No longer limited to just the scores and highlights, the role of a sports journalist has steadily evolved with the times to be both more inclusive and diverse — not just from a staffing aspect but also when it comes to the type of content they produce.
From poignant commentary adjacent to athletics to incorporating hip-hop lyrics to place a point of emphasis on achievement in sports and much, much more, what seems like a growing number of sports journalists is redefining their existences by using their voices for change.
MORE: The Front Page: Jemele Hill Is Telling Her Truth
It wasn’t always that way, and in 2020, with widespread racial justice protests, it almost became obligatory.
But some sports journalists didn’t wait until tragedy struck to gain any semblance of social awareness. Some of them have been holding it down in that arena since they rose to prominence as members of the media covering sports.
Whether it’s chiming in on topics such as mass incarceration, race relations, police violence, or even the economy and politics, there is a select group of Black sports journalists who have used their voices to urge and/or effect change in those and plenty of other areas.
To be sure, barriers remain in place for Black journalists to cover sports, as demonstrated by Gary Washburn, NBA writer for the Boston Globe, who in 2021 detailed those persistent issues in a project for the University of Nebraska entitled, “The Journey of the Black Sports Journalist: Past, Present and Future.”
“Being activists defending not only the emergence of the Black athletes but fighting for acceptance themselves was a daily responsibility” of Black sports journalists, Washburn wrote.
In certain cases, that fight for acceptance came in the form of social awareness.
Notably absent from that equation are the likes of Jason Whitlock, a one-time prominent sports broadcast journalist who has increasingly used his right-wing platform to proliferate anti-Black commentary. It’s an example of the type of polar opposite approach the below list of Black sports journalists have decidedly taken in what appears to be an effort to correct negative narratives about Black people while using their voices to effect real change.
Keep reading to learn more about these Black sports media trailblazers who have helped lay the foundation for other sports journalists who look like them to not only work in their preferred field but also thrive in it by way of being outspoken advocates and proponents for positive change.
1. Jemele Hill and Cari Champion
2. Bomani Jones
3. Shannon Sharpe
4. Jalen Rose
5. Malika Andrews
6. Sam Lacy
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