Dear Mr. Robertson

Phil Robertson of the breakout hit, “Duck Dynasty”, spoke at a prayer breakfast in my state recently, and during his presentation made the following statement about atheists:
“I’ll make a bet with you. “Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?”

These are the words I wish I could say to him.

Dear Mr. Robertson:

I am an atheist. You don’t know me, but because your family’s television series fills half my DVR, I feel like to some extent, I know you. My son, a funny, caring, smart 12-year-old identifies himself as a huge Duck Dynasty fan. He currently also identifies himself as someone who doesn’t believe that there’s a deity out there controlling our lives. And while he’s not old enough yet to have a fully developed belief structure, he does not believe in heaven or hell.

When you used your platform of fame last year to make your ideas about homeosexuality known, my son and I had a discussion about understanding, tolerating, and being cognizant of the beliefs of others that are different from ours; about protecting our friends (many of whom are gay) from beliefs that are dangerous or hurtful; and about the idea that there is no room in any civil discourse for hate speech. He continued to watch Duck Dynasty because the ideas you had communicated were not portrayed in the show, and because I feel it’s my job to guide him in life toward his own identity, not force my ideals and beliefs on him.

Today, as I read your words about atheists, my heart breaks. I know there will be another discussion about and a removal from our viewing lineup of Duck Dynasty. I know that I will have to explain to my son that while we can be tolerant of beliefs, we cannot be tolerant of attacks and we cannot support hate or give it such a resounding voice. I know that this is a discussion I shouldn’t have to have with a kid who just really thinks your sons are funny guys, your grandkids are “pretty cool”, and your wife is a grandma extraordinaire.

Why do I, an atheist, care that we’re eliminating your family from ours, Mr. Robertson? Despite your conviction that my belief makes me deserving/capable of rape and murder, I found your brood a beautiful example of care and strength whose source was your faith. I never wished you harm or looked down on you because you chose a different ideal than mine, and in fact talked with my child about the fact that choosing Christianity as a construct of kindness and love is just as respectable as choosing any other system of belief to guide you to being better people. As the product of a family separated by more than distance, I was glad that Duck Dynasty depicted you and your relatives working through life’s trials in the context of the peace and joy you derive from Christianity. As a human being, I enjoyed the big and little victories the Robertsons shared once a week through a show.

I wish you and your family the best, Mr. Robertson, because while I disagree with what you promote, I understand that your beliefs are not the whole of you and that despising you for what you’ve said only furthers ideas of inequality and intolerance that I and my generation have every opportunity to erase. I hope we can change your mind one day, and that you can see that every person, “even” an atheist, is a person worth more than the story you’ve told. Until then, I hope I am not the only one who makes the choice to tell you, through any means possible, that there’s no room for your hate in our homes.

The Underlying Problem with the Ray Rice Debacle

It’s been months now since the NFL issued a two-game suspension to Ray Rice for his role in a physical fight with his fiancee that left her unconscious in an elevator, and more than a week since TMZ released video footage of the fight that led the the Baltimore Ravens to terminate the running back’s contract and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to say he “didn’t get it right” with the initial suspension. In the time since the first censure by the NFL, and ramping up after the release of the surveillance footage, we’ve been bombarded with opinion from all corners. And while the feminist movement has certainly found fuel for its fire in this situation, Rice’s actions and the subsequent mishandling of sanctions by the NFL have roused a much broader female contingent who are speaking out about how things should have been addressed.

It is never a step backwards to talk about the pervasive nature of domestic violence and the effects it has on families across all demographics, nor is it unreasonable for women to rally against abuse and for equal representation in arenas dominated by men. I think voices like Katie Nolan are getting it right: addressing domestic violence in the professional sports community needs to be an ongoing discussion and not just a flare-and-die fight. I think questions like those asked by Hannah Storm are questions that need to be in that ongoing dialogue. But I also think that until women who want to participate in the discussion stop glossing over the factors inherent in the league and the media coverage of it that lend to the objectification of women, we’ll never really be getting anywhere.

The truth is that the perception of women as objects that breeds domestic violence and gender inequality will not stop in the NFL (or anywhere else) until we as a gender take responsibility for the fact that we are partially responsible for the perception.  In the NFL paradigm we’re talking “Cheerleaders” dressed in tiny strips of costume who perform stripper choreography unpaid in order to appear in calendars, female sports anchors wearing revealing clothing to garner viewership and keep their places at the desk or on the sidelines, and this analysis of the fight between Rice that has largely ignored that it was in fact a fight with both people participating physically.

What I am not saying is that women who are abused ask for it or any other such stupid thing; do not narrow this viewpoint by reducing it to rhetoric. What I am saying is that if we as a gender are really going to begin having serious discussions about our places in formerly male-dominated industries and environments and speaking out about the abuse levied against us as a gender, we better damn well be ready to honestly admit our contributions to those positions and to work within our own ranks to stop the perpetuation of acts and ideas that make us readily objectified. Because until we come to the table prepared to talk about domestic violence as an epidemic that victimizes both sexes, and until we admit that we cannot use our sexuality to advance and at the same time fall back on its characteristics for protection, we are undercutting any progress we could make toward resolution of the issues in ways we cannot ever fix.




Concussions: The Need to Know about Sports’ Silent Injury

IMG_7017A few weeks ago I was watching a high school lacrosse game that got particularly salty when I saw one of the players go down and stay down after a brutal cross-check. My heart sank. I knew there was no way this player was coming back to his team for the last week of his senior season; that hit had concussion written all over it. I heard after the game that the player had been looked at by a trainer, assessed as concussed, and sent home. His parents took him to the doctor where he was formally diagnosed. His treatment? Two weeks of rest with no practice, no games. It was the second concussion he’d sustained this season. What did it mean – or should it have meant – for this player and his family? How serious are concussions actually? Was two weeks enough rest to achieve full recovery? Should he have played after the first injury was sustained? His parents and even his coaches weren’t totally sure of the answers to these questions. There’s a lot of information out there, some of it highly conflicting. Ultimately, we’re just starting to understand concussions and the implications of repeat injury, but there are some basics that every parent and player should know to be as safe as possible on and off the fields.


The Nine Habits of Highly Effective Lacrosse Players

DSC_0053 In 1989 Stephen Covey published a self-help book called The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. In it, he explored concepts like “synergy” and “self-mastery” in relation to the ways that people interact. It was an incredibly popular book and its directives still cycle around in management classes and the occasional teambuilding exercise. When I began talking to the members of Team U.S.A. about their lacrosse careers, I didn’t really expect to think about Mr. Covey’s book; in my head, this series was forming as a look at the players’ backgrounds with some warm fuzzies thrown in – a little like an Olympics backstory piece without the weird Bob Costas pink eye.


Florida Launch Lacrosse: Five Reasons You Should Be a Fan and Bring Your Family

Florida-LaunchMajor League Lacrosse has come to Florida and the Florida Launch has positioned itself to be a highly competitive team. Based at FAU Stadium in Boca Raton, the Launch played its inaugural game on Saturday, April 26, 2014, taking on the Denver Outlaws. For fans of the sport in the Florida, it’s a welcome change to the lacrosse scene, adding a local team with a venue much closer than the next closest team’s home in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s a safe bet that with the sport growing at nearly ten percent annually over the past ten years that those familiar with the game will fill the stands. But if you don’t know lacrosse yet, here are five reasons why this team and their games should be on your family To Do list:


A Lacrosse Introduction

DSC_3414Years from now when someone asks me, “Why lacrosse?”, I’ll tell them it was the equipment that caught my attention. I was walking along the sidelines of a Saturday practice at Champion Challenge in January when I noticed a row of lacrosse bags in perfect alignment, all turned the same way, all zipped. And as odd as it may sound, it was that line of uniform equipment bags that was my first indication that lacrosse was going to make a huge impression on me.


An Open Letter to U.S. Men’s Lacrosse


As the publisher of an e-magazine about Disney trip planning, I cover sporting events at ESPN Wide World of Sports. This weekend I had the privilege of press access to the Champion Challenge, an event that in the past has been something of an exhibition, but this year was a career changer for all 51 of you.

I did not grow up with lacrosse, but instead was introduced to it by a friend who coaches and, subsequently, my 10-year-old son who has decided to become a lifetime devotee to “the flow”. It is for him that I am writing to you today.


Steele Stanwick takes time to take a photo with Ben at the team dinner held prior to the Blue & White game.

As a single mother with a young son, I spend a lot of time monitoring. I watch talking oranges on YouTube, check for errant text messages on iPhones, eavesdrop on SportsCenter just in case, preview cable television shows, and last week I launched myself across the living room at the mute button when a football player went on a rant after an NFL playoff game. It’s not that I’m a helicopter parent, it’s just that much of today’s world needs to be explained in a context that my kid doesn’t understand yet. Until he can build those frames of reference, I work really hard to regulate what comes into his wheelhouse. As the gatekeeper of what sometimes seems like an endless stream of junk, as a mom, and as a fan, I want to say thank you to each and every one of you.

Thank you to the U.S. Men’s Lacrosse team for being entirely classy on and off the field. Thank you for letting our children “sneak” to your practice to watch you work with each other and comport yourselves in the most respectable of manners. Thank you, U.S. Men’s Lacrosse, for coming to dinner on the eve of what would be one of the most important games in your careers, and for leaving that at the door while you laughed and talked, took photos and signed posters for kids like Ben. Thank you for going 110% during the entirety of the game and for being gracious afterward in signing autographs for the throng of young lacrosse players who rushed what was surely an emotionally charged meeting.


Thank you also for the smallest of things that made the biggest of impressions: the constant support you audibly gave each other during the match, the table manners you used while you put away what my son characterized as “more food than he thought guys could eat”, and the language you did not use when you took a shot to the chest plate during the first minutes that rattled my kidneys halfway across the field. Because while you were locked in a battle that would see more than half of you getting cut from the national team, my 10-year-old kid was watching. And listening. And processing. While you and your coaches broadcasted positivity and excellent sportsmanship, my son was constructing an idea of what it means to be an elite athlete. I could not be more proud to say that he had all of you as examples. 





To those of you who continue on with Team USA, we will cheer for you from wherever we are as you compete in Denver, and when you return to your respective teams. You are truly representative of an America I want to raise children in. For those of you who did not make the cut, continue playing admirably; your time is coming and no matter your status on this team, we will be lifelong fans. To each  of you who attended Champion Challenge this weekend, thank you. You have been role models and in doing so, have made my job as a mom easier. That, in these times, is saying something.

Most Sincerely,

Morgan Crutchfield

This post originally published on my Disney-focused website, and its corresponding blog. It also ran on the US Lacrosse blog at and in their flagship magazine, Lacrosse Magazine. Since then, I have received such fantastic feedback from parents and athletes around the country that I am writing a series with US Lacrosse about this incredible team.