Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber, Jalen Rose and Steve Young are among about 20 ESPN commentators and reporters who were fired on Friday as part of the network’s job cuts.
ESPN had planned this extra round involving on-air talent to avoid further cuts to off-air staff after two rounds of mandatory cuts by its owner, the Walt Disney Company.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced in February that the company would cut 7,000 jobs either by not filling positions or by laying off staff.
Friday’s announcement resembled what happened in April 2017, when reporters and hosts were told at one point that they would no longer be on the air.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined that it is necessary to identify additional cost savings in the area of audience commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of cuts short-term jobs and a continued focus on cost management as we negotiate individual contract renewals in the coming months,” ESPN said in a statement. “This is an extremely difficult process, involving people who have had a significant impact on our business.These tough decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us achieve our financial goals and ensure our future growth.
The New York Post first reported the dismissals of Van Gundy and Rose.
Van Gundy had been the network’s top NBA analyst since 2007 and recently finished calling a record 17th NBA Finals. Kolber was a longtime ESPN veteran, including co-hosting a late-night show when ESPN2 debuted in 1993.
She was also the host of ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown.”
“Today I join the many hard working colleagues who have been fired. Heartbreaking, but 27 years at ESPN has been a good ride. So grateful for a 38 year career! The longevity of a woman in this industry is something I’m particularly proud of,” Kolber said on social media.
Rose had also been with ESPN since 2007. He was mostly on NBA studio shows, but also did a radio show for 11 years and was a co-host on the morning show’s “Get Up” premiere. by Mike Greenberg in 2018.
ESPN’s NFL coverage and radio side were the biggest hits.
Longtime analyst Todd McShay, who has also contributed to college football coverage, and analyst Matt Hasselbeck were also fired.
ESPN Radio’s morning show crew of Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson as well as afternoon host Jason Fitz were also affected. Kellerman also did an afternoon show on ESPN, but that was unlikely to continue after Pat McAfee signed on to air his show on the network in the fall.
Others include “SportsCenter” anchor Ashley Brewer, radio and ACC Network host Jordan Cornette, college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis, NBA journalist Nick Friedell, writer of baseball Joon Lee and “College GameDay” analyst David Pollack.
Most will be bought out of their contracts and will receive their full salary. If they want to take another job, they should negotiate an exit deal with ESPN.
Johnson and Rose might be the first two to come to mind after Shannon Sharpe quit FS1’s ‘Undisputed’ due to heightened tensions with co-host Skip Bayless.
ESPN is expected to continue evaluating its talent pool over the next year as contracts are reviewed or negotiated for renewal. He had already begun some cutbacks by not renewing the contracts of NHL studio analyst Chris Chelios, longtime “SportsCenter” anchor Neil Everett and NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich.
While his contracts with the NFL, NHL and baseball are well established in the future, negotiations for renewal of NBA rights are expected to begin next year.
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