Hey everybody, I’m Brian Clapp, VP of Content and Engaged Learning for WorkInSports.com and this is the Work In Sports podcast.
I started to read a new book the other day and after about 70 pages I had to put it down.
This is abnormal for me, I’m the type of personality that once I start something I have to finish it. I have to know how it ended.
This is true for novels, movies, hikes to waterfalls you name it. I have to reach the moment of closure.
I could be watching the worst Matthew McConaughey romantic comedy, which is slowly rotting my brain away with each passing line of dialogue (hello Failure to Launch), but I still have to see how it ends.
This frustrates my wife, who can cut ties in a moment’s notice… but that’s another story. She’s from Philly, she doesn’t suffer fools.
Back to the book.
I had to put down this book for a very simple reason. And this is a book of great acclaim, an international best seller that was turned into a pretty darn successful movie.
I put it down because it followed every generalized cliche you could possibly make about races, cultures, religions and creeds.
The Japanese character was good at math and a whiz on computers.
The Palenstinian character had been involved in terrorist acts.
The Russian character was cold, calculating and emotionless.
The Mexican character worked hard in the fields and then drank beer every night.
The Jewish character was tight with their money and a shrewd negotiator.
Of course, the American character was dashing, intelligent, and fearless — I’ll leave that to your own interpretations.
But I didn’t make it much past those characters. This isn’t me being “woke” or pandering to our current culture war, I just really hate generalizations. I hate cliches, I hate lazy, boring storytelling.
Spreading this narrative and reinforcing to people where they should fit, is a dangerous weapon, meant to discourage.
I’m not having it. I may spark some outrage with this, but I fail to believe we are all pre-determined to fit into categories at birth. We can be whoever we work and are driven to be.
Of course, I am oversimplifying, there are systemic obstacles that prevent many of us from becoming exactly who we desire to be, but the over-arching point is simple — none of us fit into a cliche, we are all individuals.
Generalizations like the ones exhibited by this trash book slide their way into our sports world often.
I just finished reading an article where the EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF REVENUE OFFICER OF THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, Renie Anderson, posted an opinion piece on NFL.com reminding people that “hey, women work in sports too, and there are lots of us in the NFL!”
Let me repeat that – She is an Executive VP and Chief Revenue Officer in the NFL – which immediately qualifies her as a badass – and she had to write an article telling people that women really do work in sports. In 2020.
Let’s break down some more walls, let’s get out of this generalized, homogenized world and invite in change, diversity, and something a little unexpected.
Ameena Soliman has one of the most interesting jobs in sports. As a player personnel coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, she is an integral piece of the player personnel department, and I’ll let her explain to you what that means, exactly.
I’ll sum it up from my point of view — I’m jealous.
She is a Muslim woman working in football personnel, meaning she breaks all the rules of probability and smashes every stupid cliche.
Now, let’s be clear about something — I didn’t invite Ameena on just because she is a Muslim woman working in player personnel. I invited her on because her role and experience are incredibly interesting and there are things we can all learn from her.
Being a Muslim woman in sports is part of her story and we will talk about it some, we will talk about micro-aggressions and the way she has...