Imagine having front row seats right behind the 50-yard line at every Super Bowl or even courtside seats at the NBA finals. This sounds like a dream come true for most sports fanatics. Still, to those working in the sports media industry, this experience can sometimes be taken for granted.
Over the past decades, the introduction of high-quality equipment and devices has amplified the accessibility within the sports industry. Whether it’s capturing an athlete’s greatest victory or live streaming the biggest rivalry game in town, technology has made it possible.
It is important, however, to not overlook the people that make it possible for fans to reminisce on some of these greatest sporting moments. Camera crew, photographers, videographers, and journalists are the ones that have contributed to the glorification of the sports industry.
Being part of the sports media industry is no easy job nonetheless. According to freelance photographer Katelyn Mulcahy, sports photographers have great battles with “accessibility and approach”. Because attending sporting events has become a highly coveted experience, more and more people hope to be the ones to capture these moments. However, it can be quite difficult to take that one up-close shot that encapsulates the unique experience of the game. As Mulcahy displays the double-truck image of Shohei Ohtani she took, which was later published on the 2018 MLB World Series Program, she explains, “… again access, we were pretty restricted, but I was able to take a picture of him [Shohei Ohtani]”.
Whenever anyone thinks of a career in the sports business world, the skills most often needed are drive, perseverance, and sports knowledge. However, within the sports media world, creativity tends to be a driving aspect of the job. Unfortunately, such a unique skill to have, as is creativity, becomes a setback when so many people are interested in taking that one perfect shot. Eventually, it is inevitable to hit a point where it seems like all unique ideas have been exhausted. Although it sounds like a draining experience, at the end of the day, this process is what prompts creativity to continue growing within the sports media industry.
Capturing the right shot, however, seems to always be an exciting experience filled with shock. Mulcahy never knew that her image would make it onto the MLB World Series Program, and much less did she think it would be a double truck. As Mulcahy puts it, “If you didn’t make what they wanted then they might put it somewhere else.” Photographers find out what images are being utilized at the same time that viewers have access to the content.
Referring back to Mulcahy’s experiences, once you’ve gained access into the nooks and crannies of the event the question is: now what? How do you determine what a worthwhile shot is? How do you make sure you don’t miss a spectacular dunk or touchdown? Like Mulcahy says, “Sometimes you leave without a single good shot and that’s part of the job.”
Still, the job does not end once the game is over and all the photographs have been taken. In fact, hours of work follow each sporting event for those working in sports media. Mulcahy shares that after each event she averages about 2000-3000 images which she must look through, star or tag, and make minor edits if necessary before making a final submiss of about 100-200 images. According to Mulcahy, at a much bigger sporting event as is the Super Bowl, which happened this past month at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles, around 54,000 pictures were necessary to capture the event’s scope.
Out of the thousand pictures that come out of a single game or even of a single player, narrowing it down to a single picture can be quite the haunting and time consuming task. However, most people in the sports media industry would agree that having that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is all worth it in the end.
Regardless, the sports media industry is a very competitive field with great opportunities to grow and develop professionally while being a good way to mix creativity with a passion for sports. Still, the sports media industry is nowhere from perfect, and therefore, it continues to develop. For sports photographers, learning new techniques and equipment is crucial in the process of moving from good to great. As a parting tip, Mulcahy says that “going above and beyond and getting there early” is what truly makes the difference between an average photographer and a great one.
On April 24th, 2020 Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott’s older brother Jace Prescott committed suicide. This tragic news combined with the COVID-19 pandemic’s dreary social isolation propelled Prescott into a state of depression and sparked a national conversation about the normalization and stigmatization of mental health disorders. Since then, athletes across all leagues have united together to transform their own adversities with mental health into national action.
Until recently, the term mental “toughness” was often used in place of mental health in the sports atmosphere. Athletes were expected to be resilient, rigid, unfazed, and show few signs of weakness. But now, pioneers such as Prescott are paving the way for a new, more empathetic national conversation to be had.
After his own difficulties with depression, Prescott emphasizes how crucial it is to maintain one’s mental health and ask for help when needed. In an interview with USA Today, Prescott explains how the conversation surrounding mental health must be normalized in order to help the nation understand the prevalence of mental health struggles while also teaching a nation built on “toughness” to embrace vulnerability.
“Mental health leads to the health of everything else,” Prescott said. “Before I can lead, I have to make sure my mind is in the right place to do that and lead people to where they want to be. I think that it’s important to be vulnerable, to be genuine, and to be transparent. I think that goes a long way when you are a leader and your voice is being heard by so many you can inspire.”
Conversely, Fox Sports commentator Skip Bayless had a different stance. Bayless boisterously criticized Prescott as he viewed his open vulnerability surrounding his mental health difficulties as unbecoming of a leader and as a hindrance on the football field.
“I have deep compassion for clinical depression, but when it comes to the quarterback of an NFL team, you know this better than I do. It’s the ultimate leadership position in sports. You’re commanding a lot of young men and some older men. And they’re all looking to you to be their CEO, to be in charge of the football team. Because of all that, I don’t have sympathy for him. Look, he’s the quarterback of America’s team. If you reveal publicly any little weakness, it can affect your team’s ability to believe in you in the toughest spots, and it definitely can encourage others on the other side to come after you.”
Ironically, Bayless’s comments starkly display the exact stigma that Prescott and other athletes are attempting to break down. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers takes a different stance than Bayless and instead applauds Prescott’s courage and bravery for his battle with depression and his openness to converse about it.
“Strength is taking care of yourself, taking care of your mind, understanding how important your thoughts are, and understanding how important positivity is,” Rodgers said. “I think it’s phenomenal in speaking out because that takes true courage and that’s true strength. That’s not a weakness at all. I applaud Dak. It’s a beautiful thing when people start talking about it because at the bare minimum it makes you more relatable to people. We all have the same struggles and the same issues.”
Five-time National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star and UCLA Men’s Basketball alumni Kevin Love has also been a trailblazer for mental health awareness within the NBA. With a history of depression, Love has also endured intense anxiety throughout his life. One day, Love’s emotions became too overwhelming to handle and he experienced a panic attack on the court in a 2017 home game versus the Atlanta Hawks.
“I was having trouble catching my breath,” Love wrote in a piece for The Players’ Tribune the following March. “It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out.”
After this experience, Love came to one conclusion. His entire life had been dedicated to training his body for the high-stress scenarios of NBA play, but he had neglected the proper time and resources needed to care for his mind as well.
“It’s kind of strange when you think about it,” Love wrote. “In the NBA, you have trained professionals to fine-tune your life in so many areas. Coaches, trainers, and nutritionists have had a presence in my life for years. But none of those people could help me in the way I needed when I was lying on the floor struggling to breathe.”
The lack of attention and training that most Americans receive regarding mental health is why Love has recently helped launch a new company called Coa, the world’s first gym for mental health. It is a therapist-led, emotional fitness class platform that includes therapist matchmaking, group classes, and one-on-one therapy. The idea is to make mental health a proactive and daily practice, just like physical fitness. Love could not be more excited about this new company.
“Coa really aligns with everything I’m about,” Love said. “It’s a proactive approach to mental fitness. We’re creating a safe place to talk about these tough subjects around mental health and mental wellness, in a group setting. There is nothing like this out there. This has never existed before. It’s the first gym for mental health, which makes it super exciting to be a part of.”
Nationally, additional mental health awareness initiatives have been developed in this ongoing battle. Since 2010, the demand for sports psychologists has skyrocketed within NCAA institutions while athletes such as Dak Prescott and Hayden Hurst have created non-profit organizations dedicated to the matter. With it being clear that mental health issues will never fully disappear, these prominent athletes have served as inspirations to the millions of Americans who struggle with depression, anxiety, and more. They have sparked a national conversation and demonstrated the value in making yourself vulnerable while also working tirelessly to provide the resources necessary to improve people’s lives across the world.
According to Love, the more awareness and serious attention that mental health gets, the healthier and happier everybody can be. And since this is an unavoidable part of life, everybody needs to understand how and have the resources available to navigate it.
“We just have to keep chipping away at the stigma,” Love said. “We have to keep talking about it. You’re far less likely to detect it if you’re not talking about it if you’re living in the shadows. Everyone is going through something that we can’t see. The thing is, because we can’t see it, we don’t know who’s going through what and we don’t know when and we don’t always know why. Mental health is an invisible thing, but it touches all of us at some point or another. It’s part of life.”
Brian Flores has been fired. And now, the question that remains, will he ever be able to coach the sport of football again?
Flores is a dedicated man of the National Football League, as he spent 20 years bouncing around various assistant/coordinator positions, training under the likes of legendary coach Bill Bellichik, before finally landing his head coaching job for the Miami Dolphins. Flores ends his tenure in Miami with an overall record of 24-25, however, he was able to lead the Dolphins to their first two consecutive winning seasons in years. He was able to do all of this while rotating through injured quarterbacks, partly thanks to his revitalized defense. Flores was certainly a fundamental part of the Miami Dolphins rebuild, which is why his firing came as a shock to so many people. But, if you ask Flores, it is simply a result of the systemic racism that plagues the NFL.
Flores alleges that his relationship with Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and general manager Chris Grier went downhill shortly after he was hired in 2019. He claims that Ross offered him $100,000 for every Dolphins loss in an attempt to maximize their draft returns. And, as Flores and the Dolphins began to win games later in the season, Flores noted that the management of the team was mad that their draft position was being compromised. Additionally, after refusing to meet with a prominent quarterback recruit at the end of the 2019 season, Flores alleges that he was treated with disdain and held out as someone who was noncompliant and difficult to work with. All that for abiding by the NFL’s tampering rules.
Despite another successful 2021-2022 season, Flores was fired in January and immediately began the search for another job. Flores showed interest in the Giants, the Dolphins, the Broncos, the Saints, and the Texans. After quickly realizing that the Dolphins were no longer the organization for him, he had his sights set on the Giant’s job. Unfortunately for Flores, Bill Bellichik accidentally leaked that the job was going to Brian Daboll days before the Flores interview. Furthermore, Flores alleges that the Broncos general manager John Elway, among others, arrived at his interview late and hungover. This made Flores draw one conclusion, that the Giants and Broncos were only interviewing him to stay in compliance with the Rooney Rule.
The Rooney Rule requires teams to interview minority candidates for their open positions. This rule, which has been amended in recent years, now says teams must hold an in-person interview with at least one external minority candidate for any general manager or head coach opening. While the NFL is attempting to minimize racism within the league, Flores and the rest of the minority coaches know that this rule is not enough. Thus, after being turned down for every coaching job regardless of his impressive winning seasons, Brian Flores’ lawsuit was born.
At the end of the day, Flores cares more about inciting positive change within the NFL than an opportunity to coach again. He understands what he is risking, but more importantly, recognizes that it is his responsibility to stand up to these injustices and make the league a better place for black coaches and staff.
“God has gifted me with a special talent to coach the game of football, but the need for change is bigger than my personal goals,” Flores said in a statement put out by his law firm, the Wigdor firm. “In making the decision to file the class action complaint today, I understand that I may be risking coaching the game that I love and that has done so much for my family and me. My sincere hope is that by standing up against systemic racism in the NFL, others will join me to ensure that positive change is made for generations to come.”
To no surprise, each NFL team that Flores called out quickly and vehemently denied his allegations. They all made statements regarding their pride in the organization, the fairness of the hiring process that they all stand by, and their search for inclusion and diversity. According to all of these teams, Flores was simply just not the most qualified candidate. However, Flores knows that this wasn’t the case and believes that it is his responsibility to shine a light on and expose the long list of racial injustices that take place within the NFL.
Flores has forced the nation’s attention to a handful of key points. He would ultimately like to see Commissioner Roger Goodell and other high-level NFL executives address all of his concerns including the increased influence of black individuals in hiring, increase “the objectivity” of hiring/terminating GMs, head coaches, and coordinators, increase the number of Black coordinators, incentivize hiring/retention of Black GMs, head coaches and coordinators and transparency of pay for GMs, head coaches, and coordinators. Rather than addressing these concerns, the NFL claims that these allegations lack merit and that no action will be taken, demonstrative of Flores’s very own point of systematized racism.
The NFL has endured countless incidents regarding race, from Kaepernick’s kneeling to black athletes getting underpaid. While the league has put “End Racism” on every helmet, little action is taking place. And to Flores, the dynamic between the ownership of the NFL and the average employee is reminiscent of American history and the days of plantation owners.
“The owners watch the games from atop NFL stadiums in their luxury boxes, while their majority-Black workforce put their bodies on the line,” Flores said.
While the NFL denies all of these allegations, the people and the fans know that Flores’ words ring true. The league needs to listen to these valid concerns and take action. And, with Brian Flores already being out of a job, he is determined to do whatever it takes to get the African-American men and women that run the NFL the opportunity, appreciation, and respect that they deserve.