The ESPNW Summit contained exciting discussions about contemporary issues in women’s sports and for women in sports. In the panel Women of ESPN, Monica McNutt, Elle Duncan, LaChina Robinson and Christine Williamson spoke about their journeys as Black women building careers in sports broadcasting.
“I thought it was really special that they specifically wanted to talk with us,” said Duncan, SportsCenter anchor. “Our experience is very different than just being a woman in sports. This is a cool opportunity to talk in a similar way to what we do behind the scenes.”
They spoke about how they got into the business. McNutt, basketball game and studio analyst, Williamson, studio anchor, and Robinson, basketball host and analyst, were student-athletes. McNutt and Williamson knew they wanted to be in broadcasting. Robinson initially went into sports administration but changed her focus in her late-20s. Duncan spent nearly a decade working as a radio personality. After getting laid off, she became a traffic reporter and slowly worked her way into sports.
“You can do it as yourself,” said McNutt, who was adamant right from the start that she wouldn’t change her hair. “The visibility is so important. To see these women that I admired and could genuinely connect with, doing what I wanted to do always gave me hope.”
Williamson shaves her head and literally goes by TheBaldGirl on social media. Duncan praised Robinson for investing in the next generation of rising media stars by working with young talent. Robinson said as a Black woman the margin for error is small. She was not as resolute as McNutt and Williamson about her hair early in her career, but she appreciates the authenticity of the current generation.
“We are taught, especially as Black women, ‘There are so few roles. Be happy that you’re there. Do whatever. It’s just clothes. It’s just hair. You need to play the game,’” said Duncan. “The idea that you were all like, ‘No.’ That kind of unflinching conviction is rare.”
All agreed it takes fortitude to succeed. McNutt spoke about being diligent in her preparations, but recently becoming more comfortable with saying no to preserve her energy. After battling imposter syndrome, Williamson has become more confident, noting how much Duncan encouraged her. Duncan spoke about how Robinson uplifted her.
“There is a bigger picture of what’s happening in society around the visibility or lack of visibility for women, and we’re literally advocates every day in our jobs,” said Robinson. “It gets heavy. We have to rely on each other to keep ourselves lifted.”