Ellie Beadle (left) and Maddy Harris (right)

In this Blog Post, Ellie Beadle (3rd-year Marketing Management student) and Maddy Harris (4th-year RTA Sport Media student) write about attending a virtual Women in Sport Business Leadership panel discussion ahead of the first all-female NBA broadcast.

“To all the young girls that are currently watching this broadcast, we welcome you especially. …When we were diehard basketball fans as kids, we never saw this. We never saw an all-female broadcast…Dream big, because one day you could be sitting right here.”

With those inspiring words, Kate Beirness set the table for a historic milestone. On March 24, 2021, the Toronto Raptors had women in every on-air role for their game versus the Denver Nuggets — the first all-female broadcast in NBA history. TSN and MLSE partnered for the groundbreaking event.

Through Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management, MBA students and undergraduate sport business students had the opportunity to attend a virtual panel featuring several of the women who contributed to the historic broadcast for Dr. Cheri L. Bradish’s MKT 829 International Sport Marketing class.

We were fortunate to have Nathalie Cook (Vice President, TSN/RDS), Rebecca Ross (Senior Director; Content, Broadcast, and Distribution, MLSE), Meghan McPeak (Broadcaster, Monumental Sports), Savanna Hamilton (Host & Producer, MLSE) and Amy Audibert (Colour Commentator, Raptors 905) attend the virtual panel to share their thoughts and insights on the game, as well as its impact for gender equality in sport.

Though the broadcast is the first in NBA history, all of our panellists were unanimous that the initiative is not an endgame for gender equality in sport, but rather a single step forward. As MLSE’s Rebecca Ross noted, “The opportunity for change is not one moment.” She discussed the need for a clear vision with intentional, authentic actions. She also highlighted innovation in and around the broadcast and mentorship opportunities as priorities for MLSE.

TSN Vice President Nathalie Cook expanded further, explaining that while the broadcast has entirely women on-air, it still lacks a full crew of women behind the scenes. Both Ross and Cook reiterated their organizations’ respective commitments to diversity and inclusion and expressed that the event will lead to more action and opportunities for women.

“Every step I’ve taken has been a first.” Play-by-play broadcaster Meghan McPeak is not new to making history. McPeak is currently the first and only female play-by-play broadcaster in the NBA G League, having called games for the Raptors 905, the Capital City Go-Go and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics.

She called the broadcast opportunity an “easy yes” and remarked that she would be crazy to turn down a chance to provide young women with representation, something she didn’t have growing up. McPeak was emphatic in discussing the double standards women face in the industry: “This is what I do. Yeah, I’m a woman, but this is my job…At what point does gender stop being part of the conversation?”

Savanna Hamilton echoed Megan’s statements and re-called an incident in which someone compared her and McPeak online, praising her and telling McPeak she better “watch out.” Hamilton explained that this mentality pits women against each other, as opposed to allowing them to both thrive in the industry. Hamilton and McPeak reiterated the fact that there is “plenty of room at the table” and the competitive mentality between women in sport does not need to exist. Both Hamilton and McPeak emphasized the importance of mentorship and women supporting women.

McPeak expanded further, citing the importance of intersectionality in the context of sport and business. Women may struggle in the industry due to a variety of reasons, not just gender. Race, sexual orientation and disability all come into play when it comes to representation and it is important to take an intersectional lens when examining the challenges women in sport face. McPeak praised the contributions of her own “core group of women” who have helped her overcome challenges in her career.

The panellists all discussed the importance of allyship for women in sports. All were unanimous in saying that building connections are one way to make the industry easier to navigate. Amy Audibert explained her approach to creating connections, saying that she prioritizes listening first and absorbing information. By treating people like people, not just as players or coaches, she builds meaningful relationships that go beyond basketball. Hamilton further amplified her point, pointing out the importance of male allies in the industry: “They can be your biggest cheerleader too.”

The panellists ended the discussion optimistically, with high hopes for the broadcast. Audibert summed it up succinctly: “Enjoy the game for what it is and let us do our jobs.” Cook expressed pride for the initiative and looked towards the future: “This is not an endgame, this is a step. …This cannot be a one-off.”

Posted by Debra Rughoo

Debra Rughoo is a Writing and Content Specialist at the Ted Rogers School of Management.