Stephen A. Smith has confirmed Front Office Sports’ story that ESPN wants to bring Shannon Sharpe aboard as a high-profile contributor.
On Friday afternoon, a fit and rested Smith returned from a Caribbean vacation to address the Front Office Sports story.
Smith confirmed that the ESPN executive “honchos” are negotiating with Sharpe, who recently split with rival Skip Bayless on FS1’s “Undisputed.”
“I want Shannon Sharpe on First Take. And I aim to get him. We are definitely talking to Shannon Sharpe. The conversations are official. The reports have not been misnomers. Or misreports or anything like that,” he told his listeners.
“We are talking to him. I am hopeful, very hopeful, and very confident that ultimately we will be announcing sooner than later that he will be on ‘First Take.’”
But the deal still needs to be finalized. Smith also confirmed that Sharpe would be part of a rotating team of guest debaters rather than a full-time co-host like the now-departed Max Kellerman.
That team would include moderator Molly Qerim, ESPN’s Ryan Clark, Marcus Spears, Dan Orlovsky, Mina Kimes, and Kimberley Martin, as well as Chris “Mad Dog Russo” of Sirius XM and Michael Irvin of NFL Network.
Smith pointed to the now infamous on-air moment in January when Bayless interrupted Sharpe’s statement on Damar Hamlin as the “beginning of the end.”
“I knew that day that Shannon Sharpe would be gone,” Smith said.
Despite his legal problems, Smith said he also wants Irvin back on his show.
Smith is also expected to address Sharpe and Irvin when he returns to “First Take” on Monday morning.
During a golf event in Florida, Sharpe told USA TODAY it would “great” to join Smith on “First Take.” But the deal’s not done. He indicated his next venture would include “Club Shay Shay,” his YouTube Show and podcast.
Meanwhile, Bayless and FS1 are struggling to find a replacement, or team of replacements, for Sharpe.
Bayless ‘Undisputed’ will be on hiatus for six weeks, returning Aug. 28.
When he returns, Bayless’s “Undisputed” could employ the same debate by committee approach as “First Take,” according to former FS1 personality Marcellus Wiley.
Bayless micromanages all aspects of “Undisputed” and will have last word on a new partner or partners, said sources.