The Long Game A co-production with Doha Debates

How a Former NFL Player Tackles Environmental Racism—With Help From a Cartoon

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Ibtihaj Muhammad: [00:00:00] Around the world, black and brown communities are disproportionately affected by pollution and climate change. [00:00:05][5.3]

News Clip: [00:00:05] Flint residents are irate. Their water is not safe. [00:00:08][2.8]

News Clip: [00:00:16] We're in what's known as Cancer Alley in Louisiana, an area between New Orleans and Baton Rouge lined with petrochemical plants and refineries. [00:00:24][8.3]

News Clip: [00:00:31] The scrap yards there at Agbogbloshie may be one of the most polluted places on Earth. [00:00:35][4.4]

Ibtihaj Muhammad: [00:00:43] It's no coincidence that factories and toxic waste facilities have been built near poor communities and communities of color. It's part of the larger systems of racism that exist all over the world. And, for a long time, the people most affected by environmental threats have been largely absent from the broader conversation. [00:01:01][18.5]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:01:03] I'm not trying to just have a fancy rubber chicken dinners and, you know, give me a bunch of wars I can put my office or let me find a tax write off and create a foundation. Like, all that is pointless. I really wanted to find a way where I can create a better future for my kids and all kids. [00:01:18][15.7]

Ibtihaj Muhammad: [00:01:23] From Foreign Policy and Doha Debates, this is The Long Game, a podcast about the power of sports to change the world. I'm your host, Ibtihaj Muhammad. American football player Ovie Mughelli played nine seasons in the NFL. That's a long time in a league where the average career lasts just over three years. But the legacy he wants to leave behind has nothing to do with football. Ovie spoke with The Long Game's Karen Given. [00:01:55][31.5]

Karen Given: [00:02:00] So this is a conversation about football and the environment. But I actually want to start with a cartoon series. Tell me about Captain Planet. Why did it resonate with you when you were a kid? [00:02:09][9.4]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:02:10] Yeah, Captin Planet. Just the name, like, puts a smile on my face. [00:02:13][3.3]

Clip from Captain Planet: [00:02:14] I am Captain Planet. Go Planet! [00:02:19][5.0]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:02:19] Captain Planet, was my jam. That was my joy. That, that was something that I really looked forward to and was fully involved in the storylines and the plots and the characters and the villains. [00:02:37][18.0]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:02:39] And it's something that had a huge part in kind of making me who I am today. [00:02:44][4.7]

Karen Given: [00:02:45] So there was one character in particular that you especially related to, right? [00:02:48][3.9]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:02:49] Yeah, absolutely. Kwame. [00:02:51][1.3]

Clip from Captain Planet: [00:02:52] don't think this is a good idea, but I cannot let you go on your own. Thanks, Kwame. [00:02:57][4.8]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:03:00] Kwame is African. I'm African-American and African. My parents are from Nigeria, mom and dad are from Nigeria. Seeing somebody who looked like me was something that was just so cool, especially back then, because you didn't see in the 80s that many African-American or prominent African-American characters that didn't fall into a certain stereotype. [00:03:18][18.3]

Clip from Captain Planet: [00:03:19] Oh, let our powers combined Earth. [00:03:23][4.1]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:03:25] So with Kwame being, you know, "Earth" and you know "Earth," you know, strong and being powerful and part of the team, and I wanted to understand, you know, why they are fighting these bad guys and try to save the rainforest. And you know, what is this whole sanability environmental thing? It made me curious. It started me down the journey. [00:03:45][20.4]

Karen Given: [00:03:48] So as I understand it, playing in the NFL was not really your original plan. So what did you think you were going to do with your life? [00:03:54][6.8]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:03:56] Well, I thought I was going to be a doctor like my dad. I saw him every day wake up, late night, early mornings. He was gone at Christmas, you know, missed my birthday, because he's delivering babies to the hospital and literally bringing life into the Earth. And he just always was working hard for his family to try and give us a better life. So I wanted to be a doctor just like him. Most immigrant children could say that. Doctor, lawyer, engineer. That's it. You got to be one of those. You're not going to be a poet or a writer or an art—no, that's not going to work in, you know, immigrant families. So I picked medicine out of the three and was—well, it's full speed ahead. I was pre-med at Wake Forest University. I was taking anatomy as a college football player, cutting up cadavers and fun stuff, and I studied for the MCATS for two months. My sister is a psychiatrist, a year older than me, gave me all her books, and I had every intention of taking the MCAT and going to med school. [00:04:48][52.4]

Karen Given: [00:04:52] Wow. So despite all that time that you actually spent studying, the Baltimore Ravens drafted you in the fourth round of the 2003 draft. Take me to the moment when you received that phone call. Were you waiting by the phone? Did you expect it? [00:05:05][13.7]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:05:06] I was waiting, Karen, and waiting, Karen, and waiting much longer than I wanted to, because I was counting my money before I even got it. I was like, alright, they say that I'm the number one fullback going to the draft by USA Today. And so, if I go mid second round, I'll get about 1.5 million signing bonus. And with that, I can get this, that, the third out. I had my car picked out. I had the vacations I was going to take. So, talk about waiting by the phone. I waited in the first round pass, it's fine. Second round pass. All right, that's fine. I'll go third round. Third round, early ... Third round, mid ... Third round, end of it and that pass. And back in the day, in 2003 when I was drafted, the first day was the first three rounds. So I had to wait a whole other day to a fourth roun cam. And everyone was like, "It's all right, Ovie, it's OK. You, you'll be the first guy taken in the fourth round." So fourth round goes, they're in the middle of the fourth round. I'm still waiting, they're almost at the end of the fourth round. At this point, I'm walking, fuming, saying I'm going to make everyone rue the day that they didn't pick Ovie Mughelli sooner. And they finally called me fourth round. They gave me a call and saying, "Would you like to be a Raven?' I was like, "Yes, I'd like to be anything in the NFL. Absolutely. Gosh darn it. What took you so long?" When they called, it was one of the happiest moments of my life, because every little kid who is out there, you know, jukun and high stepping and stiff arming and, you know, hurling and leaping and catching footballs, they want to do that in front of, you know, 60, 70, 80,000 people, millions on TV. And I actually had a chance to do that. And seeing the, the pride in my parents' eyes, even though they wanted me to become a doctor, having their son, you know, do what 1% of people in the world—probably smaller than that— get to do made them so happy, so proud, so joyous that it made me feel the same way. [00:07:01][115.6]

Karen Given: [00:07:04] So it was during those first few years in Baltimore that you first started your foundation, but the environment was not your focus. So what was your mission? [00:07:13][8.6]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:07:14] Yeah. So when I first gstartedot my foundation, it was just really trying to focus on education. So many times where you grow up, the zip code that you live in determines your success in life, and that shouldn't be. It just really bothered me that the tools that allow you to be successful aren't even being disseminated, aren't even being given out in certain communities. So my foundation really was about trying to impress upon kids the importance of education, how we can get them from their current situation to a better one, and how it can really uplift their whole family. [00:07:52][37.5]

Karen Given: [00:07:53] So in 2007, the Atlanta Falcons made you the highest paid fullback ever in the NFL. That must have felt really good. [00:08:01][7.6]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:08:01] Oh my gosh, did it? Those things happened to other people, doesn't happen to this Nigerian southern boy from Charleston. The coolest part–I always tell this story: Arthur Blank flew his private jet to Baltimore to pick me up. And I really wanted my parents–you know, my dad is the oldest of 12, my mom's oldest of 11, you know how they grew up. It's just they've come a long way, and they've never been on a private jet. Neither did I. And so I just asked Mr. Blank we could go to Charleston and pick up my parents. And he was like, "OK, sure." We went to Charleston, my hometown. My parents were dressed up in their Nigerian garb and the headdress and the the whole, the whole thing. And they came like it was coming to America. It was great. They were— Arthur Blankset a limo to pick them up. And so they walked down the red carpet, walked into the jet. We had the steak and lobster and just, you know, high class service. And it was just a really cool thing, because my my—oh gosh, no, it's it's still chokes me up now, because my mom was crying like half the thing. I was like, "Mom, stop crying. This is a really happy moment." She's just like, "I just can't believe this. I just can't believe this. I just, you know, she's like, Thank you, Jesus. We don't deserve this. Like, we've been too good to us, you know, giving all this honor and glory to my son, and we give back to you." And I was just like, "Mom, like, I get it like, you're happy, but you're making me cry." And so she was just a mess the whole time. But she, she got together when we got there, got to Atlanta. You know, the other limo went to the facility and signed one eight zero zero, several zero contract. So it wasn't just about the money, it was about the the the respect and the ability to really, really do what I wanted to for my family and for the people who I cared about. [00:09:50][108.5]

Karen Given: [00:09:53] Well, it was in Atlanta that your story connects back with the environment. So you met Laura Turner Seydel. She's an environmental advocate and the daughter of Ted Turner, who is, of course, the founder of CNN and also the guy who came up with the idea for Captain Planet. So where did you meet Laura? And did you really sing her the theme song from the cartoon? [00:10:14][20.9]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:10:15] I absolutely did. That's one thing I do remember, because I lit up when I realized who she was, because I think it was at some event that Arthur Blank had some of the Falcons go to. And, you know, at some of these events, you know, you put on the face and you shake hands and kiss babies, but you know, you're not really expecting to meet really impactful, influential people. It just sometimes it gets really stuffy, people don't let their guard down. But someone introduced me to Laura, and when they told me that they had a show called Captain Planet, I said, "Wait, what? Like Captain Planet Captain Planet?" She's like, "Yeah!" I say, "Oh, I love that show." And again, it took me back to childhood, so I sang the whole thing, and I was a huge smile on my face. She's like, "You are serious about this." Like, yes, yes, this is a huge part of my childhood. [00:10:58][43.7]

Karen Given: [00:10:59] OK, I'm going to stop you there because you have to sing the song for me. [00:11:02][2.8]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:11:03] [Laughs] It goes, "Captain Hero, he's our hero. He's going to take pollution down to zero." And so I mumble the rest, but the beginning, it just a comes with just those chords and the chorus and the action, people zooming around. They did a great job. Any kid who likes action and adventure and story would be all over it, and I was. I might have gave her a hug. Like I knew her. I was just like, "I love what your dad did." And she asked me, "Oh, you're a planeteer? So so what are you doing for the planet?" And I said, "Uhhhh, I help kids with education." She's like, "OK, that's, that's great. That's good. But what you do for the planet?" I'm like, planet's good. Like, you know, you're doing good stuff and you know your dad and you know, Al Gore's doing some cool stuff and you know, you don't need me for the planet—something to that nature. Don't quote me word for word. But I remember her letting me know that there's so much work to be done in this space. There's such a need for people who, you know, don't look like me in this space, because we need everybody. We need all hands on deck, and I love to kind of educate you and share with you what exactly is going on. And to her credit, she did. She took me to more webinars, seminars, conferences, talks, you know, luncheons, brunches. The whole time I just soaked it all and realized that, wow, I was really wrong when I said that the environment is fine and it's good. There's, there's a lot of work to be done, and I want to be a part of this work. [00:12:49][105.4]

Karen Given: [00:12:55] And as you were learning all of these things that you didn't know about the environment and environmental justice, you also learned, as I understand it, how it was especially relevant to the kids you were already working with, right? [00:13:08][13.0]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:13:09] Absolutely. I learned about environmental racism. I knew about racism, but I didn't know environmental racism was so prevalent. Environmental issues disproportionately affect black and brown people, because they're lower income sometimes and because they don't have the ability to fight back. The landfills, the coal plants, you know, the polluted areas are built around black and brown neighborhoods. These kids are dealing with, you know, asthma and other issues where they can't focus and concentrate at school. It's just a downward spiral that they deal with. It's just the more I learn, the more I realized that I have to find a way to use my position and again, after getting this great contract, I could do anything. I could work on anything. But where could I be the most useful? Where can I really leave a debt? Where could I, most importantly, leave a legacy? And I found that to be in the enviornmental space. [00:13:58][48.8]

Ibtihaj Muhammad: [00:14:01] You're listening to The Long Game from Foreign Policy and Doha Debates. I'm your host, Ibtihaj Muhammad. And now back to our conversation with former NFL player and environmental activists Ovie Mughelli. [00:14:20][18.9]

Karen Given: [00:14:22] So Ovie, in 2012, your first daughter was born, and that, too, is a story about the environment, right? So tell me what happened. [00:14:29][7.5]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:14:30] Yeah, my first daughter with my wife, my second daughter was born. But Nesia was bor, unfortunately premature. And she was itty bitty, I don't know how small she was. She was just so small and and just so precious and fit in the palm of my hands. And I wanted so much for her to just be able to, you know, come outside, breathe, come home with us and get all these wires out of her. She had some respiratory issues and they had to, you know, put all these tubes and wires. It was, it was, it was rough, to be honest with you. Every day after practice, I go to the NICU. She was there for almost a month and a half, almost two months just fighting for her life, trying to grow up and trying to be healthy. And I was excited to take her home. And when we were getting her packed up and getting her ready, I think we were almost to the car, doctor came rushing to us and said that the air quality in Atlanta right now, you know, it's fine for for you and me, but you know, for your daughter, the parts per whatever particles in the air, you know, could be harmful, even deadly for your child with the respitory issues she's been having. And I just was floored. I was angry. I was annoyed. I was irritated, and I just didn't understand how anybody in charge could let things get so bad to the point where kids can't breathe the air. You know, I have the best crib, I have the best, you know, baby food. I had the best car seat. I had the best everything. I couldn't provide, you know, her a breath of air. I couldn't protect her. It was because I wasn't doing enough in the enviornmental space. In fact I had this crazy idea that still someone else would deal with it, someone else would take care of it. You know, I'm, I'm new to the Falcons. I need to focus on football. You know, I'll do a little bit here and there. And even meeting Laura was, it was great. But then, you know, like we all do, we get excited about something, but we don't really do as much as we should do about it. [00:16:35][124.6]

Karen Given: [00:16:39] And then did the same thing happen when your son was born? [00:16:41][2.5]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:16:42] Yeah, same exact thing. He was born early. He had to stay in the NICU—not because he needed to grow or any other issues, it was because of the air quality in Atlanta. And he told us again, you know, your son has respitory issues. Just with the smog alerts that come off and on, even though they're low level smog alerts, we don't think that's safe. So we just kept him in the NICU. And both those situations, really, really irritated me. It kind of pissed me off, because I feel like if I would have done more at an earlier stage, not the situation wouldn't happen, but I can least know that we're heading in a direction to make sure other kids have to deal with this. And so after being just irritated, angry, upset that, you know, I couldn't throw money into the air and fix it, I really recommitted myself and my wife recommitted ourselves to do more in the space and not just talk about tried to create change, but actually do it. [00:17:38][56.3]

Karen Given: [00:17:39] So how did the birth of your children change the work that you do? [00:17:42][2.9]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:17:43] Well, it really pushed everything into hyperdrive. We, we started—I think we did our first green camp after a year or two after my daughter, where I had the first environmental football camp. I just knew I wanted to do something. I knew that we have a global problem. We need a global solution. And I wanted to bring more people who looked like me, who are dealing with the negative effects of the environment, climate change, global warming, the whole thing. I wanted them to be part of the solution. And I knew that walking into an African-American elementary school, middle school, high school and saying, "Hey, guys, let's talk about the environment," will get me laughed out the gym or laughed out the room in most, you know, black schools, because they're like, "Mr. Mughelli, are you serious? That's that white people stuff. Ain't nobody talking about the environment, Ain't nobody hugging trees here, you know, ain't no hippies and peace and love." Like, honestly, I had not one, but multiple African-American kids tell me that's a rich white issue. That's, that's they issue. They got time. They got the luxury. They feel bad or bored, they just want to go and do this environmental thing. We got real problems, we got real issues, we got real things. We got to worry about from, you know, violence to to drugs to deal with poverty, like we don't got the time to talk about the environment. And they were absolutely right. It made it more difficult for me to have a compelling conversation, because even though they didn't have time to deal with it, it was still dealing with them. The hurricanes, the fires, the floods, we already talked about some of the asthma issues. Just, it's not waiting for the fact that they don't care about it. It's still a slow moving monster that is negatively affecting black and brown communities. So I wanted to teach them how to make green by going green. So we talked about in the football camp, you know, we talked about green jobs. We talked about, you know, how they can uplift themselves and their family by doing right by the environment. We talked about, you know, finding ways to recycle that helped them to save money or make money or, you know, just clean up the place they live around. And we just try to find, you know, fun ways to make this something to where they instinctively do right by the environment. It doesn't cost you any money to do this. This is something that you can do for free. Turn off your lights, use less water. "We can't buy electric cars, Mr. Mughelli. We can't get all the paper straws and we don't have access to all the stuff the white people do. We don't. We can't do that." And again, I understood. I said, "I want to meet you where you're at." The first thing that we have to do is to get you wanting to be a part of this movement, wanting to really be part of the solution and understanding why it's so important for yourself and your family and for those who come behind you, for you to not leave it up to someone else like I did. And we got that message across, not to everyone, but to some people. It's just a spark. You know, Karen, you just have to like, find what makes people tick and find how to get them to have that light bulb moment and saying that I'm not going to stand on the sidelines. To use a football reference, you know, I'm not going to wait for someone else to make a play. I'm going to decide right now that I'm the one making the play. I'm going to help win the game. I'm going to score the touchdown or make the tackle and save the touchdown. I'm going to do something. And so I wanted to help these kids get the green light bulb moment. I want to help these kids kind of, you know, understand now that you're excited about this now that you want to do something, here are some resources to help you make a difference. [00:21:32][228.9]

Karen Given: [00:21:34] That's great, that's great. I mean, I know for me, when I think about protecting the environment, it seems like just such this huge impossible task. And you are working with kids who are already, as you say, juggling a lot. They're dealing with a lot. So how do you convince them that this is something that they can change, that they can impact? [00:21:56][21.9]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:21:57] I talk about a hundred yards is a long way to go when you're on the other end of the field, but it's about taking it, you know, inch by inch, foot by foot. You know, you fall forward, you move forward. My wife says you fail forward. Everyone's gonna make mistakes. But you, if you're always failing forward, you're going to get to your goal eventually. And with these kids who have other issues that they're dealing with and sometimes they don't even have the time to be interested in this, I tell them about how, how you make time for what's important. Once I convinced them how important this is, I teach them how to make time. And the biggest thing that always gets them excited is there are so many environmental jobs and you can really make any job now sustainable. You know you can be a sustainable chef, you can be, you know, sustainable trucker. There's a thousand one ways for you to make your job more enviornmentally friendly, and all that does is usually save you time, save you money. But most importantly, it's going to save the planet in the long run. So getting them to become creative and realize how they can, you know, find ways to be the first or to be trailblazers, especially because it's not as crowded. Diversity is something that everyone is looking for, and if you can be a new face and give a new perspective in these fields, you're going to be a wonderful bonus to anyone's team. [00:23:29][91.9]

Karen Given: [00:23:32] Hmm. Yeah. So in some ways, your story has sort of come full circle. Tell me about Gridiron Green. [00:23:37][5.1]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:23:38] Oh, love Gridiron Green. Love, love, love Gridiron Green. I just wanted to create something that would give people the same, you know, warm and fuzzies I felt watching Cat Planet. That same excitement, the same, you know, wonder, the twinkle in my eye by watching someone that looked like me in an environmental cartoon. I want to give them that again with Gridiron Green. I remember going to Comic-Con, I remember this very clearly, New York Comic-Con, huge Comic-Con. I was just excited I have a comic book at Comic-Con. I felt so blessed and so cool. I used to walk around, "Yeah, I booth over there. That's my comic. Yes, my comic, my name on my comic." I had people stop by. It wasn't just black people, it was all types of people. It was just even like, you know, the white kids seeing that, oh wait, black people are in the environment or there's a black superhero. No one's ever seen, you know, a sports environmental black superhero. I googled it when I was created Gridiron Green and there isn't any major one out there, but it gave people just like, you know, Barack Obama did what he became president, the reality that, Hey, you know what? We say, anyone can be president, but you know, if anyone can be president, why is there never been a black president? Oh, well, there is a black president now, and people like really, really believe that, wow, black people can be president of the United States. You know, we say, Hey, you held the environmental space is for everybody. We all belong here. We're all, you know, supposed to be—. You go to conferences, 90% white. You go to events, 95% white. You go to, you know, most, unless it's like a specifically minority-led event, most environmental pictures you see, it's we say we're inviting everybody, but we don't see everyone there. But when Gridiron Green was created, and I went to Comic-Con everywhere else, it was something that allows people to say, I can be in this movement. I see someone that looks like me that's doing things in this movement to where it's normal. It's expected. It's something that's celebrated. [00:25:46][127.7]

Karen Given: [00:25:48] And was that the Comic-Con where you met Chadwick Boseman? [00:25:50][2.2]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:25:51] Yeah, I think it was. It was, oh my gosh, that was the coolest thing ever. Because, because Black Panther had just come out or is coming out—either coming out or just had come out. I don't do this all the time, but I definitely used my whole NFL All Pro Falcon status, because there was a huge line. I had to get back to my booth so that I can sign my own autographs and man my own booth. So I told one of his handlers like, "Hey, hey, I'm a NFL player and a big fan of Mr. Boseman. And you know, I want to see if I can get a picture real quick before." And he's like, "Uh, come back at this time." I was like, "Alright, I'll come back." So I was there early. I waited, and they let me sneak in the lines, so I didn't have to wait in the hour long line to get his autograph, so I got an autograph and then, you know, they're like, no pictures, no pictures. "Let me get one picture, one picture, please." So, you know, I dapped him up and turned to the camera, I got a picture that I posted several times. And we have a 60 second conversation when there are people waiting behind us. I'm a large individual, so they weren't yelling at me to move that much. And you know, Chadwick is Chadwick. And we just, I remember he talked to me about football being great and I said, "Your comic book is amazing," and I told him about mine. THe whole moment was really special for me, because Black Panther, as we all know, was just a huge moment in comic, book or, you know, movie history, as far as it being Afrocentric, Marvel superhero, obviously Gridiron Green is not anywhere close to Black Panther, but I felt like in that same vein, I was trying to do a similar thing to bring attention to the role that people color can play in the environmental movement. [00:27:26][94.7]

Karen Given: [00:27:27] We've been mostly talking about the U.S., but everything we've been talking about environmental racism, the fact that most of the people in this space are white and the fact that most of the people affected by environmental problems are not, that's true all over the world, right? [00:27:41][14.0]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:27:41] Oh, yeah, absolutely. A thousand percent. It's a global problem. It needs global solutions. There's no reason why only a small fraction of our population should be mobilized, which I think is a great word, mobilize to fight this issue. Why are we only catering to certain people? Why are we only going to certain places? Why are we only creating events that only some people can be a part of? It makes no sense whatsoever. And, you know, it boggles my mind, and I have to be really frank at couple of conferences where some people got offended and I said, I'm sorry. I said, "Hey, enviornmental movement. Hey, leaders of the environmental movement. You've known the environment has been a very white movement in the 60s and the 70s and the 80s and the 90s and the 2000s. And why has there not been a more concerted effort, not just one where you make a pledge on the third page of your website and say, "I'm all for diversity inclusion," but why has it been a more concerted effort to make this movement more diverse? Something to where when I go to sustainable brands or green bins, two great conferences where I had a chance to speak at, and look out, I can't count the people who like me, like all my fingers and toes. And I told them at both those conferences, I want to come back here in five years in ten years, shoot in three years, and see the people in the crowd look more like the people on this planet, because that's when you're going to see really radical change. [00:29:09][88.2]

Karen Given: [00:29:11] What do you hope comes out of all this work that you're doing? What is the legacy that you want to leave for your children? [00:29:17][5.5]

Ovie Mughelli: [00:29:19] Legacy is simple. At the point where you know, I leave this Earth and go on to be with God, I want to have my kids and more importantly my grandkids say thank you for getting hundreds of thousands, hopefully millions of people of all colors excited about being involved in the environment. Sport has that power, sport has that ability to bring people together for a common goal. When you use the power sports for this, anything's possible. [00:29:45][26.6]

Ibtihaj Muhammad: [00:29:55] That's it for this season of The Long Game. I'm your host, Ibtihaj Muhammad. The Long Game is a co-production of Foreign Policy and Doha Debates. We'll be working on another season of The Long Game. If you have ideas for future episodes, please write us at podcasts@foreignpolicy.com or tag us on social @DohaDebates. This episode was produced by Karen Given with help from Dan Ephron, Rob Sachs, Japhet Weeks, Amjad Atallah, and Jigar Mehta. Check out our show notes for more information on how to support the Ovie Mughelli Foundation. Make sure to follow us on Apple or your favorite podcast app, and please leave us a review. To learn more, subscribe to Foreign Policy, a global magazine of news and ideas, or visit Doha Debates, a production of Qatar Foundation. [00:29:55][0.0]

How a pro athlete used his platform to bring attention to environmental justice.

It’s no coincidence that factories and toxic waste facilities have been built near poor communities and communities of color. It’s part of the larger systems of racism that exist all over the world. But for a long time, the people most affected by environmental threats have been largely absent from the broader conversation. But there’s one environmental activist trying to change all that. Taking his cues from Captain Planet, his favorite cartoon from the 1990s, former NFL player Ovie Mughelli is using his love of sports and comic books to help create the next generation of environmental superheroes.


About The Long Game:  On The Long Game, we highlight stories of courage and conviction on and off the field. From athletes who are breaking barriers for women and girls to a Syrian refugee swimmer who overcame the odds to compete at the Paralympics, The Long Game examines the power of sport to change the world for the better. The Long Game is hosted by Olympic medalist and change agent Ibtihaj Muhammad as she guides the series around the globe to meet athletes who are fighting for change.  See All Episodes

More The Long Game episodes:

Boxing Provides a Path Out of Poverty for Girls in Pakistan

A young boxer is using the sport to change her country’s gender norms.

Soccer Opens Path to Reconciliation

A Rwandan soccer player is using the sport to promote unity and tolerance among his country’s youth.

TIBU Africa Changes Lives Through Sports

A former basketball player is changing the lives of African youth through the power of sports.

Other Foreign Policy podcasts:

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The Negotiators

The Paris climate agreement. The Iran nuclear deal. The Bring Back Our Girls campaign. How did these deals get made? On The Negotiators, each episode will feature one person telling the story of one dramatic negotiation. Hosted by Jenn Williams, The Negotiators is a production of Foreign Policy and Doha Debates.


I Spy
I Spy

I Spy

Spies don’t talk—it’s the cardinal rule of the business. But here at Foreign Policy, we get them to open up. On I Spy, we hear from the operations people: the spies who steal secrets, who kill adversaries, who turn agents into double agents. Each episode features one spy telling the story of one operation. Want swag? Check out I Spy's merch by clicking here.


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Are America and Europe Aligned on China?



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The war in Ukraine has propelled the United States and Europe closer on a variety of foreign-policy issues. But do Washington and Brussels agree on how to deal with Beijing’s growing clout...Show more


Inside the U.S.-China Tech War



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WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden is hosting a Quad Leaders Summit later today with Prime Minister Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. (Photo by Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi participate in a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House on September 24, 2021 in Washington, DC. President Biden is hosting a Quad Leaders Summit later today with Prime Minister Modi, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Japanese Prime Minister Suga Yoshihide. (Photo by Sarahbeth Maney-Pool/Getty Images)

Is America Making a Bad Bet on India?

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For decades, the U.S. foreign-policy establishment has made the assumption that India could serve as a partner as the United States jostles with China for power in the Indo-Pacific region. B...Show more

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