Fall 2021 SS Magazine

Sports reporter Emily Austen: 'I made a mistake but I am not a mistake'

FORGIVEN

The wait is over. After three years, three months, and three weeks, I am getting my second chance at my dream career in sports reporting.

This article would probably be a million pages long if it was about all of the lessons I’ve learned from my poor decision on June 9, 2016. Fortunately for you, I only listed a few of those hard lessons learned below.

Throughout the last three-plus years, most of my days have consisted of severe anxiety, a dark depression and overwhelming regret. By no means am I playing victim in this situation. It’s very important for me to make that extremely clear — I am not the victim here. Never was. Never have been. Never will be. I learned that words are extremely powerful. I realize that I hurt and offended countless people with my comments. For that, I am forever sorry and remorseful. When this happened, I immediately owned my actions, learned from the consequences, and decided to help others avoid making a similar mistake.

Instead of running away from this, I chose to use my pain as a platform. My personal story and message on The Power of Social Media has resonated with thousands of student-athletes and staff across the country at universities and high schools. From places like the University of Alabama to Vandegrift High School, I am so thankful that God gave me the platform, the strength and the courage to be vulnerable enough to share my story with others. Thankfully, my new employer is allowing me to continue my passion of public speaking in my new role.

Though I found a tremendous amount of success early in my career, I grinded years and years to get there. No one handed me a Fox Sports microphone when I crossed that stage at Florida Atlantic University. It took so much hard work, rejection, focus and determination to get where I was in sports reporting. I had a plan and I was successful in achieving it.

Unfortunately, my foundation wasn’t built on Jesus Christ before this happened. I was a believer, but I defined myself by my career. There’s a big difference between believing in Jesus and living for Jesus.

It was difficult for me not only to accept, but to understand God’s purpose for this huge storm in my life in 2016. “There was no way something good could come from this nightmare,” I thought constantly. My faith was crushed. My depression was taking over my life. The suicidal thoughts were taking over my mind. My hope was nonexistent.

The devil is powerful but, oh boy, did I learn that my God is much more powerful! I learned God is always good. It may not seem like that when things aren’t happening in our timing, but His timing and His plan is always perfect. There truly are blessings in brokenness. Trust me on this — when things aren’t working out, that means God is working.

One of my recent devotions read, “God’s plan is like a quilt. There is an overall pattern or design made up of hundreds of pieces. Since we lack God’s overall perspective, it shouldn’t surprise us to wonder what this or that dark colored piece is doing in the quilt.”

One of the tough lessons that’s challenging for all of us to accept is … Life. Goes. On. As humans, we want to feel wanted and special and important. However, reporting and sports broadcasting continued and will continue with or without me in the business. That is obviously tough to swallow. But it’s the truth. It’s funny how the truth humbles you in a matter of seconds.

We can’t change other people’s opinions about us as individuals. I would honestly turn blue in the face if I tried to prove to each and every person that I’m not the evil person you read about on social media. With the platform and power of the Internet, I will lose every time. This is what I preach in my speeches: The Internet painted me to be an absolute monster, but I gave them the paint to do it. I pray that I will have the opportunity to continue to show the world that the viral moment is not an accurate representation of my true character or integrity. I’m confident that my “painting” will eventually show my true colors.

MORE: Sports Spectrum Podcast with Emily Austen, Former Fox Sports Reporter

“Ignore the negativity” is a common piece of advice I’ve received from my mentors over the years. That is way easier said than done in this day and age, as many of us seek acceptance from social media. I still receive messages to this day such as, “You should kill yourself” or “You deserve to be raped.” My former pastor, Louie Giglio, said in one of his sermons, “The Internet gives the ‘troller’ all the power and none of the responsibility.’ Yes, I made a mistake but I am not a mistake. Jesus sees past my failures. Please remember this when you fail in the future. Then again, LeBron James also makes a great point: “I like criticism. It makes you strong.” It takes a lot of strength to accept the fact that you’ll never silence the critics.

I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to give up on this reporting dream since June 2016. Honestly, I was just doing interviews in other career fields last month. However, I had a gut feeling it was too soon to give up. It wasn’t until then that I fully surrendered my life to the Lord. I prayed every night, “God, wherever You want me, I’ll go. Show me where You want me. I promise I’ll listen.”

Our choices boil down to fear or faith. I am not going to be a product of what has been. I choose faith. I choose to say “yes” to what God has planned for me. God is good. God was working. God had a special plan for me all along.

With all of that being said, I am honored to announce that I am joining Liberty University’s sports TV show, “Game On,” as its sports anchor and reporter.

In Liberty’s orientation, I felt like the speaker was talking directly to me. “God has you here for something bigger than you think,” he said. I believe that. This is much more than a second chance at my “dream career.” I am here to honor God, share the Gospel through athletics, and promote Liberty student-athletes, coaches and staff and their walks with Christ.

I once was lost but now I am found.

Thank you, Liberty, for providing me this second chance. I am beyond grateful. I can’t wait to represent this amazing university.

Thanks to you, the reader, for taking the time to read my feelings and excitement about my new chapter.

Thank you to all of my mentors, therapists and supporters who never gave up on me and kept my spirit alive the last three years. I hope you know I wouldn’t have made it this far without each of you. (You know who you are.)

Thank you to Jason Romano for taking such a courageous step away from ESPN to start the Sports Spectrum Podcast.  You are changing lives and such a great example of how all of us should honor God. I am so appreciative that He connected us.

God Bless,
Emily Austen