Addressing What We Do with the “Championship” Merchandise from a Team That Loses

Ah yes…what a joy it is to see the team you root for get a championship. You can then spend all night cheering, then get merchandise the next morning saying that your team won the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup, etc. In fact, as I’m writing this, New England Patriots fans are probably still having fun buying merchandise saying that their team won the Super Bowl.

But what about the losing team?

Since there is such a desire to get merchandise to the players, coaches, and fans who won the championship in such short order, said merchandise is usually made, ahead of time, for both of the participants in the championship matchup. That way, all interested parties on the championship team can get their merchandise right after winning.

The “championship” merchandise of the losing team, on the other hand, goes to a different place. At least with many sports, the umbrella sports leagues work with organizations to make sure that the losing team’s merchandise can get to nations with people in need of clothing, such as places like Haiti after their catastrophic 2010 earthquake.[1]

On the surface, that sounds great: instead of destroying merchandise related to the losing team (which the National Football League apparently used to do), it’s repurposed for people in countries who really need the clothes, regardless of what those clothes say. And there’s no doubt that having these misprint clothes is way better than having no clothes at all.

That being said, there’s something off-putting about this practice. Namely, while this practice gives the appearance of helping those in most desperate need, this practice is also sending one or more of the following messages:

  1. “This stuff is not good enough for us; therefore, you can have it.”
  2. “We don’t want this stuff, so the poor people in poor countries must want this.”
  3. “We’ve taken what we wanted, so poor people can have the leftovers/what others didn’t want. Please take our unwanted garbage.”
  4. “People won’t know that the information is incorrect, and even if they did know, they wouldn’t care.”

None of the messages above are exactly positive ones, for sure. In fact, all of these messages revolve around a theme: that the developed United States, yet again, decides to use underdeveloped nations as a dumping ground for the “rubbish” that we don’t want.

So what should we do, then? For starters, we shouldn’t have misprint clothing exclusively go to developing nations (with the “correct” clothing only going to developed nations)—the benefits of the correct clothing and the burdens of misprint clothing should at the very least be shared. Additionally, it might be wise for these sports leagues to actually think about how they really want to sacrifice in order to help underdeveloped countries. Because let’s face it: sports leagues don’t sacrifice anything by giving away misprint championship merchandise to a place like Haiti—they don’t sacrifice any profits, they don’t sacrifice a portion or their fan base, and they don’t sacrifice on ticket prices, they don’t sacrifice anything else. However, using money and resources to make sure a child gets an education, gets health care, and gets food might sacrifice something monetarily, but would also do a ton of good.


[1] https://www.sbnation.com/college-football/2017/1/14/14272992/what-happens-to-losing-teams-championsip-shirts

Language and Sense of Belonging

One time, I was at a deli in Queens, New York. At that, I was at a deli where nearly all of the customers (me being the anomaly) speak Russian. Amid some confusion with another customer over who was at the front of the line to get served, I was told the following by the customer, while that person attempted (unsuccessfully) to skip me on line:
“You are in Russian grocery store. You must speak Russian.”

When I was told this by another customer, I felt awkward. I felt like I didn’t belong in there.

People may read this story and feel sorry for me. But please don’t feel sorry for me. Here’s why: what I experienced for ten seconds at a deli is what millions of people in America experience on a daily basis.

That mindset is in so many places. There are people in this United States, particularly on the far right, who want to deport immigrants who don’t learn English. Across the pond, in the United Kingdom, one of their recent prime ministers used threatening language about people in his country who were unable to speak English. A man at a Spanish restaurant in New York threatened to call ICE on people who were speaking Spanish.[1] The attitude that I experienced in that Russian deli is shockingly widespread when it comes to scenarios when we encounter people who don’t speak “our language.”

And if I felt awkward for being told that I didn’t belong in a Russian deli I could easily leave, imagine how much worse it must feel to be told that you don’t belong in the United States (or another country you’ve settled in), that you must leave or be deported because you don’t speak the “native language.” It would be an understatement to say that it must feel awkward, just as I felt awkward in that deli. No, it must hurt really, really badly.

So if we encounter someone who doesn’t speak “our language,” please try to understand that the person’s sense of belonging is already being challenged. We don’t need to (and we shouldn’t) challenge someone’s sense of belonging even further by saying that they’re not welcome simply because they don’t speak the language we speak. To the contrary, everyone, regardless of the language each person speaks, is part of our human family.


[1] I made a decision to not include links to any of these stories and mindsets because they do not deserve more of a platform than they are already getting.

On So-Called Slacktivism

Many of my readers have probably heard the term “slacktivism” by now—a term used to characterize “the practice of supporting a political or social cause by means such as social media or online petitions, characterized as involving very little effort or commitment.”[1] We will probably hear that term even more leading up to elections in November as some of us shame others of us for being “slacktivists.”

That being said, I am going to do something here that may ignite some controversy. I am coming to the defense of so-called slacktivists—some of them.

But why?

The short answer is that there are many people who don’t have the time or ability to do anything more than sign an online petition or do other online activism, and that should be respected instead of degraded.

A longer answer must explore life circumstances that result in someone not being able to do more than what many activists call slacktivism:

  1. Professional responsibilities. I have heard about my fair share of midday rallies and protests (and have even been at a few of them). The only problem is that such rallies can’t be attended even by someone who works a normal 9-5 job, unless that person lives in the area of the rally and is able to take a lunch break during the rally. Evenings and weekends give better access to rallies for regular 9-5 workers, but there are still many people who work weekends and/or evenings instead of, or in addition to, 9-5 work. For people who are at work while rallies and protests happen, the most they can do is what’s labeled as slacktivism, and that should be respected.
  2. Family responsibilities. Parents have to take care of their children and other family. Grownups have to make sure that all the utility bills are paid for their houses, or that rent is paid for their apartments. These responsibilities exist in addition to, not instead of, professional responsibilities. Some rallies have tried to take away the burden of parents taking care of children by including childcare at rallies (though I’m sure some parents would feel uneasy about the thought of leaving their child or children in the hands of complete strangers, and I might feel the same way when/if I become a parent). Once one combines professional responsibilities with family responsibilities, then there may be little time to do more than so-called slacktivism, and that fact shouldn’t be demonized.
  3. Physical limitations. Some people are flat-out physically unable to get to, or participate in, a rally or protest. Back when I had my bad ankle earlier this year, I was one of those people. I know many others who, like me during my bad ankle, would’ve been completely unable to participate in rallies and protests even if we wanted to. Sometimes, slacktivism is the most that some of our bodies can handle.
  4. Emotional limitations. There are some rallies that may be emotionally just too much for people. For example, a rally protesting gun violence may be too much for some family or friends of people who’ve been victimized by gun violence. The emotional limitations that bring people towards slacktivism, and away from what many activists view as activism, should be respected.

I acknowledge that there are, no doubt, many people who are capable of more than the signing of online petitions and involvement of online movements that is often associated with slacktivism. Such people who are capable of higher levels of involvement should be more involved. However, I hope that my list brings to mind the fact that there are probably millions of people in the United States who are unable to do anything more than what is labeled as slacktivism. Those people should not be demonized for what they’re unable to do, but thanked for what they are able to do.


[1] https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/slacktivism

Job-Shaming

A few weeks ago, Geoffrey Owens, a former actor on The Cosby Show, was the subject of not-so-good headlines. The Daily Mail had a headline titled “From Learning Lines to Serving the Long Line! The ‘Cosby Show’ Star Geoffrey Owens is Spotted Working as a Cashier at Trader Joe’s in New Jersey.” Other gossip news sources had headlines that period also highlighting this supposed “fall from grace” for the actor. Generally, many of the unsavory headlines related to Owens took on some version of “oh look at how the mighty have fallen.”

In truth, Owens still acts and took this grocery store job to supplement his acting income. But even if he had gone from being an actor to bagging groceries, we most certainly should not shame anyone for working an honest job.

We do put certain jobs on a pedestal, such as being a head of state, heading a Fortune 500 company, or being a major religious leader. But there are other jobs, such as fast food work, garbage collection, and cashiering, that are often viewed in a disrespectful and demeaning way. To an extent, I understand why it’s like that—we as a society value money, power, celebrity, and/or influence, and a job like being a cashier doesn’t seem to bring any money, power, and/or influence in the minds of many. At the same time, though, any job that contributes to the improvement of society, no matter how large or small that job may seem, should be respected and not job-shamed.

Therefore, I propose that the following groups, among others, should get more respect:
1. Garbage workers, because they keep our streets and neighborhoods clean.
2. Grocery store workers, fast food workers, waiters and waitresses, and cooks who aren’t at high-end restaurants, because they are part of the process of making sure that we have food to eat.
3. Janitors, because our homes and buildings would not be clean without them.
4. Farmers, because we would not have food without them.
5. Plumbers, because we would not have functioning showers, sinks, and toilets without them.
6. Teachers, because so much of what we know comes from the work that teachers do.
7. Daycare workers, because little children would not have a place to go in the daytime without them.
8. Mechanics, because they help our cars function.

The value of a profession shouldn’t be measured in wealth, power, or prestige, but on the fact that people are helped as a result of the work. Any profession where people are helped as a result of the work in an honorable profession, a profession that does not deserve job-shaming.

Stalking is Not Funny, Yet is Treated as a Joke

I recently heard something on television that talked about stalking in a lighthearted manner. But this is not the first time I’ve heard stalking talked about in a lighthearted manner. For example, I’ve frequently heard people say in a lighthearted manner that they “Facebook stalked” someone.

These jokes, this lightheartedness, about stalking need to stop.

Stalking is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “the act or crime of willfully and repeatedly following or harassing another person in circumstances that would cause a reasonable person to fear injury or death especially because of express or implied threats; broadly: a crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person.” Clearly, this is not a lighthearted matter. To the contrary, it is something that harms others.

And to think that many of us treat such harmful actions as a joke? I hope we stop doing that, as individuals and as a society. This casualness with which we talk about stalking is destructive in two ways.

First, it gives a wrongful impression of what stalking is and what damage can be caused by stalking. By making casual, even joking, remarks about stalking, we make it seem like it is no big deal when in reality it is a very big deal, such a big deal that it hurts the victims (at least emotionally or psychologically) in all cases and results in criminal charges for the perpetrator in some cases.

Second, it belittles the experiences of past stalking victims. The status quo is reducing the experience of stalking to a set of jokes and lighthearted remarks. These experiences should not be belittled, but instead listened to.

I acknowledge that I may be criticized here for “not taking a joke.” While I understand the criticism, I must also say that “jokes” about actions that harm people, such as “rape jokes” and “stalking jokes,” are really not funny.

But if it’s not funny, what should our attitudes be on stalking?

First, we should educate ourselves on what stalking is. Second, we should also educate others, as appropriate. Third, if you know someone who is a victim of stalking, please encourage the person to call 911 (if you live in the United States) or the equivalent emergency number in your country if there is immediate danger. Furthermore, if you know someone who needs support because of stalking, encourage your family member/friend to consider actions such as calling a crisis hotline, telling security staff at your job/school, developing a safety plan, and more.[1] Finally, if you know of resources for stalking specific to countries outside the United States, it would be great if you provide those resources in the comments section below.[2]

Stalking is a problem, not a joke. But if we take the problem seriously, maybe we can also take steps as a society to treat it—and talk about it—seriously.


[1] The Stalking Resource Center provides a variety of ideas, tips, and resources for stalking victims. Follow this link to see some of those ideas, tips, and resources

[2] While this post brings attention to how stalking is not taken seriously, I hope that it can also be a resource for those who take stalking seriously.