Sports talk show host Pat McAfee fired off insults at a top ESPN executive on his Friday show.
McAfee has been at the center of a controversy this week after show contributor and NFL legend Aaron Rodgers made a controversial comment about late-night host Jimmy Kimmel and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, which brought about a threat from Kimmel to sue.
But on Friday, he sent zingers in the direction of Norby Williamson, who the New York Post identified as “ESPN’s Executive Editor and Head of Event and Studio Production and a member of company president Jimmy Pitaro’s inner circle.”
“We’re very appreciative, and we understand that more people are watching this show than ever before. We’re very thankful for the ESPN folks for being very hospitable. Now, there are some people actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN — more specifically, I believe, Norby Williamson is the guy who is attempting to sabotage our program,” McAfee said.
Pat McAfee accuses ESPN executives of purposely sabotaging his show and leaking false information to the media.
McAfee specifically names ESPN leader Norby Williamson as the person leading the sabotage efforts.
Horrible look for ESPN. pic.twitter.com/rGcOSNcHRW
— David Hookstead (@dhookstead) January 5, 2024
“I’m not 100 percent sure. That is just seemingly the only human that has information, and then somehow that information gets leaked, and it’s wrong, and then it sets a narrative of what our show is,” he said.
McAfee said there had been a culture clash when his free-wheeling show entered the Disney universe. ESPN is owned by Disney.
“And then are we just gonna combat that from a rat every single time? I don’t know. But, like, somebody tried to get ahead of our actual ratings release with wrong numbers 12 hours beforehand. That’s a sabotage attempt,” he said.
“It’s been happening basically this entire season from some people who didn’t necessarily love the old edition of ‘The Pat McAfee Show’ to the ESPN family. There’s a lot of those,” he said.
McAfee said his critics never use their names.
“We’ve heard them anonymously quoted in the Washington Post, New York Post, and the New York Times, and the LA Times, and the Wall Street Journal. And they’re never like, ‘Yeah, love the show.’ It’s always, like, little things to try to tear us down.
“I don’t like that guy,” McAfee elaborated, explaining some of the background.
“That guy left me in his office for 45 minutes — no-showed me in 2018. So this guy has had zero respect for me, and in return same thing back to him for a long time, so even with that taking place … we’re still growing somehow. We’re very thankful. I think we’re doing it right. We’re trying to do it as right as possible. We have good intentions every single time we come in here,” he said, before trailing off into profanity.
McAfee’s comments followed an Op-Ed in the New York Post by Andrew Marchand questioning whether adding McAfee — to the tune of $85 million over five years — had paid off for ESPN.
“Upon hiring McAfee in the fall, ESPN knew he would be a headache. They even agreed to it, allowing him to swear on its air, wear a tank top and keep ownership of his show. ESPN executives correctly believed that if you are hiring McAfee, you can’t neuter him,” Marchand wrote.
In talking about numbers, Marchand wrote, “Stephen A. Smith and ‘First Take’ are handing McAfee a 583,000 viewer lead-in, and McAfee is maintaining just 302,000, which is a 48 percent drop. As compared to the same window last year, which featured ‘SportsCenter,’ McAfee is down 12 percent.”
On the plus side, Marchand noted that about 403,000 people watch McAfee’s show via YouTube.
On Friday, Mike Foss, ESPN’s senior vice president of studio and digital production, sought to put out the fire over the jab at Kimmel, but had nothing to say about the one at Williamson, according to The Washington Post.
“Aaron made a deeply dumb and factually inaccurate joke about Jimmy Kimmel. It should never have happened, and we all agree on that point,” Foss said.
“Pat has created a multi-hundred billion dollar company, I don’t think he needs my advice on anything,” Foss said. “We’ve certainly spoken about the shows this week and the shows beyond. Ultimately, Pat makes his own choices and I trust him to continue to make the right moves.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.