Michael Strahan on tension with Kelly Ripa, departing 'Live!': 'I didn’t know I was supposed to be a sidekick'

Michael Strahan is opening up about his controversial departure from Live! With Kelly and Michael like never before. In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, the NFL star-turned-TV host talked about tension on set with Kelly Ripa and maintained it wasn't his decision to move to Good Morning America. The topic came up when he was comparing how working in television was similar to his time with the New York Giants.

"The mental aspect of working in TV is like it was in football," he explained. "I don’t want to be on the show and feel like everyone else is carrying me. I want us all to be successful. I’ve done things where I went in with team concepts, and I got there and realized it’s not about team. It’s selfish, and I don’t operate well under that."

Michael Strahan maintains it was a "request" from the network to join "Good Morning America," but said he felt like a "sidekick" on "Live! With Kelly and Michael." (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images)

He added, "In sports, you can put as many great players as you want on a team, but if one guy out there is worried about himself, it will not work. Then on television, I’ve had jobs where I got there and felt like: Wow, I didn’t know I was supposed to be a sidekick. I thought I was coming here to be a partner."

"Maybe I’m reading between the lines incorrectly, but I'm understanding that as a description of your experience on Live! With Kelly and Michael," Times reporter David Marchese noted.

"It was an experience!" laughed Strahan.

In April, it will be four years since the former defensive end left Live!. Ripa, who now hosts the show with Ryan Seacrest, said she was blindsided by Strahan's departure and was frustrated with ABC executives.

"When it was time to go, it was time to go. Certain things that were going on behind the scenes just caught up," Strahan said. However, he later admitted his departure "could have been handled better."

"I didn’t wake up and say, 'I want a job at GMA.' I was asked to do it by the people who run the network," he explained.

In an interview with People in May 2016, Ripa said it was Strahan’s choice to move to GMA.

"We’re excited for Michael. He wanted that job, and it’s great for him. I think it’s a perfect match, I really do," Ripa told the magazine. "However, what nobody considered is there’s a whole other group of people that it really impacts, because we now have to find another great person."

"It was really not a choice. It was a request," Strahan told the Times. "But it was treated as if I was the guy who walked in and said, 'I’m leaving.' That part was totally misconstrued, mishandled in every way. People who should have handled it better have all apologized, but a lot of the damage had already been done. For me, it was like: Move on. Success is the best thing. Just keep on moving."

It sounds like tension with Ripa began before Strahan’s abrupt exit in 2016.

"I remained the same person I was from Day 1. One thing I will not do is alter my attitude for somebody else’s," Strahan said at one point during the interview.

"While you were still on the show did you and Kelly ever talk about whatever your issues were?" Marchese asked.

"One thing I tried to do is have a meeting every few weeks with her. We met a few times, and that was fine. But then eventually she said she didn’t need to meet," Strahan replied. "Can’t force somebody to do something they don’t want to do."

But Strahan is grateful for the experience. "I learned so much from Kelly, so much from [executive producer] Michael Gelman," he said.

"If you look at the show, it really hasn’t changed since Regis [Philbin] started the damn thing. He created this formula. It’s kind of a plug-and-play. You learn how to craft a story. 'What did you do last night?' 'Oh, I had a glass of water.' But you learn to tell the story to make it seem like the most interesting glass of water," Strahan shared. "Those are things that I learned from her. She’s brilliant in that way. If people think, Oh, he hates her — I don’t hate her. I do respect her for what she can do at her job. I cannot say enough about how good she is at her job."

Last year, Strahan said he hadn’t spoken to Ripa "in a long time." It seems like it might stay that way for a while.

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