Barriers are meant to be broken even on national television

February 2022 held more than one historical event that provided inspiration for women and people of color in the broadcasting industry


Photo courtesy of Rick Egan

Time for change: Doris Burke and Beth Mowins work together to report and comment the Warriors-Jazz game for ESPN. Women, both people of color and white, ran the ESPN production for a historical opportunity. “Hopefully we celebrate this marker once and then it’s not a big deal to see a bunch of women calling and working the NBA”, Mowins said in The Mercury News.

If you were to ask someone who they see on national television broadcasting, announcing, reporting, or producing a game, the answer would be simple: white and typically male. That stereotype has been around for decades, and current broadcasters would say that’s who they grew up with on the TV.

There are many factors to who is chosen to represent the station in the sports broadcasting world, whether it’s because of gender and ethnicity. Decades ago, Americans wouldn’t question who needed to be announcing the game, and it wasn’t going to be a woman or a person of color.

Throughout the years, gender and ethnicity barriers of broadcasters have been shut down and provided an opening for others who dream of being on ESPN, NBC, TNT, etc.

The second month of the new year has put a pause on these stereotypes and allowed a new vision for future broadcasters.

Beth Mowins, a play-by-play announcer, became the first woman to call play-by-play for a NBA game on national television and has broken many barriers for women in broadcasting.

Doris Burke, a sports announcer and analyst, became the first woman to be assigned a full regular season role as an analyst in 2017.

Lisa Salters, a sports journalist and sideline reporter, has worked for ESPN since 2000. Salters’ career ranges from sideline reporting on Monday Night Football, to covering Olympic games and the O.J. Simpson case for ABC.

On Feb. 9, the Golden State Warriors were set to play the Utah Jazz, a top five matchup in the Western Conference of the 2022 NBA season. The game was nationally televised on ESPN in Salt Lake City and was one worth watching.

Salters joined Mowins and Burke, along with 33 other women to produce, broadcast, and report the first nationally televised sports event by an all-women team. The team was both on-site in Utah, and at ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut.

“I think that one of the strange things is that it hasn’t happened earlier. And you know, I think that the requirements for being a broadcaster is knowing what you’re talking about, enjoying being listened to, and I think that anyone can do that. I think that I’m most annoyed with some announcers that have been around forever and they haven’t changed a whole lot,” teacher and ASB Advisor Marcus Merrifield said.

The impact of these women working together to create new opportunities for future generations in a male-dominated industry shows change is possible.

“I feel like it opens doors because more people will be open to this and say, ‘this is something that I want to do. I saw these people do it, and I could do it too.’ It opens new doors but boosts people’s confidence to do something as big as this,” senior Annyka Zamora said.

Not only did the NBA and ESPN work together to put these women in the spotlight in broadcasting, but the NHL and Seattle Kraken followed suit by focusing on the barriers of race.

Feb.17 the Winnipeg Jets were set to host the Seattle Kraken for a night of NHL competition, but it was more than that on a historical level.

Everett Fitzhugh, a play-by-play announcer for the Kraken, and J.T Brown, former NHL player and color analyst, teamed up together to become the first African-American broadcasting duo to call an NHL game.

Fitzhugh recognized this theme: Representation is key, and it matters. Not only did Brown and Fitzhugh become the first African-American broadcasting duo, but Fitzhugh became the first Black play-by-play radio broadcaster in the NHL after working in the ECHL. Brown was the first Black in-game analyst in league history after playing in the NHL for eight years and in Sweden last season.

February is a time to celebrate the importance of Black culture and stories in America, with it being dedicated to people of color who have struggled, progressed and achieved their dreams and aspirations in spite of societal injustices. KIRO 7 News stated that having Fitzhugh and Brown work together to comment on the game during Black History Month added more significance to the event.

However, many people felt the media provided too little coverage on these historic events, and if there was any sort of public information released, it happened days after the events were aired on TV.

“I feel like online there was a lot of coverage. I don’t watch enough TV or listen to the radio enough to know if information was released there. I did see it in The Seattle Times, but I think that was after the fact,” Merrifield said.

Zamora was disappointed at the lack of representation for the participants of the events.

“I think they’re bigger than the media is making them out to be. Broadcasting is a very male-dominated area, especially white males. And for it to be the first all female and all-Black broadcasting team, I feel like it should have been more talked about,” Zamora said.

An all-female, and an all-Black broadcasting team shouldn’t be such a shocker to American society in the 21st Century and should be expected. However, the idea of not having a male, preferably white, announcing a game, match, or sporting event is blown up all over the media, and then slowly pushed under the rug.

“My hope is that we don’t forget, but that this becomes so normal, that it’s not newsworthy. To give new voices a chance, as opposed to having the same six or seven people. I think what’s most interesting is when I have a new commentator on something I watch and I learn something new. I have multiple voices, giving different perspectives is more interesting,” Merrifield said.

To everyone who feels they aren’t going to make it into their future career or achieve goals they’ve set, look to the 33+ women all broadcasting team and the first African-American duo who have forged the way.