While much of the talks last week were about the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks, the two NFL teams vying for the ultimate championship, some were still talking about FOX Sports reporter, Pam Oliver. Well to put all to rest Oliver sat down with Lee Hawkins’ of the Wall Street Journal to talk about her career, what’s next and the season full of mean tweets & critics.
When FOX Sports sideline reporter and analyst Pam Oliver appeared on screen during the NFC Championship game, she immediately drew a reaction from sports fans. No, she didn’t get hit with another football, and no, there were no verbal slips or wardrobe malfunctions. There was, however, a very obvious malfunction, her hairstyle.
Pam Oliver’s hair did not look good at all. In fact I was taken aback by it. Given the nature of social media I was not surprised by some of the comments made. While some were outright mean and racist, the majority of the comments, mostly from African-American women, seemed to express concern for a woman who has accomplished so much and is a role model for other women in sports media.
Pam Oliver is an accomplished sports journalist. She attended Florida A&M University and was by all accounts a very good athlete. Oliver has earned her spot on the sideline interviewing the biggest and best in the sports industry. Her achievements cannot be denied. She is a true trailblazer.
So what’s the problem?
This immediately becomes an issue of race and sex. In fact, whenever the appearance of African-Americans gets called into question, age-old stereotypes and deep-seeded racism gets stirred up. Given the fact that Oliver is a woman, sexism comes into play as well. Most of the comments about her hair came from African-American women, and this is no surprise. Hair has been a long-standing issue in the black community. African-Americans have been taught to be better –all the time. No matter what it was or is, the standard that being “good” just isn”t good enough, so the standard of excellence was established. Those great expectations dawned great achievements in every area including education, politics, business, the arts and yes, sports. There was, an in some cases, still is an explicit understanding that whatever we did or do represents the entire black community and everything, down to our appearance had to be excellent–including our hair. Women had even more of a struggle battling the racism and inherent sexism of the day. Be it straight, permed, natural, wig or weave, the truth is for women of any color, hair is more than an accessory–it’s a power tool.
But there’s more to this.
Many women came to Oliver’s defense touting her accomplishments and sports resume as a defense to her bad hair day. Many were saying that her looks should take a back seat and that her skills on the field should be the focus. Those defending Oliver said talking about her hair is childish and offensive. While that is certainly a good argument with valid points, there are some other glaring points missed. Why isn’t Pam at the desk with the FOX Sports team? Why hasn’t she been given the opportunity to do hard-hitting sports journalism? Why aren’t these points being argued?
But I digress…
The truth is that how a woman looks, especially when she’s on camera is important. We expect all TV personalities to look good. Pretty or handsome is in the eye of the beholder, but there is a basic level of decency that must, and should be maintained.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with calling out Oliver’s bad hair day. Truth be told, she’s had a bad hair day for a few years now. No, it’s not that she’s black, or that she’s female, but if we’re going to elevate her accomplishments and call her a trailblazer, then all we’ve done is raise the standard. The proverb, “to whom much is given, much is required comes to mind”. In fact, her position only further underscores the notion that who she is and what she represents should be done well.
I think the monkey and animal comparisons are down-right racist, and women in sports media have enough challenges in that we almost have to be attractive first to be taken seriously. Pam Oliver has succeeded in doing both. The fact that she has reached a certain level in the sports media game shouldn’t lower our expectations; it should raise them.
We should always speak the truth in love, but sometimes that truth can be difficult to hear and receive. In today’s society of “my-right-to-do-anything” we have watered down our expectations. No one can be called out, held accountable, told they are wrong, set straight or God forbid, they have to meet a standard. I don’t think there is anything wrong with expecting the best, from the best, on all levels. Yes, even how he/she looks. In fact, we do her a disservice by not doing so.
As an African-American woman in sports media I understand the challenges and the scrutiny that comes with being the face in front of the camera. On this day, as we celebrate the legacy of the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this topic reminds us of how far we’ve come, and how far we still have to go.
I certainly don’t have Pam Oliver’s track record or accomplishments–yet, but I plan on continuing to keep the fire burning in the trail she’s blazed.
Looking good all the way.
Your Jersey Girlfriend,
Pam, Pam, Pam! When will she learn to get positioned right on the sidelines? Although the first incident a few weeks ago when she was hit by a ball wasn’t her fault, I think after that incident she would learn to keep a “watchful eye”. Not so. Today, while doing some pre-game reporting for the Bengals – Packers game she almost got run over by the Ohio State Marching Band. Watch:
Pam Oliver is FOX Sports #1 sideline reporter and if she keeps this up she’ll be their most injured sideline reporter. Even she had to laugh!
Pam, just be grateful that wasn’t an HBCU band because this might be an entirely different story.
Your Jersey Girlfriend,
Happy Days Are Hear Again! That’s the song that plays during the promo video for the new, much anticipated Fox Sports 1 network. This network debuts August 17th and the promo video reminds us of all the hardcore hitting, jumping, pushing, slamming, falling, pounding, gliding, heart-racing moments we love in sports. Watch:
I’m actually excited about the possibilities with this new network. I think giving ESPN some much needed competition will ultimately be great for the fans. I hope that this network is more fan-centric and incorporates more social media to further engage the viewers.
Will you watch Fox Sports 1? What kind of programming do you want to see?
Your Jersey Girlfriend,
Move over ESPN, it’s time to make room for another sports network! That’s right Jersey Girl Sports fans, a new sports network is coming your way.
FOX Sports officially announced plans to launch a national cable sports network, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) to be a viable and competitive alternative to ESPN. This has been 15 years in the making, and while the network knows it will take a few years to be a viable competitor to the ESPN powerhouse:
“It’s going to take a while. We’re not expecting to knock ESPN off in a week or two,” said David Hill, svp of News Corp, adding, “It’s going to take two to three years” before FS1 can compete with ESPN on equal footing.”
A few years indeed, but this is necessary. I think more competition in sports news and information is ultimately good for the sports consumer. FS1 will challenge ESPN to change the way it delivers its sports news and become more focused on what the viewers want. I also think FS1’s foothold in programming with its current partnership packages with NASCAR, Major League Baseball, college football and UFC to name a few.
FS1 plans to leverage its network with some popular faces including Regis Philbin who’s set to host Rush Hour a weekday drive-time chat show, while the Fox NFL Sunday gang will host an evening gridiron show, Fox Football Daily.
And what does ESPN have to say about this? Well, they ain’t “scurred”.
“It’s difficult to be disrupted if you don’t allow somebody to flank you, right?” ESPN president John Skipper told Adweek. “As long as we don’t let anyone else get a market share lead in mobile, or in apps or in something new that comes along, we’ll be hard to displace.”
Famous last words. I say, never underestimate an opponent. In the meantime, let the network games begin!
Will you switch from ESPN? What kind of programs would you like to see? I’d love to see some content geared toward female sports fans.
Your Jersey Girlfriend,