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Donna De Varona: 1947—: Olympic Swimmer, Sportscaster, Activist

Clashed With Abc

Though de Varona received critical acclaim for her coverage of the 1984 Summer Olympics, choice assignments were few and far between. She told Sally Jenkins in Sports Illustrated, "I don't feel the rewards [I should have gotten] came after that. You do good work, and then wait and wait for another good assignment." However, she also noted that despite the widespread discrimination against women in sportscasting, "It's too easy to play the victim. We're making progress. It's coming. It's just taking longer than I ever thought it would."

In 1988 de Varona continued her Olympic coverage when she reported from Calgary. She also expanded her career by working for Turner Network Television and Sporting News Radio. In 1991 de Varona won an Emmy award for her reporting of a story about a Special Olympics athlete.

In 1998 ABC let de Varona's contract lapse and, according to de Varona, encouraged her to leave. In People, de Varona told a reporter that the network was trying to attract more of the [age] "18-to-39 male market" and that network executives believed that she was too old to hold this audience's interest. In 2000 she filed an age-discrimination suit against ABC, arousing controversy in the sports broadcasting world. Of her decision to take legal action against ABC, she told People magazine, "It would have been much easier to walk away, but I felt I had to do it." The case was later settled out of court, and de Varona resumed working at ABC.

Declaring her candidacy for the presidency of the U.S. Olympic Committee in 2002, de Verona withdrew from the race after six days. According to Mer-Jo Borzilleri in an article provided by the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, de Varona said that "time and resources" did not allow her to give the job the attention it would require. In addition, she noted that it would probably create a conflict of interest for her to report on the Olympics at the same time that she was serving as president of the Olympic committee, and she did not want to stop reporting. However, she also said that she would reconsider running for the position in 2004. In 2003 de Varona was selected to receive the NCAA's highest honor, the Theodore Roosevelt Award. The award, also known as the "Teddy," is given to a distinguished citizen who is a former college student-athlete and who shows a continuing interest in physical fitness and sport.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Theodosius I to David Watmough Biography - David Watmough comments:Donna De Varona: 1947—: Olympic Swimmer, Sportscaster, Activist Biography - Won Two Gold Medals Before Twenty, Became A Reporter And Activist, Clashed With Abc, Controversy Over Title Ix