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June 27, 2018

Molly Sullivan on firing from NBC Sports: 'Complete curveball'

Former Sixers sideline reporter discusses how she was let go on Richard Deitsch's 'Sports Media' podcast

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Molly Sullivan @MollySullivanTV/Twitter

Molly Sullivan had covered the Philadelphia 76ers for the past six season for NBC Sports Philadelphia. She announced on Twitter on Tuesday that her contract was not being renewed by the network.

Molly Sullivan didn't see it coming and it happened in seemingly an instant.

The now former Sixers sideline reporter for NBC Sports Philadelphia went on Richard Deitsch's "Sports Media" podcast Tuesday and discussed losing her job at the network. She was let go from NBC Sports earlier this month after six years covering the team, sparking backlash from Sixers fans, analysts and reporters.

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Sullivan said her meeting with Shawn Oleksiak, executive producer for live events at the network, took about five minutes. She said the reason for her contract not being renewed is "deceptively simple yet endlessly complicated."

Here's a transcript from Deitsch's podcast:

"I walked into my executive producer's office and I immediately knew. I mean he's, you know, we're talking family at the beginning, but I knew something was up, which was odd because I had called the meeting, as we do every offseason. We look ahead, we think of things, you know — how can I better help the broadcast, what can I do this offseason to stay connected to the team, to the city. So that's what I assumed I was sitting down..."

(audio cuts out)

He essentially said that the network has decided to streamline their coverage. He mentioned that at one point during my six years here in Philadelphia that they had three people doing one job. Little ironic there because I think all sideline reporters — at least in, you know, the NBA, [I have] very close friends in every NBA city — I think we all crave to be part of more of a substantial conversation.

And it's not about facetime, it's just giving more of a conversation. Because we are granted so much access. And so that's perhaps the thing that stunned me the most because I've always wanted more responsibility, never got that legit shot. And you know you can go a number of different directions as to why. I know better than to argue with the boss, and I thanked him. I recall saying that I am more than a sideline reporter, because that was essentially the message that I was given. And I shook his hand and I left. It was less than five minutes.

It was a complete curveball, to say the very least.

Sullivan went on to clarify that it was her who called the meeting at which she was fired. She said the normally scheduled meeting had been pushed back several times and she reached out to organize it, joking that she unknowingly organized the meeting at which she was told her contract wasn't being renewed.

She went on to talk about why she thinks she was let go. Here's more from the podcast:

"Look, I'd never been told if we're judged by performance metrics. I was never told I wasn't performing to exception. And certainly the reason that was given to me did not suggest that either. So, that's the thing that hurts here, you know? I'm excited for the future, yes, but I care tremendously about my job. It was more than a job to me. And perhaps I should have done a better job of defining the professional and the personal side of things. But I make no apology for that because I was invested with this group and I took my job incredibly serious. I think with success perhaps you can get a little complacent, and I never got complacent."

Sullivan said despite the revolving door of players and years of losing during her tenure, she "never blinked" and continued to work hard at the job. But, she offered, sometimes good people lose their jobs.

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Deitch clarified that, despite the public perception, the team doesn't have a say in the decision — it was the network. Hence why so many Sixers employees were supportive after hearing the news; Sullivan said head coach Brett Brown was one of the first people to reach out.

Asked about an online petition to get NBC Sports to change their decision, she said she was flattered, but that she wasn't trying to get her job back. The petition has more than 900 signatures as of this writing.

One thing Sullivan said that sticks out: The network didn't see the public outcry over her firing coming.

"No one inside the network saw this level of support coming," Sullivan said.

The entire podcast is worth a listen, touching on a number of different topics about Sullivan's tenure at NBC Sports, and you can do so below.