Every sports team these days wants original content to plaster on its website and social-media feeds. Not every sports team is willing to hire a former SportsCenter anchor to create it.
On Wednesday, Joe Gibbs Racing announced that it has hired ex-ESPNer Lindsay Czarniak to produce digital content during the Daytona 500 this coming Sunday, including features on each of the team’s four Monster Energy Cup Series racers.
“This is such a cool opportunity to have the chance to provide an insider’s look at the preparations with a team like Joe Gibbs Racing and its drivers,” Czarniak said in a release. “I’m not sure anything like this has been done before which makes it very exciting. I love NASCAR and know how passionate the fans are. I’ve always enjoyed working with Coach Gibbs and I’m really looking forward to sharing this behind the scenes access and unique look at JGR’s preparation for the big race.”
Czarniak worked for ESPN from 2011 to 2017, anchoring SportsCenter and hosting ABC’s annual coverage of the Indianapolis 500. She left the network last summer, saying later that she walked away when ESPN offered her a lesser job with less pay upon her return from maternity leave.
Since leaving ESPN, Czarniak has mostly laid low, though she did help cover the Super Bowl for NBC4 in Washington D.C., where she worked early in her career before landing in Bristol.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s decision to bring on Czarniak, even on a temporary basis, represents one of the more ambitious hires we’ve seen from a sports franchise seeking original content. Many teams across sports have brought in previously independent journalists to write for their websites and some (Scott Burnside with the Dallas Stars and Don Banks with the New England Patriots, for example) came with quite impressive resumes. But Czarniak is truly a big name, having come pretty close to the pinnacle of sports broadcasting.
The fact Joe Gibbs Racing was willing to bring on Czarniak indicates just how much it values native social media content and makes you wonder how long it will be until networks and legacy publications are regularly competing with teams for top talent.