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Rochester’s “Sports Caste-rs”

Op/Ed By Rajesh Barnabas


rajesheadshotAt 3:23 in this video interview of Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch’s infamous pre-Superbowl press conference, he has a “shout-out to Westbrook.”

Russell Westbrook is the other mega sports-star who began sabotaging the press with non-interviews.

In Westbrook’s Jan. 17, post-game interview, he answered every question posed to him with, “We did a good job of executing.” Then, after a half dozen of those, Berry Tramel, sports columnist for an Oklahoma newspaper, finally asked, “Are you upset with somethin’?”

Westbrook paused for a second, stared right at Tramel, and said, “I just don’t like you.”

A more telling shout-out from Lynch comes at 3:42 of the video where he says, “Shout out to my real Africans out there.” On two different occasions during that interview, he acknowledges the black members of the press with, “What’s up my African?”

Just in case that exchange didn’t spell it out for the ruling sport-reporting caste, Lynch and Westbrook have a problem with you.

That problem is the “1.3 percent doctrine,” a term coined by Scoop Jackson, a sports writer for ESPN, who just so happens to be black.

Jackson referenced a 2006 study conducted by the Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE), and the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida, which found the number of black sports editors at APSE newspapers in America to be four out of 305, or 1.3 percent.

According to the 2006 study, whites accounted for 94 percent of sports editors; 89 percent of assistant sports editors; 88 percent of columnists; 87 percent of reporters; and 89 percent of copy editors.

Six years after Scoop wrote the piece, black reporters made major inroads, with whites accounting for slightly less percentages across the board: 90.9 percent of the sports editors; 86.6 percent of the assistant sports editors; 83.9 percent of columnists; 86.3 percent of reporters; and 86 percent of copy editors/designers.

Jackson wrote that the 1.3 percent has been typical of top management rates in any other Fortune 500 business. But, when this happens in an industry where black players – 85 percent in the NBA, and 68 percent in the NFL – dominate two out of the four major sports, that 1.3 percent figure for sports editors can’t be explained by anything other than racism.

It’s either that, or athleticism is not a qualifier for being able to write about athletics, just as writing about sports does not make you athletic. This latter point is certainly true, given the number of flabby, local sports writers we have in Rochester. But, there is very little proof for the former statement, given that what passes as sports reporting could easily have been written by a high school intern, save some investigative sports reporting by the D&C’s Brian Sharp.

Rochester’s sportscaster scene is even more pitiful than the national average when it comes to diversity. From the major, local news, TV, and print networks, only one out of 20 sports journalists is black. Jay Johnson, a sportswriter for the Democrat and Chronicle, luckily saved Rochester from a complete shutout. The rest of the sportscasters are all white males, which begs another question: do women not play sports in Rochester? Or, do they report like a girl? In the hometown of Abby Wambach and John Wallace, the combined total for women, and people of color, in the sports journalism industry is 5 percent, compared to the 2012 APSE national average of 16.8 percent.

The historically low percentages of black sports reporters could explain Lynch’s cutting off conversations with those in the sports caste system, other than some “shout outs” to the “real Africans” who infiltrated the club. Yet, while these diversity numbers are improving across the nation, you wouldn’t be able to tell by looking at Rochester’s sports’ press club. One can only imagine what Lynch would have to “not say” to these guys, if he was still playing for our local team.