Diversity In Sports Media: Ron Glover’s View From The Back Row

Chatting with Hall of Famer Moses Malone and Earl Cureton…who were honored as well as other members of ’83 Championship Sixers team earlier this season…

African-American athletes make up for more than 66 percent of the players in the NFL and 82 percent of the players in the NBA. In 2006, a study conducted by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport showed 95 percent of sports editors, 87 percent of assistant sports editors, 90 percent of columnists and 87.5 percent of sports reporters were white. Of the 303 newspapers that participated in that study, only three African-American and four Latinos were sports editors. Among columnists only 19 were African-American, 3 Latino and 2 Asian. The numbers aren’t much higher for women – 5 percent editors, 13 percent assistant editors, 7 percent columnists and 10 percent reporters.

This piece is dedicated to the memory of Eric Daniels. Eric was an avid reader and supporter from the inception of The Starting Five and remained with us as long as his health would allow. Eric pushed us to think and excel as writers and although there were times when opinions and thoughts differed, Eric remained true to his standards. Thank you Eric for your support, encouragement as you become our inspiration moving forward.

Not exactly sure how much the needle has moved either way in the years since that study, but judging from my view there’s reason to shout.

Anti- N*gger Machine

I found very early in the sports journalism game that not having a formal education is not as big an obstacle as being African American for advancing in the field. I’m good enough and smart enough – I’m just not sure if the establishment wants too many of my race in heavy rotation.

The majority of credentials issued to print media and “stand alone media”- which The Starting Five falls under – are white. Is this indicative of the population or more about perspective? More than enough media credentials exist to accommodate Philadelphia sports media for every game, every night. For reasons that have become obvious, writers at The Starting Five are asked to jump through special hoops. Hoops not existing for other affiliates –  such as constantly following up with emails and phone calls just to make sure our requests didn’t slip through the cracks for that event. We have to be especially detailed in what we do because the slightest oversight could be a tripwire to being on the outside looking in. The lack of African-American journalists in locker rooms across the country denies writers like myself the ability to give the reader more than just what occurred in the game the previous night. When I’m sitting with a player minutes before he goes to work, I realize that he has a life. A life with real issues in the same real world that we all live in. An athlete having a bad day or not wanting to deal with a common media member can go from being unhappy with his contract to just being a jerk altogether. In the case of any African-American athlete, that speculation is tenfold.

If a white dominated press has shaped America’s view of the African-American athlete in a negative way for decades, it would seem African-American journalists would seek to change that perception by giving the public more than what is just commonly written. Instead those same common writers fear stirring the pot, and are just as happy to piggyback a story instead of digging beneath the surface as they well should.

And that is where many African-American sports writers in the position to make a difference have failed to give America an alternative view of the Black Athlete.

A priority should be placed on developing young African-American writing talent outside of what is done here at The Starting Five. Can’t just play the game, African-Americans have to write the game as well.

The credentialing power lies within the public relations structure of sports franchises – people who are in my opinion taught to adhere to a certain quota of non-white reporters regardless of the outlet. In my interaction with these individuals, their intentions are evident, “Put a lid on the pot before it boils over.” I’m sure that their pre-season briefings are hypothetically, “Remember, we can’t control who they put on the floor or in the stands, but our power lies in who we have talking to these guys (players) and the less that it looks like a North Philadelphia street corner, the better.”

For the most part PR representatives are about their work and could care less about who’s covering what. Naturally, there are a few who use their false sense of authority to put their bigotry on display in the most subtle of tones. It can come in the form of accommodating TSF for games during the season – the majority being games vs. teams lacking a superstar or an approval for one playoff game in a seven game series. Try swallowing that pill when a writer – African-American or white –  is credentialed for the season, doesn’t show up until the playoffs and is still accommodated. It’s only because TSF is trying to break through that we roll with the punches. To these public relations folk, walking around with a non-laminated 3×5 card around your neck with name and affiliation scribbled with a Sharpie, is a privilege and we’d better take it with a smile or get to steppin’!

It becomes more frustrating when I’ve done my due diligence as a writer only to have to knock a little harder and longer the next time out. Working twice as hard as the next guy because I’m from a stand alone site focusing on the African-American athlete is a given, and that is the story of most of our African-American lives. I would like just as much attention paid to me for reasons to keep inviting me back as they have reasons for wanting to keep me out. Coverage of a game usually begins after leaving my 9 to 5. I’m usually one of the first from the media showing up at the arena, first in the visitor’s locker room and one of the first with an inquiry in the post game presser. I remember the first time I asked a question in a press conference and I noticed heads turning because it was someone other than who they would’ve expected asking a question and it wasn’t nothing slow pitch softball. That was a great feeling because the elephant in the room had just stood up. And while none of those writers felt threatened by my presence, I viewed each one of them as a measuring stick and a soon to be a notch on my belt each time their pens touched paper after I made an inquiry to a coach or player. That was my victory and validation that I was in the right place.

With Hall of Fame NBA legend, Dominique Wilkins…

One benefit I never paid much attention to was actually building a professional relationship with some of the players. Sometimes I’m greeted openly in the form some dap and a shoulder hug instead of eyes rolling skyward and a player dipping into the training room when I show up. Quite naturally, some white reporters give the scene that it must be a Black thing  expression, while the PR representative wanting to keep me out is seething inside.

“False media, we don’t need do we?

There’s no doubt African-American athletes would welcome more Black press into the locker rooms. Someone they relate to in ways that a white reporter would not understand (this is a Black thing). Could a white reporter relate to Allen Iverson about walking through sewage-filled floors before becoming a generational icon in the NBA? I doubt it. For the greater part of his career, the only thing reporters seemed to worry about was the number of practices Iverson brushed off in a week, or which Philly club he and his entourage…I mean posse occupied the night before. Should any writer worth his/her salt feel comfortable writing a story that they have trouble understanding on any level? Yes, they should. The Struggle is the calling card of today’s African-American athlete no matter how they’re viewed by the rest of the world. The majority of those covering them have no clue of any struggle and are not about that life. If reading ten stories about Iverson’s upbringing, nine will sound the same, while the one with the most passion and sensibility never makes it to print.

Why did we find out nearly a year later that Terrelle Pryor signed Ohio State memorabilia for money to keep his mother and sister off the street? African-American and also white journalists lambasted Pryor for bringing down the Ohio State program. Pryor was also seen as costing Jim Tressel his job but it was Tressel who was oblivious to the actions of his star player and African-American journalists failed to dig deeper in getting to the root of Pryor’s dilemma. So what happens? A young man’s reputation is ruined and he’s left to pick up the pieces and continue on his own the best way he knows how – falling back on those same survival skills that cost him his collegiate career. Where white reporters see the cars, expensive clothes and jewelry and think Pryor is in it for himself, African-Americans who aren’t journalists have the instinct to look one layer beneath the surface and see that there is a 90 percent chance that this kid is sending money home. He is sending money home to keep a younger brother from falling victim to the streets or a baby sister from running with the wrong guy.

The relationship between African-American athletes and white reporters is awkward at best and at the end of the day that player is reluctantly emptying his soul to someone whose color represents the root of his struggles. Hypothetically he may say to himself: “A white man fired my dad to hire another white man and because of that a white man cut our lights off. My white coach took me in only because I could dunk a ball like no one else and wants to cash in later. Now this white reporter wants me to give him a lily-white story of my struggles so he can make some green to feed his white family.” It’s hard to build any sense of real trust when every door that was closed in your life was at the end of a white hand.

It’s equates being at Augusta National on Masters weekend, having five minutes with (name white golfer here) and that conversation last all of 15 seconds. Reason: there is no common ground between that golfer and myself. Color plays a role but it isn’t the sole reason. His first thought is hypothetically, “What does he know about golf?” I can’t relate to the that golfer being a child of privilege. Nowhere in our timelines can we ever relate to one another on a socio-economic plane, so in his conscience I’m already inferior to him and his way of life. Being on the grounds of Augusta where I’m welcomed reluctantly even as a journalist solidifies his feeling.

If professional sports incorporates a plantation philosophy, then the American sports media is the last line of defense between the African-American athlete and the level playing field non-existent since our arrival on slave ships to America.

The lack of diversity in the press rooms and locker rooms around the country is a simple game of divide and conquer. As long as there are people in the press seeking to reinforce stereotypes about African-American athletes as opposed to a respectable percentage that mirrors the African-American presence in sports, it only highlights the problem. Black athletes will continue to be conditioned to the white hand at the end of every microphone or recorder which becomes a whip of recorded words held against him if he/she chooses to get out of line.

That playing field will be hard to come by as long as the majority of reports and columns read have the same opinion and bias. If there’s only one side to the story, how can an intelligent opinion develop? It’s almost conditioning the reader to not think for themselves or outside of the box they’ve become accustomed to. So, when it comes down to an opinion of an African-American athlete, he’s already stereotyped and placed in the all too familiar categories: pampered, selfish, childish and troubled with an attitude problem before the story hits the web or your newsstand.

My goal as a writer is to continue to seek the good in every athlete (and scrutinize when needed), instead of mimicking the lazy and all too tired narrative seeking to disparage the African-American athlete first and ask the right questions later. The reputation and image of the African-American athlete is of the utmost importance because it has been misunderstood, misconstrued and mismanaged from Jack Johnson through LeBron James.

13 Responses to “Diversity In Sports Media: Ron Glover’s View From The Back Row”

  1. Dez Nash says:

    Truth.

  2. naj says:

    Good work right here you just broke down what every outside the tent small media person feels watching these press cons

  3. mattie says:

    Excellent.

  4. ch555x says:

    Nice write-up…’nuff said!

  5. Okori Wadsworth says:

    spectacular.

  6. It’s time to come together regionally and globally. Help us stem the tide of what’s been going on for decades. Help us get 250 votes that Chase bank will reward us with a $250,000.00 grant. We have no trouble with white media We’ve been around for 30 years. Ask your fan base to give us a hand. READ THE INFO BELOW. Questions email me a t ceo@blackAthlete.com. Peace, Roland

    Our deadline is June 30th

    May 21, 2012

    On your computer, cell phone etc etc.
    Go to: http://www.missionsmallbusiness.com

    Easy Instructions:

    (1) Go to (the Chase website)
    (2) Click the Log in/support icon
    (2) Choose “Log in with Facebook”
    (3) Type exactly “BlackAthlete.net” into company search bar no city or state address needed.
    (4) Click “Vote”

    Tell your friends,assoc. co-workers and family.

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    I can reached directly at 212-863-9989

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  7. This is an interesting piece, especially for me since I came into the game via an non-traditional route similar to the OG Ron G.

    Access to various sporting events used to be my aim, but then I had to ask myself a real question….what is my angle here? What exactly am I covering?

    Its one thing to be a beat writer or have an editor that wants a particular piece from you. As an independent publicist, I had to re-formulate my plan. I realize now that I need access to people vs. an event or an institution, just because of the style of my writing.

    Of course, now that I’ve taken roles with other publications, I’m essentially “working” versus doing what I want to do, and that’s cool. Puts money in the pocket so that’s cool.

    Now, talking as a black journalist…working as a self-EIC, working for a white editor and a hispanic editor…its all on how they treat me and what we work on together. I’m fortunate to have a good collective of folks that write under me, and that I write under as well. I’m in the minority of the minority, I’m a lucky guy.

    We need more beat writers of color, editors of color and more avenues/channels of access outside of games, etc. The internet helps us all be connected, but there’s nothing like having an actual conversation with someone in person.

    Plus, we need to get paid….but that’s a different story altogether.

    I rambled Ron, but there’s plenty of respect here man. Keep on keeping on brother.

  8. Ron Glover says:

    No worries Ed, I caught all of it, thanks again.

    OG Ron G, I can rolll with that 🙂

  9. mattie says:

    I posted this on a forum I frequent in hopes of starting some sort of discussion. It lasted probably 12 hours before the thread had to get deleted.

    People got angry because I “played the race card”. (um. I’m white. Trust, me I’m not playing the race card.)

    The mod explained any topic discussing race can’t belong on a sports forum so he had to close it. It’s frustrating, because many of the topics inevitably end about race. It’s just no one explicitly says it. So people can get away with veiled racist remarks, only you can’t call them out on it because I’m “bringing up race, there’s no place for that on a sports forum.”

    Derrrrr.

    It really doesn’t ever have to be a heated discussion. Just informative. Educational. I feel like a large part of our society refuses to ever listen to anything other than “racism isn’t a problem.”

  10. RBD says:

    Have the Sixers explained why you have been credentialed infrequently?
    Here’s the key question: Are there are other “stand-alone” sites that receive more access than you do? If so, you should bring that to the attention of the NBA.

  11. Ron Glover says:

    @RBD, They have never given us a reason, we make all games that we’re credentialed for while other outlets have left an empty seat for most of the season. The worst part is that if there was a groundswell of media there is always the hockey press box at the top of the arena that the Sixers use during the playoffs if needed. There is one other stand alone site that has a full season credential that I know of for sure.

  12. D.N. says:

    ..and we are not surprised..

  13. Mr. Glover,

    Good morning

    I hope you think this is an item worthy of a writeup. There are a lot of gutless cowards in radio, tv and print today who won’t touch this story. Sadly, this includes many African-American sports writers and commentators.

    I hope to hear from you at your earliest convenience.

    Best, Doug Gladstone

    In the wake of the recent joint announcement by both Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) that inactive, non-vested men who played between 1947 and 1979 will receive up to $10,000 per year, depending on their length of service credit, as compensation for their contributions to the national pastime, Douglas J. Gladstone, the author of the controversial A Bitter Cup of Coffee; How MLB & The Players Association Threw 874 Retirees A Curve, called the agreement “only a partial victory.

    “We don’t live in a perfect world, and this is far from a perfect solution to this problem,” said Gladstone, who is widely credited with spurring the league and union into action. “What was announced on April 21, 2011 doesn’t provide health insurance coverage, nor will any player’s spouse or loved one receive a designated beneficiary payment after the man passes. So in my estimation, this is only a partial victory.

    “I am, however, elated that these men are at long last finally going to receive some type of payment for their time in the game,” continued Gladstone. “This was a wrong that should have been righted years ago.”

    A Bitter Cup of Coffee tells the true story about a group of former big-league ballplayers denied pensions as a result of the failure of both the league and the union to retroactively amend the vesting requirement change that granted instant pension eligibility to ballplayers in 1980. As you may know, prior to that year, ballplayers had to have four years service credit to earn an annuity and medical benefits. Since 1980, however, all you have needed is one day of service credit for health insurance and 43 days of service credit for a pension.

    Here’s, in part, what the Midwest Book Review had to say about the book in its official review, which was published in May 2010:

    A wealth of interviews with former players, including heart-touching stories of the hard times some of them have endured, peppers this thoughtful and timely account, which gains especial relevance in light of the current debate about the state of health care in America.

    And here’s what Edward F. Coyle, the executive director of the Alliance for Retired Americans, said about the book:

    Mr. Gladstone does an excellent job of weaving these players’ individual stories into a book that is also a social cause. He should be commended for continuing to look out for these men.

    Herb Washington, the former Oakland Athletic who is now one of the nation’s most successful African-American restauranteurs, and who later became chairman of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo, New York branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an, is among the men who received monies last September; a second life annuity was supposed to be disbursed to him in January 2012.

    In the recently unveiled collective bargaining agreement between the union and the league, these life annuities were extended through 2016.

    Washington, who famously got picked off first base by Mike Marshall during the 1974 World Series, reportedly purchased all the Youngstown, Ohio McDonalds franchises from Sam Covelli, once the largest McDonalds franchise owner in this country.

    A track star from Belzoni, Mississippi, Washington attended Michigan State University, where the four-time All American won one NCAA title, seven Big Ten titles and tied or broke the world record in both the 50-yard and 60-yard dashes several times. Overall, Washington played in 105 games but had 31 stolen bases in 48 career attempts. He also scored 33 runs during his abbreviated career playing for Charley Finley’s Oakland Athletics, in spite of the fact that he never once played the field or came up to the plate.

    “I’ve said on numerous occasions that this whole disgraceful chapter in labor relations was a terrible inequity and injustice that stained baseball’s history,” said Gladstone, whose book features a foreword written by the Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist, Dave Marash. “The announcement is a step in the right direction, and I hope that both the league and the union will ultimately restore these men into pension coverage.”

    I am also sending you a link to the book’s official website. It can be accessed at: http://www.abittercupofcoffee.com.

    The book was published on April 14, 2010. Once again, thank you, in advance, for your attention to this email. . Mr. Washington can be contacted at his company, HLW Fast Track, at 330-783-5659.