ESPN Staffers Fault Network for Lack of Diversity, Holding Back Nonwhite Talent

Black network staffers voice frustration in New York Times report

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Dozens of ESPN staffers have begun speaking out in internal meetings to fault the sports network for what they describe as a lack of diversity, particularly at the executive ranks, and failure to promote nonwhite talent, according to a report published Monday by the New York Times.

In interviews with two dozen current and former ESPN staffers, the Times detailed “a company that projected a diverse outward face, but did not have enough Black executives, especially ones with real decision-making power.”

Amina Hussein, a Somali-American coordinating producer for some of the sports network’s “signature shows,” was so dismayed by the rapid promotion of white staffers that she advised Black co-workers to leave the company altogether in order to advance in their careers, the Times reported. (Hussein was promoted to senior coordinating producer this month — her first advancement in 12 years, the paper wrote.)

Cari Champion, a former “SportsCenter” co-host who left ESPN earlier this year after eight years, blamed her exit on what she called “constant dismissals and borderline harassment” from a senior executive named Jill Fredrickson. (“I thought she left amicably,” Fredrickson told the Times.”

The Times also recounted a recent 200-person conference call about college football coverage in which Maria Taylor, a Black host, shared her experiences with discrimination at the company — only to be interrupted by Dave LaMont, a white announcer, complaining that the call had turned into a griping session for Black staffers. (He later apologized via email, the paper wrote.)

A representative for ESPN declined to comment to TheWrap. But ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro told the Times he was focused on improving diversity at the network, especially in off-camera positions.  “We cannot have rooms full of just white decision makers,” he said. “Our execs and employees need to reflect the audience that we are trying to reach.”

According to the Times, one quarter of the staffers who report directly to Pitaro are Black, and all of them are men.