Max Kellerman was laid off by ESPN earlier this summer after his time on First Take ended dramatically, but he can’t stop catching strays.
The latest comments came from First Take host and executive producer Stephen A. Smith, who went on The Joe Budden Podcast and once again blasted Kellerman. More specifically, Smith said the show “flatlined” with Kellerman and that he “didn’t like working” with the longtime ESPNer.
Smith didn’t stop there. He said that because Kellerman did not come up as a journalist or athlete, “the absence of the two components left people wondering ‘why should we listen to you?’”
Smith also clarified he has not spoken to Kellerman since the two stopped cohosting First Take in the summer of 2021.
Starting with leaks shortly after Kellerman’s departure alleging Smith was behind his removal, Smith has gone after Kellerman at least four times publicly. Even after Kellerman was laid off this summer, Smith forgot to include him in a tribute to those leaving ESPN and then ended his later comments on Kellerman leaving ESPN by saying, “although I sincerely doubt he ever will, if he ever called me needing my help, I would not hesitate to help him.”
Between August 2021 and the Budden appearance, Smith has really piled on Kellerman.
He confirmed he was behind Kellerman’s removal a month after the initial leaks.
He leveled up the attacks on Kellerman a few months later, saying, “I think I’ve been proven to be right.”
Even when he’s not addressing Kellerman directly, Smith twists the knife. In a separate story on Budden about Shannon Sharpe joining First Take, Smith reminded listeners that he largely controls the show now.
“I’m at a point in time where if I don’t want you on First Take, you’re not coming on First Take,” Smith told Budden.
Kellerman may have been wrong for the job. Smith has gotten great ratings since winning more control over First Take.
But incessantly rehashing the Kellerman era and taking pot shots seems unnecessary. Especially since Kellerman has not participated in the back-and-forth. He hasn’t even tweeted since leaving ESPN this summer.
Kellerman is currently out of a job while Smith keeps turning their relationship into content.
Maybe that shouldn’t be a surprise. Since launching his podcast, Smith has returned often to the gossip and drama well for content. When the sports news can’t fill every segment, beefing with former cohosts does the job.
Smith can’t have it both ways. His actions already led to Kellerman losing his job, but Smith seems to want to take down Kellerman’s dignity, too. Yet Smith wants everyone to think there are no hard feelings. That’s his recipe with this stuff.
Meanwhile, Kellerman put his head down on his way out. He has yet to return Smith’s constant barrage by firing back at his former co-host.
Smith has gotten everything he could have ever wanted and more from ESPN, including turning First Take into his own personal kingdom. Smith clearly has even bigger ambitions for what’s to come in the future. He gains nothing for continuing to bury Kellerman publicly except for inflating his own ego and turning his vendetta into content. It’s long past time for Smith to move on to another topic, but that’s never been his way.