Malika Andrews has emerged as one of ESPN's top young talents during her reporting stint in the NBA bubble and her ceiling is as high as anyone's. She struck a different tone than usual late last night during an appearance with Scott Van Pelt on SportsCenter.
Asked how the deafening indifference of the Breonna Taylor grand jury fell on players who have made the frustrating difficult project of convincing people that black lives matter a top priority over the past few months, Andrews shared the hurt and lack of surprise permeating the bubble.
Then, she turned personal.
"I'm sorry that I'm getting choked up here because this is about the players and their response," she said. "We've talked before, Scott, about how my job here is to objectively cover the truth and to share what these players are going through. Today what they're going through is that they're hurting. I have prided myself in being able to be objective and cover these sorts of issues. But when it is so clear that the system of objectivity in journalism is so whitewashed and doesn't account for the fact that when I am walking up the hill my wonderful producer Melinda reminds me that Breonna Taylor was 26 and I am 25 and that could have been me, it is very hard to continue to go to work."
Van Pelt was immediately supportive, encouraging Andrews to reach out to him and the larger ESPN family if she needed anything.
Now, I truly understand why there is a faction of sports fans who don't want this in their sports coverage. It is very natural to prefer watching some sick dunks to grappling with weighty societal issues. And realizing that the so-called escape you've believed sports to be has only been that because you were either ignorant or unmoved by the way in which they are a microcosm of the uneven politics of the real world can be challenging.
It is harder to understand how that principle takes precedent over empathy. Or, at the very least, admission that there are human beings on the other side of the television screen or outlet pass who are struggling. Insisting they stick to breaking down pick-and-roll numbers or 19-foot baseline jumpers shows a level of selfishness that is only appreciated with a little self-reflection.
Taylor was a human being who lost her life when she didn't need to. She will not be afforded posthumous justice. This whole cycle is so familiar and deflating that it all begins to feel helpless. Imagine feeling that helplessness deep in your soul. Imagine seeing the system in place continue to grind up all optimism for people who look like you.
Might you, as a result of decades of this never changing in your own lifetime and four centuries of it not changing much in this country as a whole, want to share that frustration with the world in the hope against hope that it resonates with a new person and the inequity gulf can continue its glacial narrowing?
And for every time there's a moment like the Andrews one, there are thousands of unspoken feelings pushed to the background in the pursuit of objectivity. Consider how much hurt and exasperation has been self-edited in the interest of preserving the so-called safe space of sports viewership.
The scoreboard on all of this is pretty clear. It feels like things are tipping the other way, with networks willing to afford talent more of an opportunity to be human. But it will be years before humanity makes it even a four-score game against objectivity. The best-case scenario is the two joining some sort of superteam.