The Root: Did Pam Oliver’s Haters Help Push Her Aside?

Pam Oliver (left) will be replaced by the younger, blonder Erin Andrews (right). Veteran journalist Pam Oliver has been a staple on the sidelines of the NFL for a very long time—20 years, in fact. But her role there, at least in the top position, has abruptly come to end. On Monday it was announced that Oliver, 53, had been essentially demoted, from the No. 1 team to No. 2, a seeming courtesy before Fox Sports removes her from the sidelines completely after the 2014 season.

“To go from the lead crew to no crew was a little shocking,” Oliver told Sport Illustrated’, clearly being diplomatic. “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."

Oliver will be replaced by Erin Andrews, a 36-year-old blonde who is best-known as the woman who happened to interview the Seattle Seahawks’ excitable Richard Sherman, who went on a much-publicized (and blown-out-of-proportion) rant against San Francisco 49er Michael Crabtree just before the Seahawks headed to the Super Bowl (for a win). The exchange, which went viral on YouTube, made them both household names, even for those (like me) who don’t closely follow the sport.

“[The new position] is a dream come true,” Andrews told ABC News. “It’s exactly what I’ve wanted.”

Fox Sports President Eric Shanks explained the replacement as an attempt by the network to keep things “fresh.” Others, including Oliver, think it has more to do with ageism.

“I live in the real world, and I know that television tends to get younger and where women are concerned,” Oliver told “Just turn on your TV. It’s everywhere.”

n case you think that’s just her being (rightfully) salty, others are backing up her (astute) assessment. In a blog post titled, “Women in Sports Media: Intelligence and Talent Lose Out—Yet Again,” former SI writer Jeff Pearlman noted, “Men can do these gigs forever. Nobody demotes Chris Berman or Phil Simms or Troy Aikman as they age. Nobody ever will.”

Bustle speculated about how much Oliver’s “expanded role” had to do with her age as well, concluding, “We can only speculate what Pam Oliver’s demotion to No. 2—and eventual departure from sideline reporting—means for middle-age women and women of color broadcast journalists in America. And from what we know so far, it sure doesn’t look that good.”


But there may be another factor at play in Oliver’s “expanded role”—apparently the new PC term for “downsizing”—one that hasn’t been widely discussed: us. Fox has a history of bad behavior, so it’s easy to attack for being ageist and shallow (and possibly racist and misguided). But for all the folks screaming, “Poor Pam!” now, where were you—not me, because I defended Oliver—a few months ago when, before and after the Super Bowl, her appearance was making national news? Folks were very loud on social media about their disapproval of Oliver’s hair, and there was a widely circulated, mean meme that compared Oliver’s appearance to Star Wars’ Chewbacca.

A popular meme poking fun at Pam Oliver's hair.

Not that I ever like to let Fox off the hook for anything, but is it at all possible that the network heard the social media cries about Oliver and ran too far with it?

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Are We Being Too Hard on Pam Oliver + Her Hair?

Let me say first that I respect Pam Oliver. She's opened doors from women in sports and on TV and in journalism and that deserves to be acknowledged. But Ma'am... Fox’s veteran sports journalist  has been dragged across social media ever since she reported from the sidelines during the NFC Championship Game between the Seattle Seahawks and the San Francisco 49ers, looking like this:


Almost instantly, Instagram memes appeared, comparing Oliver to Chewbacca from Star Wars. (I won’t post the picture out of respect.) The state of her hair was also a trending topic on Twitter and a topic of conversation during the Super Bowl where she, to give credit where it is due, looked much better, but still received lots of criticism. I actually thought she looked presentable.



Oliver addressed all the hubbub in an interview with  She called the commotion over her hair “comical” and also admitted that after 20-plus years in the TV business, she still does her own hair and make-up.

"You're out there, trying a to catch players, get some last-minute stuff, get your reports turned around quickly, and I may or may not have time to put on lip gloss or powder my face," Oliver told "I know TV is a visual medium, but there are times when you kind of hope that people are listening to what you're saying as opposed to judging you if a strand of hair is not in place or if you have only got one eye lined or something.

"That's naive of me. I get it,” she added. “But there are times I get so tunnel-visioned and focused on what I'm doing to the point of maybe letting that other stuff fall by the wayside. It's not intentional. You want to look your best on TV."

I get it. Sorta. Hair and make-up get expensive. I'm a newbie in TV land and there are a lot of unexpected expenses that no one tells you about. Spending money on hair and make-up when there are so many other concerns – like lawyers to protect whatever you are trying to build—can seem like a frivolous expenditure or an unnecessary burden.

I’m fortunate in that I've known how to do my hair-- natural, permed, sew-in, glue-in, cut, bleach, dye, whatever-- from when I was a teenager. (My mother is from Detroit, if that's any explanation.) This has saved me a TON of money. I also willfully learned how to do my own face in decent enough shape to be seen on TV by reading Kevin Aucoin + Sam Fine make up books + watching YouTube videos. I frequent the MAC counter to get tips and I pay attention when I am fortunate enough to have MUAs beat me when someone else is paying. For big Moments, I splurge to bring in the best I can afford to do me right so I look presentable. I consider this a worthy sacrifice and investment for what I'm trying to do and where I'm trying to go.

TV is a visual medium and pulling a professional look together is part of the job, even as a sports journalist.  And when your hair looks unkempt to the point that it distracts viewers from your professional work, addressing your image is about more than just vanity. It’s a necessity.

Oliver is not a newbie. She’s 20 years in the game and it is clear that while she is an expert at journalism, she is not an expert at make-up or hair. She needs a consistent glam team of beauty professionals to do what they do best so Oliver can focus on what she does best—report. A professional team— even one that cannot be brought onto the field— would help her create looks that are more flattering and that would hold up better in bad weather or other conditions. And if the network won't provide a team... Hold up, who is Oliver’s agent? That's a basic ask.


Pam Oliver at her best.

Oliver is a naturally pretty woman. She doesn't require magic to look presentable. And that's all she needs to be. Nobody's asking for her to be Essence cover worthy on the sidelines. But at the point a Google search of your name brings up multiple pics of Chewbacca, it's time to admit you need help and make the financial sacrifice and investment to bring the experts aboard, even if it comes out of your own pocket.

This is all I'm saying.