Penn State

ESPN’s Kevin Merida speaks at Penn State about sports and race

Kevin Merida, the editor-in-chief of ESPN’s “The Undefeated,” spoke to Penn State students Wednesday night at Schwab Auditorium.

“It’s great to be at Penn State,” Merida said. “This is an extraordinary time for journalism.”

Merida joined ESPN in 2015 after working for 22 years at The Washington Post, where he directed the award-winning series “Being a Black Man.”

After a brief pep talk to students, Merida shared an excerpt of a book he authored, “Being a Black Man: At the Corner of Progress and Peril.” The piece focused on the perspective of an African-American man named Anthony James, who was hanging out on the street corner of his local neighborhood and what he saw.

There was one quote from James that Merida said stood out to him while he was writing the story.

“You go to Georgetown, and see white people all chipper,” said James. “And then you go to our neighborhood and our people are all mad. And the question you have to ask yourself is: Why?”

After Merida’s speech, John Affleck, director of Penn State’s John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, joined Merida on stage. The two discussed numerous topics, including “The Undefeated,” race, sports and how they intermingle.

“We don’t run from it, we engage it. Part of our job at ESPN is we have seen athletes recently step into the spotlight on social issues in the country. We haven’t seen that since the ’60s and ’70s,” Merida said.

Toward the end of the event, Merida welcomed questions from the audience. Merida was asked about how he came to the decision of leaving The Washington Post after 22 years.

“It was an excruciating decision. I wanted to be brave and courageous at that point in my career. I had accomplished a lot and I wanted to be part of something that would have an impact under a large company. ESPN is the worldwide leader in sports,” Merida said.

Merida was then asked what one trait could help young students stand out when applying for a job.

If you write well, you can be a journalist for a very long time. Times can change but we’ll still need people to write.

Kevin Merida

“If you are good at shooting, you can play basketball until you are 80. The same thing applies to writing; it is extremely underrated,” said Merida. “If you write well, you can be a journalist for a very long time. Times can change but we’ll still need people to write.”

Matt Castle is a Penn State journalism student.