Behind The ScenesThe Undefeated

Airing tonight on ESPN: An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility and Violence

Since its launch in May, The Undefeated has produced long and short-form stories at the cusp of sports, race and culture.

This afternoon in Chicago, the ESPN cross-platform content initiative will deliver on its promise to convene periodic conversations, forums and debates to address topical issues at the confluence of sports and race. His and Hers co-host Jemele Hill will host. The 90-minute forum – An Undefeated Conversation: Athletes, Responsibility and Violence – will be taped in front of an audience at the South Side YMCA in metro Chicago and air tonight (ESPN, 9:30 p.m. ET with a simulcast on ESPN Radio).

Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of The Undefeated, Kevin Merida, works from the site of the Chicago public forum, the South Side YMCA. (Sharon Matthews/ESPN)
Kevin Merida works from the site of the Chicago public forum, the South Side YMCA. (Sharon Matthews/ESPN)

The Undefeated‘s Senior Vice President and Editor-in-Chief Kevin Merida discussed the site’s first public forum with Front Row.

How did the concept for convening these conversations, forums and debates originate?
At The Undefeated, we’ve always said we wanted to be more than a digital platform, and do more than produce journalism. We want to be thought leaders, conveners and to be present – not just to operate in the virtual world. We want to help stimulate discussion – and solutions – around the most difficult issues that confound our society.

What’s the timeline for how this first conversation in Chicago evolved?
The ESPYS open certainly was a powerful moment. We thought there was more to do coming out of it, including the journalism The Undefeated produced on athletes and activism in the weeks following. There also was the ABC News town hall involving the president. [ESPN and ABC are owned by Disney.]

And after that one, I thought: Maybe we should host our own version involving athletes. I discussed with [ESPN President and Co-Chairman, Disney Media Networks] John Skipper, and he agreed and got the ball rolling.

How did you decide the panels and panelists for this forum?
That part was very difficult. We wanted to involve athletes and others from the sports world, police and community leaders. We tried to get a good mix for discussion purposes. Not everybody we wanted could make it. We developed some broad lists and worked our way through those, and tried to remain nimble.

Why did you choose Chicago as the host city for this?
Chicago has been the backdrop of some horrific violence, police-community tensions, and an astounding murder rate. It’s also a city where a lot of people are engaged and working hard on addressing these problems.

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