My name is Robert Littal and I’m the creator and CEO of BlackSportsOnline. You may have heard of me, listened to me on the radio, read one of my articles, or seen me on TV.
Many years ago I was sitting on a couch watching a playoff game when Joe Buck called Randy Moss a Thug for fake mooning the Packers crowd after a game-winning touchdown. Buck never mentioned how Moss was playing courageously on an injured ankle or how the Packers fans routinely mooned the opposing team’s bus.
All he mentioned was…
He said it with such venom and distaste it made me uncomfortable, made me wonder what he said about Moss when the cameras weren’t rolling.
On that day I decided a voice was needed, not just to monitor the Joe Bucks of the world, but for the world to see there is a different side to athletes and stories besides what the mainstream, majority white, media told.
I need you to go back in a time machine. Remember where you were in years before 2007. Before Twitter, back when MySpace was popping, and you needed a college email to get on Facebook. Back when text messages cost 10 cents, people only used their cell phone to talk and when high speed internet meant you were fancy and people still used those AOL dial up disk.
Now that I have you in that mood remember what online sports media was at the time. You had your major outlets, but what sports blogs do you remember from that time? Believe it or not they didn’t even call them blogs back then. Blogs were more for people who wanted to vent about their life and talk about their cats.
All I remember was Deadspin, Profootballtalk and SportsbyBrooks. When I look for African-American owned independent sites/blogs I didn’t see any. I saw a few that focused on HBCU schools, but that was about it.
After months of research I came to a conclusion, there was a huge niche that needed to be filled. There simply wasn’t an independent site/blog that spoke from a minority or African-American perspective. I liken my situation to TV station BET or LOGO. Mainstream media only produced so many shows or a certain type of music. These channels were created to allow diversity and opportunities for everyone to see this different side.
That is when I came up with the name:
BLACK SPORTS ONLINE
People think it means “Black Sports” that actually isn’t the case. It has a secret triple meaning.
BLACK: I wanted people to know I was black; there was nothing to be ashamed of. I also saw the site as the opposite of the norm. The opposite of white is black. The villain wears the black hat. We didn’t have to be politically correct. We were going to tell the truth in a professional manner. We were going to force the mainstream media take us seriously even if they liked it or not. The way we were going to do that was to outwork them.
SPORTS: The problem I had seen on all the other black owned websites was that they didn’t cover all sports. I have a journalism degree from The Ohio State University. I always wanted to be a sports journalist, when I was a kid I would stay up to watch Indy 500 on tape delay. There was no sport I didn’t have some at least some knowledge of. We set out to be the first black owned site that was going to operate like a mainstream media site.
ONLINE: I had been building websites, studying online trends, using alternative ways of promotion as early as 1998. I was always going to stay on top of the game in regard to how to use internet to help me achieve my goals.
I went over my plan with the one black male I knew who had a website at the time and his exact quote was.
“You are out of your damn mind; you will never make any money or get recognized with Black in front of your domain.”
I was younger then, didn’t want to hear it and went forward with my plan. It was slow going at the beginning. Remember this was a long time ago 2005, 06, 07. I had the domain for a year without doing anything with it. I built my first versions on Yahoo Geocities using straight HTML. As technology changed so did the ability for people to make websites. You saw many sports websites pop up around 2007, many that you probably read today. It was around 2008 BSO started to gain traction. It was also when my strategy of filling a niche in the market started to work out. Since there weren’t many minority owned sites, BSO became the place to go when a voice was needed.
Then the flood of 2009 came.
Many will tell the story in different ways, but here is the gist of it. The WordPress and Blogger software made it so incredibly simple for anyone to make a website that the market was flooded with literally millions of sports blogs overnight.
Ask your favorite sports blogger when he/she created their blog they will likely tell you 2009 or after. The flood, along with the explosion of social media, made it possible for someone who had no training in the field of journalism to become a “journalist” almost immediately. I always thought this was a gift and a curse. The media industry is a hard one to break into, so this gave a backdoor way for talented people to get their voices heard. On the flip side some simply don’t follow the journalistic rules you are taught in school because they have no idea what they even are.
I had already built a foundation of fans, connections and readers before the flood, so I rode that wave to the success we are currently having. We got Honey Nut Cheerios trending worldwide on Twitter for goodness sakes.
But when you go from a couple of thousand eyes, to a day where you have a 2 million visitors on your site, there are going to be questions and they are valid ones, so it is time to clear up some misconceptions about BSO.
The #1 question that I get about BlackSportsOnline is a simple one and even though it has been worded many different ways (some nicer than others) the point of the question is clear:
“What if there was a WhiteSportsOnline? You wouldn’t like that would you?”
Normally the question is followed with this statement:
“This is a racist site.”
Hopefully, I have answered this question partially with the background of how the site was created and the thought process behind it. I also want to make my feelings clear about racism in sports and the role the media plays in it. First, I would ask you to read the remainder of this article with an open mind because what I am about to say may shock some when in reality it should come as no surprise.
There is racism in sports but not specifically from the media (more on them later) – but rather from the fans. The most popular leagues in the United States are the NFL, MLB and NBA. The majority of those players are minorities (NFL & NBA black and MLB foreign-born Latinos) and just like in society when minorities are dominating something there will always be a racial element to it. You don’t believe me? Go visit ESPN message boards and search for a topic with RG3 or LeBron James and I guarantee you will be shocked at some of the words that are posted. It is sickening (but not surprising) the hate that’s still out there towards black athletes.
The sad thing is this isn’t limited to whites talking about black athletes. It is also common among blacks speaking about white athletes or Latinos talking about black and white athletes. It is widespread; the Internet has given an avenue for fans to express thoughts that used to be suppressed behind closed doors. The media is the gasoline that is helping spread the flames.
You have heard me use the term “Biased Sports Media” but you have rarely heard me utter the phrase “Racist Sports Media”. The reason is because I don’t believe the media in general are racists. What I do believe is the media have a bias against athletes who don’t fit into their image of a “classic athlete”. I call it Michael Jordan Syndrome. It really has nothing to do with race but more to do with image. Michael Jordan had a perfect image even if it was a lot different than the real person it didn’t matter in the minds of the media. The media expects every athlete to act, speak and be like Mike and if they aren’t they are treated and covered differently. This isn’t racism; it’s prejudice. Unfortunately it feeds into the racial overtones and stereotypes fans already feel about certain athletes.
It isn’t one sided and it isn’t just white media members. Take former ESPN First Take analyst Rob Parker. I don’ think he is a racist or even that he has something against RG3. I believe RG3 didn’t fit into his “image” of what a black athlete should be and in turn he called him a cornball for it. That is no different than Joe Buck calling Randy Moss a “Thug” assuming a stereotype about him because of his hair and the way he speaks.
It is all about perception. Kobe can say things, LeBron can’t. Dwyane Wade can be one of the dirtiest players in the league and no one will say anything.
The media won’t mention Andrew Luck’s turnovers or Ray Lewis’ murder trial because it doesn’t fit into the pack mentality they have.
The media is like a pack of wolves; they are mostly bandwagon followers who will go where the pack leads them. So if the pack says Tiger Woods was untouchable he wasn’t touched, but when outside media sources like TMZ started to expose Tiger, the mainstream media then felt it was ok to jump in on the slaughter. Think about it.
The media doesn’t care about race, they care about recognition and that recognition is about sensationalizing stories and focusing on athletes whom the public already has a negative perception of and feeding that frenzy. As stated before, they play the role of the gasoline on a flickering flame.
That is why shows like First Take exist and make people like Skip Bayless famous. There are a lot of media who are great reporters who tell stories fairly, but often the journalist who talks the loudest and says the most outlandish things are the ones with TV shows and making the most money.
Now that I have clarified my thoughts on race and prejudice in the media, it’s time to answer questions specifically about BlackSportsOnline.
BlackSportsOnline came about because of my feelings stated in the previous paragraphs. At the time I started the site many years ago, I felt that a specific voice was not being heard when it came to reporting sports:
“The Young Black Man/Woman”
If I started a site in 2013, it wouldn’t even cross my mind to name the site BlackSportsOnline because there are more minority sites and voices being heard now. I wouldn’t feel the need to make it known.
You have to understand when I started it was just me. I was the only recognizable black voice talking about mainstream sports via an online site.
If I had failed, it would have affected many that came after me. It was my ability to succeed and do it in a manner that was professional that helped pave the way for people that came after me.
When I do my speaking engagements I often quote these Jay Z lines.
Holla at me…
I do this for my culture
To let ‘em know what a n*gga look like…when a n*gga in a roaster
Show ‘em how to move in a room full ‘o vultures
Industry shady it need to be taken over
Label owners hate me I’m raisin’ the status quo up
I’m overchargin’ n*ggaz for what they did to the Cold Crush
Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hold us
We can talk, but money talks so talk mo’ bucks
Hove is back, life stories told through rap
N*ggaz actin’ like I sold you crack
Like I told you sell drugs…no…
Hove did that so hopefully you won’t have to go through that
The point being is that I knew I was going to get some push back, but if I were to push through it would make it much easier for others.
I also went out of my to help any and everyone who wanted to get into the industry. I feel like a proud parent when I see the people I have mentored over the years doing great things.
I have a hand in over 100 sites and individuals who have achieved their dream of being in media. That part of why I started BSO many years ago has never changed. I never wanted to be a crab in a barrel; I always wanted to be the guy that pulled people up not holds them down.
No one gave me an opportunity, I had to make my luck, but I was raised in a fashion that you share your blessings and I will continue to do so.
Most people who work in the media are older white men and the majority of black media are part of big corporations where they don’t have the freedom to say what is really on their mind. It makes sense that Chris Berman can’t understand Dez Bryant. It is also understandable that someone like Michael Wilbon, who is a product of the Civil Rights era, shakes his head at some of the things that athletes of our generation do. It was sad to me that people think Stuart Scott is the voice of the hip-hop generation when he is pushing 50 and quoting Leaders of the New School in his highlights. It was just something I couldn’t take anyone.
I am Black and when I started the site I was around the same age of the athletes I was writing about. I have a different perspective. I see things differently. Maybe when I am 50 years old (I have a ways to go) I will be as cranky as Tom Jackson, but for right now it is my job to make sure that different perspective is heard.
It isn’t about protecting the athletes; it is about helping you understand them. I can be critical of Dez Bryant while explaining to you why he continues to go to the club when he knows it is nothing but trouble there. Bob Costas can’t explain that to you. I have been in that life before, I understand that culture. I couldn’t tell you what Jared Allen likes to hunt, but I can tell you why DeSean Jackson started a rap label. That is why myself and others like me are needed, not because we know it all, but to give you the reader a different way of looking at things.
People assume the site is called BlackSportsOnline because it protects black athletes and targets white athletes. I have gotten calls and emails from athletes who believe that, but this isn’t the case because if it was it wouldn’t make me or BSO any better than those in the media I call out on a consistent basis.
I am so glad I graduated from college with my degree and worked in various forms of media. That information lets me know the real inner workings of what is going on behind the scenes. This isn’t about protection or playing favorites, this is giving you the reader insight that others will not.
I answer the question about how would I feel if there was a “WhiteSportsOnline” the same way every time:
“You already have WhiteSportsOnline. It is THE MAINSTREAM SPORTS MEDIA. White is the majority and there was a time I believe the minority needed to be heard and heard loudly. BlackSportsOnline is sports from a Black American perspective, no different than TV stations that have specific perspectives like LOGO, LIFETIME, OWN, CENTRIC, BET or UNIVISION. I dare you to find any instance ever on the site that showed a racial bias toward any athlete no matter if they are white, black, yellow, green or pink. ”
To this day I have never gotten an example.
BlackSportsOnline is no different than BET. That is Black Entertainment Television, but you don’t have to be black to enjoy it. I watch ton of shows on Bravo, but I am not gay and if I don’t like a program on there I just don’t watch. I watch Teen Mom and Catfish, I don’t say to myself when I am black male I shouldn’t be watching this show. I like it so, I watch it.
If you like BSO then read it. I have written 3000 words, but it is really that simple. Doesn’t matter if you are black, white, Latino, Avatar, Kaepernick or whatever. If you like it read it, if you don’t like just don’t read it. We will be ok.
If I knew in 2005, what I know now in 2013 would have I bought a domain titled BlackSportsOnline?
Honestly, probably not, but this isn’t Back 2 the Future and I have branded myself and my site to become one of the leading independent sports blogs in the country. I am proud of that, because men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t.
We are BlackSportsOnline, we write about sports and sports entertainment in a unique and different way. We don’t expect everyone to agree with it and we respect that and in turn we ask that you respect us. We don’t run with a pack. We call it like we see it and it isn’t just in black or white.