Jeff Van Gundy, Suzy Kolber, Jalen Rose and Steve Young are among roughly 20 ESPN commentators and reporters who were laid off on Friday as part of job cuts by the network.
ESPN had planned this additional round involving on-air talent to prevent further reductions to off-air staff after two rounds of mandated cuts by its corporate owner, the Walt Disney Company.
Disney CEO Bob Iger announced in February that the company would reduce 7,000 jobs either through not filling positions or layoffs.
Friday’s announcement resembled what happened in April of 2017, when reporters and hosts were informed at one time that they would no longer be on the air.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries, and that process has begun. This exercise will include a small group of job cuts in the short-term and an ongoing focus on managing costs when we negotiate individual contract renewals in the months ahead,” ESPN said in a statement. “This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company. These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth.”
The New York Post first reported the layoffs of Van Gundy and Rose.
Van Gundy had been the network’s top NBA analyst since 2007 and recently completed calling a record 17th NBA Finals. Kolber was a longtime ESPN veteran, including being the co-host of a nightly show when ESPN2 debuted in 1993.
She was also the host of ESPN’s “Monday Night Countdown” show.
“Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off. Heartbreaking-but 27 years at ESPN was a good run. So grateful for a 38 yr career! Longevity for a woman in this business is something I’m especially proud of,” Kolber said on social media.
Rose had also been with ESPN since 2007. He was mainly part of the NBA studio shows but also did a radio show for 11 years and was a co-host when Mike Greenberg’s “Get Up” morning show premiered in 2018.
ESPN’s NFL coverage and the radio side, were the ones to take the biggest hits.
Longtime draft analyst Todd McShay, who also contributed to college football coverage, and analyst Matt Hasselbeck were also laid off.
ESPN Radio’s morning show team of Max Kellerman and Keyshawn Johnson as well as afternoon host Jason Fitz were also affected. Kellerman also did an afternoon show on ESPN, but that was unlikely to continue after Pat McAfee signed to bring his show to the network’s airwaves in the fall.
Others include “SportsCenter” anchor Ashley Brewer, radio and ACC Network host Jordan Cornette, college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis, NBA reporter Nick Friedell, baseball writer Joon Lee and “College GameDay” analyst David Pollack.
Most will be bought out of their contracts and receive their full pay. If they want to take another job, they would have to negotiate an exit arrangement with ESPN.
Johnson and Rose might be the first two to come to mind after Shannon Sharpe left FS1’s “Undisputed” due to increased tensions with co-host Skip Bayless.
ESPN is expected to continue assessing its talent pool over the next year as contracts are reviewed or negotiated for renewal. It had already started some reductions by not renewing the contracts of NHL studio analyst Chris Chelios, longtime “SportsCenter” anchor Neil Everett and NFL analyst Rob Ninkovich.
While its NFL, NHL and baseball contracts are set well into the future, negotiations for the renewal of NBA rights is expected to begin next year.