She’s been a fixture as an NFL sideline correspondent for NBC Sports’ “Sunday Night Football” for years, but Michele Tafoya has hung up her broadcast mic to take her career in a different direction: Politics on the right.
In an interview last week with Fox News Digital, Tafoya explained that she wasn’t forced out at the network but said she had been toying with the notion of leaving for the past few years as the country became more polarized and divided, adding she wants to “try to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.”
“I can’t tell you how many people tell me, ‘I’m just shutting my mouth, I don’t wanna get in trouble.’ Getting in trouble for something you believe in the United States of America? That is astonishing and scary,” she said.
“I’m not afraid of many things, but that people feel afraid to speak, or share their beliefs, because there might be ramifications at their place of work, or within their social circles. That scares the hell out of me and I will fight that every step of the way for both sides,” Tafoya told the network.
“All the divisions in this country are factored into me wanting to try to be part of the solution and not part of the problem,” she said. “I was looking to get involved politically, socially, public service, that kind of thing. I wanted to change my direction. If I wanted to stay in sports television, I’d still be at NBC Sports.”
The network continued:
Tafoya, who also worked at ESPN before her decade-long run at NBC Sports, feels conservative, and even moderate, political views aren’t typically represented in sports media. However, she has noticed that many liberals in the field are allowed to speak freely. She isn’t sure how this one-sided arrangement became the accepted norm, but suspects that corporate sports media organizations don’t mind promoting topics they consider “virtuous, kind, loving and liberal.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that at all, except when it excludes anything that might question some of the facts and motivations for those ideas, or those causes, or those thoughts. So in other words, it ends up being very one-sided and that there is no questioning,” Tafoya argued.
“We saw this so predominantly during the initial phases of COVID, if you questioned anything that was coming out of the CDC or the NIH, you were called names. You were called stupid. You were called a science denier,” Tafoya said. “For me, I call it being curious and wondering, do we really have every answer right now?”
“Why in the heck would you shut down any debate about something as serious as a pandemic? I think it all went back to who was in the White House at the time, and you were branded that if you just question anything, you must be on one side or the other and a science denier,” she said. “It was mind-blowing to me how close-minded we all became during that time.”
Though she had been toying with the notion of walking away from NBC Sports for the past few years — a departure that was actually delayed by the pandemic — Tafoya said she kept her personal views to herself out of respect for her employer.
“I appreciated that NBC wanted to protect its most prized property, which was ‘Sunday Night Football,’ and that they didn’t want to bring controversy to it. I understood that,” she said. “If I was going to go and tweet and post and all the things that were germinating in my mind, that probably would have brought controversy.”
She also knew inside that she would someday be freer to voice her opinions so she just kept them to herself and bided her time.
She said goodbye from the field following an epic Super Bowl in February that was broadcast on NBC.
“[NBC broadcaster] Al Michaels told me if I ever wanted to run for office, he’ll run my campaign,” she joked before turning serious. “The people that know me know my heart, they know what I stand for, and they know what my values are … They’re going to support me no matter what.”
Tafoya has since appeared as the lone conservative on the far-left ABC staple “The View,” even going toe-to-toe with co-host Whoopi Goldberg, which is considered a rite of passage for outnumbered conservatives.
“You’re on an island,” she said. “People didn’t treat me poorly, I just think that the four other panelists, and let’s add in the audience that attends and the guests that they have on the show, all tend to have one sort of a connected view, and you’re the odd man out.”
She also spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando last month and serves the co-chair of GOP candidate Kendall Qualls’ campaign for governor of Minnesota.
“I believe in this guy,” she said. “When I heard he was running for governor, I was all in.”
She added that a political career of her own in the future isn’t out of the question.
“I’m not going to sit here and peddle myself as some champion for or against any one particular thing, except why are we slicing and dicing ourselves, our society into all these little groups that think that they’re victims? I don’t see the world that way,” the conservative-libertarian Tafoya said. “I’ve overcome enough in my own life to know what’s possible.”