Incomplete journey

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AubreyBruceBox

As I sat marooned by almost as much snow that fell upon Pittsburgh during the blizzard of ‘93, I was certainly not “grooving last Saturday afternoon.” I have come to the realization that in spite of the fact that Barack Obama and first lady Michelle currently occupy the big house, oops I meant White House, my vision is still a tad blurry as I began to calculate the gains that African-Americans have made over the past five decades. The present and the future became clearer and though it may not be what I want it to be, nonetheless, it is what it is. I instantly became humbled and I consider it as one of my many blessings to be a part of the sports writing and reporting lineage of the New Pittsburgh Courier, especially during this, our centennial year.

I think about Bill Nunn, the legendary journalist and NFL scout who entered the newspaper business as a sports writer for the Pittsburgh Courier and later rose to sports editor and finally our managing editor. He took the Courier’s Black College All-American team to another level before he joined the Pittsburgh Steelers’ scouting staff part time in 1967 and then full time in 1969. He became a liaison between the Steelers and historically Black Colleges and universities.  After earning five Super Bowl Rings, Bill Nunn is among the most legendary NFL scouts of all time but he still makes time for me. Whenever I telephone him and he says, “son what are you up to,” it never gets old. Chills still run up and down my spine.

I also reflected on the late Myron Cope, who wrote a column for the Courier. Myron introduced me to Charles Henry (Chuck) Noll, the Emperor.

However, during that blizzard-like day I also reminisced about the Dec. 20 Steelers/Packers game at Heinz Field where I had an unofficial head count of about 14 faces of color (excluding scouts) that graced press row. Overall, there were no more than twenty Blacks seated in a press box that has the capacity to hold in excess of 150 bodies. That memory was not as pleasant.

Initially, I thought I might have been hallucinating but the 2006 racial and gender report card of the Associated Press Sports Editors, compiled by the University of South Florida, has an even bleaker statistical view of the situation than my personal experiences can convey. The report states that, White men and women comprised 88 percent of the total staffs of all APSE member newspapers; African-Americans held 6.2 percent, Latinos 3.6 percent, Asians 1.3 percent, and “other” people of color less than 1 percent.

Women made up 12.6 percent of total staffs of APSE member newspapers. 94.7 percent of APSE sports editors were White while 90.0 percent were white males; African-Americans held only 1.6 percent; Latinos 2.8 percent and “others” less than 1 percent. There were no Asian sports editors. Whites held 86.9 percent of the assistant sports editor posts in the survey, while people of color made up 13.1 percent. African-Americans were 5.3 percent, Latinos 5.5 percent, Asians 1.6 percent, and other people of color 0.8 percent. Talk about an “ole boys club.” Maybe the Associated Press should be renamed the APP, (All Pals Press) not to be confused with AWB, (Average White Band).

The racial makeup of the NFL is more than 75 percent African-American and the Black athletes in the NBA exceed 80 percent. Even when we figure in the coverage of the predominately White NHL and the numbers of Latinos’ and Whites who comprise the majority in MLB, there still remains an unacceptable racial gap when it comes to sports reporting in America.

Charles Hallman of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder quotes Bill Rhoden, the New York Times sports columnist as saying, “Until a year ago [2008] I was the only African-American on the sports staff at the New York Times. What you see on press row in 2009 is not too much different than what you saw on press row in 1963.” Dr. Harry Edwards, University of California-Berkeley professor emeritus says that the media row at sporting events such as the NCAA Championships “is still the most segregated area in sports.”

The most common excuse that I get when credentials are denied to me is, “sorry you don’t write for a daily.” Well there doesn’t seem to be much room for me, especially when White men and women hold 88 percent of the total slots of all APSE member newspapers. Now I am not a hater when it comes to my European colleagues being employed, but talk about reverse affirmative action gone wild. Whew, you be the judge. After running around the block I have returned to my nice warm dining room, still stranded, not by all of the snow that has fallen, but slowed by “the albatross of reality” that is giving me neck pain just because of having to endure the daily “snow jobs” that I and the majority of African-American sports writers are forced to face when applying for credentials to any sporting event.

(Aubrey Bruce can be reached at: abruce@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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