It is rarely easy for a notable personality to leave a prominent network in sports media such as ESPN. However, if being at a place doesn’t make you happy, then you may have to make the move, as tough as that might be.
On the latest episode of the That’s What She Said Podcast with Sarah Spain, Spain had a conversation with former ESPN personality Cari Champion. Champion, who is known for hosting SportsCenter Coast-To-Coast and First Take, now co-hosts of Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick To Sports alongside Jemele Hill on VICE TV and the Naked with Cari Champion podcast.
At the beginning of the episode, Champion talked about how she signed a deal with ESPN in October 2019, but she was always ready for another opportunity to happen, which she had when she was a part of The Titan Games on NBC. Spain asked her if she knew a pandemic was coming, would Champion have still made the move to leave ESPN and it was an easy answer.
“I signed the deal knowing that if I get another opportunity, I would just leave and give enough notice,” Champion said. “We were all both on the same page that it was not working out. I was not happy and it was not a place where I felt like I could commit a few acts of journalism in the way in which I wanted to.”
Champion did mention that she had been planning her departure from ESPN for a period of time and had recorded a pilot episode of a show with Jemele Hill that became Cari & Jemele (Won’t) Stick To Sports, but her agents would try to talk her out of it. It ended up being Kate Fagan who inspired her to make that bold career decision.
”(The agents) were looking at the market and saying ‘Cari, on the outside looking in, you have the destination gig. People are like why would she want to leave there? It has to be some scandal.’
“No one was leaving. I’ve seen people leave because their contracts weren’t renewed. Kate Fagan inspired me because when she said she was out of it, I believed her.”
As the leadership at ESPN and even in our country changed, Champion admits that she got exhausted by all of the politics and did not feel the same joy that she used to have hosting SportsCenter.
After leaving ESPN, Champion had specific goals she wanted to accomplish. She told Spain that she realized that she needed to lay out a plan and not hit the job market blind and desperate.
“I thought here are the 3 things I had locked in: Titan Games, Olympics, and another project. Now, when I start getting all of these opportunities, you don’t want to say yes to everything which is unfamiliar to people who are always told no. What I did was I sat with two people, my business manager and my agent and I said these are the things I want to do, what do I need in terms of finances for the next year at bare minimum?
“We were very clear about the kind of gigs we were going to take that allowed me not to just ask questions, but to have an opinion. Not only have an opinion, but an opinion that allows me to be informed and that’s scary in itself.”
AEW Dynamite Moving To TBS
“Wrestling hasn’t been seen on TBS since the network cancelled WCW Thunder in March of 2001.”
Hockey is coming to TNT. That means wrestling is moving to TBS. The network will be the new home of AEW: Dynamite starting in January.
AEW’s original TV show airs on Wednesdays. That will be the spotlight day of the TNT NHL package. The network will present hockey doubleheaders every Wednesday, leaving no room for wrestling.
TNT won’t be completely out of the AEW business. In a press release, WarnerMedia announced that Friday will still see AEW: Rampage airing on the network. The press release pointed out that Rampage has gotten off to a very hot start for TNT.
“Since its August 13 debut, AEW: Rampage has ranked as one of the top cable programs on Friday night. The second week of the show featuring the debut of CM Punk delivered the strongest ratings for the AEW franchise since the premiere of AEW: Dynamite.”
Wrestling hasn’t been seen on TBS since the network cancelled WCW Thunder in March of 2001. That changes on January 5.
Louis Riddick Explains How MNF Production Meetings Work
“Riddick expounded more on the production meetings with coaches, including one with a particular Bay Area play-caller.”
The Monday Night Football campaign is in full swing, and The Athletic’s Robert Mays had MNF analyst Louis Riddick on The Athletic Football Show to discuss his weekly routine for putting on a top-notch broadcast.
Riddick dove into the process each week and discussed which coach has impressed him the most during his time in the booth. Tuesdays are a rest and recovery day after traveling home — then the process starts on Wednesday.
“We kinda have a, from a booth perspective, between Steve Levy, Brian Griese, myself, and then Phil Dean the producer and Jimmy Platt, the director. Us five get together and just discuss the previous week’s game and whatever we want to bring up that is positive or negative,” Riddick described to Mays on the show.
The brain trust discusses play breakdowns, production, and situations that popped up during the game. Next up is choosing the important voices for the next game that they want to speak to.
“We give Phil the list of coaches and players that we think are important to talk to,” Riddick said. “He sends that into that team’s PR department, and then usually they say yay or no. Most teams are very, very good with giving us the players that we want because it’s better for them. They know the more we highlight them, the better it is for them.”
Riddick expounded more on the production meetings with coaches, including one with a particular Bay Area play-caller.
“I would say our meeting with [San Francisco 49ers head coach] Kyle Shanahan,” Riddick answered. “Before we did the Bills game down in Arizona because they had to move from Santa Clara because of what was happening was some of the best football conversations I’ve ever had in my life, quite honestly. From team building, coach-player relationships, X’s and O’s, the opponent, what he learned from his father, what he feels specifically that running backs need to have and why… It was fricken incredible, incredible.”
Riddick can be seen on Monday Night Football breaking down all the action throughout the 2021 NFL season. Listen to the full episode here.
Women in Sports Media Celebrate Kate Scott Joining 76ers
“The west coast native is heading east to continue pursuing her dreams, and she received a ton of support from the women throughout sports media this week.”
Kate Scott is breaking new ground, and the sports broadcasting community took notice.
Scott joined Lisa Byington as the only full-time female voices of NBA franchises when the Philadelphia 76ers announced her addition this week. She replaces longtime TV play-by-play voice Marc Zumoff.
“Being the voice of the 76ers is a dream come true,” Scott said to NBC Sports Philadelphia. “As a kid playing hoops alone in my driveway, I actually used to imagine I was Allen Iverson; the clock would wind down in my head, people would scream, ‘You’re too small! You don’t belong!’ But I’d fade away, hit the shot, and the crowd in my mind would go wild.
“To now get the opportunity to be the voice of that team is incredible, and I look forward to earning the respect and trust of the phenomenal city of Philadelphia, and 76ers fans everywhere, one call and one game at a time.”
Scott seemingly busts down barriers every year. She recently became the first woman to call Olympic men’s basketball as part of NBC Sports’ coverage of Tokyo 2020, where she covered both men’s and women’s games.
“Kate’s energy, passion, and tremendous knowledge of the game of basketball made her the ideal candidate to usher in a new era of 76ers basketball on NBC Sports Philadelphia,” Philadelphia 76ers President of Business Operations Chris Heck said. “We’re thrilled that she’ll call our city home and look forward to the lasting connections and memories she’ll make with the best fans in sports. Kate and Alaa [Abdelnaby] are a dynamic broadcast pairing that 76ers fans will enjoy watching on the call this season and beyond.”
The west coast native is heading east to continue pursuing her dreams, and she received a ton of support from women throughout sports media this week.