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Interview With John McEnroe; Interview With Ken Burns; ; Interview with author, Dave Zirin. Aired 1-2p ET
Aired September 14, 2021 - 13:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN INTERNATIONAL HOST: And welcome to AMANPOUR.
Here's what's coming up.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): How does sport change and challenge society? We start a special show with a look at the greatest.
MUHAMMAD ALI, BOXING CHAMPION: The price of freedom comes high. I have paid, but I am free.
AMANPOUR: Muhammad Ali gets the Ken Burns treatment. The famous documentarian tells me how Ali's activism was fueled by his faith.
EMMA RADUCANU, U.S. OPEN CHAMPION: It still hasn't sunk in, to be honest, because, after the match, I haven't really had a moment to just stop.
AMANPOUR: As a new generation of tennis stars emerges, I talk to former number one John McEnroe about winning, losing and mental health on court.
DAVE ZIRIN, AUTHOR, "THE KAEPERNICK EFFECT": What Colin Kaepernick provided was a language, was a lexicon was a method of struggle.
AMANPOUR: Sportswriter Dave Zirin talks to Hari Sreenivasan about the Kaepernick effect.
AMANPOUR: Welcome to the program, everyone. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
Today, the intersection of sports and the quest for a more just, humane world, how athletes who stand up to be counted can be crucial to progress.
And so we start with a brand-new investigation into an American who was at the intersection of politics, faith and race. Decades before football star
Colin Kaepernick protested racial injustice by taking a knee during the national anthem, there was Muhammad Ali, the greatest, who risked jail,
being stripped of his titles and financial ruin to defend his faith and African-American rights.
Here's Ali's daughter Rasheda.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RASHEDA ALI, DAUGHTER OF MUHAMMAD ALI: Daddy evolved. He became better. And daddy said that: "I'm bigger than boxing."
That meant boxing was this much. His evolution into the person he is today is way bigger than him just boxing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Ali's legend has drawn the eye of the award-winning historian and filmmaker Ken Burns, who calls in simply a transcendent American
character in his new PBS documentary series "Muhammad Ali." And here's a clip.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. ALI: Do you know your daddy is the baddest man in the world?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Without any further introduction, Muhammad Ali!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is young. He's handsome.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They know it.
M. ALI: Who is going to stop me? Ain't nobody going to stop me.
I'm showing the world that you can stay yourself and get respect in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's 22 years old. And he's standing up to the whole establishment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why until you see Muhammad Ali.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: I have been speaking to Ken Burns about the American icon he finds so compelling.
AMANPOUR: Ken Burns, welcome back to our program.
KEN BURNS, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Christiane, it's so good to be with you. Thank you for having me.
AMANPOUR: We know a lot about Muhammad Ali. We have seen his fights. We know who he is, the greatest, sting like a bee, float like a butterfly, or
the other way round.
Why did you decide that there was more to say about him?
BURNS: We are interested, as we are wont to do, in a rather comprehensive view.
And so we wanted to start at his birth and childhood in segregated Jim Crow Louisville, Kentucky, and go, take it all the way to his death by
Parkinson's not that long ago, in 2016, five years ago.
We also wanted to cover the boxing and do it completely. And, of course, if you take the series of his boxing matches, it's almost like the complete
works of William Shakespeare. You couldn't convince a Hollywood director that this is exactly what had happened.
So they're wonderful. But we also wanted to follow this as a spiritual journey and a person. We wanted to (AUDIO GAP) childhood, find out about
his parents, find out about both the pluses, as well as the minuses, obviously, of living in Jim Crow Louisville, find out what he was like as a
young man, the personal life, the four wives, the children.
AMANPOUR: It's an amazing story and an amazing epic, actually.
And it all, to my mind, anyway, concludes with politics. It's how this person in, all his complexity, shaped so much of the American life and
American politics. So let's just start a little bit before the beginning, before his birth.
As a little boy, he came accidentally to boxing, as you say, growing up in Jim Crow segregated Louisville, Kentucky.
He, as you mentioned, basically had his brand-new red Schwinn bicycle stolen that he was sharing with his brother. And he went to find a
policeman to complain to.
I'm going to play this segment from the first episode and then we're going to talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT LIPSYTE, JOURNALIST: He went. And the cop in the basement was this Joe Martin, who was running a little boxing school.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cassius told the story years later that, for a minute, he forgot about his bike, because the sight of his boxing gym, the smell of
the leather and the sweat and the excitement, the action of boys in a ring hitting each other, black and white, together.
LIPSYTE: And he reported the crime, and I'm going to get the guy. I'm going to kill him. And Joe Martin said, well, do you know how to fight?
Fight? And that was the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: That's a great anecdote.
How did that grab you? I mean, when you think this is what happened, . It was an accident, really, of time and place. And of course, it was a white
cop. And it was mixed-race kids in that training camp, so to speak. That all must have shaped him.
BURNS: It's a wonderful mythology origin story for a hugely epic figure, as you suggest.
This is a man who is intersecting with all of the issues of the late 20th century, the role of sports, the role of the black athlete of sports, the
definition of black masculinity and black manhood, the civil rights movement, religion, faith, politics, wars, sex. You name it, Muhammad Ali
And he speaks to us today because all of those things are front and center. And -- but here is this moment. I mean, this is it. If he hadn't have had
that happen, where would he be?
His daughter at the end of our film, pinches her fingers together, Rasheda does, and says, boxing was only that much, meaning he could have been a
simple carpenter. But he happened to fall into this. There was something I think great about the liberating idea that black and white could be doing
it together in the Louisville in which he had to look through a chain-like fence at the amusement park that was for whites only.
So I think that there's something transforming. This is a ticket up and out. And what happens here is, this is the first moment in which he sees
the possibility of being able to escape the specific gravity of Louisville, the specific gravity of Jim Crow, the specific gravity of the hatred that
had killed Emmett Till and whose mother courageously left the casket open to show his brutalized and tortured body to the world.
And he wasn't that older than then Muhammad Ali. It had a profound effect. And I think he just said, this is how I'm going to do it. And then he did
it. And very quickly on, Christiane, absurdly, he said, I'm going to be the greatest, and was.
AMANPOUR: Where did he get that confidence from? His mother was the softer of the parents, Odessa. His father was much more hard-line, and could be a
little bit violent, I think, and was also disappointed in his own life by coming afoul of Jim crow, being denied the opportunities because of that.
BURNS: That's right. His mother had a capacious heart and was known for that heart around the neighborhood. His father was an angry man. He was a
race man. He was very much of a personality. And people knew him. And he railed against the injustice of the time.
And somehow his son inherited both of those characteristics of both parents, but he also inherited something else. He had a kind of supreme
inner confidence, and yet he drank in both the mother's lesson, I think, about love just by example, and saw his father's bitterness, and realized
he needed to find some system, some way, some security, some firm ground in which he could proceed with the rest of his life.
AMANPOUR: Ken, I was surprised. I didn't know this. I'm sure everybody else who's done a deep dive knows, or maybe not, that it was a group of
white businessmen in Louisville, Kentucky, who took him under their wing and who financed. Right? Is that correct?
BURNS: This is one of the most amazing things.
By this time, it's been at least a couple decades where the mob has had pretty significant connections to boxing. And, in fact, Sonny Liston, who
he will beat to gain the championship, had mob connections.
And so when he wins the gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, surprisingly, and come home as the local kid who made good, the city fathers, white
businessman, sort of say, we have to protect him. We want -- he's a wonderful person, a great personality, but we have to protect him.
And they had already figured out who this guy was they had, this kind of -- who's going to be eventually a kind of avatar, an apostle of love across
AMANPOUR: "Ebony" magazine, at one point, basically said -- and I will quote -- "Cassius Clay," which is what he was -- his birth name, "is a
blast furnace of racial pride."
And it was just -- it's just so obvious throughout his whole life. Plus, he became a Muslim. Plus, Elijah Muhammad, the founder of the Nation of Islam,
gave him the name Muhammad Ali. I think that's something that not too many people knew either. He actually gave him that name.
AMANPOUR: And Muhammad Ali used that name as a gauntlet, as a challenge to everybody.
But, most importantly, he was ready, as he said, to die, to be imprisoned to be killed for his faith. That showed up in Vietnam, refusing to go to
the draft and the rest of it.
And it's his -- his relentless drive to stay true to his beliefs trumped everything. And yet it brought a lot of hate also.
BURNS: It did.
And I think here's the key thing. You brought up earlier politics. I think that, when -- I mean, first of all, we have to unwind a little bit. This is
a teenager looking for some foundation in his life. He hears it. He thinks he hears it in the message of the Nation of Islam, the do for self.
It's the opposite of the civil rights movement, which is about integration. And it's becoming -- that's -- those are tropes that are becoming, for many
African-Americans, particularly in the North, a kind of -- there's an impatience that developing.
So he finds in the ideology of the Nation of Islam some real sure foundation. And Elijah Muhammad becomes a father figure. And when there's
those struggle over Malcolm X, whom they have expelled, and he -- and they know how close Cassius Clay is to Malcolm X, they give him this name, and,
in a way, it sort of binds them for him. It's a brilliant kind of political stroke.
But if you go on later, he refuses induction into the Vietnam War. And he says he would face machine gunfire, rather than do this. The problem is,
we're in the mid-'60s. And this is an act of faith. This is -- this is a faith-based decision his part.
But when we see a black man defying the Vietnam War, we think it's political, that he's giving the middle finger to the United States. So,
even when the prosecutors recommended a lower sentence, the judge threw the book at him and gave him the maximum sentence of five years in jail.
But we have misunderstood this story. Because he was a black man in America, it became a political decision. For him, it was a spiritual
decision. And, in fact, Elijah Muhammad had done the same thing in World War II. He had gone to jail, rather than compromise his religious beliefs.
Now, the Supreme Court had already made exceptions for other people, for conscientious objectors, like Jehovah's Witnesses, but they weren't willing
to extend to the Nation of Islam. They eventually let Muhammad Ali out of his prison sentence, but on a mere technicality.
And the amazing thing, Christiane, that I feel is one of my favorite moments in the film is that here is a guy who, when the Supreme Court votes
8-0 on a technicality to erase the prison sentence and let him go, somebody shoves a microphone in his face and says, what do you feel about the
And he could have gloated. He could have...
AMANPOUR: Which I'm going to play. Hold that thought.
AMANPOUR: Hold that thought, Ken.
AMANPOUR: I'm going to play that thing that you love so much. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
M. ALI: I was on 79th Street on the south side, and just bought me an orange in a grocery store. And the grocery owner came out and grabbed me
and hugged me with tears in his eyes, a little black fellow, and told me that: "You've just been vindicated and you're free. Eight judges all voted
in your favor."
And he just hugged me and squeezed me. And...
QUESTION: How do you feel about our system now?
M. ALI: Well, I don't know who will be assassinated tonight. I don't know who would be enslaved or mistreated. I don't know who will be deprived of
some other justice or equality. So I can't say nothing. All I can talk about is my case.
And I'm thankful that the courts recognized my sincerity and my beliefs in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: It is incredible, that.
And then, of course, in the interim, he had lost his titles. He had lost some valuable practice and boxing time. And he had a hard time struggling
to get back to be the greatest afterwards.
BURNS: Yes, so this is 3.5 years at the height of his athletic abilities that are taken away from him.
And in this moment of triumph, he's not thinking about himself. He's not gloating, as he very often did. He's not reciting poetry. He's not dancing
up and down and trash-talking the man. He's thinking about all the people that have gone back in the last 350 years of injustice to black people on
the North American continent.
He's thinking of Emmett Till, but he's thinking ahead too to names that he doesn't know, that we wouldn't know for a while, like Rodney King, and
Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, 11 years old, and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, and I'm sorry to say hundreds and thousands of other names.
But that's the difference with him. He's serving something much bigger than his own life. He's serving something much bigger than his own profession.
He's serving something much bigger than the loss of -- the critical loss of 3.5 years.
And he's determined now to come back. And the fact that he does, and then does again is just -- it defies imagination. It's not the way stories go in
the United States.
AMANPOUR: It is incredible.
And I just want to ask you one last question, of course, as a historian. You just mentioned all the names of the people who've been killed in recent
times, the innocents. And we have just we have just discussed the risks that Ali took for the for the rights of the black people in America.
And you have got now, all these decades later, a Colin Kaepernick, who all he did was take a knee and was so vilified and his career and his
livelihood put completely at risk.
All these decades later, it seems like we're going backwards to before Ali, not forwards. Do you see it that way?
BURNS: I see the fact that the study of history is the study of human nature, and human nature doesn't change.
We think that history repeats itself. It never does. Mark Twain is supposed to have said history doesn't repeat itself, but it rhymes. Colin
Kaepernick, by the way, has a Nike contract. So it's not the same as having to dip into your wives' college savings. I mean, he didn't disappear the
way Smith and Carlos, who raised their fist at the '68 Olympics.
Muhammad Ali risked absolutely everything and was willing to lose everything in an act of courage that is mind-boggling today. And it's
interesting that we have athletes, it's wonderful that we have athletes speaking out like Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James and others, even in the
face of the ridiculous shut up and dribble that people are suggesting that they do.
Those people who say that haven't read the Constitution or the Bill of Rights. But I think it's important to know that, when they are inspired to
make these changes, they're not risking what the person who is the source of their inspiration.
BURNS: Muhammad Ali, and maybe a generation earlier, Jackie Robinson, the subject of another film, both described a new black masculinity and a new
black courage for the age in which they live.
And the both of them, Jackie Robinson and particularly Muhammad Ali, speak to us enduringly about what it means to face things and to do so in such a
transcendent way that, when he dies, the most beloved person on the planet, countries around the world, in Pakistan, in Malaysia, in Saharan Africa, in
sub-Saharan Africa, indeed, all over the world, respect him because he spoke not just to black people, but to anybody who felt that they had the
boot of the man on them and to anyone who aspired to a much more just world.
AMANPOUR: What a lovely way to end.
Ken Burns, thank you so much, indeed.
And, of course, the film, your films, start next week on PBS.
BURNS: Thank you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: So, the conversation continues and broadens out in the world of tennis, which has been rocked by the arrival of a new generation of stars.
Chief amongst them is the British U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu. The 18- year-old came from literally nowhere to win the tournament in straight sets this year.
Alex Thomas has this report on her incredible rise.
ALEX THOMAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Raducanu's dad is from Romania, and her mom was raised in China.
Emma was born in Canada, and then move to the U.K. when she was 2. It's a global sporting success story spanning three different continents that
began in unremarkable fashion.
(on camera): This is Emma Raducanu's first school in the leafy South East London suburb of Bromley. It's not a specialist sports academy for gifted
athletes. It's just the elementary or primary school run by the local authority.
Emma was 5 when she first picked up a tennis racquet and her parents took her to a local club to see if she had a talent for the sport.
(voice-over): Her first coach remembers what marked her out from the rest.
HARRY BUSHNELL, TENNIS COACH: Her work rate, her commitment. She's always a very disciplined girl. I mean, I know it sounds crazy to say when she's 6
years of age she's disciplined and she's committed, but she made every training session. You never had to ask her to work hard. She listened
And, most things, she did first time of asking. And if she didn't, she went away and practice, and you could bet your bottom dollar that the next time
you did see, she could do whatever it was she couldn't in the session before.
THOMAS: Raducanu had to qualify just to get into the U.S. Open. She was a 450-1 outsider, and ranked 150th in the world, yet won the event without
dropping a single set.
Judging from the raucous celebrations at the Parklangley Club, Raducanu is already inspiring youngsters hoping to follow in her footsteps.
(on camera): What do you like about her tennis?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's where she does really good shots and she never gives up.
THOMAS: When you see Emma win a big tournament like that, does it inspire you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
THOMAS: Would you like to do what Emma does?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
THOMAS (voice-over): Raducanu started the year as a teenage student ranked 345th in the world who had never played in a Grand Slam tournament before.
Now she's the next big thing in women's tennis with more than 1.6 million Instagram followers and the potential to earn tens of millions of dollars a
RAVI UBHA, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Her upside in terms of the commercial sponsorship is tremendous. She comes from a big, big market domestically in
the U.K. The numbers being thrown around are around 20 million pounds, around $30 million already in terms of what she might be able to amass.
AMANPOUR: Tennis commentator Ravi Ubha speaking to Alex Thomas there.
Now, tennis can be a hard and it is a solitary sport, so it's no wonder that center court has become a beacon for vital conversations around mental
Awareness has been spiking after superstar Naomi Osaka dropped out of tournament to concentrate on her emotional recovery. At the Billie Jean
King National Tennis Center in New York, her words are emblazoned on the walls. "Pressure is a privilege," she said.
And someone who knows all about the pressures of the game, seven-time singles Grand Slam winner and former world number one John McEnroe, whose
career has taken an unexpected turn into voice acting right now, where he's playing the narrator for the hit Netflix series "Never Have I Ever."
And he's joining me now to talk about all of this on-court activity.
So, John McEnroe, welcome to the program.
Do you think the Raducanu-Fernandez final and the results and the hype around it is -- how significant, for not just women's tennis, but women's
JOHN MCENROE, SEVEN-TIME TENNIS GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: Well, that's difficult to say? Totally unexpected. Never thought it would happen in my
lifetime to see an 18- and 19-year-old do it.
The last teenagers that were there were, Serena Williams and Martina Hingis played in the final in '99. So this doesn't happen very often.
Significance? I think the women's game is more open than it's ever been. So that's a sign that a lot more players believe they have a chance But when I
watched Emma play at Wimbledon, and she walked off the court with an anxiety attack and didn't return, did not expect this. I can't imagine
anyone in her camp expected this.
And to win the U.S. Open without losing a set, that's crazy. She's a tremendous athlete. She seems like a great kid. Obviously, with what Naomi
has been talking about, she's not the first person that's dealt with pressure in sports and had trouble handling it. She's been more outspoken.
And, unfortunately, I think they're going to be watching her even more carefully. But, in the next couple years, it's going to be very interesting
to see how these two youngsters -- Fernandez, I have seen for a couple years, great talent. Raducanu seems like she's handling it tremendously
I don't know how she turned it around in the last couple of months. But I'm sure a lot of people would like to find out.
AMANPOUR: The secret sauce.
Well, you heard what her coach had said. And she herself has said, after Wimbledon, she just went into the zone and just focused 100 percent.
So, let me ask you, because we're talking about the impact of sports on society in general. And tennis and, obviously, gymnastics with Simone Biles
and other sports have really focused -- and you mentioned Osaka as well -- on the mental health issue.
So, you talked about Wimbledon. And you did, in fact -- I don't know whether you were criticizing, but you said about Raducanu: "It appears it
just got a little too much. It makes you look at the guys and girls who've been around for so long and wonder how they handle it. Hopefully, she will
learn from this experience."
What did you mean by that? Because then Judy, the -- Judy Murray, the indefatigable mother of Andy, said that you shouldn't be talking about her
like that. What did you mean by your comment then?
MCENROE: I meant exactly what I said.
I tried to relate it in a small way to my experience when I first went to Wimbledon, also at 18, and managed to qualify, like Emma, did get through
to the semis.She did better than I did. I played Jimmy Connors. I hadn't been on the center court. And I remember my legs shaking and feeling
totally overwhelmed by the experience and almost happy that I didn't win, and subsequently went to Stanford for a year and had -- had some time to
sort of regroup mentally and prepare for the rigors of the tour.
There's a lot of great upsides, but there's also pressure you put on yourself and expectations that others put on you.
And so, compared to a lot of other things, Christiane, that I have said in the past, I mean, that was about, to me, as vanilla as they come.
MCENROE: I was very supportive of her, I thought, at the time. You know the papers over in England. Sometimes, they, like, make a big deal out of,
to me, nothing.
More importantly than what I said, I think, is how she handled it moving forward, because I'm sure there was a lot of concern in the British Tennis
Association, along with people in her family and the people that work with her, how is she going to be able to handle this sort of newfound fame?
I don't think you could possibly do it any better than she did it. Win the U.S. Open? Are you kidding me? That's insane, in that she's been able to do
MCENROE: Now there's going to be obviously a lot more focus on her. That's incredible.
If Billie Jean King says pressure is a privilege, I believe her. She's done more for women's sports and maybe sports in general than anyone in the last
100 years. I have four daughters of my own. I know, when they were growing up, they felt like they were more on equal footing with their young -- the
boys than they ever have been.
You look at tennis, where there's equal prize money. So I think you're getting the best of the best in terms of athletes and girls that have a
better chance than they ever, ever had in the past.
AMANPOUR: Go ahead.
MCENROE: So, of course, pressure comes with that. Expectation comes with that.
AMANPOUR: John? Yes.
MCENROE: I'm sure that she expects to win a lot more moving forward.
And I just think this conversation on mental health is so prevalent, and it's been so front and center over the last certainly 18 months of COVID,
Black Lives Matter, and everything that's going on, that -- and you are perfectly positioned to talk about this, having gone through everything
that you did.
I guess I want to know -- you say you went to Stanford. Your legs were shaking at 18 when you walked on to face Jimmy Connors. Did you ever get,
either from your parents -- as Venus Williams has said, when she was 14, her mother said, take care of your mental health, as well as your physical
Did you ever get any advice, support about taking care of your mental health? Because you were considered an intuitive, brilliant player. I just
wonder whether you did.
MCENROE: You're probably not the first person that asked.
There's a lot of people that say, well, people, like, why did he act the way did? Was it the way his parents treated him? Was it his upbringing? Is
he just a jerk at times on the court? Is it a combination?
Sometimes, I didn't even know the answer to myself. Guys, when I grew up, weren't supposed to cry. So, in a way, I turned that fear into anger. And
so, sometimes, that came off in a different way than I wanted it to.
Of course, I used to tell my story about my late great dad, where he'd say to me all the time: "Like, John you don't need to yell at the umpires.
You're better than them."
But the way he said it was like: "John, you're a lot better than them! You don't need to yell at the umpires!"
MCENROE: Now, that seemed normal to me, because I was -- I was someone who grew up in New York City. It's a very loud atmosphere. I was actually
shocked at how quiet it was when I first went to Wimbledon the first time.
So, everyone has their methods. I'm sitting here talking to you at my tennis academy. I believe kids have to be nurtured. I'm not big a big
believer in homeschooling. I believe that kids should be brought along more slowly, maybe even play other sports for a while.
I think college -- God forbid, go to college. I think, that way, they can educate themselves and not be overwhelmed by what may or may not happen to
them in the future and, if something big does happen, better able to handle it.
Now, there's exceptions. Obviously, Raducanu's incredible at 18. She's not going to go to college, obviously. She's going to make tens of millions of
dollars whether she wins another match or not.
Osaka was someone who was very shy and introverted the first time I met her. I think she continues to be that way now. She came out last year, made
a big statement at the Open wearing the mask. It was a great thing, especially during this pandemic, which has been so tough for so many
And it was a great boost for tennis. Now, all of a sudden, more attention is on her. I hope to God she can handle it, because we need her around for
another 10 years.
But there's -- absolutely have to be people to help with that process. I had a number of people over the year, psychologists -- psychologists, some
court-appointed, Christiane, I must say, that I had to deal with, but mostly on my own volition, trying to figure out a way to handle this
I took six months off when I was 26-27, had my first kid, trying to grow up and figure out how to better handle it .And it's not easy.
MCENROE: I understand that. I feel for these kids.
MCENROE: I have got six kids of my own. So I want the best for them.
AMANPOUR: Can I just play -- because one of the other added ingredients is this sort of rule that every tennis player, win or lose, has to go at a
certain level of the tournament before a bank of press.
And some -- and a lot of them don't like it, but they have to do it.
So, you said -- I want to play what you said about that, you know, back in 1983. And then, I'm going to also play what Osaka obviously has said about
that. Because that is the center of her sort of, you know, desire to take some time off.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCENROE: What I regret is that I come to places like this and have to deal with people like you.
NAOMI OOSAKA, 4-TIME TENNIS GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: I feel like, for me, recently, like, when I win, I don't feel happy. I feel more like a relief.
And then, when I lose, I feel very sad. And I don't think that's normal. And I didn't really want to cry.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: How much pressure is that actual press conference and do you think it is time to change the idea of making that, you know, obligatory?
MELVIN: It is a great question. I'm not sure I know the answer to that. Obviously, in my day, we didn't have social media, a way to get in touch
with fans and other people by just putting something on Instagram. So, that is something. I'm not on social media. I think I might be in jail if I was.
So, I got to stay away from that.
But as far as Naomi was concerned, I feel like she was having trouble handling what was going on in terms of the overwhelming amount of attention
she was getting. So, she chose to go to the French Open, say, I don't want to do any press. I get it. A lot of the times those press people that I was
referring to 1983 don't give a damn about the tennis match. They are just looking to cause some trouble, get a headline of some kind. And those
people, I think, shouldn't be around there. But that is -- you know, that's tough to navigate too.
As far as Naomi went, I thought it was interesting when she first did it. And then they said, oh, they are going to fine you $15,000 a match and she
said fine, give it to charity. Great. But then the lose-lose was when the powers that be in tennis decided, they said they may default her. I think
that was just a really stupid decision that was made by whoever -- whatever federation it was or a combination of federations. That caused Osaka to
pull out of the French, not play Wimbledon and still feel this sort of uncomfortable, not being able to handle what's going on around here.
Listen, most athletes -- I know I can relate to that, where you feel more of a sense of relief when you win and not the joy that you would like to
feel. And then, you feel like you are not a very good person when you lose. Any psychologist, any psychiatrist would tell you that what you do on a
tennis court shouldn't be making you feel how you are as a person. There shouldn't be a connection. But in a lot of cases, particularly tennis,
which is a one-on-one game, you don't have teammates around to support you, that comes into play.
And rare is the person like Roger Federer who absolutely seems to love it, more normal as the frustration you see from most players, including myself,
including Pete Sampras when he played, including even the great Rafael Nadal who played with some angst even when he's out there giving 110
percent. So, it is not easy.
Us older players, men and women, are there for -- to try to support the younger generation because tennis could certainly use a boost in the
States. It could certainly use a boost in Great Britain. And it just got one. So, they should be absolutely overjoyed that this is happening. It's
been since 1977 Virginia Wade who plays at my club all the time, won it. And so, they're -- and then, the fact that Djokovic was going for the Grand
Slam. People are talking about it. We have to make the game more accessible and affordable. But we also have to nurture these kids when they are
AMANPOUR: Can I ask you about what you are doing now? You have gone into voice acting. You know, you're doing the voice for "Never Have I Ever." The
main character Dev, who is an anxious. She lost her dad. She's prone to out bursts. Sound familiar? How des -- I don't know. Is this relaxing for you?
Is this -- did you do this, you know, for a reason?
MCENROE: Well, I like to try things out of the box, Christiane. You know, I've been part of the tennis establishment a long time. It's been good to
me. Hopefully, I've been good to them. The body doesn't respond the way it used to. Obviously. I played 40 years, 15 on the main tour, 25 on a
champions tour. I loved almost every minute of it. Looking back, when you have some perspective.
So, I've tried to do talk shows, game shows, this, that and the other thing just to keep the interest level up, the energy up. That was just sort of a
fluke thing. Mindy Kaling is a great writer and she had this idea for the series that you just referenced and it was -- and she said -- I ran into
her at a Vanity Fair Oscar Party and she's like, oh, my God. I have this idea for you to be narrator of a show. And I said, yes, right. I've heard
that before. Like they always check in the mail. You know, I couldn't see what -- anything happen from that. 95 percent of this doesn't happen, but
then it did happen.
And when I read it, I was like, wait a minute. I'm supposed to be the narrator for this high school girl, Indian-American girl who is trying to
grow up and figure how to deal with her friends and friendships and relationships? How did that happen? This is crazy. And I saw press, they
go, this is crazy. And then, crazy but maybe it would work. So, turns out, long story short, Mindy's father was a big fan in India, she's a first
generation Indian-American, obviously, coming to the states. Her dealing with, you know, what it was like for her growing up.
But the girl had a temper. So, it was like, ah, who else has a temper that -- oh, yes, my father liked John McEnroe. Somehow it works. It's a
beautiful thing. Sometimes you never know. Listen, is it more crazy that I'm doing this or Emma Radacanu just won the U.S. Open? I don't know. Maybe
it's a tossup. But I'm loving that. It is fun to do. I'm sort of the alter ego, the uncle, the advisor, the psychologist, the friend. So, all in one.
So, I'm having a great time doing it. But it really comes down to the great writing. And I've got a lot of new people going, hey, I know you from
"Never Have I Ever," not even knowing I'm a tennis. I don't think half the cast knows who the hell I am.
AMANPOUR: Well, that's good. That's fun. Enjoy, John McEnroe. And, of course, it's been picked up for a third season. And talk about multi-
cultural and first generation, et cetera. Obviously. Radacanu and Fernandez are also multi-cultural and have brought that whole talk and aspect to the
game as well.
So, John McEnroe, thank you so much for joining us.
And now, we continue our look at the intersection of sport and politics with the kneel, as I've said, that ignite ad movement. Earlier, we talked
about football star, Colin Kaepernick, who made waves back in 2016 for taking a knee during the national anthem. A silent protest against police
brutality and racial inequality in America.
Now. sports writer, Dave Zirin, examines the lasting impact of this moment in his new book called "The Kaepernick Effect." And here he is talking to
Hari Sreenivasan about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARI SREENIVASAN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, thanks.
Dave Zirin, thanks so much for joining us.
DAVE ZIRIN, AUTHOR, "THE KAEPERNICK EFFECT": Thanks. It's great to be here.
SREENIVASAN: So "The Kaepernick Effect," for perhaps our overseas audience, the book really talks about the effect of Colin Kaepernick had.
But for people who might not have been paying attention over these years, what did Colin Kaepernick do in 2016 that started this all?
ZIRIN: What Colin Kaepernick did was he took the protest that was taking place throughout the United States against police violence and against
racial inequity and he brought it to the National Football League. Particularly, he brought it to the National Anthem space, where he would
take a knee during the National Anthem as a way to highlight the gap between the promises of the anthem and the promises of the United States
and the lived reality of far too many black Americans. That's "The Kaepernick Effect." The replication of that protest in small towns and big
cities around the United States.
SREENIVASAN: It was a controversial response when Colin Kaepernick did it. And what's fascinating about your book is you find these teams and these
individuals, these athletes that weren't just kind of band wagoning when it was safe to do so. They were thinking about it and they were deciding to do
this as well. Let's start with the story that you have of Garfield High School. I grew up in Seattle and know Garfield High School pretty well. Had
to compete against them. But what happened there?
ZIRIN: Well, at Garfield High School something very interesting happened. And this goes with the broader theme of the book that what Colin Kaepernick
provided for student likes the football and soccer players and softball players at Garfield was not so much an inspiration as in, let's do this for
Colin Kaepernick or let's do this because Colin Kaepernick did it. What Colin Kaepernick provided was a language, was a lexicon, was a method of
struggle by which athletes who were feeling in their hearts that there was something very wrong with this country.
And he gave them a language by which to put those ideas and those concerns into practice. Namely by taking a knee during the national anthem. And it
started with the football team at Garfield because they had a coach there named Joey Thomas who heard that a couple of the players were talking about
it, and he turned it into a team issue. He said to them, wait a minute, you know, if you are going to take a knee during this anthem, if you are going
to protest racial inequity, you need to know what you are talking about. And so, we're going to have a discussion about that.
And then after the discussion, we're either going to do it as a team or we're not going to do it at all. And so, they spoke as a team about Trayvon
Martin, the young man who was killed by George Zimmerman about 10 years ago. They spoke about a woman named Charleena Lyles who was killed by
Seattle Police. And made the decision that they were going take this knee together. And they did so and it had an effect on the school where other
students said, I want to do that too because I'm also upset about the balance of things in Seattle which has, you know, this reputation of a very
liberal city. But they were seeing some of the contradictions with that liberalism in terms of how the small black population in the city was being
And when that took place, they expected to be embraced because it is Seattle. And on some level, they were embraced by a lot of people in the
community for taking that step. But they also were subject to a terrible backlash. Coach Thomas found himself pushed out of his job. The tires on
his car were slashed. Death threats were reported into the school. But when I spoke to the students who had taken part in it, they had absolutely no
regrets whatsoever. If anything, what they felt was a tremendous amount of pride and a tremendous amount of vindication for standing up when so many
people were not doing so.
SREENIVASAN: It is always harder when you are standing up and let's say, this is an impressionable age. You are 15, you are 16 years old and when
you don't have the support of your peers, when you see this kind of criticism, that is a different kind of, well, guts and intestinal fortitude
for teenagers to have.
ZIRIN: And I think teenagers get such a rep -- a bad rep, I'm sorry, in this country where they are derided for being apathetic, but then, when
they do something, they are derided for doing something. It's like the only thing worse than apathy for a teenager in eyes of many adults is actually
doing something. And I think what these students learned was that they were going to get criticism but they were also going to start conversations, and
that is what they so desperately wanted to do.
And what I also learned by talking to people -- it didn't matter if I was talking to people in Seattle, Washington or people in Beaumont, Texas or in
Upstate New York or in Florida, one of the things that they all had in common is that they were all very young, nine, 10, 11 years old when
Trayvon Martin was killed. And we spoke about earlier, and when that young man was killed, it had this scarring effect on them. It had a traumatic
effect on them, where they just never forgot what it felt like to be in a country where not only could you be killed as a young black kid but also
the person who killed you would not face justice when it was all said and done.
For these young people, it reminded me a lot of stories I read about the Civil Rights Movement and how young civil rights activists were affected by
the death of Emmett Till in the mid-1950s and the pictures of his mistaken distorted body in "Jet" magazine. It was so similar, it echoed, this idea
that they saw this when they were young and it just scarred them, it made them feel like they had to do something throughout their loves. And what
Colin Kaepernick provided was a way, was a method by which they could express their dissatisfaction.
SREENIVASAN: You know, tell me a little bit about what was the story in Beaumont, Texas?
ZIRIN: I mean, Beaumont, Texas involved an entire youth football team that decided that they were going to kneel because -- and these are like kids.
And like, young kids, like 11, 12, 13 years old. And they felt like -- the Beaumont Bulls felt like they wanted to kneel, I mean, partially because of
the what Colin Kaepernick did felt like it was emboldening partly because their coach was willing to support them for doing it, partly because there
were some parents who very supportive in them doing it. What they didn't expect was the backlash. And the backlash was so intense that not only the
team but the league was canceled because of what they did.
They completely kicked -- I mean, it was just like OK. Rather than having anyone kneel, there will actually be no football. And this was in Texas for
SREENIVASAN: Right. Where Friday night life is a religion.
ZIRIN: Yes. I mean, this would be like banning soccer in Brazil or banning pizza in New York. And this is what they did. And -- but when I spoke to
one of the young people and when I spoke to mother of one of the young people, I mean, again, that sense of pride. And actually, in the Beaumont
Bulls' case, there were several NFL players who then donated money and equipment so they could start a new team. And so, that's a story that is
really interesting because it is about solidarity and it's about the connection between the pros and what happens at the most basic level of
SREENIVASAN: You also dived into several -- the phrase is usually student athletes, but people who are performing at a very high level in college.
And you picked, one of the athletes was interesting to me, was a cheerleader who decided to take steps and how she was perceived and the
challenges that she faced.
ZIRIN: Yes. Sydney Stallworth at Howard University. I thought that story was really interesting because there is a lot of discussion these days
about historically black colleges and universities and what they can, in fact, provide. And what Sydney Stallworth found, both at Howard and both in
the broader D.C. community was a tremendous amount of support. And I thought it was interesting that they took these actions when the football
team didn't take these actions. Because a lot of college athletes would not take this step not because they didn't agree with the movement, but because
they really did feel like if they stepped out of line, they could get in trouble with their coach, they might get kicked off the team, college
athletes in this country, their scholarships are renewed on an annual basis. So, there is a huge fear factor.
And the cheerleaders didn't show that fear factor. Sydney was one of only - - with many cheerleaders that I spoke to who took part in this. And I just found that really interesting because cheerleading is often, first of all,
derided as not being a real sport. And second of all, seen as ancillary to what's happening on the field. And these cheerleaders felt the send that
they needed to take leadership precisely because the football team would not.
SREENIVASAN: The idea the student athlete should be compensated, that has been debated for quite some time but it seemed like it picked up more
traction post Kaepernick, post George Floyd, and it's almost like if you start to write the history of that, these other events kind of had to
happen for them to get a seat at the table.
ZIRIN: Absolutely. Similarly, the Washington football team, and I live in the D.C. area, they decided to change their name from what was perceived as
a racial slur against native Americans post Kaepernick as well. And I've talked to a lot of indigenous activists and they all say the same thing,
they said, it was the intervention of the Black Lives Matter movement that made having that name untenable for the Washington football team. And it's
similarly with athletes getting paid.
And it reminded me of something that 1968 Olympian John Carlos said to me. Where he said to me, you know the reason why athletic salaries went up in
the 1970s with the growth of free agency? It was because I raised that fist at the Olympics and Tommy Smith raised that fist at the '68 Olympics,
because it made them realize that there would be a larger revolt on their hands if they didn't loosen the purse strings.
I think there's been a similar dynamic over the last five years where it just gave a lot of people in power that they felt like they were looking at
a canary in the coal mine, so to speak, and realized there needed to be some kind of reform or else the whole system could implode.
SREENIVASAN: I don't think people, at least of younger generations will recognize that activism and athletics went together decades ago. But if you
grew up, say, in the '80s or the '90s, you didn't really see athletes stepping out and expressing their opinion. You saw them make a lot of
money. And that was the sort of end all. Wow, I want to be like Michael Jordan because look at him, he's not only a great athlete, but he's so
wealthy because look at all the endorsement deals. And so -- you know. But you didn't say, wow, I want to be Michael Jordan because listen to his
position on apartheid.
ZIRIN: Right. That was never said about Michael Jordan. But I think we've seen such a sea change over the last 10 years. And the reasons for it to me
are threefold why you have seen this huge political change in sports. The first is just the existence of the Black Lives Matter movement. Like the
1960s, having a movement off the field is critical to see political confidence ricochet on the field. The second reason is social media.
Athletes being able to speak directly to their audience and feel like they can have a political influence on what happens around them. Social media
has been empowering for these athletes. And the last reason, honestly is Lebron James. Because he -- the basketball superstar has decided that he is
going to be a political person. It started for him after the killing of Trayvon Martin.
Like for these young athletes I talk about, when he posed for a photo with his Miami Heat teammates with his hood over his head, that became like the
first viral sports politics photo of the Twitter age. And what Lebron James has done is basically bent the NBA and it's had a ripple effect throughout
the WNBA, throughout the NFL, of course. And he bent it to say, we have the right to be political. We don't sign away our beliefs just because we can
putt a ball in a hoop.
SREENIVASAN: One thing I wonder is, right now, we're also in a conversation about what does an employer have a right to ask of an
employee, for example, in the case of vaccinations? So, if there is some sort of mandate that comes down from a boss that says, in this case, you
are not allowed to take a knee, what happens? I mean, aren't technically employees responsible for the wins of their bosses and their organizations
they work for?
ZIRIN: Well, there are a couple of very good arguments that NFL players have made and could make if they are faced with that situation. The first
argument is that the place they are taking a knee is effectively public square more than a private entity. Given the amount of public funds that go
into building stadiums and given the amount of public interaction. I mean, most of us don't work in front of 70,000 people. You know, that is public
kind of presentation more than it is a private business.
The second thing is that the National Anthem really has nothing to do with what they do on the field of play. I mean, if a player decided to take a
knee on the 50-yard line in middle of a third down and six situation, then by all means fire them. But if a player does it during the anthem,
something that, by the way, the NFL players didn't even have to come out for until 2007, I believe it was, as part of a connection that was made
between the Pentagon and the National Football League, a financial partnership called Tribute to the Troops.
If that wasn't the, sort of, surrounding politics of the event itself, then one might have a case to say that players are risking their jobs. But what
they are doing is a public act of speech I would argue.
SREENIVASAN: The majority of the league are people of color. And yet, the ownership is almost all white, correct me if I'm wrong. But it was such a
tougher climb to try to change the NFL, especially when you had the president at the time calling players who were kneeling names.
ZIRIN: Yes. I mean this was a very difficult dynamic for players in the National Football League. First and foremost, the average NFL career is
only three years and the contracts are not guaranteed. So, if you lose your place on a roster, I mean, you are probably not going to find your way back
on to one. So, there is a tremendous amount of risk involved, particularly given the sums of money at play. And NFL owners, and I chart this on the
basis of political donations, tend to be extremely right wing in their politics. Yet, they can't just come down on players and say, we're going to
kick you all out of the league for doing this, because then they wouldn't have players in and of themselves.
So, I would argue that the NFL ownership structure has undergone a very carrot and stick approach to these protests. You know, the carrot has been
they put slogans on the field like end racism. Players can put Black Lives Matter decals on their helmets. That is something new. They've started
social justice coalitions of players in the league. All of that is the carrot. But the stick is that Colin Kaepernick, never able to find his way
back onto a team. His two cohorts, both of whom I interview in the book, Eric Reid and Kenny Stills, are free agents right now. They don't have a
place on NFL roster. And these players are used as ghost stories by management as a way to say to young players, don't step out of line or you
could end up on the outside looking in. So, it's been a very carrot and stick approach by the National Football League.
SREENIVASAN: Has there been any measurable impacts on the revenue and viewership of sports? Because one of the critiques from the right and from
Former President Trump has been, oh, look. Look at the ratings, they are so horrible now because of all these athletes taking a knee.
ZIRIN: I'm so glad you asked that question because that's been one of the biggest canards over the last five years that fans would be driven away by
athletes protesting. It is true that sports ratings dropped dramatically during the first year of the pandemic. And a lot of folks rushed to that
conclusion, oh, it must be the politics that is pushing people away. And yet, Marist College did a very helpful and very in-depth poll. And what
they found was people weren't watching sports because of the pandemic.
I mean, sports are about fun and play. Like Sports Writer Jane McManus said, sports are the reward for having a functioning society. And without
society functioning, there was just far less of a thirst to actually know, particularly an election year, to actually know who was, you know, winning
the A.L. East. It just -- it was far lower than people's priority lists. So, it was less politics and more this once in a century pandemic.
SREENIVASAN: Is it safe now to protest? Is it safe now to take a knee?
ZIRIN: It depends on the situation. I mean, I would say no. And the fact that it is not safe is precisely what gives it its power. I mean,
ironically, in some places, particularly in English soccer, you see a lot of players taking a knee and it is kind of a team activity. And that, I
would argue, is less effective precisely because it is safe. So, it's when you are willing to rebel, it's when you are willing to make people
uncomfortable that it actually has use value for a movement.
SREENIVASAN: The book is called "The Kaepernick Effect." Dave Zirin, thanks so much for joining us.
ZIRIN: Well, thank you so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: Focusing on the risktakers and the game changers tonight. That is it for now. You can always catch us online, on our podcast and across
social media. Thanks for watching and good-bye from London.