Journalism Showcase

ESPN’s “Journalism Showcase” – August 12, 2016

I can say that they are like an extended family now. Everyone was really sincere and caring and especially to Donnovan. They really connected with Donnovan.
– Crystal Dixon on working with OTL’s production members

On Nov. 6, 2011, 13-year-old Donnovan Hill scored the first touchdown of the Pop Warner Midget Orange Bowl Championship and he was on top of the world. But after a play in the third quarter, his life would never be the same.

A headfirst tackle left Donnovan paralyzed from his neck down and in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. That same life ended suddenly in May 2016. “Impact,” the story of Donnovan Hill and reforms in youth football, airs on ESPN’s Outside the Lines on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 9 a.m. ET.

At first, Crystal Dixon, Donnovan’s mother, was hesitant about sharing her family’s story on television.

“In the beginning, I really didn’t feel comfortable but once I met the producer, Simon Baumgart, reporter Tom Farrey and the camera crew, they made it comfortable for me,” Dixon said. “I can say that they are like an extended family now. Everyone was really sincere and caring and especially to Donnovan. They really connected with Donnovan.”

OTL first produced a piece on Donnovan in 2012 and Dixon said the response to the segment was amazing.

“I don’t have the words because people are still contacting me and praying for me,” she said. “It’s overwhelming. It assured me that people do care and that there’s a lot of good people out there.”

Those who had learned about Donnovan’s struggles through OTL donated a variety of items including a handicap-accessible van, a motorized wheelchair and more.

“People were alarmed and they wanted to help,” Farrey said. “They were surprised and disappointed that there was no help for a child that suffered this kind of injury, that so few of his basic needs were met.”

After such a positive response from Part 1, Dixon hopes the full story brings about change.

“I hope that there’s more training, more awareness and that more parents get involved. You can’t get upset that things don’t change if you don’t get involved,” Dixon said.

I hope people understand how vulnerable kids and families are when serious injuries occur in the course of playing the game.
OTL reporter Tom Farrey regarding issues addressed in “Impact”

Donnovan’s family recently settled its lawsuit against Pop Warner Football and Dixon plans to set up a foundation in Donnovan’s name to build awareness and help families in similar situations.

Farrey wants Donnovan’s story to continue to bring attention to the current policies that are in place and lead to more reform among youth football organizations.

“I hope people understand how vulnerable kids and families are when serious injuries occur in the course of playing the game,” Farrey said. “It’s surprising that even after Donnovan’s injury, Pop Warner still carries no catastrophic injury insurance coverage. Gaps like these need to be filled, and more coaches need to be trained on how to teach the game, so more parents can have more confidence that their kids will be protected if and when they sign them up for tackle football.

“This is a story that everyone in football should watch if they care about the game,” said Farrey.

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A man named Inky inspires with his words

Inky Johnson motivational speech (Courtesy of Evolve IMG)
Inky Johnson motivational speech
(Photo courtesy of Evolve IMG)

Ten years ago, Inky Johnson was a cornerback at Tennessee, looking at a future in the NFL. But a career-ending injury changed that.

Sunday’s SC Featured segment on SportsCenter will look at what Johnson has made of his life and how he inspires millions as a motivational speaker.

Jose Morales, producer of the piece for the ESPN Features Unit, said he watched a video of one of Johnson’s speeches and was immediately intrigued.

“He brings such passion and energy,” Morales said. “It was him telling his story, and I was riveted.

“At the end of it, I felt like I wanted to run through a wall,” he said. “It’s like getting a great inspirational speech before you go into a big game. It was pretty remarkable.”

Morales was even more intrigued by Johnson after meeting him and spending time with him.

“Not to sound clichéd, but you go out into the field and you meet a lot of amazing people when you do these SC Featured stories,” he said. “And Inky is second to none.

“Basically he looks at it as God put him into this position to inspire others, and that’s what he does.”

“Inky Johnson” will debut in the 10 a.m. ET edition of SportsCenter on Sunday, Aug. 14, and will re-air in other editions of the program throughout the day.

By Andy Hall

Journalism on Display

    • Is Andre Ward the last great African-American boxer? In Eastern Europe and other continents around the globe boxing is growing; however, the U.S. has seen a decline in fighters. With the retirement of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Bernard Hopkins, Ward could be the last great African-American boxer standing. Award-winning journalist Sunni Khalid takes a deeper look on
    • In this week’s issue of ESPN The Magazine in collaboration with, writer Jesse Washington tells the story of Team USA star Justin Gatlin’s long-time pursuit to defeat Jamaica’s Usain Bolt. The last time the two faced one another, Bolt defeated Gatlin by one one-hundredth of a second. It all comes down the the 100-meter dash on Sunday, Aug. 14 in Rio.
    • Senior writer Arash Markazi writes about the evolution of the WWE’s women’s edition on A hashtag on twitter that lasted for three days led to what originally became the “Divas Revolution.” The revolution gave women wrestlers more air time and exposure but recently the WWE retired the title “Divas” in order to recognize both men and women wrestlers equally as “superstars.”
    • The Sunday, Aug. 14, edition of The Sports Reporters (9:30 a.m., ESPN; 10:30 a.m., ESPN2; 11:30 a.m. ESPNEWS) will include tributes to longtime host John Saunders, who passed away earlier this week. The opening will examine Saunders’ career and impact on the show. Guest host Mike Lupica and panelists Mitch Albom, Bob Ryan and William C. Rhoden will offer their personal reflections on Saunders in the “parting shots” segment at the close of the program. Panelists also will discuss the Olympics and the start of the NFL preseason.

By Molly Mita

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