Michele Tafoya will no longer be the sideline reporter for NBC’s "Sunday Night Football" after this season, according to a report.
NBC’s coverage of the upcoming Super Bowl in February is expected to be her final appearance on the sideline for the network, the New York Post reported. Her role afterward remained unclear.
Tafoya returned to NBC for a few games after "The View," but has been missing from NBC’s NFL coverage since Thanksgiving night’s game between the Buffalo Bills and New Orleans Saints.
Her absence was described by NBC as "bye weeks" as speculation swirled that something might be amiss in the relationship between Tafoya and the network.
"Michele will be back on the sidelines this weekend. 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. 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," NBC Sports responded.
Sports analyst Bill Simmons drew attention to Tafoya’s prolonged absence earlier this week on his podcast.
"She was in the conservative seat," Simmons said about Tafoya’s "View" appearance, "Then a couple weeks later, all of a sudden, just on a bye [from NBC]. Taking a break."
Tafoya, 56, a native of California, has been with NBC for about a decade after previous stints with CBS and ABC/ESPN. She is the winner of five Emmy Awards for her sports reporting.
On Nov. 3, she and the co-hosts of "The View" had a debate about Kaepernick around the time that Netflix released a special titled "Colin in Black and White."
Tafoya and "View" co-host Sunny Hostin clashed on the show about some comments Kaepernick had made, comparing the NFL’s draft and training camps to slavery.
Tafoya argued that playing in the NFL was an act of free will.
"No one pressures them," she said. "They’re not forced to go into the NFL."
Later, she added, "I thought comparing it to the slave trade was a little rough. … These guys enter willingly. They are the most well-cared-for people. Yes, they play a hard sport, and every one of them – Black, White, Latino, whoever’s playing the sport – will tell you how much they love it and they’re willing to do it and they make a damn good living."
Hostin countered that most NFL owners are White men and most players are Black.
"That comparison that he makes to slave owners and slaves is not, sort of, totally unreasonable or out of bounds," she said.
She asserted that it was the league’s White owners who were preventing Kaepernick from continuing his NFL career after the 2016 season, when he launched pre-game kneeling protests of racial injustice during the playing of the national anthem. After the 2016 season, Kaepernick exercised an opt-out clause in his contract with the San Francisco 49ers and became a free agent. No NFL team signed him afterward.
Kaepernick and former teammate Eric Reid later reached settlement agreements with the league.
Hostin also argued that Kaepernick "lost everything" by taking a stand on a cause that he believed in but Tafoya countered by noting that Kaepernick had actually "gained a lot" since leaving the NFL, including the Netflix special and a lucrative deal with sports apparel company Nike.
Kathryn Tappen is said to be a top candidate to replace Tafoya as the sideline reporter on "Sunday Night Football," the New York Post reported.
Fox News’ Brandon Gillespie contributed to this story.