Clay Travis on Stephen A. Smith's Know Mercy podcast

Monday morning brought a meeting of the minds as Stephen A. Smith surprised his fans by welcoming Clay Travis to his Know Mercy podcast.

Smith frequents Fox News programs and has already welcomed conservative guests such as Sean Hannity onto his podcast. The appearance by Travis, however, was more surprising because the conservative radio host and Outkick founder has insulted Smith in the past. But Smith looked past Outkick labeling him a race baiter to interview Travis for nearly an hour.

During their conversation, Smith asked Travis about the decision to leave his Fox Sports Radio gig for the late Rush Limbaugh’s platform. After five years as Fox Sports Radio’s morning host, Travis and Buck Sexton debuted in Limbaugh’s time slot on iHeartMedia’s Premiere Networks in June 2021. Premiere Networks also distributes Fox Sports Radio shows to affiliates.

“Regardless of what opinions you may have, I think there are two legendary of our generation radio voices. Howard Stern and Rush Limbaugh,” Travis told Smith. “I’ll be honest with you, I felt as if it were like taking over for Nick Saban after he retires or Bill Belichick after he retires. You usually want to be the guy who comes after the guy.”

According to Travis, Premiere Networks president Julie Talbott believed pairing him with Sexton would make the show different enough that it wouldn’t sound like someone attempting to mimic Limbaugh. Unlike Limbaugh’s successors, Saban and Belichick are more likely to be replaced by just one coach. Despite the crutch of a co-host, Travis says he was hesitant about making the jump from daily sports talk to holding the biggest conservative radio platform in the country.

“Julie came to me after the late great Rush Limbaugh passed,” Travis recalled. “And she said, ‘As much influence as you can have with this morning sports talk radio show…I am offering you the opportunity to take over the biggest radio show in the country, most people would crawl on their hands and knees for this opportunity, you are unsure.’ Because I loved what I was doing already.”

“One life lesson I have, Stephen A. is, don’t mess with happy,” Travis continued. “If you love what you’re doing, don’t be constantly chasing something else. I’m very happy…but I started to think about the things that matter.”

The decision to trade Fox Sports Radio for Limbaugh’s platform ultimately came down to believing news and political talk is more important that sports. Travis said life won’t change if his favorite team wins a championship, but the longtime radio host believes having a large conservative platform can make a larger impact.

Travis also touted feeling “privileged because I get to say exactly what I think every day” on his conservative radio show. It’s hard to imagine Travis was limited too much by Fox Sports Radio, where he built a reputation for being controversial and not sticking to sports, while simultaneously preaching the desire to keep politics out of sports. But from afar, it’s fair to assume a radio host taking over for Limbaugh would actually feel more limited from a content freedom standpoint, to not risk offering an opinion that might alienate the audience Limbaugh built.

[Know Mercy]

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