Dan Le Batard Credit: The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz

While at ESPN, Dan Le Batard had his own problems with Norby Williamson, the former production head who was fired Friday after a public feud with star host Pat McAfee.

Le Batard reacted to Williamson’s dismissal Friday on his own show, praising McAfee’s boldness and arguing that ESPN’s decision to part ways with Williamson shows the worldwide leader is “a little big afraid” of McAfee.

“He blew up a four year, $120 million deal to take this one at ESPN, and everyone thinks it’s going to fail,” Le Batard said. “But they’re letting him do whatever he wants. They’re all a little bit afraid of him, and he’s not afraid of anybody.”

While the decision to fire Williamson was made by ESPN content president Burke Magnus, Le Batard argued it’s really top talent like McAfee and Stephen A. Smith who have all the leverage now.

“Pat McAfee and Stephen A. Smith have some sort of unprecedented power in the history of the place to call out an executive by name who runs the place and shortly thereafter, the executive is gone,” Le Batard said. “That’s (a) real and substantive shift of brand power.”

Williamson was not a fan of The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz when it was ESPN Radio’s national midday show and aired on ESPNEWS in the late-2010s. Le Batard frequently accuses Williamson of sabotaging their show and leaking negative info before it left ESPN in 2021, just like McAfee did in January. And Williamson was quoted in the release on the end of Le Batard’s time there.

So the Meadowlark Media founder could not help but take a victory lap.

“For him to be run off as a lifer at ESPN, this is a crushing loss for him that your last public act was to get totally undressed by Pat McAfee, who ends up winning today because the only reason people know your name is because he called you a rat,” Le Batard said of Williamson. “And a few months later, he’s more powerful than ever, and you’re now gone.”

Le Batard also lamented that other star personalities at the network (like himself) did not pull a power move like McAfee sooner.

“I blame myself for not realizing what McAfee realized, which is when you have the power of the president behind you … that that would create a fearlessness that you can then trample just about anybody who’s wronging you because you have the backing of the most powerful people in the place,” he said. “I wasn’t quite smart enough to see that I could have created a good deal more unrest, but I wasn’t trying to get anyone fired.”

Le Batard certainly has a point about how much ESPN needs McAfee and Smith at this point in its history. The business is evolving and in order to drive attention toward its network and streaming platforms, ESPN needs personalities like those two delivering exclusive, can’t-miss content.

Still, to the extent McAfee won a power struggle against Williamson, that is likely just as much about what McAfee represents as his presence specifically. McAfee gives ESPN a skeleton key to a younger, digital-first audience, and he is a workhorse. Obviously it helps that he seems to have a close relationship with Magnus, ESPN chair Jimmy Pitaro and even Disney CEO Bob Iger.

But McAfee is no different than other star talent in the past. He is valuable to ESPN because of what he is as a worker, and that can change. Just like it did for Le Batard — and Williamson.

[The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz]

About Brendon Kleen

Brendon is a Media Commentary staff writer at Awful Announcing. He has also covered basketball and sports business at Front Office Sports, SB Nation, Uproxx and more.