As the 49ers head to the Super Bowl in Miami on Sunday and the Bay Area gears up to cheer them on, one local duo will be watching the game through a different type of lens.
You might recognize William Hammons or his daughter, Jazmyn, if you've ever looked up archival footage of 49ers pregame interviews or postgame recaps from the past three decades. Through their work as independent media producers, they’ve collectively had a front row seat to the final game at Candlestick, “The Catch Part 2” and many other memorable moments in Bay Area pro sports over the past 25 years.
One week before this year’s Super Bowl, William and Jazmyn sat in OWH Studios, inside of the Marcus Garvey Building, a West Oakland meeting house in the National Register of Historic Places. Multiple monitors and an endless amount of knobs decorate the studio where the Hammons family produces the Sports Fans Rap show, a Bay Area-based pro sports recap that’s been running since 1993.
“The first time I went to the Super Bowl, it was the 49ers in Miami,” says William, while laughing in a ‘where did the time go’ sort of way. He notes that Jan. 29 marks the 25th anniversary of that game. “That’s where I really found out what it meant: the Super Bowl. It wasn’t about the game, it was about all of the other stuff going on around it.”
The Super Bowl, much like sports in general, isn’t only about what happens between the end zones. It’s about the larger story that is life. That’s especially evident this week, as the sports world tunes in to the NFL’s biggest game while still mourning the lives of basketball superstar Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gigi and those who died in a helicopter crash outside of Los Angeles this past weekend.
Sports is much bigger than sports; I’d argue it’s really about creating good memories with those you love, as is life. William knows that well.
Hammons’ Highlight Reel
He brought me back to 1995, when the 49ers beat the San Diego Chargers.
“One of the most memorable moments was when [49ers fullback] William Floyd comes out of the hotel and he starts looking around. I say ‘Hey man, the bus is gone already!’” Floyd missed the bus to practice, so William and his crew gave him a ride. As an independent producer who’s always on the job, of course William interviewed Floyd along the way.
William’s second Super Bowl came in 2002, when the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The main story of that game was Bucs coach John Gruden, who at the time was only one year removed from his first stint as the Raiders’ head coach. But the other big story was about Barret Robbins, the Raiders offensive lineman who disappeared days before the game due to a mental health episode, and who reappeared the night before kickoff.
“Here’s the thing with the Barret Robbins story,” William tells me, as he leans forward in his seat. “The last day of press access, the last person we interviewed was Barret Robbins. In fact, he took the mic and did the interview,” says William, noting that Robbins seemed to be in good spirits. “I think after that is when he ended up disappearing.”
William says that Raiders Super Bowl was memorable, but the first, with the 49ers, was better. Makes sense: he’s a real San Franciscan.
William grew up in the Bayview, and says he used to make the long walk to Candlestick with his grandfather. He attended George Washington High School on the other side of town before going on to SF State. There, he worked on campus managing media equipment for the school, equipment he’d often check out and use to hone his skills. He started his career as a photographer for the college paper, The Phoenix, before working for The Sun-Reporter. Since then, he’s worked for KPOO and KMTP, and for a nationwide anti-violence initiative called Tackle Violence.
A Team of Two
When it was announced that Super Bowl 50 would be held at the 49ers home stadium, which by then was in Santa Clara, the NFL championship became unforgettable for a different reason—it was the first time William and Jazmyn worked together on the big game.
Jazmyn wasn’t new to media production, she had been shadowing her pops his whole career. When he edited film in the studio at the basement of Sutro Tower, she’d accompany him.
When William would broadcast a live show from Everett and Jones BBQ in Oakland, Jazmyn says, “I used to drive down there, and set up all the knobs, and plug it all up and set up the entire system... I learned all of that growing up.”
For college, she went to Howard University (which is where we met), majoring in sports management and minoring in public relations. She says she never felt any pressure to work in this industry, but naturally gravitated to doing radio, photography and film.
“I used to call him and tell him that I was better than him when I was in college,” says Jazmyn. “He was like, ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’” So Jazmyn brought her black-and-white photos and other media home to show him during Christmas break. “And he was like, ‘Na, you can do this better, you can do that better,’” says Jazmyn, causing William to laugh.
She was a summer intern for the Raiders PR office before graduating, moving home and getting a job with the Giants. But on the side, she worked with pops.
“I do all of the shooting now,” says Jazmyn. “If she’s shooting, I’m talent,” says William.
William Hammons interviewing Governor Gavin Newsom at the NFC Championship Game, footage shot by Jazmyn Hammons.
Jazmyn says she’s one of a few locally based African American women who cover pro sports in the Bay, but she doesn’t notice any differential or discriminatory treatment. However, things do sometimes get chippy. “I got bumped in the middle of John Lynch’s interview after the game last week,” says Jazmyn.
William followed by saying, “They don’t care, they’re just trying to get their shot.”
Looking out for his daughter in this industry is something he’s been thinking about for a long time. William says, “Before she started, I had to run it through my mind: my daughter in the locker room with naked men?” He says rules have changed over time, and there is more regulation as to how players are dressed and when they can be interviewed. “But still, who wants to bring their daughter into a room with naked men?”
But they managed, and now Jazmyn is a vet.
At that same NFC Championship Game, now two weeks ago, Jazmyn saw former Giants CEO Larry Baer, and asked him about the hiring of Alyssa Nakken, the first female coach in MLB history. After the convo, Baer said, “Good to see you Jazz.”
But encounters with big names aren’t new for Jazmyn or her pops. At Super Bowl 50, Jazmyn recalls walking past the entrance to the field during halftime, just before the Beyoncé performance, where she came across a set of very long legs laying down with the rest of the media folks on the sideline. “I was like, that’s a weird-looking photographer,” says Jazmyn. “And it was Kevin Durant.”
Not only do they get front row seats at the Super Bowl, but press passes to skyboxes and access to championship celebrations. Sometimes even for the opposing team. When Reggie White and the Packers beat the 49ers in a playoff game, William says he was in the background of the footage.
Jazmyn recently called and told him he was in the background of an NFL documentary she was watching. William responded, “I didn’t get that check, who do I call?”
On a serious note, William says of working with his daughter, “It’s a great pleasure. I doubt, and there may be some other father-daughter teams doing this in major league football or whatever, but I haven’t seen it.”
Looking ahead to the Super Bowl, Jazmyn says, “Everyone is like, ‘That’s so cool, you’re going to the Super Bowl,’ and I’m just like, ‘It’s just a football game, with my dad.’”