Damon Bruce is a previously pretty-much not-well-known sports broadcaster who toiled with pleasure for KNBR Radio until being reportedly suspended, indefinitely, for saying that a woman’s place is not in the sports broadcasting room. Then Keith Olbermann made him famous.
Here’s what he said in audio, peppered with my rather heated response in this video:
There have been all kinds of responses to his ranting about how he thinks women are changing the sports culture he’s so proud of. But let’s be really honest here – Bruce wasn’t talking about women who play sports, he was talking about women sports broadcasters.
From the perspective of this black male, who’s attended many sports business mixers either as head of the Super Bowl Oakland Bidding Committee from 1999 to 2001, or as CEO of my company Sports Business Simulations, or as Executive Producer of my media company Zennie62Media, you didn’t see many women, and more often than not, maybe two, at those mixers for years.
The good news is that times are changing, and you can see that just by attending a sports business mixer today, as well as by the fact that Damon Bruce went off on his ill-fated rant on Thursday, November 8th.
Much of this change can be attributed to the work of women like the legendary Andrea Kramer. I had the pleasure of first meeting her while working as media at the 2007 NFL Draft, where Vince Young, Matt Leinart, and Darren McFadden were drafted into the NFL. It was because of a private talk with her that I became aware of the Association for Women In Sports Media (AWSM), and it because of her involvement in it as a mentor, and because, then as now, it was hard for me not to notice the lack of women in the broadcast booth.
And while there are more women in the business of sports, the ranks in the broadcast area are still too small. The only woman I know of with her own sports show in California, is my friend <a href=”http://www.zennie62blog.com/2012/06/04/sports-talk-julie-buehlers-1010-kxps-httpbit-lynatc4i/”>Julie Buehler, who’s at KXPS Radio 1010 in Palm Springs. </a>
But I have to go a giant step further. You don’t see a lot of black men or women or Asian or Latino men or women, either. Yes, we have ESPN’s Stuart Scott as one famous example, but take away the number of black men who are former athletes who are in sports broadcasting, and the ranks of visible brothers working in it fall dramatically. Tom Jackson? He was a linebacker with the Denver Broncos. Charles Lewis on CBS Sports? Another former player.
At the Boston NFL Owners Meeting, where San Francisco was awarded the right to host Super Bowl 50, I was the only black male who was part of the media. The others were all white save for one Latino male. This is all too common.
I was there representing my own brand, Zennie62Media, and I am proud to say that I’ve covered the NFL Draft each year for the past nine years, and emphasizing video-blogs with blogs as the medium of coverage – I’m the only YouTube Partner to do so to this day and the only media person at the NFL draft to do so, again to this day.
It’s hard to find a number of black men or women in sports broadcasting. At KNBR, there’s Rod Brooks, but for years he’s been the only black male in a sea of white male faces. Brooks bucks the common black male path of having played sports before landing a gig to cover sports.
But, again, Brooks is the only black male at KNBR, and perhaps its that which caused him to issue a remark in 2007 that seemed to paint black coaches as a disease.
On Monday, January 8th 2007, and in response to a caller’s observation that one college team should hire a black coach, “Notre Dame tried one of those and look what happened to them.” I responded via my blog NFL Business Blog, and wrote “KNBR’s people — it’s personalities — come off more often than not as “Angry white guys” — attempting to stop any and all conversations about race by saying “You’re playing the race card” and using this childish Right Wing term as if it was a kind of conversational hand grenade — and it’s almost laughable that a prominent black personality would assist them. But that seems to be what’s happening. I’ve heard this before from others and as a constant listener to the show, I can document and write a book on them. People don’t want to hear this at all. Please knock it off.”
That “Angry white guys” perspective was thrust into our face again last week with Damon Bruce’s rant. But this time it wasn’t delivered by a black guy trying to fit in with his white male sports broadcasting employees and employer. It was Bruce showing the obviously giant problem of white male intolerance in sports broadcasting.
Bruce remarked that he had supporters but what went through my mind was that Bruce could have almost ranted about black men because there are also few of us in sports broadcasting or sports marketing. The point is, when it comes to the job of making observations about and rendering an opinion about what happens in sports, Bruce reflects the ideology that such a job is for a white guy. His view is pervasive to say the least.
It’s a point of view that relegates a guy like Dez Bryant to being the crybaby wide receiver on the sidelines rather than attempting to understand that the Cowboys star player was talking about the technics of getting on the same page with his quarterback Tony Romo.
And any view that’s contrary to the one painting a black wide receiver who complains ‘as not knowing his place,’ is immediately shouted down or discredited, or worse. There are some fans, white and male like the broadcasters, who would dare say they want you dead – but not show their face saying it to you, just writing it to you on the Internet.
It’s that white male sports broadcasting group think that’s the real problem. It’s the 900 pound gorilla in the room that no one wanted to address in the Damon Bruce matter – I do.
Damon Bruce is the product of this culture, and his views represent the dark underbelly of sports broadcasting. Guys like Bruce think you have to look like they do to be respected as sports broadcasters and media types. If you’re a woman you shouldn’t be there, and if you’re black, you have to sound just like they do.
That’s the problem.
I’m glad Bruce went off. It means change is in the air, and it means the old ways are slowly eroding. Not fast enough, in my view. My recommendation to anyone who’s a woman or a person of color who wants to go into sports media is to become good at digital media and start your own business, as I did. Don’t wait for the KNBR’s of the World to embrace you. You’ll grow old trying and you won’t be yourself if you ever get there.