Quarterback Sami Grisafe on Being “All-Un-American”


Former female quarterback turned singer-songwriter Sami Grisafe talks about her football experiences and being “All-Un-American”

Like any good quarterback, Sami Grisafe saw the field and was two steps ahead of the competition before they even knew what was coming. So watching the United States presidential race get uglier and uglier is no surprise to the former football star and current singer-songwriter, who gave her own take on Donald Trump in July when she released the single “All-Un-American.”

By the title alone, it’s clear where she’s going when it comes to the Republican party nominee, and that’s a gutsy move for the 31-year-old, especially since Republicans buy music too.

“Maybe it was risky in alienating an entire political party, but I didn’t do it for that,” she said. “And that’s the great thing about being an indie musician. I’m not beholden to anybody to tell the story that they want me to tell or tell the story that I should tell. I think the guy’s scary and toxic and bad for our country and I don’t have to answer to anybody.

“But I also wrote it for that party, or at least for the conservatives,” Grisafe continues. “I figured if I could write a song that talks about all of the things Americans uphold as our structure and our backbone and juxtapose it to what Donald Trump is actually doing, it might help change minds.”

The response to the single has obviously been mixed, with Hillary Clinton supporters and those who do believe in the First Amendment all for the track, while those backing The Donald have been, well, a little more noticeable.

“I didn’t anticipate the fact that they’ll just hear the negative things about Donald Trump and not really give the lyrics a full listen,” she said. “It’s disconcerting, but it also doesn’t bother me. I got a lot of negative response on Facebook. Their comments go from how dare you, you c-word, you b-word, you fat this, you untalented that. And they’re not arguments, they’re insults. But they’re not really looking at it from a logical place, so I don’t value their opinion. If you have to go to insults so it makes sense, which is what Donald Trump does, then you have nothing. You have no logic to throw back at me.”

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Refusing to back down in the face of outside pressure has been Grisafe’s M.O. for much of her life, most notably when she became the first female in California state history to play quarterback in a CIF (California Interscholastic Federation) Division I game for Redlands High School in 2001. She wasn’t just the answer to a trivia question either, as she would later go on to star for the Chicago Force in the Independent Women’s Football League and Women’s Football Alliance, and in 2010, she led Team USA to a victory in the IFAF Women’s World Championship tournament.

And two years after her retirement, she still misses the gridiron.

“Football’s been a part of my life for its entirety, pretty much, so it’s something I’m very drawn to, still,” Grisafe said. “It’s hard for me to watch NFL games and football in general because it makes me want to be out there playing it. But I also know that I reached what I set out to reach in football, and I haven’t done that yet with music, so that’s why I had to shift my focus.”

Moving to the world of music isn’t a lark or something to keep her distracted from her past football career, though.

“Truth be told, I’ve been juggling all the things that I’ve done my whole life at the same time,” she said. “Being a female football player, we didn’t have the luxury of only doing football. So growing up, my parents were singers, I was surrounded by music a lot when I was a kid, and then I was in a school for acting, and was doing all that, and that’s where I started honing my musical skills. But the thing is, it never really was like, ‘I’m done with this, now I want to pursue this and start from scratch.’ I was always juggling everything.”

In 2012, Grisafe released her first album, Atlantis, picked up a Chicago Music Award a year later as Best Rock Entertainer, and is currently at work on her next album. It’s a good start in a tough business, one that may be even tougher than what she’s seen on the football field. But if being an athlete has taught her anything, it’s that those who excel are the ones who handle adversity the best.

“I’ve dropped the ball before. I’ve dropped it several times in my life. It’s a matter of wanting to pick it up and giving it another go.”

“I’ve dropped the ball before,” she said. “I’ve dropped it several times in my life. It’s a matter of wanting to pick it up and giving it another go. It’s been an interesting ride, but I’d do it again, because if you love something, you make time for it. And to be fair, I’ve also been lucky to have coaches, mentors and teachers who were willing to make it work for me and willing to work with my schedule growing up. Because that’s a hard thing for a lot of young people now. People start putting you into what you’re supposed to be, and it’s now more competitive than it’s ever been with ‘You have to be at every practice and this is all you can do.’ It was rare, even when I was in high school that there were three-sport athletes that were doing anything artistic. You’re either a jock or you’re not.”

Grisafe wasn’t content with such labels back then, and she certainly isn’t now. And while it wasn’t her intention when she started breaking down barriers, she’s become an example to anyone who doesn’t want to be strictly characterized as jock, musician, actor, gay, straight or anything else you could think of. She recalls a visit to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago last year.

“I spoke there at a design conference, which is hilarious because I’m not a designer by any means,” she laughs. “But they wanted me to talk because of the way my life was designed, which was kind of interesting. I talked about the importance of breaking formula, trying lots of things, and not necessarily going with the path that everybody says is the safe one or the path that you should take. You should be thinking about things that excite you that haven’t been done yet. It’s a harder path, but a more rewarding path.

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“And the thing I found that was really unique at the end of that conference was that there were a lot of young people there between the ages of 13 and 22, and I thought they were just going to be like, ‘Whatever.’ But it turns out that they were the ones that were the most responsive, which is really exciting. I think that there are a lot of young people out there that have that (curiosity) – they just need exposure to be inspired. And what’s on television and in top 40 music and what’s being made in the movies is not necessarily driving kids to that place.”

Maybe Grisafe will be that catalyst to help change things. She recalls one Trump supporter who tried to light her up on social media after the release of “All-Un-American.”

“He started insulting me, but then he came back and apologized. He said, ‘I have no right to knock your talent; I just don’t like your subject matter. That was wrong of me.’ It was a nice, shining moment. People just want to connect.”

Don’t worry, she’s not about to get all Rocky IV on everyone and say if one person changes, everybody can change, but she is more optimistic than most. That doesn’t mean she’s going to tone down anything or hold her tongue.

“I’m not gonna sell out and compromise my voice so that I can be on a major label and be a slave to whatever they want me to say and sing songs that read at a second grade reading level,” she said. “I’m not doing it. Nina Simone said, ‘I don’t see how you can be an artist and not reflect the times.’ I absolutely, one hundred percent align with that statement.”