ESPN NBA analyst Doris Burke was the subject of a favorable profile in the New York Times this weekend. Writer Noam Schieber pointed out the admiration and respect that Burke draws from NBA stars such as Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the attention she gets from fans throughout the league.
But the feature also raised an issue currently weighing on Burke’s mind: her contract situation. “My contract ends Oct. 31,” she told Schieber. “It’s very anxiety-producing.”
Considering the positive attention that Burke receives for her work on ESPN, it’s difficult to imagine that the network would let her go. There would almost certainly be backlash among NBA fans and players, even if she were to land at, say, Turner as a game analyst.
Burke’s contract doesn’t expire for another six months, so ESPN may not see any urgency in renewing an agreement right now. Although there would be nothing but positive publicity to gain from such a gesture, especially while fans and media are currently watching the NBA playoffs. And ESPN has been a proponent of female broadcasters, most recently with Beth Mowins calling a Monday Night Football season opener and Jessica Mendoza being part of the Sunday Night Baseball booth.
Yet changes at the network — notably James Pitaro taking over as network president — have made her nervous about a renewal. She also took notice of Fox Sports Southwest moving analyst Stephanie Ready back to a sideline reporter role for Charlotte Hornets broadcasts before this season.
Additionally, Burke would like to work until she’s 60 (Burke is currently 52), but knows that women on television don’t typically work at that age, unlike their male counterparts. (She was rather candid on the subject during a recent interview on HBO’s Real Sports.) That has made her even more anxious about making a mistake on the air and being compared to fellow ESPN analysts like Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson.
Burke seemingly has nothing to worry about concerning her job status, but isn’t taking anything for granted. Just in case, she may want to take a copy of this NYT profile into negotiations, just in case there is any question about the work she puts in for every game and how hard she had to work to get that coveted analyst gig.