Pat McAfee assaults ESPN government amid Rodgers, Kimmel battle

PHOENIX, ARIZONA – FEBRUARY 09: Former NFL player and host Pat McAfee speaks on radio row ahead of Super Bowl LVII at the Phoenix Convention Center on February 9, 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona.

Mike Lawrie | Getty Images

ESPN’s Pat McAfee problem is getting more complicated.

On Friday, the host and former NFL punter publicly attacked longtime ESPN executive Norby Williamson, accusing him of “actively trying to sabotage” him by leaking information to reporters.

The New York Post reported on McAfee’s relatively low ratings Thursday, noting, “Since the inception of McAfee’s show on ESPN in the fall, Stephen A. Smith and ‘First Take’ are handing McAfee a 583,000 viewer lead-in, and McAfee is maintaining just 302,000, which is a 48% drop.”

McAfee implied Williamson may have leaked the idea for the story to New York Post reporter Andrew Marchand. Marchand declined to comment.

“I believe Norby Williamson is the guy who is attempting to sabotage our program,” McAfee said. “I’m not 100% sure. That is just seemingly the only human that has information and then somehow that information gets leaked, and it’s wrong.”

McAfee didn’t specifically say what information was wrong. Over the years, other ESPN talent have speculated that Williamson has leaked private details, including contract information, according to people familiar with the matter. On Friday, former ESPN journalist Jemele Hill posted on social media platform X “I can relate” with regard to McAfee’s comments about Williamson.

There’s no evidence Williamson has leaked information. Williamson, who has worked for ESPN for nearly 40 years, declined to comment through an ESPN spokesperson.

There’s also a contingent of ESPN employees who have grumbled about McAfee’s show and his large contract. McAfee signed a five-year, $85 million contract with ESPN in May.

ESPN management values the importance of McAfee and Williamson and is looking into why McAfee denigrated an executive, according to a person familiar with the matter. There is no planned suspension for McAfee, and ESPN hopes to find a path forward for both Williamson and McAfee, according to a person familiar with the matter.

“No one is more committed to and invested in ESPN’s success than Norby Williamson,” an ESPN spokesperson said. “At the same time, we are thrilled with the multi-platform success that we have seen from the Pat McAfee Show across ESPN. We will handle this matter internally and have no further comment.”

Earlier this week, McAfee found himself in hot water for providing a platform for New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers to disparage a fellow Disney employee. Rodgers, a frequent guest on McAfee’s show, incorrectly suggested ABC late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel would be included in court documents related to late sex criminal Jeffrey Epstein. Kimmel fired back Tuesday, tweeting Rodgers’ “reckless words put [his] family in danger.”

McAfee later apologized over the Kimmel comments.

“I could see exactly why Jimmy Kimmel felt the way he felt, especially with his position,” McAfee said Wednesday, noting that Rodgers “did go too far.”

ESPN on Friday also addressed Rodgers’ comments about Kimmel.

“Aaron made a dumb and factually inaccurate joke about Jimmy Kimmel. It should never have happened. We all realized that in the moment,” ESPN executive Mike Foss told Front Office Sports.

The New York Post previously reported that McAfee has paid Rodgers “millions” to appear on his show. The former MVP and Super Bowl champion, who has made hundreds of millions of dollars in the NFL, joined the Jets last year after playing for over a decade with the Green Bay Packers. He missed the season with an Achilles tendon injury.

A representative for Rodgers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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