Sportscaster aiming to ‘Change the Narrative’ speaks to UT football team

Sportscaster aiming to ‘Change the Narrative’ speaks to UT football team

Tennessee is among more than 30 schools to invite sportscaster Rachel Baribeau to speak to its football team.

Rachel has started an initiative called “Changing the Narrative”, and she’s spoken to young athletes at schools like Clemson, Alabama, Oregon and most recently, Tennessee.

“Really we talk about purpose, passion, platform,” said Baribeau. How do you view women and how do you treat women. And, in the past two years in 31 schools, we’ve added stuff about masculinity and about how it’s actually wonderfully masculine and strong to admit that you’re struggling with something.

“You talk about stereotypes and how they are being stereotyped, how do they feel marginalized. They tell me they feel people call them stupid, entitled, dumb, spoiled, selfish and so we talk about how we challenge those stereotypes.”

Baribeau originally intended to visit high schools, but an opportunity opened for her to speak at Texas A&M, and the movement quickly spread. Now, it’s her mission to train athletes to go into high schools so they too can serve.

“A little small idea that I had, God turned it into something bigger than I could have ever imagined.”

The University of Tennessee has already invited Baribeau back to speak to some of the women’s programs and to work more with the football team.

“There’s a lot of guys there that said yes, I want you to teach me public speaking, I want to go into area high schools, I want to go into my high school at home. I want to take this platform and something with it.”

The responses that Baribeau has received from athletes has been overwhelming.

“I had this guy last night stand in front of me and I’ll forever remember it. He had tears in his eyes and I had tears in my eyes and he said, Miss Rachel, where I come from, nobody has ever told me that I have worth outside of football. Nobody’s every really told me that I can be something beyond a football player. He said Thank you for reminding me that I have worth outside of what I do on the football field. That one got me.”

By Chierstin Susel


WSU football’s unique visitor this week encouraged the Cougars to challenge masculine stereotypes

WSU football’s unique visitor this week encouraged the Cougars to challenge masculine stereotypes

Part life coach, part domestic violence speaker, Rachel Baribeau spoke to the WSU football team Monday about how to treat women, be good citizens, embrace their own vulnerability and maximize their platforms.

General Jim Mattis spoke to the Washington State football team about leadership in 2016, a few months before he was appointed Secretary of Defense.

Eric Thomas, a motivational speaker and minister from Detroit, also has shared his story about going from homelessness to graduating from college with the Cougars’ football team.

But speaker who stood before the WSU football team in Pullman on Monday was different from anyone they’d hosted before.

For one, Rachel Baribeau is a woman, and for another, she addressed the team about moving beyond the masculine stereotypes surrounding football players, challenging them to connect with one another and contribute to society in meaningful ways.

Baribeau is a sportscaster on SiriusXM Radio who, since 2016, has moonlighted as a motivational speaker on the college football circuit. Part life coach, part domestic violence speaker, Baribeau speaks to college football teams about how to treat women, be good citizens, embrace their own vulnerability and maximize their platforms.

The death of WSU quarterback Tyler Hilinski in January has struck a national conversation about the importance of encouraging young men to express their emotions, and Baribeau’s trip to WSU was prompted, in part by a former high school teammate of Hilinski’s, who was touched by Baribeau’s message when she spoke at his school last fall.

Tatum Slack, a junior cornerback at the University of Buffalo, played with Hilinski at Upland (Calif.) High School and was deeply moved by Baribeau’s talk in Buffalo last August. After Hilinski’s death, Slack contacted Baribeau and suggested that she speak to the grieving Cougars.

“She came and talked to our team and had a very powerful message, and I was just inspired by her. She gives off a very loving vibe, I felt it would be good for them,” Slack said. “Being in that situation, as a football player, you’re in the locker room with the dude every single day and that can take a toll on somebody. As far as mental health, as college football players, we’re not taught to be emotional and stuff like that.”

Baribeau knew WSU coach Mike Leach from his brief stint as a radio host on SiriusXM. So she reached out to him offering to speak to the Cougars, and Leach enthusiastically accepted, making WSU the 24th stop on Baribeau’s “Changing the Narrative” tour of college football programs.

“Rachel’s got a very positive, ‘achieve your full potential, be a king of life’ message illustrating how important everybody is and can be if they focus and achieve,” Leach said. “The room listened carefully and I think it made some people think and brought some perspective.”

Baribeau conceived her “Changing the Narrative” curriculum after the torrid summer of 2016 when college football was plagued by a rash of sexual assault or domestic violence cases involving players at numerous Division I programs throughout the country.

“Society is fostering a place where women are not respected, where we are disposable,” Baribeau said. “I just saw a problem and I said, “I’m going to do something about it.’”

Now, Baribeau goes from one college football facility to another sharing her domestic violence experience, and talking about how men should treat women and how football players can use their platforms to make an impact on their communities and effect positive change.

She uses the catchphrase, “Be a King,” which, Baribeau tells players, means to “be a king in every area of your life. Not just the football field. Be a king with your word, effort, time, character and certainly in the way you respect, protect and cherish women.”

Part of that involves teaching men to get in touch with their feelings.

“I really feel like the music, popular culture and movies are giving young men the message that they don’t have to be involved, that there’s something wrong with sharing your feelings and they don’t have to tell people when they’re hurting,” Baribeau said.

Baribeau tries to be a big sister to the college football players she speaks to, and her approachable nature makes the guys want to open up to her.

“Every day we’re surrounded by men,” Slack said. “So just having a strong woman come up and talk to you, and to be able to talk to her, is helpful. I feel some men are more able to express themselves and be emotional when talking to women instead of men.”

The Cougars were no different.

On Monday, the WSU football team paid rapt attention during Baribeau’s presentation in which she shared her experiences on different subjects, including an anecdote about how the ALS diagnosis of her friend, former Philadelphia Eagles fullback Kevin Turner, changed her life.

That resonated with the Cougars because of their ties to WSU and New Orleans Saints great Steve Gleason, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

“I do think she was very helpful, just in getting guys to talk,” said senior WSU defensive lineman Nick Begg. “And I also thought it was good what she said about respect for women. You hear all the time in the news about domestic violence cases. To have a woman preach to you that you’re good, and you’re better than that, puts confidence in you to go out and be that guy.”

Baribeau stayed for a couple of hours after her talk, and about 30 different WSU players came up to hug her and chat about life.

Two in particular struck a chord with Baribeau when they revealed they’d experienced homelessness during periods of their lives.

“One said, nobody really knew, and that he’d been able to hide it, and he didn’t want to hide it anymore and wanted to talk about it and not be ashamed of it,” Baribeau said. “The other said that at some points he didn’t know where he’d get his next meal. Those stories stay with you.”

Baribeau will return to WSU in August to announce the winner of the “Changing the Narrative Award,” which she devised and cleared with the NCAA in January.

The whole team will vote on the winner – a young man who exemplifies the “Changing the Narrative” tenets of thoughtfulness, service and communication, and who treats women well and gives maximum effort.

When the winner leaves school, he’ll be eligible for an endowment to help him start his own foundation.

“I want to teach them what it feels like to serve,” Baribeau said. “I told them, ‘Even if you don’t win the award, I’ll help you start your foundation.’”

She’s also offered to train any players who want to go to high schools to share their story and teach high school athletes Baribeau’s Changing the Narrative values.

“I’ll teach them the art of public speaking and hold their hand so they can go into high schools and help guide the next generation,” Baribeau said. “My hope is to shepherd and guide these guys, not to just give them fish, but to teach them to fish.”

Stefanie Loh | Seattle Times Staff Reporter


ESPNU radio host wants to wipe out bad behavior in college sports — one school at a time

ESPNU radio host wants to wipe out bad behavior in college sports — one school at a time

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Sports radio personality Rachel Baribeau — feet constantly moving — jokes, cajoles, cries, laughs and rants in front of 100 football players at least twice her size.

Find your purpose! Fulfill it. Be the good guys you were made to be! Treat all women with respect and be the kings your queens need you to be.

Baribeau suddenly stops, pauses and locks eyes with some of the men who are riveted by the powerhouse in front of them.

“On a night, many moons ago,” she said, voice softening, “I needed a king.”

Baribeau tells the players she was in a house with six couples; things got ugly.

“I was dating somebody,” Baribeau said, and he got angry.

“He dragged me from one end of the house to the other by my hair. I screamed bloody murder and no one came to help. Three men, and none of them were kings.”

She pauses.

“If you were in the house that night, would you have helped me?”

Baribeau lets that sink in. After a few seconds, two guys in the front rows answer quietly: “I would’ve helped you.”

“Thank you,” she says, tears in her eyes.

Two years ago — sickened by story after story about college athletes and rape, cheating and doping — Baribeau came up with an audacious plan:

She would change the narrative about college sports.

A narrative that includes a 2016 lawsuit charging a UT basketball player and four UT football players with rape; a narrative that includes three former Vanderbilt football players being convicted in a 2013 gang rape of an unconscious female student on campus. (A fourth player is awaiting trial.)

Baribeau, 38, a Nashvillian for three years, wanted to take back the headlines and change America’s perception of college football players. And she would do it by challenging those players, one campus at a time.

A host on Sirius XM’s ESPNU radio channel, Baribeau has spoken to 23 college football teams. She has stayed in touch with hundreds of athletes and handed out thousands of “Change the Narrative” rubber wristbands.

In many cases, it’s her story of being a victim (she calls herself a “victor”) of domestic violence that really connects with players.

“She wasn’t shy at all about revealing pieces of herself. That started to get through,” said Craig Kanyangarara, 25, a linebacker at University of Alabama-Birmingham.

“She was authentic.”

Darrell James, a senior wide receiver at Southern Illinois University, agreed.

“When she mentioned her life and domestic violence, I didn’t expect it,” James said. “For someone who’s been through that in her life, she’s strong.”

Baribeau uses frank language to confront players and challenge them to be better men. No more “hit it and quit it,” she tells the guys.

But treatment of women is just a part of her speech.

She starts out making fun of herself by showing a video of her working out with an arena football team. Turns out Baribeau isn’t a very good wide receiver; she drops or misses about a dozen passes.

Turning serious, Baribeau also speaks of:

► Finding true passion and purpose because football is only a platform;

► Serving others, at any cost (Baribeau once climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa to help raise money for ALS research);

► Confronting others, in appropriate ways, when bad behavior, degradation or bullying is happening;

► Forgiving those — deadbeat dads, abusers and others — who have wronged them.

Dubious at first, most players respond enthusiastically to her message.

More than half of them stick around afterward for quick hellos or pictures or hugs.

And at least a dozen or two spend several minutes each with Baribeau sharing stories of growing up with neglect, poverty or abuse.

Her presentation often turns into a three-hour visit, which Baribeau finds exhilarating – and emotionally draining. She often finds herself taking in their pain, unable to shake it for days.

“I sometimes sit in my rental car after with my head against the steering wheel,” she said.

Baribeau charges a few thousand bucks for each presentation, in part to cover costs and in part to build a pot of money – with the NCAA’s blessing – to help athletes start their own foundations.

Such is the case with Bradley Bozeman, 23, who just finished his college career as a center at Alabama.

Bozeman said he always wanted to do some motivational speaking. And he got inspired and focused after hearing Baribeau’s talk.

“She helped open that up for me,” he said. “She helped me start an anti-bullying campaign. It was really cool to me.”

Baribeau said she loves when athletes share with her, months after meeting her, that they have changed their behavior. She is even happier when players like Bozeman want to pay it forward.

“I’m constantly amazed that God lets me do this work, that I got chosen to have this platform,” she said. “It’s life changing.”


By Brad Schmitt, USA TODAY NETWORK – Tennessee


Mercer Hosts Rachel Baribeau as Guest Speaker

Mercer Hosts Rachel Baribeau as Guest Speaker

Baribeau presented her #ChangingTheNarrative campaign as part of Mercer’s Fifth Quarter Series

MACON, Ga. – While Mercer’s future football student-athletes signed their National Letters of Intent to join #MUvment18 on Wednesday morning, its current 83-man roster gained knowledge and inspiration from guest speaker Rachel Baribeau.

Baribeau, who has delivered sports commentary via national broadcasters such as Fox Sports, ESPN, CBS Sports, Yahoo and SiriusXM, spoke to the football team about her #ChangingTheNarrative campaign as part of Mercer’s Fifth Quarter Series.

Baribeau’s #ChangingTheNarrative campaign focuses on four core aspects: talking with young men about taking back the headlines of college football and using their platform to make a positive difference; sharing her story of domestic violence and how it affects people’s lives; explaining what a man’s purpose is outside of football; and teaching the values of service to one’s community while respecting others.

“It is important that we, as coaches, teach our young men about life after football,” said head coach Bobby Lamb. “Our team had the pleasure of hearing Rachel today after our coaching staff heard her speak at the [American Football Coaches Association] convention in Charlotte [N.C.] in January.

“Rachel provided a great message to our football team and gave us the opportunity to build upon it heading into the future.”

By Gerrit W. Van Genderen