It looks like Michele Tafoya is leaving Sunday Night Football, but it has nothing to do with Colin Kaepernick.
Earlier this week, the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported that Tafoya would leave NBC after it broadcasts Super Bowl LVI on Feb. 13. Rumors began to swirl — promoted by The Ringer’s Bill Simmons and fueled by a preplanned vacation — that she was being pushed out due to a recent appearance on The View.
While NBC would not confirm or deny that Tafoya was leaving Sunday Night Football, the network pushed back on the idea she was being punished in for the comments she made on The View.
“As we have done repeatedly, we’re again giving our announcers bye weeks in 2021, and we plan to do it well into the future,” an NBC spokesperson told the Inquirer. “Michele’s off weeks — which were determined prior to the season — were all in cold weather cities after Thanksgiving, and her final weekend off this season comes on Jan. 2 in Green Bay. Any other speculation about her time off is blatantly false.”
During her two-day guest stint on the daytime talk show in early November, Tafoya was outspoken on a number of controversial issues. She downplayed the severity of COVID-19, criticized critical race theory, and suggested Kaepernick had himself to blame for not being on an NFL roster.
Tafoya has been open about her political beliefs, describing herself as a pro-choice conservative with “some definite libertarian strains.” While ESPN pushed sports personalities to not be openly political, NBC’s only request was for Tafoya to remove “NBC Sports” from her Twitter bio when she used the platform to talk politics. She’s since deleted her Twitter account entirely.
“The way we throw words around these days like white supremacy, and racism, and evil, it’s as though it’s just easier to throw those out and drop the mic rather than have a really thoughtful conversation based on fact and listening to one another,” Tafoya told the Inquirer in 2018.
Tafoya has been the sideline reporter on Sunday Night Football since 2011, when she replaced Philadelphia native Andrea Kremer. Prior to that, she was a sideline reporter on Monday Night Football and during NBA games for ESPN and ABC. She also cohosted a morning radio show in Minneapolis until 2020.
If Tafoya leaves the network, it’s likely she’ll be replaced by Kathryn Tappen, who filled in during Tafoya’s recent three-week absence. Tappen has been with NBC since 2014, most recently serving as a sideline reporter for Notre Dame games. She also hosts the network’s Sunday Night Football postgame show on Peacock alongside Chris Sims.
There is a lot of change coming to Sunday Night Football. In addition to Tafoya’s rumored departure, it’s expected that longtime play-by-play announcer Al Michaels will leave after the Super Bowl to call Thursday Night Football games on Amazon Prime, which NBC is producing. No deal has yet been finalized, and Michaels could still call some Sunday Night Football games next season.
“My contract is up, but we’re still talking about the future and a couple of other things are out there. I, at this moment in time, hope to be doing games next year,” Michaels said during an interview on Los Angeles sports radio earlier this month.
NBC would replace Michaels with Mike Tirico, who will be filling in for Michaels again this Sunday. NBC hired Tirico away from ESPN in 2016 to one day replace Michaels in the booth, and has called Notre Dame football games for the network since 2017.
One person you can expect back next season is analyst Cris Collinsworth, whom NBC hopes to keep in the booth through the 2025 season, as first reported by Marchand. It’ll be Collinsworth and Tirico calling Sunday’s game, with Michaels getting another week off.