ESPN's Samantha Ponder Talks Social Media Trolls, SAHMs—and Football

Samantha Ponder chatted with Parents about mommy-daughter work days, dealing with Internet trolls, and running the scene on ESPN.
Samantha Ponder/Instagram

If you're a sports fan, it's likely you've seen Samantha Ponder covering college football on ESPN's College Gameday. But beyond her career in the spotlight (and her new role as a spokesperson for the energy drink Xyience), she's mom to 15-month-old daughter Bowden Sainte-Claire, nicknamed Scout (after the narrator of To Kill a Mockingbird) by her and her husband Christian Ponder, a free agent quarterback who played most recently with the Oakland Raiders.

Ponder chatted with Parents about bringing her daughter to work, dealing with negativity on social media, and running the scene on ESPN.

P: What's the best part of having Scout on the road with you?

SP: Scout has been on 95 flights before she was 1 years old. I remember in the beginning I felt guilty. My mom was traveling with us at the time and she said 'Are you kidding? Look around. She has the real world. She has a million things to touch, and feel, and experience that are going to stimulate her.' She's a year and a half old, but I like her being in places where she sees all different kinds of people and recognizes planes and airports. I think it's been great for her in terms of stimulation.

P: Has she had any hilarious toddler moments while at work with you?

SP: Last Thanksgiving Les Miles, the head coach of Louisiana State University, walks over and asks to hold Scout. So, of course, my daughter spits up all over him. He's in his game clothes ready to go and literally took his bare hand and wiped her face. It was a cool reminder that we as parents get so stressed out about what other people will think, but the majority of people get it. We don't need to stress about it. That was my nightmare as a mom. When you're a working mom you think, 'This is my place of work, this is so unprofessional.' And he's like 'Oh, whatever. No big deal.'

P: Does Scout recognize you on TV?

SP: The other day the Cheez-It commercial I'm in came on when I was in the kitchen with her. I saw sheer terror and confusion on her face because I was in the room and on TV at the same time. It's really cute now that she's picking up on stuff.

P: Do you ever feel added pressure at work as a woman covering men's sports?

SP: I think there is pressure when it comes to the perceived notion that if you are woman in sports you're there for your looks. You cannot try to look nice on TV and also know what you're talking about. You can't like fashion but also know about football. The crazy thing is that all the guys I work with care about their suits and tailoring and go into hair and makeup, so it's a huge double standard. Growing up in a sports household where my dad was a coach, I never had to fake my knowledge. I know that I know what I'm talking about, so if some random dude in his frat house says I'm just here because I'm blonde, then who cares?

P: You have a big following on Instagram (@SamanthaPonder) and Scout's page that you run is catching up (@ScoutPonder). Are you ever surprised when she's recognized, and do you have concerns about her growing up on social media?

SP: This is a temporary thing. I don't want her to have it once she knows what it is, but I did want to document her adventures for family and friends. Sometimes we will be at the store and I'll hear someone whisper 'That's Scout Ponder.' It's hilarious for us. My husband is a quarterback and I'm on ESPN but they're like 'Look, it's Scout.'

P: How do you handle comments that criticize your family or your parenting?

SP: That has been hard for me. People literally write on her page 'This is the ugliest baby, what a hideous child, you should have had an abortion.' I've heard it all. With those comments, I just delete and block. My nightmare in all of this is someday Scout will see them. I'm hoping to raise a daughter who knows who she is and is confident outside of that, but I still don't want her to ever see it. I had a criticizing comment the other day that said Scout shouldn't be in a forward-facing car seat yet. Which technically is true, because she's not 2 yet. But that person doesn't know that my child is bigger than average, and her doctor agreed. Obviously we looked into that. The person wrote: 'I can't believe you could be such an ignorant or unconcerned mother.' Being a parent is already hard. We are making it more difficult by being each other's worst enemy. I pick and choose my moments of when I confront someone or just move on.

P: You've made it clear on your own Instagram account that you have a lot of respect for SAHMs.

SP: My sister has five kids under 7. They live down the street from us in Phoenix. I've seen her journey. It's just insane. She is a super hero and I don't know how she does it. Forget dishes, but just keeping everyone functional is harder than anything I do all year at work. I consider my job a vacation that a lot of my friends that are SAHMs don't get. I get to go out and have interactions with other adults and talk about things other than Yo Gabba Gabba. I have so much respect for women that are full-time moms in the house. It's such a difficult job. My mom did it and I had no appreciation for it when I was growing up. Luckily she lives down the street now so I can thank her. Better late than never.

P: It seems like you have a village around you while raising Scout.

SP: My parents lives down the street in the house I grew up in. I have an older sister and two younger brothers and we've all come back. It's been fun having the family so close. Technically Scout is an only child but she'll have a kid related to us in every grade of the school she's going to. It's just crazy. Makes it fun for sure.

Melissa Bykofsky is the Associate Articles Editor at Parents who covers millennial trends and pop-culture. Follow her on Twitter: @mbykofsky.

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