Pam Oliver got an 'expanded role,' not a demotion, Fox says
Erin Andrews will replace Pam Oliver as Fox Sports' lead sideline reporter, a move that represents "clearly an expanded role" for Oliver, Fox Sports spokesperson Dan Bell tells Poynter in a statement.
Sports Illustrated reported Monday that Oliver found it "a little shocking" to learn she was being replaced by Andrews.
"Pam is one of the most respected reporters in the industry, and her being part of the FOX family now and in the future is really important to us, which is why we signed her to a new three year contract," the statement reads. It continues:
We’ve developed what’s clearly an expanded role for Pam that better meets the needs of FOX Sports and FOX Sports 1 and the big events we cover, while enabling her to work on many of our big NFL games throughout the season. Pam’s new role helps us build our journalistic chops and credibility 365 days a year, not just 17. Our decision had absolutely nothing to do with race or age.
Oliver learned about the decision in April and told SI's Richard Deitsch she has since come to terms with it. After negotiations, in which she "held meetings with other outlets," the network agreed to assign her to Fox's second team as a sideline reporter.
“To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking,” Oliver said. “I said I wanted to do a 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.”
However, Pam Oliver is also 53. And African-American. She isn’t white and blonde and perky. These days, that’s what sideline reporters almost always are—blonde and perky. They’re eye candy for the neanderthals who need eye candy.
It sucks. Men can do these gigs forever. Nobody demotes Chris Berman or Phil Simms or Troy Aikman as they age. Nobody ever will.
Oliver told Sports Illustrated her reaction to the decision has nothing to do with the quality of Andrews' reporting, which she described as "solid".
"It’s not necessary to feel something [bad] toward the person who is assuming your former role. You just understand that they have changed. The crews could change too. In a few years I think Fox will look radically different."
Removing Oliver from her prominent position as Fox Sports' top sideline reporter will likely have an impact on diversity, NPR TV critic Eric Deggans told Poynter in an email.
"I hope Fox keeps that change in mind when considering other roles in its football broadcasts and keeps up diversity levels or increases them," he said.