Equity starts with equal treatment of the Black Press

I’ve taken some time to reflect and to share some of my thoughts and concerns regarding the equity of Black Press Media in sports.

As a professional sports photographer and being African-American has opened my eyes a lot regarding media coverage. There aren’t a lot of us in the building. It’s the same way on the red carpet as well as being out on the field covering other events.

I believe with everything that’s going on with Black Lives Matter and systemic racism being questioned there has to be a far greater change on how Black Media Outlets are perceived and granted access to the various events that can be covered.

Houston Rockets James Harden
February 6, 2020 © Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Houston Rockets star James Harden goes to the basket against the defense of the Los Angeles Lakers.

For example, why can’t we have the opportunity to have a floor spot for some of the home games during the NBA season? Why is it the same media outlets day in and day out that automatically know they’re on the floor? Why not share or rotate the outlets to give everyone equal opportunities to be on the floor?

Where’s the equality? Why do we always have to shoot at a distance in the photo wells above the floor? The analogy of Rosa Parks comes to mind where those who are on the floor are allowed to be in the front seats of the bus, but for those that have to go the seated area above in the photo wells fall into the “Go to the back of the bus!” scenario.

You say you HEAR us, but do you? We’d like an opportunity to take a “seat” in the front for a change. Again, do you hear us? Think about that and ask yourself this question? How many times have you seen a black still photographer on the floor at an NBA game representing a Black Media Outlet?

Sept. 22, 2019 – Mark Hammond/News4usonline – Los Angeles Chargers receiver Keenan Allen (13) had a big day against the Houston Texans.

We might be in the area, but our access is limited. Daily credential holders aren’t allowed to have access to photograph in the media pressroom for postgame interviews.

I just feel there should be a larger representation at these various events in regard to black photographers from Black Media Outlets. We shouldn’t feel like we don’t belong at the event because we are being stopped to have our credentials checked and verified when someone else, who is not Black can walk by without hesitation.

I came to realize the impact and social influence I could have on other people as a Black photographer when I was covering a sports event a while back. A young Black kid came up to me and asked what I was doing. I told the young man with eagerness in his eyes that I was taking photos of the game. I showed him some of the images I had captured.

2019 BET Experience: Coca-Cola Music Studio. Photo by Mark Hammond for News4usonline

He looked on with amazement and said, “Wow, that’s so cool Mister! I had no idea there were Black photographers.” He then thanked me for sharing the images as he smiled and walked back to his seat to be with his parents.

From that moment, it solidified my thoughts that Black photographers need to be more visible! I’ve never forgotten that moment knowing that I could have given this young Black boy the thought of knowing that he to could pursue a career as a Black photographer. All we want is to have the same opportunities as everyone else when covering sports and red carpet events. There has to be equality across the table.

“We have a voice… We have a talent… We have a desire to tell our story!”

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