Tiki Barber, the former NFL star and sports broadcaster, told FOXBusiness.com Thursday his one-time teammate Michael Strahan’s transformation from NFL star to budding media personality is a testament to his work ethic and a major coup for the African-American community.
Barber and Strahan played together on the New York Giants from 1997 to 2006 – a prolific and at times contentious run that included multiple All-Pro nods for each player and a Super Bowl berth in 2000. Strahan earned more than $76 million during his 15-year NFL career, but he’s become an even bigger star since transitioning to television.
After several years as an analyst for FOX NFL Sunday, Strahan was formally named Kelly Ripa’s co-host on ABC’s “Live! With Kelly and Michael” in 2012. Earlier this month, he announced plans to leave the program for a new role on “Good Morning America.” The hosting gig will pay Strahan more than $20 million annually, according to People magazine.
“I loved the fact that he moved into “Kelly and Michael,” because one, there weren’t a ton of African-Americans on morning television. To have that example in our community, I thought was powerful,” Barber told FOXBusiness.com. “Secondly, the personality he shows, that’s him. That’s how he was in our locker room. It was authentic.”
Strahan’s decision to leave “Live with Kelly and Michael” purportedly caused a rift with Ripa. TMZ reported that Ripa was “blindsided” by Strahan’s abrupt departure and left “stunned and upset” by the news. Amid the tension, ABC announced that Strahan would leave “Live” in May, months ahead of schedule.
Barber says the drama surrounding Strahan’s move will eventually be an afterthought.
“It’s a lesson in life. Sometimes things evolve, you shift and you move,” Barber said. “You have to be excited for where his career is going to go. I think the same lessons that he learned when he was playing, that you have to be the hardest-working guy in the business to be the best in the business, he still does. That’s why I tip my hat to Michael Strahan.”
Barber’s own career in television started in 2005, when he began a stint as guest host and contributor on FOX News Channel’s “FOX & Friends” morning show. In 2007, he became a featured correspondent for NBC’s “Today” show and a contributor on the network’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts.
Once considered a rising media star and potential replacement for “Today” host Matt Lauer, Barber left NBC in 2010 under dubious circumstances. Despite occasional appearances on other channels, Barber has yet to score a permanent hosting gig on television.
At present, Barber serves as co-host of the “Tiki and Tierney” show on CBS Sports Radio. He remains interested in getting back into television, but said he’s holding out for “the right opportunity.”
“I’ve always had interest out of sports. One of the reasons that back in the [mid-2000s] here at FOX News, at FOX & Friends, I loved doing it because I was not talking sports,” Barber said. “I love sports. I can do it in my sleep, whether its basketball or football or baseball now and the business behind it or the deeper social stories behind it, that’s interesting. But life is also interesting to me.”
Since retiring from football, the 41-year-old has also dabbled in entrepreneurship. In 2012, Barber co-founded Thuzio, a company that links marketers and brands with pro athletes and entertainers. Thuzio splits its efforts between corporate networking and event organizing. Barber hosted an intimate dinner for Thuzio members in New York City this week alongside famed actor Steve Buscemi.
“Life is exciting. It’s busy, it’s always evolving. I’ve always believed in going through good and bad times and reinventing yourself,” Barber said. “I’ve been fortunate to be a New Yorker and to do it on a pretty consistent basis.”