Finally, ESPN is officially relaunching The Undefeated, a website focusing on race, sports and culture. The site goes live May 17.
Borrowing from Maya Angelou’s quote, “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated,” the vertical is being directed by Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida, former managing editor of The Washington Post.
Aimed at African-American and Latino men ages 18-35, the site will talk about race in a “smart way,” CNN Money wrote. “There’s not one way to think,” Merida said. “There’s not one way to be Black, to be a woman, to be white, to be a sports fan.”
To facilitate these intellectual conversations and perspectives, the site will feature numerous columns along with longer features, Politico noted.
According to reports, features will include the “Uplift” section, which will provide daily tales of inspiration, while “Show Me the Receipts” will fact-check famous or prominent people who claim to have been great athletes in college or high school. There will also be shorter takes such as “You Got 99 Words,” which will be a moderated section allowing readers to write on a specific issue in 99 words.
Multimedia aspects will consist of a weekly podcast hosted by Clinton Yates, Jill Hudson and Justin Tinsley, and numerous videos series including “Spike Lee Lil’ Joints,” produced by the Oscar-winning filmmaker, according to Politico.
Merida stresses that he plans on using ESPN’s other platforms such as FiveThirtyEight and ESPN Films to help boost the site’s visibility.
“We come from a newsroom with 700 (at The Washington Post) … and you come to ESPN, it’s like 7,000. And the distribution mechanisms, you have so many opportunities. I mean, you have ‘Outside the Lines’ and you have ESPN Films doing serious documentaries, and you have the ability of really popular show hosts to just shout you out, and that’s going to help get reach. You just have lots of ways to get The Undefeated’s work out there,” he said at a recent luncheon promoting the relaunch.
Merida also was clear that he intends to look beyond the website and even sports, incorporating live events and the presidential election into Undefeated’s repertoire.
“We want to do live events, because we think that it’s important for people to see us and not live behind a virtual wall,” he said. “We don’t want to just be a website. I feel like that’s almost too small a term in today’s world. “We want to just try to reach people where they are and wherever they’re living.”
The Undefeated isn’t quite a new venture for ESPN.
It originally launched in 2013 led by columnist Jason Whitlock, who left under turmoil in June 2015, the New York Times pointed out. Whitlock went to Fox Sports last October, around the same time ESPN announced that it had tapped Merida to fill Whitlock’s shoes.
It’s undeniable that a website like The Undefeated is sorely needed given how often the mainstream media still views and write about athletes of color through a stereotypical and problematic lens. In the past year, think of all the times “trusted” outlets have reduced quarterback Cam Newton to a “boy with a bad attitude,” or they grossly fixated on Serena Williams’ body and perceived femininity. Or the white fragility conveyed around Black players — both professional and collegiate — that had the “audacity” to vocalize their support for the Black Lives Matter Movement. A site like this one could help provide the kind of nuanced coverage that white-dominated sports newsrooms simply can’t or won’t provide.