Sports Journalists Discuss Role of Race in Sports Media

Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated has put together one hell of a column regarding the role of race in sports media. It’s an email roundtable discussion, featuring the following journalists: Cari Champion, host of ESPN2’s First Take; Jemele Hill, co-host of ESPN2’s Numbers Never Lie; Gregory Lee Jr., executive sports editor, Florida Sun-Sentinel; Tim Kawakami, sports columnist for the San Jose Mercury News; Angel Rodriguez, the Cincinnati Enquirer’s sports editor; and Darren Sands, sports business reporter and multimedia journalist for

Below are some highlights from the piece. You can (and should) read the entire piece here.

On the “n word” and its use in the sports and non-sports worlds:

Hill: 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.

On how the small number of people of color in sports media management has impacted the discussion of race and sports:

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.

On the frequency of racist remarks they experience via 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.

Champion: More often than I’d like to admit.

Kawakami: 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.

On the lack of women of color as sports commentators or sports columnists:

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.