Update: ESPN sports analyst Stephen A. Smith fears he will be next after 20 of his colleagues were let go last week.
Smith said more lay offs may be coming – and his own job isn’t safe.
“ESPN laid off about 20 members of its on-air talent … friends of mine, actually, definitely respected colleagues who’d done a phenomenal job and deserved better,” he said on The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast.
ESPN laid off 20 high-profile sports commentators including Jalen Rose (left), Keyshawn Johnson (center), Jeff Van Gundy (right), Max Kellerman, LaPhonso Ellis and Suzy Kolber.
Smith gave a shoutout to his friend Jalen Rose, saying that Rose had been doing an “outstanding job for us covering the NBA for years.”
“Got a lot of love for that brother,” he added. “I’m going to miss him. Jalen Rose has always been good to me and I loved working with him on NBA Countdown. He is a brilliant basketball mind, he is somebody that worked his ass off all the time. There was never an assignment he backed away from, there was never a time he didn’t want to work.”
Smith also name-dropped laid off NBA analyst Jeff Van Gundy. “I just can’t imagine he’s gonna be out of work for long,” Smith said. “I’m sure I’ll see him on-air doing his thing. He’s been a Hall of Fame analyst and commentator.”
Smith continued: “If we’re going to be real about it, let’s deal with reality. This ain’t the end, more is coming. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could be next.”
The massive layoffs are part of ESPN’s majority owner, Disney’s cost-cutting measures, a source told CNN.
Disney recently laid off about 7,000 employees, saving the company more than $5 billion in salaries and bonuses.
“Given the current environment, ESPN has determined it necessary to identify some additional cost savings in the area of public-facing commentator salaries,” ESPN said in a statement on Friday.
The company did not announce who was laid off, but some of the sports commentators who were let go announced their unemployment status on Twitter.
“Today I join the many hard-working colleagues who have been laid off. Heartbreaking-but 27 years at ESPN was a good run,” Kolber tweeted on Friday. “Longevity for a woman in this business is something I’m especially proud of.”
Twitter reacted to the news with a mix of shock and disappointment.
One Twitter user wrote: “They dump Jeff Van Gundy & Jalen Rose but keep Perkins and Mark Jackson. Brilliant moves…”
Another Twitter user wrote: “I’m glad that the Mark Jackson/Jeff Van Gundy pairing has finally been dynamited, the chemistry was awful.”
A third person tweeted: “ESPN got rid of Jalen Rose, Keyshawn Johnson, and Max Kellerman. But they kept, Molly Qerim and Malika Andrews!?”
Watch the video below.