Derran Cobb is a freshman telecommunications major and writes columns for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily reflect those of the newspaper.
“They might think they’ve got a pretty jump shot or a pretty good flow,” former United States president Barack Obama said, “but our kids can’t all aspire to be LeBron or Lil Wayne.”
Musicians and athletes. Those were always the people I looked up to and wanted to become once I grew up. I think it’s safe to say every young Black kid wants to be a rapper or a professional athlete at some point in their childhood, and all of my biggest idols as a kid were one or the other: Kobe Bryant, Lil Wayne, LeBron James, Kanye West.
The list goes on.
From a young age, I’ve been heavily involved in sports. I’ve participated in basketball, football, soccer, baseball and tennis after realizing sports were an excellent way to express myself. I played basketball for four years at Heritage Christian School in Indianapolis, and my dream was to become a star in the NBA. If not, I’d at least become a Division I star.
However, multiple factors led to more opportunities. After my senior basketball season, I decided I wouldn’t continue playing, but I wanted to remain involved.
I don’t hear much talk about the behind-the-scenes of sports, but once I learned about the career options beyond playing, I became instantly interested in sports storytelling.
We know sports stories reveal details behind a player's journey through their respective sports, and there are articles, books and even movies created about athletes. However, people don’t realize that many of the “based-on-a-true-story” sports films started with a writer, yet we are rarely in the spotlight.
And, even more upsetting, barely any of the journalists I admire are people of color. Since arguably the two most popular professional leagues in the United States, the NBA and NFL, feature predominantly Black rosters, this throws me off.
A 2021 study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports found the major sports media outlets were dominated by white men. In fact, 79.2 percent of sports editors were white, 72 percent of the assistant sports editors were white and 77.1 percent of the columnists were white. In comparison, 74.2 percent of the NBA is Black.
A model of success to me is Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s “First Take.” While he is well-known for his funny and often controversial segments, I look up to him for his work ethic and his story. He bounced from newspapers to radio stations and never gave up on trying to appear on television until he was hired to appear on “First Take.”
Besides Smith, there aren’t many notable Black sports media personalities, and the ones most people know of are the ones who are on TV. Furthermore, the majority of them are former professional athletes, such as Shannon Sharpe of “Undisputed,” and Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal of “Inside the NBA.”
The need for more Black representation in sports media is reflected by the number of Black athletes and the lack of Black athlete coverage by Black reporters. It is important to have Black people telling the stories of Black athletes because they are able to relate more to Black experiences and understand their life perspectives.
With the majority of the NBA and NFL consisting of Black players, it is important for young people to see there are opportunities within sports for everyone, no matter their makeup. It is inspiring to see someone who looks like you in a high-profile position doing something you are passionate about, but not having that role model to look up to makes it difficult to find the motivation to follow a path where you feel you may not fit in.
More Black people who are passionate about sports need to look into becoming a journalist because we need more people of color to tell our stories. We need to influence the next generation into believing there are other options with sports that don’t involve playing.
I’m planning to be a part of the generation that breaks barriers and join an industry that lacks Black representation. I want to be the change.
Contact Derran Cobb with comments at email@example.com or on Twitter @Derran_cobb.