Column: The twisted path that led Michele Tafoya from covering the NFL to denying systemic racism

Reporter Michele Tafoya on the sidelines
Michele Tafoya, then an NBC “Sunday Night Football” sideline reporter, walks on the field before a game between the Chargers and the Las Vegas Raiders in January.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)

The recently retired NFL sideline reporter Michele Tafoya swung by Tucker Carlson’s show this week to talk about why she felt compelled to leave her high-profile sports media job and get involved in politics. To promote her appearance, Fox News posted this quote from Tafoya on social media: “It breaks my heart that my kids are being taught that skin color matters.”

A pretty rich statement coming from Tafoya, for multiple reasons.

First, she reportedly lives in Edina, Minn. — a suburb of Minneapolis that was founded and populated by Black people in the 1890s until they were systematically driven out by racial covenants embedded in property deeds. The covenants stated that property could be sold only to white people.

In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled that courts could not enforce the covenants, but residents could adhere to them if they wanted to. Edina, which reportedly had nearly 3,000 residential properties with racial covenants in their deeds as recently as last fall, is roughly 85% white. And Tafoya says her heart breaks because “my kids are being taught that skin color matters.” … Well, the joke pretty much writes itself.


Opinion Columnist

LZ Granderson

LZ Granderson writes about culture, politics, sports and navigating life in America.

Second, her attack against critical race theory is especially nonsensical considering the league she covered for two decades could be Exhibit A for systemic racism. The NFL has been accused of racism in two lawsuits in the past two seasons alone.

The Brian Flores case regarding head coach hiring is the most recent suit to grab headlines. But until recently the NFL used a practice called race norming when determining payouts from a concussion settlement between retired players and the league. The premise: Black players were assumed to be less intelligent than white players. This made it more difficult for Black men — who currently make up 70% of the NFL‘s players — to prove brain damage caused by the game than white men. The league settled the lawsuit for $1 billion in 2021 and vowed to stop the practice.

A town built on racism is where Tafoya calls home.

A league famous for racism has been her beat for years.

And yet she appears to be more concerned that her children might learn about racism than she is about the racism happening all around her children.

They have to not only raise their voices but take action, whether that’s a summit like the one held in support of Muhammad Ali in 1967 or a flat-out work stoppage.

Feb. 2, 2022

She signaled just how seriously we should take her views on social justice issues when she agreed to go on Carlson’s show in the first place. This is a man who said President Biden’s immigration policies were designed “to change the racial mix of the country, to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the Third World.” If that sentiment sounds vaguely familiar, it should. “Jews will not replace us” was one of the phrases torch-carrying white supremacists chanted in Charlottesville, Va., back in 2017. So yeah, if Carlson’s show is where you choose to appear, we sort of have an idea of where the conversation is headed.


Tafoya, who identifies as a libertarian, is said to be co-chairing the gubernatorial campaign of Kendall Qualls, a Black man who led a nonprofit organization called TakeCharge MN. According to the website, it is “committed to countering the prevailing narrative in popular culture that America is structured to undermine the lives of black Americans.” The organization says that “we also denounce the idea that the country is guilty of systemic racism.”

It would seem that Tafoya has hitched her wagon to a candidate who, much like herself, won’t let facts get in the way of a good story.

Look at the abysmal racial records of big corporations and the U.S. Senate.

Jan. 15, 2022

Earlier this week, she said if NFL teams believed Colin Kaepernick “could win them a Super Bowl, he would be on a team right now.” In 2017, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Kaepernick is “a starter in this league.” I interviewed a head coach in 2020 who told me off the record that the owner wouldn’t let him bring Kaepernick in, after the player’s public stance against systemic racism. In 2021, Alex Smith, who played with Kaepernick, said “it doesn’t make sense” that he’s not in the NFL. But Tafoya wants you to believe it wasn’t protesting that’s kept Kaepernick out of the league, but simply ability.

We all know why he’s not in the league … whether the Tafoyas talk honestly about the history or not.

Speaking of history, did you know when the Federal Aid Highway Act was passed in 1956, it led to the construction of a number of highways that connected major cities to predominantly white suburbs, destroying Black neighborhoods and businesses in the process? One such freeway was I-35 West, which ripped through South Minneapolis, providing easier access to such quaint little places as Edina.

Yes, that Edina.

But by all means, do go on about how the color of one’s skin does not matter in this country.