A lot of you saw a tweet on Saturday morning that you found deeply annoying. John Ourand of Sports Business Journal dropped the news that ESPN would be running a special called “The Return of Sports” on Monday night, with one very notable absence from its lineup of interviews.
ESPN will run a two-hour “SportsCenter” Monday night featuring taped interviews with the NHL’s Gary Bettman, WNBA’s Cathy Engelbert, MLS’ Don Garber, NFL’s Roger Goodell, MLB’s Rob Manfred and NBA’s Adam Silver.— John Ourand (@Ourand_SBJ) June 13, 2020
The NWSL Challenge Cup is scheduled to resume before other professional team sports leagues, but NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird was not invited onto the show. Ourand and ESPN’s Twitter mentions were instantly hit with a barrage of of women’s soccer fans wondering where coverage of their league was.
Between fan pressure and an internal push from women inside ESPN, the network made a last-minute adjustment. With no disrespect towards Baird intended, the NWSL got a much more interesting representative added to the program. North Carolina Courage and U.S. women’s national team star Crystal Dunn did an interview for the SportsCenter special on Sunday afternoon.
The tapings for Monday’s #ReturnOfSports SportsCenter Special on ESPN are underway in Bristol. @Espngreeny is interviewing @TheNCCourage star @crysdunn_19 about the @NWSL - the first pro sports team league scheduled to return to action (June 27 in Utah). pic.twitter.com/bY0ztLaBHZ— bill hofheimer (@bhofheimer_espn) June 14, 2020
Currently, only 4 percent of sports media coverage is dedicated to women’s sports. Much of that goes towards big international events like the World Cup and Olympics, with NWSL having almost no regular weekly coverage on the country’s biggest platforms, or on the most important local market platforms.
But SportsCenter’s quick change of plans is proof that things can change if y’all — the readers, listeners and viewers — are willing to get very loud about it. Organized pressure on companies works. Public shaming works. Media companies won’t change on their own, but it’s possible to make them change.