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Some of ESPN’s most well-known on-air personalities were axed Friday in a round of layoffs at the sports network owned by Disney.
Around 20 hosts will be let go on Friday, according to a memo obtained by The New York Post. Big names such as NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Jalen Rose, personality Max Kellerman, NFL broadcaster Keyshawn Johnson, and NFL reporter Suzy Kolber were among those being laid off.
“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,” ESPN said in a statement, according to CNBC. “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 informed its employees of the layoffs in a five-paragraph note Friday morning. Additional employees reportedly being let go included “NFL Countdown” analyst Matt Hasselbeck, NFL draft expert Todd McShay, college basketball analyst LaPhonso Ellis, “SportsCenter” anchor Ashley Brewer, radio host Jason Fitz, and baseball writer Joon Lee, the Post reported.
Kolber was one of the original anchors of ESPN 2 when it first launched in 1993. After a brief stint with Fox Sports, Kolber rejoined ESPN in 1999, focusing most of her time reporting for “Monday Night Football.” Van Gundy was with ESPN for 16 years, becoming one of the most recognizable voices for NBA coverage, along with his colleagues Mike Breen and Mark Jackson, who regularly covered the NBA Finals.
“This is an extremely challenging process, involving individuals who have had tremendous impact on our company,” the network added. “These difficult decisions, based more on overall efficiency than merit, will help us meet our financial targets and ensure future growth.”
ESPN’s parent company Disney laid off around 7,000 employees earlier this year as the company fights to reduce costs and faces backlash over what many of its conservative customers view as the company advancing leftist ideology through its movies and TV shows.
Disney has also lost trust among some consumers after executives involved the firm in contentious culture war battles with Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the past year. Disney publicly opposed a parental rights law in Florida that bans instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity to children between kindergarten and third grade.
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