Stephen A. Smith address Pat McAfee's ESPN deal

Stephen A. Smith has been clear about feeling underpaid by ESPN. But he doesn’t mind Pat McAfee landing a contract worth more.

Last month, McAfee announced his highly successful daily podcast and YouTube show will be moving to ESPN in the fall. McAfee’s new salary is reportedly worth $17 million annually, a significant bump from the estimated $12 million per year deal ($8 million in regular salary, $4 million in a production contract) Smith signed in 2019. But on the latest episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show Audacy/Cadence13 podcast, the face of ESPN didn’t fault McAfee for getting all he could from the Worldwide Leader.

“You have so many people that are looking at what he’s getting paid, it’s no secret that even though you don’t know the numbers I make…it’s clearly more than I’m making. ‘Stephen A, what do you have to say about that?’ Two things. Number one, I don’t give a damn,” Smith bluntly stated. “He negotiated his deal a few weeks ago, I negotiated my deal a few years ago…the situation is not the same.”

Smith also noted the people who are criticizing McAfee’s deal in the wake of Disney announcing plans to lay off 7,000 people. Included in those layoffs are ESPN figures, both on and off the air. But Smith doesn’t believe that’s a reason for ESPN to shy away from paying McAfee the dollar amount he’s able to command.

“How many times have I told y’all, I’m a big boy. I’ve been to hell and back. This does not phase me at all,” Smith said. “I get easily disgusted by people who are quick to tell you what path to take, knowing they’re leading you down a dead end. If I’m successful, my obligation to you, is to show you and tell you what I know so I could help facilitate your success, because I don’t want to be at the top alone.”

McAfee has shown how to facilitate success through owning your own podcast, something Smith has since emulated by launching Know Mercy last September, which has since changed to The Stephen A. Smith Show.

“I can’t believe the hate people are throwing at Pat McAfee’s direction. For what? To accomplish what he accomplished…he had to bet on himself,” Smith explained. “Hate on him? I admire what he has done, I respect what he has done. So much so that I’m doing it…thank you for playing a part in showing the way and the wave of the future.”

McAfee has an immensely successful show that he owns. And most of the criticism he’s received in recent months isn’t about his salary, it’s about fans fearing he’s giving up total content freedom by signing with ESPN. Smith, however, was more focused on celebrating McAfee’s contract with ESPN.

“I’m the star for the number one sports morning show in America for the last 11 and a half consecutive years. I’m on NBA Countdown on ABC and ESPN. I’ve been blessed and fortunate enough that everything I’ve touched in the last eight to ten years makes money, doesn’t cost money,” Smith said. “That’s business. ESPN doesn’t owe me an explanation. They owe no one an explanation. They’re in the business to try and make money.”

Just as ESPN is in the business of making money, so is Stephen A. Smith. He noted McAfee’s reported salary raises the ceiling on his own future contract negotiations.

“I appreciate Pat McAfee,” Smith continued. “My contract is up in two years. I’ll have my opportunities to get my own. You know anything about me, you know how I like my money, right? How much of a capitalist I am, right? You think I’m looking at Pat McAfee and I’m upset? I’m thankful! Thank you! Appreciate it bro, thank you very, very much. Today is your turn. Tomorrow’s mine.”

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

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