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11 Sports Reporters Who Dated Athletes

by: Esteban On  Wednesday, July 23, 2014


In the world of journalism, covering sports isn’t as important as covering wars, elections, natural disasters, or celebrity meltdowns. However, you still want your coverage to be as unbiased as possible. And that means it’s usually preferable if the sports reporters don’t shack up with the athletes.

Nevertheless, sports reporter-athlete hookups are pretty much inevitable. Any time you put hot people in the same room (or stadium) with each other on a regular basis, relationships are going to happen. Sure, it may raise a few eyebrows. But sex is the one thing more powerful than peer pressure.

Today, we’re going to take a look at sports reporters who have “dated” athletes. Some you know, others you probably don’t. And while it’s definitely not comprehensive (researching is hard, you guys), it’s a solid start.

Take a look. And, as always, let me know if I missed anyone.


11. Rumored: Heidi Watney (MLB Network)


It’s important to note here that current MLB Network reporter (former NESN reporter) Heidi Watney never openly dated former Boston Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. In fact, she has repeatedly denied it. And I for one believe her. My gut says she didn’t actually date him.

However, I do think something sparked the rumors. The internet says the two were spotted having an “intimate conversation” at a hotel bar in Baltimore back in 2008. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. Maybe it was loud and Varitek was trying to explain fielding independent ERA to her, so he had to lean in and yell into her ear. Maybe somebody saw that and assumed the two were knocking boots.

Whatever the case, not long after that, Varitek’s first wife suddenly divorced the longtime Boston catcher. And that got people talking.

That’s not nearly enough for me to pronounce Heidi Watney an athlete-dater, but the rumor is worth mentioning.


10. Debbi Taylor (MASN)


Former NESN (Red Sox) and MASN (Nationals) baseball reporter Debbie Taylor is married to former pitcher Wade Taylor. Now, Taylor wasn’t exactly a star, and he pitched long before his future wife started covering the big leagues. But still, she’s a (out of work) baseball reporter and she’s married to a baseball player. So count it.


9. Hazel Mae (Sportsnet)

9 hazel mae (kevin barker) - sports reporters who dated athletes

Toronto native Hazel Mae started out at Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet, left for the better part of a decade to work for NESN and the MLB Network, then returned to Sportsnet in 2011.

In 2013, someone started an internet rumor that Brian Burke was fired as the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs because he had an affair with Mae and was the father of her baby. However, there is absolutely no evidence of that, and Burke subsequently filed a defamation lawsuit.

Still, Mae is married to a former ballplayer. Her husband, Kevin Barker, played 126 games in the big leagues as a first baseman, and in 2006—while Mae was in Boston working for NESN—he spent some time in Toronto.

These days, Barker is also a sports broadcaster. He hosts a baseball show on the FAN 590 in Toronto.


8. Samantha Steele Ponder (ESPN)

8 samantha steele ponder (christian ponder) espn - sports reporters who dated athletes

Here’s a reporter-athlete relationship you probably already know about. Sam Steele, who replaced Erin Andrews on ESPN’s College GameDay, started dating Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder in 2012, and by the end of the year they were married. When the relationship first came out, there were whispers that this might be a conflict of interest. However, ESPN declared that since Steele covered college football, not the NFL, they didn’t have a problem with it.

Of course, now Sam goes by Ponder, not Steele. And just last week she gave birth to the couple’s first child.

They named her Bowden Ponder. After Bobby Bowden, Christian’s coach at FSU.

An interesting choice, no?


7. Kathryn Tappen (NBC Sports)

7 kathryn tappen (jay leach) - sports reporters who dated athletes

Tappen currently works for NBC, and before that she worked for the NHL Network and NESN. However, before that she spent a year and a half at Providence, Rhode Island’s NBC affiliate WJAR. That’s where she met former journeyman hockey player Jay Leach in 2005, who was playing for the Providence Bruins at the time.

Interestingly, Tappen’s relationship with Leach, who was in the Bruins’ system from 2004 to 2007 and even played a couple of games with the big club, didn’t prevent her from landing that job with NESN. Presumably, this was because she worked mostly as an anchor, not a reporter.

Oh, BTW, Tappen and Leach tied the knot in 2009.


6. Jenny Dell (CBS)


This is the reporter-athlete hookup that really made waves.

In January of 2014, Dell announced what many people in Boston already knew: that she was dating Boston Red Sox third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

The problem? Dell was the Red Sox in-game reporter for NESN. And that’s definitely a conflict of interest. So NESN removed her from their Red Sox coverage and gave her a studio gig…until they finally just decided to “let her go” altogether back in May. (Reports say Dell had already been looking for new work even before her role changed at NESN, so it’s not like she got screwed here.)

These days, things are definitely looking up for the former Red Sox fan-favorite. In June she announced that she had landed a new gig as an NFL sideline reporter with CBS. Then, just last week, she Instagrammed a pic of the gigantic rock she got from Middlebrooks when he popped the question.

Baseball players are such showoffs, aren’t they?


5. Laura Gardner (CBS)

5 laura gardner (sam leclure) - sports reporters who dated athletes

This ridiculously hot former Denver Broncos cheerleader-turned-CBS reporter (covering mostly minor league baseball these days) dated Cincinnati Reds relief pitcher Sam LeCure from at least the fall of 2012 through last August. After that, I have no idea. If they are still together, they’re keeping it on the d-low, which is probably wise. Though judging from her Twitter feed, Gardner does still live or spend a decent amount of time in Cincinnati, so…


4. Allie LaForce (CBS)

4 allie laforce (joe smith) - sports reporters who dated athletes

Apparently, CBS is the safe haven for sports reporters who want to date athletes.

Allie LaForce, 25, who made a name for herself this past spring covering the 2014 NCAA Tournament, will be working the Eye’s “SEC Game of the Week” this fall. However, back in 2012, when she was working for the Fox affiliate in Cleveland, she started dating then-Indians relief pitcher Joe Smith, news of which broke after a very minor “incident” at a local bar which was nevertheless worthy of an official police report.

Today, LaForce and Smith, who now plays for the Angels, are engaged. Awww.


3. Marisol Gonzalez (Televisa Deportes)

3 marisol gonzalez (canelo alvarez boxer) - sports reporters who dated athletes

Well, this one’s not a shocker. Marisol Gonzalez, the Mexican beauty queen-turned-sports reporter who made a huge splash at Super Bowl XLVI media day back in 2012, dated an athlete. Actually, she more than date an athlete. She nearly married one.

The lucky guy? None other than Canelo Alvarez, who only lost his WBC light middleweight title to Floyd Mayweather last September.

Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. The two split up before actually tying the knot.


2. Sara Carbonero (Telecino)

2 sara carbonero (iker casillas) spain - sports reporters who dated athletes

Foxy Spanish sideline reporter Sara Carbonero made international headlines during the 2010 World Cup people claimed she distracted her boyfriend during the Spain-Switzerland game, causing the Roja to lose.

Of course, that is absolutely ridiculous. Her boyfriend, Iker Casillas, is one of the best goalies in the world and a consummate professional. There’s no way she “distracted” him. He’s not a horny 15-year-old.

In any case, Casillas shut everybody up by backstopping Spain to the World Cup title that year. Then, while doing a post-championship interview with his special lady friend, he just said to hell with it and gave her a big old smooch.


1. Erin Andrews (Fox)

1 erin andrews (jarrel stoll) fox - sports reporters who dated athletes

Last but not least, we have Erin Andrews, the most famous female sports reporter in America. Since late 2012, she has been dating Jarret Stoll of the two-time Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings.

One wonders if Boston sports radio douche Kirk Minihane would have called Andrews a “gutless b*tch” if her hockey-playing boyfriend had been in the room.

I kind of doubt it.