ESPN, CBS and FOX show us their diversity issues

ESPN, CBS and FOX show us their diversity issues

ESPN's college football broadcast lineup.

ESPN’s college football broadcast lineup.
Image: ESPN

It’s almost fall, which means it’s time for outlets that offer football matches to amaze us with their broadcast teams and assignments! I can not wait. Let’s see, starting with CBS.

Image for article titled Enjoy these images of the diversity problem of sports broadcasting

Image: CBS

That doesn’t seem, uh, great. Every woman involved is in third place and Beth Mowins is assigned to ‘extra play-by-play’. Later on the list, we’re going to ditch the women altogether and go for male-only broadcast teams. Not what we hoped for.

But hey! There are other outlets, such as FOX! Let’s see what they have in store for us this football season:

Ah… huh. A white woman. No colored women. Twenty-two men. And Clay Travis. This is exactly what the NFL broadcast teams looked like when I was a little kid. Have we made no progress in 35 years?

But wait, we still have ESPN’s college football coverage! The self-proclaimed “Global Leader” is sure to lead the way in diversity too, right?

Right? wrong.

It’s hard to imagine which person in their respective marketing departments looked at these images and gave them a thumbs up. “Almost all white men. That looks good. Send it out.” But here’s a little advice: If your football coverage has an (almost all-white) “ladies” section, you’re doing it wrong.

Last year a few different women at ESPN pointed out to me in an informal conversation that women on the sidelines are called “reporters” while men on the sidelines are “analysts.” Watching a few games that weekend, I found that they were absolutely right. It seems that two people doing the same job should have the same title. But that’s not the way things have ever worked in sports media when it comes to someone who isn’t a straight, cishet, white guy.

While the way we label men and women in the workplace is certainly part of the bigger problem, it’s not as big as women being limited in the roles they have in football in the first place. Being a sideline reporter is a tough job. One that requires just as much preparation and knowledge from the teams on the field as the guys in the booth. It is an arduous task that is not easy even for experienced broadcasters. And it’s a great job. But it’s not the only one that should get women into broadcasting.

“Stop making something out of nothing!” the men shout on Twitter. “Women aren’t analysts because they’ve never played the game!”

First, believe it or not, a lot of girls grew up with soccer, even if only with the guys around. There are also girls playing organized soccer in “boys” teams, and you can see them every Saturday in youth leagues across America. And we also grew up watching college football and NFL, just like our brothers. So to assume that we have no history, with or in the game, is simply ignorant.

But more to the point, football is not brain surgery. It’s not so mysterious that you can’t understand it until you’ve done it. In fact, some of the best football fanatics I know are women who have studied the game themselves and can argue with the best of them in court over conspiracies and violations. And when we have the play-by-play, someone will have to brief me on the legendary football careers by Al Michaels and Howard Cosell. Cosell’s autobiography was literally called I never played the game.

When women say they want to get involved in sports, we don’t mean we want to be moderators for the men or “social media reporters” or even sideline reporters. Or at least we don’t want to be exclusively in those roles. Women want to call play-by-play and get into the X’s and Os of the game too. We want to discuss defenses and schemes and who is more effective in the slot. And we want to hear the ones that sound like us in the cab. And we don’t just want that during Women’s History Month. Women’s makeup after all almost 50 percent of the NFL public and control 85 percent of consumer spending in the household. How come the NFL doesn’t fall all over itself to get in our favor?

So while we love seeing women on the sidelines during matches, we’d love to see them in the booth even more. We want them to be called “analysts” and sit at the desks with all the men during halftime. Because you can’t tell me there aren’t women who are as good at this as Phil Simms. Or Clay Travis. I mean, my God, CLAY TRAVIS. Or any of the other retired players who look like they had to wake up for the halftime talk.

And, until we have broadcast teams that are reflective of the fan base and not a Ben Shapiro fan rally, maybe stop tweeting the footage.


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