The world once again is talking about racial disparity in the workplace and how it usually is fed by feelings of superiority by non-white people in those spaces. When the story broke about ESPN correspondent Rachel Nichols being up in arms about her highly capable and much deserving coworker, Maria Taylor, receiving the coveted position as host of the popular show NBA Countdown for no other reason than being Black, it felt all too familiar.
For many of us, to climb the ranks of our industry and land anywhere near the top means years of being counted out, stepped on and unappreciated. We are critiqued on everything from our hair to our bodies and our dispositions in a way that others aren’t. At best, we are seen as diversity hires and, at worst, we are seen as tokens. Much will be discussed about Nichols in the coming weeks as Maria Taylor decides if she wants to continue to call ESPN her home but we want to take our time to shine a light on the Black women sportscasters who are killing the game. Because, at the end of the day, nobody’s got us the way we’ve got us.
From reporting on college games to hosting her own show to being one of the few journalists invited to the NBA bubble last year, Taylor Rooks has carved out her own lane as a pivotal voice in the sports world. Her warm charm, knowledge of the game and professionalism make her one to watch.
Holding it down in the Atlanta sports scene for years before transitioning to her position at ESPN, Elle Duncan reports with the smooth and gentle flair of predecessors like Robin Roberts and NBC’s Bryant Gumbel. But she’s also never afraid to go in for the emotional tug. Who can forget the personal memory she shared about Kobe Bryant in the wake of his tragic death last year that sparked the #girldad movement? Elle is definitely one of our favorite sports anchors.
When Cari Champion joined ESPN’s First Take in 2012, it was clear she was one of the few people who could sit at the table with Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, two of the biggest personalities in sports, and not get blown away. Champion lives up to her name with every step she takes. Leaving First Take to step into the shadow of names like Stuart Scott at SportsCenter and then taking her show on the road in her own series, Cari & Jemele Won’t Stick to Sports with Jemele Hill, and podcast, Naked With Cari Champion, this sports broadcasting icon has blazed a trail that no one before her has.
All headlines aside, Maria Taylor is an undeniable broadcasting talent. Starting out as ESPN2’s sideline reporter for college football games and the Orange Bowl, Taylor’s resume is nothing short of impressive. From holding down NCAA Women’s basketball coverage to joining the SEC network as a college football host and tackling ABC’s Saturday night football coverage, there is not a sport or big game moment she hasn’t touched. So, when she became the host of one of ESPN’s most beloved shows, NBA Countdown, it seemed like a perfect fit. Not only does Maria bring grace and a true love for the game to the panel, she leads her esteemed colleagues with ease.
Though she’s transitioned away, perhaps, from being synonymous with solely sports reporting, Jemele Hill is still one of the few Black women to actually have her own show on ESPN with His & Hers, which she co-hosted alongside Michael Smith for six years. Her string of notable accomplishments go back to 1999 when she was a sports reporter for the Detroit Free Press and run all the way through modern times with her position as staff writer at The Undefeated. Her podcast Jemele Hill Is Unbothered, where she discusses the intersections of race, politics and gender in the sports world, is one of Spotify’s top rated shows and she also co-hosts Cari & Jemele Won’t Stick To Sports alongside Cari Champion on VICE TV. Jemele continues to be one of the foremost voices in sports journalism.
Relatively new to the game and currently doing sideline reporting for her first NBA Finals, Malika Andrews is definitely a voice in sports broadcasting that’s on the rise. Currently, she is ESPN’s only Black female NBA sideline reporter. Yes, only. After joining the sports juggernaut in 2018 as an online NBA writer, Andrews debuted as the youngest sideline reporter in 2020 during the 2020 bubble season. She conducted interviews with the 2020 draftees and will be hosting from the sidelines throughout the rest of the NBA finals. Malika is only 26-years-old and already killing the game.
Working as a reporter for one of the biggest and most successful franchises in the last decade, The Golden State Warriors, Rosalyn Gold-Onwude made a name for herself quickly and became the go-to woman for TNT when she transitioned to working their NBA sidelines from 2017-2019. Filling in the huge footsteps left behind by the legendary Craig Sager, Gold-Onwude became a bright spot in an otherwise dark time for the Turner Sports family. Her wit, style and poise endeared her to basketball fans everywhere. Currently, Rose is one of the faces of Kevin Durant’s “The Boardroom.”
No list about Black women in sports would be complete without Lisa Salters. If you grew up watching sports, she’s been a main fixture in your life for years. When it comes time for the NBA on ABC, Salters is the voice you hear reporting live. When Monday night’s roll around and Monday Night Football is in full effect, Lisa Salters is holding down the sidelines. A regular part of the ESPN and ABC sports lineup since 2000, Salters has been working as a reporter since 1988 and covered the OJ Trial for ABC. She is truly a pioneer in the reporting world and a true icon in sports journalism.
There was a time in ESPN and Fox Sports history where there was no football game without Pam Oliver’s presence on the sidelines. As the resident go to reporter for all things NFL, Oliver created a camaraderie not only with players and coaches but also with fans who grew accustomed to having her in their homes during big games. She also worked as the main sideline reporter for TNT’s NBA coverage from 2005-2009. With a career spanning three decades, Pam Oliver is one of the giants in sideline reporting who paved the way for all women in the industry.
Let us lift up our sisters and continue to send support their way! Every single seat we occupy, we earn and belong in. Period!