Whiteness and the Knicks Beat

A funny thing happened just now. I was holding a piece of writing I did this morning to avoid stepping on Mike Kurylo’s excellent post about the Liberty and Isiah Thomas, and I stumbled across a great interview with the Wall Street Journal’s Chris Herring. During the interview, Herring was asked about diversity in sports writing, and had this to say:

There aren’t nearly enough women covering the NBA; especially if you look past the ones who serve as sideline reporters. It feels like there are more people of color who write about the NBA than in other sports, and perhaps that’s because it’s overwhelmingly black compared to the other leagues.

I don’t know how much it impacts the way the league itself is covered. What I’m more curious about, sometimes, is how, if at all, it impacts the way players communicate with reporters. I’ll never forget interviewing Jim Brown and seeing him do a double-take when I told him what outlet I was representing, and that I wanted to ask him a few questions for my story. He later told me he was proud to see a young, black man in my position, because it was something he rarely, if ever, saw — especially when he actually played the sport.

It’s obviously not nearly that rare now, but I do think being in my 20s and black has helped me relate with some of the players. One time in the locker room, Iman Shumpert was looking at each of the reporters, playfully ribbing us one-by-one for the way we were dressed. He got to me, and decided to make fun of my sweater. Carmelo stepped in before Shump could really say anything, telling him, “Nah, Chris is cool — he’s with us.”

In light of this excellent interview, I decided to throw my post up. Make sure you read Mike’s Liberty post as well. Here goes….

The Knicks beat is one of the most high profile arenas in sports journalism. The people who cover the Knicks for the major media outlets often appear on national broadcasts and find their work cited in newspapers and on websites around the country. If you frequent the social media neighborhood of the New York Knicks, you might come across a rather passionate collection of opinions about the quality of the work produced in this exclusive little circle. To be sure, people have their favorites. Some writers are known for their accuracy and reliability. Some are known for their temperaments. Others are seen, alternatively, as trolls or shills. I’ve certainly been a critic of the general climate surrounding the Knicks beat. When I sat down to wrap my head around the field of writers and pundits covering the Knicks, I discovered a curious thing. It’s a thing that shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, and your reaction will likely be….”Mmm hmmmm. That’s true. Shrug.” Still, it merits some consideration in “print.”

The Knicks are covered almost exclusively by white men.

I told you that you wouldn’t be surprised. To see it spelled out is an interesting exercise, so let’s take a stroll through the Knicks beat, shall we? Before I do this, I’d like to note that I’m dealing with the primary characters assigned to covering the Knicks. When I show you the names, most of them will be the top names in Knicks coverage, some might be part-time on the Knicks beat, and I may be leaving out other minor players to be sure. We’re dealing in broad strokes at the top level.

New York Daily News – Frank Isola, Steven Bondy, Mike Lupica, Mitch Lawrence

New York Post – Marc Berman, Mike Vaccaro

New York Times – Harvey Araton, Scott Cacciola, Filip Bondy

New York Newsday – Al Iannazzone

Wall Street Journal – Chris Herring

CBS Sports – Ken Berger, John Schmeelk

ESPN New York – Ian Begley

There are probably a few other outlets worth collecting, and there are probably writers who belong on the list, while others may not. This is a snapshot, and Knicks fans will recognize most or all of those names. With the exception of Chris Herring at the Wall Street Journal, every other person on the list is white and male. In my very quick search, I discovered that Brian Lewis, who is African-American, covers the Nets for the Post. Laura Albanese, a white woman, covers the Nets for Newsday. At the New York Post, George Willis occasionally dabbles in basketball, but is mainly a fights columnist. Branching out beyond the Knicks, and beyond the NBA, the field becomes more diverse, if only barely.

Why is this significant? There are any number of reasons, but the most significant from my point of view is that in 2015 76.7% of NBA players were people of color. Only one of the people on the above list is a person of color. If you’re not sold on the whiteness of the Knicks beat….or the maleness….let’s expand this treatment to the talk radio circuit. The two main sports talk stations in the New York City area are WFAN and ESPN Radio. Here’s their work day roster:

WFAN – Boomer Esiason, Craig Carton, Evan Roberts, Joe Beningo, Mike Francesa

ESPN – Mike Golic, Mike Greenberg, Dan LeBatard, Alan Hahn, Rick DiPietro, Michael Kay, Don LaGreca

Of course, these people don’t limit themselves to Knicks talk, but sports talk radio is the most concentrated form of sustained, local sports coverage available. Social media are driven by the sports writers and their peers on the radio. The papers set up the narrative, the radio broadcasts it constantly to an enormous audience, and the general public negotiates it all online. All of these characters, again, are white men. Dan LeBatard is a New Jersey born Cuban-American based in Miami, and his show is syndicated in the morning. He’s not so much an ESPN NY guy as a nationally syndicated radio personality for ESPN. The heart of the NY sports media, particularly covering the Knicks is painfully uniform in its white-maleness.

74.4% of NBA players identify as African-American. The sport’s culture is rich with an incredibly diverse range of African-American experiences, but the media covering it are all outsiders. The story being told to the public about the NBA comes from a small circle of people who have not lived any version of the African-American experience. It doesn’t mean they aren’t doing a good job, in many cases. It doesn’t mean that the story of the NBA is only an African-American story, or that one must be African-American to cover the game. It does mean that three quarters of the voices in the sport are filtered through a small, white minority.

To be fair, the same issue persists in the blogging community. It’s important for us to be self-aware when we’re turning this lens outward. White men also dominate the many excellent Knicks blogs you may read. It’s an issue.

The reason I decided to bring this up today is that pesky little story about social media I brought up at the start. You may get the sense that people aren’t in love with the coverage they receive from the Knicks beat. It’s a story that probably repeats itself across the country, to be honest. For a very long time, mass media sources were the only sources of information about the world of sports. Love them or hate them, the characters bringing you the latest in the world of sports were the only characters in the game, and fans didn’t have access to them. Today, information comes from many places. The quality of the information hasn’t caught up to the quantity of information, and it never will, but a funny thing has happened along the way. Some new characters have walked on stage from outside the mass media arena. Small pockets of talented people have begun to participate in the arena in an increasingly high profile way. Most of these people don’t have the same level of access to the teams, players, and agents as the mass media professionals, but they bring a much needed ingredient to the mix – perspective.

The longer you run in the same circles, the more a dominant logic begins to invisibly take hold. This is true in any close community of people. That dominant logic begins to weave itself into the DNA of the community and give shape to everything that goes on within its boundaries. This is true of organizations. It’s true of writing fraternities of the sort we see in this example. Outsiders bring new perspectives, which challenge the established order. Some of the media establishment look down their noses at amateur outsiders, treating the entire population with the same derisive brush. There are a wide range of outside perspectives, from the rowdy loud mouths on Twitter to the thoughtful “fan bloggers” who build reputations among the greater fan base. This is all a very good thing, from my point of view. A diverse range of voices and perspectives is a positive thing. It’s the American way, frankly. When I speak of challenging the narratives in the mass media coverage of sports, I’m only scratching the surface. It’s one (important) thing to open discourse about the meaning of sporting events and the day-to-day operation of sports organizations. It’s another thing to challenge those narratives by taking a critical approach to the voices of the people providing the challenge.

Basketball, as a part of American culture, is infused with the lived experiences of the Black men and women playing the sport. Leaving out Black voices in the high profile coverage of the game is a sin in a long line of American sins related to race. The mass media institutions have done a much better job in recent years of including former players as their high profile voices on the air. Inside the NBA is one of the most interesting and joyful media experiences in the basketball business precisely because Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, Shaquille O’Neal and others take the lead in the discourse about the game. They’re not always right and they often say silly, off-the-cuff things, but their voices carry something of the game’s meaning from the people who actually embody “Ball is Life.” New York City is one of our nation’s foremost centers of African-American cultural history. Basketball has lived and breathed at the center of that culture for generations and generations, and yet the beat is snow white. I’m not certain exactly how change will shake out, but this piece is a simple plea for awareness and an open consideration of the subject. We all need a little more Clyde Frazier in our lives.

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42 thoughts to “Whiteness and the Knicks Beat”

  1. Really interesting, thoughtful piece. I think one big thing with the beat is that those jobs just do not turn over. A lot of those names listed above have been on the Knicks beat for 15+ years and that slow turnover basically eliminates the possibility for new voices to break through there. Maybe the Knicks beat needs term limits.

  2. The demographics of beat writing are no doubt a product of systemic, good-old-boy racism, but I suspect that beat writing will die before there’s a chance for racial equity among its ranks. The thing I’m not terribly convinced of is change within the beat writing milieu as a result of changes in racial composition.

    There have been changes to the racial and gender composition of pundits at ESPN with no noticeable difference in the axe-grinding and hot-take nonsense that it’s become known for. Jemele Hill is a “non-traditional” writer, and also a notable proponent of debate-style idiocy that does nothing of intellectual value, yet she’s pretty damn successful at generating page-clicks and retweets, right? She is a demonstrable idiot, just like the rest of her kind on The Worldwide Leader. That’s the kind of person who gets employed in this sports-talk world.

    Yes, integrate beat writing. Will that alone really change its (virtually non-existent) value?

  3. Please keep posting your opinions, reub. I’m serious. Soon you shall visit Italian Stallion, jon abbey and Ted Nelson on the other side of the void. Want to know how they’re doing.

  4. Isn’t it wonderful seeing a team in the Eastern Conference finals with the #9 pick in the draft, and a team that won 32 games with no pick?

  5. Isn’t it wonderful seeing a team in the Eastern Conference finals with the #9 pick in the draft, and a team that won 32 games with no pick?

    You’ve already apparently forgotten all the great moments of Andrea Bargnani’s Knick career.

  6. Uh, floor spacing? Kobe Assists? Hello?

    He obviously inflated the offensive rebounding numbers this team had. Praise be to ‘Drea.

  7. Great piece mike. I remember when I found out that Chris Herring was black, I was excited for some reason. Idk if that makes me a questionable person or not. But I love to hear the diff perspectives and insights from diff types of people. The only black NBA guy I’ve grown up with is David Aldridge. I don’t count screamin A and Brussard.

  8. Mike, speaking as a person of color, I’m very glad you wrote this. Excellent, excellent work.

  9. Whiteness and the Knick beat ????

    Who the bleep cares about the pigmentation of a writer? What do they bring to the table is the only thing I am interested in. I could not tell you the ethnicity of a single person on this board and I couldn’t care in the slightest. In the media? Why should I be interested.

    Why are most of the Ny writers white? Well first off since America is about 74.8% white and 12.5% black according to the 2010 census and the 6 year graduation rate for a BS degree is 62.2% for whites and 39.9% for blacks so there are about (rough numbers) 9 times more white college grads in the US than black college grads.

    Since I assume a NY newspaper writer must have a college degree to get a job. there should be about 10 times more white than black candidates for said jobs. Maybe serious, educated black people resist going into basketball writing because they fear being ‘stereotyped’? I don’t know?

    Is there any hint the NY Times, Post or News have discriminatory hiring practices? If you come across one let me know as I will lead the charge over the barricades.

    Must be a slow day on Knickerblogger……

  10. Uh, floor spacing? Kobe Assists? Hello?

    Plus there was that one year where he ranked 22nd out of 108 forwards in shooting pick and pops when assisted by a guard 6’3″ or under in games from January 21 through March 3.

  11. I really, really, really hope we don’t get into an extended discussion on the reasons for disparate racial outcomes in American society, but it’s not unreasonable to think that there are systemic biases that impact black people disproportionately in their economic and social outcomes, and that these systemic biases affect them at every step of the process, up to and including the hiring process. There are enough comparatively qualified journalists of color to hire to replace the Isolas and Bermans of the world (low bar, I know) and yet we see none of them besides Herring. Even if it’s not actively discriminatory hiring practices it’s clear these publications have shown little to no interest in diversity, which is a negative to be noted.

    Also there’s plenty of subconscious discriminatory behavior that affects minority job prospects all the time, just look up the massive literature on implicit biases.

  12. Who the bleep cares about the pigmentation of a writer? What do they bring to the table is the only thing I am interested in.

    Well, coincidentally, all the white beat writers are certifiably terrible, so there’s that.

    And like Mike says, 75% of NBA players are black, so your numbers are moot because you’re drawing them from a national pool instead of putting them in to the context of the sample.

    And you disregard women altogether, which is a major part of Mike’s piece, but you seem to have only read the headline before commenting, Bob.

  13. I really, really, really hope we don’t get into an extended discussion on the reasons for disparate racial outcomes in American society, but it’s not unreasonable to think that there are systemic biases that impact black people disproportionately in their economic and social outcomes, and that these systemic biases affect them at every step of the process, up to and including the hiring process.

    Yes… the world isn’t perfectly egalitarian, everybody agrees.

    But in today’s America, the disparity is far more economically based rather than melanin based. Kids that go through the generally sub par public education system (then compared to private schools) are starting with 1.5 strikes against them.

    Do you want equal opportunity or mandated outcomes?

  14. And like Mike says, 75% of NBA players are black, so your numbers are moot because you’re drawing them from a national pool instead of putting them in to the context of the sample.

    So only black people have the ability to comment on basketball??? Seriously???

    And you disregard women altogether, which is a major part of Mike’s piece, but you seem to have only read the headline before commenting, Bob.

    I disregard numbers of women commenting on basketball not because I don’t think qualified women should be able to follow that path if they care to…. but because the population of women that have serious knowledge of hoops is minuscule.

    If Becky Hammond had writing skills and wanted to be a beat writer in NY I would be more interested in her POV far more than Isola, but she has chosen a differing path.

    My wife is a terrific writer, but I would not care two shits on a rainy day of her opinion on hoops.

  15. IMO, a truly free society guarantees equal opportunity. It does not guarantee an equal desire to pursue various life choices or equal results when they are pursued. People should be free to pursue whatever makes them happy and they should have an equal chance to achieve those dreams. That’s it. If that results in an unbalanced outcome, so be it.

    Everyone I know loves Chris Herring because of the quality of his work. No one I know cares what color his skin is. No one I know cares how many white, black, brown, yellow, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, atheist, male or female writers there are covering the Knicks. They like or dislike some based on the quality of their work. If being black gives a writer an advantage with players, that will translate into the quality of his work. If not, it won’t. IMO, that’s exactly how it should be. Just give everyone a fair shake at their dreams and let their work control the results. There is no correct distribution other that what is making individual workers and consumers happy.

  16. But in today’s America, the disparity is far more economically based rather than melanin based. Kids that go through the generally sub par public education system (then compared to private schools) are starting with 1.5 strikes against them.

    I don’t want to make this too political, but the very people that say they are advocating for the poor are the ones that turned the public school system into the shit hole it has become. They are also trying to prevent alternatives that might at least give some of those people a better shot at a good education.

    If I had children today, I would work 3 jobs just to send my kids to a good private school or go to the opposite extreme and have them home schooled like many others are doing. I wouldn’t want my kids either indoctrinated by the public schools or given a second class education by them.

  17. Thank you all for reading. For those who’ve disagreed, note that I haven’t pointed the fingers to assign blame, nor have I suggested any action except conversation. From my point of view, there are any number of paths to diversifying the voices in our mass media. I’m just suggesting it might be a good idea to choose one of those paths to broaden the perspective on the sport and its culture. Whatever your point of view, I’m grateful that you came by to leave a comment.

  18. Mike, enough with your racial myopia. Follow Dr. Martin Luther King’s words on the character of the person and not the color of his skin. The last time I checked we had a black President, don’t we?

  19. Fantastic piece Mike. Always worth taking the time to reflect on the unfortunately all-too-real implications race still has on all aspects of society, this one very much included.

    Reub is the worst but frequent readers kind of knew that already ¯\_(?)_/¯

  20. reub….I love you, but forgive me if I don’t go along with your interpretation of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy. King has been sanitized to argue against the ongoing quest for social justice. He said this:

    Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans. White America would have liked to believe that in the past ten years a mechanism had somehow been created that needed only orderly and smooth tending for the painless accomplishment of change. Yet this is precisely what has not been achieved. [….] These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash.

    We have a “Black” president, but he’s been met with a severe backlash that’s stymied his efforts in Congress and in State Houses all over the country. The nativist backlash to Obama’s presidency has launched Donald Trump to the head of the Republican class in the 2016 election…on the basis of his demagoguery. I’m just talking about diversifying the voices in entertainment media, which seems trivial, but becomes a crucial part of a larger puzzle in real social justice.

  21. We have a “Black” president, but he’s been met with a severe backlash that’s stymied his efforts in Congress and in State Houses all over the country. The nativist backlash to Obama’s presidency has launched Donald Trump to the head of the Republican class in the 2016 election…on the basis of his demagoguery. I’m just talking about diversifying the voices in entertainment media, which seems trivial, but becomes a crucial part of a larger puzzle in real social justice.

    Dude please!

    Bush was routinely called a Nazi by the left and the democrats swept into power because so many people strongly disagreed with his policies. The same thing happens all the time. It’s the job of the opposition party to slow the movement to either the left or right and get power back .

    People want secure borders and fair trade deals for a multitude of reasons (not just racism against immigrants or Obama).

    They are worried about the costs of assimilation when many cities, states, and the federal government are already close to bankrupt.

    They are worried about terrorists using leaky borders to gain entry into the US.

    They are worried that diseases that had all but been eliminated in the US are making a comeback because there isn’t good enough health screening for illegals sneaking in.

    They are worried about under-skilled and under-educated illegal immigrants resorting to crime if they can’t find good enough work in the US.

    They are worried about highly educated and highly skilled workers coming to the US on work visas and taking their jobs.

    They are worried that new trade deals will gut even more middle class jobs in the US.

    If they are republicans they are worried that all these illegals will eventually be given legal status and become democrats (that alone is scary to most republicans) lol

    Everything is not about race. There are logical economic & security reasons for being opposed to this president. Same as Bush.

  22. Everything is not about race. You’re right. The article I wrote is specifically about race because some things are about race. Calling Bush a Nazi is stupid, but it’s also not the same thing as nativist-fueled opposition to Barack Obama. The reasons people are flocking to Trump are complex, so it would be a mistake to simply brush everything as racist….but, he’s quite intentionally using loaded rhetoric to drive nativism to the forefront. Fear is a great motivator. Beneath the surface there are 100s of reasons that people want to vote for Trump, but getting people out of their armchairs is a visceral affair.

    There’s always a backlash to change. To deny that there’s a nativist backlash to Obama, gay & trans civil rights, and women’s issues is a bit myopic.

    Also, I intentionally didn’t make any of those things part of my piece. They may be connected broadly, but they’re beside the point, specifically. I made a simple argument that 75% of the league is Black and yet the players and their lived experiences are filtered through a media that’s probably 80-90% white. A better balance seems appropriate. That’s it. People who have taken exception to that point of view have broadened it out to the societal level, which suggests a level of overall discomfort with discussions of race. This little piece becomes a proxy in a larger discomfort…not by me, but by people who are generally unwilling to deal with the complexity of race in America. It’s not all macro level. There’s nuance. I entertained the macro-level because I recognize the important connection, but this piece is not about that.

  23. A better balance seems appropriate.

    In your opinion.

    In my opinion blacks should choose whichever occupations they desire and be given equal opportunity to get them. Consumers should choose to read and listen to whoever they want. Whatever distribution results from that freedom is the correct one as far as I am concerned. I have no desire to impose my ideas of “appropriate” on other free people.

    As to other part of the discussion, IMHO you are massively overrating the race component of the opposition to Obama relative to the policy opposition.

    I think Obama is an economic and foreign policy illiterate. I hate his immigration policy. I think he’s way over the top on social and religious issues. But I love the “idea” that America was ready to elect a black man.

    I think Trump is the biggest clown to run for the highest office in my lifetime despite the fact that he’s a white dude like me. (he’s almost as bad as the former Toronto mayor).

    I think Hillary is an historically corrupt incompetent liar, but being a woman has nothing to do with me hating her too.

    People on the left will often turn other people’s views into racism and sexism for political gain. The lemmings then follow along. It’s way easier to attack someone by calling them a racist, sexist, or homophobe than it is to argue the merits of some of their very valid points (which of course I don’t want to argue here).

    I have no major problem with you piece. I’m just venting the libertarian view (which I am).

  24. Thanks stratomatic. I don’t agree with some of the things you’re saying, but I appreciate that you’ve thought it out well. That’s the key to good discussion. I think it promises good things for a pop culture blog community that these sorts of things can be raised in a high-minded way. That’s all I was trying to do, so I appreciate your contribution.

  25. Mike, good piece, and excellent handling of the subsequent criticism. I admire your level tone…tough to do, even when you explicitly set out to start a conversation.

    I had no idea Herring was black; I just liked his work because of his approach, which is far more insightful than anything else I’ve seen about the Knicks. Interesting to note that his approach has nothing to do with his race.

  26. I’m also a libertarian (much more classically liberal than right-libertarian) and I think it’s a tremendous simplification to claim that there’s no systemic racism at play when it comes to the racial makeup of certain sectors of the workforce. Beat writing is overwhelmingly white because of the many fingers of quiet racism at work in this country and around the world. Just like in my world (sales) and the world I was in before (academia).

    I also don’t share Plugh’s implication that there is some ideal world that “should” exist because of his underlying beliefs and assumptions.

    As I said earlier, athletes now have a direct-to-consumer platform to control their own voices and presentation about their worlds. We’re discussing which dinosaurs ought to exist when the reality is that they are dying and will soon die. And since beat writing is being a professional heel, who cares?

  27. I also don’t share Plugh’s implication that there is some ideal world that “should” exist because of his underlying beliefs and assumptions.

    I don’t think there’s an ideal world of any sort. The world is always going to be full of fits and starts, inequalities and shortcomings. It’s a complex, ever-changing dynamic that serves some better than others. I believe the second to last sentence of my article says:

    I’m not certain exactly how change will shake out, but this piece is a simple plea for awareness and an open consideration of the subject.

    Nothing *should* happen, so much as I believe things may be better if they happen. I believe I also pointed out that change can come from two places – institutions taking on the mantle of change from the top-down…which almost never happens….and the grassroots offering an alternative that the public recognizes as superior, which is generally the way things happen….and which is the way of liberalism. I’m okay with either approach, which makes me amenable to a variety of ideological angles on the issue. I simply think that having 75% of the lived experiences of a community filtered through a outside minority isn’t good form in communication. I say that as a communication and media scholar.

    When it comes to beat writers and mass media, I also think it’s incorrect that those dinosaurs will die off. I also say that as a media scholar. History has repeatedly shown that media diminish in significance, but they rarely go away. The mass media will remain behind precisely because they have the resources to cover things that individuals do not…and because wealthy corporations, individuals, and agents have a vested interested in them continuing. We can and will do better from the grassroots, alleviating some of the concern, but it doesn’t mean we ought to give up our critique of the performance of large institutions.

  28. Five thoughts:

    1. Thank you for the thoughtful piece. It shed a lot more light than heat on the issue;
    2. I love Chris Herring’s work. I loved listening to him on the Lowe Post podcast. I think he brings a useful perspective to the Knicks. He does not treat the job as pure “beat writer”. He does not file game reports. Instead, he asks interesting questions and takes the time to develop the answers. This perspective was worked out between Herring and his editor, who wanted the WSJ sports section to serve a purpose other than game recaps.
    3. I also love Alan Hahn’s work. I have been amazed at his ability to keep a semblance of dignity on the MSG desk for the last few years.
    4. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Jackie MacMullan was one of the five best NBA writers in the country. There have not been a lot of women who have achieved (or been allowed to achieve) that same level of prominence.
    5. I am dubious that the NBA player demographics are the appropriate comparison. There are very few ex-players that become sports writers. The career arc is more typically that an ex-player becomes a color analyst. Walt Frazier has been one of the best parts of being a Knick fan for the last 30 years (and often the only good part). If I had my choice, I would much rather see Bernard King than Wally Szczerbiak on the desk with Alan Hahn. I know that Wally was a Long Island stud, but he does not have a Knicks connection. Bernard King was NYC playground basketball; he was NYC high school basketball; and he was the King of NYC in 1984.
    I assume that Al Trautwig has his job because he participated in a ritual slaughter with James Dolan.
    Make Alan Hahn and Bernard King the Knicks’ recap team.

  29. Actually I thought Swin Cash was very good when she filled in for Wally. She was able to make salient points, demonstrate and sound upbeat (but not Pollyannaish) with none of the condescension or “I played” attitude that sometimes seeps out with Wally.

  30. Thanks ephus….

    I am dubious that the NBA player demographics are the appropriate comparison. There are very few ex-players that become sports writers. The career arc is more typically that an ex-player becomes a color analyst.

    That’s not really my argument. I don’t expect former players to become writers. I’d like to see the lived experiences of players filtered through different gatekeepers, at least to some degree. There is an NBA culture that’s dictated by the communication and customs of the players. 75% of those players are African-American, which means the culture and customs of the sport are predominately shaped by the various lived experiences of African-Americans. You can’t expect the spirit of that culture to be accurately captured by a media that’s 90% white. The filter is biased towards an outsider’s perspective. Further, the bulk of the owners, executives, and agents are white, so it stands to reason that the writers will have a better report with that end of the business because they share some lived understanding of the world.

    This is not universally true, but it doesn’t have to be. It only has to be extensively true to present an issue. The coverage of the league is going to be largely corporate in its orientation because the league spends a fortune on message control through PR and so on. Agents too. You already get a sanitized version of what the league is about and you don’t even get to the demographics of the individual reporters. Once you add that into the mix….the 75% are almost nowhere to be found. You can argue about whether or not that matters. I’m arguing that matters.

    Adding Bernard King to Alan Hahn would also be a cool change. I like Wally just fine, but Wally wasn’t even a Knick. There’s room to diversify the voices and the filter. Seems like a good idea to me….that’s about it.

  31. Nick C. – She was really, really good. She had some shaky moments at the start, but she grew into that role beautifully within a couple of weeks. I prefer her to Wally, and I don’t mind Wally. I think she’s got that kind of charisma and smarts.

  32. Thanks for the insightful article..I am always bemused but saddened when people are offended by the facts, then play the reverse race card, as in “color should not matter”. It has never mattered to a majority of White Males in the History of our Country, which is why the abolition of Slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, The Voting Rights Act, The Equal Rights Amendment, Affirmative Action, Gay and Lesbian Rights and Marriage, and every other important movement in this nation had to be fought for by courageous Whites and Minorities, Women and Men, from the bloody battlefield to the courtroom to the boardroom. You were simply stating a fact, and although i don’t think any Knick Beat writer’s color or gender affects the coverage of the team (which for the past 3 decades has become a glorified gossip column vs. relevant sports journalism), the Media Organization has to decide if it has a responsibility to develop minority talent in a profession that has a dearth of positions available, and as a reader above stated, job opportunities are disproportionately skewed toward white male applicants. It Remains a Good ol’ Boy’s Network. The job requires a vast networking of the writer with Owners, Team Presidents, GM’s, Coaches, Players, Agents, Team PR and Executive Staffs to gather and assimilate information. These doors have to be opened, access must be granted. Neophyte Writers have to be mentored by Senior writers. That can only be a deliberate objective of the Media Outlet’s Business Plan. The Rooney Rule in Football granted Minority Coaches at least a shot at an interview, and good things have come of it. I was a Photographer covering the NBA from 1981-1990, and Sports Illustrated, the Holy Grail for Photographers back then did not have one Black or Female Staff Photographer, and still had none as of 2015. Websites, Blogs like yours, Podcasts and the new Digital media are the best ways for Minorities to level the playing field of sports coverage.

  33. I’m also a libertarian (much more classically liberal than right-libertarian) and I think it’s a tremendous simplification to claim that there’s no systemic racism at play when it comes to the racial makeup of certain sectors of the workforce.

    For the record, I never claimed there isn’t racism. I claimed that it’s overrated and that I don’t like the idea of forcing some people’s notion of fair or appropriate on other free people. There is no reason we must have an equal distribution of results. We should allow people to pursue what they want with equal opportunity and let the chips fall where they may.

  34. job opportunities are disproportionately skewed toward white male applicants. It Remains a Good ol’ Boy’s Network. The job requires a vast networking of the writer with Owners, Team Presidents, GM’s, Coaches, Players, Agents, Team PR and Executive Staffs to gather and assimilate information. These doors have to be opened, access must be granted.

    What you are describing here isn’t necessarily racism either. Friendships, prior relationships, etc.. are often an advantage in job hunts of all types. That’s how many/most people get jobs these days. Even Phil Jackson recently said he would prefer working with someone he already had a relationship with.

    You could be the least racist person on earth and wind up with a distribution of friendships and relationships that don’t match the national demographics. That could in turn lead to you to hire in ways that don’t match the demographics.

    You can force Phil Jackson (for example) to hire outside his comfort zone (which imo would be a terrible idea for the Knicks and in a free society) or you can hope that over time merit slowly causes a new distribution of relationships and thus hiring changes. Also, it’s not like this is a one way street. People of all races, religions, and ethnicities tend to be more comfortable with what they are used to. If they are more used to something that doesn’t match the overall demographics there will be a tendency to hire that way.

  35. Article confirms NBA over represented, needs a quota for white participation.

  36. What you are describing here isn’t necessarily racism either. Friendships, prior relationships, etc.. are often an advantage in job hunts of all types. That’s how many/most people get jobs these days.

    No ……this is how people have always gotten jobs. And that’s the problem. If it’s all white dudes who are the ones who have the power to hire…..most likely their friends are white dudes and that’s who they will look out for. You are right, it’s not necessarily racist. It does however create the ” old boys club” as noted above. This is something that’s minorities have always had to fight and hence the saying that you have to be twice as good.

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