The idea of being a sports broadcaster never crossed my mind when I was growing up. The scope of possible career options never went beyond teaching, medicine, law, or being “famous” without any true context as to what that means. Growing up Muslim in a non-Muslim society, I was never represented in media, at least not in a way that made being Muslim feel acceptable. I never saw images of women wearing khimar.
I chose my college major based on my father’s guidance; he said I should choose an area in which I excelled. I had a natural ability to write and speak, so I majored in communications, combining the two. At the time, I did not cover my hair, as I struggled with how others’ perceptions of me would change if I did. I also didn’t know just how impactful it would be once I did decide to be visibly Muslim.
As a junior in college, I took a sports broadcasting course taught by my uncle. He’d worked as a public address (PA) announcer and sports radio show host for as long as I could remember. He made our lessons less about the field of broadcasting and focused instead on the craft of interviewing: How can you make it conversational, entertaining?
I wanted to be a representative for any Muslim girl who may have wanted an alternative career path like mine.
I grew eager to learn more about the field. After a class visit from a prominent media professional, I received the opportunity to shadow Pam Oliver, a sports reporting legend. Oliver was also a Black woman who attended a historically Black college (HBCU), as did I, which made me even more excited about the opportunity. Her presence on TV provided hope that it was possible for me to break barriers as a Black, Muslim woman.
The first event I shadowed was an NFL Monday Night Football game. It was extremely cold. The job required us to move around the field the entire time. I had no idea how unglamorous the job was — the idea of being on television was much more appealing than the actual legwork we had to do off-camera. What’s more, most female sideline reporters wear makeup, their hair…