Sports | May 26, 2021 10:58 am

Shannon Sharpe’s Controversial Julio Jones Interview Becomes “Massive Stink Bomb” for Fox

Sharpe seeming to interview Jones on live TV without his knowledge creates many potential problems

Julio Jone
Julio Jones after a game with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Jeffrey Vest/Icon Sportswire via Getty

Speaking on Monday to former NFL star Shannon Sharpe about his future with the Falcon in Atlanta, Julio Jones told the hosts and audience of FS1’s Undisputed: “I’m outta there. Right now, I wanna win.”

A fair comment for the 32-year-old to make considering the team hasn’t made the playoffs since the 2017 season and limped to a 4-12 finish following an 0-5 start last year. The problem? He pretty clearly did not know he has making it on live television in front of a national audience.

Sharpe and the producers of the popular Fox Sports show putting the seven-time Pro Bowler on the air without his knowledge has ignited a “massive stink bomb” and has “become a huge deal” in the billion-dollar relationship between Fox and the NFL, sources told Front Office Sports.

In addition to potentially being a legal issue (California, where Undisputed tapes, is a two-party consent state which means both Jones and Sharpe would have to have knowledge the call was being aired/recorded), the controversial call may have damaged Atlanta’s ability to get a fair price for Jones in a trade, a development which neither the Falcons nor the NFL would like.

“The Falcons are not going to be happy with this — and they will express their angst to the NFL,” said ex-Green Bay Packers vice president Andrew Brandt told Front Office Sports. “Payback’s too strong a word. But they will hope for some kind of stroke down the road.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank, one of the more influential owners in the league, could also put pressure on the NFL to inflict subtle measures on Fox, which just agreed to pay more than $2 billion annually for 11 seasons to retain its Sunday afternoon TV package, that could have big consequences.

“The NFL has its ways of handling its TV partners,” per FOS. “The Falcons could quietly seek an on-air apology or some other redress from Fox. If not forthcoming, Fox could end up in the doghouse among the league’s TV partners, which include NBC, CBS, and ESPN. That could mean less access and cooperation from the team and other NFL clubs. Or, the worst-case scenario for an NFL TV partner, the bad blood could lead to poor game matchups.”

No matter what happens with Sharpe or Fox, Jones and his $15.3 million base salary (guaranteed) are almost certainly headed for greener pastures as he’s currently slated to cost the rebuilding Falcons more than $23 million against the salary cap next season.

Rumored destinations for the star wideout include the San Francisco 49ers, New England Patriots, Jacksonville Jaguars and Tennessee Titans. Other teams are likely in the mix as well.

“We’ve got so much respect and appreciation for what Julio Jones has done here with this franchise and what he’s meant to this city,” rookie Falcons coach Arthur Smith said this week. “But we have conversations about our roster all the time. We have to have contingency plans.”

If things go really poorly with the NFL for Fox due to the controversy, Sharpe, who is up for a contract extension, may want put a contingency plan in place as well.