Locker Rooms and Sexual Harassment: 90s Style

The recent spate of announcements regarding sexual harassment has been amazing. We may not have been surprised by the harassment in Hollywood with its “casting couch” history.We aren’t surprised about these activities in sports, we can’t be surprised about this occurring in the halls of media organizations either. One incident from the long history of harassment appears in my book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality.

Fewer than three months into their jobs and co-anchors of CBS’ The NFL Today Pregame show, Terry Bradshaw and Greg Gumbel faced a major incident. Five New England Patriots players had told crude jokes and two fondled their genitals as Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson was covering their locker room after a Monday Night Football game in mid-September 1990. Olson issued a complaint.

Then Patriots owner Victor Kiam, of Gillette Razor fame made things worse. Kiam had a brief exchange with the reporter in the locker room the following week. He turned to a member of his entourage who was standing by his side and said sotto voce, “She’s a classic bitch. No wonder the players don’t like her.” Patriots’ fans piled on, showering her with obscenities and vile suggestions and statements as “If you want
to go into the men’s locker room, you get what you deserve.”

The case of Melissa Ludtke v. Bowie Kuhn, in 1978, had opened the doors, literally, for female reporters. The ruling determined that keeping the Sports Illustrated reporter out of the New York Yankees’ locker room during the 1977 World Series deprived her of the equal opportunity to pursue her profession. The NFL did not enact an equal access policy until 1985. Female sportswriters faced frequent discrimination, harassment, and fraternity-type pranks like wet towels being whipped against their behinds as they waded through the male athletes to reach the person they wanted to interview.

How would Bradshaw and Gumbel address the explosive situation? A Dayton sportswriter described Patriots fans as Puritans.
The abuse they directed toward Olson betrayed their male chauvinism, which basically said, “You are a woman; know your place.” In contrast, NBC’s pregame analyst Will McDonough rushed a quick response to the incident and claimed Olson “exaggerated her story.”

The CBS pregame show made Leslie Visser the lead in the discussions on the issue. Bradshaw described how he thought the public saw the issue, contending, “We can be as lenient and we can be as accepting to the opposite sex all we want to. But there comes an area where a man just absolutely closes his mind up and says no.” Mary Carillo, analyst for women’s and men’s tennis on CBS and ESPN, responded, “I think
that’s valid, a very valid point. Football always has been perceived as a male domain. Tennis isn’t like that—(John) McEnroe and (Ivan) Lendl
know I have the same skills, so it isn’t a stretch.”

Cathy Barreto who became the first female director for NFL games in the late 1980s, argued for female announcers in football. She thought
that for a female announcer to be accepted, “it’s going to have to be a recurring thing—not just once in a while. . . . Really no different than a
man—except people aren’t used to it.”

Bradshaw recalled growing up in Shreveport and witnessing the slow dissolution of racial segregation, another instance where people needed to get used to change. He listened to women analyze golf on television and accepted them because he learned from them. “I’m looking for knowledge. I don’t care what the sex is,” he said.

Nearly 30 years of past since this incident. The culture has only recently began fleshing out incidents of sexual harassment. Women broadcasters do not regularly in the broadcast booth for football. There is one woman appearing along the sidelines as a reporter but no more than one. ESPN did add one woman to their broadcast booth for major league baseball. As Carillo’s comment suggested, sports still seek an name athlete in the sport to appear in the broadcast booth as a color commentator. But broadcast booths can be expanded as ESPN has done to add a woman, and women can also be given more opportunities as play-by-play announcers. First, the sexism, both overt with the harassment, and covert, with hiring tendencies, needs to be contained then eliminated.

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Behind Major League Baseball’s Top Teams

A damning analysis of the Astros being very cheap negotiating with their players: Certainly part of corporate attempts to maximize profits and lower labor costs which are happening throughout the United States

I’m surprised that the MLB union, which is the strongest among professional sports, has not been fighting harder for these players.

Astros exemplify the player-unfriendly bent of analytics

Writing A Book Part 1: Idea to Execution

The 21-month period ended this Saturday with the publication of my latest book, Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. The long process appeared to be common with certain kinds of non-fiction publications.

Things started last January when an editor for a new series of books on sports idols who became popular culture icons asked me if I wanted to submit a book proposal. Having had my book, The Bullets, The Wizards and Washington, D.C. Basketball published with Rowman and Littlefield, I knew something about the steps they sought in their book proposals. The difficult part was figuring out whom I would write about.

At first, the names that popped into my head were female tennis stars, specifically Billie Jean King and Martina Navratilova. Each had played a role in furthering women’s roles on the tennis circuit, but they also were well known for their sexual orientation and became major figures in announcing. After thinking twice about them, I focused on Jim Brown. The former NFL star running back had a long career as a movie actor in Hollywood. He stood as a player in the Civil Rights Movement and had also voiced his opinion on matters in politics and culture over the years.

Then, the set of struggles over the Confederate flag in South Carolina and on the car used in the television show The Dukes of Hazzard happened. I read a wide-range of articles and felt there was a lot about the American South that I did not know. I realized that Terry Bradshaw had as rich a career in popular culture as in sports so I looked into him as a possibility for a book. I wrote a chapter on Bradshaw acting in 1970s Burt Reynolds movies, polished it up after my friend Brian gave it a great read, and shipped it off to the publisher along with the book proposal.

With university and some academic presses, after the editor completes a review, he/she submits these documents to people with expertise in the field for comments. Rowman and Littlefield have “reading boards” with librarians who offer their assessment, including whether they would have an interest in buying the book upon completion. The group gave the possible Bradshaw book the nod in January 2016. I received a contract giving me an October 2016 completion date. I doubted that I could complete the ten chapters in this time frame and sought a co-writer. This time I could not find one. Fortunately, Brian volunteered to read chapters, then raise questions and identify gaps.

As always I started with researching the subject. Bradshaw has written four books about his life and they proved very helpful. These books featured stories that I could use later and people and places that I knew had to be corroborated in other books, magazines and newspapers. Bradshaw’s books showed why he was a popular culture icon. His football career covered the 1970s and 80s. He served as a color commentator for games during the 1980s, and has been a studio analyst for professional football on two networks for 27 years. He has sang country western and gospel music, made movies and appeared on television shows in the 1970s and the 1990s and 2000s. Has has made commercials for nearly every type of product.

The other books ranged from fan and journalist books on football and the Pittsburgh Steelers to academic works on  of the 1970s.  Sports reporter Gary Pomerantz’s Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now provided details about the team and the individual men. Several figures from the team wrote autobiographies, including the team’s President Dan Rooney through linebacker Andy Russell and announcer Myron Cope. All these works provided context and stories about the team and Bradshaw’s personality. A few scholars wrote about on road movies and Southern movies during the 1970s as well the depictions of Southerners in popular literature and television which offered perspectives on imagery of Southern white males, specifically the Good Old Boy.

This information got me off to a great start but I noticed great gaps about his childhood and days working in television. I used resources like the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame to identify people who wrote about or played with Bradshaw while he played high school and college football. Thankfully I discovered that people from the area proved very nice and willing to help. Doug Ireland, the head of the Hall of Fame, gave me several names, and they remarkably included Bradshaw’s old high school football coach. The coach provided details about Shreveport, the school system, the football program, and Terry’s personality. I also spoke with the journalists they had told me about and they had grown up with Terry so they could provide some childhood insight as well as high school and college football stories. Again, my great fortune to meet open and straight-shooting people.

I figured finding out about television broadcasting would be more difficult. There are small cadres of people working in the field and reputations are guarded closely. I tried to reach out to a few groups including the Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  I left messages and heard nothing back. Some articles in sports weeklies such as Sports Illustrated, featured a few articles about individuals who worked with Terry Bradshaw while he was with CBS Sports. Through various searches I found information for sports producer Terry O’Neil. I re-read the articles, read his autobiography and prepared a list of questions. He proved very helpful and insightful about the work of a color commentator and studio host and analyst for the NFL.

Other searches for producers and on-air talent did give me a few email addresses and telephone numbers. Most significantly I got to talk with Bradshaw’s broadcasting partner for a few years Verne Lundquist. He proved generous with his time, providing responses to my questions but also offering stories.

Unfortunately, other well-known people I called failed to return my messages. Getting in touch with players I figured would be a challenge. When I wrote the basketball book I received a list with contact information for some former players. This helped a lot and I conducted quite a few interviews, particularly with players who were active decades ago. A few active general managers, assistant coaches, scouts and former players spoke with me. But one former player gave me particular insight into why many would not discuss their past or other players. He said, “This is a fraternity. If you want to get a chance at a job in the league, you have to keep things tight.”

While that stunk, I revealed in the discovery of how much simpler researching history has become because of the digitization of many magazines and newspapers. Before starting specific searches, I consulted the yearly Reader’s Guide to Periodical Literature to find any article published about Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers during the 1960s and 1970s, and items related to NFL quarterbacks. I then found many of these articles through the specific search engines for the magazines, including Sports Illustrated and Time, People and Variety. Most fortunately, people with specific interests such as in radio, or in movies, have digitized some special interest magazines, such as Broadcasting and Cash Box, which contained significant insight into Bradshaw’s television, movie and music careers.

The number of newspapers that have been digitized is amazing. Thankfully I live in Washington, DC and have the Library of Congress as a resource. They have access to the digitized versions of the largest newspapers, including Washington Post, New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe and the Atlanta Constitution. They also have services providing access to African-American newspapers and to small-town and rural newspapers as well. The city’s library has a service that provides access to historical newspapers across the United States. Most of these newspapers start from the 1990s. These are incredibly valuable resources, especially when you are interested in knowing what reactions reviewers, critics and the general public had to a person’s artistic and other activities.

I spent weeks printing or copying the details from thousands of articles covering Bradshaw’s playing career through his years on Fox’s NFL Pregame shows, which have changed names and contributors over the years. Among those with regular appearances on the show are comedians Jimmy Kimmel and Frank Caliendo. I organized these materials chronologically in individual chapters based upon Bradshaw’s activity: childhood, football player, singing, acting and commercials, studio analyst. I drafted a chapter every three weeks and received pretty quick reads from my friend.

While Brian read the chapter 9 and the conclusion I searched for photographs. I asked several of the people whom I interviewed if they had a photograph and thought that two would send a copy. I consulted with Louisiana State University in Shreveport and discovered that they had digital images of the Woodlawn High School newspaper. This included a few photographs of Terry Bradshaw. I called the Louisiana Technical University’s Archives and they had a large collection that did not yield what I hoped to put in the book. The Pittsburgh area newspapers and magazines had a couple of excellent photographs. However, I ended up only using a bird’s-eye view of the new stadium (Three Rivers Stadium in 1970). The problem with the others was that they had NFL depicted on them and the photo archivist stated that I might have to pay the league for the rights to use them in the book.

I am not sure about the legal issues but I heard something similar when I called the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Library and the Warner Brothers’ Library. Each had photographs of Bradshaw in the movies, specifically Hooper and The Cannonball Run. Unfortunately, each photograph cost more than I planned on spending and they mentioned that I was responsible for getting the rights clearances. The expectation was that I would contact the person in the image and get their consent to publish the photograph in the book. Way too much to do and quite unlikely to be granted if the person isn’t able to exert control over how the image is used.

After creating a list of the photographs and indicating their location in the book, I shipped these documents, copies of the photographs and the nine chapters to the publisher in late September 2016. The book editor read the manuscript and shipped me back copies within a month with questions to clarify points or offer suggestions about words or sentence structure. The largest comments focused on the size of the book. The contract called for 100,000 words and this I delivered. However, the book ran 400 pages which was too costly for production. The editor asked me to reduce the context surrounding everything from the economy of the South in the 1960s through the attempts of athletes to make music and star in movies. I could also make some small changes in word choices, spelling or other items. Another big decision involved splitting up the chapter on the Steelers’ four championships in two because of its size.

The first round of editing ended in December. The copy editors and printing staff at Rowman & Littlefield took over. We looked at a couple of possible cover images and I offered my opinion.They also asked me if I knew of people in the field of sports history and popular culture who would be interested in reading the first draft and providing an endorsement. I belong to a few groups of academics but am not very well connected so I wasn’t sure whom to ask. I contacted the people who initially got me involved, the series editors, and asked them if they had any recommendations. With me sending out a few requests and the editors looking, we arrived at finding three people who offered to read the draft. To my amazement, all submitted raves for the book. I felt great.

I received this first version of the book that the three readers got in early April 2017. This gave me the chance to see what the book will look like and determine if anything generated heartburn and needed changing. Every paragraph received a numerical label in brackets representing the chapter and when the paragraph appears, for example [2.3]. I understood the purpose of the numbers in brackets. Instead of using page numbers, the published wanted me to place these numbers in the book’s index. I had 2-3 weeks to place these numbers in the index next to the persons, places, and things that I thought worth tracking. After starting the indexing of chapter one, I realized that several people and organizations would need many subheadings to indicate the different activities and events they participated in. As I finished the second chapter I felt exhausted and another 250 pages remained. I decided in order to meet this deadline I needed to hire someone. A neighbor had some time so she took over the indexing of the two non-football focused chapters because she is not a big fan of the sport. She did a fantastic job and helped me with another chapter as well. I emailed the completed index to the publisher.

A month later, the book editor at Rowman & Littlefield emailed me with the final copy of the book’s cover. A week later I received a second  copy of the final draft of the book, including the index. They also sent an author’s questionnaire and a document I filled in with places that I thought would be potential locations for a book review. The press’s small publicity department generally sent out copies of the book to four of the outlets the review books for libraries. The publications are Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Choice and Booklist. I knew a few places from previous books that I’ve published, such as Journal of Sports History and Journal of Popular Culture. I researched for other outlets, particularly websites, and forwarded a list to the publisher.

In July, almost two months before the book came out, the first review emerged. The Publishers Weekly reviewer thought highly of the book and gave it a great review. My editor sent me notice of it. Now I became curious what else might come out. I noticed this blurb from Library Journal:

FIRST AND TEN: TOP FOOTBALL TITLES FOR SUMMER AND FALL

Abrams, Brett L. Terry Bradshaw: From Super Bowl Champion to Television Personality. Rowman & Littlefield. (Sports Icons & Issues in Pop Culture). Sept. 2017. 304p. notes. bibliog. ISBN 9781442277632. $40. SPORTS

Arians, Bruce with Lars Anderson. The Quarterback Whisperer: How To Build an Elite NFL Quarterback. Hachette. Jul. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780316432269. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316432252. SPORTS

**Bell, Upton & Ron Borges. Present at the Creation: My Life in the NFL and the Rise of America’s Game. Univ. of Nebraska. Nov. 2017. 400p. illus. ISBN 9781496200396. $24.95. SPORTS

Carlson, Chuck. Ice Bowl ’67: The Packers, the Cowboys, and the Game That Changed the NFL. Sports Pub. Oct. 2017. 224p. illus. ISBN 9781683580973. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781683581017. SPORTS

George, Thomas. Blitzed: Why NFL Teams Gamble on Starting Rookie Quarterbacks. Sports Pub. Sept. 2017. 208p. notes. ISBN 9781683581079. $24.99. SPORTS

Myers, Gary. My First Coach: Inspiring Stories of NFL Quarterbacks and Their Dads. Grand Central. Aug. 2017. 288p. index. ISBN 9781455598465. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455598472. SPORTS

**Oriard, Michael. The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration. Univ. of Nebraska. Aug. 2017. 280p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9780803290693. $39.95. SPORTS

Savage, Phil with Ray Glier. 4th and Goal Every Day: Alabama’s Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2017. 336p. index. ISBN 9781250130808. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250130815. SPORTS

Stewart, Wayne. Remembering the Stars of the NFL Glory Years: An Inside Look at the Golden Age of Football. Rowman & Littlefield. Jul. 2017. 238p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781442274235. $38; ebk. ISBN 9781442274242. SPORTS

**Zimmerman, Paul. Dr. Z: The Lost Memoirs of an Irreverent Football Writer. Triumph. Sept. 2017. 304p. ed. by Peter King. ISBN 9781629374642. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781633198487. SPORTS

The R&L publicist said that indicated a full review of the book would be coming in the near future. It did and the person called it a unique take on Bradshaw’s life and career. The R&L editor thought the reviews were outstanding.

Anybody who knows me immediately realizes that I start combing through the Internet to see what else would appear. The book did not get reviewed in the other two locations. The hard work of marketing and publicity remained ahead to be discussed in the second part of this chronicle.

Battle of the Sexes Movie

It was great going with members of the Capital Tennis Association to see the movie Battle of the Sexes this Saturday evening. As a gay lesbian and bi group of tennis people, CTA members had multiple interests in the movie’s topics. We knew the people, could enjoy the sport and identify with the character’s same-sex interest. Many of the actors playing small roles, including Sarah Silverman and Alan Cumming, gave the movie extra gay cache. Thanks to the social director and others in the group’s leadership for organizing the two showings.

Only a few of us were old enough to have experienced the tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King when it originally occurred. Most of us recall the spectacle and our thrill over King’s victory, but I also recall the intensity of the Women’s Liberation movement and the backlash it faced from a wide-range of males in the U.S. at the time. King’s victory proved very important to the movement. The movie captures that spirit of the tennis match very well. It shows the way the professionals played the game in that era, with much serve and volley tactics, and illuminates just how much slower it seems the serves and ground strokes were, partially because of the wooden racquets and other equipment disadvantages.

The story is less successful in showing the strength of male chauvinism that existed at the time. We see the feeling embodied in Jack Kramer, who also represents the elitism of tennis that King battles against. However, he does not spout any of the highly vitriolic language and anger that came out of many male chauvinists. Intriguingly, Kramer was a key figure in the establishment of the “Open-era” of tennis which did democratize the sport to a significant degree.

Since it is a movie, it will need to combine events and things to fit into the short time span. Battle of the Sexes melds the founding of the Virginia Slims Tournament with the start of the Women’s Tennis Association which actually happened three years apart. It makes a point of showing that Kramer kicked the women who joined the WTA out of the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association. This supposedly denied the nine women of the WTA access to the Grand Slam Tournaments (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open). Such an action would have been a huge loss to the women and the sport yet the movie does not discuss it again. King and the others played in those Grand Slams so the denial seems to have not occurred.

At the conclusion, the movie provides a few lines of epilogue to show what happened to the characters afterwards. My husband and I stood agape as the closing did not mention Marilyn Barnett and her famous palimony suit against Billie Jean King in 1981. We mentioned this to the other group members and none of them had heard of the case and how much it cost Billie Jean King in endorsements. Palimony had roots in the famous Lee Marvin and Michelle Triola Marvin in 1977. Other cases include

  • Rock musician Peter Frampton was sued by Penelope J. “Penny” McCall in 1976. McCall asked for half of Frampton’s earnings during the five years that they were together. According to McCall, she gave up her job as a rock promoter and devoted herself full-time to Frampton, right at the time that he achieved superstar status. A New York judge ruled that Frampton and McCall never intended to marry each other and “never held themselves out to the public as husband and wife” and dismissed her complaint on the grounds that to act otherwise would condone adultery. The case set precedent in New York state.[8][9]
  • Tennis player Billie Jean King was sued by Marilyn Barnett in 1981.
  • Tennis player Martina Navratilova was sued by Judy Nelson in 1991.
  • In 1996, Van Cliburn was sued by former partner Thomas Zaremba for a share of his income and assets following a 17-year relationship ending in 1994. Zaremba’s palimony case was dismissed for lack of written agreement, along with claims for emotional distress and that Cliburn subjected him to the fear of AIDS through Cliburn’s alleged unprotected liaisons with third parties.[10][11]
  • In 2004, comedian Bill Maher was sued for US$9 million by his ex-girlfriend, Nancy “Coco” Johnson.[12][13][14] On May 2, 2005, a California Superior Court judge dismissed the case.[15][16][15]

The other omission was the relationship between King and Riggs after the match. After the Battle of the Sexes the two became friends and remained close until his death in 1995. King said she spoke to Riggs the day before he died, and they said “I love you” to each other.

For additional information see or see which cites Selena Roberts’ 2005 book, A Necessary Spectacle: Billie Jean King, Bobby Riggs, and the Tennis Match That Leveled the Game.

 

 

 

Will Bradshaw Read The Book?

I sent a personal letter, contacted an agent and a publicist and got a “I decline” to help from Mr. Bradshaw. I understand because he has written five books and has an author that he works with.

Hopefully, he’ll be inclined to read it.

Billy the Cat

Here’s our foster cat Billy enjoying an offering as he embarks on his constitutional. Billy is a very playful guy who runs to the door to greet you when you come home.

He’s available through City Dog Rescue of Washington, DC

http://www.citydogsrescuedc.org/adoptable-cats.html#.WV1zJojyu00

go to Billy

Gays, NFL, Dogs Prevent Suicide

This is a really nice article containing a few of my favorite things: football, gays and dogs

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan comes out in moving profile

Ryan O'Callaghan

Ryan O’Callaghan played for both the New England Patriots and the Kansas City Chiefs. Jeff Taylor

 

 

 

 

 

 

Former NFL lineman Ryan O’Callaghan, who played for the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, has come out of the closet in a moving interview for Outsports.

O’Callaghan, who spent five years in the NFL, never expected to have a post-football life. He was deeply closeted, unable to imagine living as an openly gay man. Instead of coming out or continuing to live with the pain of life in the closet, he planned to commit suicide after he retired from the game.

“I wrote a letter,” he said. “I was close.”

“If it wasn’t for some good friends, a couple of good dogs, I’d be gone,” he added. “I’m just glad there were people that were looking out for me, pushing me in the right direction to actually get help.”

He also struggled with drug addiction.

“I was abusing painkillers, no question,” he said. “It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn’t worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn’t worry.”

Ryan O'CallaghanRyan

Ryan O’Callaghan with his dogs.

He credits a small group of people within the Chiefs organization with helping lead him to a better place, including the team’s general manager, Scott Pioli. He reassured O’Callaghan that he still had Pioli’s support, who shared that he had many gay people in his life and had previously counseled other gay NFL players.

Related: These NFL teams just became the first to sponsor a pride celebration

O’Callaghan said he hopes his coming out will show others that it is safe for them to do so as well, including some more recognizable names.

A handful of NFL players have come out after retirement, including running back Dave Kopay, cornerback Wade Davis, defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, guard Roy Simmons, offensive tackle Kwame Harris, and running back Ray McDonald.

Defensive end Michael Sam was drafted into the NFL, by the St. Louis Rams, as an openly gay man, but was cut before the season began.

O’Callaghan recalled growing up in Redding, California, in an environment where gay people were not readily accepted.

“If you’re a gay kid and you hear someone you love say ‘fag,’ it makes you think that in their eyes you’re just a fag too,” he said. “That got to me a lot.”

But when he went home to come out to his family, he was pleasantly surprised.

“All the people I was most concerned about were fine. It was so much easier and better than I ever imagined,” he recalled.

He said he thinks the NFL is ready for an openly gay player.

“I think teams are ready. Guys just have to understand he’s gay. It doesn’t mean he wants to date you, he just wants to be your teammate,” he said. “It’s not a big deal, it’s really not.”

Related: NFL documentary profiles closeted gay player

He added that he hopes his story will lead to “someone else much higher profile coming out.”

He said he is in a much better place since coming out.

“I’m having a great time. I love life now, I absolutely love life now.”

He went to school at California and played for four years in the NFL. His career is captured here: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/O/OCalRy20.htm

Removing Statues — Changing Stadium Names

The officials running the city of New Orleans decided to remove the public statues of Confederate States of America figures. Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the City Council sparked both huge protests and large rallies of support. The same historic moments mean heritage to some and bondage and misery to others. The city leaders declared the statues a public nuisance and determined that the pain they inflicted outweighed the heritage they represented. The statues reminded many of their past oppression but also remind people of today’s inequality in New Orleans.

New Orleans is largely segregated. Stagnating wages and gentrification have compounded income disparity here. People in East New Orleans suffer from extremely limited economic and social opportunities and the area has not recovered from Hurricane Katrina.

In Melbourne, the tennis stadium bears the name of tennis great Margaret Court. The 74-year-old is currently a Christian pastor and has over the past several years made anti-gay statements, including personal attacks on specific players. The comments certainly represent the heritage and attitudes of a segment of the population but have also generated significant opposition and backlash. The majority of professional tennis players have made their support for same-sex marriage known.

Several interesting questions arise from this controversy. Does the Australian Tennis Federation elect to remove Court’s name from the stadium because of the public rancor and hurt she now represents? If they don’t will tennis professional elect to skip the Australian Open? Stay tuned.

Lobos: Mexican Gray Wolves

Mar 27

Because #LoboWeek: A Brief Look at the Plight of the Mexican Gray Wolf

This week 19 years ago, 11 captive-born Mexican gray wolves (aka lobos) were released into the wilds of New Mexico and Arizona for the first time since they were very nearly eradicated in the early 1970s.  In 1976, three years after the passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the lobo was listed as an endangered species.  From just seven individuals, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) began a captive breeding program to save the species from extinction.  On March 29, 1998, the first individuals were reintroduced in the Blue Range Recovery Area in New Mexico and Arizona.  After more than 30 years of absence, the rarest subspecies of gray wolf returned home to the mountains of the southwest.

To commemorate this close call, ESC and many other organizations around the world are celebrating #LoboWeek by raising awareness and mobilizing activists just like you to help!

Tweet: This week is #LoboWeek! Learn more about Mexican gray wolves and take action to help save them: http://bit.ly/2n9HlCe via @endangered

Despite all this celebrating and 20 years of recovery efforts, the Mexican gray wolf is still critically endangered.  The good news is according to FWS’s latest count, there are 113 lobos in the wild, which is an increase from previous years.  The bad news is that 14 wolves were found dead- some illegally poached– in 2016, making last year the record holder for the most lobo deaths since their reintroduction in 1998.

 

More Bad News for the Lobo:

Genetic Diversity

Every lobo that exists in the wild is a descendant of the seven wolf survivors that started the captive breeding program in the late 1970s.  This means that all the wild wolves are closely related and genetic diversity is very low.  Consequently, their ability to adapt to changing conditions is extremely limited.  Reports of unusually small litters and genetic abnormalities have resulted from the inbreeding.  Until more wolves are released into the wild, these problems will continue, which leads us to our next problem.  New Mexico secured an injunction last year, giving them the power to stop FWS from reintroducing anymore Mexican wolves into the wild.  FWS is in the process of appealing that decision.  Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and New Mexico Wilderness Alliance have all filed to intervene in the case.

S. 368

Last month, Senator Jeff Flake (AZ-R) introduced S. 368 , a piece of legislation that could drive the Mexican gray wolf to extinction.  The bill would authorize states, the livestock industry, and other special interest groups to dictate the terms of the Mexican gray wolf recovery plan, rather than scientists. It would set an arbitrary cap on the number of wolves in the wild and require removal (probably lethal removal) of all wolves over that number. It would ban wolves from areas scientists have identified as necessary to their recovery, like the Grand Canyon ecoregion and the San Juan Mountains. Worst of all, this bill would remove the Mexican wolf from the endangered species list once the terms of the politicized recovery plan have been achieved, even though they would still be biologically imperiled. This bill undermines the ESA by skipping the mandated delisting process required by Section 4 of the Act.

Social Intolerance

The Mexican gray wolf is victim to the same intolerance and scapegoating that other wolf species, as well as other carnivores, are subjected to.  In reality, wolves  are responsible for just a fraction of a percent (.2%) of livestock loss–less than that caused by illness, weather, or even dogs there’s no evidence they kill more  deer than needed to survive; and there is no statistical proof that they are a danger to humans.  All this fear rhetoric overshadows the awesome benefits of having wolves in our ecosystems.  Here are some examples: wolves keep prey populations healthy and even reduce diseases in hoofed mammals, like Chronic Wasting Disease.  They reduce overgrazing from deer and elk, which leads to decreased soil erosion and a stable environment.  They provide food and habitat for hundreds of other creatures, earning them the honorary title of keystones species.  And not to mention that tourism directly related to wolves near Yellowstone National Park contributes $35.5 million to local economies yearly.  Despite these and other benefits, social intolerance still persists and that contributes to a lack of political will.

So, that’s the bad news.  The good news is that it’s Lobo Week and YOU are reading this blog and educating yourself on the rarest and most biologically unique subspecies of gray wolf in the world.  Right now, there are around 113 lobos in the wild that need your help!  Celebrate Lobo Week with me by sharing their story!

Want more ways to help?

  1. Share this blog with your friends and family.  Education is one of the most powerful catalysts.  And how can someone help if they don’t know there’s a problem?
  2. Educate yourself! Learn more about lobos from Lobos of the Southwest, Earthjustice, Defenders of Wildlife, and Wolf Conservation Center.
  3. Join the movement by using the hashtag #LoboWeek on tweets and other Mexican gray wolf related posts this week.  You can find photos, graphics, and badges on the Wolf Conservation Center’s site.
  4. Do you happen to live in Arizona? If so, you are one of Senator Flake’s constituents.  Call him and say that S. 368 is bogus!
  5. Be an ally for wolves by joining ESC’s Species Guardians! You’ll be given the information, resources, and support you need to be a leader for wolves in your state!
  6. Tell your community that it’s Lobo Week by writing a letter to the editor and submitting it to your local paper.  Make sure to include why wolves are important to you.

Passionate folks like you and me are the only thing standing between the lobo and extinction.  Make Lobo Week 2017 count.  Join the movement and get involved!

DC Environmental Film Festival

The 25th Washington DC environmental film festival is halfway through its 10 days. I’ve seen a few movies about the wilderness near the Arctic Circle, glaciers and other themes. I enjoy that the movies take you to see very unique spaces all over the world.

However, my favorite movies focus on animals. One took us only two states south of the Nation’s Capital where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)  created a success story with the development of a habitat for Red wolves. The species had been limited to a very few in the mid-1980s and the USFWS moved them into one part of their historic range in North Carolina.

Currently, the reintroduction faces cultural, economic, and biological challenges in Eastern North Carolina. Natures abhors a vacuum and coyotes moved in to the territory and pose a threat if the wolves interbreed with them. Most interesting, the area farmers have issues with the coyotes invading their farms. They want to shoot the beasts and sometimes they end up shooting red wolves instead.

This conflict between people near the wildlife reserve or national park and the animals in the park also occurred in Mozambique. After years of civil warring, the government and several other national governments along with non-profits focused on conservation worked to reestablish Gorongosa National Park. In this case, the planning has focused on the huge park and all the farmers surrounding its borders. Efforts have been made to help those people improve their living conditions by helping them earn money and farm more profitably.

As the panelists after the movie stated this is the new way of approaching conservation, taking the entire ecosystem into account, including people outside the protected area. It seems to be working and is something that the USFWS and other agencies of the US government ought to consider when they try to save species. You need to win over the local population to the effort.