Cari Champion, the former ESPN anchor who hosted First Take from 2012-2015, is speaking out about her experience as a Black woman at the sports network.
On the latest episode of the "I Am Athlete" podcast, Champion said that executives at ESPN treated her differently than her First Take co-hosts Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith.
"Nobody was Monday through Friday on a popular two-hour TV show that was a Black woman at the time," she said. "They let me know I didn't matter... and whatever intentionally, unintentionally it was, it was obvious. It was just like, 'You don't matter. Just be happy that you're here. Ask questions. Don't talk. Be happy that you're here.'"
Champion revealed that when she first auditioned for the show, she assumed she would not get the job. "I went in for the audition knowing they already wanted a blonde, 'cause this is Monday through Friday on a popular show." You're not gonna hire a Black girl, especially not a brown-skinned Black girl," she recalled. "You're not hiring me. Right. That's how I went in."
However, Champion did get the job, and despite it being a huge step forward, she revealed that those around her tried to downplay her success. "I get the job and I know it's a big deal, but they don't tell me it's a big deal cause they don't want me to be nervous. They act like it's no big."
Despite having a negative experience with upper management at ESPN, Champion spoke highly of Bayless and Smith, saying, "I didn't feel like I had to dumb myself down, which is honestly the reason why I think I got the job... They're super talented, they worked hard. They taught me work ethic."
For the full conversation, check out "I Am Athlete" on YouTube and all podcast platforms.
Kirstie Renae is a writer, blogger, and Austin-based actress with a penchant for binge-watching TV with her dogs. Follow her on Twitter @KirstieRenae.