SJA committee member Benny Bonsu (www.bennybonsu.com) is head of women’s sport at GiveMeSport and a powerful voice for the Black Collective of Sports Media (BCOMS).
The harrowing death of George Floyd in America and the birth of the global #BlackLivesMatter movement has brought back the memories of her fight to be recognised in an industry which is overwhelmingly white and male.
This is what she has to say – and the headline ‘A tired black woman in sports media’ is hers.
Writing and sharing my thoughts and feelings of George Floyd, and the current fight for equality with Black Lives Matter, is like reliving my traumas throughout my journey within the sports and media industry. This might seem harsh but that is the reality for most diverse people within the industry, including me.
At a time when all organisations should be looking in the mirror and asking themselves if they have done enough to be diverse and inclusive, people like me are having to justify and clarify why we have felt isolated and discriminated for many years. Why have we been misplaced? Undervalued? Underpaid? Mistreated? Why are we bullied about being grateful for the opportunities we have, even though we have worked hard to be in our positions.
Don’t get me wrong, I have had some amazing experiences working in environments I didn’t necessarily feel comfortable in. I’ve had some amazing mentors like Ross Clarke (IMG), Adrian Hobart (BBC World Service Sport), Andy Cairns and Georgina Faulkner (both from Sky Sports), Rick Waterlow (GiveMeSport), Ryan Skeggs (CSM), Simon Green (BT Sport), and Darren Lewis and Mike Allen (Mirror Newspaper).
I mention these names because they have all been brave enough to give me the opportunity to be at my best every time. They have seen first hand the microaggressions, bullying, discrimination and the struggles I have been through just to be where I am now. These mentors have been able to listen, learn, appreciate, respect and allow me to grow as a person in this space and use my experiences to create changes that this industry needs most – more diversity and the understanding of investing in people like me and others like me.
‘I shouldn’t have to work ten times harder to get the opportunities, I shouldn’t have to tone myself down to be allowed at the table, I shouldn’t have to grow an extra thick skin and be strong mentally all the time, and I shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone that I am not simply to fit the box. I, along with all diverse people, should just be’
I have always openly shared my experiences and traumas in this industry for the last 15 years simply because I don’t want other women of colour to go through what I have had to go through. But it shouldn’t be like that.
I shouldn’t have to work ten times harder to get the opportunities, I shouldn’t have to tone myself down to be allowed at the table, I shouldn’t have to grow an extra thick skin and be strong mentally all the time, and I shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone that I am not simply to fit the box. I, along with all diverse people, should just be.
Be the best we can be in an environment that is invested in its people just as such as they are invested in their business or organisations. I have always campaigned for the UK sports media to have diverse newsrooms. This shouldn’t be a new topic for anyone but something that should be implemented and organisations should be held accountable for not having diverse teams.
As sport media organisations, we have a huge responsibility of changing the narrative to reflect the society in which we serve. My experience then and now is somewhat still the same. Even though I have this role and I am using it to create a change in my own way, I am sometimes left out in the cold because I don’t fit the imaginary boxes that have been created in the industry.
I still go through challenges I shouldn’t be going through and I am still mentoring young women of all colours experiencing what I experienced ten years ago. Why?
We have got to take this opportunity to really make things better. This is not an attack but a real chance to look at what you could have done differently. Why are your teams not diverse? Why doesn’t your leadership reflect society? And should these audiences spend their money with you when you don’t reflect them?
I use to be a sad and angry black woman in this space but over the years, I have learned to channel my energy into the generation coming up to change things, but also work with organisations that are ready to shake things up and create real changes.
George Floyd’s murder makes me so angry, while the sports media industry in some cases turning a blind eye to what is going on in the world also makes me sad. But I am hopeful because it has created an awareness that leads to the uncomfortable, open and honest conversations that need to be had internally in our offices, boardrooms and also externally with our followers, fans and non-fans. A real opportunity to educate, plan, transform and grow together for a better future in the sports media industry.