A Latina ESPN Sports Anchor Talks About Getting Flack For Mispronouncing Spanish Words To Appease Her Audience

credit: @antoinettaespn / Instagram

Over the course of the last four weeks, media outlets have closely covered the World Cup games in Russia while inadvertently also revealing the ways in which soccer’s female fanbase has long often endured sexist and abusive treatement. Takes of crowd coverage have revealed the ways in which female fans are subjected to extreme sexualization while footage of women journalists as they report live have fortuitously also shown the ways in which many remain at risk for attacks and harassment.

It doesn’t take a stats board to understand the ways in which a lack of representation and inclusion of women in the arena of sports has contributed to these offenses. Though, if we’re talking numbers, the proof is there. According to FIFA, of the 16,000 journalists authorized to cover the competitions, only 14% are women. Outside of the World Cup space, the amount of representation doesn’t get much better. A study by the Women’s Media Center which was conducted this year found that of the country’s thousands of local TV news staff, women of color make up only a total of 12.6% of the population. For context, in 2018 women of color make up more than 34% of the country’s population.

There’s no doubting that the sports arena is in gross need of a change in representation and as we watch reporters cover the World Cup’s final its final tournament our team an interest in the future of the Latina sports reporter. For a better understanding of what more LAtinas in sports media could look like, FIERCE conducted a phone interview with ESPN anchor Antonietta Collins, whose ten years long career has included a position as a sports anchor for Univision Deportes’ show “Despierta America” and “Primer Impacto.”

As a Latina reporter, Collins says the future will take an acceptance of those who choose to straddle their two cultures. It’s a concept she admits has its challenges.

When someone tells me I pronounce my own name wrong … ????

A post shared by Antonietta Collins (@antoniettaespn) on

Collins says she finds one of her greatest obstacles involves the code-switch. After years of reporting for a Spanish-speaking audience, the Latina found herself speaking to a new set of viewers, when she started reporting in English. The Mexican-born reporter grew up in a bilingual household, where the proper pronunciation of Spanish words was simply a norm. When it came time to stand in front of a camera and report on key Latino players like Nelson Cruz and big events like Real Madrid she never gave pronouncing their names much thought. But the trolls of Twitter quickly reared their ugly heads. The show’s audience quickly took to lambasting her articulation.

“They’d say ‘Get her off the TV, she belongs washing dishes,’” Collins says before recalling a time felt the pressure from her audience so much that she decided to conform to their criticism. While reporting on a story on the Royals catcher, Salvador Pérez, Collins says she used an American accent to pronounce his name. It didn’t take long for her mother, who is the four-time Emmy Award-winning Mexican journalist María Antonieta Collins, to call her up. “She says ‘Who the hell is Salvador Perez?'” Collins laughs. “I’m like ‘the catcher’ and she said, ‘Well that’s not what his mother knows him like. Say it how you’re supposed to, say it, es Salvador Pérez.'”

Collins says the incident reminded her to bring all of herself into the work she does, even her culture. “My mother she’s so true to herself in that sense. She’s very honest and open about who she is, and I think that’s the one thing I struggled with because like anyone I get insecure I tend to like get into my own head.” Fortunately for her, at ESPN, she works with a team that has supported her decision to not conform. “They] have never told me ‘Oh, don’t say this in that accent,’ or ‘Don’t do that.’ My boss [said to me] ‘I love who you are, I don’t need you to change your accent, I don’t even care if you say Las Vegas/Las Vegas, I just want you to just be clear that’s it.”

When it comes to representation, Collins recognizes the sports media arena still has many other great issues to tackle.

In the early days of her career, when she was one amongst a few set of women reporting on sports at the local level, Collins says she felt a constant pressure to demonstrate herself as both a professional and a true fan. “It was having to prove that you weren’t there to look pretty and like and there to [flirt] with the athletes,” Collins says. “You had to prove yourself that you were there because you knew the stuff and you wanted to be there.”

Collins says that the scarce number of female reporters in her field bred support between the women anchors rather than spite. When it came to dealing with harassment, it’s something Collins says she is particularly grateful for. That’s the cool thing about what I’ve seen lately with women in sports. They’re not against each other, they’re not attacking each other, it’s about supporting each other,” Collins says. Despite never having experienced harassment from the players she interviews or the bosses she works for, Collins says that she understands that offensive and aggressive behavior is something many female sports reporters like herself experience. “I remember one reporter telling me ”Just try to be straightforward. You can’t dance around things, and if that were to happen to you, you have to be straightforward and speak up.'”

It’s a type of dialogue being held amongst female reporters today, that is probably very different amongst the lot of anchors that inspired her to get into reporting as a child who never saw a Latina at the helm of a sports broadcasting segment or show.  She says that from the stories she’s heard, it’s obvious treatment of women in sports media has vastly improved. “Nowadays,  especially with more women [being included] in r in sports and reporting. I feel as if things are getting way better.”

To Collins, the inclusion of women of color in sports reporting makes sense for improving coverage as well as the business.

“We like bleed our team’s like colors, we’re passionate. Sports is such a universal thing, so I think it’s so important to empower those girls that do love their sports,” Collins explains. “Because it is possible, and it’s such an awesome job. I just hope that girls can see that they can do it too, that if I can do it, they can do it and they can probably do it even better.”

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Read: E! News’ Liz Hernandez Shares How Her Mother’s Battle With Alzheimer’s Disease Influenced Her New Career Path

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