Editor’s Note: Roxanne Jones, a founding editor of ESPN Magazine and former vice president at ESPN, has worked as a producer, reporter and editor at the New York Daily News and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Jones is co-author of “Say it Loud: An Illustrated History of the Black Athlete.” She talks politics, sports and culture weekly on Philadelphia’s Praise 107.9 FM. The views expressed here are solely hers.
A pretty big first for women in sports happened this week: My former colleagues at ESPN, Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm, will be the announcers for 11 Thursday night NFL games under a new online programming package for Amazon Prime Video customers. These veteran sports broadcasters will be the first female team ever to call an NFL game package.
It will be refreshing for any football fan like myself, who has been bored to tears for years by the voices of the Fox network’s main announcing team of Troy Aikman and Joe Buck. No offense, guys, but I’ll enjoy tuning you out and streaming Thursday night games with Kremer and Storm.
Prime subscribers will have more than the women to choose from, as games will also be streamed with options for a Spanish-language stream and a UK English stream. Amazon sure isn’t making it easy to find Kremer and Storm, though – after searching my Prime Video feed for about 15 minutes, I gave up when prompted to go into settings and change how my feed works. What? It just shouldn’t be that difficult. I skipped the game altogether rather than watch the Fox broadcast.
It’s still definitely progress, considering it took us 79 years to reach this milestone: The first NFL game was broadcast on television in 1939 by NBC (my beloved Philadelphia Eagles lost to the Brooklyn Dodgers, 23-14).
But I don’t feel warm and fuzzy about this news. And I’m far from ready to declare equality for women in sports.
Why? Because this step forward is long overdue.
In 2018, it’s difficult to find much joy in the baby steps women must endure in the march toward equality in sports. Especially because I’ve worked with so many talented women over the years: Pam Oliver, Lesley Visser, Robin Roberts and Jemele Hill, just to name a few. Any one of those women have long had the chops to call any professional men’s sport, football included, if they’d ever been given the shot. But those lofty spaces have been, and still are, almost invariably reserved for men only.
There’s no doubt that Kremer and Storm, both hardworking women and consummate professionals, are qualified for this gig.
As Andrea herself put it in a statement: “Hannah is a brilliant journalist and she has been a friend for many years. With decades of experience as storytellers, we will be bringing a different voice and viewpoint to covering the game of football.”
When I first heard that Kremer got this assignment, I couldn’t help but recall a meeting I had back when I was a young NFL editor for ESPN Magazine. Some NFL producers were complaining that Andrea wasn’t “attractive” enough to be an NFL sideline reporter. “Fans turn the channel every time her face comes on TV,” I remember one guy saying, without providing any data to back up his complaints. (And yes, these types of conversations happened all the time in our meetings.)
I had worked with Andrea often and considered her one of the most knowledgeable people in sports – man or woman.
There was never any question that she knew her football and had great sources, but everyone was stuck on whether she was attractive enough to be on TV. Needless to say, we never discussed the “attractiveness” of any male on-air reporters.
Many tried to keep Andrea in the background. But luckily, Andrea persisted. And persisted, and persisted. I’m ecstatic for her and hopeful that women will continue to break down the man-made barriers that we still face across sports journalism.
Just don’t task me to cheer, yet.
Storm acknowledges that the Amazon deal is progress, but says there’s still a long road ahead until the day that women landing a role like hers and Kremer’s will not be a big deal:
“Honestly, this is trending in the right direction, but you know, it has been slow. I think in some ways things have changed – it feels like rapidly – and at the same time it feels like slowly,” she told The New York Times.
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So yes, let’s commend and congratulate Kremer and Storm for cracking open the door to the NFL (streaming) booth. But I’ll save my end-zone celebration for the day I see women well-represented in broadcast booths all across television networks, not to mention the executive offices of media companies that for too long have relegated women to the sidelines in sports.
That will be a day worth celebrating.