Black History Month Commemorations Begin Across ESPN Television and Digital Platforms
ESPN's Black History Always Initiative Expanded for February with Enhanced Content
Continuing a tradition and commitment dating back more than 25 years, ESPN is amplifying its year-round commitment to Black History Always to recognize Black History Month with a cross-platform content initiative during the month of February.
Black History Always launched in January of 2021 as a content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race, and culture while celebrating African American history and triumph every year, all year. Powered by The Undefeated, ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, ESPN’s television and digital platforms have been offering a series of special programming across print, digital and television platforms.
Throughout February, ESPN will expand and emphasize its Black History Always tradition, increasing content across platforms with shows, specials, events, and other historical storytelling content featuring well-known athletes, talent, and coaches.
“From studio shows to event programming, from streaming to social, ESPN will embrace the opportunity to commemorate and celebrate the month of February as a touchstone of our commitment to documenting Black History, always,” said Rob King, ESPN Executive Editor-In-Chief, Special Projects. “I’m personally thrilled to see the varied forms of storytelling appear on our platforms, because our collective creativity is nearly as inspiring as the content.”
ESPN+ has re-launched the Black History Always Collection, a landing spot for a myriad of content. Also, Black History vignettes will air throughout the month across ESPN platforms with sports moments in Black History, Black Sports inventors and athletes making a difference, including within ESPN television studio shows such as SportsCenter, Get Up, This Just In and Jalen & Jacoby.
Among highlights for February on ESPN platforms, with more content to be announced throughout the month:
Celebrate Black Stories on ESPN+
ESPN+ has re-launched the Black History Always Collection to highlight existing and new content from ESPN and ESPN+ that elevates sport stories and content for and about Black athletes, fans and communities.
The Collection includes five distinct sections:
- Why Not Us: An all-access docuseries executive produced by NBA All-Star Chris Paul, Why Not Us takes viewers behind the scenes of the North Carolina Central University basketball team (Season 1) and the Florida A&M football program (Season 2). Each season examines the distinct culture, experiences and challenges of a Historically Black College and university athletic program, its coaches, staff and student athletes.
- More Than An Athlete: UNINTERRUPTED’s More Than An Athlete examines the various stages and moments of LeBron James’ journey from basketball prodigy to global sports icon, businessman and philanthropist (Season 1) and an intimate view of Michael Strahan’s NFL career, intense work schedule and aptitude to stay authentic (Season 2).
- Claressa Shields: An all-access series that gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at Shields’ quest to become the greatest two-sport athlete of all time, simultaneously maintaining her dominance in boxing while making her debut in mixed martial arts.
- America’s Caddie: Covering professional golf like fans have never seen it before, America’s Caddie mixes feature segments and interviews with golf’s biggest stars, as the series follows Michael Collins on his journeys across the country.
30 for 30 Films
The 30 for 30 film series, originally aimed to celebrate ESPN’s 30-year anniversary with 30 of the best sports stories throughout history, has since soared past its original idea, winning Peabody and Emmy Awards. 30 for 30 films featured in the Collection include Breakaway, 144, Deion’s Double Play, No Crossover, Rodman, You Don’t Know Bo, The Fab Five, Winning Time, Vick, The Best That Never Was, The Announcement and Run Ricky Run.
O.J.: Made In America (Parts 1-5)
- The Academy Award-winning, five-part film directed by Peabody and Emmy winner Ezra Edelman, “J.: Made in America” examines the history of race over the last several decades through the lens of O.J. Simpson’s rise and fall.
Black History Always Specials
- A Love Letter to Black Women:Presented by The Undefeated on ESPN+ as the first Black History Always special, honors and celebrates the Black women who positively impact all of our lives.
- We Are All Jackie:Doug Glanville (ESPN MLB analyst) in addition to Brandon Bellamy (first Black majority owner of a baseball team), Howard Bryant (ESPN.com writer), Sharon Robinson (daughter of Jackie Robinson), and Lisa Salters (ESPN Monday Night Football sideline reporter) express the importance of Robinson’s indelible role on and off the baseball field.
- Bearing Witness:A Portrait of Darnella Frazier: Viewers learn about the courageous Daniella Frazier, who captured the moments leading up to the death of George Floyd, through the eyes of her community, the sports world, and people around the country.
- Finding Free:Spotlights Ryan Russell’s tough road to NFL re-entry, highlighting the challenges he faces as an LGBTQ athlete after revealing his long-hidden “secret” to the world.
- Monochrome:As the title denotes, filmed in black and white, the 30-minute documentary dissects opportunities earned and denied because of a skater’s environment and skin color.
- Sole Survivor:The 30-minute film celebrates the elevation of the “sneakerhead” culture and its importance in the Black community past, present and future.
- Rhoden’s HBCU Road Trip:Features award-winning journalist William C. “Bill” Rhoden as he chronicles the legacy, tradition and rebirth of HBCU football, a sport he played as a standout, student-athlete at Morgan State University.
- I Run With Maud:Author and former NFL running back Warrick Dunn narrates the special about the fatal shooting of 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery by three white men.
- Long Live Seven:The Bryce “Simba” Gowdy Story: focuses on mental health and the underreported topic of suicide among young, Black men.
ESPN’s award-winning, longform storytelling franchise, featuring revealing profiles, hard-hitting investigations and exclusive interviews blends top-notch journalism with unrivaled story-telling. Featuring the biggest names and the best stories in sports. E60s featured in the Collection include “Bubba Wallace,” “Bonds,” “A Love Story,” “Murder in Memphis,” “2 Chainz Full Circle,” “Lindor” and “Marshawn Lynch.”
Subscribers can view the full Black History Always Collection here.
Other offerings on ESPN platforms include:
The Undefeated and Outside the Lines
ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, will collaborate with Outside the Lines for a William C. Rhoden essay examining the state of Black head coaches in the NFL. The exact date will be announced. The OTL on SC segment airs within the noon ET edition of SportsCenter on ESPN, usually after 1:30 p.m.
“The Legacy of Bill Pickett” – The weekly “SC Featured” segment on the Sunday morning edition of SportsCenter on Feb. 27 will be on Bill Pickett, the son of slaves who became famous for his unique technique to catch runaway cattle in the early 1900’s. Fifty-two years after Pickett’s death, a concert promoter, Lu Vason, saw a need to highlight the talents of Black Cowboys and created the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, an all-Black rodeo intended to create a safe space for riders to develop their talents on their journey to the highest levels of rodeo. In 2021, it became the first all-Black rodeo to air on national television.
Whitney’s Anthem: On Friday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. ET, E60 will present an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at Whitney Houston’s national anthem performance 31 years ago at Super Bowl XXV. The story, told by those who were intricately involved in one of the most iconic moments in sports history, explores how – set against the backdrop of the Gulf War – her performance that night helped unify the country, and why nearly 10 years after her tragic passing, Houston’s iconic rendition still resonates today.
NBA Studio Shows
Continuing their Black History storytelling in February, NBA Today and NBA Countdown will air a series of vignettes that highlight stories at the intersection of Black History Always and the NBA 75 Anniversary.
ESPN Digital Video
- SportsNation, Stephen A’s World and all digital live shows will run Black History Always vignettes.
- ESPN’s YouTube channel will also integrate vignettes as well as original content, both standard form and Shorts including custom features on Adia Barnes and Dawn Staley.
- Stephen A’s World will pursue guests with Black History Always tie-ins to appear throughout the month.
ESPN Social Handles
- ESPN’s Social handles and The Undefeated celebrate the contributions and impact of Black employees in all areas of sports. The original video content will feature athletes who play the game to arena employees who keep it running
- Individual athletes who have made impacts in their community and beyond will be highlighted, with recent examples in focus.
- Weekly collaboration between ESPN & espnW featuring Black women who have impacted both sports and culture. (first example is here)
- ESPN’s daily program First Take (M-F, 10 a.m.) will air a series of vignettes voiced by Jay Harris and written by The Undefeated on notable Black History moments dating back to the 1950 NBA Draft Integration and featuring Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Bill Russell, Venus & Serena Williams, Willie O’Ree, Simone Biles, Eddie Robinson and C. Vivian Stringer.
- Throughout February, ESPN Audio will be producing and airing original vignettes focused on key moments in history on and off the field and honoring those who have fought for and continue to create change. They will be voiced by ESPN Radio host and NFL analyst Keyshawn Johnson. The vignettes, along with other featured content from around the network, will air across ESPN Radio’s studio shows and Podcast portfolio.
- ESPN Deportes celebrates Afro-Latino athletes through a series of vignettes highlighting their accomplishments, while also exploring their experiences of being Black and Latino. Among the feature subjects: Rod Carew, Ozzie Virgil, Minnie Minoso, Vic Power, Juan Pizarro and Nicky Nieves.
- During ESPN telecasts of live NBA and college basketball games, as well as in studio programming and other live sports, ESPN will weave in Black History Month storytelling and content.
- ESPN remains focused on a year-round commitment to HBCU athletics, having just completed a college football season with more than 100 HBCU games across platforms. HBCU college basketball season continues in February with ESPN television and digital platforms showcasing regular season games from the MEAC, SWAC, SIAC, CIAA and the Big South (Hampton, NC A&T) and OVC (Tennessee State). Coverage will continue into the postseason with the MEAC, SWAC, SIAC and CIAA Men’s & Women’s Championships on television and early round coverage of the tournaments on ESPN+.
- My Home: Reporter Holly Rowe joined College Basketball player Aliyah Boston at her home in St. Thomas this past fall. Boston shared her home and the people and places that made her who she is today.
- SEC Network also will integrate SEC voices and Black History Always vignettes specific to SEC athletes and stories throughout the month.
- Longhorn Network’s monthly magazine show, Longhorn Extra, will feature former Longhorn and current Kansas City Chief Alex Okafor. After his mother died of cancer, he made a vow to honor her legacy of public service by fighting systemic racism.
During February, ACC Network will airs a series of vignettes related to Black History. Topics will include:
- Lawrence Joel, for whom the Wake Forest basketball arena is named. Joel is the only Winston-Salem, N.C., native ever to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Korean and Vietnam War veteran also received the Silver Star.
- The Syracuse 8 – in 1969, nine Black football players at Syracuse University decided to boycott the football program to demand change and protest discrimination.
ESPN’s Black and African American employee resource group, PULSE, will recognize the month with a series of internal virtual events to inform, entertain and celebrate Black joy.
Media contacts: Andy Hall, [email protected] and Cecile Cross-Plummer [email protected]