I usually don’t put much stock in or give much attention to sideline reporters, who I firmly believe are simply a made-for-TV creation that serves more the reporter than conveying any meaningful information to the viewer. Nonetheless, what happened recently to one such reporter did catch my attention.
Pam Oliver, with nearly two decades of sideline reporting experience, is now relegated to the second-team sidelines, meaning she’s on the secondary telecasts rather than the national game. She’s been replaced by someone 17 years her
junior, 36-year-old Erin Andrews, on Fox’s NFL telecasts this fall.
Andrews was the sideline reporter who stuck a microphone in Richard Sherman’s face right after he made the winning play for his team in the Super Bowl. I criticized her for doing this heat-of-the-moment interview that only gave Andrews more face time since it went viral afterwards. Oliver later expressed her concern in a January New York Daily News article.
Let’s do the math: Andrews later signed a new multi-year agreement with Fox and then gets promoted from college football to the pro sidelines. Meanwhile Oliver, who has done her job for years without fanfare, makes a critical observation in public and is later relegated to the second-tier broadcasts.
One woman goes up, another goes down. One woman suddenly is too old — Oliver doesn’t look like she’s age 53, while the younger woman perfectly fits society’s beauty standard.
Oh, did I mention that Oliver is a Black female and Andrews is not? Is Fox combining ageism with cultural conditioning, pitting stereotypes against each other in their decision-making?
“I think it’s the proverbial glass ceiling, and I encountered it up front and personal,” responds Jerry Davis, the former Fox Sports music director who is suing the network for racial discrimination.
In a recent MSR phone interview, Davis, who was terminated from his job in February 2013 while on medical disability leave after 16 years there, said, “One of the things I witnessed over the years is the need for Fox management to rapidly promote White females.” He recalls that Fox Sports show producers “deliberately went after super good-looking women, all of whom were White. None of them had any sports background.”
During his Fox Sports tenure, the 54-year-old Davis booked top artists for sports shows, helped built Fox’s music library, developed the network’s first music-use policy at the network, and negotiated music rights with leading recording companies. “I ran the music department for six to seven months” while a now-deceased supervisor was out on medical leave.
As a result, Davis said he was encouraged by a White Fox executive to apply for the job full time but was passed over. It was at least the fourth time he was bypassed for promotion in favor of “less competent and experienced candidates,” he maintains.
“It isn’t surprising to me that they would go with an Erin Andrews [on NFL telecasts] and put Pam Oliver down to number two,” continues Davis, whose racial discrimination suit now awaits a court date sometime in November in a Los Angeles courtroom. He strongly points out the glaring fact that Fox lacks diversity in top management positions: “Just because you see diversity in front of the camera, it doesn’t mean it’s the same behind the scenes.”
“I can’t watch sports [on TV] without thinking about what I’ve gone through,” says Davis, using baseball lingo to finalize his point on what he argues is a wrongful termination: “They [Fox] took the bat out of my hand.”
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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