In observance of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ESPN’s Outside the Lines will air a “Content of Character” roundtable discussion with the executive directors of the players unions for the NBA, NFL and MLB, the first time the three current executives have been on-camera together.
The discussion will air on Outside the Lines on Sunday, Jan. 18, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPNEWS and 10 a.m. on ESPN2, with both airings also available on WatchESPN. Portions also will air on editions of SportsCenter throughout the day and will be available for viewing on ESPN.com.
SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris moderates the discussion with Tony Clark, Major League Baseball Players Association; Michele Roberts, National Basketball Players Association; and DeMaurice Smith, National Football League Players Association
Members of the panel discuss diversity and race relations in sports as well as their perspectives on leadership, minority representation among the industry’s power brokers and the future for young people aspiring to become players, coaches/managers and executives.
Some quotes from the discussion:
"We've had to deal with the fact that when we walk into a conference room or a courtroom or wherever that there are presumptions that are going to be made about us because we are African-American, and then added to that is the audacity of my being a woman in the world of sports. Having said all that, I allow myself to be troubled by it for about a millisecond and then we all just go on and do what we have to do." – Michele Roberts.
“But at the end of the day, I refuse to believe there aren't more qualified African-Americans, women, people of color in general for a role from the janitor all the way up to the owner of the club. I refuse to believe there aren't more out there that can positively affect any of our games or any of our industries.” – Tony Clark.
“When the first player, I think for us it was Derrick Rose, wore the ‘I Can't Breathe" t-shirt, I will say I was very proud. I thought it was done in a way that obviously expressed the way he felt about that issue, but it was done in a way that didn't disrespect an alternative opinion …. I was pleased that the league did not take any action against our players, but I'll tell you that if they had, we would have been prepared to go to the mat on that.” – Michele Roberts.
“When we stood up in front of our players and told them that we were going to represent Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, that wasn't a question in our locker room. And when we made it clear that we were going to do so without apology, there was no question in our locker room. Why? Because our players believe in fairness. And at the end of the day, that's what we have to champion most.” – DeMaurice Smith.
“When I flew with some of the St. Louis Rams players to a town that had been torn apart by a tornado, they went because they are socially conscious and aware. Nobody wrote me a letter complaining about that. So when the same players from the same team are socially conscious and aware of what's going on in another neighborhood, suddenly they're supposed to shut up and play. No.” – DeMaurice Smith.
“I don't have children but what I tell my nieces, and I have two of them, is don't you for one second assume that you can't do something or you shouldn't try to do something because you're a woman. If you do that, you've lost. And so I tell women all the time, stop whining. Don't forget that you are a woman because you can't, but don't for one second think that because -- I agree, the playing field is not level. Nonetheless, go for it. There's no time to complain. You've just got to go for it.” – Michele Roberts.
"The idea that we're all three sitting at this table and you're (Harris) sitting at this table suggest it's gotten better, but the underlying theme still exists, and that is, what did Dr. King say, I have a dream that one day that my kids will be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. We're still a ways away from that, but we've gotten better." – Tony Clark.
In addition to the panel discussion, ESPN will commemorate Dr. King’s birthday with the airing of vignettes in SportsCenter and other ESPN studio shows Jan. 17-19. The vignettes feature testimonials from various sports figures about Dr. King’s legacy.
On Monday, Jan. 19, ESPN will televise an afternoon Martin Luther King Day NBA matchup as the surging Detroit Pistons visit the Atlanta Hawks. Mark Jones and analyst Jon Barry will provide commentary for the 2:30 p.m. game.
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