Following Monday afternoon’s announcement that the Los Angeles Times had brought in ESPN’s Kevin Merida as executive editor, ESPN has named Merida’s replacement at The Undefeated. Merida had been the editor-in-chief of The Undefeated since joining ESPN in November 2015, and helped fully launch that site (after a long journey) in May 2016. He was also an ESPN senior vice president, responsible (since 2017) for news and enterprise coverage, and presided over the ESPN editorial board. How ESPN will fill those latter roles appears to be determined still, but they’ve now announced Merida’s replacement as editor-in-chief at The Undefeated: Raina Kelley, who’s been the managing editor of that publication since Merida hired her in November 2015. Here’s more on that promotion from an ESPN release:
Raina Kelley, managing editor of The Undefeated since November 2015, has been promoted to Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of the ESPN multimedia initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture. Kelley will be responsible for the editorial direction and oversight for The Undefeated. She succeeds Kevin Merida who launched the project five years ago, and will report to Mark Walker, Senior Vice President, Content Business Development and Innovation.
…“Raina is a committed, collaborative and creative presence who has been part of the visionary leadership for this platform from the start,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman, ESPN and Sports Content. “We know The Undefeated will continue to thrive with Raina in this role.”
…“Kevin has been an outstanding leader, an amazing teacher and mentor to our team,” said Raina. “I assume this responsibility knowing he has left behind a brilliant team of creative minds at The U that will continue this vision well into the future.”
Kelley is a Yale graduate who worked for Newsweek from 2003-11, then joined ESPN in May 2011 as a senior editor at ESPN The Magazine, later earning a promotion to deputy editor there and working on ESPN’s long-form journalism across platforms. She was Merida’s first hire at The Undefeated. Some of her key recent work there has included expanding Undefeated collaborations with various Disney platforms, such as Hollywood Records (through the “Music For The Movement” series) and ESPN overall (through the “Black History Always” series).
Merida leaves big shoes to fill at The Undefeated, but Kelley’s experience working at the publication since before even its official launch will certainly be useful, and should provide some continuity. We’ll see where The Undefeated goes under her leadership.