Addressing Colorism in Sports Media: Implications for Racial Justice and Athlete Confidence


The representation of race and gender in sports media has been a topic of concern and discussion, with reports highlighting the lack of diversity in key roles such as sports editors, columnists, and reporters . This lack of representation can have far-reaching consequences for how sports events and athletes are portrayed in the media. In addition to the issue of underrepresentation, colorism in sports media has emerged as a concerning phenomenon, perpetuating harmful stereotypes based on the color of athletes’ skin. This article delves into the significance of the lack of diversity in sports media and the impact of colorism on coverage and reporting. Furthermore, it explores potential strategies to address these challenges and foster a more inclusive and equitable sports media landscape.

The Significance of Lack of Diversity in Sports Media

Diversity in sports media is crucial for a balanced and comprehensive representation of athletes and sports events. When women and people of color are underrepresented in key roles such as sports editors and columnists, it can result in biased coverage that overlooks important perspectives and stories (Johnson & Smith, 2020). Research has shown that diverse newsrooms are more likely to produce content that reflects the varied experiences of athletes, leading to a richer and more accurate portrayal of the sports world (Foy & Ray, 2019). Furthermore, diverse representation in sports media can also serve as positive role models for aspiring sports journalists and athletes from underrepresented backgrounds.

Impact of Colorism in Sports Media Coverage

Colorism in sports media refers to the differential treatment and portrayal of athletes based on the shade of their skin. The study on men’s college basketball found that commentators often carried implicit biases about the intelligence and physical abilities of athletes, depending on their skin color (Foy & Ray, 2019). This subtle operation of stereotypes perpetuates harmful assumptions and reinforces discriminatory beliefs about race. For example, lighter-skinned athletes may be praised for their intelligence, while darker-skinned athletes may be reduced to physical prowess, disregarding their intellectual capabilities.

Colorism can affect an athlete’s self-esteem and confidence, leading them to feel undervalued and overlooked based on their appearance (Foy & Ray, 2019). This can create a hostile environment where athletes may feel the need to prove their worth beyond their athletic abilities. Such biases can also extend to decision-making processes, affecting opportunities for endorsement deals, sponsorships, and career advancements in sports media.

Strategies to Address Colorism in Sports Media

Addressing colorism in sports media requires a multi-pronged approach that involves media organizations, professionals, athletes, and audiences. Firstly, media organizations should actively promote diversity and inclusion by implementing inclusive hiring practices and ensuring that individuals from diverse racial and gender backgrounds are represented in key roles. This can help create a more balanced and nuanced portrayal of athletes and sports events (Johnson & Smith, 2020).

Secondly, media professionals should undergo regular training to recognize and challenge implicit biases in their commentary and reporting. Creating awareness about the impact of colorism can lead to more conscious and equitable coverage. Media outlets can also establish guidelines and standards to ensure that commentators and journalists adhere to ethical and inclusive reporting practices.

Thirdly, athletes and advocates can play a crucial role in calling out instances of colorism and advocating for fair and respectful coverage. Social media platforms provide athletes with powerful tools to share their experiences and challenge discriminatory narratives. Athletes can use their influence to amplify voices against colorism and hold media organizations accountable for biased coverage.

Furthermore, audiences also have a responsibility to demand and support diverse and inclusive sports media coverage. By actively engaging with and promoting content that represents diverse voices, audiences can encourage media organizations to prioritize diversity in their reporting and commentary.


The lack of diversity in sports media and the presence of colorism in commentary are significant challenges that demand attention and action(Lapchick, 2021). Embracing diversity in sports media is essential for equitable coverage, racial justice, and the empowerment of athletes regardless of their skin color. By challenging implicit biases and promoting inclusive practices, sports media can play a vital role in shaping a more equitable and just sporting landscape. Addressing colorism in sports media is not only a matter of representation but also of fostering an environment where athletes can feel confident and celebrated for their talents, irrespective of their skin color.


Foy, S. L., & Ray, R. (2019). Skin in the Game: Colorism and the Subtle Operation of Stereotypes in Men’s College Basketball. Journal of Sports Media, 14(2), 123-139.

Johnson, K. C., & Smith, A. B. (2020). Diversity and Representation in Sports Journalism: A Case Study of Major Sports Media Outlets. Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly, 97(1), 33-52.

Lapchick, R. (2021). Race and Gender Representation in Sports Media: A Review of TIDES Report Card. ESPN. Retrieved from: [URL]

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