The world of sports is still, sadly, very male dominated — and it's not just the male athletes that get more attention, more opportunity, and more money, either. The same problem exists behind the anchor desks of sports broadcasting. But that's why it's exciting to see former Olympic softball player Jessica Mendoza permanently join ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball — we may still have a long way to go for equal representation, but this is definitely a victory.
Mendoza became part of Sunday Night Baseball last season, filling in after analyst Curt Schilling was suspended. She eventually became the first woman to do analysis for a Major League Baseball post-season game on national television — something that a few people took issue with because sadly we still live in sexist times. But now it seems she will be a permanent fixture on the show, which is certainly welcome news. Not only has Mendoza proven herself to be capable when it comes to analyzing baseball, but we also need more women in sports media.
Although sports media has come a long way since the olden days when nary a woman could be found among the sports writers and anchors, things still aren't that great. The Women's Media Center 2015 report found that women only produced 10.2 percent of sports coverage in the United States, which is especially terrible considering that women make up may more 10 percent of all sports fans. Sadly, however, this is still the world we live in.
Things have improved, however. Mendoza is one of many women who have found success in the male-dominated world of sports media over the years. Here are just a few of the notable women in sports media history.
1. Phyllis George
In the beginning, the women picked to be sportscasters were selected more for their looks than their experience in the world of sports. But despite the sexist criteria, these women and their hard work did a great deal to pave the way for women in sports media. Phyllis George was Miss America in 1971 and was approached several years later by CBS about a job as a sportscaster. George joined the cast of The NFL Today in 1975, making her one of the first women to provide national sports coverage.
2. Jayne Kennedy
Another pageant contestant turned sportscaster, Jayne Kennedy joined The NFL Today in 1978, where she was not only among the first women to break into sportscasting, but also among the first African Americans as well.
3. Lesley Visser
Lesley Visser began working in sports media in the 1970s as a writer for the Boston Globe, where she covered a diverse array of sports, from the NBA to college football to horse racing. She joined CBS in 1984 and then move to ABC and ESPN in the 1990s. In addition to being an early pioneer among female sportscasters, Visser is also the only sportscaster, male or female, to have worked on network broadcasts for the Final Four, the NBA Finals, the World Series, the Triple Crown, Monday Night Football, the Olympics, the Super Bowl, the World Figure Skating Championships, and the U.S. Open.
4. Gayle Gardner
Gayle Gardner joined ESPN in 1983 and became the first woman to act as a weekly sportscaster on a major network. She covered everything from college football to the 1992 Summer Olympics to Wimbledon, and she became the first woman to provide play-by-play of a Major League Baseball game in 1993.
5. Donna de Varona
Although early sportscasters were picked mostly based on their looks, before long, women who were already involved in sports began seeking to break into sports media once their careers as athletes came to an end, just as many male athletes do. Donna de Varona is a former Olympic swimmer, gold medalist, and world record holder who was among the first women to act as a sportscaster when she appeared on ABC's Wide World of Sports at the age of only 17; she later went on to become the first local female sportscaster. Throughout her career she not only continued working in sports media, but also became an advocate for women's sports and for female athletes, working on legislation that aided women's sports, and with foundations such as the Women's Sports Foundation.
6. Robin Roberts
Today, Robin Roberts is most recognizable as a host of Good Morning America on ABC, but the former basketball star actually got her start in sports media. After a standout college basketball career, Roberts began working as a sportscaster for a local Mississippi station; she later became a sportscaster in Atlanta, and eventually moved to ESPN, where she stayed until 2005. She was known for her catch phrase, "Go on with your bad self!"
7. Hannah Storm
Hannah Storm spent much of her early career as a radio DJ before making the leap to sports media. She became the first female host of CNN Sports Tonight in 1989, and in 1994, she began hosting NBC Major League Baseball games — becoming the first women in American television history to host a network's sports package solo in the process.
8. Mary Carillo
Mary Carillo is a former professional tennis player who won the mixed doubles championship at the French Open in 1977. She began a career in television in the 1980s and quickly became a respected tennis analyst — in fact, Sports Illustrated at one point referred to her as "the sport's top analyst." And she's still working today — below you can find her interview with the reigning queen of tennis herself, Serena Williams.
9. Ann Ligouri
Although there are more and more women working in broadcast sports media today, their roles are often limited to on-camera positions. And while it is undeniably important for women to be anchors and analysts — and while the number of women in these roles is great progress — it's also important that women have the opportunity to control things behind the scenes. One such woman is Ann Ligouri, a well-known sports radio and television personality who today is the host, producer, and owner of the cable sports show Sports Interview with Ann Liguori — and in fact, Ligouri was the first woman to own and produce her own prime-time sports series.
Hopefully, she will be followed by many, many more.
Image: Wikipedia Commons