Original Special, Multiple Programming Offerings Commemorate Black History Month Across ESPN Platforms


Original Special, Multiple Programming Offerings Commemorate Black History Month Across ESPN Platforms

Celebrating the achievements of African-Americans who have made a positive influence within their sport and in society. ESPN is once again commemorating Black History Month with multiple programming offerings on television, radio and online.

Rise Up: A SportsCenter Special, will debut on Sunday, Feb. 14, at 5 p.m. ET, and is the centerpiece of ESPN’s Black History Month programming. In the one-hour original, four segments will feature prominent African-Americans in a direct and intimate conversation sharing firsthand accounts of the events in the news cycle that impacted their lives. The four topics:

Taj Gibson on rising up against gun violence – Gibson, who plays for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, has spoken candidly about losing four friends to gun violence the last four years. In his interview, Gibson shares how gun violence has impacted him. His teammate Joakim Noah has worked with author Alex Kotlowitz, to produce a mini-documentary focusing on the negative impact of gun violence in Chicago

Missouri Football on rising up against authority — The captain of the University of Missouri Football team, Ian Simon, shares his perspective on what led the team to stand behind Jonathan Butler, the student who staged a hunger strike to raise awareness to race relations on campus.

James Blake on rising up against racial profiling – The former professional tennis player takes the viewer inside the moment he was tackled and arrested by an undercover New York City police officer while standing in front of his hotel and speaks of his commitment to help stop profiling.

Misty Copeland on rising up against prejudices – The ballet star tells the compelling story of how she was able to overcome racial stereotypes, poverty and her own family’s objections and become the reigning queen of ballet.

Following each segment, a brief discussion of the significance of the subject will be held among reporters, analysts and editors from ESPN and other media outlets. The panelists include Scoop Jackson, ESPN.com/ESPN the Magazine and LZ Granderson, ESPN/ABC (Gibson); William Rhoden, New York Times and Maria Taylor, SEC Network (Missouri football); Howard Bryant, ESPN.com/ESPN the Magazine and Chris Haynes, Cleveland.com (Blake); and Alison Overholt, ESPN the Magazine/espnW and Kelley Carter, The Undefeated (Copeland).

Other Black History Month offerings on ESPN platforms include:

SportsCenter — ESPN’s signature news and information program will originate from Hampton (Va.) University for a two-hour program on Saturday, Feb. 13, at 10 a.m. SportsCenter on the Road will lead into Hampton’s first men’s lacrosse match as a Division I program, making Hampton the first HBCU to field a D-1 men’s lacrosse team since Morgan State in 1981. Jay Harris and Lisa Kerney will anchor the program.

The Sunday, Feb. 21, SC Featured segment on SportsCenter will tell the story of Chubbtown, Ga., the home of University of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. The historic town was formed by his ancestors, free black families who settled in the area during the Civil War. The feature, which is reported by Byron Pitts of ABC News, debuts in the 10 a.m. program and repeats in subsequent airings throughout the day.

ESPN Audio – Athletes, coaches, ESPN commentators and analysts offering testimonials of what Black History Month means to them will air across ESPN Audio’s programming throughout the month of February.

espnW.com — A series of essays on black female athletes will appear on espnW during the month, with one posting each Friday. In addition, W will feature several pieces as told by various female black athletes, including Layshia Clarendon, a guard for the WNBA’s Indiana Fever, who has built herself into a race and LGBT activist, as well as one from several swimmers from North Carolina A&T about how their hair has been a part of their athletic journey. espnW will also feature “10 Things You Will Only See at an HBCU Sporting Event.”

ESPN Films — The short films from ESPN Films’ popular Spike Lee’s Lil’ Joints series, which premiered last summer, will be compiled into two shows. On Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, “Black Hoosiers” takes viewers to Crispus Attucks High School in Indianapolis, a school that was created to marginalize African-Americans and became a beacon of education and athletics including alumnus Oscar Robertson. Then “The Greatest Catch Ever” reminisces about Super Bowl XLII when David Tyree’s catch gave the Giants the victory over the previously unbeaten Patriots. On Feb. 14 at 4 p.m. on ESPN, Kobe Bryant and Tamika Catchings remember growing up together in Italy while their fathers were playing basketball in “Italian Imports.” The short film “Of the Father and of the Son” visits with David Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s youngest son, in Tanzania. And then in “Ray Allen/AKA-Jesus Shuttleworth,” Spike Lee explores the meaning behind some of the best nicknames in the NBA.

ESPN.com — ESPN.com has already published several features relating to Black History Month, with more to come during February:

Carl Eller, Alan Page educate at Vikings’ Black History Month event:


SEC Network – Black History Month programming on the SEC Network will include a series of vignettes recognizing the accomplishments of a black athlete, coach or student from each school in the SEC. Among those recognized will be Coolidge Ball, who in 1970 became the first African-American student-athlete ever at Ole Miss; Anthony Nesty of Florida, the first swimmer of African descent to win an NCAA championship; and Maritza Correia McClendon of Georgia, the first black woman to make the U.S. Olympic swimming team. The vignettes will air later this month.

ESPN Classic – During the month of February, ESPN Classic will air an array of films and specials celebrating the influential accomplishments of African-Americans in sports including Rand University, You Don’t Know Bo, ESPN Films: Elevate, Venus Vs., The  Dewey Bozella Story, Condredge Holloway, Muhammad and Larry, The 16th Man, SEC Storied: Croom and Ali Rap. Many of the same titles will also be available via ESPN on Demand as well:

  • 51 Dons: The story of the 1951 season of the undefeated University of San Francisco Dons football team and their unique stand against racism by declining an invitation to play in the Orange Bowl under the condition that they would have to leave their African-American players Ollie Matson and Burl Toler home.
  • A Race Story: The story of NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Wendell Scott, the first and only African-American to ever win a NASCAR premier series race.
  • The Secret Game: The film goes behind the scenes of a secret basketball game that was arranged in 1944 between the all-white Duke University team and the team from N.C. College for Negroes, now North Carolina Central University. With the Klan so active in Durham, N.C., at the time, the game remained a secret until this ESPN Films story.

Also throughout the month, viewers across ESPN’s television platforms will see an updated version of “Lead,” a 30-second spot highlighting African American youth athletes emulating their sports heroes. The spot was created by Adolescent, a company that mentors young film directors from the ages of 12-25. The creators of “Lead” were 15-year-old Tru Jackson and 12-year-old Hannah Gonera.


Media contact: Andy Hall, [email protected]

Andy Hall

I’m part of a team that handles PR/Communications for SportsCenter, including the SC Featured brand, and ESPN’s news platforms. In addition, I’m the PR contact for ESPN’s coverage of golf, motorsports (Formula 1), and the sports betting program Daily Wager. I’m based in Daytona Beach, Fla., and have been with ESPN since 2006.
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