The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force was disappointed to hear Stephen A. Smith’s remarks on the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese-born player, during the July 12th “First Take” on ESPN.
Smith’s comments highlighted the continual and hurtful “foreigner” and “other” perception many Asian American and Pacific Islanders continue to endure today.
Smith has a tremendous voice and platform, and we appreciate his apology. During a time of horrific rates of anti-Asian attacks and xenophobia in our country, we emphasize the importance of listening, empathy and cultural awareness.
The AAJA Sports Task Force stands ready to serve as a resource for media outlets on how to cover Asian and Asian American athletes and welcome and encourage any requests for additional feedback or input on this subject. AAJA calls on national and local media outlets to prioritize coverage of this ongoing violence and hate against AAPIs, and to empower their journalists to report on these incidents immediately, accurately and comprehensively.
Journalists can also utilize AAJA’s official guidance on covering Asia and Asian Americans.
By Sandeep Chandok
The Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force is proud to announce Jason Omori as the inaugural recipient of the group’s Bleacher Report Internship.
Omori, a sophomore at Georgetown University, will spend the summer working for Bleacher Report, a premier sports media organization, with a focus on social content. He will also be awarded a $5,000 scholarship.
“Jason emerged from a strong pool of qualified candidates,” STF president Josh Tolentino said. “AAJA and the Sports Task Force are grateful for Bleacher Report’s willingness and dedication in creating a scholarship that will directly help the next generation of Asian American sports journalists. We hope to continue to foster young talent, such as Jason, to assure AAPIs are represented across all newsrooms.”
“We’re absolutely thrilled to welcome Jason as the inaugural recipient of the Bleacher Report Social Content internship,” said Varoon Bose, director of special projects for social at B/R and an STF executive board member. “We were extremely impressed with Jason’s work as the Deputy Design Editor for the Hoya newspaper, and we’re looking forward to welcoming him through an internship that we hope represents a long-term partnership between Bleacher Report and the AAJA Sports Task Force.”
Omori, a Los Angeles native, found out he was selected for the internship on a phone call with Tolentino, who started the conversation by asking him if he had any plans for the summer. “Well, I hope so,” Omori responded.
“I was super grateful and super happy and excited that I got it,” Omori said. “I immediately told my family because they were very much involved in helping me write the stuff and get ready for this.”
“We’re proud to build on our longstanding relationship with AAJA by supporting their Sports Task Force and launching this new internship and scholarship,” said Johnita Due, SVP & chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer for WarnerMedia News and Sports (CNN, Turner Sports + BleacherReport and WarnerMedia Studios). “We are committed to amplifying AAPI voices and building a pipeline of talent that will lead us into the future.”
Omori, who is pursuing an American Studies degree from Georgetown, is passionate about sports and the evolving media industry. He says he’s constantly on the B/R app, and loves what the company and brand represents. It’s what led him to apply for the opportunity in the first place.
“Bleacher Report is such a great brand, and I’ve been using it for years,” Omori said. “It’s going to be a cool experience.”
Omori is undecided which area of sports media he wants to focus on, but he’s fascinated by social media and design. He’s expected to graduate in May 2023. Omori serves as deputy design editor for “The Hoya” student newspaper, and he also worked as a sports editor at his high school newspaper.
Omori, a new member of AAJA, hopes the organization will help him launch a successful career in sports journalism.
“I think between the networking opportunities that AAJA provides and this specific role, which is not super singular, will let me explore, figure out and hone in on what it’s like to work on a social content team.”
Earlier today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Carlton Davis posted a tweet that included a derogatory term historically used to refer to Asians in the early 1900s. The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is disappointed by his sentiment, especially at a time when Asians in the United States are experiencing a sharp increase in anti-Asian hate which has resulted in harassment and attacks.
“Gook” is a hateful slur and is listed in AAJA’s official guidance on covering Asia and Asian Americans. The AAJA STF appreciates the swift response by the Buccaneers’ organization to address this matter. We also acknowledge Davis’ apology and look forward to seeing how he will help the affected communities.
AAJA calls on national and local media outlets to prioritize coverage of this ongoing violence and hate against AAPIs, and to empower their journalists to report on these incidents immediately, accurately and comprehensively. AAJA National has also put together a list of related mental health resources that you can find here.
By Tami Nguyen
The Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force is proud to announce Susan Wong as the 2021 recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship.
Wong, pursuing a sports journalism major with a focus on photojournalism at Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication, is the sixth recipient of this scholarship. Wong is the second woman and the first sophomore to receive the award.
“Susan is a well-rounded champion,” said STF scholarship co-chair Tami Nguyen. “Her dedication to sports photojournalism is admirable, and she is doing all of this so early in her career. It’s great to see more women in sports at AAJA.”
Wong credits her parents’ insistence that she keep a daily journal early in elementary school as the start of her “journalistic journey” as a writer. From there, her interest and participation in sports — including football, where she played in a tackle league — combined with her ability to shoot photos, planted the seed early on for a career in sports media. She joined her high school paper as a reporter; by her junior year, she was promoted to sports editor and eventually, editor-in-chief.
“My favorite thing about journalism is that you have to be so multifaceted and have all these different skills and that’s something I take pride in,” Wong said. “Journalism allows me to be creative and use all my different skills to talk to people, get to know them and tell their stories.”
While working at her high school paper, Wong was assigned to photograph her first football game. The staff photographers were unavailable to cover the story, and this became the first opportunity for Wong to shoot with a DSLR camera.
“The photo editors were really amazed by my photos and that encouraged me to continue shooting photos,” Wong said. “I just fell in love with it. At the end of the day, photos and visuals are just another way to tell stories.”
Wong is involved in several roles on campus. She serves as the president of ASU’s AAJA student chapter, treasurer of the Multicultural Student Journalists Coalition, co-social media chair of the Association for Women in Sports Media and assistant photo director for the Walter Cronkite Sports Network.
“Susan is already being called a ‘rising star’ by many of her Sports Task Force peers,” Young said. “In reading about her accomplishments, it’s easy to see why.”
While Wong was driving to cover a recent softball game, she was informed by Young that she was the recipient of this year’s Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship.
“I felt so honored that Al took the time to personally call me and congratulate me for it,” Wong said. “It means a lot to me and my family. I called my mom when I got off the phone with Al and she was really happy for me”
The Al Young Scholarship is named after the nation’s first Asian American sportswriter at a metro daily newspaper who also was a trailblazer as the first to cover the NFL as a beat writer and the first to write a weekly column on women’s sports. During a career that spanned four decades, Young was a writer and editor at several publications, including the Boston Globe, USA Today and the New York Daily News, before retiring in 2012.
“Al Young led the path for us Asians in sports journalism,” Wong said. “I want to be able to do the same for young women in our industry.”
“I felt really honored and also really thankful for all the women who have paved the way for the next generation of young women,” Wong said. “I’ve always advocated for more representation in sports and in media, especially those who have been historically underrepresented in these categories.
“It means so much to me, to win such an esteemed award and to win a scholarship that can help me advance my studies, it motivates me to keep working hard and working towards my goals.”
“Hopefully,” Young said. “Winning this scholarship will move her another step closer to realizing that dream.”
2021 Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship judging panel
– Al Young, retired print journalist
– Leighton Ginn, Ginn and Topics
– Karlo Sy Su, ESPN Los Angeles
– Victoria Lim, Journalist/PR/Content
By Nader Issa
The Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force is pleased to announce Cora Hall and Pranav Iyer as the recipients of the 2021 Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Fellowship, generously funded by prominent sports agent Don Yee.
The $1,000 awards will go toward registration for the 2021 AAJA national convention later this year, and for the first time will cover expenses associated with reporting a story about Asians or Asian Americans in sports that the two recipients pitched as part of their applications. Hall and Iyer are the 10th and 11th overall recipients of the award.
“Thank you to the STF panel for their work on the 2021 Jimmy & Suey Fong Yee Fellowship,” Yee said. “Our family is very appreciative of STF’s efforts in going through each applicant’s pitch – and we had more applicants than ever to this point.”
“There were many applicants who proved to be qualified,” STF chairman Josh Tolentino said. “AAJA Sports Task Force is extremely grateful for Don Yee’s continued support and his commitment in helping better diversify the sports journalism industry and also advocate for more Asian Americans in sports.”
The fellowship was established with Yee’s support to honor his parents. Yee is one of the NFL’s most respected talent agents, representing several star players and coaches, including Tom Brady, Jimmy Garappolo, Julian Edelman and Sean Payton. Yee said he was excited about both recipients after learning more about their backgrounds, scholarly accomplishments and story pitches.
“Cora’s application asked excellent questions; questions that typically go unanswered or ignored. Cora’s voice and perspective is one that I am excited to support,” Yee said.
“Pranav’s self-initiative shined through in his application. The website, AmaznHQ.com, founded by Pranav, is one-of-a-kind, and I am honored to help him further his career with this fellowship.”
In addition to attending the AAJA national convention toward the end of the summer, Hall and Iyer will work over the next few months — with the help and guidance of the Sports Task Force — to report and pursue the stories they pitched for the fellowship.
Hall is set to graduate later this spring from Ferris State University in Michigan, where she serves as the editor-in-chief of her student newspaper, the Ferris State Torch. She’s interested in investigative sports reporting and said she enjoys the research that goes into those in-depth stories. Hall is also part of this year’s Sports Journalism Institute.
She will attend SJI, a journalism program created to help women and minorities into newsrooms, later this summer and intern at the Kansas City Star as part of the program.
For her story, Hall plans to examine the reasons behind the disproportionate lack of Asian Americans in collegiate sports. Her pitch was heavy on well-researched statistics that show a dramatic rise in Asian American populations in the United States hasn’t led to much increase in Asian American college athletes.
“It’s going to be a really valuable opportunity for me, more than I could really even say,” Hall said of the fellowship. “Because I came out of a really small school, and being able to have an opportunity this big and being able to work to get a story published in probably a bigger publication than I could have done on my own, having that connection is going to do a lot for me.
“It definitely means a lot to me because I come from a high school and a college that are not super diverse or don’t have a very big Asian community. So to find other people from the same culture, from the same background pursuing the same things as me, and to have mentors like that, it’s just another level of encouragement, mentorship that I’ve been looking for.”
Iyer is due to earn a master’s degree in journalism this spring at the University of Southern California. He graduated in May 2020 from Chapman University in California, where he played Division-III football.
While still in school in December 2019, Iyer launched AMAZN HQ, a publication dedicated to covering Asian American athletes, which he called his biggest reporting passion. Iyer said his identity and race play a big part in his work because, while he grew up in a predominantly Asian American community, not many around him dreamt of playing football or being a journalist. Then when he went to pursue his dream of playing football, he was not only the first Indian American teammate his peers ever had, but for some, he was the first Indian they’d ever met. That’s why Iyer was inspired by Yee’s work as an agent in the sports industry.
“Just hearing his story is inspirational,” Iyer said. “And he talks about the Asian American community and his passion for uplifting the community too, that is something that aligns directly with what I hope to do with my career.
“Those are really the types of stories that can help to inspire the community, can help to inspire that change — to give the younger generation inspiration but also to teach society that this change can happen and to see Asian American athletes in a different light.”
Iyer plans to report on an incoming wave of Asians and Asian Americans in professional sports that, while maybe not huge in numbers, looks as promising as ever and could shift the perception of Asian athletes.
Hall and Iyer both believe their introduction into the AAJA community will give them the support and connection they need to survive and grow in their profession.
“My identity plays a lot in the way I do my work and the way I view the industry as a whole,” Hall said. “That status quo as it is, reporters aren’t always thinking about these things. And it’s always the same people getting the same coverage and same voices being uplifted. And I’ve seen a lot of change in that and it’s really inspiring to me and influenced me over the last couple years and how I approach my work.”
“Seeing that representation and being able to connect with them and relate on certain struggles, certain upbringings and how to navigate through some of those, I think that is super important,” Iyer said. “Having that opportunity to form that community, to build these relationships, it’s so much bigger than just networking. I’m hoping it’s in a sense creating a family. …It’s organizations like these that allow people like me to pursue this past the dream.”
2021 Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Fellowship judging panel
– Josh Tolentino, The Athletic
– Joon Lee, ESPN
– Nicole Yang, Boston Globe
– Michael Huang, ESPN
– Shehan Jeyarajah, Dave Campbell’s Texas Football
Donald H. Yee is a lawyer and partner with Yee & Dubin Sports, which represents professional athletes and coaches, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton.
This statement was prepared by Yee and presented to the Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force during a virtual panel held Feb. 18. ESPN’s Michele Steele delivered his message.
Thanks to all of you for being here tonight. And thanks to STF for providing me with this platform to pass on this message.
I would like to briefly address two topics tonight: one, the process of finding a job, and two, the environment of rising anti-Asian violence we’re seeing around the world.
I feel like I’ve been trying to find a job my entire life; in fact, one of the reasons I have my own business is because I simply couldn’t find a job that would allow me to grow in the way that I wanted, and without compromising my value system. But while I was looking, I, like many others, went through a lot of rejection, humiliation and embarrassment. There were many, many lows.
I finally came out the other end. And as you begin your job search, there is one trait I have tried to develop within myself, that I believe may help you with your search, and that trait is ‘resilience.’
Resilience is kind of the conclusion, so here are the components that you might want to keep in my mind as you consider developing this trait.
- First, know that rejection is just part of the process – it’s going to happen, but it really does happen to everyone.
- Second, generally speaking, rejection isn’t personal. When I was starting out, I used to personalize my failures and immaturely lash out at decision-makers. I finally learned that, generally speaking, sometimes the decision-makers just made a decision that literally had nothing to do with me, but something more positive about someone else.
- Third, don’t be bashful about asking for help. Learning how to ask for your help is a skill, and if you can overcome any shyness or reluctance, there are a lot of people who are willing to help – even if just a bit.
- Fourth, slowly develop your own network or community, and attending this Zoom is a great start.
- Fifth, be proactive. I would tell myself to just try to do one thing a day that advances me toward my goal; no matter how big or small. I tell my clients all the time that it’s hard to get a rebound if you’re outside the 3-point arc – but if every day you’re inching closer to be under the basket, you increase the chance the ball falls in your hands.
Finally, many of you may be aware of the rising anti-Asian violence. I actually dispute the ‘rising’ part as reported by mainstream media; in my personal experience, there’s always been lots of violence. On a personal note, my barely 5-foot tall mother was mugged twice – from behind – while in her 80’s. I have had many ugly emotions about these events and still do. I still get emotional thinking about it.
I don’t have many answers about what to do, but I do have theories right now. And one is, based on my own experience: keep self-actualizing, in essence, forming who you really are – be conscious of it. Ignore prevailing “narratives” on how to think or conforming to something that doesn’t feel authentic to you. Each of you is unique with different talents, and even though I’m not a journalist, I support STF because I see an army of warriors who’ll tell great stories. Maybe, just maybe, the stories will lead to more knowledge, and maybe that helps reduce the violence.
Thank you for your time and allowing me to share this with you.
Yee is one of Sports Task Force’s greatest supporters. He currently provides two annual fellowships to college students and recent graduates interested in sports journalism. Don created the fellowship to honor his parents, Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee.
The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force urges contextualized and comprehensive news coverage around the racial identity of Miami Marlins general manager Kim Ng.
The proper way of characterizing someone’s racial or ethnic background is a complex matter of identity and culture. The question has emerged again with the Marlins’ hiring of Ng.
The AAJA Sports Task Force urges newsrooms to be mindful in their language of Ng’s racial identity, the ways she has described her own upbringing and background, and the accurate representation of people of Asian descent in past leadership roles.
–Kim Ng’s father is an Asian American of Chinese descent. Her mother was born in Thailand and is of Thai Chinese descent. Ng was born in Indiana. Ng has publicly embraced her Chinese descent.
–It is accurate to refer to Ng as the first woman, first Chinese American or first East Asian American to hold the title general manager of a Major League Baseball club.
–Ng is not the first Asian American to hold that title. That was an incorrect statement, oft-repeated Friday and throughout the weekend following her hiring. Farhan Zaidi, president of baseball operations for the San Francisco Giants, served as GM of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 2015-18. Zaidi was born in Canada, is of Pakistani descent and grew up in the Philippines. While South Asians – such as Indians and Pakistanis – classify themselves as Asian, others are likely to misidentify them, reflecting patterns of “South Asian exclusion” and “racial assignment incongruity.”
–“Asian American” is an accurate and encompassing term to describe both Ng and Zaidi, as it applies to those from the continent of Asia.
–For additional context, it would be accurate to say “Ng will be in charge of all player-personnel decisions such as trades, free agent acquisitions and draft picks for the Marlins.”
–Proper pronunciation: Kim Ng (ANG).
We advise news organizations to consider the point of the story as well as the target audience when writing headlines and articles about the groundbreaking nature of Ng’s hiring.
Josh Tolentino, Chair
Melissa Kim, Communications
About AAJA STF:
AAJA Sports Task Force promotes diversity in the sports media industry through mentorships, scholarships and outreach programs. AAJA STF is proud of its work with other multicultural organizations to champion diversity.
For more information, contact the STF.
Facebook: Asian American Sports Journalists
By Josh Tolentino
The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is proud to announce Tami Nguyen as the second winner of its ESPN internship.
She was recently named winner of the 2018 Al Young Sports Journalist Scholarship. Nguyen is the first female recipient of both the scholarship and internship.
“I’m really proud of all that Tami has accomplished,” said Howard Chen, STF’s chairman. “There were many worthy applicants, and through a very thorough judging and vetting process. Tami was ultimately chosen as the best fit for this ESPN internship. We are extremely thankful to Disney and ESPN for helping to make this opportunity possible through AAJA’s Sports Task Force.”
Nguyen’s passion for journalism has grown through her current internship with the control room at TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins. She’s spent the past season covering various athletes, including Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Zdeno Chara and others.
She hopes to continue her sports journalism career after college in Boston and work in live sports coverage.
Nguyen joined AAJA in high school. However, she didn’t attend her first event until a few months ago when she decide to stop by an event hosted by AAJA New England, where she met Al Young and other Boston-based journalists.
“AAJA is very family oriented,” Nguyen said. “I’m beyond thankful both of these opportunities were given to me this year. I wasn’t involved much before, but AAJA and the Sports Task Force has helped open so many doors.”
When Nguyen found out she won the internship, she was quick to make a first request.
“I wanted to make sure I could attend AAJA in Houston,” she said.
Nguyen plans on attending her first AAJA national convention this summer in Houston, and increasing her involvement with the AAJA Sports Task Force.
“Winning this scholarship and internship has re-assured me I chose the right path,” Nguyen said. “The Sports Task Force has done so much and the success I enjoy is a direct benefit of the support I receive.”
By Mark Kim
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is proud to announce Tami Nguyen as the third recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalist Scholarship. She is the first woman to receive this scholarship.
“I know the judges all worked very diligently during this process and am very happy that AAJA’s Sports Task Force can assist Tami in pursuing her career goals and also honoring the pioneer in the industry that Al Young is,” said Howard Chen, the chair of AAJA’s Sports Task Force.
Nguyen, a senior at Boston University, started college as a computer science major. But through a control room internship with TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, she found her passion for journalism.
Along with her duties with TD Garden, Nguyen also works for BUTV10, the campus TV station of Boston University, and freelances as a photographer.
“Her talents behind the camera and work ethic, along with her academic success during four years as a Film and Television major at BU, have proven to be top notch,” said Young. “I’m delighted that this award will help move her one step closer to achieving her goal of a sports journalism career.”
Nguyen’s goal is to stay in Boston and work in live sports coverage. While she joined AAJA in her high school years, she plans on increasing her involvement with the AAJA Sports Task Force.
“[Getting this scholarship] was really reassuring because I kind of fell into sports and it’s the best thing ever,” said Nguyen.
The Al Young Scholarship is dedicated to Al Young, one of the first Asian American sports writers to work for a metro daily. Young worked for publications such as USA Today and the Boston Globe before retiring in 2012.
“I really think it’s journalists who are able and best positioned to tell the stories of people who are striving to overcome challenges,” Yee says, “and they’re also best positioned to expose to the world the stories of the most vulnerable.
“So I think the media, in general, is a significant institution and we have to do what we can to encourage good media and good journalists.”
In honor of his parents, Yee has upped his investment in the AAJA Sports Task Force by providing two scholarships to college students and recent graduates interested in sports journalism to help cover expenses related to travel and accommodations for the 2017 AAJA convention in Philadelphia in July. The two recipients for the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship are Charlie Lapastora and Daniel Tran.
“We had several highly-qualified applicants this year,” says Sports Task Force chairman Howard Chen. “Both (Lapastora and Tran) showed a passion for sports journalism and both have strong resumes.
“It’s never financially easy for those who are beginning their pursuit of a career in journalism,” Chen adds. “Don’s contribution makes it possible for two people to help do what they can to take that next step in their careers at this year’s AAJA convention.”
Representing many clients, including Tom Brady, Yee has developed into one of the NFL’s most-respected agents. He says he was very impressed with Tran and Lapastora.
“The one thing that stood out is the passion that they both have for the profession and for sports,” Yee says of Tran and Lapastora. “It’s always great to see passion and dedication, and I’m really happy that they’re this year’s recipients.”
Lapastora says his family’s story is quite similar to Yee’s. His grandparents moved to Detroit with $500 to make a better life for their family.
“Throughout each step of my journey,” Lapastora says, “there’s been so many trials and obstacles, but each time I chose to overcome them.
“But it’s not about me,” adds Lapastora, a graduate of Oakland University. “It’s about those whose lives are affected, whose story I’m telling.”
Like Lapastora, Tran can also relate to Yee’s story and is greatly encouraged to win this scholarship.
“He knows the struggle of people underestimating his abilities, and overcoming those challenges to become the best in his profession,” says Tran, who has a masters degree from the University of Southern California.
At last year’s convention, Yee had a chance to meet the inaugural winner of the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, Josh Tolentino of Illinois State.
“I was really honored to meet Josh Tolentino and hear about his path and his hopes and dreams, and aspirations,” Yee says. “Josh is a terrific young writer and just to see the growth in his career and have a minor hand in it is really gratifying.”
But Yee has a message for Tran, Lapastora, Tolentino and other aspiring Asian American journalists.
“The one thing I’d like to share and for people to understand, all of you have to overcome very significant, built-in institutional hurdles,” Yee says. “Not just from a general perception of who you are by larger society but also a general perception of who you are by even those within the industry. So if there’s anything I can do to help to get as many people to understand the context within you are trying to operate, I think it’s educational but it also gives people a greater understanding of the odds and challenges Asian American journalists face.”