Using Essence magazine as the vehicle, accomplished and respected Fox NFL sideline reporter Pam Oliver wrote in a first-person essay that rumors of being replaced by Erin Andrews on the network’s No. 1 team “humiliated” her and that she publicly handled the eventual demotion with class while privately crying in isolation.
The word spread that Andrews, hired away from ESPN two years ago, would be bumped up to the broadcast team with play-by-play man Joe Buck and analyst Troy Aikman, displacing Oliver, who had been a credit to the profession for 19 years.
“Colleagues, and even coaches and players, would come up to me and say things like, ‘Boy, you’re handling this well. You’re really a class act,’” Oliver, 53, writes for the magazine.
“But I let the rumors roll off my back. Without official confirmation about a change in my position, I decided I was going to do my work like I always had. Still, I was humiliated.”
In April, Fox executives flew to Atlanta to tell Oliver that she was out and Andrews was in as the sideline reporter. Further, Oliver wrote that the network planned to move her to the hard-to-find Fox Sports 1, but she persuaded management to let her work her 20th season on the sidelines with Fox’s “B” team of Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch.
Remaining above the fray, Oliver was careful with her words, but it was clear the move was based on age and race. “As one executive said to me, Fox Sports will look radically different in the coming years. I assume that means they want to look younger,” Oliver wrote.
”It’s not difficult to notice that the new on-air people there are all young, blond and ‘hot’. That’s not to say that Erin isn’t capable. I think she’s very capable. She’s also popular on Twitter and social media, so I can see how that would also make her highly sought after. Still, covering the NFL is a big deal. Stations like ABC and NBC entrust their programming to veterans. So when people talk about all networks making a turn to a particular type of girl on the sidelines, it doesn’t hold water.”
Oliver opened up about the pain caused by the demotion, saying she broke down while watching the film Apollo 13.
“When I look back at that time, I feel embarrassed that I was so emotional,” Oliver wrote. “Among my friends I’m the tough girl. I am not a crier. But I realize I was in mourning. I had to let it go.”
Now, she says she is prepared to tackle her new position with the same professionalism and vigor. But will do so with a nostalgic sense.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love being on the sidelines,” she wrote. “I love the ins and outs of the game. But I’m headed into this season knowing it’s time to say my goodbyes. I’m going to savor every moment.”