It’s been nearly a week since NFL studio host Charissa Thompson callously remarked on a podcast that she sometimes made up reports when she was a sideline reporter.
“I’ve said this before… I would make up the report sometimes,” said Thompson on the Pardon My Take podcast.
Unfortunately, like so many things in our currently divided nation, the criticism, or lack thereof, came down along racial lines. Her comments went viral, but some people reacted to it in ho-hum fashion.
Others, such as Black journalists, especially Black female journalists, almost immediately blasted Thompson.
Her explanation a couple of days later on her Instagram account did not quell the firestorm that she started: “I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster,” posted Thompson, in a statement that was both confusing and lacked contriteness.
According to Thompson’s own words, she did not see herself as a sports journalist when she was on the sideline. To that end, Deadspin’s Julie DiCaro responded, “Yes, Charissa, sideline reporters are journalists.” DiCaro mostly dismissed Thompson, noting that even though she half-heartedly walked back her comments “the damage was already done.”
Sideline reporters for the most part aren’t taken that seriously. But we journalists thought that they at least saw themselves as ethical. Thompson apparently saw herself as nothing more than eye candy, killing time until something better came along.
The criticism that Thompson received and rightly deserved from many of us serious journalists, now cast a suspicious light on all sideline reporters. Are they or are they not telling us the truth?
“I think this is a case of privilege,” said Rob Knox, the 2023 Mary Jo Haverbeck Trailblazer Award winner for being a pioneer in the college athletic communications field. Knox’s nearly 20-year career in athletic communication, as well as advocacy for both Blacks and women, spans over five colleges and universities. Knox is now the senior strategic communications director at Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
Speaking to the MSR on Sunday, Know said, “Whether [it was a] little white lie or just a major lie, whatever; [Thompson] casually omitted it like it’s nothing. I think there is a larger problem.”
No argument here. I wonder out loud why Thompson is still employed. This certainly would not be the case if Jemele Hill or longtime Black sideline reporters like Lisa Salter or Pam Oliver had done anything close to what Thompson said or supposedly did.
“We all know if it was a Black person, Black women making that mistake, they will be pulled off the air,” noted Knox.
Instead, we get crickets from Thompson’s employer, and she is still on the air—isn’t White privilege grand?
“Being a reporter,” continued Knox, “you always seek the truth; you always value accuracy. Because we all know that we can write the greatest story in the world but we have a misspelled word or misspelled name, and the story is trash.”
Thompson claimed that she’d fabricate reports because she couldn’t get a coach or a player to speak to her sometimes. So “I’m just going to make this up,” she noted on the podcast.
If her supervisors knew of this, as Thompson claimed, they should all be shown the door as well.
“The perception is that because she’s a White woman” and therefore she’s allowed a pass, said Knox. “We all make mistakes… but yet at the same time, [she] is a person of public trust.”
Although Thompson seems to have faced little consequences, even from the court of public opinion, “I think the general public will also understand and respect that people like Salters, Oliver, and LaChina Robinson have tremendous credibility. I think everybody that’s in that role worked their tail off,” concluded Knox.