. Right. And seeing the working on these relationships between law enforcement, communities of color, people of color and so but there’s no question that those are fair questions to say is there another way to do this? But I do think that protest is protest because it is uncomfortable. That is part of it. Comfort doesn’t invoke people to change anything. It’s status quo. And if the status quo, you’re in privilege and comfort and everything’s great, then why would you change anything? The third rule of Eric Liu is power is infinite. And it’s interesting because that’s the one I think that creates the most debate. Is it infinite?

Because if you believe the world is set up as a zero sum game and that’s it. Winners and losers and that’s it, then, of course, when someone’s asking for equity or fighting for equity, you’re thinking you’re giving something up. And so that’s a tough equation when you believe that you’re giving something up to treat someone fairly. Right. But if you believe it to be infinite that there’s a pool, just like if you’re a team of All-Star individuals, but you don’t play well together until you actually coalesce as a team, well, you can have a team of average players and find ways to excel because you’ve elevated something larger. And so that’s where the question on this question of power is. And so it’s easy to say, well, this isn’t right. You should do this. And but if you look over history, there’s always a reason to not act on and creating equality. There’s always been a reason in protest to say there is something wrong with it. So, I mean, it doesn’t.

And once again, Martin Luther King letter from a Birmingham jail, one of the best letters ever written. And he and he sits there and says, yeah, we’ve heard this before. You keep saying, wait, it’s not the right place. Don’t do it now. It’s a holiday. You know, I mean, when you know I mean so, you know, unfortunately, when this experience is reinforced consistently, that’s when it gets sort of recognition. People, you know, and this is general, but there is an amnesia part of our culture, especially when you can tweet it away and in 140 characters. And so, yes, it is uncomfortable. And once again, like personally, I just expressed that I sat for the anthem my whole career and I didn’t think about it as much until Kaepernick kind of reminded me of it. And I can’t say what I would have done. I know if I was in baseball today, knowing what I know and all these players kneeled on that opening day, I probably would have been right with them, just knowing was it was a cohesion. There was a cohesion to it that all players that first day before the anthem, you know, I thought that was pretty powerful.

Dankosky:
Of all the powerful things that I’ve heard over the course of the last week or so, that press conference that Doc Rivers gave was it was something else. And for people who haven’t seen it, I mean, the upshot at the end of what he was saying was, you know, we love this country and this country is just not loving us back, and that’s something that I saw first on Twitter, I saw the little clip and not surprisingly, Doug, a lot of what the reaction was, was this country doesn’t love you back. How could you say the country doesn’t love you back? You make seven million dollars a year as a basketball coach. You’ve had this great career. You’ve had all these opportunities. Of course, the country loves you back. How how did you view what Doc Rivers said and how did you view how have you viewed that reaction that always comes back to ballplayers, which is which is you made millions of dollars. Shut up.

Glanville:
Well, pain, you know, just straight up pain. And it’s a devastating kind of pain because it’s like you also expect and you were hopeful and you just get crushed and, you know, you can’t dismiss and say, OK, well, it is significant fine that people make a certain amount of money in professional sports, but they also come from somewhere. They have family. They have people that don’t make seven million dollars a year. They have experiences that transcend just their own bubble that they’re in and they have their own experiences. And I don’t know, would you trade make seven million dollars to be marginalized your entire life trying to buy a house, people questioning you wherever you go? I mean, I could we could do a whole show on just stories I could tell. And I feel like I’ve been fortunate, so, you know, so. Yeah. Can you put a price tag on that? I don’t know. But I think the point you could make it be fairer by saying if you made seven million and you weren’t black, what would your experience like? Maybe that’s a better comparison than saying you make seven million in some vacuum. And so the idea is the patriotism aspect of that is important to underscore because, you know, he. You know, you look at I think it’s important to note that people are willing to go to these lengths to hold our country to the tenants and to the best of what it’s states to be about.

And that’s codified what it’s about for all people and still believe in the country. When you have someone kneeling on your neck, when you have people going through these experiences, and yet you still say, no democracy must thrive, we must, that’s incredible patriotism. I mean, you’re getting tested every day and you still don’t come back and say this country is something I can’t believe in you still believe in it. I think that’s remarkable, actually, and something that is a great example of staying the course and still believing in the faith. I mean, it’s sort of like immigration. You know, you have there’s people who come to the United States with such belief and uphold it, even in some ways to a higher level, because the opportunity I mean, that’s an incredible walk. My dad was an immigrant from Trinidad and Tobago and said, yes, you know, I can do these amazing things. And he loved his country in Trinidad. So so I think that there is there still can be pain. And just because someone is critical or someone wants it to be better doesn’t make you unpatriotic.

And, you know, because when someone else is in office, you know, and has a different, you know, political leaning than you and you’re not supporting that particular president, that person would never say they’re not patriotic. They would say getting this person out of office is patriotic. So, you know, we have to be consistent. And I think in the black experience, that’s rivers of saying we’re very inconsistent. We allow, you know, certain things, certain people to be able to do certain things or certain people to celebrate certain rights of freedom of protest or right to bear arms or whatever. And we’re not applying it equally. And Rivers is just pointing out that pain. But he’s also saying, I love this country and I think that’s still extremely powerful.

Dankosky:
You do have so many stories of your own, but you say that you’ve been fortunate. Why are you so optimistic? Because you seem genuinely optimistic as a person and about these issues.

Glanville:
Well, I am optimistic and I think maybe it is spending a lot of time looking at history and paying attention to certainly my own personal history of what people have done, sacrificed, fought for in the conditions by which they live to be able to forge these pathways. And it’s not linear. It’s not this, you know, unobstructed uphill climb to glory. There’s a lot of frustration and pain, but there’s also a lot of strength in coalescing around this common experience. And so I do feel a sense of pride in that. In some degree of I’m still here, you know, I’m still here and I have an opportunity. I also top my experience growing up. I know that never leaves me because I saw a period of time that I remember. And by the way, we had our 30th high school reunion a couple of years ago and people had access and responded to each other like we did 30 years prior, still believing in what we saw in the inclusive world. And so that beauty to me was something that I’m not saying it’s going to be snap your fingers overnight with the way our country is segregated in terms of where we live. But I also think that it still reminds me of what’s possible.

And that includes, you know, and I have a law enforcement story in there. I mean, take my summer league team where many of the players on that team went into law enforcement. I think six teammates between my brother’s team and mine went into law enforcement. One is the chief of police in my hometown. And his father was our volunteer coach. My father was a psychiatrist. And one of his jobs was to counsel police officers. And I learned early on how stressful their jobs were. I learned very early on. And so they were my teammates. And 30 years later, when my teammates who were law enforcement retired and when my father passed away, they all showed up at his funeral in full uniform police escort to the burial site. They looked out for my family when I was on the road. And in fact, one time one police officer intercepted an ambulance call and brought a backup device to help my father, who was in a critical situation. Now, that’s my personal experience. Now, I know in typical black experiences, if you’re in an overpoliced area, you’re not going to have this type of. But I also know that I can say, well, if you are able to expose and be able to be in the symbiotic relationship, you can achieve different outcomes. You can. And so that gives me hope. That does.

I mean, I’m on the Connecticut police officer standards and trainings counsel. And I’ll give you a short example. All right. There’s civilians and there’s law enforcement and others. And in the three or four years I’ve been on, we’ve done, I think, quite a bit of work. I think a lot of good work. And of course, it’s challenging and you see what’s happening. But but, you know, if you’re not in the room and you’re not together in that, then it is hard to be representative. And by the way, just, you know, one thing that the NBA and other sports can do. Every single state has a council like Connecticut’s. Very few of them have civilians in the room. So if you want to change training and if you want to change culture and you want to work on ways, I think it’s important to have civilians in the room to engage with law enforcement because then your community and policing invest in the outcomes together. And that’s an important relationship. Wisconsin, wherever you are. Right. So and so. Yes, that does give me optimism and hope and I’ll remain steadfast in that hope.

Dankosky:
Glanville, it’s been great talking with you. I really appreciate the time. And thank you for all of your insight. And we’ll talk to you again some time because there’s a lot in the world that we can talk to you about.

Glanville:
I really appreciate it, John. Thanks very much for having me.

Dankosky:
My conversation with Doug Glanville was recorded as part of a special live Zoom event for the Connecticut mirror called “Race, Politics and Sports.” If you’d like to be part of events like this in the future, do two things for me. Go to CTmirror.org And donate to support our great journalism. That’s going to make you a member. Then you can also sign up for our newsletter so you’ll know all about events like this in the future. Oh, you know what? Go ahead and subscribe to our podcast. If you haven’t already, it’ll really help. Thank you. Our study beats are provided by George Mastriannis and Dave Swanson, and were recorded at Legends Studios in Avon, Connecticut. Thanks to Kyle Constable, Bruce Putterman, Beth Hamilton, and Jessica Freedman. I’m John Dankosky. We’ll talk to you soon.

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John is CT Mirror's Director of Events. A well-known and highly-regarded radio personality and moderator, he divides his time between CT Mirror — where he heads up our events program and serves as a multi-platform consultant — and the NPR / PRI program Science Friday. Previously, John was executive editor of the New England News Collaborative and the host of NEXT, a weekly program about New England. He also appeared weekly on The Wheelhouse, WNPR’s news roundtable program. His 25 years in public media also include serving as vice president of news for Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, host of WNPR’s Where We Live, and regular fill-in host for the PRI program Science Friday in New York. He was twice recognized by PRNDI as America’s best public radio call-in show.