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Cari Champion: My Job on ‘First Take’ Was To Ask Questions and Lay Out

“When Ray Rice was on the elevator punching his then fiancée now wife, we all had to talk about it. They were very clear that I couldn’t weigh in. What does that look like? We’re talking about domestic violence and you have the only woman in the show not being able to discuss it.”

Ricky Keeler

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Cari Champion

From 2012-2015, Cari Champion was the moderator for First Take on ESPN with Skip Bayless and Stephen A Smith. While she was a part of the show, she was not able to voice her opinion on the topics that were being discussed.

Champion was a guest on the I Am Athlete podcast with Brandon Marshall, Adam “Pac-Man” Jones, and Nick “Swaggy P” Jones. She knew Bayless and Smith were hard workers, but she did not feel like she was valued by ESPN:

“They [Skip and Stephen A] are exactly who they are. Super-talented, they worked hard, they taught me work ethic…They did the homework, they came prepared. The problem was for me as a black woman in that position at the time, nobody was Monday-Friday on a popular 2-hour TV show that was a black woman. They let me know I didn’t matter, intentionally or unintentionally. It was obvious. You don’t matter. Just be happy that you are here. Don’t talk. Ask questions. Just be happy that you are here.”

When she first started at First Take, Champion said that Jemele Hill was a huge help to her, especially when people were criticizing her for pronouncing names wrong:

“The first few weeks were crazy. I went from 500 followers on Twitter to thousands and thousands. Aggressive a** fans. I don’t like your hair, your shoes, you don’t know what you are talking about. My whole world is rocked. I figured it out, but I figured it out with help from people who did it before like Jemele Hill, like when they used to be on my a** for pronouncing names right.”

Champion mentioned that the show went from talking about more than sports when the Ray Rice domestic violence incident happened in 2014. Everyone was asked to weigh in on the situation, except Champion:

“My job was only to ask questions and lay out. Then, we started to talk about more than just sports…When Ray Rice was on the elevator punching his then fiancée now wife, we all had to talk about it. They were very clear that I couldn’t weigh in. What does that look like? We’re talking about domestic violence and you have the only woman in the show not being able to discuss it. By they, I don’t know who made the decision, but it became so awkward and noticeable that people started to write about it…It was so foreign to have women debate.”

However, Champion mentioned when she watched the show after she left and Molly Qerim became the host, she noticed Qerim was allowed to talk more than she ever was and it did upset her:

“It was upsetting because then, the following host, Molly Qerim, in the beginning, they would let Molly talk all the time. Molly could talk and I was told specifically not to talk. The reality is because I was the first, I had to go through things that people didn’t have to go through. I felt a way because I went through it tough because I just wanted to say my opinion.”

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Stephen A. Smith: ‘I Had To Wait Until My Mother Passed to Write My Book’

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book.”

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An autobiography from Stephen A. Smith is due in stores early next year. Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes is an all-encompassing look at the First Take star’s life from his childhood to today.

Smith appreciates privacy and has been hesitant to talk about his personal life in the past. Occasionally he has made exceptions for shows hosted by friends and people in the business that he respects.

On Wednesday’s episode of First Take, Stephen A. Smith said that was largely due to a promise he made to his mother.

“She told me never to write a book until she passed away, because she knows I’m gonna say what I need to say,” he told Molly Qerim and Chris Russo. “I’m gonna speak my mind and I’m gonna speak my truth. There are things in there that she would not have wanted me to reveal while she was alive.”

He added that writing it made him more uncomfortable than he anticipated.

“There’s a lot in there that I didn’t want to tell, but if you gonna write a book, you gotta tell it.”

Russo joked that clearly Smith is excited. He had texted the New York radio legend the cover and some information about the book earlier in the summer.

Qerim has received some of that material too. She told Smith that what she has seen and read is very impressive.

“This is huge, and I’m proud of you. It’s hard to tell. I know you’ve kept your personal life close to the vest. For you to open up, I think people are going to respect you even more when they learn more about you.”

Stephen A. Smith noted that in addition to his childhood and his professional triumphs, the book will also revisit the controversies that surrounded him at points in his career. He noted the goal of the book was not necessarily to make him look good, but to help people better understand the man they see on TV each morning.

“I’ve never ran before, so there was no way I was going to start with this book,” Smith said.

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Golf Channel, Brandel Chamblee Facing Defamation Lawsuit From Patrick Reed

During a Golf Channel broadcast, Chamblee had reportedly accused Reed of cheating during the Hero World Challenge after being assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving his ball placement in a bunker.

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Golf Channel and analyst Brandel Chamblee are being sued by golfer Patrick Reed after Reed alleged “misreporting information with falsity and/or reckless disregard of the truth” by the network and Chamblee.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Reed claims Golf Channel, Chamblee, and PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan have conspired against him since he joined the PGA Tour while trying to “destroy his reputation, create hate and a hostile work environment for him”.

Reed, who has faced cheating allegations dating back to his college golf days, had his legal representation send a cease-and-desist letter to Chamblee in 2020. During a Golf Channel broadcast, Chamblee had reportedly accused Reed of cheating during the Hero World Challenge after being assessed a two-stroke penalty for improving his ball placement in a bunker. Reed claimed he did not intend to improve his lie.

Reed, 2018 winner of The Masters, alleges that Chamblee’s allegations have caused fans to heckle him and label him a cheater at events.

Patrick Reed defected from the PGA Tour in June to join the Saudi-backed LIV Golf organization. He is seeking $750 million in damages.

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Sports TV News

Joe Girardi Joining Marquee Sports Network

“I’m excited to join Marquee and look forward to working alongside Boog, JD, and Taylor this weekend at Wrigley Field,” said Girardi.

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Marquee Sports Network has announced that former Chicago Cubs catcher, and Marlins, Yankees, and Phillies manager Joe Girardi is joining the network as a game analyst. Girardi will work this weekends series between the Cubs and Brewers, as well as a series against the Marlins in September.

Girardi has previously worked as an analyst for YES Network, MLB Network, and Fox Sports.

“I’m excited to join Marquee and look forward to working alongside Boog, JD, and Taylor this weekend at Wrigley Field,” said Girardi. “Growing up a Cubs fan and then having the chance to play for the team for a number of years, I’m honored to now have the opportunity to broadcast from the historic television broadcast booth.”

After a three-time World Series winner as a player, Girardi spent 15 seasons in the big leagues, seven of which came with the Cubs. The former catcher has spent parts of 14 seasons as a manager with the Marlins, Yankees, and Phillies. Girardi was fired as the manager of the Phillies on June 3rd.

“We’re pleased to welcome Joe Girardi to the Marquee Sports Network team,” said Marquee Sports Network General Manager, Mike McCarthy. “His insights as a long-time Cubs player and big league manager will be a valuable addition to the broadcasts. Welcome Joe!”

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