The gender of our sports announcers isn't exactly something we talk about often — but if you stop and think about it for just a second, you'll quickly notice that the voices of the sports world are pretty much always the same: male. That's why I was so psyched to hear this awesome news this morning: Beth Mowins will be the Oakland Raiders' announcer for tonight's big game, taking us through each play-by-play like a total boss. In much less awesome news, however, there's this: Mowin is only the second woman to announce an NFL game ever — and the first in 28 years. Progress sure is slow sometimes.
In case Beth Mowins is a name you're just hearing for the first time, allow me to catch you up. She first made a name for herself working as an announcer for ESPN back in 2005, while calling Western Athletic Conference games. Following the footsteps of Pam Ward, Mowins was also the second female play-by-play broadcaster for college football on a national outlet. And now, she'll be following Gayle Sierens, who made headlines in 1987 when she became the first woman in NFL history to announce a televised game — the Seahawks vs. Chiefs.
"I think most football play-by-play announcers would love to have that opportunity so certainly I'll try to make the most of it," Mowins told ESPN. "To be able to do it with the Raiders is pretty cool. I'm friends with Gayle Sierens so it's pretty cool that it has come back full circle and the opportunity is there for me."
And it's an opportunity that's well-earned. Raiders' executive producer Vittorio DeBartolo, who chose Mowins for the job, also told the network he was attracted to the idea of making the historic decision, especially given the fact that the Raiders have been very open to diverse hires. Among other noteworthy female hires, the organization hired the first female CEO in the league, Amy Trask. However, DeBartolo says he was even more impressed by Mowins' qualifications.
"I think people are kind of curious at first," DeBartolo said to ESPN. "Most people who don't know Beth don't know how qualified she is. Once they read her resume and look at what she's done, it's a no-brainer. It was something we could build on and it kind of went in that direction. Luckily, we had the type of owner who doesn't care who you are."
On the surface, it may seem as though the gender of a sports announcer might not make much difference either way. But aside from the fact that women should obviously have the same career opportunities open to them that men do — football announcers included — there's also the matter of how the voices of sports can change our our perception of sports. And to the little girls and young women cheering on their favorite teams, it does matter that the voices behind the microphone represent all sports fans, and not just some.
Sports announcers essentially act as both a literal and figurative "voice from on high" during televised sports games. They're the ultimate authorities (OK, even if they do occasionally make mistakes or say ridiculous things). And so even if we don't ever consciously think about the gender of these voices streaming through our radios or television screens, the fact that they are always (and I do mean always) male can't help but send a message that at the end of the day, the sports world is "a man's world."
So, yeah: Having Beth Mowins announce three Raiders preseason games is a pretty awesome (and huge) step forward towards changing all that. And maybe, just maybe, this means we won't have to wait another 28 years before another woman gets such an opportunity? That would be amazing.