Lesley Visser. The name normally accompanies the description “the first woman to…” which gives you insight into the trails blazed by this sports journalism pioneer. Visser received her start like most journalism graduates; she worked for the newspaper she interned for while attending college. What makes Visser unique is how hard she had to work to do what she loved, simply because she’s a woman.
Lesley Visser, born Sept, 11, 1953 in Quincy, Massachusetts, later went on to graduate from Boston College with a bachelor’s degree in English. In 2007, she received an honorary doctorate of journalism from the university. From there, Lesley landed a job at the Boston Globe after receiving a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.
Throughout her career, Visser covered 34 Final Fours and 32 Super Bowls during her time at the Globe, CBS Sports, ABC Sports and ESPN. These accomplishments, however, did not come without putting up a fight.
Visser is well-known for many firsts. She was the first and only woman enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the first woman to cover an NFL beat, be assigned to Monday Night Football, be assigned to a Super Bowl sideline, first woman sportscaster to carry the Olympic torch, handle a Super Bowl trophy presentation and the first male or female to ever work on the network broadcast of the Final Four, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Triple Crown, Olympics, U.S. Open and World Figure Skating Championship.
Visser accomplished all of this while being kicked out of locker rooms, being refused interviews and being held to a lower standard than her male counterparts simply because doing her job and being a woman were not synonymous at the time.
However, Visser strived to do her job and do it well despite the many hurdles she was forced to overcome. It all began at the Boston Globe, where Visser spent 14 years after receiving a grant from the Carnegie Foundation while still in college.
During her time at the Globe, Visser became the first female writer to cover an NFL beat: the New England Patriots. Visser then moved on to CBS Sports as a reporter, later returning after a hiatus to serve as a contributor for The Super Bowl Today and CBS Sports’ Super Bowls XXXV, XXXVIII, XLI and XLIV pregame broadcasts. She also contributed to CBS News and HBO Sports’ “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.”
To add to her list of accomplishments, Visser joined the ABC Sports team, with which she remained for seven years as a sideline reporter for “Monday Night Football.” This was a time for one of her many firsts: She was the first woman assigned to the series and the first woman ever to report from the sidelines during a Super Bowl during this time.
While at ABC, Visser also covered Triple Crown horse racing, the Special Olympics, skiing, the Pro Bowl, an ABC series called “A Passion to Play” and the network’s coverage of the “Millennium Tournament of Roses Parade.”
Later, Visser chose to return to CBS in 2000, where she became a contributor for “The NFL Today,” college basketball, figure skating and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. She first joined CBS in 1984, during which time she was able to become the first woman to handle the postgame presentation ceremony at the Super Bowl and witness firsthand the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.