2015 -- Lesley Visser
Lesley Visser (left, in picture, with husband, Bob Kanuth) is the most highly acclaimed female sportscaster of all-time. Her long and prestigious trailblazing career has seen her as the first and only woman to be recognized by the Pro Football Hall of Fame as the 2006 recipient of the Pete Rozelle Radio-Television Award which recognizes “long-time exceptional contributions to radio and television in professional football.” Pro Football Hall of Famer Troy Aikman said about Visser in his 2006 induction speech, “She brought respect and professionalism to the field of journalism for her work in print and broadcasting. It makes me proud to be in her company today.” Along with her NFL TODAY reporter duties, she also contributes to the network’s coverage of the NFL Playoffs and the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship and Final Four.
In 2004 Visser became the first woman sportscaster to carry the Olympic Torch when she was honored by the International Olympic Committee being hailed as a “pioneer and standard-bearer” by the IOC. In 2009 she was voted the No. 1 female sportscaster of all time by the American Sportscasters Association. Visser is the only sportscaster in history who has worked on the network broadcasts of the Final Four, Super Bowl, World Series, NBA Finals, Triple Crown, Olympics, U.S. Open and World Figure Skating Championship. She served as lead reporter for the Network’s coverage of the NFL, teaming with CBS Sports’ No. 1 announce team of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms in 2004. This year she again is a part of THE NFL TODAY team. Visser worked her 30th NCAA Men's Basketball Championship last March, having worked the tournament for the Boston Globe, ESPN and CBS. This past season marked her 35th year covering the NFL.
When Visser began covering the NFL for the Boston Globein 1976, the credential often read, “No Women or Children in the Press Box.” She became the first woman to cover the NFL as a beat and remains the only woman to have handled the Super Bowl trophy presentation, for CBS in 1992 when the Washington Redskins beat the Buffalo Bills.
Visser was honored with a Billie Jean King Award, the only Billie awarded for Outstanding Journalist, in 2008. She also was honored by the American Women in Radio and Television, Inc. in June 2006 as the first woman sportscaster recipient of a Gracie Allen Award which celebrates programming created for women, by women and about women, as well as individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the industry. In 2008, she became the first woman sportscaster to host the Gracie Awards. Visser also received the Emily Couric Leadership Award - previously given to Sandra Day O'Connor, Caroline Kennedy and Donna Brazile - and in the fall of 2008 was honored at the 22nd Annual Sports Legend Dinner, to benefit the Buoniconti fund to cure paralysis. In 2005 she won the Pop Warner female achievement award and was inducted into the New England Sports Museum Hall of Fame, along with Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy and the 1980 United States Olympic Hockey team.
Visser was a reporter and contributor for THE SUPER BOWL TODAY, CBS Sports' Super Bowls XXXV, XXXVIII, XLI and XLIV pre-game broadcasts. Visser also has contributed reports for CBS News and served as a reporter for HBO Sports' "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.” She spent nearly seven years with ABC Sports and was a sideline reporter for "Monday Night Football," becoming the first woman assigned to the series and the first woman ever to report from the sidelines during a Super Bowl. While at ABC Sports, Visser served as a reporter for college football bowl games and NFL playoff games. She also contributed to ABC's coverage of Triple Crown horse racing, "ABC's Wide World of Sports," Major League Baseball, including the World Series, figure skating, Special Olympics, skiing, the Pro Bowl, and an ABC series "A Passion to Play.” She hosted the network's coverage of the "Millennium Tournament of Roses Parade.”
She returned to CBS Sports in August 2000 as a contributor to THE NFL TODAY, college basketball, figure skating and the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Visser covered the NCAA Final Four and Super Bowl for ESPN. She joined CBS Sports in 1984 and became full-time in 1987. Her assignments included the NBA, college basketball, MLB, college football, U.S. Open Tennis Championships and the Winter Olympics, and she was a regular on THE NFL TODAY. In 1992 Visser became the first woman to handle the post-game presentation ceremony at the Super Bowl and in 1989 she covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, focusing on how sports would change in East Germany.
Visser began her career in sports journalism in 1974 as a member of the Boston Globe sports staff on a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, two years later she was assigned to cover the New England Patriots, becoming the first ever female NFL beat writer. While at the Boston Globe she covered the NCAA Final Four, Super Bowl, NBA Finals, World Series, Wimbledon, the Olympics and college football. In 2009, Sports Illustrated named the Boston Globe Sports staff (1975-80) the best sports section of all time.
Visser has been honored with the Compass Award for “changing the paradigm of her business” and was one of the 100 luminaries commemorating the 75th anniversary of the CBS Television Network in 2003. She was named “WISE Woman of the Year” in 2002 and voted the “Outstanding Women's Sportswriter in America” in 1983 and won the “Women's Sports Foundation Award for Journalism” in 1992. In 1999 she won the first AWSM Pioneer Award. Visser earned her bachelor's degree in English from Boston College and received an honorary doctorate of Journalism from her alma mater in May 2007. She was born Sept. 11 in Quincy, Mass. and resides in Bal Harbour, Fla. and New York City with her husband, Robert Kanuth.