As coordinating producer of SportsCenter, Sandy Nunez has to see the big picture. Perhaps that’s why she is keenly aware why her presence atop ESPN’s Los Angles operations is so significant. The fact Nunez is a woman excelling in a role previously reserved for men is notable. But factor in that Nunez is also a Latina and it becomes clear why she is so revered. Recently named one of the “30 Most Influential Hispanics in Sports” by Sports Illustrated, Nunez was also recognized by the California Chicano News Media Association as one of Los Angeles’ most influential Latina journalists. Nunez, who covered major news stories for ABC before moving to ESPN, will share her impressive story during a keynote speech at Connect Sports’ Women in Sports Tourism Forum Dec. 6-7 in Palm Springs, California. We caught up with Nunez to discuss being a role model while running one of the biggest sports shows in the country.
Would you agree sports is still considered a male-dominated industry? How is it changing?
The perception is reality. But by belonging to few organizations like Women in Sports and Events (WISE) for example, there a lot more women in places I’d never have seen them before. I think we’re making lot of progress. But we’ve progressed a little slowly—I’d prefer it happen more quickly.
How will more change occur?
The important thing is to have women leaders in key spots. For example, I honestly don’t think we would have the diverse staff that we do if I were not here. When I moved from Bristol [Connecticut, ESPN’s home base] to open the Los Angeles office, I made it my mission to have a staff that reflected the community we worked in—in all aspects, not just race.
What’s your experience been like in media?
When I joined SportsCenter, I was the only female and the only Latina. That was a rather interesting experience. Now it wasn’t the worst experience, but I definitely felt a little awkward. When I worked at ABC News, I was the only Hispanic at the time. Depending on you age and/or generation, you are first in many places and you have to recognize that for what it is.
Do you feel pressure given your importance to both women and Hispanics?
Is it as burden? No. I don’t know if it’s pressure. You want to make sure you do the right thing. You want to make sure you are trying to open doors. Maybe not all the doors were there when you arrived and maybe they are still not all open, but you want to make sure they are open when you leave. You pay it forward.
What is your message to women trying to break though in sports?
My overriding message to everyone is you have to not listen to the noise. You have to believe in yourself and be a driver. You can’t wait for people to offer you chances. For women in particular, there are definitely going to be a few more people saying no to you than your male counterparts. I have experienced that first hand.