The Bayless news continues a series of high-profile exits from ESPN’s ranks in the past year-plus. Colin Cowherd left the company last summer in the wake of being suspended for remarks about the mental capacities of Dominicans and then trying to explain himself on air afterward. He landed at rival Fox Sports. Earlier that month, Keith Olbermann left ESPN — for a second time — after the Disney-owned network said it made a “business decision” not to renew his contract. And once-Golden Boy Bill Simmons’ comments about NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in 2014 paved the way for his departure from the Bristol campus in May. He went on to sign a big deal with HBO.
The worldwide loss leader? Yet another high-profile on-air personality is leaving ESPN as First Take co-host Skip Bayless is bolting after a dozen years.
The news comes the day after the sports giant confirmed the exit of its longtime Monday Night Football play-by-play man Mike Tirico for NBC and less than a week after it fired baseball analyst Curt Schilling for an anti-transgender posting on social media.
The opinionated and often acerbic Bayless has hosted ESPN2’s daily program First Take with Stephen A. Smith for years. The two often get into loud arguments as they debate hot-button sports topics. ESPN said Bayless’ final appearance on the program will be the day after the NBA Finals conclude in June.
“Skip Bayless has decided to leave ESPN when his contract expires at the end of August,” ESPN said in a statement. “We want to thank Skip for his many contributions to ESPN. His hard work and talent have benefited ESPN for 12 years.”
Bayless joined ESPN in 2004 as a writer for ESPN.com and a commentator on Cold Pizza, ESPN2’s former weekday morning show. In May 2007, the show moved from New York to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, CT, and was rechristened First Take. Before joining the sports giant, he spent more than 20 years as a newspaper sports columnist.
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