Behind The Scenes

ESPN employees reflect on King’s legacy, Content of Character specials

As part of the observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, ESPN will present Content of Character -- a weeklong series of original programming, vignettes and interstitials celebrating the life and contributions of the civil rights leader -- across many of its programs and platforms.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made an overwhelming impact on society during the civil rights movement that escalated beyond the 20th century.

His legacy also motivated sports figures on and off the playing field. On Friday, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m. ET, ESPN will profile his role through the glare of a symmetrical sports lens with the 60-minute Content of Character presented by Red Tails program.

The special, moderated by ESPN host Bob Ley with an opening by Academy Award winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., will build conversations around three primary features: education, equality and leadership.

Those involved with the project expressed their thoughts on what Dr. King’s legacy meant to them, including:

Charita Johnson, ESPN vice president, production migration strategy, who is responsible for creating strategies and overseeing the development, design and delivery of content: “When we connect Dr. King to simply the dream, it often seems to marginalize what he stood for. His visions were much more complex. When we speak of Dr. King as it relates to his ideals, such as opportunities for education, the need for equality and the disciplines of leadership, it is relevant in today’s society. We were given the platform to make these connections through the lens of sports. What an honor. If Dr. King were alive, he would be proud of the progress we’ve made but would be clear that we’re still on a journey.”

Rob King, senior vice president, editorial and print media, who will serve on a live chat during the Content of Character telecast: “It’s hard to express how central, how all-encompassing a role Dr. King’s legacy has played in my life. My parents strode through doorways he opened, each achieving professional success that would have been unimaginable in an earlier generation. They, in turn, taught my brother, sister and me to work hard, dream big and behave as ambassadors of the Content of Character vision. Dr. King’s legacy has fueled our careers, graced the diversity of our friendships and nurtured the boundless futures of our children.”

Bruce Bernstein, ESPN coordinating producer, who produced and distributed all of the daily Martin L. King Jr. vignettes to all English and Spanish language platforms: “When we started producing the Martin L. King Jr. vignettes in January 2007, it was a humble project that consisted of a few sound bites I gathered from athletes and turned into SportsCenter bumps on the day of the holiday. Since then, we have expanded the project into a true multimedia presentation with content spread across TV, radio and Internet platforms. Gathering material for the vignettes has become a 12-month process, it is something that is very meaningful to me since it allows us to help honor a genuine American hero.”

Stu Barbara, producer for ESPN’s Outside the Lines: “It has been a great honor to have been charged with overseeing the centerpiece show of ESPN’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. programming for two years now. Honoring Dr. King by capturing the contemporary cultural significance and ever-evolving relevance of his ideals and teachings, as seen through the prism of today’s complicated sports world, is an imperative we need to fulfill so our viewers and sports fans of all generations can understand the values of diversity and tolerance in our society.”

Back to top button