Report: ESPN Asks Top Talent to Take Substantial Pay Cut

The network has requested its 100 highest-paid commentators to take 15-percent cuts

ESPN TV logo
ESPN's television logo.
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With no live sports to broadcast or analyze for the foreseeable future — outside of very awkward games of H.O.R.S.E. — ESPN has asked its highest-paid commentators to take a voluntary pay cut.

According to John Ourand of Sports Business Daily, the Worldwide Leader has requested that its 100 highest-paid commentators take a pay cut of 15 percent for the next three months.

The request to the commentators and their agents was made during phone calls placed by ESPN executives on Monday morning.

Now, it will be up to studio hosts like Stephen A. Smith and Mike Greenberg, and commentators like Alex Rodriguez and Kirk Herbstreit if they want to take less.

If they do, ESPN may be able to avoid furloughs for employees who don’t have contracts and/or substantial past earnings. At this point, it’s unclear how many of the commentators have agreed to the reduced salaries.

We may never find out, but it seems likely many of the commentators — especially those with expiring contracts that need to be reviewed or extended — will agree to the temporary reduction as a gesture of goodwill with an eye toward the future.

In response to the pandemic, ESPN has already reduced executive VP pay by 30 percent, senior VP pay by 25 percent and VP pay by 20 percent.

“We are asking about 100 of our commentators to join with our executives and take a temporary salary reduction,” ESPN wrote in a statement to SBJ. “These are challenging times, and we are all in this together.”

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