Last week, ESPN’s Rachel Nichols was a guest on the All The Smoke Podcast with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes. During her appearance, Nichols opened up about various topics, including the difficulties of being a woman in sports media.
“Definately the couple of generations before me were the ones that had really sh**** time. I mean, there is a story about a woman that was a baseball beat writer for a long time, and she is amazing, and worked her a** off. Baseball is a tough to break into and we are talking 30 or 40 years ago, and one of the players kept saying she is like a little rat in the locker room. And then they sent her a f***** rat in a box to open,” said Nichols.
“There are always stories about guys doing things and saying thing in the locker room, all that s***. So, the women before me, had to deal with a bunch of that. By the time I came in, it was not that bad. It wasn’t certainly not as good, as it is now, which it is nice that we are seeing progress. I don’t think we had women hosting sports shows in the same way we do now. I will have to go back and look because If someone was doing it, I don’t want to give light on their legacy. But, in general, it was not the thing that we saw. Being able to make that progress is good. I think now, I see my friends deal with is the criticism is not overtly about race or gender, but know that the standard is different.”
Nichols revealed even to this day that she always has to have her credentials on her. Despite being on television everyday.
“Early on in my career, and I had people say you cannot go to the post-game locker room; you can not go to the press conference. And I would say to that security guard, well, here is my credential. Yeah, I always have to have my credential, even now. It is not even that I’m running around, and I had more than one guy in the hallway say, sorry honey, the anthem singer cannot be back here. Or show people with the name ESPN, or before that, the Washington Post.”
Numerous women in sports media have similar stories to the ones Nichols shared in the video, Including TV Host & Sports Broadcaster Lindsay McCormick.
“As in any male-dominated field, women need heavy doses of both strategy and credibility to break into the sports world. At the outset of my career, I looked around and saw that successful male broadcasters had either played pro ball themselves or started in earnest as print journalists or radio correspondents,” said McCormick via text.
“Instead of grabbing a mic and jumping in front of the camera, I sought to build my credibility in a way where people couldn’t say, “She got her job due to physical appearance.” This game plan was no silver bullet, and I faced many of the obstacles you’d expect. But by focusing on my credibility and rounding out my knowledge as much as possible, the obstacles fell by the wayside.”
Whitley Pleasant is the Associate Editorial Graphics Producer at ESPN and shared that she felt like an outsider covering the NHL early on in her career.
“Well, I can definitely agree with Rachel! Being a woman and even a Black woman in sports, there’s an expectation that we have to be twice as good, if not better, than everyone else,” said Pleasant.
“I covered the NHL for 5 years, and it’s obviously a white, male-dominated sport, and there were times I felt like a complete outsider even though I was more than qualified for the job You just have to remind yourself that you belong and that you have all the capabilities to do your job well. We have made progress, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”