Race and Journalism: NFL TV Media coverage | Robert Littal Presents BlackSportsOnline
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Race and Journalism: NFL TV Media coverage

by BSO Staff | Posted on Friday, September 25th, 2009
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Written By La Mont Chappell

Ever notice how the media covering popular sports is dominated by whites, but the sports are dominated by minorities? In looking at the most popular sport in America, football, the vast majority of the athletes are black, but almost every other occupation connected with the sport is dominated by whites.

For now I would like to directly examine the media covering the NFL. There are different medias covering football, but the most popular are the television shows such as Sunday morning kickoff shows, play by play and color commentating, postgame shows, and also NFL insider shows during the week.

nfl nbc collinsworth-michaels

CBS– The NFL today team on CBS has six white people, including Marino and Esiason, and two blacks, James Brown and Shannon Sharpe. The NFL on CBS team (play by play and color) includes 5 white guys and one black guy (Greg Gumbel).

FOX– FOX NFL Sunday has a cast of six whites and three blacks including Bradshaw, Long, Strahan, and Jimmy Johnson. The FOX NFL game announcers include 11 whites and 2 blacks.

nfl superbowl cast

NBC– Sunday Night football on NBC stars 6 white people and 2 blacks.

ESPN (ABC)—ESPN has a vast range of analysts that are used for their NFL coverage during the week on NFL Live. This range includes 17 whites and 12 blacks. ESPN’s NFL Matchup has three white guys and no blacks. NFL Primetime has 5 white guys and one black guy.

The most watched game of each NFL week is Monday Night Football. The pregame show on ESPN is the Monday Night Countdown. This show features 9 whites and 4 blacks. The Monday Night Football Broadcast on ESPN (ABC) stars 8 whites and 5 blacks.

 nfl mnf cast

I find it interesting that a sport that consists of roughly 80% black players and less than 20% white players is covered by media that is mostly white. In trying to determine why there is such a contrast, it is tough to find a good reason. It seems that while blacks are good enough to play the sport, they are not good enough to analyze and commentate on the sport. This just furthers popular stereotypes that blacks are superior physically and inferior intellectually.

Since the majority of the U.S. population is white, perhaps the networks want to their casts to reflect the general public. This reasoning still seems baseless because the media should hire those who have enough experience to properly analyze what happens on the field. If blacks have the ability to play the sport, it is reasonable to believe that they can also talk about the sport and comment on what is happening on the field.

nfl media cbs

This disparity is seen not only in television, but also the other forms of media as well such as popular radio, magazines, newspaper, etc. So the racial problem is larger than we may realize. I am not sure what credentials are used in the hiring process of these so-called NFL experts, but I truly believe that blacks are being discriminated against in this process.

nfl fox green myers

Blacks are not being invited to cover the NFL as much as they are being invited to play in the NFL. It is similar to being type-cast. Blacks are cast as the athletes, the soldiers who do all the work on the front lines, and Whites are cast as the generals and dictators, who just sit back and talk about what they observe and what strategy should be enforced.

I understand that media outlets want their employees to have studied journalism and/or communications, but how much does the study of journalism contribute to analyzing the NFL? I believe that a former NFL linebacker will better understand a defensive strategy better than the kid who studied journalism at Yale. The entire process comes off as un-American because everyone should have a fair shot of covering the NFL, and since there are so many black players in the NFL, their experience should earn them ample opportunities to land these great jobs as analysts and commentators for the NFL.

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  1. VEe says:

    "I am not sure what credentials are used in the hiring process of these so-called NFL experts" . . .

    Overall it sounds like you reached your conclusion based on your feelings. I don't think you really offered anything new to this discussion. I think maybe it would have been cool to provide a comparative statistics study (If possible) on how many black anchors there were back in the 70's or 80's, instead of just providing the guys working today.

    -Just a thought.
    I noticed that many of these discussion often does not mention the number of Samoan, Hawaian and Asian-American presence in the NFL, not to mention the other ethnic groups represented on the grid-iron. Clearly African-Americans represent a large percentage of players in professional football but I rarely hear concerns of the smaller groups addressed.

  2. Joe says:

    cue the hate comments

  3. sunnyboyfrumillanoy says:

    Color really isn't a deciding factor on these shows. Being a former player doesn't automatically qualify you to break down film on camera. Emmitt Smith is a no doubt first ballot hall of famer. He was not good on camera. Listen to some post game interviews, every brother isn't built for public speaking. Also you failed to mention that some of the Black folk you mentioned tend to have the Top Spot, on the pregame show/ booth team.

  4. MoneyMarl says:

    I think you are kinda reaching on this one mane. The top pregame NFL show on ESPN during Monday Night Football has 3 blacks and 2 whites(boom and Mike Ditka). The shows that come before that i think carry peoples that are available at the moment, sometimes it’s all black , sometimes its all white and sometimes its mixed.
    A lot of people(blak and white) have said that Mike Tirico is one of the best play by play men out there and he’s black.

    So I don’t get where you are trying to go with this race thing.

  5. LaMont Chappell says:

    I was just making a simple observation. I am not crying injustice or racism. I am just illustrating how there is a big discrepancy in the % of Blacks playing in the NFL and the % of blacks covering the NFL. I am showing that even though blacks excel on the field, blacks are still not considered experts on the sport, which seems contradicting.

    This is not only prevalent in tv. The trend is seen in other media too. black guys play the sport, while white guys analyze and critique the sport.

  6. Damon says:

    I think I understand what you're saying, but you gotta understand it took a while for them to let black ppl play sports at all. Then after they got in the sports it took a while for them to manage/coach, then talk about it and it's just reaching the level where there are minority owners. Everything is not gonna happen in a flash, it's gonna take time for minorities to get in these positions of power. I didn't see in the article anywhere where you pointed out that currently now there are more black ppl coverage sports journalism than ever before. That there are more coaches/managers and owners than ever before as well.

  7. Frank Smith says:

    I'm sorry, but I can't agree with you on this. You have to look at this situation in its entirety. Your argument would be valid if you highlighted instances where there were no blacks (or other minorities) on the broadcasts, but it's clear that there are. Compared to the network news coverage, there are more minorities covering sports than ever before. You also fail to mention the numerous minorities who work behind the scenes in production. I understand the point you were trying to make, but it doesn't hold water.

    To be honest, there are folks that shouldn't be in front of the camera regardless of race. Dan Marino and Shannon Sharpe of CBS often sound ignorant and/or incoherent. Mike Ditka and Cris Carter of ESPN are practically useless. Terry Bradshaw sounds like a buffoon and acts like one as well. Tiki Barber, while articulate, brings little to NBC besides the obvious. Matt Millen of ESPN shouldn't be allowed to speak in front of a camera ever again if for no other reason than a lack of credibility.

  8. Carla M says:

    I agree and disagree with you on this article. For one, I agree that historically, the networks maintained racial barriers in the announcer’s booth long after they had been broken on the field. As a result, when I was growing up, commentary provided by announcers was too often outright racist (…black players had natural athleticism, but white players were smart and worked hard, etc., then you have incidents like the statements made by Jimmy the Greek). I often wondered, watching Monday Night Football and other programs how out of the thousands upon thousands of college educated NFL veterans, they couldn’t allow one with a tan in the booth as a commentator. (For that matter, I wondered why former players, regardless of race weren’t getting those jobs, with a few exceptions. ) I also began wondering why all the sideline jobs were mostly going to white women (with the exception of Pam Oliver on Fox) who seemed to have no experience in sports, and as a result were too frequently asking questions that as a woman I found embarrassingly irrelevant.
    But I disagree with your apparent take on the current state of things. In the booth and on the sports news shows, these barriers have pretty much broken down lately on all the networks. I’m proud and happy watching just about any of the NFL and NBA coverage at the quantity and quality of African American talent working in front of the cameras. In fairness, we have to give credit where credit is due. It took a long time, but there isn’t a lot left to complain about in terms of diversity in the announcers’ booth, or behind the sports desk. Yes, there are still a significant number of white guys calling games, but many of these are former players too, and/or veteran announcers, and I don’t expect them to fall on their swords so that the TV coverage can exactly reflect the composition of the league. I think that all we can ask for is that qualified people with NFL experience get a fair shot when there are openings for broadcasting jobs, and I think that is happening.
    So, let’s fight the relevant battles. I’m elated that I can no longer recite the names of all the quarterbacks and black head coaches from memory because of their great successes in the past few years. I think that we do need to be vigilant in making sure the media coverage of minorities in leadership roles in the NFL and elsewhere is fair (see the over the top hatred of Vick, or Limbaugh’s statements a few years ago about Donovan McNabb, which ESPN appropriately responded to by canning him – I actually think this is the incident that kicked the door open for many of those currently on the air on ESPN and other networks.)
    On a different note, what about Pacific rim, and Latino representation? That’s who probably should be complaining now…Also, as a woman, I should probably be pushing for more opportunities for women in the NFL/NBA, but instead I look at the fact that most of the sideline jobs go to non-ethnic women as a special kind of affirmative action, but If they are going to be there, I think most of them need to step up their game and do better research so they can ask better questions instead of the canned-sports cliché questions that is their mainstay. I figure if they don’t know more than me, they’re not adding anything worthwhile to the broadcast…

  9. wank says:

    nigger cunt

  10. Kelvin Hill says:

    I’ve struggled with what exactly to do on my Twitter account. One might consider it a hybrid… I publish lots about internet design, advertising and small business. Probably will add more personal issues within the future.

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