Sports reporting is a profession that, like many, consists primarily of white men.
A call-to-action event on diversity, media and women’s leadership in sports was held Wednesday night at Schoenbaum Hall to address the issue.
The Black Advertising and Strategic Communication Association, School of Communication and Sports and Society Initiative sponsored the event — called “Diversity, Media and Women’s Leadership in Sports” — that had five female panelists with experience ranging from broadcast journalism to high school leadership.
High school athletes in Ohio are unique in that they are exposed to diverse people through guest lectures, like when journalists, business people and communications professionals visit and talk with youth teams, said Roxanne Price, the director of compliance and sporting behavior at the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
She said this behind the scenes look at sports media allows for students to better understand the field, and what happens beyond games.
“What you see in sport is what comes to the media, is what comes to television. But what most of what happens is behind the scenes,” she said.
Honesty with youth who have dreams of a career in sports is necessary, said Dru Hancock, the former chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Basketball Committee. The truth is not always easy to discuss, she added, but the discussion is necessary to help kids have success and focus on their career path.
She said everyone will not always be successful, but placing realistic expectations for the field of sports could breed a positive outcome.
“Being in sports now is a very sensitive business. It just is,” Hancock said. “Know what your path is doesn’t mean that you need to know what your destination is. Once you know what your end goal is, there are a lot of ways to get there and trust me you are not going to get there on the first try.”
Working in such a competitive field means one should seek to prove their worth to themself first, before they try to prove themselves to other people, said Alyssia Graves, the assistant sports director of Lantern TV.
Graves said she worked to prove her talent to others first, a point which she wishes could have been done differently.
“Know that you are capable of doing this because I questioned myself a lot on why I was there,” she said. “I had to be confident because if you are placed in that position, you are meant to be there.”
Additionally, as an African-American, Graves said she wants to be an example for future young women so they can come into the world of sports media with confidence.
After being asked about the stereotype of women only being good for sideline reporting, Graves said it is time for women to stand up and show they are more than capable of having other jobs in sports.
“Once more women can get their way in the industry and work their way up and not just be looked at as sideline reporters, then I think people can stop sexualizing these sports,” Graves said. “We need start fighting for these bigger roles and tell women all the time to shoot and reach higher.”
These women, along with those currently in the field, must demand respect and equal pay, said Ericka Haney, the special assistant to the head coach of Ohio State women’s basketball.
“Now that women’s basketball and other sports is becoming more exciting and there are people on TV, now there are more highly paid people who are going after it,” Haney said. “So now the women’s basketball positions are paying more.”
Price said it is time for women to work together and organize so the pay gap between men and women can be filled.
The gap between sexes is evident in more ways than just pay, however.
Karen Dennis, the director of Ohio State’s track and field and cross country teams, said at one point during her career, she noticed that she was losing recruitments, but couldn’t figure out why.
It wasn’t until a young lady Dennis was recruiting told her it was because she was a woman.
“She said, ‘Karen, I have never been coached by a woman.’ And then I think to myself, I get penalized because of my gender —game on,” said Dennis, who last month became the first woman to win Big Ten Men’s Indoor Coach of the Year. “I was all in because I felt like if girls won’t come to a woman coach because they have never been coached by a woman, I have a role in life. I have to change this, I have to assist in this transformation.”