Pat McAfee takes down Norby Williamson Credit: The Pat McAfee Show

Simmering tensions between Pat McAfee and ESPN hit a boil this week on the heels of a wild interview with New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

On Friday, McAfee cut straight to the chase by accusing a longtime and high-ranking ESPN executive of “sabotage.”

Speaking at the opening of the streaming-exclusive final hour of The Pat McAfee Show, the host explained why he believes ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Norby Williamson is trying to take down the show.

“There are folks actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN,” McAfee said. “More specifically, I believe Norby Williamson is the guy attempting to sabotage our program.”

McAfee’s comments came on the heels of a conversation about the show’s viewership, which was announced late Friday. He believes a recent New York Post article calling out McAfee’s ratings as not good enough to be worth the controversy he brings stemmed from Williamson leaking numbers.

“That is seemingly the only human that has information, and then somehow that information gets leaked and it’s wrong and then it sets a narrative of what our show is,” McAfee added. “And then are we just going to combat that from a rat every single time?”

ESPN executives would know that an announcement of PMS viewership was coming Friday (which it eventually did). And McAfee believes Williamson got out in front of that to harm him.

“Somebody tried to get ahead of our actual ratings release with wrong numbers 12 hours beforehand,” McAfee said. “That’s a sabotage attempt, and it’s been happening … from some people who didn’t necessarily love the old addition of The Pat McAfee Show to the ESPN family.”

McAfee also explained why he personally dislikes Williamson, saying that when he was first venturing into media, Williamson ghosted him during a scheduled meeting.

“That guy left me in his office for 45 minutes, no-showed me in 2018,” McAfee said. “So that guy has had no respect for me, and in return same thing to him, for a long time.”

In closing, McAfee said that despite in-house feuding and executives potentially trying to hold PMS back, the show is growing. He pointed out that it is the biggest podcast in Disney history and continues to rake in massive numbers on YouTube and TikTok, where it streams daily alongside the ESPN simulcast.

Many warned of folks like Williamson (or Williamson specifically) stifling McAfee with their agendas. When McAfee announced the show’s move to ESPN, Dan Le Batard offered a very sincere congratulations along with a warning of ESPN’s limits. And Jemele Hill responded to an Awful Announcing tweet transcribing McAfee’s comments alleging she suffered the same fate at the hands of Williamson.

Given Hill herself explained just this week the harshest crime an ESPN personality can commit is going after a fellow ESPNer, these comments from McAfee are sure to deepen his hole at the company. But he clearly doesn’t care.

Considering Disney CEO Bob Iger himself pursued McAfee originally and introduced him as part of the Disney family personally earlier this year, the brash host certainly has friends in high places. It appears to many to be an open secret that Williamson conspires against talent he doesn’t like. And PMS is clearly a valuable property, no matter the leaker’s attempts to paint a problem with the poor television ratings.

Still, these types of controversies typically come with punishment. ESPN probably can’t let McAfee attack an executive on its airwaves (the streaming hour is also on ESPN+) without any sort of consequence.

What began with Rodgers going after Jimmy Kimmel has ended with an even bigger divide between McAfee and ESPN management that doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

[The Pat McAfee Show on YouTube]

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.