To help celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, Front Row is highlighting several outstanding AAPI community members and leaders. Today, we feature SportsCenter anchor Kevin Negandhi.
He joined ESPN in 2006 and is the first Indian-American to serve on a national sports network. Besides co-anchoring SportsCenter, he has hosted myriad shows on ESPN through the years, including the Special Olympics World Games and Veterans Day specials. The Phoenixville, Pa., native is a member of Temple’s School of Media and Communications Hall of Fame.
What’s your proudest moment at ESPN?
It would have to be the first time I hosted SportsCenter. I realized a dream come true since I was a 14-year-old kid with this ridiculous idea to be the first Indian-American to host SportsCenter. I remember all the emotions when I stepped on the set while holding it together. All I wanted in those 60 minutes with [former SportsCenter anchor] Robert Flores was to be myself and, more importantly, not to screw it up. I know I put pressure on myself because I didn’t want to let down my family and community. The first impression could be the last impression for an audience watching an Indian-American deliver sports highlights nationally. I’m happy it was a clean show, and I later found my name on the SportsCenter schedule the following week. At the time, there was no better feeling.
Tell us about an Asian American leader who inspires you and what they mean to you.
Kalpen Suresh Modi – a.k.a., [actor] Kal Penn. His early roles in the Harold and Kumar movies honestly meant the world to many of us. He broke so many stereotypes for Indian-Americans that were being portrayed by the only regular TV character at the time – “Apu” from The Simpsons. Kal made us relatable. He allowed diversity for more Indian roles. He also worked as a liaison with the Asian-American community during the Obama Administration, so he used his status to help others. I admire him in so many ways as he continues to inspire the next generation on and off the screen.
Really looking forward to being a part of this w Glen and Ray. https://t.co/w1OsT6RK3B
— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) May 21, 2020
What does Asian American Heritage Month mean to you?
It’s a chance to recognize the contributions made by so many Asian-Americans who came to this country for opportunity and made the best of it by paving the way for the next generation. For me, that’s saying thank you to my parents and my uncles and aunts who came here from India with nothing and worked every single day to build a better life for us.
A big focus of ESPN is diversity, inclusion, and belonging. How do you help others feel included and valued?
Diversity and inclusion are important in giving back and passing down the lessons you have learned along the way. When students or young professionals reach out with questions about what helped me on my journey, I think it’s critical to share your experiences and let them know there’s no direct path to your goal. I ask to watch their anchor reels and make sure they know they don’t have to be perfect. They have to be authentic to themselves.