Sixers sideline reporter Molly Sullivan was let go by NBC Sports Philadelphia a little more than a week ago.
She said at the time that more would come out about the not-so-popular decision, and it came out Tuesday in the form an appearance on Richard Deitch’s Sports Media podcast.
Sullivan was asked by Deitsch how she learned of her dismissal, which I’ll transcribe verbatim:
“So, I think it’s deceptively simple, yet endlessly complicated. You can put 24 seconds on the clock. That’s truly how long it took to tell me I was no longer necessary. So I walked into my executive producer’s office and I immediately knew – we’re talking family at the beginning – but I knew something was up, which was odd, because I had called the meeting, as we do every offseason, we look ahead, we think of things – ‘how can I better help the broadcast?’ What can I do this offseason to stay connected to the team and to the city? That’s what I assumed.. (audio cuts out briefly)…
He said that the network has decided to streamline their coverage. He mentioned that at one time during my six years in Philadelphia that they had three people doing one job, a little ironic there because I think all sideline reporters, at least in the NBA, who are close friends in every city, we all crave to be part of a more substantial conversation. It’s not about facetime; it’s about being given more of the conversation because we are granted so much access. That’s the thing that perhaps stung the most, because I always wanted more responsibility and never got it. You could go in a number of different directions as to why. But I know better than to argue with the boss, and I thanked him. I recall saying that I was more than a sideline reporter, because that was essentially the message I was given. I shook his hand and I left. It was less than five minutes and it was a complete curve ball, to say the very least.”
Some more notes from the rest of the interview:
- Molly’s contract was up for renewal at the time, though she says she was never told she wasn’t performing to expectations
- Shawn Oleksiak is the VP/executive producer of live events at NBCSP, who told Sullivan the company was moving in a new direction. Oleksiak has been involved with the production of the Sixers’ broadcasts since 1999.
- Sullivan did not have an agent at the time, though she had used an agent previously
- She says she’s received both public and private support from Sixers’ brass
- RE: the fan petition, she says she’s “not trying to get her job back,” but was appreciative of the gesture
I think the thing that jumps out the most is when Molly describes herself as “more than just a sideline reporter,” which I think is accurate. Sideline reporters are stereotyped as lesser media members, usually just a younger woman added to the broadcast for fake-diversity and not really given much of a role beyond asking the coach two pointless questions as he goes into the locker room for halftime. Sullivan, in my mind, wasn’t some blonde bimbo thrown in front of a camera for her looks, she was genuinely good at what she did.
And when you have good people working for you, you find a way to keep them around. Even if you need to save money or “streamline” the broadcast or whatever, just give Molly a different role. Let her do interesting, extended feature stories for pregame. Put her on the set with Marc Zumoff and Alaa Abdelnaby. Add her to the desk with Amy Fadool and Jim Lynam. That’s basically what she was asking for – more responsibility – and I know she would have been good with it, because my seat was directly behind hers on press row and I’d see her scribbling pages and pages of notes on a pad while watching the game and doing live hits at the same time. She’d come into Brett Brown’s pregame and postgame press conferences and do the same thing, so she was definitely studious. I’ve seen other sideline reporters sit in the visitor’s seat and spend the whole time fidgeting with their hair and makeup.
Seriously, think about some of the bozos who frequent Sixers media availability, who don’t know a thing about basketball, then ask yourself if finding an expanded role for Molly Sullivan is out of the question. It’s not. And maybe she doesn’t know the difference between a horns set and a floppy set, but how many broadcasters do? You can always learn. Point is, Molly was good at what she did, and if keeping her in her current role is untenable for whatever reason, she’s somebody you find a different gig for.
But the model in TV now is to get rid of good, experienced people and bring in cheap college kids instead. NBCSP axed Marshall Harris and Andy Schwartz and some veteran reporters and put a cap on their articles at 500 words. I’m not exactly sure what they’re doing over there, but it seems like quite the process, one that most traditional broadcasters are experiencing in the contemporary shift to digital content consumption.
Anyway, here’s the podcast. Molly comes on a few minutes in and the interview goes for about 40: