Some new nuggets on Max Kellerman, per sources:
• ESPN Radio could expand 'Bart & Hahn' an hour, and move up the PM show to fill Kellerman's 2-4 radio spot
• ESPN is looking at the 2 pm block for a Kellerman TV show, we discussed this earlier in the piece below. https://t.co/bFlgwO1g2Z
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) August 19, 2021
Industry sources expect ESPN to remove Max Kellerman from First Take.
Front Office Sports first mentioned the possibility of this move Wednesday afternoon.
Sources tell OutKick that ESPN is exploring moving Kellerman to its morning radio show. Keep in mind, ESPN wanted to pair Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson on morning radio one year ago, as Ryan Glasspiegel and I reported last June. These plans fell through for various reasons. Kellerman ultimately stayed on First Take, received an afternoon radio show, and ESPN Radio paired Johnson with Jay Williams and Zubin Mehenti. ESPN has since discussed replacing Mehenti, who is off air dealing with complications from diabetes.
While Kellerman’s future will get the attention right now, Stephen A. Smith’s backstage politics are the real story. Smith’s disdain for Kellerman as a co-host is the worst kept secret in sports media circles. Kellerman’s removal was even a topic in Smith’s 2019 contract negotiations. Smith lost that battle at the time, and Kellerman stayed. ESPN did raise Smith’s salary to over $10 million a year though, so it wasn’t for nothing.
But Kellerman’s time on First Take always had an expiration date because of Smith’s relationship with ESPN Senior Vice President Dave Roberts, who oversees First Take.
As the saying in the industry goes, what Stephen A. Smith wants, Roberts makes happen. For background, Roberts wanted to shake up First Take dating back to 2018. As first reported by the Hollywood Reporter, Roberts tried to replace the show’s host Molly Qerim. Stephen A. Smith was likely on board with this as well.
On First Take, you are treated based on how Smith and Roberts feel about you that day. For Kellerman, it was often unpleasant. Not even claiming that Donald Trump’s base in the SEC is susceptible to low-quality information could save Kellerman from Smith and Roberts’ power.
Ironically, although First Take dedicates many topics to diversity and skin color privilege (example, example, example, example, and many more examples), those associated with the show have little concern about their own diversity moving forward.
Jimmy Pitaro, the head of ESPN, sent a memo to staff in July that ESPN is now all about diversity and inclusion, that they will represent all races.
As I've said, ESPN is about not inclusion but exclusion.
First Take the past two days: pic.twitter.com/QpiMFtKxDI
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) August 3, 2021
ESPN plans to use a rotation of in-house analysts to replace Kellerman on First Take. That means Kendrick Perkins, Jay Williams, Kimberley Martin, Jalen Rose, and the other analysts who have popped up on First Take. Also, knowing ESPN executives, they could try to build Bomani Jones up for the fourth time, though adding Jones to the rotation would test how bulletproof Smith is in terms of viewership.
Perhaps the days of a black guy, a white guy, and an attractive woman in the middle are over. For those wondering, that’s been the premise of nearly every sports debate show. In this case, the white guy got the boot.
So while Smith and ESPN are damaging Kellerman’s career by removing him from its highest-rated daily program, Kellerman is better off not playing Alan Colmes to Smith’s Sean Hannity on air and then playing the punching bag to Smith and Roberts off air.
Should Kellerman land on the morning radio show, ESPN will also use him in other roles. Kellerman will remain featured on the network’s boxing and MMA coverage, which includes live events. Furthermore, ESPN pays Kellerman a daily TV salary. Thus, the network could build an afternoon show around Kellerman in place of Jalen & Jacoby and Highly Questionable, two bizarrely formatted shows that are bleeding viewers.
First Take leads its shows daily by judging star athletes’ leadership, decision-making, use of power, and privilege. Should we do that with Stephen A. Smith?