The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.16.18 Podcast / by Jacqueline Parke

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This week’s featured guest is Laura Okmin, an NFL reporter for Fox and the founder of GALvanize. She speaks with David about her organization and its upcoming bootcamps for young women in sports broadcasting.

Earlier in the show, reporter Brian Murphy of The News & Observer discusses the prospect of allowing college athletes to profit from their names. USA Today reporter A.J. Perez also joins David to analyze the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this week to let states regulate sports gambling.

Brian Murphy on letting college athletes sell their likeness

In college sports, the contentious debate over how student athletes should be treated is nothing new – but the question of whether students should be allowed to make some money from their collegiate athletic careers has seen recent escalation.

Brian Murphy covers the Washington, D.C. beat as a correspondent for The News & Observer and McClatchy. In an article earlier this week, Murphy writes about a Republican Congressman from North Carolina who recently threw his own powerful opinion into the ring by penning an opinion piece for The News & Observer.

U.S. Rep. Mark Walker “basically threatened the NCAA with legislation that would allow players to use their name, image and likeness while in college,” Murphy tells HWTP Sports Talk. “Right now, those rights [belong to] the schools and conferences.”

David points out that this is difficult to balance with the fact that Walker is simultaneously against the idea of paying the student athletes.

It may seem arbitrary, Murphy says, but “the NCAA and many have drawn a line between name, image and likeness [versus] paying players for their performance” nonetheless.

Murphy explains that although the Congressman does not favor paying the players directly, he believes that they should still be able to enjoy the same or similar financial rights as Olympic athletes currently do. The “Olympic model” allows Olympians to earn compensation for selling their image, name and likeness.

“That’s one reason why [Olympians] have longer careers; because they can make money off of being athletes,” Murphy says.

Murphy says the Olympic model is gaining steam as one of the possible solutions being floated in the NCAA debate.

“Some of these athletes in college produce way more value than a scholarship,” Murphy says, and produce so much “surplus value” that colleges are able to make millions off of them every year by not paying their players anything.

Proponents of financial rights for college athletes say the compensation would appropriately reward their achievements, serve as an incentivize for them to finish school, and put them in a better position to have the future they want.

Any kind of big move on this issue by the NCAA will likely need to involve legislation, David speculates.

Murphy says we should keep an eye out for such legislation “later this summer.”

A.J. Perez on the legalization of sports gambling

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down an important and long-awaited decision: federal limitations on sports betting, it ruled, are unconstitutional.

A.J. Perez, a sports reporter for USA Today, has been following this story’s progression for the past decade. Back then, he reported on Delaware’s attempt to circumvent the sports betting limitations. Fast forward about ten years, and Perez was able to report on Monday’s momentous court decision.

“It finally happened,” he said.

Perez says that many felt as though it was only a matter of time, comparing it to states gradually warming up to the idea of marijuana legalization. But he had no idea when or how it would happen – until this Monday, when “Jersey won out.”

New Jersey will be the first to offer sports betting within the next week, with others – e.g. West Virginia, Mississippi and Delaware – to follow close behind.

David and Perez discuss the potential pros and cons of the court’s decision, as well as the merits of federal oversight.

States will choose how much they want to tax the newly-legalized pastime, which is something that will likely deviate widely from how Nevada (the only state in which sports gambling has already been legal) has been operating.

“They’re all taxing more than Nevada,” Perez tells HWTP Sports Talk. He notes that Delaware’s state taxes are already extremely steep, for example, and that Pennsylvania is looking into demanding large sanctioning fees on top of their similarly high state tax.

Perez says that with the exception of a small handful of states, he expects that most others will leave it up to their state lotteries or a gaming commission to finalize specific betting rules and guidelines.

Laura Okmin on her GALvanize bootcamps for young women in broadcasting

For over 20 years, Laura Okmin has been at the forefront of professional sports broadcast media. She has hosted, anchored, reported, produced – you name it, she’s done it. Currently, she works as an NFL sideline reporter for Fox.

A few years ago, she also followed her passion to become the founder of an organization that teaches and empowers young aspiring female broadcasters.

Okmin’s organization is called GALvanize, and is geared toward young women who want to gain the experience and confidence necessary to succeed in the male-dominated field of sports broadcasting by providing intensive two-day “bootcamps” around the country.

When GALvanize hosted its first seminar about five years ago, Okmin’s sole focus was on training the young women. She was also working as a media trainer for NFL teams and major league baseball teams at the time. She realized that she was coaching players on how to interact with the media while simultaneously training aspiring reporters about interacting and connecting with those same players.

“I’m sitting here at this beautiful intersection,” Okmin recalls thinking. “How can I get these two sides together?”

Quite easily, apparently, when you have Laura Okmin’s connections; today, all bootcamps are in partnership with NFL teams.

“The [Buffalo] Bills, the Jaguars, the Falcons and the Chargers, they give us our rookies,” Okmin says. “The players AND the women are getting coached.”

Day one of the bootcamp is Okmin’s educational session with the young women, in which she teaches them everything from interview techniques to dressing professionally to building relationships.

Then, on day two: “We are with the rookies, interviewing each other, empathizing with each other,” Okmin tells HWTP Sports Talk.

While the young female reporters are being given the tools to perfect their researching and interviewing skills and build up their confidence, the male players learn to open up and push through nervousness to tell their story and be vulnerable. Both sides learn how to listen and empathize with the other.

“I wanted the men to understand the power that comes with the platform once you learn how to use it, and I want the women to understand the responsibility and the weight that comes with helping somebody share their story,” Okmin says.

“So this way, it’s both sides really helping each other with that, which is wonderful.”

Okmin has three bootcamps coming up, all of which are sold out: two more this month in Jacksonville and Atlanta, and another in L.A. this June.