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Twelve Women Who Pioneered the Era of Female Sports Broadcasters

Doug MeadCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2017

Twelve Women Who Pioneered the Era of Female Sports Broadcasters

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    When network sports television began airing back in the mid-to-late 1940's, it was a medium totally dominated by men. The very idea of a woman being included with relation to even talking about sports on TV was considered ludicrous at the time.

    For almost three decades, this trend continued, and it wasn't until 1975 that a female had a prominent role in network sports broadcasting.

    Since then, literally hundreds of women have graced the network airwaves, with varied success. Some were viewed as mere "eye candy", while others garnered awards and critical success.

    Here is a list of twelve women who helped blaze the way for female sports broadcasters, and who made their own special mark in sports. 

Phyllis George

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    Phyllis George was the winner of the 1971 Miss America pageant who was invited by CBS to join the network as a sportscaster in 1974.

    The following year, George was promoted to the cast of The NFL Today, becoming one of the first women to have a prominent role in television sports coverage. Joining Brent Musberger, Irv Cross and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder, George flourished in the role for several years, before moving on to become the permanent anchor of CBS Morning News.

Jayne Kennedy

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    Jayne Kennedy replaced Phyllis George on The NFL Today in 1978, becoming the first African-American female to host a network sports television broadcast.

    In July 1981 she became the first African-American celebrity/actress to grace the cover of Playboy magazine.

    In recent years, Kennedy has been a spokesperson for the Children's Miracle Network, helping to raise millions of dollars for various children's hospitals across the country.

Leslie Visser

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    Leslie Visser, an accomplished sportswriter for the Boston Globe, came into national prominence when she joined CBS in 1984 as a part-time reporter.

    Visser is the only sportscaster in history, man or woman, to have worked on Final Four, NBA Finals, World Series, Monday Night Football, the Super Bowl, the Olympics and the U.S. Open network broadcasts.

    She has been voted the No. 1 Female Sportscaster of all-time, and was honored by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the 2006 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award which recognizes long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.

    Visser is married to long-time national sportscaster Dick Stockton. The two met at the sixth game of the 1975 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Cincinnati Reds, where Stockton was anchoring play-by-play for NBC Sports and Visser was covering the game for the Boston Globe.

Gayle Gardner

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    Gayle Gardner began working for ESPN in 1983 as a SportsCenter anchor, becoming one of the first women to regularly anchor a nightly network sports broadcast. Gardner later moved on to NBC, serving in several capacities for six years, including as a co-host on NFL Live! alongside Bob Costas and Ahmad Rashad.

    In 1993, Gardner became the first woman ever to broadcast play-by-play of a baseball game, calling the action of a game between the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.

Mary Carillo

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    Mary Carillo was a former women's professional tennis player before having her career cut short by knee injuries in 1980. Carillo then started working for the USA Network, working as an analyst for major professional tennis tournaments. Over the course of the following thirty years, Carillo has been honored with numerous awards for her coverage of tennis, and is largely considered to be the sport's top analyst.

Gayle Sierens

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    Gayle Sierens became the first woman to do play-by-play for an NFL football game in 1987, when she called the December 27th game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Kansas City Chiefs.

    Although Sierens was offered six additional opportunities to broadcast games for NBC, her employer at the time, WFLA-TV in Tampa, Florida, would not allow her to continue working for both NBC and the local affiliate. Sierens, who was a young mother at the time, opted to continue working in Tampa.
     
    Since that time, 23 years ago, no other woman has broadcast play-by-play of an NFL game.

Robin Roberts

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    Robin Roberts began her career as a television sports journalist in 1983, working as a sports anchor for WDAM-TV in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

    Roberts later began work as an anchor for ESPN's SportsCenter in 1990, quickly gaining popularity and becoming known for her signature catchphrase, "Go on with your bad self."

    In 1995, Roberts began to work as a featured reporter for ABC's Good Morning Ameica, and split time working between ESPN and ABC.

    Roberts left ESPN to become the co-host of Good Morning America in 2005.

    Roberts earned three Emmy awards during her time at ESPN, and in May of this year, was selected to drive the pace car for the Indianapolis 500.

Hannah Storm

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    Hannah Storm, a graduate of Notre Dame, first came to national prominence when, after working for CNN for a brief period, was hired by NBC to report on a variety of venues, including the Olympic Games, NBA and WNBA basketball, and the NFL.

    Storm became the first woman in American television history to act as solo host of a national show, anchoring the pre-game coverage of Major League Baseball games from 1994-2000.

    Storm also went on to become the first play-by-play announcer for the WNBA in 1997.

    Currently working as a co-anchor for SportsCenter weekdays, Storm was recently involved in a controversy with ESPN colleague Tony Kornheiser, who jokingly criticized an outfit Storm was wearing on an episode of SportsCenter. Kornheiser's criticism earned him a suspension from ESPN for two weeks.

Cassie Campbell

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    Cassie Campbell, a former Canadian female hockey player, started her career as a sportscaster with Hockey Night in Canada, becoming a rinkside reporter in 2006.

    In October of the same year, Campbell became the first woman to provide color commentary for Hockey Night in Canada, when she was called upon to substitute for Harry Neale, who was snowed in at his home in Buffalo, New York.

    In 2010, Campbell provided coverage of women's hockey for the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Doris Burke

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    Doris Burke, a former basketball player and graduate of Providence College, currently works as a sideline reporter and color analyst for ESPN college basketball.

    Burke was reported to be the first woman to be an analyst for NBA games, with her coverage of the New York Knicks. She is also the first woman to work as an analyst for regular coverage of college basketball, specifically for the Big East.

    Burke has worked alongside legendary college basketball analyst Dick Vitale, working men's games for ESPN and ABC.

    In October of 2006, Burke was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

Lisa Guerrero

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    Lisa Guerrero, former Los Angeles Rams cheerleader, began her televison career as a sports-anchor on Los Angeles' KCBS station in 1997.

    In 1999, Guerrero was hired by the Fox Network, where she hosted and participated in a variety of shows. Guerrero later moved on to co-host The Best Damn Sports Show Period, hosting alongside Tom Arnold and Michael Irvin.

    The Los Angeles Times has called Guerrero "the hardest working sports reporter", and the Hispanic Business Journal named her one of the 100 most influential Hispanics in America.

    Guerrero is married to former Baltimore Orioles pitcher Scott Erickson.

Bonnie Bernstein

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    Bonnie Bernstein has become one of the most recognizable and highly respected journalists in sports. Since starting her career in 1995 in Chicago, Bonnie has covered a variety of sports, working as a lead reporter for CBS for NFL and NCAA Men's basketball, and most recently as a host of College Football Live, and regulary substituting as a host for NFL Live and Outside the Lines.

    Bernstein became the first sportscaster in history to serve as sideline reporter for both a network television and network radio as a correspondent, filing reports for both CBS Sports and Westwood One Radio simultaneously.

    She garnered such admiration from her peers that Dick Enberg came to refer to Bernstein regularly as "B-squared."

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