December 6, 2022

HBO To Air Four-Part Vox Docuseries On Social Inequities Through The Lens Of Sports

HBO Sports and Vox Media Studios have teamed up on Level Playing Field, a sports…

In the past few years, we have seen an increase in the conversation surrounding inequities in sports like race, gender pay disparities, and gender inequality in media coverage. Now HBO Sports and Vox Media Studios are partnering on a new sports documentary series examining the impact of public policy on the inequities plaguing sports and society.

Level Playing Field is a four-part docuseries featuring a variety of stories with commentary from sports and policy changemakers including the WNBA’s Elizabeth Williams, U.S. senators Cory Booker and Raphael Warnock, Rep. Joaquin Castro, sports journalist Jemele Hill, and several others.

They will explore and offer insight on multi-billion-dollar organizations in and out of the sports industry that have historically underpaid athletes, politicized community initiatives, and silenced athletes of color, as well as the intersection of legislation and activism in sports.

Episode 1: “Midnight Basketball”

Tuesday, September 14th

Episode 1 investigates the intersection of sports, race, and social policy through a look at “Midnight Basketball” – the innovative program started in Glenarden, Maryland in 1986 to provide a haven for at-risk youths and help curb rising crime rates in the area. The successful endeavor was embraced by both President George H. W. Bush in his “1,000 Points of Light” initiative and President Bill Clinton in the 1994 Crime bill, yet still became the focus of partisan debate riddled with racial stereotypes – stereotypes that still linger to this day. 

Episode 2: “Misclassified”

Tuesday, September 21st

Episode 2 focuses on the events that precipitated the NCAA’s creation of the term “student-athlete,” connecting that history to a wider modern trend in corporate America: avoiding legally classifying workers as “employees” to escape the fiscal responsibilities that come along with that designation. 

Episode 3: “Down the Backstretch” 

Tuesday, September 28th

Episode 3 explores how the shift in United States immigration policy towards Central America during the Trump administration impacted the horse racing industry. With laborers from Latin America making up a predominant number of backstretch workers at racetracks across the country, the “sport of kings” – typically associated with big money trainers and owners – suddenly found itself with a shortage of some of its most overlooked and undervalued figures.

Episode 4: “The Assist” (Finale)

Tuesday, October 5th

Episode 4 explores the intersection of sports and politics through an examination of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream’s landmark role in the election of Senator Raphael Warnock and the ongoing fight against voter suppression in Georgia. The Dream players’ impassionate campaign against then-Georgia senator – and team owner – Kelly Loeffler made an undeniable imprint on one of the most closely watched Senate races of all time.

The docuseries is produced by Vox and Vox Media Studios and directors for each episode include Akil Gibbons (“Midnight Basketball”), Joe Posner (“Misclassified”), Sam Ellis (“The Backstretch”), and Rebecca Stern (“The Assist”). The series is executive produced by Mike Jacobs, Joe Posner, Emily Anderson, Chad Mumm, and Mark Olsen, and co-executive produced by Mac Schneider and Marina Stadler.

Level Playing Field debuts on Tuesday, September 14th at 8:00 p.m. ET, with half hour episodes airing subsequent Tuesdays at the same time. It will be available on HBO and to stream on HBO Max.