“You want to be my partner on a radio show?” I remember getting the message thru my DMs from Denny Thompson. “They say I need an opinionated black guy!”
I thought about it. I’d done analysis for FSU for sports radio, locally, off and on since I’d been here. I always wanted to do it and maybe now I would be afforded the opportunity. But, as with anything, I ran it past a few folks.
“Dude this city needs it. We only have a few black sports personas.”
That really hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe this was supposed to work for the sheer fact that nobody was doing it – even if it was only one day per week and I wasn’t going to get paid.
JAX is a unique city in that it is an NFL city and is within hours of 3 other NFL cities. It’s also in the Golden State for college football. A hot bed for recruiting of all sports, but definitely college football. Stats say that at a majority of the winning programs the rosters are 70% African American, 57% as a whole, and in the pros the numbers are similar. So, it’s safe to say that the Jags, Bucs, Falcons, Dolphins, Seminoles, Gators, Bulldogs and Canes (only the big dogs sorry other schools) are majority African American, but the analysts covering the teams at the local level do not come from nor look like the athletes they cover. Most don’t even under the culture.
That’s not to say these reporters weren’t and aren’t good at their job – that’s not even the premise of this article. These are details that feed the point of what I’m saying.
The first coast area has a large African American population compared to many other cities. Duval county is 30% black (easier term to use) and the entire area is about 26%. Despite that, all you see in sports is us as the subject. For such a small cross section to encompass a majority of the athletics that folks truly care about we see very little representation in terms of who controls the narrative of those who are the subjects. In terms of fairness, it’d be understandable if 1 out of every 4 were even a minority but that’s not the case. There are 4 sports personas in the market on major installations in the area. 2 are full time, and one is a sports director.
Is there a lack of talent? Lack of opportunity? Lack of development?
I’d say it’s a combo of all three and it’s not just an issue local to Jacksonville but a nationwide problem. I go back to my playing days and being in the media room. I’d look out and only see a few people that looked like me. It’s easy to get caught up in the many that are on the national stage but I’m shining a light at the regional and local level.
We get a lot of interviews we wouldn’t normally get due to the fact that players feel we are more relatable. It could be due to the fact that our interviews are unconventional and we ask questions that normally don’t get asked. I believe that it’s also a relief to have someone ask you questions who is a part of the culture that you represent. Being a former player helps but I also grew up similar to 70% of those actively participating in the sports that we care about.
Many of my former teammates, as well as those we interview, ask me, “How did you get into this position?” I honestly can’t really tell them what the process is. I can give them my story but it’s highly unlikely someone will inbox them to become a co-host. I can say intern. I can say a lot of things that folks have tried in the past but from the outside looking in it looks like it’s extremely hard to gain access and become on-air talent (or talent at all). It seems like you’re always welcome to come visit but not necessarily be a part of that world. This is why I say opportunity is lacking because I’m in it and can’t tell you how. If I knew, we’d be on 5 days a week, have a more active podcast, more sponsors, etc.
Is it Development? Idk. Without opportunity what can you develop? Who are the next guys coming up? I know my development has been trial and error. I also know some guys from playing and social media that I reach out to and ask for advice. But it’d be cool to see programs like what the NFL has, which walk former players through the process to learn how to become media personnel.
But the bigger vehicle to change is one that is very simple. Support the change that you’d like to see. Our industry is fueled by marketing dollars. African Americans are considered one of the largest consumer groups. You want more representation? Demand it from those that advertise. Or even better, black owned businesses need to do more with marketing avenues. Market your products on the different mediums and demand which personalities you want to endorse your product. You get more business by promoting your brand and you get to have the representation that is both desired and necessary.
I want to live in a world that shows my son examples that he can see on every level of any profession and careers he can work in. I knew I could be an athlete because 70% of the guys doing it did it. No brainer. I could just visualize my face in their place. I like when he points at the guy on the TV and pretends to be him. I’d also love to hear different things explained from another perspective, it could continue to help educate others about those that they encounter. Media has the power to make you hate or love those whom you know little about.
“There’s much bigger issues in the world I know but I first had to take care of the world I know” Jay Z