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Mystics Go Vegan Hard-Core Punk

Non-veg (Swin Cash) and Veg (Nakia Sanford). (Richard Lipski - TWP)

If ignorant people like Norman Chad weren't trying to chase you all away from WNBA fandom, I'd spend most of the summer doing nothing but writing about this team. They got rid of a few of my favorites from last summer, and yet clearly they still speak loudly to the post-grunge Red-Room, Food-For-Thought, Sticky-Fingers D.C. generation. From the magnificent Joseph White's AP story yesterday:

They were navigating the streets of the nation's capital, on the way to get their hair done. Nakia Sanford was driving, while Washington Mystics teammate Taj McWilliams-Franklin sat in the passenger's seat talking and playing with her iPod.

"I look up, and there's this restaurant," McWilliams-Franklin said. "Soul Vegetarian?"

Sanford pulled over on the spot. The hair would have to wait.

"We hopped out, went in there, it was awesome," McWilliams-Franklin said. "We had soy mac and cheese, whole wheat pasta, soy cheese, soy milk, and it was fabulous."

The chance pit stop at the Soul Vegetarian Cafe was a rare moment in American professional sports: Two players from the same team indulging their dietary preferences by sharing a vegan meal.

Soul Vegetarian Cafe--on Georgia Ave., near Howard, and a short jog from my home--is, indeed, uniquely great. As is the fact that the Mystics now star two near-vegans, who sometimes eat dairy and sometimes eat fish but nevertheless have an in-depth discussion about soy milk vs. rice milk for Joseph White's benefit. (My own preference: soy for drinking, rice for frozen treats.)

Sanford told White about her Tvping Point (that's "Textured Vegetable Protein" point, for you flesh-eaters):

She then came back to the United States and twice had an experience in which she bit into some meat and found gristle, bone or something similarly icky to her. That was more than enough.

"No more red meat," Sanford said. "It started with just the red meat, then the next year I didn't even want to eat chicken. Anything on the bone just grossed me out. Anything where you had to cut and it bled, that type of stuff."

Hot dogs, of course, do not bleed if you prick them, which is why I'm forever tempted by the smell of ballpark franks, but regardless, cheers to D.C.'s first team starring a couple of near-vegans. Anxiously awaiting the inevitable National Anthem performance by Ian MacKaye. And maybe Verizon Center could mix in a few veggie dogs during the summer months, huh?

By Dan Steinberg  |  May 21, 2008; 10:25 AM ET
Categories:  Mystics  
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Great article. I agree that Soul Veg is--as Rachel Ray would say-- "yum."

Sports fans might also want to check out an op-ed about a vegetarian baseball player in today's USA Today:

Also, anyone interested in seeing more veggie options in sports arenas should visit

Posted by: Simon Chaitowitz | May 21, 2008 1:07 PM | Report abuse

There are hundreds of places in the D.C. area to get delicious vegetarian fare -- you can find them all on

You can even request a free Vegetarian Guide to DC and Surrounding Areas to keep in your car, your office, your backpack....

Posted by: Erica | May 21, 2008 1:49 PM | Report abuse

It's my dream to see the vast majority of professional athletes recommending vegan eating as a healthy way to care for and build their bodies, that you can be strong and healthy while respecting the rights of other sentient beings.

Posted by: Eric | May 21, 2008 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Interesting story. And, being a rabbit, I am definitely in favor of everyone "going Vegan"!

You DO realize, Dan, that the Mystics player pictured with your post is the decidely NOT VEGAN Crystal Langhorne (Maryland star & Mystics #1 draft pick) whose favorite food is "cheese fries and wings" from that famous vegetarian hang-out, Outback Steakhouse.

Posted by: Charm | May 21, 2008 6:18 PM | Report abuse

Uh, yeah, Dan, not only is Lang decidedly NOT a vegetarian, but the other player in your photo isn't even a Mystic (and who knows what *she* eats). The Mystics couldn't give you a pic of Taj and Kia?

Posted by: Snoozin O'Malley | May 21, 2008 6:28 PM | Report abuse

If Ian MacKaye ever sings the national anthem at a Mystics game I'll die and go to heaven... or at least never leave D.C. ever in my life.

Posted by: Erik | May 21, 2008 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of ball-park franks... Anyone who wants to skip the cholesterol and random body parts, has gotta try vegan hot dogs and sausages by Tofurky brand found at any health food type store. They are uncanny... The bratwurst, the kielbasa, the italian, yummmm. Here in Tucson we have a hotdog cart sponsored by a local vegan restaurant that sells them downtown at lunch time and meat eaters line up around the block and it's made all the papers. Tofurky also makes vegan thin sliced deli meat. The hickory smoked (real smoke house) and the fresh peppered kind will blow your mind. One of the best meat alternatives around.

Posted by: Peter | May 22, 2008 4:56 AM | Report abuse

Well, I always wondered if anybody from the WP read the comments. Apparently someone does!

YOU CHANGED THE PICTURE!! Good for you! Yes indeed, the NEW picture is now Veggie-Mystic Nakia Sanford.

Posted by: Charm | May 22, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Dan, thank you for posting your columns on the Mystics in your blog. Glad to see there are some intelligent and open-minded columnists out there. Hope to see you at Sunday's home-opener!

Posted by: Stewart | May 22, 2008 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Dude, you're an H-mo, grow a sack and write about a real sport (NHL, NBA, MLB, NFL) and write about real food (steak, chicken, ham).

Posted by: CrazyEyezKilla | May 23, 2008 9:19 AM | Report abuse

Did you really get a comment from a rabbit? Because if you did, I'm about to start a flame war. Hey, you, quit eating the beans outta my garden jerk.

Posted by: Fritz | May 23, 2008 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the article. I am very familiar with Soul Vegetarian Cafe in NW Washington DC. They have excellent animal-free versions of American dishes. From the sweet potatoes, mac & chesse, wheat loaf, and veggie lasagna, it is amazing!

I've been in the restaurant a few times and see an array of body types. It is not rare to see guys that look like Construction workers, Basketball, or American Football players muching down on the food. So, eating healthy is essential and not "weak dieting". I've been vegetarian for 10 years (vegan for 8). I can do anything that the next, carnivorous guy can do!

Posted by: Jumaane Mali | June 5, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

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