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Analyze This: A conversation with sports production entrepreneur Drea Avent

On Jayne Kennedy, having ‘thick skin’—and making a change

Analyze This is a daily Q&A with African-American college football broadcasters and analysts during The Undefeated’s Fall TV Week.

Drea Avent is a national sideline sports reporter and the founder of her own production company. In the past several years, Avent reported for Fox Sports, NBC Sports, CBS Sports and the Pac-12 Networks before deciding last year to create Drea Avent Productions. She conducts interviews with current and retired athletes and posts the content on YouTube. Avent has interviewed the likes of former NFL wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson, NBA champion Metta World Peace, Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix, Heisman Trophy candidate Adoree Jackson and others. Avent recently spoke about the importance of creating your own career path, female representation in both broadcasting and sports, and one of her heroes, Jayne Kennedy.

Why did you decide to go out on your own?

I just love to be in control. As much as I love the sidelines, I’m working for someone else. It’s exciting. You love being out there, but you’re working for someone. When I’m on my own, I’m the boss. We can talk about whatever. It’s a free form for these players and it’s just going well so far. It’s the kind of stuff that they’re not able to do on other platforms. So that’s what I’m offering them. I’ve been able to do some exciting things on my own.

“I’m definitely excited to see more women of color on games, anchoring, hosting, stuff like that. It’s good to see that.”

Are their difficulties working your way through the sports broadcasting business?

A lot of times with sideline reporting, you’re emailing people like, ‘Hey, is there any work?’ You’re doing that and you’re grateful when you get work. But you don’t always know when you’re going to get work. You don’t always know if decisions are going to go your way. But that’s the business. That’s acting, that’s modeling. That’s anything in entertainment. You just have to have thick skin and keep trying. I just got to the point where I was like, I want to be in control of something that I know is always going to be for me, no matter what.

Think back to when you decided to pursue a career in sports journalism — who was your inspiration?

Jayne Kennedy. I didn’t watch her obviously in real time, but that’s someone who definitely paved the way. She was the female that really blazed the trail for black women in sports. She was glamorous. The guys respected her — you could tell.

How do you assess the state of black female representation in sports broadcasting?

I definitely don’t feel like there’s enough women of color. There could always be more. Now, there definitely are more [of us] than a few years ago, which is a good sign that things are changing. I’d love to see more diversity in sports in general, as far as on the women’s side. But those are decisions that are made by other people. So at the end of the day, we just have to keep hoping that more people work hard, keep striving and get work … That’s what it comes down to. But I’m definitely excited to see more women of color on games, anchoring, hosting, stuff like that. It’s good to see that, and I think it’s definitely moving in a positive direction. I’ll just keep rooting for it.

With Drea Avent Productions, do you hope to incite some of that change?

It didn’t really have to do with race. I just wanted to have my own platform to do my own thing. Through TV and the work that I’ve done, I’ve made a lot of connections. From that, I’ve been able to kind of step out on my own and try to build something that’s very special. That’s the key in this business. There’s a lot of people doing the same thing, but what are you doing to be different? I feel like this is something that is different.

Aaron Dodson is a sports and culture writer at The Undefeated. He primarily writes on sneakers/apparel and hosts the platform’s “Sneaker Box” video series. During Michael Jordan’s two seasons playing for the Washington Wizards in the early 2000s, the “Flint” Air Jordan 9s sparked his passion for kicks.