[GAME, BLOUSES]
The Black Women of Sports Blogging

[GAME, BLOUSES]
The Black Women of Sports Blogging

Meet some of the savvy sisters who've parlayed their love of sports into online opportunities

by Brittney Fennell, August 8, 2013

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[GAME, BLOUSES]
The Black Women of Sports Blogging

Jill Munroe, Rob Y, Shaina Auxilly, Syreeta Hubbard and Jessica Danielle

For many, the term "sports blogger" brings to mind the image of a man sitting at home on his laptop wearing the jersey of his favorite team. However, there are a number of brilliant sisters who've been on like Beyonce when it comes to the world of digital sports writing. 

In 2008, Syreeta Hubbard launched her blog, The NFL Chick. Coming from a long line of family members who played football, it was only natural that the Baltimore native acquired a love for the sport as well. When the Ravens came to Baltimore in 1996, that love only intensified.

“All we had in Baltimore were the Orioles, so once the Ravens came to town, it gave me a team to cheer for.”

During the 2007 and 2008 NFL seasons, Hubbard worked for the Baltimore Ravens as an audio assistant, where she saw firsthand how wins and losses can affect an entire organization.

“Even though people that work in the organization don’t play on that football field, wins and losses affect them too,” she says. “I learned that by working there at their lowest point [Ravens were 5-11 during the 2007 season] and at one of their high points [Ravens won the AFC Championship in 2008] in the organization’s history. I really enjoyed my experience there.”

Hubbard’s blog has afforded her many opportunities, one being a sit-down on-camera interview with Baltimore native, Tavon Austin, a wide receiver from West Virginia University and the 8th overall pick to the St. Louis Rams in the 2013 NFL Draft. She also has another site she started with Jocelyn Lawson who’s also known as Pig Skin Loving Lady, called Gridiron Gals, which is a platform for female football fans to have their voices heard about their favorite teams.

Jill Munroe, a Los Angeles native, started her blog, Jocks and Stiletto Jill in September 2009.  She describes it as "ESPN meets Sex and the City" due to her interest in not only the game, but the off-the-court lifestyle as well.

“I know X’s and O’s and I covered that initially when I started the site, but I don’t believe you can out-ESPN ESPN” she says.

Munroe always loved sports, especially basketball, and while she was growing up, she and her father would attend Los Angeles Rams football games. Later in life, Munroe would work at Nike in the brand marketing department.

“That’s sort of where I started to see a broader side of sports with working on different projects with different teams and athletes and it lead me to starting the site." 

“I did work for a very long time in the sports industry, so I do have that insider perspective. I’m not just a fan of the game. I actually worked in it and it [JocksAndStillettoJill.com] gives you, well, at the time I started it, something different with the fashion and the off-the-court life that at the time wasn’t a big focus as it is today.”

Jessica Danielle, the woman behind the blog Player Perspective (and an EBONY.com contributor), became interested in sports in college. Even though she started out majoring in communications so she could pursue a career in sports broadcasting, she eventually switched to political science. She now balances being a political speechwriter along with her sports writing persuits. 

“A few years ago, I decided that sports was still my passion, so I started my blog and things just kind of went from there.”

She describes Player Perspective as "a personal sports blog." There’s no reporting of news, but she does give her opinion on the latest in sports along with looking at games and analyzing rosters.

“Part of the reason why I started my blog was because I felt like a lot of coverage of athletes, especially Black male athletes, was just very negative,” she says. “It was almost like reporters were holding them in contempt sometimes and they’d really talk about them in a stereotypical way. I wanted to add another voice to the sports sphere that I felt was a little fairer and would give a little more perspective to what athletes are thinking.”

Covering sports for TheSource.com and Funkmaster Flex’s blog In Flex We Trust has Shaina Auxilly pulling double duty. Her position as sportswriter at TheSource.com came about when a friend who was doing promotion for the magazine, told her that they didn’t have anybody running their sports department. After a meeting with the editors, she was brought on board. When she began working for Flex, the site was still new and there was only one woman covering sports for seven days a week. After going to an open call at New York radio station HOT 97, Auxilly started as an intern and was eventually hired.

She has gone on to interview major sports stars for The Source such as Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams about why at the time he chose New Jersey over Dallas and what influence Jay Z had on his decision.

Rob Y. also known as "The Lady GM" of Ballertainment, credits her love of sports to her paternal grandmother and the male friends she grew up with. Back in Rob’s hometown of Chicago, she had two sports shows on the local cable network, Chicago Access Network Television. One show was her doing interviews about sports. Another, was a roundtable forum with herself and other guys. Even though she didn’t start her blog until October 2009, she considers it an extension of that experience and her love of sports stories.

Rob describes her blog as a mixture of news, entertainment and gossip. She credits Natasha Eubanks, founder of The YBF, as inspiration.

"I stumbled upon her blog and I thought to myself, ‘I love this and this is something that I would want to do for sports,’” she says. “But I still didn’t do it at that time.”

With a little help and encouragement from Rob Littal of Black Sports Online, Rob went ahead and launched her blog.

"It’s obvious that women are a minority in the world of sports, but being a Black woman makes it even more interesting. It can be a unique experience for some. If people aren’t trying to stereotype you, they’re questioning your knowledge of the game.

Hubbard has had experiences where people haven’t trusted her sports knowledge simply because she’s a woman.

“People can assume that [you don’t know about sports] just from being a woman or if they don’t agree with the argument that you’re giving them,” says Hubbard.

“But I don’t get that much anymore. In the beginning, I used to get that a lot. But I think that my arguments have a lot of substance to them. I make sure I bring facts along with my point and when you can do that, a lot of times people respect what you’re trying to say.”

Overall, she describes being a Black woman in the sports blogosphere space as challenging, but still a great experience.

“It’s challenging more so from a female standpoint because it’s cliché to believe that men know more about sports than women do. I like to look at myself as one of the few women who kind of stepped out and started writing about sports that people pay attention to.”

Munroe agrees. “It’s not easy I think for any woman in sports,” she says.  

“But particularly with being a woman of color, I think that at times, there are certain assumptions that are made and people want to pigeon-hole you and put you in one area no matter what.”

Jessica Danielle was hoping that the Internet would level the playing field for women wanting to have their opinions heard in the sports world.

“We’re definitely pretty invisible in sports and it’s a shame because I feel like the Internet was supposed to be the great equalizer, but it hasn’t panned out that way thus far,” she says.  “I think we’re just invisible right now in trying to fight for our space in the conversation. Even if you look at sports across the board, you probably have maybe one or two Black women who are able to give their opinions and not just be the moderator.”

When Auxilly attends games she has to cover, some people don’t believe that she’s a member of the press.

“I notice that when I go to those events, there’s barely anybody else that looks like me. I’ve often gotten stares and people are like, ‘Are you media? Are you sure you’re media?’ They don’t believe this is what I do. Nobody’s ever treated me badly. They’re just thrown off by how I look. I like being different. I like that I’m able to do this even though it’s not something other people would think a typical Black woman would do.”

On the other hand, Rob feels as though she’s gotten a fair chance as a sports blogger.

“I feel respected. Never have I felt disrespected in this state or not taken seriously. Obviously, there’s going to be other people or readers who will challenge you or your colleagues who may not take you seriously, but for the most part, I try to be fair in the things I write on the blog. They’re fair and factual and I think with doing that, comes the respect that you need to continue to be taken seriously.”

Because there are so few women sports bloggers, one would assume there would be a sisterhood or camaraderie among them. In some cases, that proves to be true.

“I would like to believe that [there’s camaraderie] because it’s hard for us to kind of make our mark because we have to worry about men being against us and we have to have some type of bond,” says Hubbard.  “We can all eat and be able to share our views and be able to get the hits that we would like without going at each other.”

On the other hand, Munroe has witnessed the positive and negative side of women sports bloggers either being supportive or clawing for attention.

“I don’t know if there are that many of us,” says Munroe. “I know of a few. But as with anything and because there are so few spots, at least at the moment, some women will lean towards the ‘crabs in a barrel’ syndrome. When I initially got into this, I didn’t know anything about the blogging world. I didn’t even know any sports bloggers period. That is something that has evolved.”  

Jessica Danielle started her blog three years ago and feels as though she hasn’t been in the sports blogging game long enough to really develop relationships with other women sports bloggers.

“There may be camaraderie between people that have been doing it a bit longer than I have in the blogosphere and have kind of supported each other and come up together,” she says.

“On my end, I feel like I have better relationships with some of the women who are already writing and maybe don’t have personal blogs, but have welcomed me into it. As far as the blogosphere, I can’t really say that [there’s camaraderie] because I haven’t been doing it long enough. Most of the people that I work with regularly, who have kind of supported my work, have typically been white men and I think that’s because they’re the most dominant voice. If you really want to be able to freelance write and get your link-backs, you have to develop relationships with them and that’s where I’ve been focused. But I do try to keep an eye on other minority women who are writing in sports.”

Rob considers Munroe, Hubbard and Mahogany Ratcliffe of Bad Girls Of Sports to be her closest friends in the sports blogging world.

“We’ve all come to have a rapport with one another and a healthy respect for each other’s hustle and what we’re doing,” says Rob. “Now, there are some female bloggers out there that I’ve seen say things or get into it or maybe they’re not as friendly. But I don’t really deal with that.”

Even though women have made great strides in getting respect and opportunities in sports, more still needs to be done, especially in terms of more Black women being visible and giving their opinions.

 “I’ll use Cari Champion [host of ESPN’s First Take] as an example,” says Hubbard.

“She’s phenomenal, but with her position on First Take, she’s simply just a moderator and we don’t really get to see how she can shine in the sports world. We see that she’s a pretty woman and that she’s good at moderating. We don’t really know what she’s like from a sports perspective. Although, I’m so glad to see that women have that opportunity, I would really like for women to have more of a voice. I just think that women in general who are extremely knowledgeable and can present their football knowledge or any type of sports knowledge to you in a great way, should be able to have that opportunity. While I think it has gotten better and it’s progressed drastically, I still think there’s a lot more that can be done.”

Jessica Danielle believes that both men and women sports fans still prefer to get their sports information and opinion from a man.

“I can say for me, when starting out my blog, the majority of my readers have been men from the beginning, although women, particularly Black women, have been really, really supportive of my blog,” she says. “They may not be huge sports fans, but they want to support me because I’m a Black woman as well. But the bulk of my readers are men, so I can’t say that people aren’t open to it [getting their sports information from a woman], but I think we have a long way to go to make people open enough that we’re [Black women] not a minority-minority within the sports sphere.”

Munroe echoes those same sentiments. Men have told her flat out, “I’m not interested in hearing women talk about sports. I’m just not.”

”I think that it is evolving,” says Munroe. “If you look on television, there are more women sports broadcasters. The sideline reporter role is one that women were traditionally regulated to, but now you’re seeing more women do play-by play and color commentary on major broadcasts. I think there is still ways to go, but it has come a long way still.”

Auxilly, who has developed a following of her own, believes that audiences are becoming more accepting on getting a woman’s perspective on sports.

“The people who know me look forward to what I have to say and look forward to my opinion on a certain subject in sports or me confirming that something happened. I think people are becoming more accepting of a Black woman doing it [covering sports].”

Jessica Danielle offers some advice for women who want to get in the game.

“Think about the expertise part,” she says. “What is it that you can bring to the table? One thing that I see a lot, with women especially, is when they start sites, they seem to be covering everything from the news perspective. Think about how difficult that is for an actual news site, because you know how difficult that is for one person or two women or three women. It’s very difficult to do. That’s why I have a personal blog because I know I can’t cover everything. I’m not trying to cover the entire NFL. I’m not covering the entire NBA. I don’t blog four or fives times a day. Make sure you have a particular thing you want to add to the blogosphere. Set realistic goals for that, realistic timelines and posting schedules. Then get out there and talk to people to put the site together.”

Munroe tells women who want to enter the sports blogging world to do their research and remain focused.

“It’s a grind,” says Munroe. “It’s a lot of work, initially, and especially to make yourself stand out. Just be true to yourself and research, research, research. Make sure you are fact-checking and doing your homework.”

Auxilly echoes those same sentiments along with the pressure to remain professional at all times.

“You have to be extremely professional as possible,” she says. “Any little thing could make people look at you differently. Just know what you're doing and have confidence in yourself.”

She goes on to say, “Make sure you study your craft. Not just watch sports, but watch a lot of people before you. I watch a lot of different sportscasters to see how they do things. Not to mimic them, but I draw a little bit from my favorite people. Keep writing a lot even if it’s not published somewhere. Just practice writing. Practice interviewing.”

Rob hopes that she, along with other women sports bloggers can inspire women to start their own blogs.

“I would like to see female sports bloggers’ voices grow and for us to continue to be cohesive and for us to be looked upon as a source of encouragement in sports for anybody thinking about starting a sports blog. I think the more voices we have, the better.”

 
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