By David Goldman, CNN
New York (CNN) — Pat McAfee, the sports-talk sensation who has found life working for the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” can be more complicated than hosting his own YouTube show, has accused his new business partners of purposefully undermining him and his show.
On a Friday broadcast of “The Pat McAfee Show,” the former NFL punter and current muscle-shirt-wearing broadcaster said that ESPN head of studio production Norby Williamson was leaking false information about the show to media.
“There are some people actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN,” McAfee said. “More specifically I believe Norby Williamson is the guy who is attempting to sabotage our program.”
McAfee is a bit of a loose cannon who has been allowed to curse and veer into strongly opinionated areas from which other ESPN hosts and guests are generally barred. He recently found himself in the middle of a firestorm when guest Aaron Rodgers, the Jets quarterback who has often shared various conspiracy theories, suggested that comedian Jimmy Kimmel’s name might appear on the list that has been released over the course of the past week related to associates of Jeffrey Epstein, who died by suicide in jail while awaiting federal sex-trafficking charges in 2019.
On Thursday, the New York Post noted that McAfee’s TV ratings are lower than his lead-in, suggesting the rating are perhaps not high enough to justify the $85 million contract the Post reported ESPN has paid him to air his show. Although the report didn’t cite any unnamed sources, McAfee said on his show Friday he believed Williamson was behind the report and others in the media.
McAfee said Williamson was “the only human that has that information – and then somehow that information gets leaked, and it’s wrong, and then it sets a narrative of what our show is.”
ESPN defended Williamson.
“No one is more committed to and invested in ESPN’s success than Norby Williamson,” an ESPN spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
McAfee confessed that he doesn’t like Williamson, personally.
“That guy left me in his office for 45 minutes – no-showed me – in 2018,” McAfee said Friday. “So this guy had zero respect for me and in return: same thing back to him.”
McAfee routinely on his show says he is just trying to have fun and talk sports, adding levity to people’s lives. But ESPN is part of Disney, a media behemoth and that typically comes with a host of rules and journalistic expectations associated with it, including the expectation of fact-checking and issuing corrections for inaccuracies.
But McAfee rarely does that. He lets his guests talk, unchecked, for long stretches, even when they make outrageous claims. And his show comes with a crawl that notes it is a free-flowing, often comedic conversation that does not necessarily reflect ESPN’s opinions, adding, “Don’t sue us” at the end of the repeating message.
McAfee said he feels unfairly treated.
“We have good intentions, every single time we come in here,” McAfee said Friday. “We don’t always get it right. But m*therf**kers been getting it wrong for a long time, in this specific field – a long time.”
CNN’s Oliver Darcy contributed to this report.
™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.