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.