CLEVELAND — He’s the Cleveland Cavaliers first Spanish speaking announcer and he’s not just representing on the court but also in the community.
Weather it’s football, hockey or basketball, Rafael "Rafa" Hernandez-Brito never lacks energy or charisma.
“I have the luxury that I’m paid to watch the game out loud. I am my fans’, my audience's eyes and ears,” said Rafa.
But sports announcing wasn't his original path.
“I was born in El Salvador and because of the civil war that was going on there in the 80s, my parents were brave enough to send us all out to New York,” said Rafa.
As a 14-year-old immigrant, he didn’t speak a lot of English. He went to school and soon graduated from college with an engineering degree.
“I couldn't work the jobs that I wanted because I only have my green card,” said Rafa.
So he got a job selling beer and was good at it.
“I was part of the group that brought Coors Light to this side of the Mississippi,” said Rafa.
But sports broadcasting was calling his name; it was what he always wanted to do. He quit his job and went back to school.
“I went from making really good money to making $150 a game calling the St. John's men's basketball games,” said Rafa.
From there, he made his way up the ranks, soon covering the biggest events in the sports world.
“I did a lot of boxing, I did a lot of UFC,” Rafa said. “I called eight Super Bowls and I saw the Manning brothers win their first super bowl.”
He's brushed shoulders with legends like Muhammed Ali, Joe Thomas and Dr. J.
“I’m the only broadcaster that has done the finals in all the three major sports in Spanish in the U.S.,” said Rafa.
Just when he thought he had experienced a new level of sports, in 2014, the Cleveland Cavs called.
“I always say Dan Gilbert went to Miami to make two acquisitions: LeBron James and I, but nobody believes me,” said Rafa said with a chuckle.
With LeBron James, Cavs fans know what the next few years looked like for the team, and they have the film to prove it.
“2016 was the Jackpot moment for me, where I was like, wow, I can’t believe what happened in front of my eyes and I have to tell people about it,” said Rafa.
But for Rafa, representing the Latin community went further than games in the Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse.
“Ever since I came here, my first conversation with them, their intentions match mine, which was not only just broadcasting the game but trying to help the organization get close to the community and see what we could do to develop that relationship,” said Rafa.
Over the past nine years, he worked with the organization to build that relationship with the Latin community.
“We were the first team in the NBA to have a diversity and inclusion department,” said Rafa.
Rafa's goals are to celebrate the community's contributions and recognize the needs of the community.
“I used to use this hashtag, '#TodosSomosCleveland,' 'We are all Cleveland,' because that's how I want people to see not Hispanics or Latinos, but more like Clevelanders, because we adopt the city that had adopted us and we're very loyal to the community,” he said.
During the next Cavs game, keep an ear for Rafa’s broadcasting, and then keep an eye out for his next moves as he continues to champion the team and his community.
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