Black women at ESPN reflect ‘a new phase of broadcasting’

(l-r) Elle Duncan and Andraya Carter
Photos by Charles Hallman

Sports Odds & Ends

Black women were prominently visible in action, either in the studio or in the arena, during ESPN’s recent Women’s Final Four coverage.

Elle Duncan was a first-time studio host. Andraya Carter was a sideline analyst, working her first Final Four. Both talked to the MSR last week in separate interviews.

Prior to joining ESPN in 2016, Duncan has worked in Atlanta radio in various roles, including traffic reporter and on-air personality. She then worked as a reporter for the Atlanta Hawks and Atlanta Falcons broadcasts as well as on SEC and ACC football telecasts. She also worked for NESN in Boston (2014-16).

“It’s been really cool,” admitted Duncan. “I grew up on a soccer field. I grew up going to games. Then you get a job in sports.”

Being in the studio was an adjustment, she continued. “It’s been very different. Everything is just more reactionary than what I’m used to.”

A former Tennessee player, Carter was forced to stop playing pro ball after a major injury in 2016. Now at ESPN, Carter is “a jack-of-all-trades” basketball analyst and sideline reporter.

“It was definitely an adjustment, but I think [especially] for me from being an athlete and just trying to be coachable,” Carter told the MSR. “Whenever someone around me, a producer, my boss or anyone tells me something, I only want them to tell me once and I try to take that and hold on to it and keep learning and keep growing. 

“Being surrounded by amazing people, every assignment that I’ve had, the team around me has just pushed me forward. They’ve helped me play to my strengths and supported me so much.”

In addition to Duncan and Carter, analysts and former coaches Carolyn Peck and Nikki Fargus, as well as reporter Monica McNutt—all Black women—also worked the games in a specially built studio off the court. 

“I’m just super thankful when I see all these amazing faces doing it at a high level,” marveled local veteran broadcaster Lea B. Olsen. “Their viewpoints are so critical to telling the whole story of basketball, right? I feel like we’re stepping into a new phase of broadcasting that is so important, and the young ones coming through… I love every second of it.”

“I’m sitting next to some of the best minds in basketball. It is not my job to go toe to toe with them on information,” explained Duncan of her role, which can be akin to being a debate moderator. “I am there to make sure that they’re set up to say what they want in a timely way to weave in and out of conversations and segments. And just to make sure that we get it back on time.”

Added Carter, “I have a lot of different roles now. Hosting is different than sideline reporting, is different than sideline analyst, is different than studio analyst. Being able to step into any team and saying, ‘What’s my role? What does the team need from me?’ Whether it’s more, whether it’s less, what makes our production the best it can be and how do I help?”

It isn’t lost on both women how important they are in terms of opening doors for future Black women in broadcast sports. “I’m doing this for anybody that can look up and see me and feel a deeper connection to me because they see me in them or they see themselves in me, and so I think that it’s really special. It means a lot,” said Carter.

“I think that the coolest part is watching the Andraya Carter’s of the world,” surmised Duncan. “Right now, I’m doing this because there was a fantastic Black woman before me that helped us out—Maria Taylor. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here and vice versa.

“We really truly look out for each other,” she said, “and we are finally getting the visibility that we deserved.”