By Jake Reiser
BU News Service
The Boston University College of Communication, along with BU Athletics, the Howard Thurman Center and WBUR Radio, hosted the second Play It Forward summit at Agganis Arena on April 14.
With a focus on race and gender, the conference hosted prominent members of both the Boston and national sports community.
The first panel was dubbed a Breakfast with Champions and was led by HBO and NFL Network’s Andrea Kremer, who also teaches an interviewing course at BU. Representatives from each of the four major sports teams in Boston, including New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty, former Celtics forward Brian Scalabrine, former Bruins forward Bob Sweeney and current Red Sox President and CEO Dave Dombrowski, discussed the prominence of Boston sports, the community surrounding its teams and current social issues affecting their respective leagues.
McCourty, with some humor, reiterated his intent to be home while the Super Bowl-winning Patriots visit the White House.
“Hopefully it’s nice out,” he said.
Discussions about Boston’s history with racism and equal gender opportunities didn’t faze the first panelists. Asked if women’s hockey legend Hilary Knight could coach the Bruins, Sweeney answered promptly—“Why not?”
Kevin Merida, editor-in-chief of The Undefeated, the self-described “premier platform for exploring the intersections of race, sports and culture,” led the second panel. Focusing on race, the panel included “O.J.: Made in America” producer and director Ezra Edelman, sports journalist Jemele Hill, former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick and NFL veteran Shawn Springs.
The actions of Colin Kaepernick, known for protesting by kneeling during the national anthem before NFL games, came up right off the bat to mixed thoughts. The panelists used the quarterback as a launching point for a discussion of the effects of social media on a minority athlete, and Billick expressed his wish for members of the sports world who could show not just young people the responsibilities of texting and social media. The panel also used O.J. Simpson and Ray Lewis as examples of how the media can shape perception.
Kremer returned to lead the penultimate discussion, a panel tackling gender. She was joined by Olympic swimmer Dara Torres, ESPN contributor and NFL mother Annie Apple, The Cauldron columnist Julie DiCaro and Boston Globe and WBUR/NPR columnist Shira Springer. The conversation flowed from the lack of development for women in sports to equal pay and making sure women are given as fair a chance as possible in the sports world.
While the USA Women’s hockey boycott was viewed by the panel as a win for women’s sports, Springer noted that not only should it not have been a fight, but also that it’s unfortunate that the fight was the only time women’s hockey got a chunk of media coverage.
As a survivor of domestic violence, Apple expressed frustration with how New York Giants kicker Josh Brown’s admittance of being an abuser was handled. The story of Brown’s wife, Molly, was “blown off,” in Apple’s words, and led a surface-level, non-genuine education for everyone on the signs of domestic violence. The conclusion of the panel echoed how actions speak louder than words when women must get their point across to men and set the precedent for the professionalism of women in the sports world.
The afternoon concluded with Kremer interviewing BU alum and HBO host Bill Simmons about the future of sports journalism. Multimedia, especially podcasting and the one-hour interview, reigns king for Simmons. However, he added, if a piece is good, regardless of the medium, it’s good.
After each panel, attendees were given the chance to briefly meet with the panelists.
More information can be found on the Play It Forward website, where a rewind of the day’s events will also be posted.