Cari Champion Biography

Cari Champion is an award winning broadcast journalist and television personality born in June 1975. She was raised in Pasadena, California. She has worked as an anchor and reporter for the Tennis channel and in currently the host of ESPN2’s First Take. In her junior year, she studied in Washington, D.C. and earned an internship at CNN.

Champion attended the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where she majored in English and minored in mass communications and graduated in 1998 with an English degree. She wrote for the Daily Bruin and was inspired to persue a career in journalism by UCLA alumni including Matea Gold of the Los Angeles Times, who spoke her in class. Champion was drawn to journalism with goals of transforming negative stereotypes of African Americans. 

After graduating, she moved to Florida for her first reporting job. And after moving there, Champion covered news such as human interest stories and devastating hurricanes in the state. While working as a reporter in Florida, she covered the Williams sisters superstar status in tennis. They made her love the sport even more. She subsequently auditioned for the Tennis Channel’s burgeoning news department and was one of the three women selected from a pool of more than fifty candidates.

And as a local news reporter, Cari quickly created a name for herself which allowed her to cover more nationally televised events. She was a reporter at the Orange Country News channel in Santa Ana, California before joining WPTV-TV in West Palm Beach, Florida in the same capacity in 2002. In November 2007, while working as an anchor for WGCL-TV in Atlanta, Champion was fired for allegedly uttering a profanity over the air.

She appealed the firing and said in an interview for the Maynard Institute that the floor director had not cued her and her co-anchor following break, and that the microphone picked up a conversation they were having about an unhandy mechanical screenwriter. Afterward, she was rehired in 2008, but left shortly after in March for a broadcasting job outside of Atlanta.

Champion also worked as a courtside reporter and anchored the channel’s Court Report news segment. She also worked as an entertainment reporter for the Starz network and shows such as The Insider and Hollywood 411. On October1, 2012, Champion joined ESPN as the new host of ESPN2’s live debate show First Take. She was hire over Heidi Watney and Jemele Hill for the job.

Champion grew up as an avid basketball fan. She is a fan of the Los Angeles Lakers and the UCLA Bruins. Before working on a show, Champion was an avid watcher of First Take. She loves the barbershop debates that make First Take feel different than other programs. As a broadcast journalist and host, Cari has worked across the country covering network news, entertainment and sports stories of national interest for ABC, CBS, NBC and other cable networks.