LZ Granderson owns being ‘unapologetically’ Black and gay after ESPN departure

Granderson, who worked at ESPN for 17 years, follows Maria Taylor as the latest Black talent to say goodbye to the embattled sports network

Veteran ESPN journalist LZ Granderson became the latest high-profile Black talent to say goodbye to the embattled sports network when he announced his departure earlier this week.

LZ Granderson
LZ Granderson attends the Cedars-Sinai and Sports Spectacular’s 34th Annual Gala at The Compound on July 15, 2019 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

Granderson, who has served as a senior writer, columnist and TV anchor for ESPN for the past 17 years, confirmed on Monday that he is leaving the company. The sports journalist said he planned his exit three years ago when he signed his last contract.

In his announcement post, LZ Granderson summarized his ascent at ESPN, going from the number two lead at the company’s NBA Department to heading the brand’s tennis coverage and eventually becoming number one. Despite his success at the company, he said, Granderson encountered internal barriers around his racial identity and natural hair.

“Over the next 17 years I vacillated between being tolerated and being ignored. Like for years, I had to scramble to find someone to do my locs during Wimbledon because they never hired anyone to do natural Black hair…and yes, I asked,” he wrote.

At one point, he recalled his boss telling him, “you know so much about the NBA I forget that you’re gay,” sharing he was “angry” but “kept grinding.”

On Thursday, LZ Granderson thanked his supporters and elaborated on his decision to leave ESPN and his experiences being an openly gay Black man in an industry dominated by straight men and a culture of machismo.

“I’m sincerely touched by the outpouring of support and coverage. I’ve always tried to be a good steward of the platforms God blessed me with. To know so many appreciated and respected my work at ESPN means a lot,” Granderson captioned.

“It’s so funny because I had been told to “stick to sports” my entire time at ESPN…and y’all know I never did because the very premise is nonsense. Nevertheless that never meant I didn’t love the game or love to clown.

“But I took the work and the responsibility of that work seriously. Always have. Always will,” he added.

Journalist LZ Granderson
Journalist LZ Granderson on stage at the 2014 Sports Spectacular Gala at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on May 18, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Sports Spectacular)

LZ Granderson, who is one of few openly gay Black men working in sports media, also acknowledged that his brand of sports commentary may not be for everyone, but plans to keep pressing on.

“I know I ain’t for everybody and I’m cool with that. Most unapologetically Black gay dudes aren’t (see Baby, Da). So for the folks who do ride with me, please know I’m just changing vehicles, not the journey. Announcing some new projects very soon, so I hope you continue the ride along,” he wrote.

Granderson’s exit from ESPN comes as the company endures both an internal and public relations crisis over its workplace environment for employees of color.

As previously reported, sports anchor Maria Taylor jumped ship from ESPN to NBC Sports following the controversy when white colleague Rachel Nichols caught heat over a leaked recording of her complaining about Taylor being given a prominent position commentating on the NBA Finals, suggesting Taylor got more airtime because she is Black.

Though Nichols publicly apologized to Taylor while on-air, she faced no disciplinary action from ESPN for her comments. A Black video producer at the company, Kayla Johnson, however, was disciplined for sharing the video with Taylor. ESPN has since faced tons of criticism for how it handled the Nichols controversy and its overall diversity and equity issues raised by both current and former Black employees.

theGrio’s Biba Adams contributed to this report.

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