Clay Travis, as he will be the first to tell you, no longer works for Fox. He doesn’t appear on the network’s airwaves or write on its website, and although he has a show on Fox Sports Radio, he’s quick to point out that his checks come from iHeartRadio.
That separation certainly didn’t have to happen. As has been widely reported, former Fox Sports head honcho Jamie Horowitz offered Travis his own TV show, on the condition that Travis move to Los Angeles and tone back his political opinions, but Travis turned him down.
On Thursday, Travis offered his version of the story in great detail over Periscope. The subject came up in the context of his convoluted feud with Barstool Sports, which we have little interest in rehashing here. His broad point was that, unlike Barstool, he didn’t “sell out,” despite having the chance. Anyway, here’s the relevant part of Travis’ comments:
“I got offered, you guys know this, my own show on FS1. Twice now. I got offered the morning show, and I got offered the evening show. Two different times. And twice, I have turned down those shows. So now they’ve got Nick Wright and Cris Carter on—that’s a show that I turned down. And now who knows who they’re going to have on in the evening. And the reason I turned them down was simple. I was told you could make a lot of money—Jamie Horowitz sat me down, and he said, ‘I will pay you millions and millions of dollars, and you can have your own show on FS1. Here’s what I need you to do: I need you to never talk about politics again, I need you to stop talking about Game of Thrones, and I need you to embrace, basically, liberal talking points.’
“He said, ‘You’re too conservative to get your own show.’ I said, ‘What are you talking about, conservative? I worked on Al Gore’s presidential campaign. I was working to try to get a black guy elected to the Senate in Tennessee. I’ve never voted for a Republican. He said, ‘You know what, you are too conservative to be on television. What I need you to do is shut up and do what Skip Bayless does. Don’t interact, just have your own opinion.
“We sat down at the Super Bowl, and he said, ‘You can have your own show. You can make millions of dollars.’ He said, ‘Skip Bayless was making $150,000 when I started working with him at First Take. Now he makes $6 million a year, and we just signed him to a $25 million contract.’ He said, ‘You can make the Skip Bayless money. You’re every bit as good as he is on television. But what I need you to do is to stop talking about anything but sports. All I want from you is sports takes.’
“And I said, ‘Man, let me think about it.’ So I had the opportunity to sell out. I had the opportunity to make as much money as I possibly could have wanted to make. Millions of dollars. Could have moved to L.A., had my own television show.”
Most of that is pretty straight-forward, but here are a few quick thoughts:
- It’s a bit funny to see Travis play dumb about being called “conservative.” He writes admiringly of Donald Trump, downplays the presence of racism at every turn and bashes “liberals” with glee. Clearly, his target audience is conservative, particularly social conservative, readers. Who he supported in an election 17 years ago doesn’t change that.
- It’s highly unlikely Horowitz was asking Travis to parrot “liberal talking points.” Firstly because that would presumably violate the “no politics” order. And secondly because Clay Travis built his following by appealing to Trump-voting white people.
- A little off-topic, but this whole thing does make you consider the brilliance of Skip Bayless. He offers his hot takes, watches himself get ripped for them, doesn’t respond, then does the same thing the next day. And he gets paid millions of dollars for it. He’s basically a hot-take robot who walks home with a huge check. If your goal is to make as much money as possible, it’s a great gig. If you goal is to connect with your audience as a human, it’s not such a great gig.
- Travis turning down Horowitz’s offer was probably best for everyone. Fox avoids the headache it would have faced when Travis inevitably veered from script and said something inflammatory, and Travis gets to keep writing inane essays about lice on airlines and offensive personal attacks about activists he disagrees with.
- That said, with Travis gone, Dan O’Toole and Jay Onrait booted and Katie Nolan probably on her way out, FS1 is running out of people to build programs around. And that nighttime lineup still looks awfully bare.