Why Are You Still Sticking to Sports?

Why do you care if Evander Kane is good at hockey?

Why are you still looking at him as an on-ice asset? Why are you weighing possible trade deadline destinations for him based on how he might fit into a team’s lineup?

You don’t think of Slava Voynov that way anymore, right? You know that Voynov’s hockey skills are meaningless when weighed against crimes. If an NHL team seemed poised to sign him, you would write extensively about his abuse of his wife, his no contest plea, his self-deportation. So what’s the difference?

Yes – Kane, like so many sex criminals, never stood trial. Is that reason enough to ignore multiple consistent allegations against him, to leave them completely unacknowledged? Based on what we know about sexual violence, it’s highly likely that he’s guilty. The lack of a conviction is a convenient excuse to ignore the statistics, to abdicate your responsibility to deal with reality instead of the artificial “innocent until proven guilty” construct that holds value ONLY as it relates to the government’s right to seize the assets of, imprison or kill a private citizen.

There are victims, and there will be more, yet you only talk about Kane’s goal-scoring prowess. You default to the very “stick to sports” mindset that you rail against when people try to silence you on issues you actually care about. Sticking to sports is toxic, and it always was. Sticking to sports elevates men for athletic ability while simultaneously suppressing and silencing their victims. Sticking to sports is easy and convenient and in 2018 it is a mark of shame.

We can’t prevent teams from trading for unconvicted likely offenders, but that doesn’t mean you have to present Evander Kane as a pure asset as opposed to a dangerous human being. He is not a valuable potential pick up for a playoff team, no matter how many points he might generate. He’s a danger to his community and he’s an emblem, like so many emblems before him, of how little you value morality when it poses any threat to your comfort. Until you shift your priorities, you remain part of the problem. Do better.


Outsmarting My Depression

I was depressed on Wednesday.

This is pretty unusual for me. I tend my more toward heart-pounding anxiety than flat, hopeless depression. And while anxiety causes more physical pain than depression and a good deal of mental anguish, it has one major advantage over depression: I know how to make it stop.

I can shut down anxiety with a pill. That sounds like some unrealistic magical whatever, but it’s true. When I have an anxiety attack, Xanax puts an end to it. Just stops it cold. This doesn’t solve my anxiety disorder and it comes with its own drawbacks (mainly that it makes it hard for me to *do* anything through the haze that comes over my brain), but it’s the psychiatric equivalent of an epi pen – you’re still allergic to shellfish after you get the shot, but the specific shrimp you ate ten minutes ago has lost its ability to kill you.

There’s no rescue drug for depression. You treat depression as a chronic issue and antidepressants are great for that, but they’re not perfect. Sometimes, even when you follow your treatment plan to a T, you still get depressed and have no easy way out of it.

For years I handled depressive episodes by holing up in my room and repeating cruel thoughts on a loop in my head: You’re worthless. Nobody cares about you. Nobody should. You deserve to feel this way. You’re worthless. Nobody cares about you. Nobody should. You deserve to feel this way. You’re worthless…

Help never came because I didn’t let anyone know I needed it, or at least I didn’t let them know in a way they could understand. I’d speak in a slightly lower tone than usual when someone called, for example, and then convince myself that if they really cared about me they would have picked up on it. Every interaction was a test rigged for failure. That’s how depression protects itself.

On Wednesday, though, I pierced depression’s armor. After many, many years of therapy and education I am finally smarter than my depression. I know how to fight back.

The answer – and I know this sounds cliche, but hear me out – is to ask for help. It’s not to hope for help, not to hint at the need for help, not to expect help, but to ASK for help. When the depression came over me Wednesday I put out a couple semi-cryptic tweets and received, understandably, little to no response. In the past, that would have been the end of it; I’d have stayed lonely and depressed until the weight of it all wore me out and I slept.

But on Wednesday I took an extra step. Instead of just waiting for people to read my mind, I followed my initial tweets with this: “If you do happen to care, now would be a good time to let me know.”

It was a little salty and borderline combative but it was clear, unambiguous: I need you to tell me you care. I need help.

And people helped.

People I’d only ever interacted with online told me they cared. People I’d never interacted with at all told me I matter. Days later I’m still hearing from people who apologize for not seeing my tweet right away but hope I’m feeling better.

This isn’t because I’m some super special amazing person. It’s because I’m OK and so are plenty of others. We don’t want people to suffer. We want to help each other. We appreciate each other and will gladly say so when prompted.

The Melissa of a few years ago would have been disgusted at the idea of openly asking for validation. She’d have beaten herself up for even thinking about doing something she’d have thought of as fishing for compliments. The Melissa of Wednesday knew better. Asking for help is not the same as fishing for compliments any more than wearing glasses is cheating on an eye test. I wasn’t trying to put one over on anybody; I was just trying to help myself see what was suddenly almost hopelessly blurry.

A social media site full of strangers isn’t the answer for everyone, but the same principle applies to friends, family, doctors, therapists and mental health hotlines: If you don’t let people know you need help then you’re very unlikely to get it. Don’t be shy or embarrassed or depression-style clever. Just ask for what you need.

Just ask for what you need.

Just ASK for what you NEED.

People care about you and want to help. You just have to give them the chance.

Update: Nashville Predators’ Efforts to Combat Violence Against Women

Some long-overdue information on the Nashville Predators’ involvement in the fight against sexual assault and domestic violence:

I recently spoke separately with Predators President/CEO Sean Henry and Tracy DeTomasi, VP of Domestic Violence Services for MEND, an offshoot of YWCA of Nashville & Middle Tennessee that describes itself as “an innovative, primary prevention initiative dedicated to ending violence against women and girls by engaging men and boys.” Both Henry and DiTomasi spoke proudly of the Predators’ affiliation with MEND, which according to DiTomasi goes back roughly three-plus years. Henry also serves on MEND’s advisory committee.

It’s a little tough to get the full scope of the partnership – neither organization seems to have an easily-accessible rundown of all of their interactions and collaborations – but here are the 2017 highlights, gathered with the invaluable help of Tomas Oppolzer:

• On January 25 the Predators pledged a total of $500K over five years to MEND. According to DiTomasi, the Predators are MEND’s biggest financial supporter in Nashville.

• On January 26 the Predators hosted a MEND night vs. the Blue Jackets. Tickets to the game were discounted and they raised funds for MEND throughout the night. “Unsilence the Violence” PSAs featuring Mike Fisher, P.K. Subban, Austin Watson and Ryan Ellis played in the arena throughout the night.

• On May 26 the Predators hosted “The MEND Experience,” which per Nashville PRIDE sounds like a pretty fantastic event: “More than 300 educators, coaches and community leaders packed into the Bridgestone Arena concourse on May 26 for the first ‘MEND Experience’ sponsored by Bank of America. The MEND Experience focused on teaching healthy masculinity to those who work with Nashville’s youth and celebrated those who are making an impact in their lives.”

These are powerful, meaningful actions that should have a real impact in and around Nashville. Henry said the ongoing relationship between the Predators and MEND is the most extensive of its kind in all of sports; while it’s impossible to document that, I have no reason to doubt him. In any case, it’s nothing short of remarkable.

(I struggled a bit with how to write this one because the Predators are a problematic organization. Ultimately I decided to limit this post just to their anti-sa/dv efforts; as Henry noted in our conversation, true positive action deserves to be viewed on its own merit. Today is for focusing on the good work the team is doing.)

Update: The Hurricanes Respond Beautifully

I got this letter from Hurricanes GM Ron Francis today and I’m so excited to share it with all of you! The second paragraph in particular describes exactly the philosophy I’d like all teams to hold.

I’m including the text below and you can also see the Word document the Canes sent, on letterhead and with Francis’s signature, here.

Dear Melissa:

First of all I apologize that we haven’t had an opportunity to get back to you sooner. It wasn’t for a lack of interest or belief in your mission. We have seen the recent coverage of your petition in the media, and wanted to let you know where our team stands on the issues of misogyny and domestic violence.

As an organization, we strive to employ quality people both on and off the ice. To my knowledge we don’t have a single player, prospect or hockey staffer with a history of sexual assault or domestic violence. We have a very young team, and I was proud of the way our players and coaches stayed engaged during our “Call to Men” session. Beyond that, we will always hold our players and staff accountable should any suspected crime occur.

In addition, as a company we are committed to helping people affected by domestic violence or sexual assault. Our Kids ‘N Community Foundation has donated $237,000 in cash to InterAct Family Violence Protection in Wake County, as well as $13,000 to the Orange County (NC) Rape Crisis Center. Our relationship with InterAct goes back more than 16 years. It’s a terrific organization that provides support, safety and awareness to victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

Thank you for your efforts on these important causes.

Ron Francis
Executive Vice President and General Manager

Update: You Made a Difference in Toronto!

As most of you probably know, on Monday the Toronto Maple Leafs announced a partnership with White Ribbon, an organization dedicated to ending violence against women. The Leafs have already released a PSA in conjunction with White Ribbon, which you can view here.

What you might not know is that if you were one of our letter writers then you had a part in moving this forward! Leafs President Brendan Shanahan has been an advocate for ending domestic violence and sexual assault dating back to his playing days, including a longstanding affiliation with Sanctuary for Families in New York. He had wanted to involve the Leafs in the cause when he came to Toronto. Through his assistant, Shanahan told me he didn’t realize just how much support he and the team would have until he read your letters.

Thank you to everyone who wrote, tweeted or otherwise participated in the campaign – your voices made a real difference here. What’s more, I have reason to believe at least one other team has something in the works that was spurred by your words and actions. I can’t say more right now but I’m very optimistic that your impact is far from finished.

If you’re not satisfied with your favorite team’s treatment of women, let them know. Be loud. Be bold. Progress doesn’t happen overnight but teams ARE listening.

The Weight of Words

I’m not going to congratulate you on your weight loss anymore.

If you tried to lose weight and succeeded, then I’m happy for you that you achieved what you set out to do. It’s always good to reach our goals. But merely weighing less than you used to is not, in and of itself, praise-worthy. There is no particular virtue in dropping a pants size. I am not going to gush over the fact that you have found a way to look less like me.

I’m also not going to say “thank you” when someone asks if I’ve lost weight. I haven’t and, despite your good intentions, this is not a compliment. I wouldn’t thank you if you asked if I’d pinned my ears or removed a mole or done anything else to fundamentally alter my body to suit your sense of aesthetics. “You look good” is a nice thing to say to someone; “You look good, so you must have fixed what was wrong with you” is not.

And I’m done – DONE – indulging the “I’m so fat!”/”No, you’re not!” scripts we women feel we must follow every time we try on clothes or, heaven forbid, eat a meal. I’m done with the self-flagellation and I’m done trying to reassure you that you don’t look like me. I eat. I wear clothes. Neither of these things requires an apology.

Do not try to pretend any of this is about health. It’s not. Nobody says “Did you lose weight? Because your cholesterol numbers are fantastic!” No, it’s “You look so good! Did you lose weight?” Unless you’re in a doctor’s office or specifically discussing what happened in a doctor’s office, it’s always about looks. Always. That’s how you perceive that someone lost weight and it’s the thing you’re praising. “Congratulations, people will now enjoy looking at you!”

We need to stop linking weight to morality, so I’m starting with the fat girl in the mirror. My body exists for my use, not as a vehicle to prove my worthiness as a person. I weigh what I weigh and that has nothing to do with you. You weigh what you weigh and that has nothing to do with me.

Feel free to compliment my haircut, my lipstick, my earrings, my new dress. If you’re complimenting appearance then mention something whose primary purpose is to enhance that appearance. But my body? It’s for so much more than that, just like yours is. I’m done reducing both of them to only what the eye can see.

Update: More Responses to Our Letters

Yesterday I spoke with Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan who, after a comedy of email non-delivery errors, finally received your letters. Our conversation was lengthy, very encouraging and (per his request) off the record. We intend to remain in touch in the coming months and I’ll update everyone when the Leafs are prepared to make a public statement.

Note: General Manager Lou Lamoriello had told me that Shanahan was the best person in Leafs management with whom to discuss issues of violence against women. Scroll to Shanahan’s name in this alphabetical list of New York’s New Abolitionists to see at least some of what Lamoriello was referring to.

I also received an email from the Dallas Stars outlining some of the charitable donations they’ve made to sa/vd organizations over time. I’ve asked for clarification on some of that information and will post it as soon as I hear back.

We’re making inroads! Make sure to let your favorite team know what you think about its response so far – some of them, at least, are listening.