Veteran football sideline reporters are not happy that one of their own admitted to making up coaches' remarks when she was unable to get them to talk.
Charissa Thompson, a co-host of Amazon's "Thursday Night Football" and "Fox NFL Kickoff," made the confession on the Barstool Sports podcast "Pardon My Take." Thompson, a sideline reporter for Fox Sports from 2007 to 2010, said she fabricated comments if a coach refused to speak to her or was unable to provide access before halftime ended.
“I didn’t want to screw up the report, so I was like, ‘I’m just going to make this up,’” Thompson said. “Because, first of all, no coach is going to get mad if I say, ‘Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves,’ ‘We need to be better on third down,’ ‘We need to stop turning the ball over and do a better job of getting off the field.’ Like, they’re not going to correct me on that.”
Journalists who have worked the sidelines at NFL games said there is no excuse for Thompson's actions.
"Disappointed to say the least," said former NBC Sports reporter Michele Tafoya on X. "I could not have lived with myself if I did this. Trust me, not all sideline reporters make stuff up. Doesn’t matter how benign the comments might be. It’s professional fraud. Sad."
Thompson has talked about similar actions before in a podcast with Erin Andrews, the current sideline reporter for Fox Sports. They both said they improvised when coaches gave them nothing to work with or answered questions with sexist remarks.
Thompson tried to backpedal on Friday in a post on Instagram.
"Working in media I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation," she wrote. "I'm sorry. I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster."
Thompson now says when a coach did not provide her with information, she would provide her own analysis and claims she "never attributed anything I said to a player or coach."
Some sports talk commentators have dismissed the controversy, noting that the quotes from coaches in sideline interviews are often predictable and bland.
Gregg Giannotti, co-host of WFAN radio and the CBS Sports Network morning program "Boomer and Gio," said on his Thursday broadcast that he did the same thing when he was a radio sideline reporter covering the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.
During a game against the University of Connecticut, Panthers coach Paul Chryst was giving an interview to ESPN's Jemele Hill, and halftime was concluding before Giannotti could get his turn.
"I said, 'I'm going to just make something up. Are you OK with that?'" Giannotti recalled. "He's like, 'Yeah, fine.'"
But multiple women who have battled sexism to establish credibility in the male-dominated landscape of sports journalism were appalled and concerned that Thompson's remarks have undermined their efforts.
Laura Okmin, longtime NFL sideline reporter for Fox, expressed that sentiment in her X post.
"The privilege of a sideline role is being the one person in the entire world who has the opportunity to ask coaches what’s happening in that moment," Okmin said. "I can’t express the amount of time it takes to build that trust. Devastated with the texts I’m getting asking if this is OK. No. Never."
ESPN's veteran sideline reporter Lisa Salters also weighed in on X.
"Shocked. Disappointed. Disgusted. What we heard today called all sideline reporters into question. My job is an honor, a privilege and a craft at which I have worked so hard," Salters wrote. "Trust and credibility. They mean everything to a journalist. To violate either one — in any way — not only makes a mockery of the profession, but is a disservice to players, coaches and, most importantly, to fans."
Representatives for Amazon Sports and Fox Sports have declined to comment on Thompson's remarks.
They may have to respond soon, as sports columnists now are saying Thompson should lose her job.
"There's no way Thompson, who has been doing this for more than a decade and knows better, should survive this," wrote USA Today's Mike Freeman. "This is a firing offense. It's not even close."
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.