Saroya Tinker debuts ‘Shut Up and Play’

The first episode of Saroya Tinker’s new podcast, ‘Shut Up and Play,’ exploring activism in sports, has been released!

Last week, Toronto Six defender Saroya Tinker announced on Twitter that she would be hosting a new podcast, titled “Shut Up and Play,” focusing on athlete activists and the role athletes have played, on and off the field, in social justice movements.

Tinker, who signed with the Six as a free agent this offseason, has long been an advocate for social change, even outside the confines of hockey. She currently runs the Saroya Tinker Mentorship program for BIPOC women in sport, and has been an active supporter of Black Girl Hockey Club.

“When I think about all the athletes who’ve put their careers at risk to speak up for what they believe in, I feel incredibly proud,” Tinker said in the podcast’s original press release, available on the podcast’s website. “We put so much effort into developing the level of fitness and skill needed to excel in our chosen sport, but our brains are what got us here, our determination and commitment, not just our bodies. We are whole humans and it’s time to figure out how activism and athleticism can live in harmony. That’s why I’m doing ‘Shut Up and Play.’ It’s time to talk this out.”

The pilot episode of “Shut Up and Play,” titled “Taking a Knee,” aptly opens with the well-known story of former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. In November of 2016, Kaepernick made waves in the sports world for refusing to “stand at attention on the sidelines” with his teammates for the duration of the United States’ national anthem. While many of Kaepernick’s critics were quick to paint him as anti-military, anti-police, and anti-American, Tinker examines Kaepernick’s own explanation for his actions — an explanation that comes straight from the quarterback himself, and not from anyone else.

Reflecting upon this pivotal moment, Tinker calls Kaepernick’s actions “the most enduring symbol of social activism for this generation.”

Tinker made waves of her own during the NWHL’s Lake Placid tournament when she, along with several of her teammates on the Metropolitan Riveters, took a knee during the national anthem. While many fans praised Tinker for her courage and her teammates for their solidarity, the Yale alum shares on her podcast that she had told head coach Ivo Mocek before the start of the season that she would not play if he did not permit her to kneel.

“Taking a Knee” continues with interviews with Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Barry, who discusses her own peaceful protests and the sanctions she was subjected to by the IOC, and David Meggysey, a former linebacker and athlete activist who was labeled a “traitor” for bowing his head during the anthem at a St. Louis Cardinals-Cleveland Browns game in 1969.

While we won’t spoil the rest of the episode for you, Tinker continues to offer critical insight into the protests of a variety of athletes, and does a masterful job communicating with her interviewees while also telling a story. She’s concise, witty, and human — traits we often don’t see enough from athletes on the biggest stages. At no point does Tinker condescend to the audience, nor does she coddle her listeners by shielding them from the hard truths and often harsh realities of being an athlete activist.

Furthermore, Tinker is a wonderful interviewer, clearly putting her subjects at ease and getting to the root of their discussion without rushing the conversation. Should hockey not work out for the defender, there’s surely a future in media for her.

“Shut Up and Play” is already off to a red hot start. With eleven more episodes in the works, there is sure to be plenty more of Tinker’s raw honesty and illuminating perspective to come...and you won’t want to miss a second of the action.