Prime VideoÕs Thursday Night Football announcer Charissa Thompson Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a particular trap that Pat McAfee often falls into that explains part of the reason why he receives a lot of pushback. Despite arguably becoming the face of ESPN and ascending to the top of the sports entertainment world in record time, McAfee and his crew will often refer to themselves as a “collection of stooges” who live the “dumbest life of all time” and talk about “very dumb stuff” on a show that is “stupid” and that they are “lucky” to have.

At first, the whole routine was charming because there was truth to the sentiment. Good for these guys who came out of left field to become sports media juggernauts. But as they’ve gotten bigger and more successful, while pulling focus away from others in many ways, the whole “we’re just a bunch of dum-dums who don’t deserve to be here” thing wears thin. Do it enough and audiences start to wonder, well, maybe you DON’T belong here?

All of this is to say that, when you become successful, there’s a fine line between trying to stay relatable and forgetting where you’re standing. It can be easy to forget everything that went into your being there, not to mention how many other people would gladly stand in your place but didn’t get that chance.

That’s what turned Charissa Thompson’s flippant comments about making up quotes during NFL games into such a firestorm.

Just in case you weren’t on the internet Thursday, Thompson went viral for the comments she made during a recent appearance on Barstool’s Pardon My Take. The Fox Sports sideline reporter, who also hosts Prime’s Thursday Night Football studio show, discussed times she would flat-out make up a report, complete with quotes that were never said.

“I’ve said this before,” Thompson said. “I haven’t been fired for saying it, but I’ll say it again. I would make up the report sometimes, because A, the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime, or it was too late and I didn’t want to screw up the report. So I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make this up.’

“Because first of all, no coach is gonna 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.’ They’re not gonna correct me on that. So I’m like, it’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.”

As Thompson notes, she has said this before on her podcast with Erin Andrews. Both of them admitted to taking liberties with their in-game reporting, but this was the first time she had just come out and said that she made things up out of whole cloth.

Once the story started to spread on social media, the intensity with which sports media members and other sideline reporters reacted was stunning in intensity and frustration.

There were, of course, plenty of people who reacted by either saying “This proves sideline reporting doesn’t matter” or “Who cares, it’s not a big deal.” Some people even said they lie at work every day so this doesn’t matter, which is an entirely different issue to work out with yourself, sir.

Look, in a vacuum, fibbing a few generic coachspeak nuggets during a Week 7 game between the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings may not amount to much harm in the eyes of many. But like with so many things in life, there’s a larger context at play here. Thompson made those comments in a space that was devoid of that context, which is why it was so easy to toss them off without considering their impact.

There are three contextual areas that stood out in terms of why the reaction to Thompson’s comments was so intense. First and foremost, your personal opinion of sideline reporting aside, they are journalists and expected to act accordingly. That Thompson would violate one of the sacred tenets of journalism made it a non-starter, even if it doesn’t “matter” to you. The fact that sideline reporters still have to justify themselves to audiences and fans makes the comments all the more frustrating to some of the biggest names in the game.

“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,” wrote Lisa Salters in her first X post since March. “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.”

“Charissa is a nice person, but this is professional fraud,” wrote Michele Tafoya. “If a coach won’t talk to you at halftime, you say that. And if there is no report, then you just don’t file a report at halftime. It’s pretty simple. journalistic integrity is paramount.”

“As one of only 3 women in the [Pro Football Hall of Fame], I’m sickened by the insulting mockery being made of sideline reporting, a challenging role primarily manned by women – most of whom understand & respect the values of journalism and are integral, trusted members of a broadcast team,” wrote Andrea Kramer.

“Young reporters: This is not normal or ethical,” wrote Molly McGrath. “Coaches and players trust us with sensitive information, and if they know that you’re dishonest and don’t take your role seriously, you’ve lost all trust and credibility.”

The list of past and present sideline reporters chiming in along these lines runs deep and also includes Tracy Wolfson, Jenna Laine, Kris Budden, Justin Walters, Laura Okmin, Amy Gutierrez, Armen Keteyian, Tricia Whitaker, Vanessa Richardson, and Kathryn Tappen.

The second contextual issue is that while not all sideline reporters are women, it is a space in the sports media and gameday world where women have found a foothold and opportunity to break in and shine. We all know how much trash these women have had to put up with to get to that point, let alone advance further in their careers. So Thompson’s remarks reflect poorly on the women who also work that job and especially those who came before her. And that created a lot of frustration from female sideline reporters and media members.

“I thought it was a near universal experience for women in sports media is the feeling of needing to work twice as hard to be taken seriously; that you can’t bare to make a mistake,” wrote The Ringer’s Lindsey Jones. “So the cavalier way Charissa Thompson cavalierly admitted to making up quotes is unforgivable.”

“This is extremely infuriating and completely unethical.,” wrote Morgan Uber. “This is already a role in a profession that is already stereotyped as just being “eye candy.” Good sideline reporters do their homework, talk to players and coaches throughout the week & on game day and most definitely don’t make up reports. Period.”

“I spent 17 years in sports media, and hands-down, sideline reporting was my hardest job ever…Every single day I recognized it was an honor as a woman to work in a predominantly male-oriented field. I took my job seriously. I approached it with reverence and respect. And true, I worked twice as hard to be respected half as much,” wrote Rachel Joy Baribeau. “Sad day for females in the industry I love.”

“Naturally, the expected reaction, sideline reporters are useless,” wrote Maddy Hudak. “Have we considered providing analysis on the game of football instead? How LOS battle is being won/lost by initial quickness? UOH in pass rush the press box can’t see? Not setting women back by making **** up?”

Hudak also offered up a passionate defense of what female sideline reporters have to do and what they’re up against on a daily basis.

The third piece of context that makes Thompson’s comments so incendiary is that in the desire to sound accessible or relatable, she showcased the privilege that comes with who she is and the jobs she’d had.

Before the 2014 NFL season, Fox replaced Pam Oliver with Erin Andrews on their No. 1 team. At the time, it did not go unnoticed that they were replacing a veteran Black reporter with a blonde white one. Oliver, who continues to roam the sidelines looking for stories, later shared how the job was trending away from journalism and towards a certain kind of person.

“It’s a small club of women (in sports media) who put journalism first,” Oliver said during a panel at Northwestern University in 2015. “They’re not in it to be celebrities or big on Twitter. You can tell when someone is serious with what they are doing. You can tell when someone is putting in the hours to get to know the players and coaches beyond just using your looks, or you know, your assets.

“I wish some of the hiring practices would improve. There’s a definite pattern with a certain look and certain quality that the outlets are going after.”

The frustration that Oliver shared then doesn’t seem to have abated, and Thompson’s comments shine a light on how opportunities like the one she had when she was making up quotes don’t tend to come around very often for certain people.

“As a black woman who’s been GRINDING to get a network job as a sideline reporter this is infuriating,” wrote’s Tamara Brown. “I’ve been told I wasn’t ready, nothing was open, left on read…you name it. Yet there are people like [Thompson] in these roles not taking it seriously.”

“…no Black journalist could get away with this without significant, career-altering repercussions,” wrote USA Today’s Mike Freeman. “We all make mistakes in life. I certainly have but the leeway for something like this with Black journalists is measured in millimeters. There were dozens of journalists of color, if not more, making this point. There is a staggering amount of privilege in Thompson’s remarks.”

“As someone who has worked as [a] sideline reporter, making up reports even with limited information is NEVER the way or an option for me! But you have to consider the privilege here to actually do it and then talk about it multiple times publicly. Rules clearly don’t apply for all,” said SNY’s Dexter Henry.

Scoff if you want at the role sideline reporters play, but like so many things in sports media and TV production, there’s so much more to it than what you see on your screen. Good sideline reporters are putting in the hours, creating the relationships, and asking the tough questions to get viewers the context they need to enjoy the game more than they would have without it. Sometimes the information they share is dry because Bill Belichick doesn’t want to talk to them, sometimes they can create an entire subplot with one interaction, and sometimes they have to put up with a lot of ****.

It’s journalism, full stop. And Thompson’s comments undercut the hard work of her colleagues and peers in ways that go beyond just making up a quote.

Perhaps driving that home Thursday night, TNF sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung showed everyone how it’s done when she reported that “stone-faced” Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor had told her quarterback Joe Burrow was not only done for the night but might be out for “several games.”

She provides valuable information. She includes contextual clues about Taylor’s mindset. And she describes pushing for more info before relaying what she was able to get. Now that’s some good, honest sideline reporting. Maybe it doesn’t change the world and doesn’t wow everyone in the audience, but at least it’s authentic. That’s worth something to a lot of people and it’s why Thompson’s comments went over so poorly.

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to