While we’ve known for some time now that Michele Tafoya was leaving sideline reporting duties, we didn’t know for sure what her next career move would be.
Now, thanks to an interview with Richard Deitsch of The Athletic for his Sports Media Podcast, we do: working in politics. Specifically, co-chairing a Republican campaign for governor in Minnesota, which will involve various television appearances and a possible appearance at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Via The Athletic, Tafoya says the choice to leave NBC was entirely hers, and had been in the works for years:
“This is absolutely my decision,” Tafoya said. “I gave (NBC) my notice three years ago hoping to be done earlier. Fred Gaudelli, who is a great friend and really wanted me to stay through this Super Bowl, made it happen so that I could stay through this Super Bowl. In fact, in the COVID year of 2020, I was only supposed to work half those games. Then COVID started and I looked at the scheduling and the potential for all the reschedules and stuff that could go wrong, I said, ‘Look, Fred, just count me in for the whole season, I don’t want to make your life any more complicated than it is. I’ll work.’“So, this is all my decision. Everyone at NBC will back me up on that. They have always told me I can stay as long as I want. For me, I have to make my move while I’ve still got the energy to do other things and have an impact. I don’t want to wait.“I got to a point in my life where I wanted to try other things, and there are some things that are really important to me. This is not to say that sports isn’t an important field, that my job isn’t an important job. But in my position, I was not as free to be as vocal about world events that I’m concerned about. It’s not because I was told to shut up. I want to be very clear about that. But look, if you’re on a show like ‘Sunday Night Football,’ which is the No. 1 show in prime time for 11 straight years, unprecedented, the last thing they want to do is invite controversy.”
Tafoya went viral this past fall after a controversial appearance on The View in which she clashed with the show’s regular hosts over vaccines and Colin Kaepernick. Tafoya has insisted that the View appearance had nothing to do with her departure plan, and told Deitsch that she was actually invited to appear on The View again.
The entire interview with Deitsch will be available in podcast form tomorrow, but there was one other interesting insight on scheduling in the excerpts published today. Tafoya noted that she was given the opportunity to take four weeks off during the NFL season this year, and chose not based on the holiday calendar, but instead on weather in the host cities.
I looked for cold-weather games and I said, ‘Hey, Thanksgiving’s in a dome (in New Orleans). I’m going to work Thanksgiving, and I’ll take the next week off because that’s in Baltimore on Sunday.’ Then there were two Green Bay games in December. I said I’m out for those. I’m not going to Green Bay in December. I’m sick of being out in the cold. It is hard work. It is uncomfortable. If I’m going to be given a choice, I’d rather work inside in Dallas on Christmas weekend than outside in Green Bay in late December.“So all my decisions were dictated by weather. That is the truth. That decision was made almost the moment the schedule came out. It was very easy for me to make those decisions. If people recall, I worked for three straight weeks after ‘The View’ appearance. So if they were really angry, they would have yanked me right away.”
That’s an interesting underplayed angle to how all these broadcasts come together. Not all weeks are the same for a sideline reporter, and if they have the chance to work purely indoors, it has to be a lot more appealing.
So, for now, Tafoya is no longer working in sports media, ending a long career that includes five Sports Emmy wins and decades on the sidelines of some of the biggest stages in American sports. Now she might get to interview Enes Freedom at CPAC.