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Pat McAfee Asks Audience to ‘Please Have Faith’ in ESPN Move

“The conversation with the powers that be at ESPN right now and at Disney all had the same exact line up.”

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Pat McAfee

On Tuesday at The Walt Disney Company Upfront in New York City, it was announced that Pat McAfee is taking his digital show to ESPN. The reported eight-figure deal is unique in scope, as his show will air live on linear television and stream on ESPN’s YouTube channel simultaneously.

Prior to the conclusion of “Up to Something Season” being divulged, McAfee made sure to thank the fans of the show for believing him, and he is excited for the next chapter of the show. Yet there is also a deluge of people who believe McAfee and his show are “selling out” in going to ESPN, despite stating that the only change the show is making aside from operating in a block format is limiting its explicit language.

“I would also like a little bit of faith,” McAfee said on his show Wednesday. “Look at everything that I’ve been a part of – pretty much like everything. [It is a] little bit different, probably, than what other people have been a part of. No offense to anybody else, but the way my conversations normally go with people [are] a little bit different than how they normally go. The conversation with the powers that be at ESPN right now and at Disney all had the same exact line up.”

ESPN is home to a broad catalog of enticing content produced by a variety of studio and shoulder programming, including Get Up, First Take, College GameDay and Around the Horn among others. McAfee’s show has an unconventional approach in that it is more conversational and less formal in its structure, apropos to younger demographics predicated on instant gratification and evident dynamism. With McAfee’s show presumably slated to start the afternoons on ESPN – potential changes to the morning lineup notwithstanding – he hopes to alter the sports media ecosystem for years to come.

“Sports media has really been like one particular thing for a very long time,” McAfee said. “I know there’s people that do different things other than debate, but the debate era certainly became a thing in sports media and debates naturally lead to division and nitpicking and tearing people down…They start trying to mimic that and that’s become sports media pretty much.”

Rather than promulgating contentiousness, McAfee and his show want sports to act as a unifying force rather than an additional means of division. The host acknowledged that his program has people across the broad political spectrum.

“I think we have a real opportunity here to change sports media as a whole,” McAfee said. “Just like Stephen A. and Skip had success and everybody wanted to replicate it, if we’re able to get in there and showcase that, ‘Hey, you’re able to cover sports in a celebratory fashion; in a way that you’re happy for people as opposed to trying to prove why people shouldn’t be in the position that they’re in.’ I think there’s a chance that that could maybe ooze to other decisions that are being made.”

With the move to ESPN, McAfee is cognizant that the company will receive acclaim and pushback from its viewers, and is appreciative of them putting up with it. Even though the transition will have somewhat of an adjustment period for everyone involved, McAfee and his cast know they will be able to present an informative and innovative multiplatform show for everyone in the United States and abroad.

“Please have faith that we will be able to produce a show that is entertaining and still is so in our spirit,” McAfee implored, “because that is literally what the entire conversation was.”

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Stephen A. Smith: Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson ‘Were Truly an A-Team’

“They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

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Stephen A. Smith
Courtesy: Evan Angelastro, GQ

Jeff Van Gundy, former NBA head coach and television analyst for ESPN, has agreed to a deal to become the lead assistant coach for the LA Clippers, according to a report by ESPN senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski. Van Gundy worked as a consultant for the Boston Celtics this past season, which recently culminated in the 18th title in the history of the organization.

Prior to that time, he worked alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson as part of the lead broadcasting team for the NBA on ESPN, forming a trio that called 15 NBA Finals together. Stephen A. Smith, the featured commentator and executive producer of First Take and analyst on NBA Countdown, recently discussed the reports of Van Gundy joining the Clippers’ coaching staff on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show.

Smith conveyed that he thought Van Gundy may receive an interview for the head coaching role with the Los Angeles Lakers, but that changed upon the report of him joining the Clippers. Van Gundy was laid off by ESPN as a part of cost-cutting measures at the network, and Jackson was let go by the network one month later. In a statement last year, ESPN expressed that these decisions were difficult and “based more on overall efficiency than merit,” but would help the company meet its “financial targets and ensure future growth.”

Smith spoke on his relationship with his former colleagues and prefaced his remarks by saying he was not throwing any shade on Mike Breen, Doris Burke and JJ Redick, the new lead broadcasting team for the network that recently called the 2024 NBA Finals.

“This is not about anything like that,” Smith said. “This is about the fact that Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were truly an A-team. They were exceptional at their jobs, they were riveting in a lot of ways. They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

During his remarks, Smith expressed that Van Gundy and his brother Stan were good people and also sent his heartfelt condolences to the family upon learning that Stan Van Gundy’s wife passed away as a result of suicide. Stan Van Gundy recently spoke about the loss on an episode of South Beach Sessions with Meadowlark Media co-founder and host Dan Le Batard. Smith then continued to speak on Jeff Van Gundy by expressing that he deserves to do what he wants in the game of basketball.

“I respect the hell out of Jeff and I’m very fond of him, but there’s one thing that we all have to understand, and nobody speaks about this because everybody talks about stuff as unfair and, ‘He got let go,’” Smith explained. “In the world of business, when cuts take place, cuts take place. There’s hundreds of people who lost their jobs, and it wasn’t just at ESPN or at Disney. Have you seen what happened at Meta? Have you seen what has happened in places like Apple and Amazon and other places?”

Although Smith expressed that he is not saying job cuts are right and instead called them “downright cruel,” he questioned when the world of business has been known to be anything otherwise. Smith was sad to see Van Gundy and Jackson leave the network, but he shared that he is not concerned about them recovering because of their reputations and the opportunities that will come in their direction. Moreover, he expressed that it would not be as easy for other people, articulating that it would be more daunting for them to find their footing if they were to lose their roles.

“I work with special people with my day job at ESPN, but nothing’s guaranteed,” Smith said. “Nobody is safe. That includes me, and I’m speaking from experience. Remember, I got fired in 2009. Take nothing for granted in the world of business ladies and gentlemen. No one’s ever safe in this day and age. Numbers make calls, not just people. Numbers dictate a lot.”

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NASCAR to Continue ‘Radioactive’ on YouTube

“We get to listen in to the conversations between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters and it would always get interesting.”

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Graphic for the Radioactive segment from NASCAR Race Hub on FS1
Screengrab: NASCAR Race Hub

NASCAR Race Hub, the daily studio show which debuted in October 2009 and just came to an end on June 11 will have part of its show live on. The very popular ‘Radioactive’ segment the show would do weekly will now become a feature on the NASCAR YouTube channel and run on FOX’s social and digital channels according to a report from Adam Stern of Sports Business Journal.

The segment would typically last four to six minutes and would feature the best audio from the team in-car radios.

On the final episode of Race Hub, host Shannon Spake introduced the final on-air ‘Radioactive’ by saying, “One of the staples of Hub happened every single Tuesday, a little segment we like to call ‘Radioactive.’ We get to listen in to the conversations between drivers, crew chiefs and spotters and it would always get interesting.”

In a story posted by On3’s Nick Geddes, he includes a quote from Denny Hamlin from his podcast about the end of Race Hub:

“… Let’s just say, my intuition says it’s going to get replaced with something, whether it be NASCAR or one of the new partners or something, but I don’t love getting off of FS1 for an hour a week. I don’t love it, but it’s not our decision. What I understood too, that was a real money-loss for FOX. They spent quite a bit of money, per year, putting that on. It was a net negative. So yeah, everyone’s got a business to run.”

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Dan Le Batard: TNT Sports Will Try and Talk Charles Barkley Out of Retirement

“He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

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Dan Le Batard
Courtesy: Derek Futterman, Barrett Sports Media

Charles Barkley, studio analyst for TNT Sports and former NBA Hall of Fame forward, announced that he would be retiring from television after 25 years on the air upon the conclusion of the 2024-25 NBA season. The topic was a subject of discussion on Monday’s edition of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz, an announcement that Le Batard conveyed that Barkley made in his own way with different people than the group with whom he normally broadcasts.

Barkley has made several media appearances outside of his Warner Bros. Discovery obligations pertaining to the future of NBA media rights with TNT, during which he has spoken candidly about his sentiments on the negotiations. Within those interviews, Barkley revealed that he has an opt-out in his 10-year contract should the company lose NBA rights and also criticized executives with the company after not closing a deal within its exclusive 90-day negotiating window as an incumbent rightsholder.

“It was really an unusual place for him in the middle of the night after a game to just tell everybody, ‘And I’ve decided to retire,’ and then TNT’s statement is, ‘We’re going to discuss all of this with Charles. He just caught us off guard,’ and Charles can say whatever that he wants, but they’re going to try to talk him out of this,” Dan Le Batard explained, “and at the very least, that’s not the way they wanted him to do it, and of course, Charles Barkley doesn’t care how you want him to do it.”

The NBA is reportedly in the process of formalizing new media rights deals with The Walt Disney Company (ESPN/ABC), NBCUniversal, and Amazon’s Prime Video. If Warner Bros. Discovery is unable to reach a deal with the NBA, it would mark the end of NBA live game broadcasts on Turner-owned properties, which have been telecasting the games since the 1984-85 campaign. Stugotz is not sure if Barkley will follow through on his retirement announcement and concurred that it was an atypical setting to deliver the career decision.

“I think Barkley is emotional right now – I think they’re all emotional – they should be,” Weiner said. “I’m not certain that Charles Barkley, because he’s going to have so many offers and so many opportunities be it at Turner or ESPN or elsewhere, I’m not certain if he’s just caught up in the emotion or he’s actually going to go through with it.”

There had been rumors several years ago of Barkley joining LIV Golf and potentially leaving Warner Bros. Discovery; however, that did not materialize into any kind of deal. Barkley ended the conversations with the golf tour and affirmed that he would be staying with the Turner Sports division for the remainder of his broadcast career. While he was making his retirement announcement, he revealed that he had spoken to other networks and did not want to be contacted for interviews on the matter.

“The amount of pressure that Barkley must feel to keep the whole thing together as it falls apart because he’s the centerpiece of the whole thing and if they lose the rights and Ernie doesn’t want to leave and the show gets ruined, he doesn’t want to do it in some distorted form,” Le Batard said. “I do believe Stugotz’s analysis is right. He’s tired of being emotional about this, and he just went emotion from the hip.”

Show producer Mike Ryan offered the possibility that Barkley could be creating significant leverage by announcing his retirement at this time. With a year to go until the expiration of the existing NBA media rights contract, he will effectively have a year-long farewell, but he has spoken about retirement in the past and ended up re-signing with the network. The possibility of Warner Bros. Discovery landing an NBA package of some kind is also said to still exist, leading Ryan to ask Le Batard if he thinks Barkley would reconsider his decision if it came to fruition.

“I don’t know because I think predicting his behavior can be very difficult because it hasn’t been hinting at retirement,” Dan Le Batard said. “He has been talking publicly and privately about actually retiring at the age of 60, and he did surprise me when he signed another contract at the age of 60 because of how he’s been talking about that for a while. He does want to slow down the amount of obligations that he has, but he hasn’t been able to do it for whatever the reasons.”

Dan Le Batard said the rationale of Barkley deciding not to slow down in television spanned beyond fiscal compensation. At the moment, Barkley seems to be trying to create public leverage, according to Le Batard, when, with his new contract, he could be doing it privately and still have such leverage.

Producer Billy Gil also mentioned that ego could be involved and finds it difficult to believe Barkley would just disappear from television and no longer express his opinions.

“Billy, you think he’s not going to have other options to do whatever the hell he wants the moment he walks?,” Dan Le Batard asked. “….He could create whatever job that he wishes to create on his own time. He’s got maximum freedom.”

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