By Tiffany Williams –
A colleague of mine who covers MLB for CBS, and today is covering a game just texted me and said “You can count on one hand how many Black reporters are covering this team in the media booth. Just three.”
It’s so sad but this is the truth about covering professional sports. As Black reporters, we are not treated the same as white reporters covering professional sports teams.
There’s some places I go to cover a game and there’s just two of us in the booth and sometimes just myself.
The majority of those who are in charge of media credentialing and media booths for professional sports are white men and white women so it is of no surprise that the majority of sports reporters who are covering professional sports are white men and white women while Black reporters, we’re not giving equal access or treated the same as our white counterparts covering professional sports.
I remember back in November speaking to a journalism class at Morehouse and a student asked “Why are Black reporters not covering sports?” I told her because of structural racism in professional sports institutions and also our news outlets. Another student in the same class said “But you’re a Black trans woman and you made it to the top.” I told him because I built my own table and I’m putting people at my table who are hungry for a change and wanna eat with me. I told him while I may have made it, it gets lonely and depressing being the first and only one still so I’m trying to create more pathways of inclusion to keep hope alive in sports journalism for other Black transgender women and men to make it to the top and cover professional sports. But not just for Black transgender journalists but all Black journalists who dream of becoming a sports journalist covering professional sports. So they have a seat, that they may get the credentials and be treated the same as the white sports reporter.
In New England I’m the only Black transgender woman covering professional sports and I see the structural racism of professional sports institutions, but I don’t let it stop me from being my best. I keep pushing myself forward and keep going. Does it hurt? Yes it does but I remind myself of an old African saying, ”Rain beats the leopards skin but it does not wash out the spots”. It means no matter how hard you try, you cannot change another person’s character. Similarly, if you behave badly and develop a poor reputation, it’s difficult to change other people’s opinions of you, regardless of how many good deeds you perform.
For Black journalists covering professional sports, at least right here in New England, we have so much work to do if we want to be treated as equally as our white counterparts, and it starts with our white colleagues treating us equally and then standing up with us to end structural racism in professional sports institutions so that professional sports teams treat us equally as well.
We need organizations like NABJ and the NAACP and the Rainbow PUSH Sports division to stand up with us and begin working with professional sports institutions in New England to create better pathways of inclusion. I don’t want bandaid solutions, I want real change, and as Black journalists, we should demand nothing less.