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The Radical Genius of the USWNT’s Equal Pay Deal

After a yearslong battle that involved a wage discrimination complaint, a federal lawsuit, and initial failed negotiations with the U.S. Soccer Federation, the U.S. Women’s National Team has finally secured equal pay with the men’s team in a new collective bargaining agreement. This is a historic achievement for the leaders of the women’s team, for whom victory was not at all guaranteed, and who seem rightfully pleased and proud about the deal.

In recent years, the pay dispute has been the source of significant division and ugly recriminations among the three parties (U.S. Soccer, the USWNT, and the USMNT) and the teams’ respective fans. One of the biggest sticking points in the negotiations was the issue of World Cup prize money. Many believed that the pay gap in the pools of money available to qualifying teams—a difference of about $380 million for the next World Cup cycle—was too large to be bridged, especially since FIFA, not U.S. Soccer, determined their size.

But that concern turned out to be ill-founded, an excuse for maintaining a discriminatory status quo. The new agreement charts a radical way around the unequal FIFA payouts, proving that equal pay was only an impossible goal as long as U.S. Soccer treated the teams as two different workforces rather than colleagues with a shared goal. Bridging the World Cup pay gap required the men’s team to give something up, but they stand to gain something, too.

First, the comparatively easy part: the U.S. Soccer pay rates. Under previous agreements, some members of the women’s team earned a modest salary, while others were paid in bonuses for games played. Men’s team players only earned bonuses, but those were so much larger than the women’s bonuses and salaries combined that it meant the women were paid less in their winningest season than the men were paid in their worst. The women’s players union agreed to this setup for years, because players wanted the added stability it provided—since the salaries on their club teams in the national league were so low. (Earlier this year, a new league CBA set its new minimum salary at a mere $35,000—a 60 percent leap from what it used to be.)

Now, the national teams’ collective bargaining agreements establish equal rates of pay for every type of work. The women and the men will get the same pay for each game played, the same bonuses for games won and for World Cup participation, and equal portions of a new revenue-sharing program with U.S. Soccer.

But the part of the deal that will have the biggest impact on player pay—and that required the most dramatic redistribution of cash—is the new scheme for World Cup prize money. In the last World Cup cycle, the winning USWNT got $4 million, while the winning men’s team, France, got $38 million. FIFA has promised to double the total women’s prize pool for the 2023 tournament, but that won’t come close to rectifying the gap: If the USWNT wins the World Cup again, it will still only earn $7 million, a little more than half of what the men’s team will get ($13 million) if it only makes it to the round of 16, as it did in 2014.

That disparity won’t matter to U.S. players under the new pay structure. In a groundbreaking move, the teams agreed to pool their World Cup prize money and equally split the total (minus 10 percent for U.S. Soccer) for the next two tournament cycles.

On its face, this looks like a huge win for the women at the expense of the men, who have consented to give up some of their potential earnings to achieve equal pay in U.S. soccer. Then again, in the last World Cup cycle, in 2018, the USMNT didn’t even qualify for the tournament. If the current agreement were in place then, the men still would have been entitled to some of the women’s earnings from their 2019 win.

But since the USMNT has already qualified for the 2022 competition, the compensation structure will most likely require a redistribution of prize money that will favor the women’s team more than the men. The leaders of the men’s player’s union should be applauded for selling this scheme to their members, which probably wasn’t a breeze. While the Irish men’s soccer team recently agreed to reduce its game fees in order to align its payouts from the national federation with the women’s team, no other country in the world has seen its soccer teams pool their respective FIFA World Cup prize money to achieve equal pay on the back end. Instead of shrugging at the sexism and disinvestment that has made women’s sports less remunerative around the world, the U.S. teams have set an example for how athletes of all genders might work together.

This pay structure would be much harder to sell in almost any country besides the U.S., which has a middling-to-poor-performing men’s team and one of the very best women’s teams in the world—a function of the benefits (for women) of Title IX and the relative costs (for men) of a culture that values other sports above soccer.

The crux of the USWNT’s argument for more money has been that they deserve equal pay for equal work, but it’s been bolstered by the fact that they’ve historically gotten paid far less for performing far better than the men. In response, opponents of equal pay for the teams have maintained that the USMNT shouldn’t be penalized for the fact that men’s soccer is much more prominent in other countries, and the USWNT shouldn’t get disproportionate credit for the fact that women are discouraged from playing sports—and given little support when they do—in other parts of the world.

In fighting the USWNT’s equal-pay lawsuit, U.S. Soccer went one step further: It argued that men’s and women’s international soccer were totally different ballgames that didn’t warrant comparison, implying that the differences between cisgender men’s and women’s bodies justified the gender pay gap. In one filing, U.S. Soccer went so far as to point out that the sports “require different levels of certain fundamental physical skills central to the game (e.g., speed and strength)” such that “no one contends that Plaintiffs would have achieved the same success had they been required to compete in the MNT’s world.”

This conclusion—that women are simply worse at soccer than men, which means they deserve lower pay—was shocking to see from the organization responsible for promoting the most famous and best-loved women’s sports team in the country. But there’s no doubt its reasoning is shared by scores of sports fans who have recoiled at the idea that the two soccer teams should be paid the same, even if the women probably couldn’t beat the men in a head-to-head match. (Dive into the comments on any site reporting today’s news, and you’ll see a lot of anger in this vein.) There is a certain capitalist, circular logic to the idea that since men do get paid more for this job on the global market and men’s soccer generates more money worldwide, men deserve to get paid more in the U.S.

From this viewpoint, any effort to rectify the pay gap is punishing men for having stronger, faster bodies and a more highly valued skill set in a marketplace they can’t control. From another, it’s correcting an imbalance that stems from the unearned benefits men accrue from global discrimination against women.

Is one position more valid than the other? That question might be beside the point: Both arguments assume that the men are on the losing side of the bargain, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.

It’s fair to assume that the USMNT did not agree to this prize-sharing scheme out of pure altruism, even though they can certainly afford it. (Their multimillion-dollar national league salaries still exceed the women’s many times over; the U.S. Soccer agreement only concerns pay for players who make the national team.) The men clearly believe that they have something to gain from this arrangement—and not just paid childcare, which the federation has provided for the USWNT for more than 25 years and will offer the USMNT under the new agreement.

It’s not hard to see how the men could stand to profit. In the three years after the USWNT’s spectacular 2015 World Cup victory, U.S. women’s soccer games brought in more total revenue than men’s. (The team’s 2019 World Cup win made an even bigger splash, though the pandemic that began less than a year later would make its total effects on revenue hard to measure.) Several USWNT players are bona fide celebrities with massive followings, which means they draw casual observers to games alongside diehard soccer lovers. The players’ charisma, social-media prowess, and personal style have won the hearts of millions of Americans, and the team’s brilliant public campaign for equal pay made supporting a winning team feel somehow virtuous. Every USMNT player should be thirsty for a taste of what the USWNT has.

Now that the women’s team is invested in the men’s team’s success, they may just get one. The USWNT’s buy-in could lead to more opportunities for crossover fans and mutual promotion, like double-header games and marketing partnerships. The men can draft off the goodwill the USWNT has earned and share in its success. Though the new World Cup prize pool suggests that equal pay is a zero-sum game, and that men have to give up something for women to gain—which is often true—the arrangement will encourage the two teams to act as allies with a stake in one another’s success, rather than competitors gunning for the largest piece of a single pie.

In the end, the standout beneficiary of the new agreement may be U.S. Soccer, whose tenacious opposition to equal pay made it the omnipresent villain of the USWNT’s otherwise celebratory World Cup victory tour. (And that was before the organization argued that women deserve less money because they’re worse at sports!) Now, the national program can start to rebuild its public image while its women’s and men’s teams combine efforts to make soccer a bigger deal in the United States. The USWNT may be getting the immediate pay raise, but it looks like all parties could stand to win.

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What Everyday White Americans and the Buffalo Shooter Have in Common

The day before Payton Gendron drove to Buffalo to commit what has been described as a “straight-up racially motivated hate crime,” he circulated a 180-page manifesto espousing the belief that, as one news outlet put it, “the U.S. belongs to White people and all others should be eradicated by force or terror.” Gendron’s proclamation—a candid rationalization for white nationalist violence—is far from the first of its kind. And it won’t be the last.

Over the past several years, a half-dozen white supremacists committed acts of violence under the belief that their country belongs to white people and they must suppress any risk of replacement by force. This delusion led Anders Breivik to kill 77 people in Norway in 2011 and inspired Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. to kill three people outside of a Jewish community center in Kansas in 2014. Elliot Rodger espoused the same notion in 2014 when he killed three people in Santa Barbara, California. So did Dylann Roof before he killed nine parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. Patrick Crusius, who killed 23 people in a Walmart in El Paso in 2019, and Brenton Tarrant, who killed 51 worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 2019, also composed and shared lengthy white supremacist screeds.

I’ve read each manifesto as part of my work as a professor and researcher at the University of Connecticut on the intersection of “race,” knowledge, media, power, religion, and science. In particular, I focus on whiteness and racism. While there is a diversity of ideas represented under the umbrella of white supremacy, two prominent logics weave their way throughout each manifesto. First, for example, Gendron writes:

White people are failing to reproduce, failing to create families. … Mass immigration will disenfranchise us, subvert our nations, destroy our communities, destroy our ethnic ties, destroy our cultures, destroy our peoples.

This is a voice of victimhood, weakness, and panic. But second, and simultaneously, Gendron like many others, proclaims an inherent white racial superiority:

I believe the White race is superior in the brain to all other races. … The brilliance and creativity found in White’s is incomparable to all other races, therefore I believe that White’s are superior.

These two tales form the DNA of the white supremacist manifesto. It is a double helix of equal parts inadequacy and superiority, a uniform blend of peril and power. How do two seemingly antagonistic ideas so easily commingle?

Often, these contradictions are rationalized by framing them as the product of psychopathology. Less than 24 hours after the Buffalo shooting, for example, the New York Times reported that Gendron was held for a “mental health evaluation last year” (buried in the story, the report concedes that he was evaluated and released). Others caricature white supremacists as political Neanderthals. “The right-wing extremists who control the modern GOP are all gripped by a racist delusion. The shooter is just the latest to act on it,” Rolling Stone opined. And for others, such contradictions fuse in the tangled pastiche of the internet. The “new generation of white supremacists” is “isolated and online, radicalized on internet memes and misinformation,” as the Los Angeles Times tells it.

But to explain the paradox of racial force and feebleness across white nationalist manifestoes like Gendron’s, we must critically assess whiteness—not mental health, not politics, and not media. This is ironic, given that it seems many do not understand the centrality of whiteness in, well, white supremacy.

The category of whiteness, like “race,” is a biological fiction with a social function. Whiteness emerged early in American history to rationalize exploitation. Early American colonists were slow to develop racial worldviews. But by the mid-1600s, philosophers and scientists like Bernard Varen, John Ray, and François Bernier began to publish ideas about African savagery and European civilization, which were progressively applied to resolve who should be the rulers versus the ruled. These ideas were codified into our legal system. In 1662, for instance, British statutory law conferred slavery with a biological status: Any child born to an enslaved woman would also be a slave. Over time, through a series of laws and social mores, a hierarchy that conferred legal privileges to “white” men, while stripping Black people and Native Americans of their humanity and standing in the legal and political arenas, was cemented.

Put another way, whiteness is not an inherent identity so much as a consolidation of lofty biological, legal, and theological notions that serve to buttress the social and political power of people bearing lighter skin. As W.E.B. Du Bois points out in his 1920 essay “The Souls of White Folk,” whiteness is a modern concept:

The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing. … The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. … This assumption that of all the hues of God whiteness alone is inherently and obviously better than brownness or tan leads to curious acts. … I am given to understand that whiteness is the ownership of the earth forever and ever, Amen! Now what is the effect on a man or a nation when it comes passionately to believe such an extraordinary dictum as this?

The effect is a Faustian bargain. And as a result, whiteness exists in a state of perpetual social anxiety. White people are taught that their biological, cultural, and/or God-given nature is to be “inherently and obviously better” than people of color and to have “ownership of the earth.” These ideals are, of course, so lofty that they are unachievable. Discontent is inevitable. Whiteness is a deal with the devil.

Consequently, white people move neither into nor out of moments of racial anxiety, nor do they—despite the popularity of the cliché—experience flashes of “white fragility.” Whiteness does not wax or wane relative to racial pressures, cracking to expose either reactionary political movements or even the occasional mass shooting. Rather, whiteness is an omnipresent imbroglio; it cannot live up to the greatness it assumes it can naturally realize.

Reconciling the peril that results from the inability to fully manifest white power necessitates a scapegoat. And so the crisis of whiteness is continually externalized onto racial “others.” This helps to explain why an increasing number of white people now believe they have been cheated out of their birthright—an inheritance of domination stolen by people of color. White nationalism and supremacy could not function under absolutist apartheid; it is an ideology and practice that requires the presence of people of color to justify its own shortcomings. White peril and white power go hand in hand.

Many of the white men responsible for recent acts of domestic terrorism have penned manifestoes jampacked with lies, errors, and myths about whiteness and the world. Gendron, Breivik, Roof, and others ramble on ad nauseum about interracial marriage, ethno-racial migration, and welfare—not to mention racial supremacy, eugenics, and murder. But the core tenets of “white nationalism” are neither as rare nor as unpalatable as one may assume.

Before killing nine Black churchgoers in Charleston, Roof wrote about his beliefs that Black people are intellectually inferior to white people. “Negroes have lower Iqs, lower impulse control,” he wrote. “There are personality traits within human families, and within different breeds of cats or dogs, so why not within the races?” His ramblings highlight some of the most fundamental and abhorrent beliefs about “race.” And while these notions have ostensibly fallen out of favor in polite society, recent polling makes clear that, among many white Americans, these ideas are still entrenched.

Consider the attitudes captured in the General Social Survey, a national poll “assessing the attitudes, behaviors, and attributes of the American public.” Between 2012 and 2016, 23 percent of white people living in the U.S. believed their intelligence to be greater than the intelligence of Black people. That’s nearly 1 in 4. GSS data from 2021 also shows that 29 percent of white people surveyed believe that Black people do not have “the motivation or willpower to pull themselves up out of poverty.”

The same phenomenon holds true for white nationalist beliefs that people of color migrate to majority-white nations to usurp “the white man’s industries, claim the white man’s welfare and buy and use goods created by the creativity and ingenuity of Western—white—people,” as Breivik put it in his manifesto. While this is supposedly a peripheral belief, many white people support divestment from public welfare services when those resources are believed to benefit people of color, especially Black Americans. Thirty percent of white people believe the government should not aid Black people, according to the 2021 GSS. Roughly a quarter of white people believe we spend “too much” on “assistance to Blacks,” while roughly 20 percent believe we spend “too much” on “improving the conditions of Blacks.”

White people even subscribe to hyperbolic views, shared by Gendron and others, that the world has become increasingly hostile to white people. Gendron opined about “anti-white politicians” and the “anti-white state.” Other white supremacists have even concluded that “anti-white racism is real and a very underestimated phenomena.” These views are shared by a majority of white Americans. In 2021, the GSS found that 56 percent of white people believe that a white person won’t get a job or promotion while an equally or less qualified Black person gets one instead. Similarly, research has shown that many now believe white discrimination is both more prevalent and more intense than discrimination against Black people. And a host of studies indicate that white people tend to translate increasing diversity as a growing anti-white bias.

In the rush to make sense of the shooting in Buffalo, many have categorized the violence as the reflection of hatred, bigotry, mental illness, and growing extremism. It may be tempting, or even comforting, to view the manifestoes shooters like Grendon leave behind as merely the bile of the big bad bigots. But that conclusion is a pleasant fiction. As it turns out, many white Americans across very different ideological and political orientations believe in and employ similar racist ideologies. In reality, white supremacist terrorism is a natural outgrowth of mundane and banal white socialization. So long as white people hold one another implicitly accountable to unattainable ideals of superiority and excellence while targeting people of color, and Black people in particular, as the objects of their un-manifest destiny, the violence will not end. White Americans cannot exorcize these demons without also examining their souls.

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The Wild Ride of the Champion Cyclist Who Shot a Cork Into His Own Eye

Watching a pro cycling triumph vanish before your eyes can be one of the most captivating moments in sports.

But only when it happens during the race—not as the result of a freak accident after it’s over and done with.

On Tuesday, Eritrean rider Biniam Girmay won the 10th stage of the Giro d’Italia, the sport’s second-biggest event. It was anything but a pedestrian victory. The 22-year-old seemed to have done himself in with a wrong turn four miles from the finish line. But Girmay recovered to win a closing sprint against the more experienced and decorated Dutchman Mathieu van der Poel, who gave a sporting thumbs up when his rival crossed the line.

Girmay has come a long way in the sport very quickly. He started cycling in 2015, after being introduced to the sport by his cousin. By 2018, he was a junior African champion, and in 2021 he came in second in the under-23 category at the world road racing championships—the best finish ever for a Black African cyclist. And then on Tuesday, he became the first Black African rider to win a stage at the Giro d’Italia. For Girmay, it was a day of unmitigated joy—until he stood on the winner’s stage.

At that point, preparing the celebratory spray of bubbly, the Eritrean leaned over the large bottle of of Prosecco and shot the cork into his left eye. He winced, squinted, and gamely went on with the spraying. But afterward, he had to go to the hospital, where examinations revealed a hemorrhage in his eye’s anterior chamber. He was forced to drop out of the multistage race the next day.

Cork-related eye injuries are well-documented in the medical literature. A paper published in the Lancet in 1967 described nine such cases, three of which led to the development of traumatic cataracts. The abstract notes, with more than a hint of judgment, that “all such injuries could be avoided by care in opening the bottle and by awareness of this particular hazard.” A typical Champagne bottle contains more than four liters of carbon dioxide, at a pressure four times that of a typical car tire. Even a professional athlete lacks the resources to react: From two feet away, it takes less than .05 seconds for the cork to reach the eye.

In the world of sports specifically, this is the most consequential sparkling wine–induced injury since Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn sliced her thumb open on a Champagne bottle at the 2009 World Championships, costing her the rest of that campaign. And it’s a brutal turn for a rider who is just finding a place among the sport’s best.

Girmay broke through with a win this spring at Gent Wevelgem, a one-day Flanders “spring classic” that’s run on cobbles and steep hills. He’s gotten a reputation as a savvy rider, whose fearlessness, agility, and control helped him recover his position on Tuesday and break free from the pack in the sprint. His team, Intermarché-Wanty, is considered a second-tier outfit, but Girmay has had them punching way above their weight.

In a video released on Wednesday morning, Girmay looked no worse for wear, and told fans he managed to celebrate with the team after his return from the hospital. His Giro, however, was finished. “I need some rest to give more power to the eye,” he said.

What makes this all the weirder is that two weeks ago, it was van der Poel who out-sprinted Girmay to victory in the race’s first stage—before the Dutchman launched his Prosecco cork right into his own face.

On Wednesday, organizers removed the cork from the celebratory bottle before putting it onstage. No one was injured during the celebration.

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The Framers Were Big Fans of Liberty, Unlike Samuel Alito

Justice Samuel Alito’s draft majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization would overrule Roe v. Wade, permit states to enact the most draconian bans on abortion, and provide a roadmap for taking away fundamental rights the Supreme Court has protected for nearly a century. At its core is one of the most crabbed conceptions of liberty ever penned by a Supreme Court justice. To Alito, liberty is essentially an empty idea. From this follows Alito’s prescription: devise a legal test that stops courts from safeguarding unenumerated fundamental rights and then use it to scrap Roe.

Alito’s opinion suggests that liberty is to be feared, not celebrated as a core feature of our constitutional heritage. “Liberty,” he insists, is a “capacious term” that could have hundreds of possible meanings, and he worries that the judiciary will engage in “freewheeling judicial policymaking” in the guise of protecting liberty. He insists that the Supreme Court should be extremely loath “to recognize rights not mentioned in the Constitution” for fear that the Supreme Court will “usurp authority that the Constitution entrusts to the people’s elected representatives.” Because liberty could mean anything, in his view, it means almost nothing.

According to Alito, only the most overwhelming, centuries-old historical evidence—essentially the sort of historical grounding that rights in the Bill of Rights can point to—could possibly justify the protection of an unenumerated fundamental right. The right to abortion recognized in Roe v. Wade, he argues, spectacularly fails this test; extending his reasoning, so might the right of people of different races, or of the same sex, to marry—protected in Loving v. Virginia and Obergefell v. Hodges—and the right to use contraceptives protected by Griswold v. Connecticut, as others have pointed out. Alito’s opinion bulldozes a century of case law protecting fundamental rights to bodily integrity and marriage, and the right to decide for one’s own self whether, when, and with whom to form a family.

What fundamental rights have the kind of historical backing Alito seems to demand? What other fundamental rights can claim a historical lineage equivalent to rights in the Bill of Rights? Few, if any, would seem to measure up to the strict standard Alito lays out. That is not a bug, but a feature, of Alito’s approach. To Alito’s way of thinking, many of the rights we cherish as part of our heritage of liberty are not rights at all.

[Read: The People Who Promised Roe Was Safe Are Already Selling Their Next Bridge]

The role of the courts in our constitutional system is to protect basic rights and liberties from the tyranny of the majority, not to reduce them to insignificance through wordplay. The Constitution presupposes that not all the rights it guarantees will be found in its text. When the founding generation added the Bill of Rights to the Constitution in 1789, it was understood that no list of protected rights could possibly be exhaustive. As future Supreme Court Justice James Iredell aptly observed, “Let any one make what collection or enumeration of rights he pleases, I will immediately mention twenty or thirty more rights not contained in it.” The Ninth Amendment, which provides that the “enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people,” codifies that essential idea.

Alito’s basic move defies the Constitution. He disparages the idea that we have fundamental rights that are basic to bodily integrity, human dignity, and equal citizenship, simply because they are not mentioned in the text. He flouts the rule of construction the Ninth Amendment prescribes.

Hollowing out our constitutional ideal of liberty is indefensible on its own terms. It is particularly so when one considers a primary purpose of the 14th Amendment: to redress the horrific abuses of slavery and ensure the promise of liberty for all, regardless of race. The 14th Amendment was necessary because, in the wake of the abolition of chattel slavery, states of the former Confederacy sought to strip Black people of every basic liberty, including their rights to bodily integrity and to choose their families for themselves. To Americans who struggled and spilled blood to make the 14th Amendment a part of our Constitution, liberty was not an empty idea; it was central to the difference between being a full, equal citizen and being enslaved. Rights to bodily integrity, to marry, to decide whether to establish a family, and to reproductive freedom were part of liberty. As Michigan Sen. Jacob Howard asked during debate over the Reconstruction amendments, “Is a free man to be deprived of the right of acquiring property, of the right of having a family, a wife, children, home? What definition will you attach to the word freeman that does not include these ideas?” Roe’s roots can be found in the 14th Amendment’s embrace of these bedrock rights.

Alito bemoans how capacious liberty is; the Reconstruction Framers celebrated that fact. As Rep. Jehu Baker of Illinois insisted, the 14th Amendment would provide “a wholesome and needed check upon the great abuse of liberty which several of the States have practiced, and which they manifest too much purpose to continue.” Rather than maintain a status quo that licensed the suppression of fundamental rights, Sen. Carl Schurz of Missouri described the 14th Amendment as having effected a “great constitutional revolution”: “It made the liberty and rights of every citizen a matter of national concern” and “made a republic of equal citizens.”

Alito’s draft opinion asks “what the Fourteenth Amendment means by the term ‘liberty,’ ” but then answers that question in a manner completely divorced from the 14th Amendment’s text and history. Liberty, human dignity, and equal citizenship lie at the core of the 14th Amendment’s text and history. By Alito’s account, they are entirely absent.

Alito paints his opinion as a vindication of textual fidelity to the Constitution. But reducing one of the most powerful constitutional concepts to an empty idea and stripping Americans of the right to control their bodies and their lives would surely represent one of the lowest points in the history of the Supreme Court.

Read more of Slate’s coverage on abortion rights here.

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Luka Doncic Has Already Disproved the Biggest Myth About Players Like Him

One of the more well-worn saws of basketball conventional wisdom is that, due to the fact that there are only 10 players on the court at a given time, the team with a transcendent superstar always has an advantage. It’s one of those statements that seems so obviously true on its face that we don’t often notice that it’s often not: If it were, the Milwaukee Bucks would still be in the playoffs, and LeBron James would own a Bill Russell–like collection of rings.

There are, however, players whose combination of ability and feel for the moment make you reluctant to ever pick against them. At present there is one player like this above all others left in the playoffs, and it is the Dallas Mavericks’ flatly unbelievable point guard Luka Doncic. Doncic, whose Mavs play the Golden State Warriors on Wednesday in what promises to be an epic Western Conference finals, was last seen leading a full-scale demolition of the top-seeded Phoenix Suns, who won a league-best 64 games in the regular season. In Game 6, facing elimination, Doncic scored 33 points to go with 11 rebounds and eight assists, guiding the Mavs to a 27-point win. Game 7 was even more destructive, as Luka scored 35 points in a mere 30 minutes as the Mavs blew the Suns off their home floor in a 33-point victory, which wasn’t even as close as it sounds. (At one point the Mavs were up 46; Doncic finished with an absurd +37 plus/minus figure.)

Doncic is only 23 years old and is currently in his fourth season in the NBA, which he joined in 2018 as arguably the most hyped European prospect in history. (Next year’s presumptive top pick, France’s Victor Wembanyama, should soon claim that distinction for himself.) Doncic went on to win Rookie of the Year and has already assembled eye-popping career averages of 26.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 8 assists. These career numbers get even sillier in the playoffs, where over the course of three appearances Doncic has averaged 32.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.3 assists.

Until this year, Doncic had been bounced in the first round in each of his first two playoff appearances, through little fault of his own. After five games against the Suns, the Mavs found themselves down 3–2, with Phoenix relentlessly hunting Luka as a defender, his one real weakness. At that point it seemed like Dallas was probably dead in the water; they’d finally advanced past the first round, and now could be a cool up-and-coming story going forward. But Doncic had other plans, and we’re now left to wonder if Doncic might be fulfilling his prodigious promise even sooner than expected. (LeBron James famously dragged an otherwise pedestrian Cavs team to the finals in 2007, his own fourth year in the league.)

The Warriors will look to throw whatever they can at Doncic, starting with guard Andrew Wiggins, an atrocious defensive player earlier in his career who has since improved immensely on that end. And Golden State still has no shortage of offensive firepower of its own, starting with Steph Curry, the greatest shooter the game has ever seen who’s still trying to shed an oh-so-mild reputation for postseason inconsistency. In a way this series feels like the past and future of the league colliding, as Golden State looks for yet another run with the same core that won its first title back in 2015, while Doncic tries to make his first trip to the finals of what might well be many.

If he’s not playing your team, Doncic is a joy to watch. He is listed at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, but plays (and probably is) considerably larger. He is one of the two or three best passers in basketball, and he competes with a passion and ferocious intelligence that only the greatest players possess. In terms of pure athleticism, he’s not in the top tier of NBA players, but his combination of size, strength, and preternatural spatial awareness make him almost completely unguardable. He simply gets wherever he wants to and can make pretty much any shot he creates for himself.

Like most good white players of the past 40 years, Doncic has often been compared to Larry Bird. He’s more deserving of the comparison than the vast majority of his predecessors, but I still don’t think it’s quite accurate: Bird was purely a forward, and Luka isn’t the generational shooter that Bird was. (As I have long maintained, this current NBA’s rightful heir to Bird is Kevin Durant.) The impossibly lofty comparison I might venture instead is a player who retired long before I was born: Oscar Robertson. I have only seen Robertson’s play in highlights, but there’s something distinctly similar to Luka’s game: the smarts, the creativity, the vision, the snarling irascibility.

Doncic also seems like a historic player in another capacity: the final, resounding nail in the coffin of a hard-dying belief that great European players will prove to be soft in the NBA. The Slovenian Doncic was drafted third overall in 2018, a minor slide that was baffling to many internationally oriented analysts who’d just seen him win the EuroLeague MVP as an 18-year-old for Real Madrid. The two guys picked ahead of him were center Deandre Ayton, who’d played one year at the University of Arizona and was drafted by the Phoenix Suns first overall, and forward Marvin Bagley III, who’d played a year at Duke and was drafted by the Sacramento Kings. And the team that originally held the third overall pick, the Atlanta Hawks, traded Doncic to the Mavs in exchange for the fifth overall pick, which they used to draft Oklahoma guard Trae Young.

It would be a Yao Ming–sized understatement to say that neither Ayton’s nor Bagley’s career has thus far turned out the way Doncic’s has. (Young’s has been mostly spectacular, albeit not quite in the same class as Luka’s.) Ayton’s Suns were most recently getting torched by Doncic in the aforementioned Game 7; Ayton found himself riding the bench after a mere 17 minutes of play. Bagley’s early career has been far bleaker, essentially busting out with a dysfunctional Kings organization before being traded to the cellar-dwelling Detroit Pistons earlier this season, where he has shown some signs of life.

There are a number of reasons both of these players were selected over Luka. One is probably size; both Ayton and Bagley are listed as 6-foot-11, and there’s still a belief in some front offices that bigger is better. Ayton and Bagley also went to top-flight American college programs, a context that many NBA scouts and front offices are more accustomed to evaluating. But there were also lingering whispers about whether Luka’s success was inflated; if he could really make it in the NBA, if his game would translate; if NBA players would simply be too fast, too big, and too tough for him.

These concerns are laughable in retrospect. Doncic isn’t just a great player; he’s a killer, the type of guy who feels like a supervillain when he plays against the team you root for. He’s tough as hell and an inveterate shit-talker, openly delighting in opposing teams’ misery. The best basketball players, the ones that you can never, ever count out, play with a sense of cruelty. Luka has that, and now the Warriors have their hands full.

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 Men, It’s Time to Consider a Vasectomy

Imagine a hormone-free birth control that is nearly 100 percent effective. There’s no scrambling to get it ready before you have sex, and it’s impossible to forget it at home. Only thing is, you have to have testicles.

We’re talking, of course, about vasectomies. And with Roe v. Wade on the brink of being overturned, it’s time for anyone who is capable of impregnating someone to consider having the procedure.

“Absolutely more men could get them,” says Dr. Marah Hehemann, a urologist specializing in men’s reproductive and sexual health at the University of Washington. She sees a wide range of patients in her clinic: men with kids, young men without kids, adults getting divorced.  “After they get them, guys are like, Wow, that was it?” she says. Snipping the van deferens—the tube that helps launch the semen out of the body—is so easy, Hehemann adds, that one evening at a party she told her friends’ husbands she “could do the procedure in their living room. They were blown away.” For the patient, it just involves a little local anesthesia, and then wearing some snug underwear during the recovery time.

Yet, on the list of contraceptives that people rely on, vasectomies are down toward the bottom, at least in the U.S. Condoms aren’t too high up either, actually. What most people rely on to prevent pregnancy is—wait for it—women, or, more precisely, contraception for a body that produces eggs, not sperm. According to the Centers for Disease Control, 18 percent of sexually active women count on their tubes being tied, 14 percent on the pill, and 10.4 percent on intrauterine devices or implants; condoms, for comparison, account for 8.4 percent of contraceptive use. Vasectomies? A mere 5.6 percent.

When testicle-owners do get snipped, it’s usually after they’ve had children, and they usually make that decision with their spouses. It’s less common among younger men who haven’t had children. Maybe more should consider them. Vasectomies can be reversed (although having had the procedure in the first place  can still affect your chances of getting someone pregnant). More relevantly, younger men are in a demographic increasingly less likely to want kids and therefore more likely to benefit from the procedure (as are their partners, arguably more so). According to a Pew survey, a growing share of adults in the U.S. don’t expect ever to have children: 44 percent of nonparents ages 18 to 49 say it is not too or at all likely they will have children someday, up seven percentage points from 2018; from 1990 to 2013, only about 5 percent of adults didn’t want kids, so clearly there’s been a huge cultural shift. It’s safe to assume the pandemic has fed some of the doubt, but so too probably have the effects of climate change and economic instability, conditions that are projected only to worsen in the foreseeable future. While getting a vasectomy isn’t itself a solution to larger systemic issues, “not getting anyone pregnant who doesn’t want to be” can only make the world a better place, right?

Maybe there’s hope on that front. Since the draft opinion on Roe v. Wade was published, daily searches for “vasectomy” have increased 99 percent, according to Innerbody Research. In searches for “vasectomies near me” were highest in a few states where abortion bans or restrictions are already in place, which seems logical. Whether or not keyword searches translate into meaningful action is anybody’s guess. What is certain, though, is that more cis men in the U.S. could be making birth control a lot more gender-equitable by opting to get vasectomies. They have a lot of catching up to do: Vasectomy rates have been on the decline in recent decades, and there is no state in the U.S., red or blue, where more men are sterilized than women. In most states, the percentage of women sterilized is more than double of men.

My vasectomy story is not so interesting (the lack of drama, I hope, will be a selling point). After having two kids together, my partner and I came to realize that making babies and raising them is really, really hard. Even though my fantasy had been three children, we accepted that in reality two was probably our limit. He got a vasectomy a year after our second was born. It has made life easier. The sex has also been a lot more fun–not worrying about pregnancy makes you a lot more present. Overall, the vasectomy has given us a sense of freedom we didn’t have before. Now’s the perfect time to get one for yourself.