By Jennifer Roback
Major League Baseball history was made on Tuesday, July 20, 2021, as the first all-female broadcasting team called the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles.
The broadcast included reporters Melanie Newman, Sarah Langs, Alanna Rizzo, Heidi Watney, and Lauren Gardner as they covered pregame, play-by-play, and postgame coverage on YouTube.
"Honored to be part of a historic moment, but more than anything, just so overjoyed to get to work alongside,” her colleague's Langs said in a tweet following the game.
She went on to praise her fellow correspondents as "Strong, smart & inspiring WOMEN and PEOPLE!”
Newman is the Orioles' play-by-play radio announcer while Langs writes for MLB.com and Rizzo, Watney, and Gardner are on-air reporters for MLB Network.
In an interview with NPR, Newman opened up about how this historic moment is all a part of her journey in the sports industry, coming from a family of sports fans.
"We were the kids that wanted to pay attention. We wanted to know everything and be a part of everything and ask as many questions as we could," Newman told NPR.
Newman, a graduate of Troy University with a degree in Broadcast Journalism, Leadership, & Sports Information, started out working in the minor leagues as an announcer before being called up to the major leagues back in 2020. While it is a mostly male-dominated position, she is bridging the gap towards gender equality.
"We're not alone in saying that it's surprising that it has taken this long for it to open up a little bit more in terms of diversity," Newman continued. "It's crazy that we're still doing all these firsts.”
"I feel like most of my career has been first female this, first female that. But the good thing about it is we're not the last.”
While this is MLB’s first all-female broadcast, they are not far behind in American history as the first broadcast of its kind did not happen until March 9, 2020, in the United States.
The first all-female broadcast happened in the NHL on International Women's Day, in a game between the St. Louis Blues and the Chicago Blackhawks.
"This wasn’t a novelty. Like, ‘Oh, look how cute this is on International Women's Day—let's get a bunch of random women and see if they can string together some sentences about hockey.’ No, this is what we do,” insider-the-glass analyst A.J. Mleczko said to Glamour about the first all-women broadcast.
While the sports media industry is adding more and more females, along with having these historic moments, the road to get here has not been an easy one and, it's been going on for decades.
The first milestone in sports history for females was in 1972 when Title IX was passed.
It states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, or be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”
The title helped encourage women to pursue careers in the sports industry as well as gave female athletes the ability to pursue careers in college and beyond. As a result, in 1975, Phyllis George joined CBS as one of the first female sportscasters.
While Title IX seemed to be a big step for women in the sports media industry, they still have had to face many challenges, including the 1977 court case, Melissa Ludtke and Time, Inc. v. Bowie Kuhn, Commissioner of Baseball et al.
The case came to light when former MLB commissioner, Bowie Kuhn, refused to let journalist Melissa Ludke in the locker rooms to interview players for Sports Illustrated.
Following the conflict, Ludtke sued Kuhn arguing that her 14th amendment right to equal protection was violated, as a result.
The court sided with Ludtke stating, “The Court decided that the female reporters’ right to freely pursue a career, regardless of gender, is guaranteed via the Fourteenth Amendment and may not be deprived without exhausting all means.”
The case helped pave the way for women in sports media as it showed that they have just as much a constitutional right to pursue a career in sports media as males do and, gender does not affect the ability to perform because society chooses to sexualize females bodies.
“It increased enormously the number of young women who came into sports media — as reporters, as employees of sports teams and league offices, in agencies representing athletes and in other aspects of sports work that earlier generations of women had not been involved with, such as working as team trainers or as umpires,” Ludtke said about the impact of the ruling.
Despite the popularity of females in sports media increasing after the 1978 decision, women still have to fight for roles in the industry, as Paola Boivin, a professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, pointed out, only 10% of sports editors and 11.5% of sports reporters are women in the United States and Canada as of 2021.
The broadcasts like the MLB’s show that women can do this job and while it inspires a younger generation, there is still a long way to go to get gender equality in sports media as these firsts are important to history, it should not take decades to arise.