Lisa Guerrero was often looked up to as "the luckiest woman in sports" after she landed her dream job as a sideline correspondent for Monday Night Football in 2013. In her new book Warrior she reveals how the role turned into a nightmare that led her to a dark place.
Producer Freddie Gaudelli hired Guerrero for the purpose of changing the landscape of sports broadcasting by incorporating a reporter who leaned into entertainment as well, Guerrero explained in an excerpt published by Sports Illustrated. But it ended up being external opinions of her appearance, her knowledge and her value as a sports reporter that became a point of contention between herself and her employer.
"'Nothing but a teleprompter reader.' 'A ridiculous new low for ABC.' 'Another example of looks taking precedence over talent.' 'A bimbo.' 'A blow for women.'" Guerrero listed as some of the responses to the announcement of her hiring. "What had I done to ignite such anger? I was stunned, hurt and utterly baffled by the media’s reaction."
As audiences put Guerrero's previous decade of experience as a sports reporter to the side, they leaned into what they called her "controversial past" as a model, actor and cheerleader. Ultimately, photos of the reporter were released that put her start at Monday Night Football at risk.
"I’d done a photo shoot for FHM, a men’s lifestyle magazine, which was scheduled to run at the beginning of the football season. This had been a strategic decision to promote my brand and raise my profile while I was at [The Best Damn Sports Show Period]. But when the media got wind of the photos of me clad in black-and-white lingerie, it reinforced their notion that I’d been hired on Monday Night Football for all the wrong reasons."
Guerrero recalled Disney executives being "irate" when they found out about the photoshoot and questioning her place on their "family-friendly broadcast." However, she chalked the reaction up to "feigned shock" as the company's publicity department allegedly ended up negotiating with FHM to put her on the cover.
"Then, for the show’s promotional photos, I posed in a powder-blue blazer next to [co-hosts Al Michaels and John Madden]. Yet the photos that made the cut, including on a Times Square billboard, weren’t from that official ABC photo shoot," she continued. "Instead, without my permission, they superimposed a photo—in which I wore a gold-sequined tube top and a come-hither look—that was taken from a modeling gig I had done years earlier."
While Guerrero believed that she was originally hired for her qualifications, she noticed that the negative publicity had an impact on her working relationships and how much her producer trusted her to do the job.
"A lot of eyes would be on me, too — judging me, writing about me, commenting on me. Any flub would be magnified. My outfit and makeup — even my lip gloss — would be scrutinized," she said of the time leading into the first regular season game of Monday Night Football. And despite all of her preparation, her producer instructed her to memorize the words he'd write for her and not to improvise.
"I believed that I knew what was behind this request. Freddie may have been embarrassed by the media’s depiction of me. I felt that he couldn’t fire me, because I was his first hire," she wrote. "So instead of firing me, Freddie would micromanage me. Maybe he thought he’d be the brains behind the bimbo."
Guerrero continued, "I’d been writing my copy for a decade, but suddenly I felt reduced to a ventriloquist’s dummy. When I delivered Freddie’s words, it was unnatural. It didn’t sound like me. I felt like an actress playing a role that I wasn’t meant to play. And there were critics who picked up on this. They would say I looked uncomfortable, that I glanced down at my notebook too much. But I had been directed by Freddie to deliver his script verbatim. If I didn’t, I’d get reamed out."
She recalled Gaudelli screaming into her earpiece as she did live broadcasts and suffering under the pressure to excel at her job with all things against her. That suffering stayed with her at all hours of the day and night, even in her happiest moments.
Now, an award-winning investigative journalist, Guerrero can't believe how dark it became, as she wrote about her engagement to baseball player boyfriend Scott Erickson being soured by the undercurrent of depression. "Who decides to get married when they’re also considering killing themselves?" she remembered thinking.
She also opened up about experiencing a miscarriage while doing a live sports report.
"I didn’t see that I was on a dangerous downward spiral. I didn’t see that I had become completely detached from reality. I didn’t see how sick I was—mentally and physically. I was completely checked out," she wrote.
After that experience, she decided to take a stance.
"I thought about all I’d lost on those sidelines—my dignity, my courage, and now my pregnancy. There was nothing left to take. At that moment, I vowed to stop letting Freddie have so much control over me," she said. "During the last few games, I stopped memorizing Freddie’s notes. I spoke in my own voice. I pulled out my earpiece during my reports. That way, if Freddie was screaming at me, I would never know."
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.
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