Pat McAfee has ESPN executives fuming after he slipped up and said this live on air

FanDuel, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Pat McAfee’s first year with ESPN has predictably faced some bumps in the road as the former NFL punter isn’t exactly the typical ESPN talking head.

But while he’s already made plenty of waves calling out executives on-air no one ever expected he’d throw a company reportedly paying him $17 million per year under the bus like this.

And Pat McAfee has ESPN executives fuming after he slipped up and said this live on air.

ESPN is desperate to save their sinking ship

After crowning itself the “worldwide leader in sports” for decades, ESPN has faced a precipitous decline in recent years as more and more Americans have chosen to tune out of the network amidst its efforts to inject woke propaganda in sports, and obviously cord-cutting.

As a result of their declining profits and viewership, ESPN executives have taken up a strategy of putting the loudest, most obnoxious “talent” on-air possible in order to generate social media engagement with debate shows, hot takes, and the like.

There’s a reason Stephen A. Smith is reportedly ESPN’s highest paid employee – not to mention one of the highest paid employees for the network’s parent company, the Walt Disney Company, as well.

Smith’s First Take has served as the blueprint for ESPN’s new model, scripting out “debates” between Smith and a host of other panelists in order to generate heated arguments, worthless hot takes, and other utterly ridiculous forms of clickbait.

And on top of that, anytime they need a good boost in social media engagement, Smith simply shoves accusations of “racism” or other politically-charged nonsense into the conversation.

But to their credit, ESPN has gotten smarter about employing their new strategy, hence the hiring of former NFL punter turned podcast host Pat McAfee.

Much like Smith, McAfee is always the loudest human in any room he’s in, and loves nothing more than flying off the handle with hot takes and having all the useless sports radio-style debates ESPN talking heads have been engaging in for years, all while appealing to the sports fans turned off by Smith’s insistence on injecting race and politics into the discussions.

After retiring from the NFL, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy hired McAfee to build Barstool Heartland, providing him millions of dollars to build an Indianapolis-based office and production studio for Barstool and McAfee.

Ultimately, after a minor dispute with the company, McAfee took all that infrastructure, rebranded it his own, and parlayed it into a part-time gig at ESPN in 2019.

But by last year, ESPN was in desperate need of another host who could bring in as many eyeballs and as much social media engagement as Smith, and made the decision to bring McAfee’s podcast, The Pat McAfee Show, to the network – a move that was incredibly unpopular amongst ESPN employees, as the network was in the midst of massive layoffs then they handed him a reported five-year, $85 million deal.

And to the surprise of no one, since he joined ESPN full-time last year, McAfee has butted heads with ESPN executives.

He even went so far as to call one ESPN executive a “rat” live on-air.

But McAfee’s latest attack on ESPN may be the final straw for the network.

ESPN executives aren’t too pleased

Last week, reports surfaced that ESPN’s joint gambling venture with Penn Entertainment, ESPN BET, had fallen short of earnings expectations by roughly $30 million in the previous quarter – a figure that’s certainly concerning, but also a small fraction for a joint venture controlled by two multi-billion dollar corporations.

But during an episode of his podcast, an ad for ESPN BET popped-up on the screen and caught McAfee by surprise.

“Things are going great here,” McAfee blurted out. “NOT! Not at all.”

“ESPN Bet’s got a lot of room to grow,” he added as his co-hosts laughed. “Hey, good luck, hey, let’s go, ESPN Bet! You get knocked down, you come back!”

Of course, McAfee ultimately attempted to walk things back a little bit after he realized that considering the fact as one of ESPN’s highest paid employees – making more than half the amount annually that ESPN BET reportedly lost – he probably shouldn’t be mocking any money the company loses, especially when it’s from one of ESPN’s biggest investments and potential future revenue streams in its history, as he could easily be axed to make up the difference.

“We’re pulling for it,” McAfee claimed. “Cause we are on ESPN, and obviously we’re a part of ESPN, so we would like ESPN stuff to succeed. They’re gonna be fine. They’re gonna figure it out.”

It’s not a good look for anyone when one of ESPN’s biggest personalities and highest paid employees is openly mocking one of the keys to the network’s future success.

Does cancel culture still exist?