REVIEW: The site about sports, race, pop culture and HBCUs is off to a good start, but lacks compelling stories about gender and sexuality
ESPN’s new website The Undefeated finally debuted on Tuesday. And from first glance, it’s definitely worth delving into.
In the site’s first editor’s letter, Kevin Merida assures that he and his team will aim to “produce a rich mix of original reporting, innovative storytelling, provocative commentary, must-see video, narratives and investigations. We aim to be vibrant, soulful, smart, dope. Unapologetic and unpredictable. We will work hard to live up to our motto: Not conventional. Never boring.”
It’s early, but so far, they have fulfilled that promise.
The Undefeated gives readers a contemporary feel with a well-designed and accessible site. In terms of content, as All Digitocracy previously reported, there are four verticals: Sports, Culture, The Uplift and HBCUs — that provide a hodgepodge of articles including the inspiring impact of Wanda Durant’s parenting, HBCU grads taking on the world, the rise of black hockey fans and Chance The Rapper’s new mixtape “Coloring Book.”
There really is something for everybody.
It’s apparent some serious work was put into creating insightful and provocative stories that aim to grab eyeballs. We suggest:
- “Waco Horror”: This feature, told through the eyes of senior writer Jessie Washington, explores the 1916 lynching of a man who had the same name as the writer himself. Washington visits Waco, Texas, where the lynching took place and gives the reader a peek into the tumultuous and deadly climate of those times and the impact still being experienced by the city today.
- “Black Hoosiers”: Directed by Oscar winner Spike Lee and part of the Lil’ Joints series, this 15-minute video chronicles African-American players who played on the Crispus Attucks High School basketball team, in Indianapolis, in the 1950s. Led by Oscar Robertson who went on to become an NBA Hall of Famer, Crispus Attucks won six regional championships, four semi-state championships and back-to-back state titles in 1955 and ’56 — but endured racism, trauma and pain all those years.
- “The Man Who Put Marvel In The Black”: Written by Kelley L. Carter, this profile highlights Nate Moore, a major producer in the film division at Marvel Studios who is behind the recent influx of black superheroes on the large and small screens. He speaks candidly about the upcoming Black Panther film directed by Ryan Coogler, and the positive impact the film can have on young people.
Yet even with all of this high quality content The Undefeated still isn’t perfect. First, there doesn’t appear to be any stories about African-American female athletes, Serena Williams, for example. Or coverage of gender issues. Take, for instance, coverage about rape on historically black campuses. Nor is there any LGBTQ sports or culture coverage. In due time, perhaps. But it appears current coverage solely targets heterosexual black and Latino men ages 18-35.
The Undefeated can’t be everything to everybody, we understand this. But sports and culture readers come in all genders and sexual orientations. These topics are just as important to African Americans and other media consumers, and they would do well on a site like this.
Hopefully, those stories are on the way.
We don’t know if The Undefeated’s staff can continue to elevate its work and continue to produce interesting pieces readers can’t get anywhere else. But it is off to a good start.