As expected following his comments earlier in the week, new ESPN personality Pat McAfee wound up doing a monologue at the ESPYS Wednesday night. And he used some of that time to take a shot at Brett Favre, who famously filed defamation lawsuits against both McAfee and then-Fox personality Shannon Sharpe (in separate cases) for their comments about Favre and the Mississippi welfare scandal. McAfee also briefly brought up Sharpe’s former FS1 Undisputed sparring partner, Skip Bayless. Here’s that:
That one was for me.. AND Shannon Sharpe
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) July 13, 2023
“We apologize, the sports world obviously isn’t perfect. Sue us. Don’t actually. Shoutout Brett Favre. That was for me, that was for me. And Shannon Sharpe. Shoutout, Skip, that one was for you too.”
Favre eventually dropped his suit against McAfee in May, with McAfee saying no settlement was paid (but with him offering an on-air apology for the misunderstanding, saying his remarks were only based on others’ reports, and saying his remarks were “in a comedic style”). But he has continued his lawsuit against Sharpe, which is currently in federal court in Mississippi. Favre has maintained that Sharpe’s comments on Undisputed last September were significantly different from other commentators’ discussion of the welfare saga, particularly “Brett Favre is taking from the underserved,” “[Favre] stole money from people that really needed that money,” and “The problem that I have with this situation, you’ve got to be a sorry mofo to steal from the lowest of the low.”
Favre’s legal team has also argued that the “hyperbole” defense figures like Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow have previously used in some defamation cases shouldn’t apply to Sharpe. Here’s some of that argument from a court filing last month in opposition to Sharpe’s team’s motion to dismiss, via Michael McCann of Sportico:
Favre argues these statements are defamatory in that they suggest Favre committed larceny and possibly other crimes. These statements also, allegedly, imply Favre is in the same legal predicament as others in the scandal who (unlike Favre) were criminally charged.
..Favre maintains that even if Sharpe’s comments were shaped by the civil suit and the unflattering media coverage, and even if Sharpe was performing on a cable sports debate show where hosts are supposed to stir the pot, none of that gives him a “license to defame.”
…Favre also contrasts Sharpe to Carlson. Former Playboy magazine model Karen McDougal sued Fox News after Carlson made comments regarding alleged payments to keep her supposed relationship with former President Donald Trump quiet. “Remember the facts of the story,” Carlson said. “These are undisputed. Two women approached Donald Trump and threatened to ruin his career and humiliate his family if he doesn’t give them money. Now, that sounds like a classic case of extortion.”
The court dismissed McDougal’s lawsuit, finding that Carlson was merely engaging in a routine performance involving “rhetorical hyperbole and opinion commentary intended to frame a political debate,” and he was relying on what other media reported. Favre argues that Sharpe’s remarks were not made as part of an analogous routine performance and that Sharpe enlarged Favre’s controversy to accuse him of a criminal act.
Much still remains to be decided in that lawsuit. And it’s also unclear what’s ahead for Sharpe on the TV side, who reached a buyout agreement to leave Undisputed last month amid reported tensions with Bayless. But McAfee has previously praised him and even spoken publicly about trying to get him to ESPN.
Sharpe has hinted that he’s working on a new media project, and he’s also hinted that he plans to return to morning TV in some fashion. We’ll see what that comes to, and if it includes anything with ESPN. But thanks to McAfee, he did wind up with an on-air shoutout at ESPN Wednesday.
[Pat McAfee on Twitter]