Sports journalist Charissa Thompson sparked an uproar after she said she used to fabricate coach comments when she worked as an NFL sideline reporter — but later walked back her statement claiming she never “lied” or did anything “unethical.”
Thompson, who now works for Fox Sports and Amazon Prime’s “Thursday Night Football,” shared the comments on Wednesday’s episode of the “Pardon My Take” podcast.
“I’ve said this before, so 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 was like, ‘I didn’t want to screw up the report,’ so I was like, ‘I’m just gonna make this up,’” the 41-year-old said.
Thompson noted that she felt comfortable doing so because her comments weren’t far off from what a coach might actually say in an interview.
“First of all no coach is going to 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.’ Like, they’re not gonna correct me on that,” she explained. “So I’m like it’s fine, I’m just going to make up the report.”
NBC News has reached out to Thompson, Fox and Amazon for comment.
Thompson’s comments quickly sparked backlash from peers in her field.
Fox Sports broadcaster Laura Okmin, who is Thompson’s colleague, tweeted Thursday: “Devastated w/the texts I’m getting asking if this is ok. No. Never.”
“THE privilege of a sideline role is being the 1 person in the entire world who has the opportunity to ask coaches what’s happening in that moment. I can’t express the amount of time it takes to build that trust,” she added.
CBS Sports broadcaster Tracy Wolfson called Thompson’s podcast comments, “absolutely not ok, not the norm and upsetting on so many levels.”
“I take my job very seriously, I hold myself accountable for all I say, I build trust with coaches and never make something up. I know my fellow reporters do the same,” Wolfson tweeted.
ESPN broadcaster Molly McGrath tweeted a warning to young reporters saying: “This is not normal or ethical. 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.”
NBC Sports’ Kathryn Tappen denounced Thompson’s comments as “deplorable,” meanwhile, Emmy-award winning sports journalist Andrea Kremer tweeted, “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.”
On X, former NFL network host Lindsay Rhodes responded to a tweet that asked what Thompson was supposed to do if a coach declined comment and she still had to speak on the broadcast.
Rhodes replied: “She tells the producer, ‘he didn’t stop’ and they don’t go to the sideline reporter for an update she doesn’t have. OR, she tells the audience that in her report. Or she observes things herself & reports them without misleading anyone into thinking it came from someone it didn’t.”
Thompson addressed the controversy on Friday, writing on Instagram, “I have never lied about anything or been unethical during my time as a sports broadcaster.”
“I have a responsibility to myself and my employers to clarify what is being reported. When on a podcast this week, I said I would make up reports early in my career when I worked as a sideline reporter before I transitioned to my current host role,” she said. “Working in media I understand how important words are and I chose the wrong words to describe the situation. I’m sorry.”
She explained that if a coach didn’t provide information for her reports, “I would use information that I learned and saw during the first half to create my report.”
“For example if a team was 0 for 7 on 3rd down, that would clearly be an area they need to improve on in the second half. In these instances I never attributed anything I said to a player or coach,” Thompson wrote.
She concluded saying “I have nothing but respect for sideline reports and for the tireless work they put in behind the scenes and on the field.”