Rafer Weigel following father’s footsteps into ABC 7 sports job
Thirty-four years after his late father joined ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 as a sports anchor, Rafer Weigel (pictured above), is about to do the same thing.
Weigel, 41, is expected to be named weekend sports anchor and sports reporter, replacing Ryan Chiaverini, who’s shifting to co-host of the station’s new Windy City Live morning show. If all goes as planned, sources said an announcement could come next week.
The son of legendary Chicago sportscaster Tim Weigel, he most recently has been sports anchor of HLN’s Morning Express with Robin Meade, based in Atlanta. His father, whose long and celebrated Chicago media career included 17 years at ABC 7, died of a brain tumor in 2001 at age 56.
The industry website NewsBlues.com reported Thursday that Weigel had left HLN’s flagship morning show after three years for the job here. Weigel declined to comment. Emily Barr, president and general manager of ABC 7, said: “Nothing is done at this point.”
Weigel’s name surfaced here in January when he was reported among those on the list of finalists for the morning show hosting job. But on the day of his scheduled audition, he bowed out, saying: “I’ve decided not to pursue the WLS job and instead stay at HLN.” Ironically, Chiaverini’s selection to co-host the daily talk show opened the door for Weigel to become weekend sports anchor and heir apparent to principal sports anchor Mark Giangreco.
Named after Olympic gold medalist Rafer Johnson, Weigel grew up in north suburban Evanston and graduated from Evanston Township High School and the University of Illinois.
He began as an actor with Chicago’s Steppenwolf, Remains, Bailiwick, Organic and Wisdom Bridge theatres, and eventually moved to Hollywood, where he landed several TV and movie parts, including a hosting job with VH1, a regular role on the NBC series Jenny with Jenny McCarthy, and parts in the films Free Enterprise with William Shatner and Eric McCormack, and Rated X with Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen.
When his father died in 2001, Weigel came home to Chicago and turned to a career in journalism, covering sports for the Sun-Times and hosting a weekly radio show on the former WCKG. He moved back to California in 2005 for on-air jobs at KUSI-TV in San Diego and KOVR-TV in Sacramento. He joined HLN in 2008.
Weigel’s younger sister, Jenniffer Weigel, an award-winning broadcaster, author, actress, singer, producer and blogger, recently joined the Tribune as a columnist for its TribU lifestyle section. Their mother, Kathy Worthington, was a news anchor at Tribune Co.-owned news/talk WGN-AM (720).
March 8 update: ABC 7 officially announced Weigel's hiring, effective March 21. Said Jennifer Graves, vice president and news director: "Rafer Weigel is a talented broadcaster who has worked hard to earn his stripes. He loves this city and has never lost his passion for following Chicago sports teams. His father is an important part of ABC 7's sports legacy and we are thrilled that another Weigel will again be working the sports beat at our station."
March 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm
Many are going to criticize the decision and say that nepotism is alive and well, but I like the idea that the Weigel-WLS relationship is coming full circle. Good for him and best of luck!
March 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm
It’s all about talent….the apple dosen’t fall far from the tree. He will do great in Chicago. Great move on the part of ABC.
3.wayne's "weigel" world
March 3, 2011 at 4:37 pm
I have no problem with nepotism as long as they’re good. (Rafer or Jen are no Todd Stroger!)
March 3, 2011 at 4:46 pm
Rafer is a great guy and a talented sportscaster. He will be a great addition to the WLS Sports team. He’s worked hard to get to this point in his career and the position is well-deserved. Welcome home, Rafe!
March 3, 2011 at 5:41 pm
Why didn’t WLS just hire both Rafer and Jennifer to host the new morning show? They have a proven Chicago pedigree, they’re good-looking, experienced in television, and the brother-sister dynamic could have proven interesting.
March 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm
His dad would be proud. Tim was a great guy. Never showed arrogance or being aloof to sports fans who wanted to chat. He chatted and talked as if you and he were big buddies. First class. Congrats, Rafer!
March 3, 2011 at 9:33 pm
Great move on channel 7’s part. Tim was a great broadcaster and we miss him dearly. Perhaps Rafer could reintroduce Weigel’s Weiners to the news. That would be nice to see again.
8.So Much for a Chick Sportscaster
March 4, 2011 at 6:35 am
I believe it was the “Weigel Wiener.” The “Weigel Weiner” must be a semitic reference, probably to Al Lerner, who once was the heir apparent to Tim.
March 4, 2011 at 7:19 am
I believe President Obama was born in the United States, but are we to infer that “AM Chiavereni” was a fait accompli before the audition? Is it possible the other auditions didn’t matter? Remember when Ch. 9 did a “nationwide search” and came up with Steve Sanders from their own station? There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home, Auntie Emily.
March 4, 2011 at 8:49 am
A nice choice, if only for sentimental reasons. My only problem is that this still leaves the very talented and knowledgable Jill Carlson still out in the cold.
March 4, 2011 at 8:51 am
That’s 7 votes “yes” – and you can add mine to that. That Oprah replacement is going to bomb, but Reefer is going to be a great fit!
And how could Todd Stroger even get a mention in this discussion
March 4, 2011 at 10:38 am
Who? Yes, everyone knows his dad, but with the available talent already here in Chicago, I find this decision somewhat disappointing.
March 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm
What if this is all part of a plan to honor his father’s promise to destroy Ch.7?
March 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm
Suddenly nepotism is wonderful again in Chicago.
15.El Cid Garcia
March 4, 2011 at 8:25 pm
Did anyone notice the coincidence that on the very week Sirhan Sirhan was denied parole (”Get the gun, Rafer!”), Mr. Weigel’s name surfaced?
Mr. Weigel will have a tough time on the weekends competing with Ch. 2’s Mai Martinez, who was forced into sportscasting duty recently and did a splendid job. She did the voiceover on a very exciting Blackhawks game, which ended with a shootout goal by Patrick Kane, I believe, and I daresay that Ms. Martinez had trouble staying on top of the play but did manage to get Kane’s name out before he had showered and left the building. But who needs the actual video anyway? I don’t think there’s anyone in the Ch. 7 sports department who can compete with the flare of Ms. Martinez’s nostrils as she reads the teleprompter.
March 4, 2011 at 8:45 pm
What happened… they couldn’t find another Ponce to do sports ?
(I bet they all throw like girls anyway.)
Seriously, Rafer’s a great choice. Good luck.
March 4, 2011 at 9:36 pm
Congratulations Rafer! They couldn’t have made a better choice! How fitting that the press release came on your father’s birthday. I wish you much success, as it is so well deserved! Welcome home.
March 4, 2011 at 9:47 pm
Everybody’s talking about how proud his dad would be, and I am certain of that…but don’t you think his mom is proud too? Got to give Kathy her propers, too. Rafer is half hers. Good choice.
March 4, 2011 at 10:11 pm
Ellen – RE: “Suddenly nepotism is wonderful again in Chicago.”
Nepotism is the exception, not the rule. There are thousands of people in local media, so yes, you’ll see the names Weigel, Ponce, Jordan, Jiggetts, etc., but you’re still talking about 1% of the total. The other 99% – like me – had no family connection to get a media job. I went to college and the Omega School of Communications. I went from Loyola radio WLUW to CBS intern to entry-level to part-time to full-time. (then back down again!)
March 6, 2011 at 11:14 am
nepotism is the foot in the door, if you don’t have the talent, you don’t make it, see Todd Stroger
March 6, 2011 at 1:56 pm
Tim was a great guy and lots of fun. I hope his kid remembers this. I was fortunate to have played in a couple of Tim’s skits on Channel 7 and get to know him. Great sense of humor!
March 6, 2011 at 6:03 pm
A Ravi and a Rafer all on the same newscast? It’s obviously meant to be.
March 7, 2011 at 2:39 am
#13 I’m with you. I do recall a very bad breakup between Tim and Ch. 7. Maybe amends were made afterwards, but it was pretty bad.
March 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm
YAWN. Nepotism rules.
March 25, 2011 at 6:30 am
I don’t know if any of you every watched him on the Morning Express but Rafer was the only reason I was half way interested in sports. He looked at unusual angles in stories. He made his segments both interesting and engaging. I woke up one morning and he was gone! I asked my husband “where is Rafer?” I discovered this blog hoping to find he was just on vacation. I for one wish him luck.
March 30, 2011 at 7:10 pm
I believe with Rafer taking over Ryan’s spot and keeping Ryan will bring a new trend that a lot of people will continue to watch Channel 7 Chicago news and etc. This is a great move and ratings and fans will be huge. This is going to be fun and refreshing. Rafer is going to be awesome and maybe for sentimental reason the Wiegel’s wieners will be back for old time sakes.