ESPN Commemorates Black History Month with Special Storytelling Across Multiple Platforms

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ESPN Commemorates Black History Month with Special Storytelling Across Multiple Platforms

  • The Undefeated Presents: Year of the Black Quarterback Sunday, Feb. 9
  • Willie O’Ree Documentary to Air Monday, Feb. 17
  • Spoken Word Videos Celebrating Black Athletes Including Colin Kaepernick, Jackie Robinson, LeBron James, Serena Williams and Venus Williams
  • Criminal Justice Reform with Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings Feb. 28

Throughout the month of February, ESPN will commemorate Black History Month with televised and digital specials, events and other historic storytelling content across ESPN platforms.

On Sunday Feb. 9, a week after the Super Bowl, ESPN2 and ESPN will each air “The Undefeated Presents: Year of the Black Quarterback,” a one-hour special that looks at the emergence of black quarterbacks in the NFL and college ranks. The thought-provoking special is part of a yearlong initiative led by The Undefeated, ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. It highlights the ascent of the black quarterback and his role in sports, activism and leadership.

For the first time in the history of the sport, black quarterbacks are at the top rung– or rising—at the same time with stars like Patrick Mahomes, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, Dak Prescott, Deshaun Watson, Cam Newton, and Kyler Murray.

The special will debut at 1 p.m. ET on ESPN2 and re-air at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

More Black History Month Content on ESPN platforms includes:

Willie – Monday, Feb. 17 at 7 pm | ESPN2

Available throughout the month of February on the ESPN App

A 90-minute documentary about the National Hockey League’s first black player, Willie O’Ree.

O’Ree, who played from 1957 to 1979, was named NHL Diversity Ambassador in 1998, and has since helped establish 39 local grassroots hockey programs and inspired more than 120,000 boys and girls to play the game in its many forms. On November 12, 2018, having dedicated most of his life to hockey, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

The documentary contains never-before-seen home movie footage, original interviews, and first-person accounts from friends and family across North America. The film also features appearances by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and expert on race and retrospective justice Dr. Melissa Nobles, NHL players Wayne Simmonds and Devante Smith-Pelly, National Women’s Hockey League player Kelsey Koelzer and the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau.

Why I Play –Monday, Feb. 17 at 8:30 p.m. | ESPN2

A 30-minute exploration of the evolution of youth sports in the black community, presented by The Undefeated.

In Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park, at-risk youth from some of the roughest neighborhoods in Philly have found a path, and purpose, through polo. The special documents the journeys of two trailblazers who have dominated a sport that has been considered an exclusive, country club pursuit of privilege for centuries, while exploring the role sports play in the black community as a means for opportunity and empowerment.

More from The Undefeated

  • Four 60- to 90- second spoken word digital pieces regarding iconic black athletes and their effect on culture and philanthropy throughout the community will be shared on The Undefeated’s digital platforms throughout the month.
    • Colin Kaepernick (Feb. 2), Jackie Robinson (Feb. 9), LeBron James (Feb. 16), Venus and Serena Williams (Feb. 23)
  • How the Canadian Football League Welcomed Black Quarterbacks – Wednesday, Feb. 5
    • A feature written by The Undefeated’s Kevin Parrish on the 82 black quarterbacks who played in the CFL when the NFL refused to give black quarterbacks starting positions.
  • Kyle Korver and White Privilege- Thursday, Feb. 6
    • Kyle Korver shocked the NBA world with his revealing insight into the world of white privilege in a self-written article last year. The Milwaukee Bucks sharpshooter talks about the impact and aftermath in a revealing interview with The Undefeated’s Marc Spears.
  • Effa Manley and the Color Bar in Baseball– Monday, Feb. 24
    • A look at how Effa Manley, the co-owner of the Newark Eagles of the Negro Leagues, tried to manage black baseball’s survival as Major League Baseball began to integrate.
  • ESPN and The Undefeated Presents: Run the Yard: A Divine Nine Roundtable– Friday, Feb. 28
    • This episode of the “Table” will explore the rich history of the Divine Nine with college members of each greek organization. The conversation will be centered around Black Greek life, the HBCU experience, issues affecting students on campus and will touch on topics from around social media. The panel discussion will culminate with a look into the students’ preparation for the annual step show competition.
  • The Talk: Criminal Justice Reform with Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings– Friday, Feb. 28
    • The Undefeated goes on an exclusive journey with the Sacramento Kings and Milwaukee Bucks as they visit prisons, speak with incarcerated individuals and share their own experiences with the criminal justice system.

In addition, The Undefeated will present a series of vignettes marrying black invention and sports on ESPN platforms throughout the month


  • Super Bowl halftime never the same after ‘In Living Color’ by Ericka N. Goodman-HugheyBefore Jennifer Lopez was a Super Bowl LIV halftime headliner, she was performing as a Fly Girl during the “In Living Color” halftime show. The sketch comedy show upstaged the 1992 Super Bowl halftime performance and forever changed the game.

ACC Network

  • Charles Scott Feature – All Access with Carolina Basketball (Episode 5) Monday, Feb. 24 at 8pm.
    • Charles Scott was the first African American scholarship athlete at North Carolina as a standout on the men’s basketball team from 1967-70. Scott, a three-time All-ACC honoree, two-time All-American and Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame inductee (2018), along with head coach Dean Smith were incredibly influential in Chapel Hill during the civil rights movement. Eddie Folger, Scott’s teammate and former Tar Heels assistant coach as well as head coach Roy Williams and current players provide insight on Scott’s legacy at North Carolina.
  • Clemson University Feature – All ACC Wednesday, Feb. 26 at 11 p.m.
    • In April 1968 when news broke of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a group of African American students asked Clemson University officials for vans to transport them to Dr. King’s funeral, two hours away from campus. The feature will include stories on why these students, now in their 70’s, felt compelled to attend Dr. Kings’ funeral, their personal memories of the funeral, and how Dr. King’s legacy continues to have an impact.

SEC Network

  • Teresa Phillips Feature – SEC Now Thursday, Feb. 20 at 11 p.m.
    • On the heels of Candice Storey Lee’s historic news, becoming Vanderbilt’s first female athletic director and the first African American woman to head a Southeastern Conference athletics program, SEC Network tells the story of Teresa Phillips, who broke barriers at Vanderbilt when she became the first African American female student-athlete to play for the Commodores (Women’s basketball, 1978-1980). Phillips is currently the Athletic Director for Tennessee State University.

In addition, a series of vignettes celebrating the diversity across the SEC Network will air throughout the month on the network.

Longhorn Network

  • University of Texas Conversation with Student Athletes- Thursday, Feb. 13
    • University of Texas Vice President and Director of Athletics Chris Del Conte hosts a candid conversation with six black student athletes, where they discuss topics from black history makers to the challenges they continue to face.
  • The Andre Robertson Story- Thursday, Feb. 20
    • Longhorn Extra This Week will feature a conversation between Andre Robertson, the first African American scholarship athlete on the Texas Baseball team, and current Texas baseball player Kam Fields. The two will discuss their experiences as black athletes on the Texas baseball team and in the sport of baseball.

Additional Content:

ESPN’s popular morning debate show First Take – featuring Stephen A. Smith, Max Kellerman and host Molly Qerim Rose – will have a discussion on the evolution of the black quarterback to further the discussion started by The Undefeated’s yearlong initiative.


Shakeemah Simmons-Winter

I am a senior publicist for men’s pro sports, working predominantly with the NBA and FIBA properties. I’m a Jersey City, NJ native, so I cheer for all New York sports and athletes, win or lose. I began my sports career as a small forward for JCPS #9’s elementary basketball team, and then years later gave up my hoop dreams (sort of) to work as the Public Relations Coordinator for the New York Knicks. Prior to working in sports, I briefly worked as an intern turned production assistant for the Wendy Williams Show. I earned a B.A. in Communications from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, where I met my husband Matthew, and later attended New York University to earn a M.S. in Public Relations and Corporate Communications. I am excited to continue my sports journey with some of the most knowledgeable professionals in the sports industry.
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