Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo Earns $10,000 For Each ‘First Take’ Appearance

Radio legend Chris “Mad Dog” Russo will earn $400,000 for his weekly appearances on ESPN’s First Take this year.

On the Howard Stern Show Wednesday, Russo said that his one-year deal with ESPN includes 40 appearances with Stephen A. Smith at a rate of $10,000 a show. Russo began joining Smith each Wednesday on February 16.

ESPN did not respond to a request from OutKick to confirm Russo’s salary with the network.

In addition to his deal with ESPN, Russo earns a paycheck for a daily radio show on SiriusXM and a weekday television program on MLB Network. It’s a good life, if you can live it.

Russo has been a welcome addition to First Take. He has rare chemistry with Smith and is a viral magnet. Despite appearing only once a week, Russo generates more buzz than anyone on the roster but for Smith.

We argued recently that ESPN should make Russo the full-time debate partner on the show and torpedo its rotation of C-level talents like Kim Martin and Ryan Clark.

As we explained, “Mad Dog has a lot of Smith in him. He’s a caricature of a sports debater, almost an SNL version of himself.”

If nothing else, ESPN should increase Russo’s appearances next year. At a time when most sports pundits are divisive and offputting, Russo is refreshing and provides an escape.

While Sarah Spain is calling players bigots, Russo is losing his mind and falling out of his chair:

Give the man a raise. Bump it him up to $500,000 an appearance.


If ESPN wants a legitimate battle, OutKick founder Clay Travis says he would do a better job of going head to head with Stephen A. Smith than anybody in all of the media.

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

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