The decision by Fox Sports Southeast to move broadcast analyst Stephanie Ready from the booth to the sideline is puzzling to say the least.
Ready has been covering the Charlotte Hornets since the inception of the Bobcats in 2004, becoming one of the most popular figures of the Hornets’ broadcast. Prior to working for Fox Sports, Ready played basketball at Coppin State, then later served as an assistant coach on the men’s basketball team. Following that, she became the first female coach of a men’s professional team, working as an assistant for the now defunct Greensboro Groove of the NBA G-League.
After years as a sideline reporter, she joined Dell Curry and Eric Collins in the broadcast booth last season, becoming the first full-time female game analyst in the NBA. It was a move widely praised by fans; however, it turned out to be short lived, as Fox Sports announced that Ready would work from the floor this season, while Curry and Collins remained upstairs in the broadcast booth. The move, according to Fox Sports, stems for a need to be closer to the floor. Last season, the trio watched from higher up in the stadium rather than courtside as is customary for many broadcast teams.
Speaking with the Charlotte Observer, Fox Sports Southeast Vice President Jeff Genthner stated its, “really tough for television” when no broadcast analyst is courtside.
While this may be true, the broadcast team utilized sideline reporters last season; and, on occasion, deployed Curry or Ready to the floor to interview players or coaches. Additionally, the trio worked from the floor on many road games. In other words, they had people courtside, so this reasoning doesn’t add up.
In addition to her sideline role, Ready is hosting the pre- and post-game shows along with former Bobcats player Matt Carroll, a role that attempts to supplement her sideline duties, but still falls short of the capacity to which she worked last season.
Unsurprisingly, the decision to remove her from the booth has not gone over well with fans. Kurt Heilman, the brains behind the popular Twitter account @HornetsGIFS, is among those upset by the decision.
In an email to At The Hive, Heilman shared his concerns over the move.
“...it was easy to see something didn't [seem] right.” said Heilman. “[Ready] had proven her basketball knowledge and on-screen ability for years now, so the excuse of ‘having someone close to the court’ didn't sit well with me.”
Unsettled by the decision, Heilman decided to use Twitter to voice his displeasure. He reached out to @SportsDespair, another popular Charlotte/North Carolina sports Twitter account, and the two came up with hashtag #DontSidelineStephReady.
“The hashtag has the double meaning of cutting her out of her analyst job as well as putting her back on the sideline reporting duties,” said Heilman.
The decision to go ahead with the campaign came after the Hornets opening game against the Detroit Pistons. Prior to the game, some speculated that Ready would remain involved with the broadcast, but from a different vantage point. When it became clear she was no longer a primary voice of the broadcast, Heilman decided to go forward.
The hashtag has generated a response from others, with many coming out in support of returning Ready to the broadcast booth.
Ready has acknowledged the campaign to an extent, thanking fans for their support and suggesting they share their thoughts with Fox Sports Southeast.
That, according to Heilman, encouraged him to continue pushing the hashtag.
He makes it clear that this has nothing to do with the Curry and Collins, the two remaining commentators. More than anything, he wants Ready to remain a prominent voice during each game.
“[Fans] want to see and hear from her more than five minutes per game.”
His goal is simple: get Ready back in the broadcast booth.
“The goal of #DontSidelineStephReady is to have Stephanie reinstated as a full time color analyst for the entire game. She brings energy, passion, and a love of the game that is undeniable.”
With Heilman’s campaign and Ready’s encouragement for fans to share their thoughts, there is belief that some kind of change could occur. Until then, expect more online campaigning from Hornets fans who want to see Ready back in the broadcast booth.