Linda Cohn's 5,000th 'SportsCenter' Proves Women In Sports Are Far From Equal

by Adam Silvers
Getty Images

I'm not sure if you've heard, but ESPN's Linda Cohn recently anchored her 5,000th episode of "SportsCenter."

And honestly, this career achievement should be right up there with an NBA player scoring 30,000 points and an NFL quarterback throwing 300 touchdowns.

Why, you ask?

I studied broadcast journalism at Boston University, and I can attest to how nearly impossible it is to get a job on camera after graduation, let alone a job with the premier sports broadcaster of our time.

And not to put too much emphasis on this, but Cohn is a female and she didn't go to a big-name private university. These facts have to be considered when you begin to appreciate how far she's come in her 24-year career at ESPN, as well as how far she still has to go.

While applause, congratulatory pats on the back and an honorary sandwich are most-deserved for Linda Cohn, we, unfortunately, have to address the fact ESPN didn't think it necessary to have Cohn's crowning achievement take place on its own biggest stage.

Instead of Cohn being featured in the show's Sunday night primetime slot, she got the early morning show, which produced roughly half the audience she would've, and should've, received if she had been featured in the evening.

The Linda Cohn SportsCenter tribute show Sunday AM drew 489,000 viewers from 8-9A. If execs gave her 10:30PM slot that night: 925K viewers. — Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 23, 2016

Why would I nitpick at such a minuscule negative when Cohn's achievement is such a massive positive?

The 56-year-old is a native New Yorker, who, much like your's truly, is a fan of the Mets, Rangers, Giants and Knicks. But I'm not writing this because I feel like I need to stick up for one of New York's own.

I'm writing this because for all Linda Cohn has done and will continue to do, her professional family chose not to give her the ultimate hat tip when she deserved it most.

@Tbone5150 I'm just pointing out that if you truly wanted to blow it up and go big with her, double the audience in PM. — Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 23, 2016

The "Worldwide Leader in Sports" can't go back. They can't make amends for it. You only get one 5,000th show.

This moment is obviously still a great example of how far women have come in sports and in the workplace but for me, it will annoyingly have a small asterisk next to it.

*Linda Cohn celebrates a record 5,000th "SportsCenter" episode, but her own network didn't give her the primetime slot to do it in.

What does this say?

In the past 18 months, the sports world has taken a giant leap forward in terms of equality in the workplace.

Last October, Jessica Mendoza became the first female analyst in MLB postseason history. Now, she's set to become a mainstay on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball broadcast.

In January, the Buffalo Bills made Kathryn Smith the first full-time female assistant coach in NFL history.

Sarah Thomas is now the first full-time female official in NFL history. Stephanie Ready is currently serving as the first full-time female NBA analyst.

And if you still have any doubt the San Antonio Spurs' assistant coach Becky Hammon will be the first female NBA head coach in league history in a few years, you should probably stop reading this article.

If you asked Linda Cohn about not being featured in the primetime "SportsCenter" slot to commemorate her outstanding achievement, she'd probably say she couldn't care less.

She's so humble she didn't even know she was about to record her 5,000th show. In a recent interview, Cohn said,

Earlier this year, I was told I'd done more 'SportsCenters' than anyone else, and then when I was told the number, I was surprised. It made me start thinking back over the years to the different anchors I've worked with, the different sets we've had, some great moments and memories and just the overall joy of doing this job.

These are the words of someone who isn't in it for primetime slots and pats on the back. Linda Cohn clearly does it for the love of the game. She's an avid sports fan who brings the enthusiasm of someone who needs no daily reminder she gets to talk about sports every day for a living.

But there are aspiring female broadcasters, lawyers and doctors who have to separate Cohn's milestone and ESPN's subtle, yet poignant, slight. There is still a glass ceiling for women in sports.

Linda Cohn is chief among those who are doing their most to break through that ceiling for the next generation of women.

Thankfully, she's not riding off into the sunset just yet. According to Cohn,

...It's not going to be my last rodeo. As players and athletes always talk about it, how they don't look at a number or body of work until that body of work is over, that's how I compare this. I'm just going to work each day doing what I love to do.

There are still highlights to read, barriers to break and primetime slots to be featured in.


Citations: Richard Deitsch (Twitter), #LCo5kSC: What anchoring my 5,000th SportsCenter means to me, by Linda Cohn (ESPN Front Row)