Pam Oliver, a veteran sports reporter, won’t be covering tackles and touchdowns on the NFL sidelines much longer. She’s been ousted. Fox Sports demoted Oliver to the No. 2 announcing team in April, and then funneled her into a role that will remove her from the sidelines entirely after this forthcoming season. The abrupt decision was as shocking to Oliver as it was to the sports-viewing public.
Oliver told Sports Illustrated she’s disappointed in Fox Sports’ decision, but has accepted that she will no longer be one of the network’s premiere sideline reporters.
“To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking,” she said. “I said I wanted to do a 20th 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.”
Unforeseen shifts and slights are common in the cutthroat world of journalism, but maintaining prestige is particularly difficult for aging women on television – unless their names are Barbara Walters or Oprah Winfrey. Oliver, 53, may be the latest victim of an ageist business that conflates television value with vitality and beauty. Oliver claims that no one at Fox ever commented on her age, but the network’s decision to replace her with Erin Andrews – a younger, blonder, and less-experienced reporter – indicates otherwise.
Oliver also recognizes that age matters in the television business. “I live in the real world and I know that television tends to get younger and where women are concerned,” she told Sports Illustrated. “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.”
Yet, Oliver is the best in the business, according to author Jeff Pearlman. In a scathing blog post, he wrote:
Oliver is, truly, as good as it gets at this sort of job. She knows how to interview, and doesn’t merely ask fluff nonsense. She’s quick on the fly, researches the hell out of games, has a long and storied history of asking the right question at the right moment. She also has never, ever, ever used the medium to turn herself into a nonsense-endorsing celebrity spokesperson for dietary supplements and the like. In pro athlete translation, Erin Andrews would be, oh, Mark Sanchez; Pam Oliver is Peyton Manning.
Pearlman then indicated what seems to be general consensus about how race and age intersected to produce this disappointing result:
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.
Next season will be Oliver’s last on the sidelines, but she will continue as a senior correspondent for Fox Sports. Her new role will require Oliver to produce long-form pieces and specials and conduct exclusive interviews. It will also remove her from the front of the camera. That isn’t at all coincidental.
So, what say you Clutchettes and gents? Was Pam Oliver ousted because of her age?