Stephen A. Smith opens up on ESPN layoffs, warns 'more is coming' - "They deserved better"

ESPN personality Stephen A Smith addressed the recent layoffs of his former colleagues, including Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson.
ESPN personality Stephen A Smith addressed the recent layoffs of his former colleagues, including Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson.

Sports media personality Stephen A. Smith wasn’t affected by the recent round of on-cam talent layoffs at ESPN. Nevertheless, he addressed the unfortunate development on a recent episode of his eponymous show:

“As you all know, I work at ESPN. My day job is First Take... And there are a lot of people who got laid off. Friends of mine actually, definitely respected colleagues who've done a phenomenal job and deserve better.
“But it's not Disney or ESPN that they deserved better from. They deserved better from the times we're living in... When Disney announced that 7000 layoffs were coming, everybody associated with ESPN knew this day would arrive. Folks as individuals were hoping it just wasn't them.”

The latest layoffs were a part of Disney CEO Bob Iger’s directive to reduce their workforce by 7,000 personnel. Two personalities affected by the mass firing were 'Monday Night Countdown' host Suzy Kolber and ESPN’s NFL Draft analyst Todd McShay.

Even known figures who cover the NBA, like in-game analyst Jeff Van Gundy and NBA Countdown panelist Jalen Rose, got the pink slip.

Unfortunately, Stephen A. Smith feels the worst is yet to come:

“Let's deal with reality. This ain't the end. More is coming. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could be next.
“And one thing that I can tell you about Stephen A, this ain't 2009. I really didn't see it come in. My eyes [are] always wide open now. I'm never comfortable. I never take anything for granted, and I never assume that I'm safe.”

Aside from retaining Smith, ESPN signed Pat McAfee to a five-year deal reportedly worth $85 million. Their penchant for attracting massive audiences is what the network is banking on as it enters a new phase.

While McAfee’s income is higher than Smith’s, the 'First Take' host can leverage that contract when he negotiates a new deal with ESPN soon.

Smith started his television career with ESPN in 2005 when he hosted 'Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith'. He also served as a Sunday morning anchor of 'SportsCenter' before joining First Take in April 2012.

Stephen A. Smith talks about Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson

Smith notably mentioned two former colleagues in his reaction to ESPN’s latest layoffs.

Coincidentally, both Keyshawn Johnson and Max Kellerman have appeared on First Take, with the latter being a mainstay from 2016 to 2021.

“Keyshawn Johnson, my brother. Now I know him on a far more personal level than I know many others," Smith said. "We've been friends for over 20 years. I'm sad to see him go.
“But I personally am going to miss him because of his contribution to First Take, what he has done for me, what he's done for my life, just being a big brother and a friend of mine. I love him to death. And I know he's going to be fine.”

Stephen A. Smith also addressed Kellerman’s departure. He said that even though they had contentious moments in the popular sports debate show, he wants the best for Kellerman.

“I'm even going to mention Max Kellerman. I know y'all thought I wouldn't. I am not happy that he is gone. We all know what history we had, we all know what happened when he and I parted ways on First Take. I don't want the brother unemployed.
“I want him gainfully employed. I want him to have a job and a career... I wish him no ill will. And as a matter of fact, although I sincerely doubt he ever will, if he ever called me needing my help, I would not hesitate to help him.”
Edited by Lance Fernandez
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