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Texans owner Bob McNair apologizes for calling protesting players ‘inmates’

NFL owners gathered with a group of players last week to speak about anthem protests in order to try and find common ground and a resolution to the issue.

Houston Texans owner Bob McNair has landed himself in hot water for comments made during the meeting, claiming that “We can’t have the inmates running the prison,” referring to players kneeling or sitting during the national anthem.

Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta Jr., who published an in-depth story about the meeting, wrote that McNair’s statement shocked the room,

“That statement stunned some in the room. Then Kraft, who is close friends with Trump, politely rebuked the hardliners, saying that he supported the league’s marketing proposal and predicted the issue would work itself out over time.”

League executive and former NFL player Troy Vincent immediately rebuked McNair,

“Vincent said that in all his years of playing in the NFL — during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word — he never felt like an ‘inmate.'”

Now, McNair has issued a statement apologizing for his language,

“I regret that I used that expression. I never meant to offend anyone and I was not referring to our players. I used a figure of speech that was never intended to be taken literally. I would never characterize our players or our league that way and I apologize to anyone who was offended by it.”


Probably not the words you want to use when NFL players are fighting police brutality and criminal justice reform. McNair’s comments just signal how out of touch NFL owners are with their employees and the general issues in our country at large.

Truly cringeworthy, if not actively malicious.

With his future in question, here’s a brief history of Roger Goodell fucking up

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has had discussions over his contract reportedly stalled by the league’s owners as they grapple with the issue of player protests.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter published a report yesterday revealing that NFL owners have prioritized figuring out what to do with players protesting during the national anthem over virtually all other league business, including Goodell’s contract extension.

The owners have apparently seen their bottomline affected by the protests. As we all know, with this particular group of billionaires, when their money starts getting fucked up, it means action is required.

Schefter wrote of the owners stalling on Goodell’s deal,

“Goodell’s deal is still expected to be completed and has been papered, sources told ESPN, but the process has been slowed while the overwhelming majority of the NFL’s attention has been diverted to handling the anthem issue, which has affected TV ratings, merchandise sales and the country’s feelings about football.”

Goodell’s contract doesn’t necessarily seem to be in jeopardy, but it’s obvious that the players have gotten the attention of the powers that be at the NFL, so much so that the owners barely discussed renewing Goodell’s contract at a recent meeting,

“Had the issue not existed, Goodell’s contract might have been completed at last week’s owners meeting in New York, sources said. However, because the issue has become so critical to the league, the NFL’s compensation committee spent about only 20 minutes Wednesday discussing Goodell’s extension, with Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank leading those talks, sources told ESPN.”

Schefter reported that one source close to the situation told him that almost all other league business has been put on the back burner in lieu of player protests, “‘The anthem issue has overridden everything — and I do mean everything,’ one source told ESPN.”

This all comes after Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported last month that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones was singlehandedly holding up talks of an extension between the league and Goodell.

Schefter and Mortensen wrote that Jones was not eager to renew the NFL commissioner’s contract,

“Jones is now being singled out by some owners and league executives as the reason Goodell does not have the contract extension that many expected to be in place before this season kicked off, per sources. Goodell’s current deal expires in 2019.”

Apparently, this has absolutely nothing to do with Goodell’s questionable handling of Cowboys star running back Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension (surely not!) and instead Jerry Jones just doesn’t like how much money Roger Goodell makes,

“One source familiar with the ongoing drama said Jones has argued persistently for months to the committee that other owners believe Goodell makes ‘way too much money’ and demands a pay cut and a radical change in the formula that compensates the commissioner. Jones also believes several other employees in the league office are overcompensated.”

Roger Goodell makes a yearly salary of $34.1 million to preside over the NFL, a supposed non-profit organization.

With beef between the owners and Roger Goodell, the NFL shows us once again that sometimes there are battles with no good people.

In one corner we have Roger Goodell, a man who makes $34 million in order to hand out dubious suspensions, protect the NFL from concussion lawsuits, and get into dick measuring contests with the league’s star players.

In the other corner, we have NFL owners, a group of old white billionaires who profit off the dangerous and life-threatening labor of players and prioritize silencing dissent amongst those players a number 1 priority.

With that said, we’re all for the firing (or non-renewal) of Roger Goodell! If NFL owners are looking for excuses to get rid of The Ginger Hammer, here’s some things they can reference.


For the sake of transparency, I must admit that I root for the team that got punished here. But regardless of my fan allegiances, suspending the league’s biggest star (over some very questionable evidence of deflated footballs) and then engaging in a long, protracted legal fight in federal court with said star does not seem like the smartest thing to do.

In the end, deflategate was a massive L for Roger Goodell. The Patriots and Tom Brady came back with a vengeance and won the Super Bowl despite Goodell’s self-important intervention. It’s exactly the type of petty, arbitrary, bad-for-optics battle that Goodell seems to love.

Ray Rice suspension


Roger Goodell and the NFL claimed to have “all the information” of the dispute between Ray Rice and his wife Janay in an Atlantic City elevator when the then-Ravens running back was suspended the for 2 games at the beginning of the 2014 season.

Then the tape of the incident was leaked to the public, revealing the extent of the horrifying incident. Goodell sprang into action, suspending Ray Rice indefinitely, despite the fact that it was dubious whether he could actually do that. Then came the issue of whether Goodell and the NFL had already seen the tape, because it had previously been sent to NFL headquarters.

Ultimately, it was a complete PR disaster for the NFL and once again Goodell fucked up so badly that everyone involved seemed like the villain. He has a real knack for that.


In 2015, Goodell was asked about the safety of football after 7 youth players died playing the sport. The NFL commissioner responded by saying that there is ‘risk in life’ and compared the safety of football with sitting on your couch,

“If I had a son, I’d love to have him play the game of football. I’d love to have him play the game of football because of the values you get. There’s risk in life. There’s risk in sitting on the couch.”

As a devoted couch-sitter I maintain that sitting on your couch has very little risk to your safety, although it may impact the vitality of your social life.

While Goodell’s response to player safety is a standard deflection from a dude who is no more than a glorified PR rep, the NFL’s work behind the scenes to stop research on concussion in football is downright Orwellian.

When the NFL agreed to donate millions to research into player safety by the National Institutes of Health back in 2012, it seemed like a genuinely positive step from the league to try and protect its players.

Of course, it was not.

Last year, Democratic members of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce found that the NFL was trying to influence the study. The study claimed,

“Our investigation has shown that while the NFL had been publicly proclaiming its role as funder and accelerator of important research, it was privately attempting to influence that research. The NFL attempted to use its ‘unrestricted gift’ as leverage to steer funding away from one of its critics.”

For all of Goodell’s fluffy bullshit about trying to make the game safer, actively trying to influence a study about player safety is some truly evil shit.

Weed policy

A subject very near and dear to our hearts.

Goodell and the NFL have shown time and time again that smoking weed is basically the worst thing you can do as a professional football player (besides protest police brutality).

The commish has handed out season-long suspensions for players like Josh Gordon (remember him?) and Martavis Bryant for multiple weed violations while routinely suspending violent domestic abusers for fewer games.

Yes, I get that there are rules against marijuana use in the league’s collective bargaining agreement. You’re not allowed to smoke a bunch of weed in the NFL, but these rules are ridiculously antiquated and go against basic logic.

NFL players have such a brutal job, one could forgive them for wanting to toke up a little bit after a game. But with the current rules in place, more and more players turn to addictive painkillers and form habits that will haunt them for their playing days and beyond.

Legaliiiiize it.

Roger Goodell’s wife created burner Twitter account to defend NFL commish

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has come under criticism from all sides recently.

The league has a mounting litany of problems, from the ongoing concussion and player safety narrative, the pre-game protests, Colin Kaepernick’s continued blackballing, and falling attendance numbers, Goodell has drawn the ire of die-hard football fans, both sides of the political spectrum, and NFL players.

With all of this intense criticism, some have rushed to Goodell’s side to defend the commish. An article in the Wall Street Journal (behind a paywall) revealed that one of those defenders was Goodell’s wife.

That’s fair enough, nothing particularly weird or interesting about a wife defending her husband. But the way the Jane Skinner Goodell went about defending her husband was by making a fake Twitter account and responding to haters online.

Jane took a page from KD’s playbook.

Mrs. Goodell was sparring with members of the media with her now-deleted Twitter account with the display name Jones smith (creative!) and the handle @forargument (she wasn’t lying).

The Journal described Jane’s activity,

“The most frequent sparring partner for @forargument is the nation’s sports media. On Sept. 26, @ProFootballTalk, the Twitter account for the popular NBC Sports blog, tweeted that it was “on the commissioner” to solve the anthem issues.

“In response, @forargument tweeted: ‘Please do better reporting. He is already doing this. You are behind.'”

For her part, Jane admitted to being quick with the Twitter fingers. She wrote to the Journal in a statement,

“It was a REALLY silly thing to do and done out of frustration—and love. As a former media member, I’m always bothered when the coverage doesn’t provide a complete and accurate picture of a story. I’m also a wife and a mom. I have always passionately defended the hard-working guy I love—and I always will. I just may not use Twitter to do so in the future!”

Points to Mrs. Goodell, who used to be a Fox News anchor, for being straight up in her admission of guilt. The fact that she describes herself as a ‘wife and mom’ trying to ‘passionately defend the hard-working guy I love’ almost humanizes Roger Goodell, almost.

Don’t make fake accounts people. You will get caught.

Trump is now making Roger Goodell force NFL players to stand for anthem

Player protests have been the biggest story this NFL season by far.

With so many injuries, and trash ass play, the product itself is taking a dip but more eyes are on the league than ever since Colin Kaepernick started kneeling for the anthem and started the revolution.

Over the course of the past few weeks, more players have joined in but as soon as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones came through and diluted that message by kneeling before the anthem, then telling his own players they’d be benched if they take a knee weeks later, we can see what type of fuckery that is going on with ownership and the front offices.

Now new reports from ESPN claim that Trump has contacted commissioner Roger Goodell and mandated that all players be forced to stand for the National Anthem, or otherwise face consequences. Goodell sent a memo to the league saying

“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the national anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us.”

While the message says that players “should” stand, it’s also been reported that they are working on a new policy where it will actually be required.

Players are not happy with this potential decision and free agent running back Reggie Bush had the most interesting take on it while commenting on a Baller Alert IG post.

Ballerific Comment Creepin 🌾👀🌾 #ReggieBush #commentcreepin

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Roger Goodell has never been popular with the players or fans and it’s for consistently not understanding things from their perspective. With so many other issues (like CONCUSSIONS) plaguing the league, he’s letting something like players not standing or linking arms during the anthem take precedent.

Of course Goodell is also being strong armed by the president and all of the owners who voted for his ass.

It will be interesting to see what the player reaction is going to be in Week 6 of the NFL season. Will players stand in fear of losing their jobs? Or will they kneel for what they know is right?

Week 5 NFL roundup: Mike Pence is dumb, coaches doing coke, and wack injuries

With Week 5 in the books, besides a Monday night matchup between the Bears and Vikings, the headlines continue to come from around and off the field as opposed to the actual play on it.

Between Vice President and noted weirdo Mike Pence making some dumb political gesture, Dolphins offensive line coach railing lines before a meeting, and season-ending injuries to two of the league’s biggest superstars, it was another week of headaches for Roger Goodell.

That doesn’t mean this isn’t all hilariously enjoyable (besides the injuries, that’s super trash) or that there weren’t some fun highlights, just that the NFL continues to be a wild circus of ridiculousness.

In many ways the NFL mirrors the state of our weird hellscape of a country; benevolent and confused leader who may be jeopardizing the future of his stead, Black citizens trying to bring some attention to the wild inequality of our country, angry mobs of white people upset about minorities speaking out about these very injustices, and just general chaos with sloppy play and a fan base that is increasingly tuning out for myriad reasons.

Let’s take a look at what went down this week.

Mike Pence stages political stunt, everyone becomes a little bit dumber

As everyone knows, the role of the Vice President is to use taxpayer money to go to football games and then have a public hissy fit when people try to speak out about issues in our country.

Vice President Mike Pence, fulfilling those very duties, showed up to the Indianapolis Colts game yesterday ready to take a stand.

He tweeted a picture of himself and his wife at the Colts game, followed by a tweet approximately 8 minutes after kickoff claiming that he had left the game in protest of protest, or something.

Because we live in the dumbest possible timeline, it turns out Pence’s original tweet announcing his presence at the Colts game was just a recycled tweet from 3 years ago. I applaud Pence and his social team for adding a little filter to the more recent photo, that’s some good work.

Obviously this whole thing was a political stunt to further infuriate Trump and Pence’s base against people attempting to shed light on the gross inequality of the country.

Trump couldn’t help himself from letting the people know that this whole great show of political power was his idea.

This is what the leaders of our country are doing. CNN estimated the cost to taxpayers of Pence’s brave display of leadership at $242,500. Remember when Trump told Puerto Ricans they were screwing up his budget because they got hit by a hurricane?

Dolphins offensive line coach snorts a bunch of coke while professing his love to Las Vegas dancer

Oh boy.

Last night a video leaked of Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster railing lines and talking about how much he misses a long lost love. Foerster even claimed that he was about to head to a meeting in the video.

The long lost love in question is a woman named Kijuana Nige, a Las Vegas exotic dancer, and she posted a statement on Facebook as to why she decided to release the video.

Again, it comes back to the issue of racial injustice in our country and the hypocrisy of the powers within the NFL and beyond.

I mean, it’s pretty concerning for Foerster to be railing drugs before team meetings, seems like that dude needs some help but needless to say, the internet had some fun with this one.

After Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill went down with a season-ending knee injury, some people wondered if the Dolphins would be in for Colin Kaepernick.

Of course they settled for Jay Culter who has been, well, terrible, but maybe now is the time to reconsider…

Never a dull moment!

J.J. Watt and Odell Beckham Jr. go down with season-ending injuries

This is a tough one.

With both J.J. Watt and Odell Backham Jr. out with leg fractures, the NFL suffers a big blow with two of the league’s biggest players losing the rest of their season.

At a time when the league is already suffering from a lack of fan avidity, losing Odell and Watt is a terrible result for the league.

Before the injury Odell had a typically eventful game. First, he seemed to be crying on the sidelines as punter Brad Wing whispered encouragement into his ear.

And then Odell scored a trademark game-breaking touchdown.

Losing Watt and Beckham is a massive disappointment for the league, its fans, and the Giants and Texans. Football is brutal.

Raiders Donald Penn almost scraps angry fans

After winning the first two games of the season impressively and looking like a serious contender in the AFC, the Raiders have lost three games in a row, getting blown out by the Ravens yesterday.

The typically confrontational Raiders fans took their ire out on offensive lineman Donald Penn in the parking lot after the game, prompting Penn to get out of his car and talk to the fans head on.

Apparently, Penn and one particular fan have history.

They used to be friends.

Then it all turned sour.

I wouldn’t get into a fight with the 6’5″ 305 pound Donald Penn, that seems like a genuinely terrible idea, but then again the fan may have gotten a fat check out of that.

Cheers to Donald Penn for restraining himself. Hopefully Derek Carr comes back soon.

Ben Roethlisberger throws 5 interceptions against Jaguars, openly wonders if he is still good

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the best and most durable qb’s in the league for more than a decade now, but things aren’t going so well in the steel city these days.

Big Ben threw 5 picks, including 2 pick-6’s to the Jaguars yesterday. It’s never a good thing to lose to the Jaguars, they are mostly an abomination, but their defense is actually pretty damned good and if they had a real quarterback, the team might actually be pretty damned good.

Alas, they don’t have a quarterback, rather just some dude named Blake humming the ball around to receiver’s feet, but Roethlisberger made up for that yesterday.

After the game, Roethlisberger told reporters, “Maybe I don’t have it anymore.” That’s a pretty weird statement from a team’s veteran quarterback and leader, especially after Roethlisberger openly complained that wide receiver Antonio Brown’s behavior had become a “distraction” in recent weeks.

With LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and their offensive line, the Steelers offense should be an absolute juggernaut.

That hasn’t been the case so far this year and for the first time in his career, Big Ben’s ability is being questioned. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this.

Terrelle Pryor called n-word by Chiefs fans, responds by flippin’ the bird

Terrelle Pryor was captured in the tunnel of Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night giving the finger to a fan.

Pryor looked pretty pissed off and while some of that may have been due to Washington losing frustratingly to the Chiefs, it seemed like an especially emotional reaction to heckling.

TMZ Spots posted a video of the incident.

Now Pryor has gone to social media to explain the situation. The former Ohio State Buckeye wrote that he was called the n-word throughout the game to the point that an NFL employee had to intervene.

Pryor wrote,

“Being called a n***** several times to the point where an NFL employee had to step to me and stand by me the whole game from 2nd quarter on is the exact reason why guys are kneeling during anthem… As I walked in tunnel hearing some one call me a n***** and say F you to me … flicking the person off is more deserving. I do apologize to my teammates and the organization. But at some point you keep calling us the N word .. we going to start acting up. #straightlikethat”

The NFL is now looking into the incident, according to Adam Schefter.

This is an ugly situation, especially considering the current racial landscape of the NFL, where fans have booed teams for taking knees or protesting during the national anthem.

NFL fans are predominately white, the players are predominately black.

This has led to tension in recent weeks as players protesting racial injustice in America has been met with grotesque counter-reaction from NFL fans who find some sort of personal offense in the demonstrations.

As Pryor pointed out in his post, this sort of treatment by fans is precisely why players are kneeling in the first place.

The social and political environment of America right now is a powder keg ready to blow and this is translating into sports arenas and the field. This is some ugly shit.

J Cole is protesting the NFL and he wants you to do it too

This weekend was pretty wild. Melo finally got traded, ‘Catch me Outside’ girl got a record deal, and the President of the United States got into a Twitter beef with a sports league and its players.

For those unaware, many NFL players have been taking a knee during the national anthem as a form of protest. Colin Kaepernick began sitting out the anthem last season in protest of police brutality. Since then, he’s been blackballed from the NFL, which has sparked many other players to voice their disapproval.

As the NFL season starts, more and more players along with staff have refused to participate in the anthem. Donald Trump apparently took offense, publicly condemning these “son of a bitch” protestors.

Trump called the act disrespectful and even called out the NFL for their low ratings, terrible even…. SAD. With 12 tweets dedicated towards the NFL, it’s weird to think of how little he spoke about literal Nazis walking the streets or Puerto Rico’s current disaster as the island is left with no resources.

Celebrities from all over were coming at Trump’s neck, including Snoop Dogg who had his own response:

Most surprising of the celebs to come forward was J.Cole.

The normally reclusive rapper came on Twitter after months of inactivity with a simple question “How you make a thread”.

After getting his answer, the ‘platinum with no features’ star went on to speak to the American people about the current controversy surrounding the NFL. As he urged viewers to stop watching games, Cole dropped gems on how we can truly make our voices heard.

Suggesting a private investigator look into Kaepernick’s unfair unemployment, Cole wants the former quarterback to receive what he’s owed. It’s clear he’s been thinking critically about this situation for a while and hopes that others will be as passionate as he is on the matter.

Although his Tweets were inspiring, the fact is most people aren’t going to put his words into practice. Habit is a hard thing to break and like Uncle Snoop said “I’M STILL WATCHING N****.”

Peep J. Cole’s thread below where he also took time to acknowledge Cardi B and give her a calm little shout out:

Week 3 NFL roundup: League unifies to defy Trump and wild highlights

On Friday, Donald Trump said at a rally in Alabama that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem in protest of racial injustice in our country should be fired.

He used some rather colorful language in describing these players, calling on NFL owners to punish the protests,

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”

The reaction to Trump’s comments has been severe. With players, coaches, teams, and NFL owners condemning the president. Patriots owner and Trump donor Robert Kraft said he was “deeply disappointed” with Trump’s comments.

Rex Ryan, former Jets and Bills head coach and NFL analyst for ESPN, appeared alongside Trump during the presidential campaign but on Sunday Ryan said he was “pissed off” by the president’s comments,

“I’m associated with what Donald Trump stands for and all that because I introduced him. I never signed up for that, I never wanted that. That doesn’t mean I support 100 percent of the things he says.”

As for players around the league, they responded with a show of unity, either kneeling or sitting together or linking arms during the anthem. It was a resounding and powerful reaction to Trump, varying from team to team and player to player.

LeSean McCoy took the opportunity to warm up during the national anthem

The entire Pittsburgh Steelers team stayed in the locker room during the anthem besides serviceman and offensive lineman Alejandro Villanueva

For the first time white players across the league took a knee to protest the anthem

No players took the field during the anthem before the Seahawks Titans game

Rico LaVelle took a knee while singing the anthem

The Seahawks issued an official statement mincing no words saying, “we will not stand for the injustice that has plagued people of color in this country.”

As for the actual play on the field, this was by far the most exciting week of action yet.

Odell Beckham Jr. showed why he’s one of the most talented players in the league, scoring two touchdowns in a matter of minutes. But it was OBJ’s celebrations that were truly memorable.

First he seemed to pee like a dog (a possible response to Trump’s SOB comment)

Then he defiantly raised his fist in the air in a show of Black Power

The Bears’ Marcus Cooper returned a blocked field goal almost to the house

A late Rirchard Sherman hit on Titans QB Marcus Mariota resulted in a near brawl

Eagles rookie kicker Jake Elliott knocked a 61 yard field goal for the W over the Giants

The Lions were within literal inches of beating the Falcons…

Aaron Rodgers told the sideline what he thought about their playcall…

…and then won the game for the Packers

Chiefs rookie Kareem Hunt is the real deal

People on both the left and the right are now boycotting the NFL because America has collectively lost its damn mind.

Whether you’re boycotting the NFL because players are protesting, Kaepernick is being blackballed, or the head injury thing is too real, you are well within your rights to do so. Sundays are good days for picnics and shit too.

But between the protests and the wild play on the field, the narrative in the NFL is pretty damn juicy these days.

You might want to tune back in.

Week 2 NFL roundup: Play on the field may be trash but Beast Mode back

With Week 2 of the NFL season in the books there’s been a lot of talk about the quality of the product on the field.

Sloppy play and quarterbacking displays that leave a little to be desired have seen some lopsided scores and questions over why teams are employing players like Blake Bortles.

But we’re all brainwashed anyways. It doesn’t seem to matter what the NFL does, they have millions of Americans locked in and that’s not changing anytime soon.

I’ve had my own personal dilemma with watching the NFL, as more and more studies come out about the longterm effects of the game of football on the human brain, but here I am, mainlining Red Zone and refreshing my fantasy apps maniacally.

The NFL will always provide entertainment, even if the product seems to be increasingly diluted. Let’s take a look around the league at some of the highlights from another Sunday of FOOTBAW.

Cameraman just kept running…

Jaguars fans drowning their sorrows in Mayonnaise

Zach Ertz with the wild catch… just how they draw it up

Do the Chargers have any fans in LA?

No, no they do not.

It’s not much better for the Rams

Not great.

Gronk scored his 69th career touchdown (nice) on this long reception… and then got injured

BEAST MODE BACK IN THE BAY (this may be the most Oakland thing to ever happen)

The NBA on NBC music had us in our feelings (shoutout to the music producer on SNF)

All these trash quarterbacks doing their trash thing meanwhile Colin Kaepernick is still unemployed…


matthew stith

Matthew Stith is the photographer capturing soccer like you’ve never seen it

There’s a reason they call soccer the beautiful game.

The skill on the pitch, the passion in the stands, the drama in the technical area, all of which are singular to this one sport. This is what drives photographer Matthew Stith to capture the emotional depth of soccer.

Matthew Stith has photographed soccer at all levels, from shooting Messi, Suarez, and Neymar at the Nou Camp to documenting the domestic game in America, Stith’s shots encapsulate the unique emotional dynamism of soccer. I recently spoke with Stith about soccer, photography, Arsenal, and pursuing your passions.

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Stith has played soccer all his life and fell in love with the sport at a young age. He played goalkeeper at Syracuse University before graduation left him at a fork in the road.

He had dedicated his life to the game of soccer and now after graduating from ‘Cuse with a major in Public Health that didn’t really feel right to him, Stith had a decision to make.

Stith described this post-college feeling, the void that no longer being on the pitch left, and how he ended up picking up the camera,

“I’ve always loved soccer, and I picked up film photography in college. Once school was over, I moved back home and was stuck. I didn’t want to work in Public Health, and I had this love for soccer that I couldn’t drop.”

But there’s a lot of work to be done between a love for soccer and being able to photograph the sport professionally.

Lucky #99

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Stith used his connections within the game to gain access,

“On my college team, a lot of my friends turned pro. So in October of 2016 I rang one up and asked if he could talk to the marketing team to try to get me into shooting one of his games. With access, I instantly fell in love, and knew this was what I really wanted to do. I got to shoot and interact with my favorite players and capture them in a unique way.”

Sports photography is a pretty crowded field, especially in a sport that’s beloved by so much of the globe. But Stith is able to capture the game in such a dynamic and compelling way. A glimpse through his Instagram page reveals photographs of players, fans, and soccer environments through an exceptional perspective.

The most beautiful game

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Stith explains that his past as a player allows him to understand the game in a way that some other photographers might miss,

“As a photographer, I’m in a really unique position. I have a huge interest and knowledge of the game so I know what will look good on camera where a lot of other photographers don’t. I try to get as close as possible to the action to give the viewer some emotion… I always want to viewer to feel exactly how I felt when I took the shot.”

The only American sport that compares to the emotion and passion of world soccer is maybe SEC Football. The pageantry, obsession, and life or death nature of every game heightens the intensity to ridiculous levels. And unlike other sports, especially American sports, soccer players aren’t encouraged to hide emotions or become automatons of THE TEAM.

spread love it’s the BARÇA way

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This makes soccer a specifically interesting sport to watch and capture. When I asked Stith about this, he explained why soccer is just so damn photogenic,

“Most soccer players are very expressive. If something goes right, they laugh and smile, and if something goes wrong they frown or put their hands on their head. Unlike football or lacrosse, soccer is one of the few sports where there are no [helmets]. You can see everything.”

The diversity of styles and techniques in different countries also makes the beautiful game beautiful,

“Soccer is played all around the world, and it’s really interesting to see how all the cultures come together for club and country. The Brazilians dance when they score, the English knee slide, and the South Africans have super diski.”

Stith is interested by soccer culture in America and beyond, repeatedly telling me, “I’m all about the scenes.” This interest has led him to the famous Nou Camp in Barcelona, an experience he described as “like a Church,” but Stith has also snapped some of the most provocative pictures of soccer in America.


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The MLS is growing massively, and not just in terms of ratings or reputation, but most importantly in terms of the “scene” as Stith describes it. Personally, as someone who was there when the MLS began, going to games in massive football stadiums with maybe 1,000 spectators in attendance, it’s amazing to see the growth of soccer in this country.

Stith is equally encouraged by how the soccer culture in America is changing,

“Growing up, soccer was always brushed aside, or taken for granted and it always annoyed me. Thank god that’s starting to change. Kids growing up are getting better and better and the fan culture continues to evolve. Smoke bombs and flares are common place in MLS Stadiums now, and so is singing and standing the whole game. It’s so funny taking people to their first game, or showing them pictures, because for the most part, they aren’t expecting that it at all.”

I asked him who has the best fans in the MLS, “Toronto FC. Those fans are wild.”

Need. More. Scenes.

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As encouraging as it is to see the game grow in America, the biggest scenes are in Europe. On that trip to the Camp Nou, Stith captured Leo Messi up close and personal. He told me about the experience and how the now-departed Neymar compares to Barcelona’s #10,

“Messi is the goat. That’s all that needs to be said. He was God-like. It was incredible. He wasn’t the coolest footballer I’ve ever photographed though. Neymar will easily will easily take that crown.”

But for all of Neymar’s coolness, Stith’s allegiance lies with a team in North London. A team I also support. A team that often defies logic in the ways it tortures its supporters. The Arsenal Football Club.

Stith’s passion for The Arsenal is such that he’s tattooed the club’s crest onto his chest. He quotes Arsenal and Holland legend Dennis Bergkamp (the reason I support Arsenal) in explaining his fandom,

“Dennis Bergkamp summed it up best ‘When you start supporting a football club, you don’t support it because of the trophies, or a player, or history, you support it because you found yourself somewhere there; found a place where you belong.’”

It’s a beautiful statement about soccer fandom from one of the most graceful players ever.

So what’s next for Matthew Stith, who has been able to capture the growing scene in America, the most famous team in the world, and seen his own favorite team play?

Happy Birthday TT. I love you.

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He wants to photograph some of the biggest rivalries, the greatest ‘scenes’ in the game, and not those in England, Spain or Italy. Stith tells me passionately,

I want to shoot world football rivalries. I want to go to games that are dangerous, games that are scary, and games that really mean something.”

So which games are these? Fenerbahce vs. Galatasaray in Turkey where fans are constantly on “the brink of a massive brawl” is one. There’s also Rangers vs. Celtic in Glasgow, Scotland, a match that goes far beyond fans just not liking each other as the teams are divided along religious lines.

But the ultimate match that Stith would like to shoot? Boca Juniors vs. River Plate, the “Superclásico” of the two biggest teams in Buenos Aires. Stith explains,

“Buenos Aires explodes with so much passion and fandom during that game, it’s a game that should be on the list of any football fan in the world.”

Attending these matches is the ultimate dream for any soccer fan and anyone who, like Stith, is all about the scenes.