Why ESPN Almost Cancelled First Take, According To Skip Bayless

skip bayless first take

A few months ago, one of the most polarizing personalities in sports analysis jumped ships, as First Take presenter Skip Bayless said goodbye to his ESPN2 home for the lower-rated pastures of Fox Sports. He's slowly starting to loosen his lips about his former employer, and he revealed there was a point when ESPN nearly took First Take off the air, thanks to that infamous interview with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman. Here's how he put it.

But the truth was, I never quite fit on a Disney-owned network. And it's not that I was ever a shock jock --- I just like to go a little deeper in my arguments than [ESPN] was comfortable with. I like to take on athletes who have issues with me. . . . [The Richard Sherman interview] was the time that I thought ESPN should have supported me. Our show took a big hit over it to the point that there was some discussion upstairs of pulling the plug on First Take.

Strangely enough, this was an instance where Skip Bayless wasn't the loudest one in the room, although it was his reputation for being that guy that landed him in such an awkward position. For those unaware, Richard Sherman went on First Take back in 2013, a year before his enthusiastic post-Super Bowl interview was all anyone could talk about, and he went on a rant after Bayless kept making comparisons to other players. "Rant" is perhaps too light of a word, as he eviscerated the First Take host, telling Bayless he "never accomplished anything" and that Sherman was "better at life" than Bayless.

It was about as must-see as anything happening on ESPN2, and you'd think that the reaction from ESPN execs would both half-defend Skip Bayless against such a verbal attack and also celebrate a First Take clip going super-viral like that, but apparently not. Bayless has previously stated ESPN was never too anxious to let him get his point of view across in its uncensored form - he's not alone - and that he's much happier at Fox Sports, where he feels he's more welcomed. He addressed some of those points elsewhere in his interview with TheWrap.

Now I'm with people who believe in me, who support me, and if Richard Sherman attacked me, I would be much more comfortable attacking back. And furthermore, my superiors would love it, because it would be authentically --- genuinely --- great television. That's the difference between the Disney-owned network and the Fox network.

So you know what that means? His new Fox Sports show is going to be even more untethered and wild. For some, that might be a reason to stay away forever, while others will cackle madly while counting down the days to its premiere on Fox Sports 1 on Tuesday, September 6. And while we're waiting to see who the next ESPN analyst exiting the company will be, check out our fall TV 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.