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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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‘I Don’t Got a Motherf***ing Boss’: Pat McAfee Goes Off on ‘All the Smoke’ Podcast

  • The ESPN radio host and commentator unloaded on ESPN exec Norby Williamson.
  • McAfee also said he regretted that his ESPN ‘allies’ got roped into the dispute.
Pat McAfee
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

How would Pat McAfee describe his comments from January, when in the midst of an Aaron Rodgers-Jimmy Kimmel dispute he accused ESPN executive Norby Williamson of “attempting to sabotage” his program? 

“A warning shot.” 

In a revealing interview on the All the Smoke podcast, cohosted by retired NBA players Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, McAfee weighed in on the controversy that put him and his show in a public dispute with Norby Williamson, an exec at ESPN, which in 2023 committed to paying McAfee $85 million over five years to air his program. (A clip of the podcast episode was released late Tuesday; the full episode will post Thursday morning.) When asked whether he faced backlash for his comments, the former Colts punter turned radio host and commentator said he wasn’t sure and then weighed in on his situation with the network.

“I report directly to [ESPN president] Jimmy [Pitaro] and [Disney CEO] Bob [Iger],” McAfee said on the episode. “I saw [media reporting] ‘Pat calls out his boss.’ I don’t got a motherf***ing boss. What are we …? We talking Jimmy Pitaro or Bob Iger? Like, is that who we’re talking about? Because those are people that could technically be described as my boss.”

McAfee went out of his way multiple times in the episode to compliment Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of content, for both their relationship and his vision. In a clip that was shared late Wednesday, McAfee never named Williamson directly, but he made clear through certain details who he was talking about, going on to say that plenty of ESPN employees fear Williamson, but that he does not. The 36-year-old McAfee also recalled a story from, he said, five to six years ago in which Williamson no-showed McAfee in his office and left him waiting for 45 minutes. McAfee said he has an elephant’s memory and never forgot the experience. 

McAfee added that ESPN had banned certain notable on-air talents from coming on his show, including NFL insiders Matt Hasselbeck and Dan Orlovsky, and baseball insider Jeff Passan, each of whom he had previous relationships with before any of them worked for the mothership. Only after McAfee started a hashtag to get Pitaro’s attention, #ESPNstinks, did Pitaro asked McAfee how to rectify the situation. McAfee told Pitaro about the ban.

“That guy was not a fan of me or our operation for a long time,” McAfee said, referencing Williamson. 

McAfee said the drama and internal backlash behind the scenes after he arrived surprised him and made him feel like “I’m in war.” Without naming names, he said that ESPN made it harder for his show to land advertisers and hurt its ratings, saying, “Hey suits, this is not how this is going to go.”

After McAfee called out Williamson earlier this year, he said “roughly 40” former and current ESPN employees reached out to him and thanked him for doing so. 

Expressing some regret about the situation, McAfee did not foresee how much traction his Williamson comments got and was apologetic over the backlash Pitaro and Magnus received despite being “allies.” 

“I genuinely did not expect it to get as big as it did because I didn’t think I said anything that was like that crazy,” McAfee said. “You know what I mean? … Like if I really wanted to saw a motherf***er down, I thought I could have done it in a much bigger way. And I did not. So I was actually pretty proud of myself. I was like, Look at me, I’m an adult. And then it got loud.”

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