ESPN anchor Michael Eaves has a prominent role in this weekend’s sports scene, anchoring coverage of the PGA Championship. As his profile grows and he grows more comfortable expressing his voice on social issues, Eaves is further entrenching himself at ESPN.
The anchor has signed a multi-year contract extension with the network, as first reported by the Louisville Courier-Journal. According to Dominique Yates’ report, that will keep Eaves at ESPN for at least four more years.
“Where I’m from, you ended up doing a few things,” Eaves told Yates. “Work in the coal mines, work on a farm or maybe you got lucky and got a nice job in Nashville or Evansville or Louisville working in healthcare or something like that.”
Related: Michael Eaves on covering Kobe’s death on SportsCenter: “There’s no class that you can take that’s going to prepare you for this moment exactly.”
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During his six years in Bristol, Eaves might be known best for anchoring SportsCenter. But the prep golf star (he was the first Black golfer to qualify for Kentucky’s high school state tournament) has also hosted coverage of The Masters and other events, such as this weekend’s PGA Championship.
In addition to anchoring MMA Live for the network, Eaves has worked outside the studio for on-site interviews (taking over for Tom Rinaldi at The Masters) and reporting, sometimes doing his job despite physical adversity like choking on a bug live on the air.
Related: ESPN Black employees talk to New York Times about network’s lack of diversity behind the scenes
Those who follow Eaves on social media know that speaking out on racial and cultural issues is important for him. Taking such stands once wasn’t advocated at ESPN, where executives preferred on-air personalities to stick to sports, keeping politics and advocacy to themselves.
But social justice issues couldn’t be ignored when they became a significant part of sports discourse, as when NBA players protested the shooting of Jacob Blake and many athletes participated in Black Lives Matter demonstrations following the murder of George Floyd. Nearly a year ago, Eaves talked candidly about racism and police violence against Black people in this country.
Beautifully said, @michaeleaves. Thank you for your bravery and candor. pic.twitter.com/gpo2Pf64Ci
— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) May 31, 2020
However, if you read the Courier-Journal story, Eaves speaking out on racism shouldn’t be a surprise. He grew up in an area where only 0.6 percent of the population was Black amid a community that was 98 percent white.
“I’ve always been of the belief, ‘If I don’t do something, who will?'” Eaves told communications associate producer Jon McLeod on ESPN’s PRod Pod. “It’s so easy for everyone to sit back and expect someone else to be involved in something getting better. But why them, why not you?”
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Ep. 5 – @JonMcLeod_ESPN & @michaeleaves discuss his dad's influence on his love of golf, Eaves' new deal & morehttps://t.co/67lw1yqfUn
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) May 22, 2021
Related: SportsCenter’s Michael Eaves spoiled Game of Thrones before episode aired on West Coast
Eaves joined ESPN in 2015, having previously anchored at Al Jazeera America. Prior to that, he hosted pre- and post-game coverage for Los Angeles Clippers and Angels coverage on Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. He also appeared as a sideline reporter on the networks’ Lakers and Dodgers broadcasts. Additionally, Eaves covered the Pac-12 for Fox Sports and worked as a sportscaster in Memphis (also sideline reporting for Grizzlies game telecasts) and Lexington, Kentucky.
“The way our industry has been going and people seeing their careers end before they thought they would or have to go to other places, I will never lose sight of that,” Eaves said to the Courier-Journal. “I’m very appreciative of the opportunity the last six years and thankful ESPN will give me four more years.”