Race and Journalism: NFL TV Media coverage
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.