Rosalyn “Ros” Gold-Onwude is more than just long legs and a pretty face — she’s a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the court. Ros, who is Nigerian-Russian American, grew up in Queens, New York before attending Stanford on an athletic scholarship for women’s basketball. After graduation, Rosalyn decided to leave her ball on the court to pursue a career in sports broadcasting. This Emmy Award-winning reporter splits her grind between a variety of gigs, but is most popularly known for serving as the sideline reporter to one of the nation’s highest ranking basketball teams, the Golden State Warriors. Gold-Onwude has also reported for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the PAC-12 Network, and currently calls national games for NBA on TNT, the Men’s Basketball NCAA Tournament and the WNBA. In this interview with BAUCE, Ros describes what it takes to make it as a woman in a heavily male-dominated field and how persistence and perseverance can help you make it to the top.
Your face is well known in the sports world today as a BAUCE woman, decorated athlete, broadcaster and beauty with brains. Many would agree your success was destiny, looking back how did you steer your career? Do you believe in fate?
Ros: As far as destiny, I’m religious, I believe God is shining favor on my life and I’m thankful to God in that way. I’m just at the beginning. It has a lot to do with little conscious decisions we make, and influences of outside people. For instance, it started with my mom and dad. I grew up in a family that was supportive and pushed me to work hard. My mom [made] sure our community had teams so I could play in them. Helping me with homework, she sent my college tapes to Stanford [sic] so I could be recruited.
To make it in this business you need to work hard, hustle, and be comfortable being uncomfortable. There will be a lot of no’s before you get some yeses. In the beginning you don’t make a lot of money. You have to be creative and resourceful, almost all the TV networks I work for, my journeys have never been a straight line. It’s a lot of weaving, winding and maneuvering, then try to make a splash. I’m very thankful to have covered the Santa Cruz D-League Warriors team. I was busting my butt when the Golden State Warriors opportunity opened up, I was already working and known within the organization. They pushed me to Comcast and said, “Hey, give her a look.” Obviously the success of the team has been a huge platform. I understand timing has been really helpful as well.
You’ve acquired more than a few nicknames in your career as an athlete and in the media. So far I’ve seen “Grandma,” “Pit-bull,” “Sideline Reporter Bae” and of course, “Ros.” What attributes of these nicknames do you feel the most connection to? Which nickname do you prefer, and are there any you want to go away?
Ros: They’re all fine — my nickname Ros is what everybody calls me. When I was a kid I used to play ball in the park, sometimes they’d have a guy on the mic and they’d call me “The Slasher”. That’s before I developed a jump shot and I was always slashing to the rim. They called me “The Golden Child” ‘cause my last name is Gold. I remember those names, how it sounded on the mic. “Grandma” was something my teammates called me when I was a senior. Even “Sideline Reporter Bae” — that’s cute. You have to learn to laugh with social media and not take it too seriously. You can’t let it run your life. I just go by “Ros”, that’s me.
You’re a networking guru. How did you become this way and what doors has it opened in your career? Do you have advice for young professional women who may be apprehensive to advocate for or invest in themselves?
Ros: If you don’t advocate for or invest in yourself, who will? We talk about this, where men might be more aggressive in social settings. Might be getting ahead because they might be more comfortable putting themselves out there and [more comfortable] with the possibility of public failure. Even feeling they have the right to that moment, to speak to someone so high up. Don’t be afraid — what’s the worst that can happen? Somebody says no? Or isn’t interested in speaking to you? In basketball they say you miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take — it’s the same in life.
Networking shouldn’t be: “Hi, can I have your card?” and then asking for a job. It should feel organic. People want to help if they like you or if there’s a connection. I advise young people to find people they admire and sit down to coffee or lunch. Maybe it’s shadowing or asking for an introduction. Now and then check in with an update, send a video, interview, or report you’ve done. You don’t want to be a bugaboo, but you also don’t want to fall off the face of the earth with them. If something comes up they may keep you in mind. Almost any job opportunity comes from inside referrals.
The path to a career in the world of professional sports is still largely male dominated and white, though improving due to awesome women like you! How do you navigate this environment as a woman of color and what are your advantages?
Ros: In my field, primarily working basketball, my number one advantage is I played and worked as an analyst, not just as a reporter. I can really break down the game. It helps me gain respect in the locker room, with women or men. Knowing I’ve been there, understanding what they’re talking about, we can have a higher-level discussion about the game.
It’s important that younger black females see we’re out here. Representation is very key. It’s hard to imagine things if you can’t see someone that looks like yourself doing it. There are many great veterans that came before me. I’m looking at Stephanie Ready, Cari Champion, and Jemele Hill. One of the biggest people I look up to is Robin Roberts. She started in sports and transcended out. Maybe that’s something I could do one day. I hope young ladies see I’m relatable, see me and see themselves. You know how Cardi B said it, “I’m a regular, degular, shmegular girl from the Bronx”? Well, I’m a regular girl from Queens. Basketball happened to be my vehicle that got me out of New York and all the way to California.
On social media you see the changes I’m going through, showing myself as a reporter and the work I’m putting in. I’m trying to make sure people don’t think you just show up, ask questions and talk. You [have to] do homework, study, and take notes. I’m a young lady trying to pay my bills, date, and take care of my family. I’ve been through some things. My mom is sick. I want them to see a real person that’s building — not feel like this is far away, hard or impossible to do.
Last year you generated a lot of buzz due to a meme of you and Ayesha Curry during a post-game interview with Steph Curry. How do you combat petty gossip and adversity in an industry seemingly determined to pit women against one another, both professionally and in your personal life?
Ros: It’s frustrating, annoying and occasionally it’s funny. When you look at a meme you don’t really care what the true story is behind the picture. That’s what our society is now. It’s not fair. Often women burden more BS. You have to develop a thicker skin. Me and Ayesha, we’re cool. We have a great time when we see each other talking; obviously you get close to everyone’s family as the years go on. I remember when the meme came out.
The actual story is that the Warriors had just won their 73rd game, and were the All Time Best Record in the NBA ever to go 73-9. It was a historic moment. It’s a historic post-game interview. I’m interviewing Steph, I see his mom and Ayesha standing there. I wave Ayesha in and she says “okay”. I was hoping to have a special kind of interview here. She first came over and kissed him, then answered a few questions about the year, supporting Steph, and it was a really cute, beautiful moment. But all people did was make a meme out of it. I get it. If I looked at it and didn’t know the people I’d laugh too. That meme in particular, I didn’t enjoy. It made me really uncomfortable, and here’s why. Look at my Instagram account, 115-thousand people know who I am, right? There’s maybe 10 million that not only know but love the Currys, follow them, and feel really invested in their marriage. If that meme comes out, there’s a ton of people who don’t even know me, who might be angry, or think this is true. It was really unwanted attention, people were tweeting or texting me saying mean things. It wasn’t nice. It was like being cyber-bullied a little bit.
I spoke with Ayesha, we thought about posting a picture together. We didn’t want to give it more legs. We were going to ignore it. You’d be surprised — the meanest comments came from women. You don’t want that to be part of the story line. I’ve been part of memes that have been funny. Where a ref was looking at me funny from behind, but he wasn’t! He was just looking down and they happened to capture a screenshot.
This year, there was a rumor I’m dating Kevin Durant. I’m not. I would not date any player on our team. It’s better professionally and as far as your rapport with the guys in the locker room to not do that. I take that seriously, but it comes with the territory. It’s not the first, and I have a feeling it’s not going to be the last. You cannot let [memes/rumors] stop your shine, take the cool out your walk, or make you sweat. People who know me — colleagues, bosses, players — nobody is upset. Most laugh it off because I’ve carried myself in such a way for so many consistent years. Young ladies, that’s what you’ve got to lead with, your actions and work. That, no matter any kind of shade, will always speak loudest.
Before you were an Emmy Award-winning journalist and analyst with endless career options, you were like many of our BAUCE readers, talented, untested and looking to get her foot in the door. How did you manage to stay productive while you waited for your big break? School us on some of your hustle mentality and techniques, please!
Ros: I worked a ton, a lot of odd jobs. Out of school I had a full time job, moonlighting and broadcasting. I was doing digital content for Stanford, all the sports. I did little interviews and clips on the teams. I taught a public speaking course at Stanford. I used to take internships at Nike in the summer. I worked at the school radio station as a production assistant. Not only did I need to get money, I needed to get reps so I’d be good enough to get these jobs. There was a school newsletter keeping track of recruits coming into Stanford football. I wrote for that newsletter. I was literally putting really small paid gigs together to barely make enough money. I even coached my landlord’s daughter’s basketball team, so I could get half off rent!
At one point I was going to leave this field. I [was] thinking about quitting and getting a regular job. I already had a Master’s from Stanford…I could get a regular job and solid income. I had pressures back home, monetarily and family members were sick. I almost felt silly, embarrassed, frustrated, angry, and a little selfish. I’m like man, I’m going to have to give up pursuing this! A real crossroads moment was when I started a digital show around women’s basketball and developed it. Here’s the networking thing — we would do it weekly, found somebody with a bigger following who would post it on their site, and developed a little following.
I knew someone at PAC-12 Networks (PAC-12 Conference), they said this is cool, would you do this for us once a week for free? I was like yeah, this will help get my foot in the door, they’re about to start a network next year. The next year I got my first television contract. That’s when I could say I broadcast as a full-time job. Before that I didn’t know how much money I’d make every year. I was piecing it together and it was frightening. That was my first little bit of security.
Reaching your level of success is definitely a marathon, not a sprint, and can be exhausting. What self-care tools and practices do you employ to stay mentally sound?
Balance is key. I make time for myself, family and friends. It’s tough with this schedule, I travel and work a lot. If you don’t make time, it will pass you by. I relax, take care of my body, and work out. I start my morning in prayer and give thanks. I like to make a reasonable list and try to achieve some goals. I like order, organization and moving with purpose. I’ve always thought it was important, as much as I’m working hard, to have time for fun and leisure. It’s a lot less than the work, but to make sure I have it and didn’t go a whole year, three months or five and didn’t do anything to enjoy myself.
I hope I can be one of those ladies that have her career and family. I make time to visit New York, call as best I can, and never miss big holidays, whether it’s a birthday, Christmas or Mother’s Day.
Alright, Ros – you know we had to ask you at least one sports question! Do you think LeBron James can surpass MJ as the people’s GOAT? How does the Warriors’ “Durant Factor” affect that possibility in this series?
Ros: For LeBron, the amount of times he’s been to back-to-back NBA Finals is outrageous. You’ve seen basically, if LeBron is on your team, you’re going to the NBA Finals. The amount of wear and tear mentally, physically, emotionally year after year to play such long seasons, it’s incredible. Then at times win the championship and finish with a ring. LeBron must be respected. It’s always going to be debatable if he’s the greatest of all time, if MJ’s the greatest, or if it’s Kobe.
He’s definitely legendary. If he’s able to solidify a championship over these Warriors, a team built to be unstoppable with four all-stars, you’d have to hand it to LeBron. His playoff run is already legendary status, and an amazing professional journey could cement him in conversations as one of the most dominant ever.