The sports world was first introduced to Monica McNutt when she was a two-year team captain at Georgetown, leading the Hoyas side to a Sweet 16 berth during her senior year in 2011. A decade later, the 31-year-old has taken a role behind the desk, providing expert analysis on the New York Knicks via MSG Networks’ new weeknight show, "MSG P.M." She's also regularly on ESPN talking women's hoops on "SportsCenter" and "Around the Horn."
Speaking with Yahoo Sports, McNutt named her personal role models, discussed the saturation in the sports industry and offered up high praise for passionate Knicks fans.
Yahoo Sports:The Knicks are a storied franchise with passionate fans. Was it intimidating stepping into that role with MSG Networks?
MM: That was one of my first thoughts when I became a regular at MSG. I kept thinking, 'This is New York. These people will eat me alive if I'm not sharp.' But, that only adds to my personal accountability. I'm not on set just running my mouth, my thoughts are based on things that I've observed in games. Between RJ Barrett, Julius Randle being an all star and the team being higher in the standings than most thought, the Knicks are having an exciting season.
The one thing I really admire about Knicks fans is they are ride or die. Good or, bad that's their squad. I firmly believe that it's only a matter of time and I think we're starting to see that. I never try to harp on the negative, that's my approach to life in general.
Yahoo Sports: To some extent, the sports industry is somewhat saturated. What makes you stand out from a sea of analysts discussing the same topics daily?
MM: It's not unique to me that a lot of my rise over the past year came on the heels of the conversations we were having after the tragic murder of George Floyd, racial inequality and what diversity truly looks like. The folks at MSG believe in me and I'm very grateful for that. But, I've also worked very hard to get where I am. I'm not saying my success directly correlates with those moments. If it does, I'm not offended.
One of the firm stances I took early in my career was that I'm not changing my hair and I'm going to show up to work with hoop earrings and bright lipstick. Lots of people want to be a part of the sports industry, but you have to survive the war of attrition to stay in it. There are so many women who came before me and I'm grateful for their efforts because I wouldn't be here without them.
YS: Thanks to projects like HighlightHER and Togethxr, women athletes are getting well-deserved recognition for their accomplishments. Do you believe we've reached a point where society is ready to acknowledge the huge impact they have in athletics?
MM: This would be my one concern with the conversations that began in summer 2020: it's just the beginning. We haven't solved anything yet. The great thing about HighlightHER, Togethxr, WSlam and others is they specifically highlight women. I guess it depends on what you subscribe to. Is separate equal? Is that better? It's all sports. That's why I'm very proud to be on shows like "Around the Horn" and "MSG P.M." Although the root of my base is women's basketball, I can speak on a multitude of other topics as well. There's versatility in my craft.
YS: Who are some women you look up to and how have their decisions impacted your career decisions for better or worse? What advice would you give to women also looking to transition from basketball to the desk?
MM: The first woman I ever remember seeing in sports television was Robin Roberts. I remember watching her and thinking, "Wow, I'd love to do that." Then Jemele Hill hit the scene, up there with her microbraids and t-shirts. Cari Champion turned heads, too.
There are a few people I've connected with that have personally mentored me in my rise. Jasmine Ellis is a tremendous producer, such a visionary and a good friend of mine. She understands that push and pull and I have learned, thanks to her and other producers I've worked with, to have my own internal grading scale.
Maria Taylor is salt-of-the-earth type of woman. We didn't even know each other but during a time where I was unsure whether I could stay in the industry, she retweeted my reel and sent me a DM encouraging me to keep going. LaChina Robinson is also a great friend who created a seat at the table for me while also demanding more for herself.
Ari Ivory, Chloe Pavlech, I mean the list goes on. The networking is backed by tremendous sincerity and isn't transactional. So, I'm really fortunate to have women I can look up to and women I can look across at.
The biggest piece of advice I would give is to find these women, connect with them and support their work. So many of us are willing to connect when we can. That doesn't necessarily mean we have a job for you, but at the very least can offer some feedback on something you've written or a reel you've recorded. You also have to have a healthy relationship with the word 'no.' You have to be able to hear no, accept no without it crushing your hopes and dreams and you also have to be able to deliver no.
YS: As more people start recognizing your name and platform, what's one thing you would like audiences to understand about you?
MM: What you see is what you get. My faith is important to me and I do believe in moving through life with gratitude and in an attitude of praise. If ever I feel like I have to dim my light to succeed in this space, I've been without this, I can be without this. The facial expressions and the energy is 100% me and I intend on flourishing being my genuine self.
Pass Her the Mic is a series by Yahoo Sports that profiles Black women at the intersection of sports and race, discussing various topics ranging from racial injustice to athlete activism.
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