Race, the N-word, discrimination: Panel on role of race in sports media
Last November, I paneled a group of a six highly accomplished and respected female sports journalists for an SI.com email roundtable on the issues they deal with daily as women in the sports media. After publication of that story, a number of well-known sports journalists of color reached out suggesting I should do something similar on the issues sports media members of color deal with on a daily basis. That suggestion prompted the formation of the similarly well-accomplished and respected group below.
•Gregory Lee Jr., Executive Sports Editor, Florida Sun-Sentinel, Past NABJ President.
•Tim Kawakami, San Jose Mercury News sports columnist.
•Angel Rodriguez, sports editor, Cincinnati Enquirer.
•Darren Sands, sports business reporter and multimedia journalist, BlackEnterprise.com.
The panel was asked a series of email questions with no requirements. They were free to pass on any questions. For those of you on Twitter, the panelists are recommended and you can follow them by clicking on their names above. This is long, but I think worth your time if you want insight into today's sports media. Part I runs today. Part II of the panel's answers will run in next week's Monday Media Circus column.
SI.com: Most of you are on social media. How often do you get tweets/Facebook comments related to your race and what impact do they have?
Champion: More often than I'd like to admit. Working on a national show, five days a week gives me an amazing platform but also a significant amount of social media access. Someone created an account on Twitter to send me some very racist/sexist messages. My immediate response was to block whomever but they persisted. And while everyone says 'Don't read it' and 'Ignore it,' I'm here to say it doesn't always work. No matter how hard you try, a few messages will catch you. When I first began work at First Take it really bothered me because the words were very hateful, words that no one would dare say to your face. But unfortunately and fortunately, I've become immune. We live in a social media world where I now expect it. (Anyone with a public platform can more than likely relate.) There have been a few instances where ESPN security had to respond. To that end I'm more selective about who or whom I interact with and engage on social media.
Hill: Every day, I'm told to either go back to the kitchen or back to Africa. In fact, I checked my Twitter mentions 10 minutes after writing this, and a tweeter called me a monkey. It's unacceptable, but I came to the conclusion a long time ago that this was part of the job. I hate that I compartmentalize it that way because I'm giving a pass to those who verbally abuse people on social media. I can't afford to be impacted by it because if I am, then I can't do my job. I'd cry myself to sleep every night if I let what some idiots say on social media change how I did my job or what I thought of myself.
Kawakami: Sadly, because I respect that the Raiders fan base is so balanced demographically, I'd say that 20-to-25 percent of the angry Tweets and emails I get from Raiders fans have racial overtones or flat-out racist filth directed at me. My stance is that I think they're trying to intimidate me into saying only what they want. Racists are used to trying to intimidate people, and I don't get intimidated -- especially not by racists. Many wise people have told me that they don't like that I spend so much time on Twitter firing back at those who fire at me. I get that. But the racist element is the main reason I do. If I'm annoying, it's occasionally because I want to let the racists know that they can't stop me from being annoying. Otherwise, I don't see much of it. Always going to get some, but that's life as a columnist.
Lee: On the occasion that people resort to challenging my views as it relates to race, I will not attempt to engage them because 1.) you will not win on social media; 2.) you won't be able to provide proper context in social media and 3.) we never had a conversation in person that justifies those on Twitter to make judgments about me.
Rodriguez: I haven't gotten much of that on social media, thankfully. In my previous job as the home page manager for the Arizona Republic's website I used to get a lot of pretty crazy stuff on my voicemail. This was when the immigration debate was at its peak in Arizona and emotions were pretty high on both sides. My job was to decide what stories made it to the front page of the website. A local talk radio show host (and former U.S. Congressman) got on the radio and said that the reason the website wasn't more anti-immigrant was because I was hiding the real news. He gave out my phone number and told his listeners to call me and complain. The messages were pretty colorful. One caller said I should go back to Mazatlan. I'm not even from Mazatlan! (And who wouldn't want to go to Mazatlan?!) I got several others saying that I was biased because I was 'one those people with a 'ez' last name'. Several Hispanic reporters at the paper got a lot of abuse around that time, probably still do. We would share our craziest messages and see whose was worse.
Sands: People are allowed to act anonymously on the Internet with (save for a few notable occasions) little accountability for the things they tweet, comment and send. In this sense, the Web is really the wild West. It's unfortunate and can hurt sometimes, but it's why people shouldn't react and, in some cases, should not take themselves so seriously. I defer to the other panelists on this, especially Cari and Jemele, because they must deal with it every day.
SI.com: How much racism exists today in the sports media?
Champion: I can't say how much racism exists in it, but there are certain inequalities that are hard to ignore. For instance, second chances are rare for minorities and women on a national stage. There seems to be very little room for error. If you make a mistake on-air or if your personal life becomes public in a bad way, that person may find themselves with an early exit. But there are exceptions to the rule -- I am one of them. I lost my job in Atlanta at a local station. The process was not fair but I fought the process and was able to get my job back. However, I thought my identity would be tied to that incident and if that was the case, my opportunities would be few and far. But I was given another chance which eventually led to ESPN.
Hill: Better off than it used to be, but not nearly as progressive as we sometimes like to think it is. Even with the rise of new media, which I believe has opened the door for non-traditional sports media reporters, sports media remains white-male run and white-male focused.
Lee: The landscape remains institutionalized. During my 20 years in the newspaper business, the path to landing a job is about who you know. Sports editors tend to hire people they are comfortable around, people who could have a beer with them. It still happens. How else would you explain that 90 percent of the sports sections are made up of white males? There are only four African American sports editors at large newspapers today. One day, while in the offices of the Boston Globe, I had a conversation about potential candidates with my boss Joe Sullivan. I rattled off names of people I thought would be good for our NBA opening. My boss did not really know the people I named, so I invited him to attend the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Las Vegas in 2007 so he could meet people that otherwise he would not have had on his radar for openings. There he made many connections with people not only in the job fair; Joe went to sports-related workshops, receptions and parties to get to know the talented journalists that were in attendance. The Globe would eventually hire great people such as Marc Spears and Gary Washburn, and Joe has been to a few more NABJ Conventions to check out talent pool and connect with the membership.
The problem in the industry is we don't have enough voices in the newsroom to shed light on the disparities there. There are not many people of color or women in editing positions who can influence decision-making. Joe and I were a great team because he knew I had access to a number of talented journalists of color due to my participation in NABJ and the Sports Journalism Institute, a program that helps minorities and women achieve careers in the industry. During my time at the Globe we brought in a number of talented people such as Jerome Solomon, Baxter Holmes, Julian Benbow and then Monique Walker (now Jones). But the key thing is editors should take personal responsibility in developing their own talent database and not rely on the company's recruiter. As an editor, I am expected to know who are the talented sports journalists around the nation, regardless of color. I should not have editors continuing to call me to locate talented minority journalists. I am happy to be a resource and headhunter for my fellow editors, but it's time for all of them to create their own pool of talent. If we do that, then our numbers will grow. An example of a double standard in sports media is that African American sports reporters are told the path to getting a column is to start from the bottom on the high school beat, work your way to a college beat and then cover a professional beat. A few years ago, a major newspaper gave a column to a white male who never had a major beat before. This person skipped over the entire process that African Americans were told they had to take. Let me tell you, that pissed off some of my friends in the business. Let's be clear, there was no animosity towards the new columnist. The frustrations rests with the consistent double standards that still exist.
Kawakami: I'm sure it's out there, because racism is always out there, just like every good and terrible thing about our society is always out there in whatever field any of us choose. So I don't want to be naive. But just from my very limited view in the Bay Area looking outwards, and if it's just talking about the sports media, I think the widening and shallowing out of this business has largely reduced the motivation of racists to act like racists. (That's me being cynical and optimistic at the same time, I think.) If the paper or magazine or TV network is losing readers/viewers -- if the entire industry is in jeopardy -- then the powerful people have to hire whoever the hell they think can keep them afloat, whether he or she is black, white, yellow or glowing neon. It's the desperation out there and (again cynical/optimistic) that drives the operating principle: Hire the people who can do the job, whoever they are, not just your buddies or people who look like you or people who kiss your rear end.
Rodriguez: When you look at the Pew numbers of minority representation in sports and in the news business in general, you realize pretty quickly that we aren't doing a good job of representing our communities. The lack of minority representation at upper levels of management is disheartening. When the top editors at any news organization do not have diverse voices you get a very one-sided conversation and the stories that come out of those story planning meetings tend to not accurately reflect the community.
Sands: The most pervasive form of racism that exists in the sports media is an offshoot of the cultural racism existent in professional sports. The ability to look down upon the cultures of hip hop and urban culture is connected to race. If there's a young basketball player with tattoos, that player experiences prejudice based on their look. It's hard to ignore the lack of nuance out there in terms of analysis and commentary. That's why media organizations would do well to hire, retain and cultivate talent who understand/live the culture of professional athletes. Not doing this is inherently racist, because it basically suggests the culture doesn't matter enough, is inferior or doesn't line up with the editorial decisions made on a daily basis.
SI.com: Why do we rarely see 30 or 40-something women of color on sports television or as sports columnists?
Champion: Women have a short shelf life in television. It's rare to watch a woman age on TV like my male counterparts and the same is the case for women of color. However, change is inevitable and I do believe we are starting to see some change. When I was hired as the host and moderator of First Take, I'm sure many people were surprised that a black woman was hired because it wasn't the "perceived norm." In fact people often say to me, "I was excited to see they hired a black woman. I didn't think that was going to happen." It was a first to see a black woman hosting a sports show on a national stage. A highlight of my career was when Magic Johnson called to tell me that I was doing a good job on the show, and told me that my success mattered on many fronts. As I said before, when you get the opportunity, make the best of it because it's an investment in changing the norm.
Hill: I'll speak mostly from a television perspective. Women of any race aren't allowed to age on television. Sure, there are some exceptions, but for the most part, a woman's appearance is still a significant factor in decision making. Chris Berman's hair can thin. He can gain weight. I can't. There also seems to be this prevailing concept of beauty in terms of what the audience will like. Unfortunately, black women will never universally be considered the standard of beauty. And since TV is such a visual medium, that leaves us at a disadvantage. You look across network television and it's overrun by blondes. Now, I'm not at all suggesting that those women didn't deserve their jobs, but when you see blonde after blonde, it sends the message that it will be impossible for you to fit in because you don't have the "look." When you base decisions off such shallow qualifications, it will do little in terms of forcing active change. That's why, again, I have to applaud our company for making some rather bold decisions. When Sage Steele was given the NBA Countdown hosting job, I was so proud. For one, Sage is good. She deserves this and more. But I was keenly aware of what that meant for African American women. TV is a cut-and-paste business. Sage's success in this role will offer less room for excuses at other shops. Even for me, since I'm the only woman of color in a content-creating, co-hosting role, I realize that if Numbers Never Lie isn't successful then that will be more incentive for someone not to try to put a black woman in this kind of role.
Lee: First of all, there are not enough women in the industry. We need more. We have to do a better job. However, with the women we do have, the biggest problem I have with the industry is the continued belief that they can't find talented women of color. What I find very frustrating is that I see white women being trained and cultivated more. From a newspaper standpoint, editors would say, well, women of color are gobbled up by ESPN. But we as an industry have to do a better job cultivating talented women that are on our staffs. You just can't grow Jemele Hills on a tree. Even Jemele had to be developed, but she was also given an opportunity at the Orlando Sentinel when she was named a columnist. A lot of talented women have left the business because they feel they have hit that glass ceiling. They move onto to other careers or a start a family rather than being constantly frustrated working in a sports department that is not supporting their efforts.
Kawakami: Declined to answer.
Rodriguez: Declined to answer:
Sands: Because we're not in the year 2025 yet. There's tons of talent in the pipeline and their ability will become harder and harder to ignore. We're in a space now where the success stories like Cari Champion, Jemele Hill, Lisa Salters and Pam Oliver are on center stage. (Oliver did the Super Bowl, for goodness sake.) They're there and they're really, really good. It's a world that our little girls will see as attainable because women who are flourishing look just like them. The other part of it is if you're a decision-maker you absolutely have to give diverse voices chance to succeed. It's the right thing to do and it pays huge dividends.
SI.com: What, if any, personal experiences do you have when it comes to racism -- either institutionalized or overt?
Champion: Like most things in life, getting opportunities in sports media is based on subjectivity. A person is hired or promoted for reasons known and unknown to the public or the person who did not get the opportunity. There have been times in my career where I have been overlooked or not considered when I was qualified. Not being considered or a part of the conversation is the issue for women and minorities.
Hill: ESPN is the greatest job I've ever had. I think when it comes to diversity, we are in the 90th percentile. In general, I've had a blessed career and am extraordinarily thankful that the primary battles for equality were fought for me by women like Claire Smith, Christine Brennan and Michelle Kaufman. But from an institutional standpoint, I have certainly faced varying degrees of racism and sexism. Mostly my experiences with racism and sexism have been related to an inherit lack of belief that I could achieve something, whether I was deserving of an opportunity, or was a fit for a specific role. I remember years ago, and I was still in print journalism, a colleague told me to my face that I landed my job because I was a black woman. Yeah, because that explains why when I was a sports columnist at the Orlando Sentinel in 2006, I was the only black female sports columnist in America...that really shows a clear, widespread investment in hiring women of color.
Lee: I would not classify my experiences as less personal than institutionalized, as I felt my credentials were the same or better than candidates for sports editors positions that were filled around the country. It is the same feeling that a lot of African American sports reporters have -- that they were passed over by people for promotions.
Kawakami: I can't say I've experienced anything close to racism. I've gotten good jobs. I think I can say I've relatively deserved them, but you'd have to ask my old bosses in retrospect.
Except there's one anecdote that still bugs me -- it didn't affect my career at all, but I think it illustrates what I fear for others, of whatever color or belief, and that pisses me off even more. Years ago, on an AAJA panel, an editor of Asian-American descent actually said that he would've never considered me for a column simply because I'm Asian-American and he considers Asian-Americans too meek to write a good sports column. That is, until he got to know me and realized I didn't fit the Asian "profile".
What the hell? If that's an Asian-American editor thinking and saying that at an AAJA panel to me, what's happening in newsrooms everywhere with white black or Asian editors who just toss out applications by anybody who doesn't fit the picture in their minds? I think the guys who think like that have either been weeded out or have changed their tunes by necessity, but still, that kind of back-door self-racism is something that I would like never to have to think about again.
Rodriguez: I've been pretty lucky. My experiences have been mild. Early in my career I worked for a Spanish language wire service covering U.S. sports and was in an NBA press room. Another reporter and I had filed our stories and were talking in Spanish about the game and the features we wanted to write on some visiting player that was coming in in a couple days. There were other English language reporters talking around us as well. The beat writer from the hometown newspaper came over and started yelling at us, telling us the work room was for reporters who actually were working and to shut up or get out. He didn't mention anything to other English language speakers in the same area who were doing the same thing. The condescension in his voice was clear. I don't know if he thought we were the cleaning crew or what, but I was probably 24 at the time and that really opened my eyes. That reporter is still on the beat and covers one of my favorite teams. I refuse to read a word he writes.
Sands: How much time you got? Where would I start? I came up in newspapers, and all I'll say is I don't think we'll ever know how much trauma decision-makers still have with the whole Jayson Blair situation. Honestly. He was black and young and committed our industry's cardinal sin on the grandest scale. With that said, the racism I experience as a young, college-educated black man with opportunities pales in comparison to the cases of young black men all over the world outside of this business whose stories you'll never hear.
SI.com: What's your take on how the N-word is used in sports circle and in non-sports arenas?
Champion: The use of the n-word is arguably the hardest word to discuss and that's because it means something different to anyone you ask. Myself included. I'm still struggling with how I feel about the word when I hear it in our community (playful or purposeful). But I'm a firm believer that no one should tell a black person if they can use that word. For instance, the proposed NFL rule to penalize players who use the n-word caused more confusion than understanding. There is clearly a generational gap that continues to grow as one generation thinks the word is a painful reminder of slavery while another considers it a term of endearment. I understand both perspectives however I often challenge those who use the n-word to find another "word" because it is so divisive.
Hill: I'm fascinated with the sudden fascination with the word. The n-word has been around for a long time and many of the conversations being had about it now have been had for years. But we're having the conversation in sports now because of two white guys, Riley Cooper and Richie Incognito. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but it illustrates how when an issue moves into a certain space, it becomes something bigger. Anyway, I don't think it should ever be used in professional settings, but how people use the word with their friends, in their home and in their personal lives is not for me to determine. I think it's culturally arrogant for anyone to tell groups of people how they should relate to one another. And if you've ever had the experience of being in the room when a particular group relates to one another, you will more than likely hear some coarse language. Ask any man who has been in the room when a bunch of women were there.
Kawakami: I hate the word in the exact same way I hate any anti-Asian slur and believe me, I have been called those things enough times to feel that viscerally. But I also know that I hear all those words in locker rooms all the time when it is not meant as a slur at all. It's obviously complicated. I don't pretend to have a universal answer, other than: If we know the intent is not to demean somebody, I am not going on a crusade against the use of it. If it is meant to demean somebody, then it's hate speech, pure and simple.
Lee: The n-word is arguably the most discussed racial slur in this country. My frustration with the current debate, which was spurred by the bullying scandal with the Miami Dolphins, is why are we limiting the conversation to this one ethnic slur? Why aren't we having a debate on all slurs when it comes to use in public circles? The debate was very narrow. The discussion should be how can we influence more civility in our conversation without having to resort to using derogatory language, especially ones that are discriminating in nature. Personally, I attempt to use other words besides the n-word.
Rodriguez: That's a tough one. I cringe whenever I hear the word in a song, movie or a locker room. I don't know what the best thing for the leagues to do in this case. Our columnist spoke to former Bengal great Reggie Williams about it recently and he said that and a number of other words needed to be banned from the NFL field of play. I just don't know where to draw the line here.
Sands: Let's say we polled 100 young black athletes who admitted to using the n-word. I'm willing to bet the overwhelming majority do not A) say the word in professional settings (I do not consider the field of play such a setting), and B) would readily acknowledge that we all carry some responsibility for what it means for our society that the word is commonly used by babies, white people, by young people in Nairobi and Lagos and Freetown. Also: Count me in the number that believes we waste too much intellectual capital on the topic. Imagine if we spent the sum of our collective angst about 'nigga' on how to eradicate poverty. Not as sexy, though, is it?
SI.com: How has the small number of people of color in sports media management positions impacted the discussion of race and sports in the U.S.?
Champion: Discussing race in sports seemed taboo at one point because of its sensitive nature. There's too much room for misunderstanding. But I've noticed a significant shift that embraces the discussion on many levels. ESPN, I believe, has started to encourage that dialogue. We live in a world and work in an industry where it is unavoidable. Riley Cooper, Richard Sherman, Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin are just a few of the race-related stories that dominated our airwaves. Those storylines led to other storylines which created a healthy and informative conversation in our newsroom.
Hill: This is where the most significant change needs to occur. We need more women and minorities who are coordinating producers or at the upper level. We need a black Jamie Horowitz [the executive producer of First Take and Numbers Never Lie.] Or, a female Jamie Horowitz. We need more diversity among show creators and managers, otherwise change won't trickle down to content and talent.
Kawakami: You'd have to think so, but I'm not in those rooms. On the biggest platforms, I don't see much of a retreat on social issues. Maybe some extra care is put into the presentation, but I don't see a void.
Lee: I believe it is too easy to blame the lack of discussion of race in sports on the lack of people of color leading newsrooms. As journalists, we should all be able to execute stories about every aspect of life. It takes a mindset to execute these stories. Sports editors, of all races, are expected to tell the stories which reflect our communities. The four black sports editors in the nation should not have to bear the burden of leading the discussion on race and sports in the media. All journalists have that duty. The problem is that the majority of editors are uncomfortable stepping out to handle things they don't understand or want to take the time to understand. If editors wanted to achieve a true understanding, perhaps their newsroom makeup would reflect our communities.
Rodriguez: I'll give one example. At a former paper I worked at I was adamant that we needed to increase our soccer coverage to better reflect the community we lived in. I was rebuked, often. But we still had a ton of golf and tennis coverage. You would drive around the city on a weekend and see any open field filled up with people of all ages playing soccer. It was clear there was a market there that we weren't addressing. But the people making those decisions were probably not driving around those same city streets. As a society we just aren't comfortable talking about race and so it isn't a shock that we in the media aren't as open to talking about it as we should be. We reflect society as a whole.
Sands: Let's say we did get proportionate numbers of people of color in newsrooms. Would we be on-point to the extent that we could actually have an impact on the discussion of race and sports in the U.S.? Are we up for that task? That's why I implore our folks to be better -- to be more prepared and more dedicated to the work. I mean, it's really easy to criticize Nate Silver for his hiring practices. But it's a lot harder to take the steps to make sure people of color are prepared to come correct when opportunities present themselves.
SI.com: Who are people of color in the sports media who are doing great work that the public should know more about?
Champion: It's hard to answer this question because I feel a little conflicted about highlighting one more than the other. But I do encourage employers to attend or actively seek out journalist at conventions like NABJ, AAJA or UNITY.
Hill: That's my other issue. A lot of blogs and sports media writers (present company excluded) write about who's hot (as in looks) instead of who's good or credible. It's based off of gossip and scandal, or their misconceptions about who's the "it girl." How many Q&As have been done with Lisa Salters? Erin Andrews is a tremendous reporter, but the only reason Pam Oliver was written about around the NFL playoffs is because of some gossipy-based, alleged rivalry between Pam and Erin. That does an awful disservice to both of them. I'll admit to being biased on this, but Cari has a great platform, is a tremendous journalist and is damn good at her job. I don't see her getting magazine spreads, profiles or, if we're going lowest-common denominator, even being considered as an "it girl." I can't help but wonder, if Cari were white and blonde, would she be considered a rising star? An "it girl?" Would USA Today do a profile of her? I'm just calling for fairness, and perhaps acknowledgment. Who's checking for Maria Taylor? LaChina Robinson? And it isn't just a race thing. It's about how women in this industry are perceived and pigeon-holed, period. Doris Burke is phenomenal, but she doesn't get nearly the credit or publicity that she deserves.
Kawakami: My former colleague Monte Poole, now covering the Warriors for CSN Bay Area but a long-time columnist for the Oakland Tribune and then our Bay Area News Group chain, has been under-recognized nationally for so long that it has become a local given. Which correctly makes him even more treasured here. You frequently and deservedly give nods to my friend Michael Kim, who was always so credible during his time at ESPN, [and who has just joined the talent team of 120 Sports]. I use Stephanie Wei as a new-age start-up journalism example to aspiring young writers so often that it sometimes already seems to me like she's everywhere. She started the Wei Under Par golf coverage website, has turned into something special and if people don't know about her work now, they soon will.
Lee: Alex Prewitt of the Washington Post is making his mark covering the University of Maryland beat. He also has had long form stories on other subjects published there. He is going to be someone to watch. Baxter Holmes covers the Boston Celtics at the Boston Globe. He impresses me with his writing and story telling. Both gentlemen have been at those papers for less than two years. From the editing ranks, I believe Monique Jones will be a sports editor running her own section one day. Today, she is the Ravens editor at the Baltimore Sun. During her first year there, she directed coverage of the Ravens' Super Bowl march. Previously she was a Patriots reporter for the Boston Globe.
Rodriguez: Carlton Thompson. I've gotten to know him a little over the last couple of years and he's been the sports editor at a top 10 newspaper in the county in the Houston Chronicle and is now heading up things at MLB.com. As a journalist of color, it's encouraging to see one of us get to those levels. He's a great example for younger journalists to emulate. And I may be biased because he's my friend, but Jesse Sanchez is another one. What he is doing at MLB.com highlighting the Latin baseball players not just for the Spanish language market, but the English language one is really important. Breaking down that language barrier for baseball fans is something that has been sorely missed in the sports' coverage for a long time. He's done pretty well for an Aggie.
Sands: I'm a big fan of what Drew Lawrence does on the pages of this website and magazine. Candace Buckner is a hell of a reporter; she covers the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star. No one is covering the world of HBCU Sports with as much fervor and professionalism as Steven J. Gaither. If you care about the Thunder, the Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry is a must-read.The Toronto Star's Morgan Campbell is doing amazing work with multimedia coverage in the sports industry. I've always been a huge fan of Kimberley Martin, who covers the Jets for Newsday and is so, so good. Greg Howard is a Deadspin staffer (and mad people were just like, 'there's a black staffer at Deadspin?') and has a load of talent. Monique Walker is a fantastic editor at the Baltimore Sun who should be on people's radars for senior management-type positions, and the same goes for Shemar Woods from ESPN New York, and NESN's Alison Smith. I also love how Christopher Gasper has grown into his role as a columnist at the Boston Globe. Props to Joe Sullivan, the sports editor on that and so many other solid hires.
SI.com: If you were talking to a room of students about race in sports media, what wisdom would you impart on them?
Champion: This is an extremely tough business. But when you find yourself in a situation that only a few could understand, it's imperative that you try to become an example or provide a blueprint for success. I suggest taking the rare or unique opportunity that has been given and make it work for you. And by that I mean, be so prepared, be so ready that your hard work and your success is undeniable.
Hill: I would encourage them all to pursue this profession, but I would help women --especially women of color -- understand that there is just a certain amount of crap that you will have to deal with. It's not right. It's not fair. But it's your reality. You will spend a lot of time proving what you aren't as opposed to proving what you are.
Kawakami: Don't pretend it's not out there, but do believe that bosses have to keep their jobs, too, and to keep their jobs, they have to hire the best, most productive people. If you have the talent and the will power, the opportunities are there because when it comes down to it, readers don't care about race, they care if they're being delivered good information and analysis. The marketplace is mostly color-blind. And it's never talent-blind. It's something I've always believed.
Lee: Usually when I am in the classroom, I would challenge them to step outside of their comfort zone. What I find from journalists is that they connect more with the familiar than the unfamiliar. You will lose out on good stories by remaining in that box. If you truly want to separate yourself from the pile of resumes in the workforce, because they are pretty much the same, stepping out of your comfort zone would be the first thing I would do to both capture good stories and to get a perspective for future stories that you otherwise might not have had before. During my conversation about sports, I'd recite a number of statistics about the racial makeup of sports departments. They were in disbelief about the big disparities. Following one of my speeches, a student came to me and said even though it could hurt him in getting a job, he now had greater perspective one why diversity is needed in the newsroom. I just wish those who are in charge actively had a similar reaction.
Rodriguez: To work as hard as you can and to not let the instances where people's cultural incompetence get you down. It'll happen, but just keep working as hard as you can and people will stop looking at you as that Hispanic reporter or that African American reporter and will just see you as a reporter. I'd also let them know that they should be true to themselves. In a lot of cases you will be the only minority in the room and someone will say something that is offensive, inadvertently or not. It is up to each individual person to react as they see fit. I know people aren't comfortable saying something for fear of being viewed as oversensitive. I know I haven't always been comfortable being the lone minority voice in the room. It's a tough spot to be in, but you need to do what feels comfortable to you.
Sands: To be always bold, considerate and an independent thinker.
The Noise Report
SI.com examines some of the more notable sports media stories of the past week:
1. When the phone call came last September from CBS Sports management, Clark Kellogg said he was glad he was sitting down. "I was totally caught off guard and if I wasn't sitting down, I probably would have falling down," Kellogg said of being told by CBS Sports Chairman Sean McManus that he was being moved off the No. 1 college basketball team for a studio role. "I was surprised by it. I thought we had done a nice job with good chemistry, I was enjoying it. I had gotten comfortable and enjoyed working with Jim [Nantz], Tracy [Wolfson] and [producer] Mark Wolff and [director] Bob Fishman and [analyst] Steve Kerr. I enjoyed being amongst the players and coaches and teams.
Kellogg, though, is an optimist, a glass is a three-quarters-filled person. He spoke about the move with his wife, knew that there was nothing he could do to change management's mind, and decided to embrace the role, one that he had with CBS from 1994 to 2008. It also gave him extra time to see his son Nick, who just finished up his senior year as a starting guard for Ohio University.
I believe his work merited a continued role on the Final Four telecast, but there's no question he's been terrific in the studio over the first couple of weeks in the tournament, a college basketball-heavy voice who plays well off Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, a pair of Turner analysts who are best at analyzing the game in front of them as opposed to scouting upcoming games.
Kellogg said he has enjoyed his time with Ernie Johnson, Barkley and Smith, three people he had never worked with prior to this assignment. When the cameras have been off, Kellogg said the studio has been "straight comedy" as conversations morph to pop culture, movies as well as basketball.
"I wasn't quite sure how different it would be but I find it to be enjoyable," Kellogg said. "Not only the personalities but the opportunity with the games all being shown in their entirety. We have more time to set up a point or discuss a game or something that is on the hearts and minds of us or one of the producers."
Kellogg said that his CBS contract concludes at the end of this year's tournament and he hopes to continue with the network with a mix of games and studio work. "I would probably put myself late in the third or fourth quarter of my career in terms of how I view longevity," Kellogg said. "With that being the case, I would probably enjoy doing games as I continue in broadcasting but what that looks like and where those games are, I'm not sure. I enjoy the studio and I could see myself doing that as well. Some of that will be depending on what CBS and Turner view the best for me. We'll see. I am not anchored to any one or the other."
1a. TBS's overtime coverage of Wisconsin's win over Arizona averaged 9.9 million total viewers, the most-watched college basketball game in cable history. The viewership numbers overall for the tournament are up slightly from last year.
1b. Sports Media Watch has the ratings of every college basketball regular season game during the 2013-14 season.
2. ESPN reporter Jessica Mendoza is admittedly a baseball wonk -- she won gold and silver as a member of United States Olympic softball teams and was the 2000 Pac-10 Player of the Year at Stanford -- and will use her knowledge of swing mechanics and baseball at large in an expanded role on Baseball Tonight this season.
The network said Mendoza will appear every Monday on the studio show, both onsite at games as well as in the studio. Mendoza said she will be analyzing and breaking down hitters and giving her opinion on the issues of the day. She'll often be in the dugout, similar to a sideline reporter gig, with a heavy emphasis on the mechanics of the batters. Look for her to do batting cage segments, where she will talk to some of the game's best hitters prior to games.
It's a pioneering role in the sense that Mendoza, who will continue working college baseball, college football and college softball, is serving as a sport-specific analyst as opposed to a host. There are not many women in sports media with a regular analyst role on men's sports, the most prominent being ESPN's Doris Burke.
"Doris is someone who has fueled this fire for me," Mendoza said. "Julie Foudy is someone else who has crossed over. At the end of the day, all I want to do is do a good job. Yes, I want more woman to do this but it's really about I want more people to do this who have the knowledge. If it sounds good and is an intelligent conversation, that's who should be talking."
Last year Mendoza (while pregnant) did segments with 10 major league baseball players on their swing mechanics (for instance, why does Prince Fielder change his swing at different times of the year?) that appeared prior to Sunday Night Baseball. She recently signed a three-year deal with ESPN so the network is investing in her abilities. Mendoza praised her bosses, specifically ESPN vice president of remote production Mike McQuade, for being experimental with her segments. Said Mendoza: "I hope I can do really good job with this and continue to grow and help the show."
2a. The story of knuckleball yoda R.A. Dickey could soon become a film.
2b. During a conference call with MLB Commissioner Bud Selig and ESPN president John Skipper, I asked Selig how much of a role baseball had when it comes to choosing or signing off on the announcers who work national broadcasts.
"I would say we have none and that's the way it's supposed to be," Selig said. "ESPN has their own announcers. I don't spend a lot of time worrying about that, and frankly we've never really had a problem...Listen, we're in this together, so you want to do something that makes the broadcast as attractive as possible to people, and I have great faith in their judgment. I guess I'll add this: I try not to tell other people how to run their business, and likewise goes for me running baseball."
Added Skipper: "I would certainly echo that. We hope that we're excellent partners. We do nothing without making sure our partners understand it, but baseball has been very respectful of our expertise at doing the games. We have good dialogue about everything, just as we respect the decisions made in the interest of baseball are made by the Commissioner's office. "
3. Here's my piece on former Alabama and NFL quarterback Greg McElroy joining the upcoming SEC Network as a college football analyst.
4. Sports pieces of note:
•Washington Post writer Rick Maese on the oldest living major leaguer.
•Grantland's Brian Phillips writes on his love of Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery:
•Great piece by NYT's Barry Bearak, reporting from Japan, on Masahiro Tanaka epitomizing the Japanese approach to baseball.
•SportsNet's Dave Zarum reported an oral history of the Montreal Expos' last home game.
•Marlon Wayans had a fantastic reaction to DeSean Jackson being cut while a guest on SI Now.
•Founder of D.C. ball empire: a hero to youth, basketball mentor -- and drug dealer.
Non sports pieces of note:
•Actor James Rebhorn's self-written obituary was the best thing I read last week.
•Buzzfeed's Ashley C. Ford on coming out to her middle school guidance counselor.
• From Texas Monthly: The Murders at the Lake
•Via Esquire: The Drugging of The American Boy
•A working mother's letter to Gwyneth Paltrow.
• The Fast-Growing, Profitable Market For Kid "Influencer" Endorsements On Twitter, Instagram, Vine, YouTube, and Pinterest.
•Wall Street Journal reporter Elizabeth Bernstein on the future of sesquipedalian words.
•The Washingtonian's Michael Graff on his father, Fred, who was part of an elite club of sport parachutists.
5. Gus Johnson returns on Tuesday to call international soccer for Fox Sports with the Fox Sports 1 airing of Manchester United-Bayern Munich at 2:00 p.m. Eric Wynalda will be his partner. It's Johnson's first soccer call since the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup final between USA and Panama, the most-watched telecast in FOX Soccer history with 1.1 million viewers.
5a. NBCSN will televise the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby -- major Kentucky Derby preps -- on April 5 at 5:30 p.m. ET.
5b. Fox Sports 1 has hired St. John's men's basketball coach Steve Lavin to be a college basketball analyst for the remainder of the NCAA Tournament.
5c. Nice work by Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News to highlight the family of TNT Sports host Ernie Johnson Jr.
5d. ESPN said its coverage of the 2014 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships combined to reach 8.6 million people, a 39 percent increase over last year (8.6 million vs. 6.2 million). The 20 hours of television coverage averaged 253,000 viewers. Tulsa and Oklahoma City were the two highest-rated metered markets
5e. Sirius XM host Bob Edwards has a show that looks promising on college athletics called "Dropping the Ball: The Shady Side of Big-Time College Sports." The one-hour program airs on SiriusXM Public Radio (XM channel 121, Sirius channel 205) on April 3 and includes interviews with Andrew Zimbalist, Len Elmore, sportscaster and former NBA player and Mary Willingham, the whistleblower in the North Carolina college athletics scandal.
5f. There are certain ESPN-ers with the Jordan Rules to fire back at critics publicly, and Nate Silver delivered the data equivalent of an nWo-style beatdown on New York Times columnist Paul Krugman here.
5g. Condolences to the family of Lonnie White, an Los Angeles Times sports writer for two decades and former USC footbal player.
5h. WCJBTV 20, an ABC affiliate in Gainesville, Fla., produced one of the most spectacular highlight reels ever. Just trust us: