Jul 1 1987

Racism in Sports Journalism

Isiah Thomas

Isiah Thomas

A USA Today survey (6/26/87) of minorities in sports media reveals that of the 254 writers who cover the 26 Major League Baseball teams, there are only four blacks, one Hispanic and one Asian. (Only six are women.) Of baseball’s 141 TV broadcasters, only five are black, all ex-players. No minority announcers are on English-language radio. At top national media— USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Sport, Inside Sports, NBC, ABC and CBS Radio—only two blacks cover baseball on a regular basis.

Black basketball star lsiah Thomas sparked a controversy last month when he stated that race was a factor in sports reporting. Thomas was peeved by media suggestions that white superstar Larry Bird’s skill derived from “intelligence” and “hard work,” whereas a black player’s skill is often described as “natural” and “God-given.” “When Bird makes a great play,” Thomas said, “it’s due to his thinking and his work habits. It’s not the case for blacks. All we do is run and jump. We never practice or give thought to how we play. It’s like I came dribbling out of my mother’s womb.”

Will the recent controversy lead to changes in sportscasting and the hiring of more minority journalists? Until it does, says law professor Rhinold Lamar Ponder, “Black people with any sense of pride must watch TV sports with a resilient spirit or with the sound turned down.”