The ReCap by Laina Stebbins: 5.16.18 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk


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.

The ReCap by Melissa Nappi: 4.18.2018 Podcast by HWTP Sports Talk


Brett Estrella, Report Coordinator at The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at University of Central Florida, stops by to discuss Major League Baseball’s score on the Racial and Gender Report Card. Michael Chiaradio, CEO and Chairman of the American Softball Association (“ASBA”), discusses his hopes for an all-female professional softball league.

MLB Diversity Report Card

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (“TIDES”) released a diversity report that examined the minority hiring practices of Major League Baseball.  David noted that “The report shows racial hiring is a B+ — up from last year. Gender hiring was at a C — up by just one point from last year — leading to an overall grade of a C+.”  

David:   “The numbers can say a lot of things, but most of the information contained in your (TIDES) report is self-reported... are there any safeguards in place to insure the numbers reported to you are accurate and not getting inflated?” 

Brett Estrella, a Masters student at University of Central Florida, explained: “Each of the clubs that the HR staffs reports that are sent to the Central Office in New York are accountable to the government.”

While the numbers are improving in both race and gender they are still nowhere near where they ought to be.  “The percentages have shifted and our grading system has changed in the last year to reflect the changing demographics of the United States,” Brett explained. “The central league office has better numbers in hiring women and people of color while the teams seem to be lagging behind.”

David: “Do these numbers reflect the pressure put on the Central Office to hire more diverse people or is it just a matter of the demographic of the area?” 

Brett: “I think that the Central Office is where the message comes from and they want to model those diverse hiring practices. As for the teams we don’t get the actual team data from each individual teams just the averages from the MLB, but that would be an interesting study to consider.”

Brett continues,

“The MLB has the most diverse talent pool of any sport, but 42.5% are players of color. The only thing to be miffed about is that the percentage of African-American players has fallen. With their grassroots programs like RBI, which is about bringing baseball back to inner cities...”  Brett continued, “Another program aimed at African-American youth is the Urban Youth Academy that deals with making sure that the game is accessible...”

It’s interesting to note that Major League Baseball cites the reason for the African American decline is because of dark-skinned Hispanics being mischaracterized as black. “The decline over the decades also deserves some context. Though baseball's peak African-American population is often cited at 27 percent in the mid-1970s, that number was inflated by the inclusion of dark-skinned players from Latin American countries -- a mischaracterization uncovered several years ago in research by Mark Armour of SABR.”  MLB concedes that, “…the distinction between today's figure and what Armour determined to be the actual peak (18.7 percent in 1981), as well as the steady decline from the 17.2-percent figure in 1994, is still striking. And MLB has made many efforts to address the factors -- societal and otherwise -- that have contributed to that decline.” (Article here)

Brett turned his attention to the lack of women in baseball. “I am all for women coaching, but how realistic is it to include gender in the coaching category?”  He explains, “90% of the coaches, or if not more on field, are males — there aren’t a lot of female coaches out there…I don’t want to discount it in the future and say that it is unrealistic…” He points out that “There are three women coaching with the Astros, Indians, and Mets — all have women on field… it is a male dominated sport and…in coaching where a majority of coaches played the game and played at a pretty high level…which right there (creates) a barrier of entry to women because of the barriers in participation.”

Brett also noted that other leagues out shine Major League Baseball with respect to the hiring of minorities.  “Baseball actually lags behinds the other major leagues… with an overall grade of C+/B- (MLB) lags behind the NBA who received an A-, NFL who got a B, and the MLS got a B+.”

The TIDES report doesn’t provide recommendations to the leagues as to better their score, but the scores can lead to programs that increase diversity hiring. For more information on the TIDES study, please visit their website at www.tides.org. 

American Softball Association: Are we ready for a women’s softball pro team?

In keeping with our theme of gender equality in sports — Michael Chiaradio, CEO of ASBA, stopped by to discuss his new league and the goals for the inaugural season.

Michael isn’t a typical CEO — he played independent minor league baseball that exposed him to real life experiences on the field that he brings to his softball league.  

Michael explains, “There are great athletes out there who don’t see any viable professional options. Girls go to college and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel and make academic decisions or just fizzle out — it’s not a priority.” He continues, “Whereas for me (as a man) whatever school or team I played for, everyone thought they could get drafted or play at a high level. That is something we have to do with women…”

The most important thing about the ASBA is that they are looking to spread the wealth unlike other professional leagues. “We are going to have one standard base pay and give the same bonus opportunities. I was looking over MLB’s collective bargaining agreement and the teams have far too much autonomy and I knew that was no way to grow the league. I think we’re more towards the NFL collective bargaining agreement which gives the governing powers more control over the teams."  Michael continues, "We are giving (women) the ownership shares and that is my macro solution to getting product out there and growing the sport professionally.  This is about giving a fighting wage to players and expanding the boundaries of women’s sports,” explained Michael.

“We are the Netflix’s of softball… we are also developing an app that is going to go right on Xbox and PlayStation in order to target the young folks.”  Draft day for the league is June 9th and Opening Day is June 15th in Mobile, Alabama. 

The full interview is available below. For more information on ASBA and/or to support, go to their website at www.asbasoftball.com.

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