ESPN is Firing Everyone

ESPN is laying off some of its biggest stars, including Jeff Van Gundy and Jalen Rose, in a purge that is expected to result in around 20 on-air personalities being let go Friday as the network hopes to save tens of millions of dollars, The Post has learned.

Andrew Marchand’s report for the NY Post this morning about ESPN’s layoffs is shocking to say the least. Around 20 on-air personalities, many of which have been with ESPN for 10 or more years, are getting fired. Several of these on-air personalities are synonymous with ESPN, it’s hard to imagine how the network is going to replace these people.

Jeff Van Gundy doesn’t make any sense to me. I love the TNT crew of Shaq, Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley and Ernie Johnson, they’re easily the best pre-game, halftime, and post-game panel; but in terms of play-by-play and color commentators, there is no one I’d rather listen to on National broadcasts than Mike Breen, JVG and Mark Jackson. I’m probably a little biased because all of those men are connected to the Knicks in some way, but I think the majority of NBA viewers would agree it doesn’t get much better than that trio. Unless ESPN elects to default to a two-man (or women) broadcast team, it’s going to be pretty awkward for whoever tries to fill JVG’s shoes, who was with the network for 16 years.

The other name of note to hit the chopping block so far this Friday is Jalen Rose, a member of NBA Countdown and someone who has been with the network for 15 years. As Marchand notes in his article, if you aren’t Stephen A. Smith, Troy Aikman, Joe Buck or Scott Van Pelt, you’re expendable at this point.

I have two trains of thought here: first, some of the on-air personalities were making entirely too much money, and not having very popular tv shows or radio shows. For example: Max Kellerman, Jay Williams, and Keyshawn Johnson are all probably done at ESPN. I liked Kellerman on First Take, but I haven’t been privy to his new show that much, or his radio show. Kellerman and Johnson are gone, and Williams contract is up. I can wrap my head around a decision like this.

However, and this goes to my second point, it is absolutely outrageous that ESPN is firing all of these people, only to turn around and pay Pat McAfee $17 million per year. I’ll say it now and I’ll say it loud: that show is not going to pull in the numbers you think it will, Disney. McAfee had a very popular show on FanDuel TV, where he was able to talk about mainly football, and other areas of interest, with basically zero censorship. I don’t see a path where McAfee’s show ends up being worth the money for a major network like ESPN, but I’ve been wrong before (not often, though). 

I just don’t see ESPN’s vision as a network. You’re firing expensive, long-time on-air talent (Rose, JVG), only to hire new, expensive on-air talent (McAfee). It’s obvious they’re leaning in heavily with sports betting, like most sports networks and platforms. That’s part of the reason for the McAfee hire.

It’s a guarantee there will be other names of note that I basically grew up watching on ESPN get fired, so to them I say, “May the odds ever be in your favor.”

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