Pop star Jordin Sparks is no stranger to sports. Her father, Phillippi Sparks, played in the NFL for nine seasons, and her brother also plays football. The 2007 "American Idol" winner enjoys being active on the field and being a fan on the sideline. Sparks' new single, "I Am Woman," is serving as the soundtrack for ESPN's WNBA coverage during July. EspnW caught up with the 21-year-old shortly after she performed the national anthem last week at the MLB All-Star Game in her hometown of Phoenix.
espnW: Your father and brother both play football. Tell us about your relationship with sports growing up.
Jordin Sparks: From ages 1 to 10, I didn't really understand it. I didn't start becoming obsessed with football until my dad's last year in the league, and then I was so sad when he retired. But I love football. My weekends are booked. Saturday college games and Sunday NFL and "Monday Night Football." Booked! Football is first, then basketball and then everything else.
espnW: You participated in the MLB All-Star celebrity softball game in Phoenix this year. What sports do you play?
JS: I played softball and basketball growing up. I really wanted to play football but both parents said no. I was mad for a second, then got over it. Now, just because I'm tall doesn't mean I can play basketball. I was waaaaay better at swinging a bat.
espnW: ESPN is using your new single, "I Am Woman," as the soundtrack for its WNBA promos in July. What was your response when you first heard about this?
JS: I looked at my friend and I said, "Reeeeeally?!?!?!?" When I got the song, one of my first thoughts was, "Women's shows, sports and this song go hand in hand." I'm so excited they're using it.
espnW: What is the story behind "I Am Woman" and the message you want to communicate through the song?
JS: For me, "I Am Woman" is all about transition. I turned 21 in December, so I'm not completely grown up yet but I'm not a little girl anymore. Just in that in-between stage. The song is everything I have ever heard a woman say. I loved this song for me and every young lady, girl and woman to be able to feel empowered in being female.
espnW: Do you have a favorite WNBA team or player?
JS: I'd have to go with the Phoenix Mercury.
espnW: What sports teams and players do you root for?
JS: Oh geez ... here we go! Phoenix Suns: Steve Nash, Grant Hill. Miami Heat: LBJ, [Dwyane] Wade, JJ [James Jones], [Eddie] House. Timberwolves: Wes Johnson. Arizona Cardinals: Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston, Darnell Dockett, Tim Hightower ... pretty much the entire team. Colts: [Peyton] Manning.
espnW: What are your thoughts on the way women's sports are covered by the media?
JS: I honestly don't see much about women's sports unless they are making it to, say, the World Cup final. I'd like to see more coverage, personally.
espnW: Your father is a former NFL player who played in New York. What advice has he given you about how to handle yourself in the spotlight?
JS: He always said, "Do your best and always work hard because there's always going to be someone coming up behind you wanting your spot." And that stuck with me.