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Remembering John Saunders and Irv Cross, two Black pioneering sportscasters

In Black America

On this edition of In Black America, producer and host John L. Hanson Jr. revisits two interviews with the late John Saunders and the late Irv Cross. The interviews with the two sportscasters originally aired in 1987.

Black athletes have had a significant impact on nearly every sport in the country from basketball to baseball to football to tennis. No matter the sport, these athletes have been hypervisible to the American audience while Black reporters were unnoticed for decades.

John Saunders was an anchor for ABC Sports and ESPN, working at the latter from 1986 until his death in 2016. He regularly covered the WNBA, ESPN's coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs from 1993 to 2004 and the World Series. Outside of being known for his journalism career, Saunders was also a founding board member of the V Foundation for Cancer Research and was an advocate for juvenile diabetes research.

Irv Cross started as an analyst and commentator for CBS Sports in 1971. Before he was a sportscaster, he was a professional football player for the Philadelphia Eagles and was one of the first African-American starters for the NFL. At CBS, Cross covered the NFL, the NBA, track and field, and gymnastics until 1994. He was the first Black person to receive the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award, awarded to him in 2009.

John L. Hanson is the producer and host of the nationally syndicated radio series In Black America. It’s heard on home station KUT Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m., as well as weekly on close to 20 stations across the country. The weekly podcast of IBA, the only nationally broadcast black-oriented public affairs radio program, is one of KUT’s most popular podcasts.
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