Pat McAfee Show Photo credit: Pat McAfee Show

Pat McAfee was trending throughout the day Friday, unfairly being blamed for ESPN’s latest wave of layoffs.

ESPN had been laying off employees for months as parent company Disney set a plan to slash 7,000 jobs as a cost-cutting measure, many of those cuts featuring behind-the-scenes employees. And while everyone knew ESPN would eventually start eliminating on-air talent, it didn’t make Friday’s slow drip of layoffs any easier to swallow, nor did it warrant faulting McAfee for the lost jobs.

As popular, prominent, and long-tenured on-air personalities were being laid off on Friday, social media made McAfee and his newly signed five-year $85 million contract with ESPN an easy target to blame. Friday night, McAfee responded to the criticism with a lengthy statement on Twitter.

“I did a lot of reflecting about our show’s journey while I was getting murdered on the internet today (hell yeah).. all roads lead back to how honored I am to be the leader of such a talented group and how lucky I am to be a part of this team (a few missing from pics and a couple I couldn’t tag)… We do our thing. We enjoy ourselves. And we never blink… Basement, box truck, world stoppage.. you name it.. the show rolls on

“We’re very pumped to be joining ESPN and our goal is that “Mass exits” are never a thing again.. we hope to help that.. obviously that’s a lofty goal but, that’s how I truly look at life… I wish we could’ve worked alongside a lot of the folks that got released today. Some absolute legends, that we all respect, in the sports media world were trending today for losing jobs. That sucks.. no matter how you slice it.

“We’re gonna continue to control the things we can control.. try to do daily sports coverage in an entertaining and informative fashion.. and be thankful for all of the opportunities that have been earned thru a lot of hard work and commitment from the group of dudes I get to call coworkers.”

Obviously, the optics aren’t great. ESPN reportedly laid off 20 employees on Friday, featuring high profile names such as Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber, Jalen Rose, Steve Young, Keyshawn Johnson, and Max Kellerman, on its way to shedding $30 million in salaries. McAfee, meanwhile, just signed with ESPN for about $20 million per year.

But it’s not a one for one. The layoffs are not happening because of McAfee, they’re happening because of a cost-cutting strategy mandated by Disney. Despite the layoffs and cost-cutting measures, ESPN has shown a willingness to invest in talent it believes it can profit from. ESPN expects to make money on their investment in McAfee, while estimating they were losing dollars on the contracts that were eliminated Friday.

McAfee setting the goal that his arrival will help negate ESPN ever having to endure another mass layoff is thoughtful, but also unrealistic. It’s similarly naïve to assume ESPN only ran a cost-benefit analysis because it invested in McAfee.

From a business standpoint, it can make financial sense to replace a host or analyst with a talent that is significantly cheaper and slightly less popular. Watching ESPN stunt the careers of popular talent by deeming them disposable in real time, is saddening and unfortunate, but it doesn’t warrant pointing the finger at McAfee.

It used to be that no talent was bigger than the brand at ESPN. That’s not the case anymore, McAfee boasts a massive audience and ESPN invested in his brand.

[Pat McAfee]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to