Jesse Washington Agrees to Multi-Year Extension with ESPN’s The Undefeated
The Undefeated, ESPN’s content initiative exploring the intersection of sports, race, and culture, has reached a multi-year contract extension with senior writer Jesse Washington to continue as one of the platform’s leading narrative journalists.
Washington, who joined ESPN in January 2015 as one of the founding writers who launched the platform, has been a significant contributor the past five years, helping establish The Undefeated as a multimedia hub dedicated to creativity and varied content, including music, digital video series, long-form storytelling, poetry, and more.
“At this pivotal period in the history of race in America, I wouldn’t want to work anywhere but The Undefeated,” Washington said. “I’m excited and inspired to help document and illuminate these times through our writing, film, music, books, artwork, and more.”
Washington’s latest project is an Outside the Lines report on legendary Georgetown men’s basketball coach John Thompson’s protest of Proposition 42, airing Thursday, Jan. 15, on SportsCenter at 12 p.m. ET – the 32nd anniversary of when Thompson walked off the court against Boston College in protest. This story was chronicled in I Came as a Shadow, the critically acclaimed autobiography of the legendary coach co-authored by Washington and published last month by Henry Holt and Company. Trailer.
Washington’s first narrative for The Undefeated was the heart-wrenching, long-form The Waco Horror about the gruesome May 15, 1916 lynching of 19-year-old Black farmhand Jesse Washington in front of a rabid mob of 10,000 in Waco, Texas. Other key pieces he has authored include “Black and Blue,” a four-part series on the voices of African-American police officers (2017); an illuminative profile of then-Steelers receiver Antonio Brown (2018); and the untold story of 16-year-old high school wrestler Andrew Johnson’s dreadlocks (2019).
Washington’s July 2020 revelatory story about a “noose comment” by Penn State men’s basketball coach Pat Chambers led to an investigation by the university that resulted in the coach’s resignation in October.
“Jesse is one of the most versatile journalists at our company, and one of the most fearless. He takes on challenging assignments, and moves gracefully from reported enterprise to thoughtful essay to pointed commentary to video analysis,” said Kevin Merida, Senior Vice President, and Editor-in-Chief, The Undefeated. “He has tremendous depth and range, and we are fortunate to have him as a senior writer at The Undefeated.”
Before joining ESPN, Washington was the national race and ethnicity writer at the Associated Press where he covered both successful presidential campaigns of America’s first Black President Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Before the race and ethnicity beat, Washington was the news agency’s Entertainment Editor, supervising a team in New York and Los Angeles covering film, television, music, and celebrities.
A veteran culture and music journalist, Washington served as the founding Editor-in-Chief of Blaze magazine, which in 1998 became the biggest music magazine launch ever. While at Blaze, Washington conceived the groundbreaking “Blaze Battle” competition series and published artists’ responses next to negative album reviews by Blaze writers.
Prior to Blaze, Washington was managing editor of Vibe magazine from 1997 to 1998.
An accomplished author, Washington’s first book Black Will Shoot – a novel about hip hop culture set in the glitzy and gritty world of rap music – was published in 2008. His latest is the autobiography of Coach Thompson.
Washington was graduated from Yale University in 1992 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He has won numerous accolades for his work: National Journalism Award from the Asian-American Journalists Association (2011); two top feature awards from the National Association of Black Journalists (2000, 2019), and a 2019 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 award for column writing.