The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The NFL’s (Other) Race Problem

Posted on | October 31, 2021 | Comments Off on The NFL’s (Other) Race Problem

This morning I woke up at 6:30 a.m. and reached for my phone. I’d fallen asleep after watching YouTube videos of police chases, which I consider therapeutic — something to distract me from the insanity of politics. So I swiped the screen to get back to my YouTube home page, and one of the first videos I saw was titled, “NFL LIVE | Marcus Spears ‘believe’ Mac Jones lead Patriots beat Chargers in week 8,” an 8-minute clip from ESPN’s Friday broadcast. The algorithm has got me figured out. Ever since the New England Patriots drafted Alabama quarterback Mac Jones — Roll Tide! — I’ve become a Patriots fan and, leading up to this make-or-break game against the Los Angeles Chargers, I’ve been watching hours of videos about Jones and the Patriots. But after ae couple of minutes of trying to watch this “NFL LIVE” clip, I became so annoyed and distracted I switched it off. Diversity has run amok at ESPN.

The host is a 33-year-old former Florida beauty queen — Miss America 2013 — named Laura Rutledge. Now, I don’t know about you, but where I come from, football is a man’s game. As I’ve explained here before, I was a small-town newspaper sports editor for several years early in my career, and used to be a fairly enthusiastic sports fan, but since the 1990s, there has been a severe diminution of the amount of mental bandwidth available to pay attention to sports. As my journalism career went in a different direction, I simply didn’t have time or energy to devote to watching games the way I did in my 20s and 30s.

All of that is by way of explaining my mystification about ESPN having a woman host its morning NFL talk-show panel. Somehow, over the past 20 years or so, TV executives have decided that “diversity” requires them to have a quota for women in football coverage, which is crazy.


This is an indisputable fact, and until rather recently, football journalism was also a man’s business. Someone who has paid more attention than I have to sports broadcasting in recent decades will have to tell me when the “sideline girl” phenomenon began. Every football broadcast has a play-by-play announcer and a color commentator, and the addition of a sideline reporter, who reports on injuries, etc., is a recent development, and it appears that TV executives decided that this was the job where “diversity” should be applied, so that having girls reporting from the sidelines became a phenomenon that I suppose many younger viewers now take for granted. But football is still a man’s game, and it used to be that nearly all announcers were former football players themselves.

Who set the standard in this business? Legends like Pat Summerall, who played for 10 seasons in the NFL, where his career highlight was kicking a 49-yard game-winning field goal for the New York Giants under Coach Vince Lombardi. Then there was Frank Gifford, who scored 77 touchdowns during a dozen seasons with the Giants. You could go down the list of the most successful football broadcasters, and they were almost without exception former players. One of the rare exceptions was Howard Cosell, but a lot of fans always hated Cosell — indeed, his abrasiveness was part of his value on Monday Night Football, sort of like the villainous “heel” in pro wrestling. As part of the MNF team alongside Gifford and “Dandy” Don Meredith (who threw for 135 touchdowns and ran for another 15 TDs in nine seasons with the Dallas Cowboys), Cosell was a contrasting flavor — the extra spice in the recipe. What the original MNF crew provided, during the years when it was routinely the highest-rated show on television, was a sense of camaraderie. It was like watching football with your buddies at the bar, including that one know-it-all loudmouth (Cosell) who doesn’t know how to shut up.


Watching football is an occasion for male bonding, allowing men to celebrate the fraternal feeling of being “one of the guys.” It’s why guys turn their dens into “man caves” decorated with sports memorabilia, lounge chairs, a beer fridge and a gigantic TV. Adding female reporters to football broadcasts ruins the whole manly vibe of the ritual.

Why do you think ESPN’s ratings are in the tank? And it’s not just because they’ve got girls reporting football. Look at the lineup on the NFL LIVE panel — white female (Rutledge), black male (Marcus Spears), Asian female (Mina Kimes) and black male (Ryan Clark). Is it just accidental that ESPN doesn’t have any white males on this broadcast?

We may stipulate, arguendo, that there are practical considerations involved in certain aspects of the “diversity and inclusion” agenda that are not about politically correct “wokeness.” About 60% of NFL players are black, 25% are non-Hispanic white and 15% are some other ethnicity, and complaints that blacks are “underrepresented” (as the diversity consultants might say) among the broadcasters covering the league would be understandable. (And yes, there have been such complaints.) But when we consider that 100% of NFL players are men, what’s up with women being 50% of this NFL LIVE panel?

The regular rotation of panelists on this ESPN program also includes Dan Orlovsky (former QB for the Detroit Lions) so there’s your “token white guy,” I suppose, but if you think of sports broadcasting in terms of audience — which one imagines ESPN executives would — does it make sense to relegate white males to such a token role? And to do so by creating an apparent token role for Asian-American women? Not that I have any kind of personal animus against Mina Kimes, by the way. She is an actual journalist, who won awards for her business reporting before she joined ESPN in 2014. But why is she on NFL LIVE?


Excuse my repeated emphasis of this point, but it is my belief that part of what’s wrong with ESPN’s ratings (a problem affecting the NFL and sports broadcasting more generally) is the disrespect of the predominately male audience by trying to impose female broadcasters this way. Everybody knows — it is a fact notorious — that there is no real audience for women’s sports, e.g., the WNBA can’t fill an arena. Only because of government intervention via Title IX have women’s athletics reached something approaching “equality” in college sports, but there is no audience for these games, not like there is for men’s sports.

Perhaps even more damaging to the NFL’s value, from a marketing perspective, is the overrepresentation of black players, in comparison to the U.S. population, which is only 14% black. Far be it from me to argue for quotas in sports, the way liberals insist on racial quotas everywhere else, but whites are more than 60% of the U.S. population — the largest demographic, and thus the largest potential audience — so the fact that only 25% of NFL players are white can be considered a marketing problem for the league. And when you then factor in the way ESPN seems to be implementing a “No White Guys” policy on NFL Live in order to fill their “girls talking about football” quota, it’s scarcely surprising that the network’s ratings are in the toilet. It is in this context, then, that we must view the antics of Colin Kaepernick, who collected at least $3.8 million after getting drafted in the second round, had two good seasons, and then became a “social justice” activist after he got benched in 2016.

If you understand that the NFL is a profit-seeking business, dependent upon fan support and TV revenue, this kind of “woke” activism is obviously damaging to the brand, and adds to the marketing problems that the league already faces because of demographics.



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