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Tiffany Greene Calls It Like She Sees It

ESPN’s do-everything announcer and HBCU football mainstay is a pitch-perfect voice for the time.

Sports Illustrated and Empower Onyx are putting the spotlight on the diverse journeys of Black women across sports—from the veteran athletes, to up-and-coming stars, coaches, executives and more—in the series, Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports.

There’s a skill in knowing when to talk. Young sportscasters in particular have a tendency to show their behind-the-scenes work, to cram in as many statistics and anecdotes that will fit into a play stoppage in an effort to gain trust. “You want people to know that you know what you’re talking about,” says Tiffany Greene. “But that’s not always fun to digest for the viewer. So, there’s just this constant retooling, readjusting to find your zone. Now I feel like I’ve gotten into a much better groove and rhythm.”

It isn’t just the 41-year-old FAMU alumna’s easy flow on the mike that makes her such a standout. Repping ESPN since 2015, Greene is a rarity in the game—a Black female sportscaster in an arena that has long been the domain of white men. Not only does she hopscotch between a slew of college sports (football, basketball, softball, volleyball), but she can also be whatever the broadcast calls for: the play-by-play announcer, the color analyst, the sideline reporter. She could probably run the production truck if ESPN ever found itself in a pinch. On any given week, Greene bounces between her home in Tampa to various event sites, from Fort Worth, to call the AAC women’s basketball tournament to Rock Hill, S.C., for the SIAC men’s championship. To keep the particulars straight Greene keeps a log on an iPad and types up printed game notes too because “I can’t read my writing half the time,” she says. “But quite honestly some of those notes you put into the memory bank, and the other part is I don’t mind brushing up again.”

Greene’s versatility and work ethic places her in that special class of do-everything broadcast talents that includes Beth Mowins and Doris Burke; those two network colleagues, whom Greene considers role models, have certainly done the yeoman work of normalizing the idea of a woman calling men’s sports. When Greene was growing up a rabid football fan in Tampa during the 1980s, her sports experience would’ve been almost entirely narrated by Bob Costas, Al Michaels, Pat Summerall and other legends of the booth.

Where did Greene get the audacity to think she could one day join their ranks? Well, some of that confidence came from the careers of former SportsCenter anchor Robin Roberts and longtime Fox NFL sideline reporter Pam Oliver—the rare figures in this exclusive boys club who look like Greene. The rest came much closer to home. “My father was a trailblazer in broadcasting in the Tampa area,” she understates. In fact, he is Dayle Greene, one of the first Black on-air talents at Tampa’s Fox affiliate, WTVT. “He had the audacity to believe. By the time I was born, he was out of television. But my mom would say, ‘Well, you know, your father did it. You can do it, too.”

Once out of college and earning her stripes in dues-paying TV sports gigs in central Florida, Tiffany received even more encouragement from Roberts—whom she met in Tampa at a conference for the National Association of Black Journalists. “She was kind enough to review my tape when I was working as a one-man band,” Greene says. “She called me; she wrote me: Hey, Tiffany. I like when you interviewed Coach So-and-So. Those moments mean the world to someone who was trying to get to where [Roberts and Oliver] are.”

Decades later it’s Greene who’s the beacon, not just to young Black girls but to fathers keen to point them in the right direction. She’s especially visible on ESPN’s HBCU football broadcasts, where her background as a fourth-generation FAMU grad makes her a singular authority. “HBCUs have long had a great tradition,” she says. “And having attended an HBCU, I can tell you I was equally invested in the band in the halftime show and Greek life. But we’re still here to watch two teams do battle on the gridiron. I want to bring you the same joy and thrill that I’m experiencing. I like to bring energy.”

With that enthusiasm also comes an understanding that her words have power and a way of sticking to Black athletes; many announcers, in their excitement, have been guilty of painting Black athletes with a broad brush, overstating their physical prowess while completely ignoring their intellect and grit. Setting that record straight from the start is a responsibility Greene takes quite seriously. “Our company has come under fire, among others, for how we’ve portrayed Black male athletes in particular as it relates to football,” says Greene. “Not every Black person comes from a single family or a dire, Blind Side kind of situation.”

Hence why she delights in bringing to the fore stories like that of Alabama A&M quarterback Aqeel Glass—a civil engineering major who started a graduate degree in systems and materials engineering who, oh by the way, can make all the throws. One of the best compliments she gets from the HBCU football players she covers is, “I made them feel big,” she says. “You get to be a part of the soundtrack of their lives.”

And Greene’s voice is only getting stronger.

Empower Onyx/Sports Illustrated present Elle-evate: 100 Influential Black Women in Sports

Andrew Lawrence is a contributor for Empower Onyx, a diverse multi-channel platform celebrating the stories and transformative power of sports for Black women and girls.