Stephen A. Smith Says He “Could Be Next” in ESPN Layoffs

ESPN has gotten rid of about 20 members of its on-air talent in recent days

Stephen A. Smith on radio row at Super Bowl LVII.
Could ESPN really afford to get rid of Stephen A. Smith?
Cindy Ord/Getty for SiriusXM

In the wake of massive layoffs at ESPN that have seen more than 20 popular on-air talents relieved of their duties, the face of The Worldwide Leader says that he could be the next Bristol fixture to lose his job. Stephen A. Smith, who is seemingly on the air 24-7 giving hot takes and random dating advice, said on The Stephen A. Smith Show that his former colleagues “deserved better” and that it’s entirely possible his livelihood is at risk as well.

“ESPN laid off about 20 members of its on-air talent…friends of mine, actually, definitely respected colleagues who’d done a phenomenal job and deserved better,” Smith said. “It’s not Disney or ESPN that they deserved better from, they deserved better than the times we’re living in. If we’re going to be real about it, let’s deal with reality. This ain’t the end, more is coming. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could be next.”

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It’s very hard to imagine ESPN would actually get rid of Smith, as he anchors much of the network’s coverage of the NBA and is also an important voice when it comes to the NFL. That said, it’s also hard to imagine ESPN would let go of longtime on-air faces including Jalen Rose, Jeff Van Gundy, Max Kellerman, Keyshawn Johnson, Matt Hasselbeck, Suzy Kolber and Steve Young before that happened last week.

The reasons for the deep cuts are myriad, but one of them is certainly the $85-million contract ESPN gave Aaron Rodgers’s buddy Pat McAfee to bring his popular podcast/radio show to the network for the next five years. Blamed online for the role his contract likely played in ESPN cutting so many popular personalities, McAfee addressed the situation with a lengthy tweet after the cutbacks were announced before the Fourth of July.

McAfee can’t be blamed for taking the money, nor is it his fault that ESPN offered it, but it’s also natural for his deal to be viewed with skepticism by some — and even anger by others. It would be really interesting to hear Smith’s honest opinion about the topic, but he’s probably not in a position to make his true thoughts on the matter public if he’s actually worried about keeping his job. Smith may not actually be concerned, but it certainly sounds as if others should be.

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