Pat McAfee has faced a lot of criticism since announcing his surprising deal with ESPN, and Charles Barkley has a strong message for those judging the move.
McAfee’s ESPN announcement has been met with countless questions over whether or not he’ll continue to receive the same freedoms he enjoys as an independent podcast host. Barkley joined The Pat McAfee Show Friday afternoon and upon congratulating the podcast host on his ESPN deal, which will begin this fall, the NBA analyst also told McAfee to ignore the critics.
“Tell em to shut the fuck up” ~ Charles Barkley
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) May 26, 2023
“I’m happy for your success,” Barkley said. “And hey, listen. I was watching you last week and you said people are giving you a hard time for taking your new deal. Tell them to shut the f*ck up. Hey, who don’t take a better f*cking job? Tell them to shut the f*ck up! I just laugh, who the f*ck don’t take a better job?”
It’s a little surprising to hear Barkley support McAfee’s move to ESPN considering some of the shots he’s taken at the Worldwide Leader recently. This week alone, Barkley ripped ESPN multiple times for repeatedly bowing to LeBron James and the Lakers. And earlier this year, Barkley accused people of suffering from “ESPN disease” after joining the Mothership, which he described as a sort of bug where hosts and analysts feel pressure to say something provocative for engagement.
As an analyst routinely lauded for being unfiltered, Barkley recognizes the importance of working for a company who grants their talent freedom from the establishment, which is where most of the concern for McAfee’s deal stems from. Several former ESPN employees have criticized the Disney-owned sports network for placing limits on talent not named Stephen A. Smith. Even Barkley’s Inside the NBA co-analyst, Shaquille O’Neal, has touted his own decision to choose TNT as his post-playing home over ESPN, citing concerns similar to what McAfee’s loyal fans have.
“My worst day at Turner would be a good day,” O’Neal said during the HBO docuseries SHAQ. “My worst day at ESPN would cause me to get fired.”
Maybe Barkley wouldn’t have an issue abiding by stricter rules surrounding his brashness if it meant a bigger paycheck. While flirting with LIV Golf last summer, Barkley joked he would “kill a relative” for the type of money that’s been shelled out by the Saudi-funded tour. Surely that means he’d be willing to toe the company line at ESPN for the right dollar amount.
McAfee can follow Barkley’s advice and tell critics of his ESPN deal to “shut the f*ck up,” but the only way to truly silence those criticisms is by going to the Worldwide Leader and following through on his promise to be the same host on ESPN that he is off it.