Muscle Sport Magazine

espnW: Women + Sports Summit – Day Two

Courtesy of ESPN Images


  • Robin Roberts joined Cari Champion on stage for a one-on-one interview about Robin’s  journey – professionally and personally – including her experience battling cancer, being vulnerable, and career highlights for espnW’s “Be Honest with Cari Champion.” You can view the entire on-stage conversation here
    • During the 2015 emotional reporting on Hurricane Katrina, Roberts spoke about how her on-air vulnerability prepared her to later share her cancer diagnosis with the world. Roberts recalled her most memorable career moment, saying “The day before [the interview], I was at the doctor’s office. Only my then-assistant and my close family knew I was there…and was told I had 1-2 years to live [if the treatment didn’t work].” No one knew what was happening when Roberts suddenly received a call saying President Obama is going to change his stance on marriage equality, and he requested her to be the person to interview him to break the news. As she tried to digest everything, Roberts quickly decided to go to the White House and report on this historic moment. Following the interview, Roberts joked, “My producer who was standing off to the side held up a card after made the statement. You know what that card said? ‘Lipstick on teeth!’ I thought it was going to say something about making headlines around the world!’” The crowd burst out laughing. Roberts later asked President Obama why he chose her to do the interview and he shared it was because she let him finish his sentences. She listened, and didn’t try to make it about herself. Though this was indeed a historic moment, Roberts admitted that during the interview, all she could think about was “Am I going to live to see this change?”
    • Roberts reminisced on her days at ESPN, “We didn’t know the success it was going to be. I was there before they had cafeterias, and [I was] one of the few women and African-American anchors. One common thread is that we loved sports.”
    • Roberts spoke about her parents being trailblazers who taught her that “the margin of error is less for someone like me. You can be positive or negative, and I was positive about it. I looked at it as a privilege.”
  • espnW columnist and ESPN soccer commentator Julie Foudy spoke with UCLA gymnast and viral social media sensation Katelyn Ohashi, along with her former coach, Valerie Kondos Field for a conversation on espnW’s hit podcast, “Laughter Permitted with Julie Foudy.” The trio discussed the Nassar sexual abuse case and the extreme pressure of the sport.
    • When addressing the sexual abuse scandals, Kondos Field said, “Everyone thinks I blame Martha and Bela Karolyi. I really don’t. I blame the U.S. Gymnastics Federation. They [the Karolyis] are Eastern European and coach the only way they know how to coach, but it was OUR governing body that ALLOWED them to coach like this.” She continued, “We’re a perfect example of what happens when you put women and money above human beings…you open up your organization to this corrosiveness. That’s how you get more than 400 women sexually abused.” Kondos Field continued speaking about the difference between victims’ families who put the sport before the well-being of their child: “The Nassar victims who are not traumatically scarred had great families and parents to go home to. They had safe spaces. They had unconditional love at home. The ones that are still scarred had families who are still focused on winning. They had no safe space.”
    • Ohashi spoke about beating Simone Biles in the 2013 American Cup and the pressure her former coaches put on athletes, “There was no option to leaving [the sport]. Everyone around me told me, ‘Here are the Olympics. It’s in your path and it’s not even a question and you’re going to keep pursuing it’’ until I finally broke. My burnout wasn’t the result of a physical one, it was a mental one. I had to have the best skills, execute perfectly and look good doing it.” Ohashi continued, “Even winning gold wasn’t good enough. I remember in 2013 after winning the American Cup [against Simone Biles], on live television, my coach strangling me saying ‘You could have done better!’”
  • Summit attendees were buzzing following the panel, “The Value of Professional Female Athletes. Equal Play, Equal Pay.”, that included speakers Kendall Coyne, Nneka Ogwumike, U.S. Women’s Hockey Attorney John Langel, and CAA sports agent Lis Moss, and moderator Julie Foudy. The panelists discussed how various professional sports leagues are making strides in pay equality for women athletes.
    • Coyne spoke candidly about the drastic pay gap between male and female professional hockey players, noting that she was the highest paid player on her team making $7,000 while her male counterparts make upwards of $15.9 million. “There hasn’t been one thing about this sport that has made it professional [for women] — the product; the treatment of the players; the pay.” Coyne continued, “Full disclosure: last year I played in the league and made $7,000 and was questioned why I didn’t move to Minnesota to be a part of the team…I was the highest paid player on the team.” Coyne was forced to work a full-time day job while finding time to train and go to games in order to continue being a professional athlete and national team member.
    • Ogwumike talked about how her influential role as the WNBA Players Association President and advocating for pay equality permeates other fields, “Right now, we’re in the middle of such an important, influential and impactful time for not just women in the WNBA, but we have players in hockey, in soccer, asking us questions.” She continued, “We are icons, we are role models, we turn the dial in so many ways that reaches outside of just being on the court and on the field, that it’s imperative for us – it’s a duty for us – to come out and let everyone know that we are worthy and we understand what we deserve.”
  • ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro and espnW founder and ESPN senior vice president of marketing Laura Gentile sat down for a Spotlight interview with Foudy, where they discussed ESPN’s role in the representation of women in sports, prioritizing audience expansion, programming resonating with younger generations, and more.
    • Two-thirds of the total time spent consuming women’s sports happens on ESPN networks. Pitaro spoke about ESPN’s commitment to women and how the network is tailoring content to female audiences, saying “In terms of live events, it’s women who are driving the growth, so we are continuing to invest in content that will help us grow. On the storytelling side, we try to make decisions based on data and we’re finding that women want storytelling — the game around the game.” Pitaro continued, “An example of this was reflected in our recent coverage of the NFL Draft where ESPN partnered with ABC. ESPN covered the x’s and o’s, while on the ABC side, it was Robin Roberts who covered the story behind the players.”
    • In Jimmy’s 18 month tenure at ESPN, he spoke on how it takes more than addressing diversity and inclusion at the workplace to move the needle, “If you’re just focused on diversity and inclusion, then you’re not doing it right. You need belonging.” Pitaro continued, “You need people who can get out of bed and feel like they’re operating in a safe environment.”

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