Seventh grade — the year Amari Pollardfell in love with lacrosse.
Now years out of middle school, Pollard, a Roy H. Park Fellow master's candidate at UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, is sharing her passion for the sport with fans worldwide.
Since February, Pollard and U.S. Lacrosse Lead ClinicianTari Kandemiri have co-hosted the women’s lacrosse ESPN halftime show “Sound On with Tari and Amari.”
Last summer, Pollard and Kandemiri discussed the state of women’s lacrosse with ESPN production teams, Ericka Galbraith, ESPN women’s lacrosse coverage director, said. Galbraith said the network later stayed in contact with both women — eventually leading to the show's inspiration.
“At the beginning of the year, two producers really took the lead formulating a plan,” Galbraith said. “Then they came to me, and I ultimately approved the segment.”
Galbraith said she thinks Pollard and Kandemiri bring a positive and fresh perspective to the sport. Their captivating approach made hiring them a no-brainer, she added.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily hit me,” Pollard said. “People work their whole lives for this, and it’s been such a great experience to step into it and to feel encouraged in this space.”
With their show, Kandemiri said she believes they have been able to bring a new and underrepresented voice to the sport.
“Traditional lacrosse has been seen as a sport for one certain race,” Kandemiri said. “What we want to show is that lacrosse is for everyone, and we want to make sure that other people know that.”
Pollard grew up in the predominately white town of Baldwinsville, New York. As a Black woman, she said she was often the only person of color on her lacrosse team throughout middle and high school. She had the same experience when she went to play for Le Moyne College, she added.
Pollard said often being the only non-white team member was isolating, but she had never thought to talk about her experience. She said she was concerned with how the community would respond to what she had to say.
“It becomes more difficult as a Black woman because when things come up, the world already presents you as being difficult or combative,” she said. “So, I felt like I couldn’t necessarily talk about some of the things that had happened to me while I was playing.”
Along with her ESPN halftime show, Pollard is a freelancer for Inside Lacrosse and has written for numerous other publications. She said the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement last summer motivated her to become more vocal about her experience as a Black woman and time as a lacrosse player.
“It’s been interesting having the floor opened up and just saying all of the stuff that went on,” Pollard said.
With “Sound on with Tari and Amari,” Pollard said she hopes to show those who may have been skeptical about taking up the sport in the past to know there is a space for them.
“For me, the biggest thing is I want to see Black and brown people thrive and feel welcomed,” she said.
In addition to amplifying Black voices, Kandemiri said the show’s increasing fanbase has heightened exposure for women’s sports.
“In the past, something that I was continuously facing was people saying, ‘Oh, no one wants to watch women’s lacrosse,’” Kandemiri said. “But our show and these amazing players are showing that women’s lacrosse is fun to watch, fun to play.”
Halley Griggs, women’s director at Inside Lacrosse, said she has seen a growth in attention for women’s lacrosse over the past year. She said she is happy to see Pollard and Kandemiri bring even more with this new platform.
“Both Tari and Amari are two of the most prominent voices in this sport,” Griggs said. “I think the two of them are such leaders in this space, and they have been for years.”
Pollard said she is grateful for those who encouraged both her athletic and journalistic pursuits and wants viewers to have fun and learn to see women’s lacrosse in a new way.
“I hope they give people of color a chance to exist in this space and to exist in it in a loving way,” Pollard said. “And also give space to women’s lacrosse as a whole.”
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