Writer shares his thoughts on politics, gender in modern sports
Head Copy Editor
October 25, 2018
Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN. com and ESPN The Magazine, visited Santa Clara on Wednesday, Oct. 17 to speak with students about his experiences and major topics concerning the sports industry.
A Boston native, Bryant’s journalism career has taken him to The Oakland Tribune, The San Jose Mercury News, The Bergen Record, Boston Herald, Washington Post and now ESPN. He has four published books including his recent “The Heritage: Black Athletes, a Divided America and the Politics of Patriotism.”
One of the many topics Bryant touched upon in the two-hour discussion was politics in sports.
He raised a few questions for the audience, one being, “Is the American flag political?” Bryant’s response to his question explained how “all flags are political” because they “represent the policies of a country on a global political scale.”
Bryant said most people only consider the American flag as an emblem of patriotism and not politics. In his eyes, the American flags spreading across the length of football fields and the jet flyovers during the national anthem are all political because they represent America’s political presence.
So, when critics respond negatively to athletes taking a political stand on the field by saying, “Stick to sports. I don’t want politics in my sports,” Bryant believes that politics have already been in the picture.
“Why is taking a stand against police brutality political and a jet flyover isn’t?” Bryant asked in reference to last year’s NFL protests.
Another topic of discussion concerned gender in the world of reporting, particularly in sports reporting.
“Gender is a gigantic issue,” Bryant said. “Women have to try twice as hard as men in order to be taken seriously when interviewing and reporting on athletes.”
Bryant told the audience that both athletes and fans often assume men know more than women, even if this is not actually the case. Women have to qualify their work when men don’t need to, which is a major aspect of his field Bryant wishes will improve in the future.
The necessity of creating relationships was also a thoroughly discussed topic.
Bryant stressed building relationships with others in the journalism industry is beneficial to one’s success, especially when these relationships can come in handy years down the road.
How does one best form these crucial relationships in the first place? For Bryant, the questions you ask others and the method behind how you extract information is key. When interviewing athletes in particular, the most important thing you can do is “talk to them as people, talk to them about something other than sports to show that your interest in them is genuine,” Bryant said.
Bryant always tries to get athletes by themselves when he wants to interview them. This method establishes a level of courtesy because normally everything in these athletes’ lives is public, so privately conversing with them is a way to show he means no harm when interviewing them.
For this reason, Bryant makes sure “that sources always get the last word” in order to gain and maintain their respect.
Contact Alyse Greenbaum at agreenbaum@ scu.edu or call (408) 554-4852.