U.S. sports media remain overwhelmingly White. These are the folk who on a daily basis decide what’s reported and what makes the sports pages.
The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) released in late September its 2021 Sports Media Racial and Gender Report, an analysis of over 100 newspapers and websites. TIDES gave media a B+ for racial hiring and an F for gender hiring. The overall C grade is up from a D+ in 2018.
“It is critically important to have diverse voices from different backgrounds in the media covering various sports and athletes,” wrote TIDES Executive Director Richard Lapchick. He noted “significant racial increases” in various positions since the last report in 2018—assistant sports editors (22.6% to 27.7%), sports editors (15% to almost 21%), columnists (19.7 to 22.9%), and reporters (17.9% to 22.9%), as well as a small increase in copy editors/designers (22.3 to 23%)
Locally, the Star Tribune promoted its first Black columnist earlier this year—other than one Black reporter, it’s virtually all White. Same for the all-White St. Paul Pioneer Press sports staff.
Chris Carr has been the Strib’s sports editor for three years. He told the MSR last week, “We are moving in the right direction” as far as diversity is concerned. “When I say where we want to be, I mean a more diverse set of perspectives and voices, making decisions and writing about sports in Minnesota.”
“I’ve been working hard to diversify the staff,” continued Carr, “but this is going to take a while to get to a spot where I think we want to be. When you want to change a staff of 40-plus people and you only get to hire essentially once a year, it’s going to take a while.
“I think we have a group of reporters and editors in the Star Tribune sports department who understand that their main assignment is to cover the teams in our state extremely well, but that issues of justice and fairness are a part of everyone’s assignment,” he stressed. “I think we’ve shown a sharper focus on that in the last year and a half.”
It can’t be ignored that most sports editors nationwide are White males. This sometimes accounts for the great imbalance in sports coverage as far as women’s sports and female athletes are concerned, which makes up about 5% of the total sports coverage.
Asked if more female sports editors are needed, or at least more awareness among those males who are running sports desks deciding “Those that are going to be assigned and who’s going to be covered,” Lapchick told us, “You’re more likely to get better representation about women and women’s sports.”
The Hockey Diversity Alliance (HDA), founded in 2020, asked the NHL to sign an eight-point pledge to improve the league’s diversity and hiring efforts and fund grassroots initiatives. Last October, talks between the group and the NHL broke off.
The MSR last week asked HDA board member Matt Dumba about his group’s relationship with the NHL. “It’s kind of crazy to see all the work that we’ve done just in this past year,” replied the Minnesota Wild defenseman. “We want to make this atmosphere, this culture of hockey, we want to change it for the better.”
Dumba added, “It is a big hurdle. It’s not easy to get everyone on the same page. There’s a lot of good people that surround this game, so I think once more people see the goal that we’re cultivating, more people will get on board.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman last week told the MSR that his league is moving forward in diversity but didn’t offer any specifics. “We’re working really hard to make sure that we make our game as inclusive and welcoming as possible,” said the commissioner, adding that he agrees with Dumba:
“It doesn’t happen overnight.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.