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Women in Sports Media: Pam Oliver, Erin Andrews and Discrimination?

Over the past number of years, women have made great strides in the world of sports media—gaining inclusion, greater access and increased respect.  It  is important to acknowledge the progress, but it is also sometimes necessary to realize that discrimination still exists … and not always in the ways one might expect.

On July 14, Sports Illustrated reported that Erin Andrews will replace Pam Oliver as Fox’s top NFL sideline reporter for the 2014-15 season. Oliver will now work as the No. 2 reporter—she will say goodbye to teammates Joe Buck and Troy Aikman and instead join Kevin Burkhardt and John Lynch. And after that, she  will be removed from the sidelines altogether and will work for Fox in a different capacity.

Oliver told SI that she will miss all of the little things, including inside jokes, Buck’s impersonations and Aikman’s “bad impersonations.”   “I went through a range of emotions, but […] disappointment has passed me and I have reached a point of trying to move forward with some sadness.”

This season will be Oliver’s 20th—and final—year on the job, and she had every intention of being able to go out on top. Clearly, the network had other plans.

“To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking,” Oliver admitted. “I said I wanted to do a 20th year. I expressed to them that I was not done and had something to offer. Again, I think it was predetermined […]. Two years ago it was determined that no matter what I did or did not do, a change would be made for this year.”

Some may expect to see discrimination in males being favored over females for sports media roles; however, women feel the pressure in other ways than just from men. Males in the industry, such as Al Michaels and Terry Bradshaw, are considered more experienced and more credible as they age. Women are not so lucky. Sports President Eric Shanks delivered the news to Oliver in person, and he assures critics that the demotion had nothing to do with Oliver’s age or appearance. “I think in the last five years we have made a lot of changes with the NFL crews,” Shanks said. “We have made changes to keep our coverage across the board fresh […]. This is kind of the next move in that evolution.”

The 53-year-old reporter is not so sure, though. “I live in the real world and I know that television tends to get younger and younger where women are concerned,” Oliver said. “Just turn on your TV. It’s everywhere. And I’m not saying these younger girls don’t deserve a chance. I know I’ve had my turn.”

Another veteran NFL reporter, who requested anonymity, said the following to Sports Illustrated:

“[Oliver]’s not blonde, nor is she in the demographic. 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.”

Oliver said she has had time to process the decision, and she realizes that the secondary reporter remains a high-profile position. “The No. 2 team is not chopped liver,” Oliver said. “It is an up-and-coming crew and a really good group of guys. They called me the other day and we had some laughs.”

Following the 2014-15 season, Oliver’s other duties will include long-form pieces, specials, and interviews. She’ll also continue her work on Showtime’s 60 Minutes Sports. Clearly, her tenure and talents are acknowledged. However, if Fox Sports so appreciates Oliver’s abilities and experience, why would it remove her from the lead interviewing role on its most important NFL games? Fox may acknowledge Oliver’s skills and want to retain her as an employee—it’s just unfortunate the network would make this move to provide viewers with what they perceive as a more visually desirable candidate.

Bleacher Report’s Michael Schottey posted the following on Twitter upon news of the replacement:

Schottey tweet

Some may accuse me of saying that Andrews is not qualified or will not fill the position well. However, the question here is not about Andrews’ ability but rather of the motivation behind the change. The issue is the principle, not the person. In fact, Oliver says she holds no ill feelings toward Andrews. “It’s not necessary to feel something [bad] toward the person who is assuming your formal role,” Oliver told SI. “For people to pit us against each other is not necessary and not going to get far if the two of us don’t participate.”

And where does Andrews stand in all of this? She has nothing but positive things to say about her predecessor. When Andrews traveled to Minnesota for the MLB All-Star Game, she spoke with USA Today and said she had “big shoes to fill” in regards to the new position. “[Oliver] set the standard; she is a trailblazer […] She’s the first person to ask me if I’m okay and if I need anything […] I’m going to have to try to live up to that and that’s not easy at all. I can’t thank her enough for being such a wonderful example for me.”

True to her class-act reputation, Oliver is embracing her final year and remains grateful about where she is at:

“I will savor this year,” she said. “I will get my goodbyes to the security guys and the fans I’ve known for years. It is not even remotely bad, not even anything remotely like ‘Poor me.’ I feel like I have landed in a pot of gold at this stage and how it could have gone. My role has changed. […] I am lucky. I do know that.”

Differing opinions certainly exist as to the real motivation behind replacing Oliver. However, it proves difficult to look beyond precedence—ultimately, an accomplished and engaging sideline reporter has been traded in for a newer, younger model.

Football season is right around the corner. Hopefully, so is change.




To read more of my thoughts on women in the sports industry, visit this earlier feature story.

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Lindsey Young

Lindsey Young (Featured Columnist) is a graduate of University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is an avid Minnesota sports fan[atic]. It’s been argued females don’t know much about sports, but she begs to differ. Her work has been featured on Bleacher Report,, and Fox Sports North. In addition to her work with VT, Lindsey is a contributing writer for Canis Hoopus, runs a bi-monthly fan feature for and is a freelance writer for You can read her blog at Making the Call and follow her on Twitter.

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  1. Sad to see this happen. I watched Andrews during the MLB All-Star events and wasn’t really impressed.

  2. This news really pissed me off. In a mostly useless position, she’s the only sideline reporter worth a damn. She’s professional and really knows her stuff. Watching her is the only time I’ve felt a sideline reporter added something to the presentation.

    It’s amazing how classy she has been answering questions about this. I would not blame her for being pissed.

    Good article Lindsey

  3. Eric Shanks should be ashamed of himself and his network.If they want to keep the coverage “fresh” then you change the graphics,or do something different like installing a camera in the sideline.You don’t take the best sideline reporter in the business and prepare her for retirement.Shame on you Fox!!

  4. There’s also a strong bias applied to male reporters, thus you get fluff like Skip Bayless. All form over substance. I’ve avoided mainstream media for many years now. The Walter Cronkites are no more.

  5. Just a thought; yes Oliver may be getting demoted because she’s aging and not as attractive anymore and that may be a trend for women in media. But look at the flip side it’s easier for a younger beautiful woman to raise in the ranks while the guy has to cut his teeth.
    Not trying to cause a gender debate just saying they have different career trajectories. I like both Oliver and Andrews so I’m fine with either.

  6. Also who the heck says Buck and Aikman are the A team. I’d consider it an honor to get away from those clowns I don’t even know who’s worse (probably Buck).

    1. I like Aikman. He says some dumb stuff sometimes, but he seems like he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Buck is insufferable.

  7. “It’s a man’s world” screamed my little brother, Big Johnny, the moment before I hit him right between the eyes with an ax handle and took the keys to the tow truck forever. Since that epic incident, Fred Evans is the guy who can grind my gears.

    Pam Oliver should have seen this coming and invested some of her earnings in an ax handle.

  8. I always thought Pam Oliver was a smart and savvy sports reporter who just happened to be a woman. Younger and more attractive female sideline reporters struck me as eye candy being told what kinds of things to say without understanding the game very well, and that may be a bias in the other direction. If a young attractive woman were super smart and knowledgeable about the game, I’ll admit I’d be tempted to think she only has the job because she looks good.

  9. Lindsey – You question if Pam Oliver has been discriminated against. Your article implies age, race and perhaps sex. Which is it? Have you given thought to her performance? How exactly does FOX rate a sideline reporter? Is it possible that Oliver’s performance has been surpassed by Erin Andrews? Maybe? Who knows. Men and women get promoted and demoted all the time for performance, at least consider this as a possibility? Fox didn’t fire Oliver, perhaps they simply felt from a performance standpoint that she is not performing as well as Andrews. It’s a competitive work world everywhere, at least consider the possibility along with the ones you’ve put forth.

  10. Erin Andrews is an opportunist. She’s done nothing to earn this job except have an affair with Troy Aikman. Don’t believe me? Google it.

  11. Vickey the “Aikman/Andrews” comment is slander. There was a rumor of a date after they talked to each less than 5 minutes in a group after a Super Bowl party. By Monday the rumor was that Erin &Troy were seen in Atlanta on a date. There wasn’t any picture for proof but was a whole week of pictures of Erin from Monday on at fashion week &no Troy. Learn that every thing on the internet isn’t true. (Takes a rumor beinging spread by the 1st to tell lies)She didn’t get a job cause of Aikman as Fox has tried to get her back for years. She has worked in Sports since the age of 22 and paid her dues. &even has a Sports Emmy. EA does great interviews &she does know sports! I do not know MS Andrews but I respect her as she has shown what a strong woman she has become. BTW I said slander but I get that mixed a lot of times with liable?

  12. I’ve never paid any attention to any sideline reporters other than Michele Tafoya and Alex Flanagan, who both actually tend to like sports and know something about what they cover, as opposed to the usual bimbo stuff. I don’t recall much about Pam Oliver’s performances.

    But, if Ms. Oliver is a good journalist, she should have very good opportunity to do good work in whatever she takes up. Like it or not- and I tend not to, because more mature women smart are far more attractive, in my view, than empty-headed bimbos- sports broadcasting and nightly news tend to be dominated by pretty, young faces attached to empty heads. I’d bet that Pam Oliver got her first job because she was young and attractive.

  13. I looked up an opinion poll. It was from 2006 and Andrews was wildly ahead of everyone else. This is entertainment folks. Ratings ratings ratings. Besides that, I think male sideline reporters turn over more often than booth guys as well.