Female sportscasters opened the door for the rest of us: highlighting some that proved we belong

Written By Kayla Sterner, Co-Sports Editor

In an industry that has been tainted as “a man’s world,” women are finally getting the opportunity to shatter the glass ceiling that has kept them out of the sports industry for so long. Today, little girls have strong women like Mina Kimes and Erin Andrews to look up to on their TV screens. According to a 2021 study by Zippia, women made up 20.9% of sports reporters — a low number but still a step in the right direction when you take into consideration that the first female sports writers were not allowed into the locker rooms until 1975. 

If it weren’t for the courageous women that got in the ring to fight the sexism that stains sports, I would not be able to write this article or chase my dreams of covering an NFL team. Take this article as a thank you to the lovely ladies that came before me; now, let’s highlight some of their success despite the sexism they endured.


Jayne Kennedy Overton

Before becoming the first African American woman on NFL Today, Jayne Kennedy broke cultural barriers as the first African American to win Miss Ohio in 1970 and enjoyed a lot of success in her modeling and acting career, even becoming the first Black actress on the cover of Playboy. But, this is the sports section, so let’s talk about her groundbreaking reporting.

Originally, CBS was not looking for Kennedy-Overton and her agent told her “they were not looking for a Black woman and said they were looking for a journalist.” Nevertheless, she persisted. After making her way through the interview process she earned a six-week trial and arranged an interview with Muhammad Ali. The exclusive interview with Ali is ultimately what got her the job. Kennedy-Overton worked for CBS on NFL Today from 1978-79 before she and CBS parted ways. She hosted “Greatest Sports Series” in 1982 and interviewed legendary athletes such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. She was the first female to host the show and the first female color commentator for men’s professional boxing.

During her time in the sports world, she faced loads of sexism, believing other reporters did not want her there. It was (and still is) a white, male-dominated industry, so a commanding woman could easily harm their egos. Coaches and players were more welcoming to her and Art Rooney, owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, gave her an interview. 

Racism followed her, too. Before CBS hired her, they had to get approval from affiliates in the South and were worried that having her on the show along with another Black man and a white man would have what the South at the time considered “too much melanin” (FYI-that doesn’t exist). 

Kennedy-Overton won an Emmy in 1977 for her work covering the Rose Bowl Parade in 1977 and received an Emmy nomination for her work regarding the South Korean soldiers in the DMZ.

Unfortunately, after she divorced her first husband (Leon Kennedy), a sex tape was stolen from their home and released without consent, staining her reputation and halting her broadcast career. But let’s be real, she faced more backlash and had a harder time in her career because of it, while her ex-husband did not face anything near the sexism that followed her. She later married Bill Overton.

Either way, Kennedy-Overton was a pioneer for women in the sports industry, especially Black women. 

Robin Herman

Robin Herman was the New York Times’ first female sports writer and in 1975 she became the first woman allowed to conduct post-game interviews inside the men’s locker room after the NHL All-Star game in Montreal. She was only 23 at the time and was joined by Marcel St. Cyr, a radio reporter based in Montreal. Rather than the media focusing on the game, the story shifted to highlight the two women in the locker room.

This was a huge step for women in sports, as previously they were forced to wait outside of the locker room while their male peers were inside getting quotes and stories. This often led to players refusing to talk to the female reporters. 

Herman received a plethora of hate mail for being a woman in the locker room, even being called a flirt. Well, that wasn’t the word misogynists used, but for the sake of this publication, we aren’t going to say what she was told. 

The Long Island native got her start covering the New York Islanders for the NY Times in 1974. 

She was also a part of the first class of women that were able to attend Princeton in 1969, where she was the only female reporter for the school paper. She had to talk to the sports editor to convince him to allow her to cover men’s rugby rather than the news. 

Herman was the only female member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and won the Mary Gerber Pioneer Award, which is one of the greatest honors for the Association of Women in Sports Media. She is also featured in “Let Them Wear Towel,” which is part of ESPN’s Nine for IX docuseries. 

Herman passed away in February 2022 at 70 years old from ovarian cancer, but her legacy will live on. 


Gayle Sierens

Gayle Sierens was the first female sports broadcaster in the Bay Area and made a name for herself despite the barriers she faces as a woman. In 1977 she joined Tampa NBC as a weekend sports anchor. Tampa Bay Metro Magazine honored her as the Bay Area’s best sports reporter in 1981 and in 1984 she received a Florida Emmy Award for sports reporting. Seven years later, she won a second Emmy for news reporting. 

Sierens made history in 1987 with NBC Sports as the first woman to do play-by-play for an NFL regular season game. She called the game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs. The best part? She did this pregnant. This was not supposed to be a one-and-done deal, but a dispute with the WFLA stopped her from being able to be the play-by-play announcer for the season. Sierens retired in 2015 after 38 years as a broadcast journalist. 

It took 30 years for another woman to have the opportunity to follow in her footsteps. In 2017, Beth Mowins became the first woman to call a Monday Night Football game. The game was between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos. This marked only the second time a woman called an NFL game. 

As the sports world becomes more welcoming to women, we need to honor and appreciate the strong, defiant females that came before us. Doors are still opening and history is still ours to be made.