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In June, ESPN was widely criticized for signing Pat McAfee to a large salary while it laid off over 20 on-air personalities.
Journalists and X users questioned the optics of spending money on McAfee while firing Keyshawn Johnson, Jalen Rose, Suzy Kolber, and Jeff Van Gundy.
ESPN employees leaked to the media they were “upset” with the McAfee contract.
Yet the same people who were outraged over the McAfee signing have celebrated the network handing Mina Kimes a $1.7 million-a-year contract this week.
The coverage and response are noticeably different:
And they go on…
Paying McAfee while laying 20 people off is a bad look. Paying Kimes while laying 20 people off is a good look. That is according to the sports media. They say Kimes earned it.
Of course, that is not true. None of it is.
It was McAfee, not Kimes, who earned it.
Now, detractors will argue that they were outraged because McAfee’s detail is worth $17 million annually, about eight times Kimes’ deal.
However, McAfee is worth more than eight times Kimes. Easily. The difference between the two is monetization.
For $17 million, ESPN secured the rights to exclusively air McAfee’s daily three-hour program across ESPN TV (for two hours), YouTube, and ESPN+.
In addition, ESPN added his highly downloaded podcast to its audio division and will use him on College GameDay and First Take.
ESPN signed Mina Kimes to contribute as an NFL “anyalst.”
ESPN will make money directly from its partnership with McAfee, through ad sales, podcast revenue, YouTube, and ESPN+ subscriptions.
Kimes provides none of that.
A company has to spend money to make money. To make money on McAfee, ESPN had to pay him $17 million a year.
There are only a few people in sports media who directly drive revenue through viewers and listeners. McAfee is one of them. Stephen A. Smith is another.
As we explained in June, ESPN calculated it could make more money from its deal with McAfee than from the combined 20 talents it laid off.
McAfee’s value above replacement — to use a phrase — is substantial. And quantifiable.
That is not the case for other pundits. For example, ESPN won’t lose a single ad dollar by replacing Kolber with Scott Van Pelt as host of Monday Night Countdown.
Most ESPN personalities fill airtime and provide no quantifiable difference. That includes Mina Kimes.
Kimes appears on NFL Live, First Take, and Around the Horn. Those aren’t her shows. Sponsors don’t pay to be associated with her. She doesn’t move ratings. Viewership doesn’t spike whether she’s on air.
How exactly does that make her worth about $2 million a year when ESPN just cut $30 million in salary?
We don’t know. ESPN has never said in the many press releases touting her “uniqueness.”
Mina Kimes is a role player.
So, you have to wonder what caused the disparate reactions to McAfee’s deal compared to Kimes’ deals.
Do ESPN employees and bloggers not understand business?
Is it because McAfee is a white guy and Kimes is an Asian woman?
Do they think Kimes, who never played football, knows more about football than McAfee, who at least kicked off a Super Bowl?
Tough to say. Because the outrage is misdirected.