Some former WAER Sportscasters having success on the largest stages of sports broadcasting shared their opinions Wednesday on topics ranging from race, to gay rights, and diversity. ESPN Host and Play-by-Play broadcaster Anish Shroff, Comcast Sportsnet Houston Host and Reporter Howard Chen and KILT Houston Sports radio Host Nick Wright were part of “Making the Calls: The State of Diversity in Sports Media,” hosted by Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.
Shroff, a former WAER Sports Director, spoke about covering racial and controversial issues. He says even though some people come to sports as an escape from serious issues, sports can also have a positive effect on social change.
“Jackie Robinson, when he broke baseball’s color barrier, that was before Brown V. Board of Education. Martin Luther King was a freshman in college at the time. That was the first stone that was thrown in the Civil Rights Movement in a lot of ways. That was before Rosa Parks gave up her seat on the bus. Now we’re talking about Michael Sam coming out (as gay a football player). All of a sudden sports has a chance to elevate certain national conversations.”
Howard Chen, a former WAER sports announcer, is now part of the Asian American Journalists Association. He’s experienced the difficulty reporting on Houston sports teams when the Astros and Rockets hold ownership stakes in the station for which he works.
“If it’s an exclusive and it’s portraying those teams in a negative light, that’s not going to hit air. It’s different at Comcast Sportsnet. It’s not so much about breaking news; it’s kind of about brand extension so we do have to walk that line.”
Another panel examined diversity in sports media. Nick Wright, a former Sports Talk Director here at WAER, recalls interacting with his listeners in Houston about controversial issues. He disagrees with people who accuse him and other media of sensationalizing racial and other controversial social issues. In fact he takes it as a kind of mission.
“(We must) make sure that if we see something that is unjust or unfair that we are bringing it up, because too often if you just let the women talk about women’s issues, and the gay people talk about gay issues, and the minorities talk about minority issues, then those people get typecast.”
Wright also finds it hypocritical for the National Football League to be considering a new penalty for people using the N-word on the field.
“You’ve got 32 white billionaires deciding what black players can say to each other. The NFL is thinking of making a rule outlawing a particular slur while one of its 32 teams is named, what I understand to be, the N-word for Native Americans.”
The panel included former NFL Punter Chris Kluwe, who believes he lost his job for being an outspoken advocate for gay marriage. He considers the discussions to be about human rights, while agreeing people in sports media have a responsibility to continue to address the topics.