Sports is a place known for bringing people together, the rivalries and friendships built are never forgotten. Sports journalists have the power to deliver every aspect of sports that fans love, however when looking at the leader in the sports journalism field, it is predominately dominated by white men. In honor of Black History Month, it is important to look at the journalists who are empowering future black journalists and show that anything is possible.
Pam Oliver is a senior correspondent and National Football League (NFL) reporter for FOX Sports. Oliver is an award-winning sports journalist known as a trailblazer in sports media. According to FOX Sports press pass, Oliver is the lead feature reporter for FOX NFL Sunday and has worked in over 500 NFL games, including various Super Bowls. Oliver was also the moderator for former President Barack Obama’s Healthy Kids and Safe Concussion Summit held at the White House in 2014 per FOX Sports press pass.
Throughout her career, Oliver has received various awards such as the Atlanta Women in Sports Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019 and the Gracie Award by the Alliance for Women in Media. FOX Sports press pass also mentions Oliver was honored at the Women in Sports and Events (WISE) in 2008 for “Women of the Year.” In 2020 Oliver was inducted in the National Association of Black Journalists Hall of Fame.
Jayne Kennedy Overton
Jayne Kennedy Overton was the first Black pageant queen to cover a Super Bowl game after the Civil Rights Movement. According to an article by The Hilltop at Harvard University, Overton won an Emmy in 1977 for her commentary at the Rose Bowl Parade for CBS. Overton then went on to announce for NFL Today also at CBS. In 1978, Overton was the first Black woman to announce a televised football game when she took over for Phyllis George on NFL Today.
As reported by Journal Now, Overton was honored in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for the National Sports Media Association’s Roone Arledge Award for Innovation.
Claire Smith began her career as a newspaper reporter and columnist which included writing about national baseball for the New York Times from 1991 to 1998. According to The New York Times, Smith moved to work for The Philadelphia Inquirer where she became a news editor for ESPN in 2007. Smith then made history when she became the first full-time woman beat writer for baseball covering the New York Yankees.
The New York Times mentions Smith later received the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for her contributions to writing baseball. Smith was the 68th recipient and the first woman to receive the award.
Wendell Smith was originally a baseball player looking for a chance to play for the major leagues in 1933 but was turned down due to the color of his skin. Smith then went on to write for the Pittsburgh Courier after college. The Courier was known for promoting equality in professional sports. According to an article by the Major League Baseball (MLB), Smith found an ally in Boston city councilor Isadore Muchnick to diversify the major leagues. Smith began to take players from the “Negro Leagues” to try out for the major leagues. When the Brooklyn Dodgers were looking to sign someone, Smith recommended Jackie Robinson, helping him reach the major leagues.
Smith traveled with Robinson and helped him find his way, becoming more than just a writer, but a confidant. Smith then became the first black columnist at the Chicago Herald-American. The article by the MLB mentions that in 1948 Smith and Sam Lacy became the first black writers to join the Baseball Writers Association of America. In 1961, Smith helped end Spring Training segregation in Florida. The MLB article explains that Smith was the first African American to win the J.G. Taylor Spink award in 1993.
Mike Tirico is currently a play-by-play announcer for Sunday Night Football on NBC. Not only does Tirico commentate on football, but he has worked on the Olympics, The Masters and many more programs. According to NBC Sports Press Box Tirico went into his 17th consecutive season calling primetime NFL games, which also includes the 10 years when he was working with Monday Night Football. The 2022 season marked Tirico’s 27th season as an NFL primetime studio host or play-by-play announcer.
NBC Sports press box mentions that in May 2022 Tirico won the Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality after hosting the primetime show for the Tokyo Olympics.
These names are just a few of the black journalists who are breaking boundaries in the sports world. Having trailblazers like the sports journalists mentioned above in the sports industry paves the way and motivates a younger generation to achieve their dreams and leave their mark in sports.
Katrina Villarreal is the multimedia editor and may be reached at [email protected]
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