Kenny Mayne talked to John Gonzalez of The Ringer in a great piece that touches on Mayne’s time at ESPN, his departure from the company, and his future, among other topics.
One part that jumped out at me was when Mayne discussed tweeting while at ESPN, claiming there was some sort of watch list that various personalities were on. Mayne also alleges that he got a call from ESPN exec Norby Williamson following this tweet in the aftermath of President Trump’s annual physical.
President’s doc just hand timed me in the 40 at 4.21 in Snoop Dogg slippers.
— Kenny Mayne (@Kenny_Mayne) January 17, 2018
He admits that since he left ESPN he’s been more “forthright,” which anyone reading his tweets or talking to him would take to mean blunt and even confrontational when it comes to politics. At ESPN, he often held back. He says he called it “shooting from beyond the Jemele line”—referring to his former ESPN colleague Jemele Hill, who left the company after several well-publicized run-ins with management over her frequent, unapologetic, and unsparing criticisms of Trump and the GOP.
Mayne admits that he didn’t have the same courage as Hill. He says he didn’t want to get fired, and besides, “They were clearly threatening some of us, me particularly.” He says he was “definitely on the watch list. They told me so: ‘There’s a group of people that watch your Twitter.’”
“Like when Trump’s stupid physical came out,” Mayne says. “Remember? ‘He’s going to be in great health for 30 more years.’ That’s not what a doctor says. So I made a joke, something like, ‘The president’s doctor just timed me at 4.1 in the 40 wearing Snoop Dogg slippers.’ I think that’s a good joke. It’s making fun of the doctor, not making fun of the president—directly.’”
So how’d that go over?
“Not well,” he says. “I got a Norby call on that one.”
Mayne doesn’t think ESPN wanted to get rid of him because of his percolating political leanings, but he’s pretty sure it didn’t help. He says he remembers Williamson asking him one time, “Why do you have to do the politics?” And he replied, “Because I have four daughters and a wife and I want to look at myself in the mirror.”
Gonzalez reached out to ESPN for comment about the watch list, Mayne’s politics, and Williamson’s “do the politics” comment. Their only statement was a generic message about Mayne’s time at ESPN.
“Kenny was a key figure in building ESPN. We’ll always be grateful for his creativity, passion and work ethic. We wish him continued success.”
In my opinion, I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong for a company to monitor its employees’ social media activity (despite the inevitable big brother comments that will pop up here). But if there’s truly a watch list, and some employees’ activity is being more strenuously monitored than others, then that is begging for issues down the road.
Mayne also discussed some of his future plans in the feature. Following his brief stint with NBC during the Olympics, Mayne is in talks with Caesars about a potential role with the company. Additionally, Mayne has some sort of collaboration with Marshawn Lynch in the works, and the standard conversations with Meadowlark Media are happening.