Pat McAfee on Robert Kraft Credit: The Pat McAfee Show

Pat McAfee has always sold himself on being an outsider in an industry of insiders. On Friday, the NFL punter-turned-media mogul continued that defiant approach, publicly calling ESPN Head of Event and Studio Production Norby Williamson a “rat” while accusing him of attempting to “sabotage” his show with leaks to the media.

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

McAfee’s comments came on the heels of an article by the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand that asserted his show’s ratings weren’t good enough to warrant putting up with the antics and controversy around it. The host seemed to believe that Williamson personally leaked numbers to Marchand to make it seem that ESPN would be better off with SportsCenter taking up one of the two hours currently slotted for his show.

The big question after McAfee’s very public shaming of a big-time ESPN executive was whether or not Disney or ESPN might send a message back in the form of a suspension or other punishment. To say nothing of what this means about the five-year deal between the two and whether or not it will be seen through.

ESPN did a little Friday night news dumping around McAfee’s moment to confirm that Aaron Rodgers would continue his weekly appearances on the show despite backlash over insinuations made by the New York Jets quarterback in a previous episode regarding Jimmy Kimmel and Jeffrey Epstein.

They also released their first (and presumably last) official statement on the matter on Saturday.

“No one is more committed to and invested in ESPN’s success than Norby Williamson,” read the statement. “We are thrilled with the multi-platform success that we have seen from Pat McAfee Show across ESPN. We will handle this matter internally and have no further comment.”

Meanwhile, CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported Friday that, via a source, there are no plans for punishing McAfee.

“ESPN management values the importance of both McAfee and Williamson and is looking into the details of why McAfee denigrated an executive, according to a person familiar with the matter,” wrote Sherman. “There is no planned suspension for McAfee, and ESPN hopes to find a path forward for both Williamson and McAfee, according to a person familiar with the matter.”

As the controversy unfolds, how ESPN will navigate these choppy waters remains to be seen. Still, the acknowledgment of the importance of both McAfee and Williamson suggests a willingness to find a resolution that aligns with a commitment to the network’s talent.


About Sam Neumann

Since the beginning of 2023, Sam has been a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. A 2021 graduate of Temple University, Sam is a Charlotte native, who currently calls Greenville, South Carolina his home. He also has a love/hate relationship with the New York Mets and Jets.