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ESPN Commemorating Black History Month with Content Offerings Across Platforms

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The Undefeated Presents: Dear Black Athlete Sunday, Feb. 11

A one-hour televised discussion program and multiplatform collaboration across print, digital and television are among the highlights of ESPN’s celebration of the achievements of African Americans within sports and society during Black History Month.

The Undefeated, ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersections of sports, race and culture, will present Dear Black Athlete, a series of conversations featuring prominent African American athletes, and civic and community leaders, on Sunday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, as the centerpiece of ESPN’s Black History Month content.

The program, which will be taped in front of a live audience at the historic Sixth Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. – the birthplace of the civil rights movement – on Feb. 7, will culminate State of the Black Athlete, a multiplatform collaboration between The Undefeated and ESPN The Magazine.

It will include select athletes reading personalized letters, reflecting their thoughts on being a black athlete in today’s America. FULL DETAILS

ESPN The Magazine’s State of the Black Athlete Issue, Powered by The Undefeated – This special issue, as part of the collaboration with The Undefeated, offers a glimpse into the creativity, struggles and brilliance of African Americans in sports. Available since Jan. 26, the issue is anchored by an essay from The Undefeated editor-in-chief Kevin Merida, “Speaking Their Minds,” which stresses that black athletes need to be looked at in full, starting with their intellect.

The story “The Conscience of a Champion” looks at the most politically conscious team in the nation’s most politically conscious league: the Golden State Warriors. Senior writers Lonnae O’Neal and Marc J. Spears ask, “Why are the Warriors celebrated for it when generations of black athletes were attacked for doing the same? And how long can it last?”

Also included:

  • A Pioneering Spirit — MVP, champion, activist: Maya Moore is as fearless and captivating off the court as she is on it. ESPN’s Jemele Hill sat down with the WNBA star to talk about why she cares so much about doing the right thing.
  • Citizen Cam — For his brilliance, sullenness, fragility and resilience, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton confounds both his fans and his haters. But in the eyes of award-winning essayist and poet Claudia Rankine, he is not so different from the rest of us.
  • A Protest Divided — The movement started by Colin Kaepernick endures, but its supporters are more fragmented than ever. From Howard Bryant, this is the inside story of how infighting splintered a group of players once unified in its pursuit of a cause bigger than themselves.
  • Athlete Contributions — The issue features poignant letters written by athletes: Kevin Durant to his hometown; Chiney Ogwumike to her family; John Wall to his dad and Chris Archer to his parents, as well as Martellus Bennett’s illustration on the State of the Black Athlete.

Other Black History Month offerings on ESPN platforms include:

The Undefeated – In addition to the television special and elements from State of the Black Athlete, The Undefeated’s Black History Month content will include:

  • Black Super Hero Bracket – created around the release of Marvel’s Black Panther movie and featuring exclusive access to the movie set and actors, the bracket will debut Feb. 12 and run through the week.
  • The Undefeated 44 – an illustrated list of 44 African Americans who changed the fabric of America.

SportsCenterSC Featured, the storytelling brand of ESPN’s signature news and information program, will air two features related to Black History Month during February.

  • Sunday, Feb. 18, NASCAR’s biggest race, the Daytona 500, will be held at Daytona International Speedway and competing in the race will be Bubba Wallace. Driving for the legendary Richard Petty, Wallace will become the first fulltime African American NASCAR Cup Series driver since 1971. The feature will debut on Saturday, Feb. 17.
  • Sunday, Feb. 25, SC Featured will debut “The Black 14.” In 1969, 14 black players were kicked off the Wyoming football team for wanting to wear black armbands in protest of what they perceived to be several racial injustices by a conference foe. In this historical snapshot, SC Featured interviews some of those players, who reflect on that moment amid today’s environment and recent protests.

SEC NetworkBreaking the Barrier, a half-hour special celebrating the Southeastern Conference’s integration pioneers, will debut Friday, Feb. 23, at 10:30 p.m. on SEC Network with multiple re-airs. Football pioneers Greg Page, Nate Northington, Houston Hogg and Wilbur Hackett played an essential part in the integration of SEC athletics. In 1966, Northington was the first black athlete to sign with an SEC school with Page soon to follow. As the first black team captain in any sport in SEC history, Hackett, along with Hogg, were the first black athletes to complete their collegiate careers at Kentucky. Vanderbilt’s Godfrey Dillard, who with teammate Perry Wallace was one of the first black basketball players in the SEC, also will be featured. Hogg, Hackett, Northington and Dillard join host Maria Taylor on the program. Mel Page will represent his late brother Mel.

In addition, a series of vignettes celebrating the diversity across the SEC will air all month on the network.

Longhorn Network — Longhorn Network will recognize several black sports figures who have impacted the University of Texas, including Harlem Globetrotters coach Jimmy Blacklock, who came of age during one of the most racially turbulent times in the country’s history. Blalock was featured in the Feb. 1 edition of Longhorn Extra This Week, which has multiple re-airs scheduled. In an emotional interview with LHN, Blacklock describes what it was like to be named the first black captain of any sport in UT history and reveals the deep pain he suffered in an era where all men were not considered equal.

ESPN Classic – During the month of February, ESPN Classic will air an array of films and specials celebrating the influence and accomplishments of African Americans in sports including Muhammad and Larry, Herschel Walker, Jordan Rides the Bus, This Magic Moment, You Don’t Know Bo and Rand University.

ESPN PULSE — ESPN’s African American employee resource group, PULSE, will recognize the month with a series of internal events across the country focusing on unity, commemoration and celebration, as well as a special day of service to engage and impact local minority youth. On Feb. 23, ESPN PULSE members in Connecticut and New York will host joint volunteer efforts with Team ESPN and Disney VoluntEARS.

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Media contact: Andy Hall, [email protected]