May 1 2010

Dissent an Olympic Non-Event

Vancouver protests give way to games as 'unifying force'

Alissa Westergard-Thorpe--Photo Credit:

For many people, the Olympics rank high on the Happy Meter, right up there with cuddly kittens and free beer. But those who take a closer look at the Olympics’ political-economic underbelly often end up seeing less feline and more freight train, a corporate juggernaut whizzing through town at taxpayer expense and leaving public debt and social dislocation in its wake. Early on, activists in Vancouver, Canada, identified the perils of the Olympic industrial complex, beginning their organizing even before the city was granted the bid by the International Olympic Committee in 2003. Anti-Olympic activists put forth spirited, wide-ranging criticism: […]

Jul 1 2008

Carrying a Torch for Anti-China Protests

When an official enemy is targeted, media take notice

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons/mermaid99

For once, mainstream media have found an anti-government protest to embrace. When the Olympic torch arrived in San Francisco on April 9 and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to decry human rights abuses by the Chinese government, journalists descended on the scene like ants at a picnic. CNN led the feeding frenzy. The cable network gave the torch and related stories more than 40,000 words of coverage throughout the day, according to a Nexis search, and it frequently played as the top story of the hour. During the three hours of Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room, five different correspondents […]

Mar 1 2006

Not a Man, Not a Story

No coming out party for Swoopes

When women’s basketball star Sheryl Swoopes publicly came out of the closet on October 26, she became one of the first openly gay athletes in professional team sports, and by far the most famous. It was a groundbreaking step made all the more remarkable by Swoopes’ star power: The WNBA’s only three-time MVP and a three-time Olympic gold medalist, Swoopes even has a Nike shoe in her name. She’s also the first prominent African-American athlete ever to come out. But while Swoopes’ act may reflect—and produce—a slight lessening of the homophobia that has long afflicted professional sports, the media reaction […]

Oct 21 2005

Arianna Huffington on Judith Miller, Dave Zirin on politics & sports

Download MP3 This week on CounterSpin: The New York Times finally published it report on Judith Miller and her grand jury testimony about the CIA leak story. But for many, the Times report–far shorter and less probing than its Jayson Blair reporting some years back– raises more questions than it answers. We’ll talk to Arianna Huffington, editor of the Huffington Post, about Judith Miller. Also this week: Do sports and radical politics mix? And when they do, does the mainstream press scrub the messy politics out of their reporting on today’s top athletes? We’ll talk about that with Dave Zirin, […]

Sep 1 2005

Media to City: Play Ball

Making New York safe from democracy

On June 6, a years-long civic battle over plans to build a combined NFL/Olympic stadium atop publicly owned rail yards on Manhattan’s West Side ended with a thud. After a hard-fought lobbying campaign that saw more than $42 million spent on both sides (Newsday, 6/16/05), New York state assembly speaker Sheldon Silver used his power as a member of the state’s little-known Public Authorities Control Board to veto bonding for the plan, effectively killing it for good. By all accounts, Silver’s decision was a popular one. Numerous polls over the years (New York Times, 2/20/05; Newsday, 1/20/05; AP, 7/21/04) had […]

Nov 1 2001

The World Series In A Time Of Crisis

The World Series provided a heck of a photo-op for George W. Bush when he threw out the first pitch one night, aiming at a large TV audience. For the most part, the game that followed was a pleasure to watch — midway through a week that combined what’s best and worst about major league baseball in an era of compulsive media spin. Baseball may not quite be America’s favorite sport anymore, but it still has plenty of emotional resonance. For that reason, politicians and corporations alike are eager to graft themselves onto the climactic games of the post-season. The […]

Nov 1 1999

Throwing the Game

Conflicts of interest prevent tough coverage of sports issues

In the 1930s, legendary hockey owner Conn Smythe was displeased by newspaper coverage of his Toronto Maple Leafs. Smythe’s solution: He approached Toronto Star publisher Joe Atkinson with a promise to take out $20,000 in advertising annually. In exchange, Atkinson would raise his hockey writers’ salaries by $20,000 — as a reward for more “honest” reporting. If owners of pro sports teams no longer engage in outright bribery, it’s only because they no longer need to. No single topic — not even presidential campaigns or wars — receives the kind of day-in, day-out coverage that is devoted to sports by […]

Apr 23 1999

Title IX and Women in Sports

What's Wrong with This Picture? Plenty...

(Posted here with the NWLC’s kind permission) The National Desk program “Title IX and Women in Sports: What’s Wrong with This Picture?” was filled with misinformation, myth, and fabrications. In short, it was an irresponsible broadcast masquerading as serious journalism. Virtually every aspect of the program, from the title, host Larry Elder’s repeated untruths about Title IX, and statements of so-called “experts” interviewed, presented viewers with an inaccurate and unbalanced portrait of Title IX and athletics. Among this program’s many errors are following: On a very basic level, the program misidentified Title IX as part of the Civil Rights Act. […]