The Real Problem With ESPN, According To Skip Bayless

skip bayless first take

As one of the most outspoken and opinionated minds in the world of sports analysis, Skip Bayless has been pretty quiet since it was announced he would be leaving behind ESPN and his co-hosting gig on ESPN2's First Take for other pastures. But the world knew that kind of behavior wouldn't last forever, and Bayless took some shots at his former employer for being too sensitive.

Too many people in charge at ESPN, for my taste, were a little too fearful. It's a Disney network. There are just certain boundaries that you can't even tiptoe along. Not that we won't have boundaries at Fox, because we will. [But] they will trust me to go a little deeper. I can be completely honest on everything.

The House of Mouse has definitely done some scrubbing up on the multitude of companies under the Disney name, for better or worse, and Bayless is far from the only person criticizing ESPN for going soft where some subject matter in concerned, particularly as the darker sides of athletes' lives and behavior have come to light in recent years. Bayless will be moving to Fox Sports 1 for a new daily series that is still being kept under lock and key ahead of its planned debut in September, and he couldn't have sounded happier when talking to THR about how freeing the shift will be.

While Bayless declined to go into detail about the subject matter that he and his First Take co-host Stephen A. Smith weren't allowed to touch, his tone alone made it seem like there were many more cases of thematic headbutting than one might expect. Here's how he described his new approach.

I'm not suggesting I'm going to become some sort of shock jock because that's not me. I say what I say because I believe it from the bottom of my soul and I can back it up. Now I feel like I can be completely honest, heart-and-soul, with full support from the people above me.

Surely he can't have a thorn in his paw over just a couple of minor instances where ESPN execs pushed back on what could be covered. I guess we'll get to see just how big the differences are when his new show kicks it into high gear.

To his credit, Skip Bayless could have easily shined a more negative light on ESPN and its execs now that all that is in his rear-view mirror, but it makes sense that he didn't get too scathing with his remarks. After all, his exit from the company was not one spawned by controversial fireworks, though that has been the case for others like Bill Simmons and Curt Schilling, the latter of which shot back at ESPN, alleging his conservative views were constantly frowned upon, to put it lightly. But Bayless' new career is just getting underway, so the future could put all kinds of people on blast.

ESPN has lost quite a few of its big names in the relatively recent past, and things haven't been looking so great for its linear TV future, though a shift to streaming programming could make up for cord-cutting losses. In any case, both ESPN and ESPN2 have a larger audience than Fox Sports 1, and I'm sure there will be people watching very closely to see if Bayless' presence delivers an uptick in viewers.

Fans of Skip Bayless would be wise to tune into his new show on Fox Sports 1, which is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, September 6. To see when everything else is hitting the small screen this fall, check out our TV premiere schedule.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.