Written by: @P_ACasas
Art by: @Hi_MyNameIsAli
I think having people who look like you as role models is very important. It confirms the reality that if someone who looks like you made it, then so can you. The power of hope is stronger than any drug. Since 2005 when Robert Flores joined ESPN he’s been a constant reminder to us Latinos that it’s possible, and that there is hope. He made history when he became the first Hispanic to anchor Sports Center and hasn’t looked back since.
Since leaving ESPN in 2016 Robert now holds it down at The MLB and NHL networks where he took his unique and hilarious insight. Never the one to bite his tongue or shy away from issues that need to be discussed Robert is one of the guys who help push the sports media world forward. Whether it be his heated-on air dispute with Stephen A. Smith over the Pacquiao vs Mayweather fight, his Iggy Azalea ruining Hip-Hop joke, or all his cultural references, Robert has become one of the most recognizable faces and voices in the sports world.
I remember the first time I saw Robert on ESPN. I’ll never forget telling myself that if he can do it, then there’s nothing that can stop me. The way he converses, the lingo he uses, the way he carried himself spoke to me and millions of sports fans across the world. I can say that Stuart Scott and Robert Flores have been the two biggest journalistic influences in my career. The way Robert inspired me, I hope to one day inspire kids that look like me, too. In 15 years when the next great Latino writer gets asked, “Who inspired you?” I want him to say, “Ro Flo and P.A.” Like the saying goes, “Each one, teach one.”
–This interview has been edited for length and clarity–
– P.A: Houston is a huge sports town which hosts the Astros, Texans, Rockets, and even your U of H Cougars. It’s easy to see where your love of sports comes from. What I want to know is where did the passion to be in the media begin?
– Robert: As a little kid I loved sports, I loved watching television, and I loved to play. I was a big baseball card collector who would look at the stats on the back of the baseball card. It was something that I always enjoyed, both watching and playing. I even enjoyed watching news and sportscast. When I was a kid, those were really the only ways you got information. I mean, there was no ESPN, or certainly not what ESPN has become today. There certainly was no internet so that is how I got exposed to it.
– P.A: As you were making your way up in the media world did you experience any extra hurdles just because your last name was Flores?
– Robert: You know, I’m a little hesitant to call them hurdles. There was a shortage of Hispanics in media domestically. I think there still is, certainly on a national level. Look, I was just the second hispanic anchor hired at ESPN and that was in 2005. I was the first Hispanic anchor to do Sports Center on the domestic side and that was 2006 or 2007. A year and a half almost two years later. So, I don’t know if hurdles is the right word, maybe challenges? I still think that there are a lot of talented young Hispanic people out there who for whatever reason aren’t getting their shot. I think that’s beginning to change but there is still a lot of work to be done in that area.
– P.A: I always wondered if being a minority gave you the courage to say what’s on your mind because a lot of the time it’s what needed to be said. When you commented on why Travis Kelsey got a free pass to dance in the end zone unlike Cam Newton because he wasn’t black I was so happy. Was keeping it real a conscious decision you made when you started or did that come later down the line?
– Robert: I think it came further down the line. The way I try to approach things whenever possible is to be myself and to ask the questions or make the comments that people at home are making. People at home know when things aren’t real, they know when things aren’t right. Whether it’s someone not being treated fairly or a particular athlete being treated differently because of his ethnicity. My position was I’m going to be as real as possible within reason. I can’t go out there just saying outlandish stuff. But if there is a chance for me to point out some sort of hypocrisy and maybe make it funny, or try to bring some humor to it then I’m going to do it. But at the same time I do have to be careful because I can’t go out there just saying crazy stuff.
– P.A: I remember all the heat you got for the Iggy Azalea ruining Hip-Hop comment and I was like WOAH.
– Robert: That was a situation of me just making a joke and a lot of people mistook it as some sort of, “he did it on Sports Center.” It wasn’t Sports Center, it was a Top 10 show that aired various times throughout the month and someone just happened to catch it. There’s a lot of things that go unnoticed and until one person reports on it that it catches fire for whatever reason.
– P.A: The way you speak makes it known that you’re apart of the culture. We as fans know that you aren’t putting on an act, it’s genuine. I get a sense of Stuart Scott when you’re doing your thing. Was he an influence?
– Robert: I didn’t know Stuart very well but we worked together a handful of times. He obviously is one of the game changers. I think you put him with Chris Berman, Keith Olbermann and Dan Patrick. Guys that took this particular medium and took it in directions that had never been taken before. That’s something I aspire to do. I want to be interesting. I want to try things that aren’t typical but still be professional and accurate. I think he is an inspiration to anyone that starts out in this business. But at the same time you have to be yourself or the audience can pick that up immediately.
– P.A: Do you remember the last thing you ever said to Stuart?
– Robert: Oh man, that’s a good question. What is the last thing I said to Stuart? That’s a really good question, no one has ever asked me that. I think it was, “Hey, have fun at the Super Bowl.” One of the last times, actually the last time I ever anchored with him was on a Sunday night on Sports Center. We were walking from the studio back to where our desks are and there was a black limo waiting for him to take him home or the airport. He did tell me he was catching a plane to go to the Super Bowl. I probably told him have fun and good working with you. Thinking about it, that may have been the last time we spoke.
– P.A: With everything you’ve done in your career from making it to ESPN, to being the first latino to anchor Sports Center, to leaving the company last year and beginning a new chapter with the MLB and NHL networks, you’ve assembled quite the resume. What’s next? What’s left for you to check off that bucket list?
– Robert: I really want to try my hand in creating more content. I think that is where this business is headed. This medium is in a transition period and there are a lot of things that are changing rapidly. I’m really interested in trying to create my own content. Whether it be YouTube or Facebook live or stuff like that. That’s something I think about a lot, I think about it quite a bit. So hopefully down the road in the not so distant future I’ll be creating my own stuff.
– P.A: Are you thinking a network or YouTube channel?
– Robert: I think I want to create something kind of small in the beginning. Just because I don’t have any experience doing it. I’ve been talking with a bunch of people who do that sort of thing. I’m picking their brains on the mechanics of it and how you do it. I’ve got a couple of ideas that I’ve been tossing around in my own head. Like I said, in the not so distant future I’ll dip my toe in the water and see what happens. The good thing now is that it’s so easy to create your own content, it’s so easy to get posted. The difficult thing like with anything is to get noticed and recognized. There’s so much out there that you’ve got to figure out how to step yourself apart, I think that’s the challenge.
– P.A: My last question, what’s the best way to get noticed as an up and coming writer/personality like myself? How do you stand out for all the right reasons? I don’t want to be click bait. I want content of substance.
– Robert: I think it’s just trying to be as unique, different, and entertaining as possible. Like you said, there’s a lot of garbage out there. Even big networks are putting out things that aren’t very good. If you come from an honest and genuine place then I think ultimately that’s where you want to be. If your stuff is good people will find it. It may take a while and it may not come in the numbers you expect right away, but people will find it. You just have to stay true to yourself. Stay true to your talents and your voice and people will find you.