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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The national conversation about systemic racism has found its way to the sports media world, forcing companies to address their shortcomings around coverage of race and their own internal diversity.

Why it matters: Sports leagues, teams and athletes have been thrust into the cultural spotlight in recent weeks, as they often are. Now, the publications that cover sports have turned the camera on themselves.

Driving the news: Disney announced Monday that ESPN Films will produce an exclusive docuseries on political activist and former NFL player Colin Kaepernick as part of a larger deal with Kaepernick’s production arm RA Vision Media.

  • Former ESPN personality Jemele Hill tweeted that she'll be serving as a producer on the docuseries, after leaving the network two years ago following a dramatic falling out in 2018.
  • At the time, Hill's outspoken tweets about President Trump put the network in the crosshairs of a polarizing debate over sports, race and politics.

The big picture: Sports media has long been dominated by mostly white, male voices. Now, under pressure to resolve years-long shortcomings in both employee diversity and coverage of race, companies are addressing some of those criticisms head-on.

  • Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy apologized to staff last week for using terms that offended Black employees, while also defending his words as being intentionally spun as racist when he was just trying to be funny.
  • Bleacher Report CEO Howard Mittman has reportedly left the company after being pressed by staff about diversity issues.
  • The Ringer, which is owned by Spotify and run by former ESPN personality Bill Simmons, has found itself on the defense for its lack of diversity (85% of the speakers on Ringer podcasts last year were white, per The Ringer Union).

By the numbers: There's a lot of work to be done. The vast majority of sports journalists are white and male, per the most recent AP Sports Editors Racial and Gender Report Card from 2018, which evaluated over 75 newspapers and websites.

  • Sports editors: 85% white, 90% male
  • Sports reporters: 82% white, 89% male
  • Sports columnists: 80% white, 83% male

For comparison, here is the most recent league data, per The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports:

  • NBA: 18% white
  • NFL: 27% white
  • MLB: 59% white
  • MLS: 38% white
  • WNBA: 17% white

The bottom line: Changes are underway in sports media, but data shows there's still a long way to go.

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 14, 2020 - Sports

Sports stadiums welcome voters, not fans

Map: Axios Visuals

The NBA just completed a historic season that required the league to shutter its arenas. Now, it will help execute a historic election by re-opening them to voters.

Why it matters: The momentum created by the NBA has extended to other leagues, culminating in the largest political effort the sports world has ever seen.

Oct 13, 2020 - Sports

New York City's sports teams are in a slump

Pro sports teams in New York City and its surrounding metro area are in the midst of one of the worst stretches in recent memory.

The bottom line: 2020 has been a year we can all comfortably say we'd like to forget. New York sports fans might just be able to say it with a little more oomph.

Oct 15, 2020 - Podcasts

The rapid rise of COVID in Europe

The European Union is seeing more coronavirus cases than the U.S. as a proportion of population. Now, a number of European countries — like France, Italy and the U.K. — have reimposed lockdown measures to contain the virus.