Leveling the playing field: finding gender equality in sports commentating

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By Devon Rocke, Staff Reporter

The sports world needs to open its eyes to the possibilities of greater gender equality in broadcasting. It is time for excuses to go away and for women to play a larger role as play-by-play announcers and analysts in all types of sports. In other words, let’s level the playing field.

 I have been watching sports from a young age and not once did I look up at the television to see a woman commentating a game and think …

Wow I want to be just like her

Why? Because there were no women to look up to. I saw or heard almost no female broadcasters doing major sports events. When it was halftime of a game, I would just groan at the thought of watching a table full of men talking about football stuff and I would go off to play until the second half started.

Sure, women had a few minor roles in sports as sideline reporters or commenting on the weather or the “turnout at today’s game,” but it seemed more important for her makeup to be done to perfection and a smile plastered on her face, than to be asked to make meaningful contributions to the event. 

How wide is the gap in gender equality of men and women in sports commentating? On Aug. 5, 1921, the first sports radio broadcast was produced in Pittsburgh. Harold Arlin made history that day as a commentator for the Pirates-Phillies baseball game. Yet it was almost 65 years later, in 1983, when the first female broadcaster, Gayle Gardner, made an appearance on ESPN, decades after the first broadcast by a man.

Women have become more prominent in sports broadcasting over the years, but it was still 35 years after that, in 2018, before something truly groundbreaking happened: an all-female duo of Hannah Storm and Andrea Kramer were selected to commentate an NFL game. That’s nearly 100 years after Arlin’s historic first broadcast in Pittsburgh.

The appearance of two women leading a broadcast set a new standard and created reason for optimism, but since that day in 2018, there have been no more all-female sports broadcasts in America, so progress is happening, but slowly.


Devon Rocke can be reached at [email protected]