They say nothing lasts forever and one opportunity leads to another in life and Cari Champion, who has made quite a name for herself at ESPN, is leaving the sports giant.
The seasoned network host announced the news on Twitter Thursday with no explanation as to why or what her plans are moving forward.
ESPN will always be apart of my legacy and I am proud to have been a part of theirs. I’m excited about the next chapter and will share soon! ❤️🙏🏾
— Cari Champion (@CariChampion) January 9, 2020
“After consulting with mentors, family and friends, I have come to the decision that it’s time to leave ESPN. Over the past 7 years, I’ve grown from hosting First Take to having my own show on SportsCenter, and experiencing so much more in between”
In the last few years Champion’s celebrity has exploded and she is now in line for opportunities outside of ESPN. Her friend Jemele Hill, who used to work at the station before leaving in the aftermath of an historic Twitter war with Donald Trump, summed up her feelings about Champion leaving in one Tweet.
“I have to remind myself that some birds aren't meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice.“ — Red https://t.co/KirIz0cEjl pic.twitter.com/atTEKqAqKo
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) January 9, 2020
Champion joined ESPN in 2012 as the moderator for Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless’ “First Take” debate show. Her beauty, brilliance, retention of sports knowledge, solid professional relationship with the players and ability to control the flow of the conversation between two egotistical and opinionated sports bosses was recognized and appreciated by viewers.
She moved on to replace Michelle Beadle on the now-canceled “SportsNation.”
She has hosted the network’s flagship highlight show “SportsCenter” since 2015, most recently working on the noon ET broadcast alongside David Lloyd. It is reported that hosts Matt Barrie and Elle Duncan will take over the noon ET time slot and that Lloyd will remain with the network.
ESPN is in the midst of a minor shakeup, so the split was probably amicable.
“We’re thrilled with the momentum we’ve built before and during the NFL and college football seasons and these adjustments set us up well moving forward,” said Senior Vice President, Production/Content Strategy, Jill Frederickson
In any event, she’s outgrown her role there. After becoming one of the most recognizable faces in sports media, the Pasadena, California girl is working her way to shot-caller at the age of 44.
Champion will undoubtedly be in line to branch out into other areas of entertainment. She’s probably in line to receive a slew of offers and ESPN was really just stopping her bank.
I can see her as anything from a game show host to a major network morning show panelist. She could carry her own national radio or host a reality series that plans to find the next great woman announcer. She can do appearances and speaking arrangements, write a book about her experiences as an African-American woman starring at ESPN. She could even team up with her girl Hill and get another podcast going or something. The possibilities are endless because she can do it all.
Champion’s versatility allows her to adapt her style to work with anyone on almost any subject. Just look at the myriad of co-hosts and guests she’s had to keep in line while serving her various gigs at the Worldwide Leader. She comes off like everybody’s sister or best friend, but her beauty and value as a woman is undeniable.
She can also cut up a rug. I had the pleasure of finding that out on stage at Jemele Hill’s birthday party a few years back at the NABJ convention in Detroit. And I was a guest on The Mike Lupica show back in 2014 when Champion and Hill were fillin gin as hosts and had me on to discuss Alex Rodriguez and PED’s in MLB.
Best of luck to Cari in her future endeavors. Her infectious smile and captivating personality as well as her reasonable, calming nature in a sports world of chaos will be missed on ESPN.