Bob Ley Bob Ley

Bob Ley might support ESPN’s addition of Pat McAfee, but he doesn’t support McAfee publicly calling out longtime executive Norby Williamson.

Ley, who officially retired from ESPN in 2019 after nearly 40 years with the network, joined the latest episode of Jimmy Traina’s Sports Illustrated Media Podcast for an all-encompassing interview. After discussing the inevitable intersection of sports and politics during an election year, the conversation pivoted to McAfee, who doesn’t always stick to sports on his weekday ESPN show.

“The McAfee hire made all the sense in the world,” Ley said, citing the fact that McAfee is able to bridge the gap between different age demographics. “It’s out of the box thinking… change happens. It’s inevitable and you have to adapt.

“What I just found disquieting, was the stuff calling out individuals by name,” Ley continued. “Including one that I’ve known for 40 years who has always dealt with me honestly and forthrightly. And I don’t know all these incidents, but I think Pat’s a smart guy and I think he’s better than his less than great moments that we’ve seen.”

The one who was always honest and forthright with Ley for 40 years is Norby Williamson. Earlier this year, McAfee labeled Williamson a “rat” and an “old hag” while accusing the longtime ESPN executive of attempting to “sabotage” his show by spinning narratives and leaking them to the media. Throughout his ESPN tenure, Williamson has always been an advocate of traditional SportsCenter, which was bumped from the noon timeslot last year in favor of McAfee.

During an appearance on All The Smoke with Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes last month, McAfee fueled his war with ESPN executives and said calling Williamson a “rat” was just “a warning shot.” McAfee implied Williamson isn’t the only “suit” he has an issue with, saying, “I’m a f****** a****** to those suits, too. They do not like me.”

It’s fair to assume Ley considers McAfee’s latest rant on ESPN suits one of his “less than great moments.” Ley is not part of the “suits” McAfee was attacking, but the former ESPN reporter and sports anchor remains part of the network’s “old school.”

Williamson may have been honest and forthright with Ley, but clearly, it doesn’t seem like the ESPN executive is that way with everyone. And if Williamson or other ESPN suits are attempting to sabotage The Pat McAfee Show, it’s reasonable to assume he will fight back. Still, McAfee might benefit from picking his battles instead of igniting every battle.

McAfee has more power than most at ESPN because of the way his contract is structured. He does not have to answer to the traditional chain of command at ESPN. Instead, McAfee has direct lines to Jimmy Pitaro and even Bob Iger. But McAfee shouldn’t need to continuously flex that power.

[Sports Illustrated Media Podcast]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to