Charissa Thompson waited too long to clean up her spectacular mess

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A day after creating quite the sports media firestorm and significantly harming the reputations and credibility of hundreds of sideline reporters, both women and men, sports broadcaster Charissa Thompson has finally apologized. 

In an Instagram story Friday morning, the Fox Sports and Amazon Prime Video host tried to explain what she intended to say. It turns out that “I would make up the report sometimes” really meant “In the absence of a coach providing any information that could further my report, I would use information that I learned and saw during the first half to create my report.”

Wrote Thompson: “Working in media I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry.”

While her new somber words now retract her old flippant words, their timing was way off. 

On Thursday night, Thompson had the great honor of being on national television as host of Amazon Prime’s NFL game in Baltimore. She knew full well by then that she was being pummeled around the sports media landscape, rightly so, for saying she made things up and then reported those made-up things as facts. That’s a fireable offense in every newsroom and sports department in the country. 

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That was her moment: Thursday night, before the game, before her colleague, sideline reporter Kaylee Hartung, had to go out and do the job that Thompson had now so fully discredited.

But no. Thompson failed miserably in the moment. She said nothing. She let every viewer watching at home wonder if Hartung too was making things up. For that alone, Thompson should be suspended. She won’t be, but she should be.

Instead, she waited another 12 hours before finally trying to clean up the spectacular mess she had created. 

This Thompson fiasco was not good — not good at all — but some good has most definitely come from it. There now can be no doubt about how seriously members of the sports media take the ethical aspects of sports journalism. The sports media establishment spoke as one Thursday and Friday. The outrage was so tremendous that Thompson had to respond. This is good. 

“What this entire episode hopefully reminds all of us is that truth and accuracy are at the heart of every job in sports media,” Hall of Fame sports broadcaster Lesley Visser said Friday morning in a phone interview. 

Because many, but far from all, of the sports TV sideline jobs are held by women, there has been a natural inclination to turn this controversy into a conversation about women in sports media. Some have also decided to make it about the value of sideline reporting in general.

Let’s stop that right here. This was not a sportscaster problem. This was not a female sportscaster problem, or a male sportscaster problem. 

This was a Charissa Thompson problem.

This post appeared first on USA TODAY