When I covered my first ever football game last fall, I felt self conscious. I was nervous about reporting during the pandemic-stricken season or tweeting a mistake, but I was also hyper-aware of the platform sandals and white blouse I sported that evening. My garb and natural hair reminded me that I was different — no other Black woman sat in the press box. While I try to not fixate on my uniqueness from others, I still think about how the people I’m often surrounded by in the sports arena will never quite understand my experiences.
The athletes, I imagine, feel similarly. Sports journalism is dominated by white men, yet about 83% of NBA players and about 80% of WNBA players, for example, are people of color, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport. At the University of Texas at Austin, where I attend school, a majority of football players are Black, but very few Black reporters joined me last football season in the press box.. Sports departments just aren’t diverse enough. Across APSE sports departments, 20% of staff members are people of color, and 17% are women. The numbers are too low, which is sad because diversity makes all the difference.
When I was the Texas women’s basket ball team beat reporter, I felt camaraderie with many of the players over our shared experiences as Black women. Because of that, I believe I was able to tell a unique set of stories that the men who also covered them may not have thought of. Perhaps Herm Edwards said it best, speaking in a video shown to the class Monday by Brett Kurland, director of strategic initiatives and sports programs at the Cronkite School of Journalism.
Everyone in sports should be able to look around and see themselves.