Representation matters, and I have only fully been able to realize that in the past couple years.
I’m half Korean, and I never really thought about it until a year or so ago. My favorite Disney princess growing up was Mulan or Jasmine. The ones who looked most like me. I never really got why I chose them until I was older. But it was because I could see myself as them, a connection my brain made subconsciously as a kid.
Fast forward a few years and I started covering football at Ferris. I went to Twitter to expand my football knowledge and started following football analysts and journalists on Twitter. Even though I’ve watched college and NFL football my whole life, I was still nervous to cover a new sport. One day, ESPN football analyst Mina Kimes got retweeted into my timeline. It was probably a joke about a player or something funny, but I remember going to her profile and immediately following her. Kimes is a half-Korean woman who has a seat at ESPN’s “Around the Horn” and “Highly Questionable” and color commentates for the LA Rams. I sort of latched onto her as my role model ever since then.
It was just so crazy to me to see someone so similar to me in my career field, which is kind of sad when you think about it. I was surprised to see an Asian woman in a respected position in the sports world. I was so used to and conditioned to seeing men—mainly white—fill those spots on ESPN’s shows growing up and commentating games I watched with my dad and brother.
Not only is Kimes an analyst, she’s a damn good one. She’s hilarious and her takes on the NFL are excellent because she loves football—seriously, another ESPN commentator said, “Her love of football is genuinely terrifying.” Your passion can be seen in your work. That’s the kind of journalist I aspire to be.
I didn’t realize until this past year of following Kimes how much she inspires me. I didn’t realize how much seeing another Korean woman excel in my field would push me to work harder and help me see my dreams as a possibility.
Being a woman in sports journalism isn’t easy. I haven’t had it incredibly hard, covering sports at a mostly Division II university, but I always knew going in that people weren’t going to excuse my mistakes as easily as my male counterparts. I would spend more time than I probably should have researching our football players’ past performances and the competition that week just for my questions before going to a practice. I felt like I had to prove myself just so people would give me the time of day.
So many people will find any way they can to discredit women in sports and have an excuse to say that we don’t belong there. They tell us we aren’t qualified to cover something because we never played football, or because they don’t like listening to women when watching sports.
A recent event that comes to mind is ESPN’s Maria Taylor. She was one of many who cast ballots for the NBA Awards and she left Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis off the All-NBA Team. Obviously, that’s a hot take, but after it was pointed out by another writer, the response from another media member was questioning why she had a vote. If one of her male counterparts had cast the same ballot, sure, he might have caught some criticism, but no one would be questioning why he had his job. Reporters and analysts have hot takes all the time, some wrong, some right. The only difference is when it’s a woman, her credibility is questioned.
Women have to work harder in sports just for people not to question why they have a job. It’s such an antiquated way of thinking and I can’t wait for the day I don’t feel like I have to be a step ahead of male reporters just to belong in sports.
Women belong in sports. Black women belong in sports. Asian women belong in sports. Latina women belong in sports. I want my daughter to grow up seeing women in sports just as much as men and growing up believing she belongs there. We shouldn’t have to fight for our place because of our gender.