In sports talk, Blacks are scarce while ‘any White is right’

. Kevin Stanfield

Fifth in a multi-part series

Sports media remain a holdout when it comes to diversity. They are White male-dominated in both print and electronic formats: Over 80 percent of sports columnists, reporters and editors are White.

Michael Harrison’s annual Sports Talk Heavy Hundred listed only one Black man as a solo host among 14 Blacks who made the list. Henry Lake (WCCO-AM) is the only Black voice heard locally on weeknights talking sports.

Examples of sports radio diversity are few and far between. “Apparently any White is right for sports talk radio,” wrote Rod Parker for Deadspin in June. He and Chris Broussard co-hosts “The Odd Couple” weeknights on Fox Sports Radio, the only such Black duo on national sports radio.

But since the George Floyd’s Memorial Day killing, a so-called awakening has emerged:  “The Intersection,” airs on Wednesday night on ESPN Radio to discuss racial issues, and in August will debut a new weekday and weeknight lineup that will feature a first-time POC morning show, and a Black woman co-host on late afternoons. 

We have long argued here for more Black voices on local and national sports radio, and especially for more Black columnists in the Twin Cities PWM (primarily White media). Sirius XM adds new channels regularly, including sports, but not yet a full-time all-Black sports channel.

“It’s not a matter of talent because the [Black] voices are there,” longtime Washington, D.C. sports producer Kevin Stanfield told me. Once an ESPN Radio producer, he has produced sports shows since 2012 for Federal News Network.

Two Black men and an Indian American will head up ESPN Radio’s new morning show next month. WNBA player Chiney Ogwumike, who opted out of playing this season due to health concerns, will be the network’s first Black female to co-host a late afternoon show. 

But soon after that announcement, doubts of success already were being sowed. A Barrett Sports Media article on the prospect featured such adjectives as “nervous” and “too early to panic” from unnamed program directors.

. Khristina Williams

“It’s the people who are in the position to make those hiring decisions,” continued Stanfield on the majority-White program directors and station managers. 

Keith Law in his latest baseball book “The Inside Game” calls this “status quo bias,” a preference for the way things are over any potential change. Although he was referring to baseball decisions, his premise aptly applies to sports media as well.

“I can’t wait for the day that we are seen as the norm and not the exception,” stressed Khristina Williams, who started Girls Talk Sports in 2018 and was featured in Essence earlier this year as an up-and-coming Black female in sport and culture.

Making it to the longtime Black women’s magazine “was a full circle moment on what I am doing with my platform,” Williams told the MSR. “It solidified me in the industry and gave me more credibility. It really showed the work I’ve been doing for the last year and a half in [sports] journalism.

“There are Black women in sports like myself who are working hard and making an impact on the culture of sports,” Williams continued, “and they deserve the limelight as our White counterparts.” Black females can talk sports as passionately and expertly as males, Williams asserted.

Stanfield says new media platforms such as podcasts are opening doors for Blacks in sports. “I encourage young people to have something that’s yours,” he said. 

Showing her journalistic talent “was really important for me,” Williams said. “Women talking about sports and women being in sports should become the norm and not the exception. I’m glad that people are listening to me.”