Ode to Pam Oliver: You will be missed on the NFL sidelines

BY CLYDE HUGHES

Pam Oliver, you were wronged. But then again, is anyone really surprised.

Oliver confirmed to Sports Illustrated this week what had been just rumor since the NFC championship game – that Fox has demoted the talented the longtime sideline reporter to network’s No. 2 team this season and will be taken off the sidelines completely at the end of the NFL season.

Her replacement – Erin Andrews, of course. Again, is anyone really surprised?

Yet, according to Sports Illustrated, the move did not become official until Fox Sports executives flew to Oliver to break the bad news to her in person.

“To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking,” Oliver, 53, told Sports Illustrated, going into her 20th season with Fox Sports. “I said I wanted to do a 20th year (on the sidelines). I expressed to them that I was not done and had something to offer. Again, I think it was predetermined coming in. Not at that meeting, but two years ago it was determined that no matter what I did or did not do, a change would be made for this year.”

A veteran reporter anonymously told Sports Illustrated what everyone else was thinking.

“(Oliver’s) not blonde, nor is she in the demographic,” the reporter told Sports Illustrated, politely reminding us that she’s also African-American. “I’m not naïve and I understand it’s a business, but I think that Fox did not treat her as befits a woman who has been the female face of their sports operation for the past 19 years.”

To be fair, Fox Sports president Eric Shank told Sports Illustrated that they are actually expanding Oliver’s role with the network, signing her to a new multi-year deal where she will do long-form pieces, specials, major interviews and producing.

“Clearly it’s an expanded role that meets the needs of all the big events that Fox and Fox Sports 1 covers as well as the NFL on Fox,” Shanks said to Sports Illustrated. “I can’t think of a more respected person in the entire industry than Pam Oliver, and when you find out that Pam is going to be doing the interview, I don’t think you would say that anyone else would do the interview better.”

But the Sports Illustrated article correctly asked, if that’s truly the case, why remove Oliver from one of the highest profile positions you have at the network and from your most lucrative properties with the NFL?

When it comes to women of color reporting on the NFL, Oliver is part of a very, very small sorority. A quick review of previous stories done on her was nearly unanimous in their praise of her work, professionalism and connections. But for Fox Sports, times change, even though Oliver’s skills to do the job and do it as well as anyone have not.

Pam Oliver, you will be missed for your skill as a sports journalist and as a role model for other journalists. It’s ashamed that you’re not going out on your terms. You earned the right to have made that call yourself.

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Momentum on side of anti-Redskins groups as patent office rules

By Clyde Hughes

The move to get the National Football League’s Washington Redskins to change their nickname seems to be getting close to a tipping point with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruling Wednesday (June 18) that the name is disparaging to Native Americans, thus cannot have trademark protection.

Of course, this ruling will be reviewed by the federal court, where the team has been successful in the past, but the interest and momentum seems to be clearly on the side of those opposing the nickname.

“It is a great victory for Native Americans and for all Americans,” Amanda Blackhorse, one of the plaintiffs against the name,” said in a statement to ThinkProgress.org. “We filed our petition eight years ago and it has been a tough battle ever since. I hope this ruling brings us a step closer to that inevitable day when the name of the Washington football team will be changed. The team’s name is racist and derogatory. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – if people wouldn’t dare call a Native American a ‘redskin’ because they know it is offensive, how can an NFL football team have this name?”

Everyone from Congress to the media has been weighing in on the issue of the nickname, which has been around since 1932. It begs the question – if “Redskins” have been offensive for so long, why is there such a ground well now?

Many Native Americans will say there always been a negative reaction in their community, but it’s the rest of America is finally starting to listen – and see the name the way they see it, as a slur.

Longtime Native American activist Suzan Harjo brought a case to the Patent and Trademark Office by herself in 1992 and actually winning a ruling against the team in 1999. The team appealed in federal court and got the office’s decision reversed.

Harjo told the Business Insider that she has had to weather no only the legal challenges but the football “fanatics” to see the whole movement against the nickname and political correctness run amok

“Even if I’m here working right by the phone, I do not answer it even if I’m expecting a certain call at a certain time,” Harjo told the Business Insider. “We get a lot of hangups and some of those, I just assume now, are the death threats. And some of them are just – I don’t want to hear people yelling at me even if they’re not exactly threatening my life. … I had to get a restraining order against one stalker who had developed a hostile fixation against me.”

Today, though, she’s got more support, from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, who has led a push there to pressure Washington owner Daniel Snyder to change the game, from President Barack Obama, who suggested that changing the name deserved at least a discussion.

Several members of the U.S. House sent a letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell called on him last year to engage in the issue.

“Snyder says it’s about tradition,” Reid told Politico. “I ask, what tradition? A tradition of racism. That’s all that that name leaves in its wake. The writing is on the wall. It’s on the wall in giant, blinking, neon lights.”

Newspaper such as The Oregonian and San Francisco Chronicle won’t print it anymore while websites like Slate won’t post it.

The ball is in Daniel Snyder’s court. Right now, he’s dug in and has erected a verbal moot about his team and his position. The team has vowed to appeal the patent’s office ruling. No surprise there.

Even if that decision is overturned in court, just how much longer can Snyder continue to hold on to public sentiment and growing number of Native Americans who have become more vocal and forceful on the issue. Snyder seems prepared to weather yet another nickname storm, but at what cost in the near and distant future?

This article first appeared in Yahoo Voices