MLS is really excited about its new television deal. So are MLS fans. Why wouldn’t they be? After all, it’s a lot more money for the league and teams, plus a Sunday doubleheader every week on national TV. It’s a pretty big deal.
The new TV era opened on Sunday, and it opened in style. ESPN2 had a new theme song and all new graphics, showing off a crowd of 62,000 strong in Orlando City. Then FOX Sports 1 jumped in with a doubleheader of its own, featuring a huge studio show for pre and post-match coverage. The networks went all-in ,and MLS fans got some truly fantastic coverage.
MLS fans also got one more thing from the networks: a lot of white dudes.
ESPN had Adrian Healey and Taylor Twellman on the call of their match. White males.
FOX then went to the studio with Rob Stone, Landon Donovan, Stuart Holden and Eric Wynalda. White males.
J.P. Dellacamera and Brad Friedel had the call of Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls in the first game of FS1’s doubleheader. White males.
Wrapping things up were John Strong and Alexi Lalas calling Seattle and New England. White males.
For those of you who haven’t been counting, that’s 10 people on two networks either doing play-by-play, color, studio hosting or analysis. And that’s also 10 white males.
(Univision Deportes, which aired the season’s opening game, on Friday, didn’t carry any games today.)
Thankfully, the sideline announcers provided something different. Monica Gonzalez handled the match for ESPN and Julie Stewart-Binks did the Sporting-Red Bulls contest, but sideline reporters are used minimally and rarely for original insight. The airtime and freedom comes in studio and in calling the match, and ESPN and FOX chose to go with white males in every spot there.
There really isn’t an excuse for networks to employ entirely white males. You’re talking about a sport that they play in every corner of the Earth, that has a growing women’s game and, with MLS, is being played in two of the most diverse countries in the world. To end up with only white males almost takes effort.
Nobody is saying that ESPN and FOX are trying to make it all white males. There’s no reason to think anything was deliberate. But the uniformity in the voices is staggering.
There are plenty of black, Latino and Asian players in the league. That diversity is as prevalent in the stands. And women make up a huge part of MLS’s fan base. Maybe the people talking about the league should reflect that?