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On Thursday night, the Kansas City Chiefs went head-to-head with the Los Angeles Chargers on a highly anticipated Week 2 marquee matchup and as the sole NFL game featured exclusively on Amazon Prime, it was yet another reminder of the league’s commitment to keep America’s gridiron pastime as white as possible.
While there are Black broadcasters like Bucky Brooks, Greg Gumbel, Steve Smith and Charles Davis who rotationally cover midday NFL games, when it comes to primetime games, NBC’s Mike Tirico is the sole consistent Black voice and if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear Tirico was just another good ol’ boy in the booth.
Amazon Prime acquired the exclusive rights to air the game last night and unlike a traditional NFL game on cable, football fans were forced to stick to the streaming service and as I perused its viewing features, it was quickly apparent that nothing would be innovative even on the new platform.
Aside from listening to the drab Al Michaels and dreary Kirk Herbstreit, the only other options to experience the game involved watching stunts and commentary from a five-member all-white stunt group called Dude Perfect. Pass.
The NBA and NFL treats its Greats very differently
If the NFL truly wanted to “Inspire Change” then they should take a page from the NBA, or better yet, they should take whole damn book. Throughout its season, the NBA regularly features ex-greats like its Inside The NBA crew, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Isiah Thomas, and Mark Jackson in their primetime and big game broadcasts which provide a different layer of flavor, credibility, and representation for their millions of Black viewers.
Yet, in a league that is at least 70% Black, having zero percent representation on the most highly-rated games speaks in sharp contrast to the NFL’s generic statements of equality on its end zones, commercials, and player helmets.
This is nothing new. Since the old days of John Madden and Pat Summerall, the NFL has been blindingly white in the broadcast booth and has since only granted a select number of Black players the opportunity to discuss the game most of them dominated.
It’s not to say the NFL hasn’t made any strides to close its football field length racial gap that it gladly watched only grow wider over time, but visibility matters. Representation matters. And much like NFL teams which routinely pass up bonafide Black candidates like Eric Beienemy in favor of under-qualified and less-credentialed white head coaches, network executives consistently pick white men to call the biggest and most watched games of the season.
Time after time, mediocre white men are given broadcast opportunities
Both Troy Aikman and John Buck straight up left Fox for ESPN, taking their mediocre talking talents to a whole ‘nother network while a Black broadcast pair was not only passed up – but even worse – weren’t considered at all. To replace Aikman and Buck, Fox predictably inserted two more men of the same (m)ilk in Greg Olsen and Kevin Burkhardt.
Last season ESPN realized their traditional Monday Night Football lineup was weak and even with the addition of Louis Riddick (who is Black), they decided to gift Peyton and Eli Manning their own “ManningCast” slot, which the Super Bowl winning QB brothers have continued this season as well.
The former lackluster Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo walked off the field and right into the CBS booth where Jim Nance’s molasses monotone was awaiting him along with an unearned record contract that no Black ex-NFL’er has ever been offered.
While CBS, ESPN, Fox, NBC and Amazon Prime network executives hire the on-air talent, each of them do so with the understanding of what they believe NFL audiences want to see and hear and apparently, they believe Black people barely deserve the light of day and not even a whiff of the night.