Former ESPN President John Skipper has spoken publicly for the first time about his exit from the worldwide leader in sports. In a lengthy conversation with James Andrew Miller of the Hollywood Reporter, Skipper attributes his departure to an extortion plot.
Among the noteworthy comments offered by Skipper were an acknowledgement that he’s gone to therapy and received treatment for his lifelong battle with substance abuse. Skipper said his vice was cocaine, but he never got high at work or allowed it to interfere with his responsibilities of overseeing ESPN. He added that his usage was very infrequent
When pressed by Miller for clarity on whether or not he was forced to resign by Disney CEO Bob Iger, Skipper said he made the call himself after placing Iger in an untenable position. He confirmed that they spoke on Friday afternoon December 15th and his exit from the company was announced just three days later. When asked if he had considered resigning earlier in the week (Wednesday December 13th) when he spoke about the state of the company to a room full of ESPN employees, he said he had not.
Miller then pressed Skipper to explain how such a life altering decision could manifest itself within the span of 48 hours. Skipper opened up and admitted that someone from whom he had purchased cocaine attempted to extort him, leading him to face the reality that his time at ESPN was about to expire.
After being threatened, and put in a position to think about how the exposure could hurt his family and career, Skipper shared the details with his family. He then reached out to Iger, who felt the company had been put in a no-win situation, with the best solution being for Skipper to step down.
Given the circumstances, Skipper said he felt it was the only decision that made sense for all involved. He blamed himself for using poor judgement, and when asked by Miller why he couldn’t have just admitted the issue publicly and taken a leave of absence to get himself clean, Skipper said he didn’t ask for that outcome and had been overwhelmed by the situation. After talking to Iger and coming to terms with how he had put the company in a compromised position, it was made clear what his next steps needed to be.
The conversation then advanced to the rumors of sexual harassment being a factor in his exit from the company. Skipper categorically denied any involvement in such incidents and said that his behavior towards women at ESPN was always respectful. He mentioned that when he announced his resignation, his statement was written to make it clear that his exit was related to substance issue problems, and unrelated to anything surrounding harassment, settled lawsuits or any internal indiscretions.
Prior to announcing his exit, Skipper said he spent the weekend agonizing over what was about to occur. He said he was filled with great regret and tension, didn’t eat, wasn’t sleeping, and had become despondent.
When Monday rolled around, Skipper said he was in New York City when the news was revealed publicly. He said he rarely cries, but did so that day because he understood what he had done to himself, his family, and the company. He spoke about his disappointment of people he cared about and enjoyed working with having to find out about his departure thru a press release, and felt terrible about letting them down.
After spending 27 years with the company, Skipper blamed himself for creating a situation which undoubtedly stained his legacy. He did tell Miller that he would like to get back into the business and do things that matter. He feels he has no choice but to make the best of a bad ending, and intends to do so moving forward. The former ESPN president confirmed that he’s healthy, in a better state of mind, and has taken a few meetings to discuss future possibilities.
To close out the interview, Skipper said new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro is someone he likes very much, and considers a talented and smart executive. He feels Pitaro’s style will be a great fit for ESPN, and added “I hope he does better than the last guy!”
Lauren Shehadi: Ernie Johnson Is The Model For Studio Hosts
“To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness.”
In addition to her job at MLB Network being a host on MLB Central, Lauren Shehadi is hosting TBS’s Tuesday night baseball coverage each week with Jimmy Rollins, Curtis Granderson, and Pedro Martinez. The Tuesday night games are new for Turner Sports this year after doing only Sunday games during the regular season in addition to the network’s postseason coverage.
Shehadi was a guest on The Kyle Koster Show this week and she was asked what the goal was for her with the MLB on TBS Tuesday broadcasts. She takes a lot of inspiration from what she sees on Inside The NBA on TNT.
“I always think about Ernie Johnson in the same building. To me, he’s the greatest in-studio host. What he does best is facilitate greatness. He gets the most out of Shaq and Kenny [Smith] and Charles [Barkley]. If there’s no ego involved, it’s all about how the show can be so great.
“You look at him and you think how can I be like that? You want to be authentic and be yourself, but in the sense of getting the best out of your guys and girls that you talk to every day. That was my goal going in, Be authentic.”
Shehadi said she gets to spend a lot of time with Johnson and the rest of the Turner Sports crew. Tuesday nights tend to be something of a corporate family reunion.
“On Tuesday nights, we all sit in a room and we all watch NBA, MLB, and NHL when it’s on. We get Shaq’s reaction to Sandy Alcantara’s slider in real-time. What we see from Inside The NBA is when they do demos. When they get up and walk and they are casual and they do little bits, that’s what we try to take to our show, but we want it to feel authentic.”
When Shehadi isn’t hosting Turner Sports’ baseball coverage, she is a part of MLB Central every weekday on MLB Network with Robert Flores and Mark DeRosa. On that show, the goal for her is how to make baseball relatable to everyone:
“That’s the sweet spot of MLB Central. No question is silly. Nobody is smarter than the other. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh at each other. It is just a fun 4 hours, grab your coffee, let’s talk the game, let’s laugh because life is short and baseball is fun.”
AT&T Sportsnet’s Kelsey Wingert Shows Off Stitches After Being Drilled Line Drive
“The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.”
Baseball reporters at the regional level have some of the toughest jobs in all of sports. Not only do they cover each for all 162 games, but there’s always the potential for getting drilled by a foul ball.
While all MLB ball clubs have expanded their netting this season to protect fans sitting close to the field, Rockies sideline reporter Kelsey Wingert suffered a nasty injury via a foul ball earlier this week.
A scary incident took place on Monday’s outing against the Rockies and San Francisco Giants at Coors Field in Denver. In the ninth inning, Giants outfielder Austin Slater hit a foul ball off Daniel Bard, with the ball heading straight to the dugout, right where Wingert was standing while reporting for AT&T Sportsnet.
After getting attended to by the Rockies medical staff and walking it off, giving fans a “thumbs up,” Wingert ended up having to go to the hospital where she received multiple stitches to her forehead.
The 29-year-old reporter took to Twitter on Wednesday to express her gratitude towards the Rockies organization and AT&T Sportsnet general manager David Woodman, who along with his wife Paula, stayed by her side at the hospital.
“I had a CT scan to make sure there was no internal bleeding or fractures and all came back clear. Thank God,” Wingert said on Twitter Wednesday. “The stitches will have to come out in a week. I’m very lucky it wasn’t worse. It was just really scary and bummed me out given the circumstances.”
You would think this was the first time Wingert got hit by a ball but back in 2018 while working for Fox Sports and the Atlanta Braves she was struck by a foul ball while standing near a camera past the Braves dugout, resulting in a fractured eye socket.
Wingert retweeted a photo taken of her black eye after returning home where she made light of what could’ve been an awful occurrence.
While recovering from her wound, Wingert will be taking a few games off. The veteran reporter is expected to get married in June. Doctors are “hoping” the scar doesn’t effect her big day.
Greg Olsen To Partner With Kevin Burkhardt For Super Bowl LVII
“Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.”
The deal isn’t done yet, but Andrew Marchand of The New York Post reports that Greg Olsen is on his way to joining Kevin Burkhardt in the top NFL booth at FOX. Although Tom Brady will take over that role after he retires and leaves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Olsen will spend at least this season on FOX’s A-Team.
Last season was the first Burkhardt and Olsen worked together. They largely won rave reviews.
Earlier this year, the former Panther told The Mac Attack on WFNZ in Charlotte that he was disappointed he didn’t get to call a postseason game. He will more than make up for that in 2023. As Burkhardt’s partner, Olsen is in line to be the analyst for Super Bowl LVII.
Marchand writes that we could get a taste of what is to come in February. He speculates that if the Buccaneers are not in the Super Bowl, it is possible Tom Brady could make his FOX debut, either in the booth alongside Kevin Burkhardt and Greg Olsen or as part of the network’s studio show.
Now, FOX has to make a decision about it’s number 2 NFL booth. According to Marchand, Drew Brees is a candidate to be the analyst. Adam Amin and Joe Davis have emerged as candidates for the play-by-play role.