Panic Inside Bristol

ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro.
ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro. Photo: Meg Oliphant/Getty Images
Dylan Byers
July 5, 2023

Late last week, in a genre-defining display of corporate bureaucratese, ESPN announced a “public-facing commentator exercise” that has resulted, so far, in the ouster of at least 20 of the network’s more notable hosts, pundits and other on-air personalities. Vanquished, among others, were NBA commentator and Finals analyst Jeff Van Gundy, ESPN2 boxing O.G.-turned-morning take artist Max Kellerman, Fab Five alumnus and hoops commentator Jalen Rose, the venerable Suzy Kolber, and even NFL great and Monday Night Football regular Steve Young

Sure, ESPN did an elegant job of laying off former pro coaches and athletes, who could shoulder the economic blow. But their departure also heralded a new era at Bristol—perhaps Jimmy Pitaro’s microcosmic articulation of big boss Bob Iger’s everything is on the table mantra upon retaking the reins of Disney. As Stephen A. Smith, the outspoken NBA analyst and one of ESPN’s most recognizable pundits, noted this week, there are almost certainly more casualties to come. “Yes, ladies and gentleman,” he said, “I could be next.”