Move over, SI: minority sports magazine to debut at year’s end
Eleanor Lee Yates
A new magazine focusing exclusively on issues facing Black, Hispanic and other athletes of color is set to hit the news-stands at the end of the year.
“The Color of Sports can fill a significant void and have a tremendous influence on shaping the agenda of the sports industry,” says Aaron Brooks, one of the magazine’s investors and quarterback for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints. Two other NFL players, brothers Darren Sharper of the Green Bay Packers and Jamie Sharper of the Houston Texans, are also investors in the magazine.
The Color of Sports will cover male and female high school, amateur, collegiate and professional athletes in the United States, as well as Canada, Mexico and South America. The monthly magazine will regularly feature issues at historically Black colleges and universities and military institutions.
Publisher Booker Chambers first thought of the idea while listening to sports talk shows.
“A lot of times I would disagree and think, we need a vehicle for some different opinions,” Chambers says. “Someone needs to do something.” Then it came to him: “Someone like me.”
Chambers, a longtime journalist, public relations manager and avid sports fan, was mulling over starting a business.
“I wanted it to have a positive impact on the community, to provide something that was needed and to give back to the community,” Chambers says. The native of Richmond, Va., graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a communications degree. While a journalist in the U.S. Navy, he was awarded a fellowship from the University of Southern California in motion picture script writing and production. He went on to become a managing editor for a Navy newspaper. He left the Navy to obtain a master’s degree at VCU, then became assistant director of communications for the Department of Agriculture in Virginia and later the director of communications for the Virginia Housing Development Authority.
“I knew I could stay there and retire of go after my own dream,” Chambers says.
He left his job three years ago to research and develop the business plan for the magazine. Chambers worked by himself for two years, raising approximately $600,000. He hired Al Johnson as vice president for editorial development. The staff of reporters, designers, photographers and advertising salespeople will be based in Richmond. There will also be a stable of correspondents in every region in the country. The Color of Sports will also have offices on the West Coast, as well as in New York, Chicago and Texas. It will sell for $3.75 an issue on the newsstands, with $17 yearly subscriptions.
During the past year, focus groups across the country have verified Chambers’ belief that the time had come for The Color of Sports.
Chambers and Johnson say the magazine will be primarily geared toward a 25- to 44-year-old African American and Hispanic audience. Research shows that Sports Illustrated is the most popular magazine among Black men in this age group, followed by ESPN Magazine, Jet and Ebony. Sports Illustrated is also the most popular magazine among Hispanic men in this demographic, followed by National Geographic.
“Our concept is different from Sports Illustrated,” Chambers says. “Few magazines put great emphasis on the HBCUs and the military.”
“We’ve traveled and done focus groups just to make sure we’re on the right track,” says Johnson, who spent 30 years as a newspaper reporter and editor and also launched a successful business magazine in North Carolina. “This has been extremely hard but something I wanted to do. When I had my previous job, I looked forward to the weekends. Now the weekends get in my way.”
The Color of Sports will take readers from the streets to the pro arenas. One feature, “Shop Talk,” will convey the ambiance and conversations of a barbershop. Stories will include the economics of sports and the impact on communities. “Share the Moment” will give readers the opportunity to write about pivotal sports-related moments in their lives.
“We’ll cover the news of sports, about the prominent and not-so-prominent,” Chambers says.
The magazine will donate a $1 for each subscription to the HBCU of the reader’s choice through the Tom Joyner Foundation.
Though the primary focus will be U.S. sports, the magazine will keep readers informed on major issues about hockey in Canada and baseball in Central America, for example. But Johnson emphasizes the magazine is not about game coverage.
“The content is more hard-edged,” Chambers says. “We’ll examine sports issues that affect athletes, fans and people in the sports business. We’ll tackle hard-core issues about the business of sports.”
Johnson says the biggest challenge with a new magazine is getting readers to pick it up the first time.
“They’re going to find a lot more than they expect,” he says.
When the Sharper brothers heard about the project, they immediately wanted to get involved.
“This magazine will bring to light a lot of issues that aren’t written much about. The Color of Sports can be a venue for athletes of color,” Darren Sharper says.
He’d like to see more discussion on the low number of Black coaches and general managers, for example. Sharper, a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia, was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in 1997. The 6-2, 210-pound safety has 32 interceptions and 415 tackles during his seven years in Green Bay.
His brother Jamie Sharper, a University of Virginia graduate, played for the Baltimore Ravens from 1997 to 2002, and was chosen by Houston during an expansion draft. Jamie Sharper led the NFL with 195 tackles in 2003. During his seven years in the NFL, he has 511 tackles and 23.5 sacks. Aaron Brooks was selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 1999 NFL draft and was traded to the New Orleans Saints the following year.
So far the magazine’s production is on schedule, though Chambers would not reveal much about the first issue. That issue, he says, will not disappoint its audience.
“Our mission is to be the sports magazine of choice for people of color,” Chambers says.
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