Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pam Oliver - Too Old, Too Black For Fox's "A" Team?

Fifty-three year old Pam Oliver is just as a familiar NFL sideline fixture as some of the leagues head coaches, goal line markers, and line judges. As one of the sports firsts female sports analysts and reporters , Oliver can be credited as one of the key female sports reporters that broke the barriers of the  testosterone fortified vaults of the NFL for journalists that would follow her.

Oliver's impeccable  skills as a competent sportscaster catapulted her over gender and race impediments in a dominant male environment, subsequently grating her an all access pass to NFL's players, coaches, and locker rooms.
Sports fans and the general public expected Pam Oliver's 19-year career to follow the model of a Frank Gifford or Al Michaels - one day the sideline work would be rewarded with a cushy broadcast booth gig where she would punctuate her stellar career.

That was not to be.

In April 2014 Oliver's employer's, Fox  Sports notified Pam Oliver she was being removed from the "A" sideline reporting team, in favor of former ESPN reporter 36 year old Erin Andrews. The backlash to the sideline change by Fox was just as swift and harsh as Fox's stunning announcement.

Charges of sexism, ageism, and racism were hurled at Fox on social media and blog platforms. The props involved in the Oliver Andrews switch invited speculation of such charges.

Andrews is White, Oliver is Black. Andrews is 36, Oliver is 53. Andrews is a White Female , Oliver is a Black Female. Any one or none of these could have been a part of Oliver's bosses' decision to go in the  direction they did.

Some bloggers are convinced that social site trolls were key in Oliver losing her stellar sideline position. Then some people feel unfair and hateful critique by Blacks were key in Oliver's demise.

Black social media users mutilated her on a weekly basis for the past two years or so, to the point where embarrassed and exasperated executives were probably forced to replace her with the talented blond bombshell Erin Andrews.

Trolls hiding behind the Twitter influential heavyweight #blacktwitter's  hashtag are pointed to by more than one observer as berating Oliver week in and week out.
"The way she was treated by Black Twitter was reminiscent of the nightmare behavior towards history-making Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas. While she was doing something that never had been done before — by anyone, ever — the only thing that many black social media user could focus on was the few strands of hair that were out of place." SOURCE 
A plethora of juvenile crude displaced criticism revolved around Oliver's hair. Hair, that in her working environment would never be Vogue perfect or Essence pristine. I can only hope her employers are above the gender bias that suggests female's should  present themselves photoshopped wrapped and package, working environment not withstanding. I would also hope that trolled comments have not become a component of Fox's employee evaluation criteria.

What did Fox have to say about their decision?

FOX Sports president Eric Shanks told Richard Deitsch of
  “I can’t think of a more respected person in the entire industry than Pam Oliver, and when you find out that Pam is going to be doing the interview, I don’t think you would say that anyone else would do the interview better. Her being a part of the FOX family now and in the future is really important to us. The move is hugely positive to where FOX Sports is going and building its journalistic chops and credibility 365 days and not just 17 days a year.” 
 Oliver's take on her demotion suggests she feels its about more than Shanks' politically correct statement attempts to craft. . In a September 2014 essay for Essence magazine, Oliver broke her silence about her demotion.
“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.’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.
Oliver says one Fox executive told her "Fox Sports will look radically different in the coming years". She says she assumes that means they want to look younger.” 

Oliver is classically accepting the fact that something outside of the evaluation of her skills is going on . Not long after she received the news in April she had this to say to

“I live in the real world and I know that television tends to get younger and where women are concerned.  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.” 
After processing the news of her demotion,, Oliver experienced a period of depression. She says she  felt ashamed about being emotional about it. “When I look back at that time, I feel embarrassed that I was so emotional, 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.” 

Oliver has accepted her upcoming "B" team role where she will  focus on long-form pieces, some producing and Showtime specials according to reports. She makes it clear she holds no animosity for Erin Andrews while at the same time conceding younger and blond won out over older and Black.

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