Lindsay Czarniak, ‘On Her Turf’ Shines Light on Female Olympians

Lindsay Czarniak
Jared Tilton/SRX/SRX via Getty Images

Talk about competitive advantage: Women earned more than half of Team USA’s medal count at the last two Summer Olympics. Having recognized this, NBC felt these talented athletes deserved a bit more of the spotlight. Enter On Her Turf, the first show from the broadcaster’s streaming service dedicated to covering women’s sports at the Games.

Popular reporters Lindsay Czarniak and MJ Acosta-Ruiz will get together with champion hurdler and bobsleder Lolo Jones each evening on the Peacock streamer. The hosts will recount top stories featuring names such as Katie Ledecky, Alex Morgan, and Alix Klineman. On Her Turf accompanies similar branded coverage from Tokyo across social media, blogs and podcasts.

Before this “ladies first” chapter gets underway, Czarniak previews what we can expect from the show

Can you tell us a little about what the format will be like for On Her Turf?

Lindsay Czarniak: It’s going to be a place where people can get the highlights and know what is happening in the big events. We’ll have a few different cohosts for the Games. We’re going to have an opportunity to explore topics surrounding the females of the Games. I think that is going to be a really cool thing, with panel-type discussion and interviewing people on the ground in Tokyo. I’m excited as a broadcaster because it has a little bit of everything. It makes me think of my SportsCenter days. Then there are the women I’m working with on this, MJ and Lolo. Lolo has been there and in the midst of training for the next Winter Olympics. It’s going to be awesome to lean on her experience. This is the perfect storm of the things I love to do.

What are some of those topics you’re looking to explore?

I was reading a piece by Allyson Felix, a track and field star who wrote it for The New York Times. [It was about] her situation with Nike and really wanting to speak up about equal pay for women and the situation she went through when she had a child. Things like that are fascinating. For me, I’m interested in sports psychology. It’s not a salacious topic. I think there’s a lot to dig into there. There are a lot of moms at these games now. I’m a mom. This is the first time I’m working the Olympics and [being] a mom myself. Reading the article makes it feel really different for me now because I think about my daughter’s love of gymnastics. My son is a swimmer. So I’m looking at it through a different lens. There is talk about transgender [athletes]. That’s a fascinating topic. I think there are a lot of things we will not be shying away from.

What kind of impact do you think the lack of family and overall spectators in Japan will have on the athletes?

It will have a huge impact, but I’m also sure some of these competitors believe it might have a positive impact. Not that it’s positive not to have fans or family there for some of them. For others, it has impacted their focus in a unique way. I covered the sidelines on the NFL last year. I thought having to pipe in crowd noise and not having fans there was a narrative right out of the gate, that it was weird and strange.

The hardest thing for them was players on defense and not having the crowd to pump them up if they were the home team. It’s something to get used to. It’s going to really test mental toughness further. The Olympics have the best athletes in the world. These are the people who know how to dig into that mental zone they need to be in. Still, it’s something they are not used to. Also, I think the amount of time they’re in their rooms with these new protocols of what they can and can’t do, they need to figure out how to manage that. It becomes, How am I managing the time I’ve got by myself? What am I doing in those hours that are typically taken up by seeing family or friends?

The Olympics are also happening during this streaming explosion and the popularity of social media. Content has never been more accessible.

We knew the Olympics were going to look different, like other sports. This is going to be a groundbreaking Games. On Her Turf is such a solidified brand now and has a loyal following. I’m excited about that because it’s awesome to deliver more content to the fanbase around these games. It’s going to be unprecedented the amount of access they’ll have. When you talk about social media, I was reading today how Simone Biles got bored and reached out to her multimillion-person fanbase of followers. “Tell me a secret. I’m bored.” She turned into a therapist responding to people that were showing really random stuff. The athletes are also more accessible than they’ve ever been before.

Lindsay Czarniak

Lindsay Czarniak

When it comes to the Olympics, what are you most excited about?

I am intrigued by soccer. That’s one storyline because never has a team won the World Cup and the next opportunity come in and won gold. If the women can do that, that would be so amazing. Simone Biles, I’m like everyone wondering what she is going to do. How amazing is she going to be? She was disappointed in falling off a beam recently. So, I want to see her come back with a vengeance. [Swimmer] Katie Ledecky, I’m excited to see if she can add to her medal count.

Your husband [Today host Craig Melvin] has been so supportive of you and On Her Turf. Have you two talked about working together?

Funny story. That’s how we met, by working together. We met the day after I got back from covering the Beijing Olympic games [in 2008]. It was the first day back at the station. I had no idea who this new guy was. I was working for NBC Sports. We really didn’t know each other until then….We played the video of us meeting during our [wedding] rehearsal dinner. Pretty funny…I would love to do something with him at some point because we just have a lot of fun. Who knows, maybe down the road. We both hope something can happen. He is so good at what he does, that makes it so much fun for me.

On Her Turf starts July 24, Monday through Saturday 7/6c and Sunday at 6/5c for free on Peacock