Promoting and increasing diversity has been an issue for many sports media outlets in recent months as more attention has been focused on systemic racism and lack of representation throughout the culture.
The uproar among staff at Bleacher Report was made especially public in June with the dismissal of CEO Howard Mittman over what executives defined as a “crisis of leadership,” notably in regards to diversity issues at the company, a lack of inclusiveness in the overall workplace and editorial decisions made on content.
Specifically, black employees pointed to Bleacher Report’s leadership ranks lacking people of color and voiced concerns that executives often bypassed diverse internal hires in favor of white external candidates. Editorially, there were also significant concerns that a Black voice covering Black athletes was being guided and approximated by a largely white staff.
Have suitable changes been made in the nearly three months since Mittman’s dismissal? According to a story by Digiday’s Tim Peterson, Bleacher Report appears to be moving in a positive direction for employees of color. The company’s People Advisory Council has taken a greater role in addressing diversity in hiring practices and efforts to retain employees already on hand (which an internal report was 10 percent of the overall staff). Additionally, a greater number of Black executives from Turner Sports have taken leadership roles at B/R.
I've been debating posting this, but I feel like in many ways this transparency is more important than my career prospects. pic.twitter.com/vpwrLVlgZS
— Dylan C. Lathrop (@DylanLathrop) June 18, 2020
Thus far, employees are encouraged by the changes but acknowledge that such initiatives are in the early stages of what needs to be a longer process. And some of the initiatives that have been promised won’t be implemented until 2021. So until actual results are visible, skepticism understandably remains.
“A lot of it is talk, and a lot of is planned, but it’s only been two months so far,” one employee told Digiday.
“Can you really put a timeline on systemic issues? I don’t really know,” said another B/R staffer. “So I’m not 100% satisfied with what’s happened so far.”
Peterson’s piece goes far in-depth, including memos and graphics that B/R management sent to staff, and highlighting people of color already at Turner Sports that have been added executive positions at Bleacher Report to their responsibilities. But current employees would also like to see Black employees promoted within the company’s hierarchy, something that has yet to occur. How B/R’s layoffs affected employees of color and how those cuts were justified to staff is also explored in detail.
But “the needle is starting to move,” as a current B/R employee put it. A final verdict obviously remains on how substantial and satisfactory these changes turn out to be.