At ESPN, criticism of Skip Bayless apparently was forbidden

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As the guy who once speculated that Troy Aikman is gay prepares to become Aikman’s colleague at FOX, Skip Bayless first must disengage from ESPN. And it sure seems like plenty of his colleagues in Bristol aren’t upset about being his former colleagues.

For years, none of the other ESPN employees called out Bayless for some of his buffoonish opinions on First Take. Now that he’s leaving, it’s open season — starting with Scott Van Pelt’s obvious knock at Bayless after the Cavaliers won Game Seven of the NBA Finals.

So why wasn’t there more ESPN-on-ESPN crime involving Bayless in the past? Apparently, it was prohibited.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, Ryen Russillo and Danny Kanell addressed the issue of criticizing Bayless during their ESPN Radio show on Monday.

Said Russillo: “If [Dan] Le Batard wanted to come on and say, ‘I can’t believe Russillo said this,’ or Mike & Mike can’t believe Russillo said this, I would be okay with it. I may disagree with them, [but] I would be okay with it. The problem is when you disagree with Skip, you’re not allowed to, and then he gets mad at you about it. So like, nobody wants to deal with it. That’s why when the LeBron stuff comes up, if you’re going to be so clearly doctoring the results to keep pushing you don’t like LeBron or you don’t think he’s any good, then go ahead and keep doing it because it’s clearly great for business. But you can’t get mad at other opinion people for being like, ‘Well, that’s just insane and I don’t even know if you believe it.’”

“Isn’t there a time, too, when you just have to go, ‘I was wrong?’ Isn’t there a time?” Kanell said.

“But it’s not good for business,” Russillo said. “Business is good, so I respect that part of it. But we’re all big boys, we all say stuff, and all of us, because we’re opinion guys, disagree with each other all the time. But when you disagree with Skip, it gets handled a different way and a lot of us are just like, ‘Whatever.’ So that’s why we never bring it up.”

“Well, we don’t have to worry about it anymore,” Kanell added.

They don’t have to worry about it anymore, as it relates to Bayless. But which other on-air personalities are or will be insulated from criticism?

Does Stephen A. Smith get the same special treatment? If he previously did, will enough ESPN on-air personalities decide that they’re no longer going to keep quiet when Smith or anyone else who may not react well to being called out says something worthy of criticism?

Clearly, Smith won’t react well if it happens. Go back and listen to the PFT Live discussion about Smith’s reaction to the suggestion that his hot (and misguided) take regarding the NFLPA’s legal bills had been fed to him by the league office. Smith believes that members of the media shouldn’t talk about other members of the media, with the exception of any members of the media who exclusively cover the media.

Smith gets riled up when “colleagues” who work for other companies (which necessarily makes them, you know, not colleagues) talk about him. Imagine what he’ll do if his actual colleagues choose to talk about him.

Maybe imagination won’t be required. Maybe the Bayless departure will embolden others to speak up, even if it causes Smith to blow a gasket. If enough ESPN personalities do it, what’s ESPN going to do? Fire all of them?

Meanwhile, Bayless exits Bristol and its built-in (but shrinking) audience of people who tune in to ESPN because it’s ESPN for FOX and an audience that has to be built largely from scratch, while he at the same time avoids crossing paths with Aikman.

“I will tell you this. I’ve not seen — I’ve not physically seen Skip Bayless since that time,” Aikman said in 2011. “That was in ’95. And I still kind of wonder what I might do to him when I do see him.”

As recently as last year, Aikman was still unhappy with Bayless.

“I’m upset about it because it was made up and there was nothing accurate about anything that was insinuated. And he did it, as he does everything, just for attention,” Aikman told Richard Deitsch of in January 2015.

Bayless may have gotten special consideration while at ESPN when saying goofy things. Chances are that Aikman — and presumably others at FOX — won’t be giving him that same privilege once he officially joins them.

UPDATE 11:30 p.m. ET: An ESPN spokesperson forwarded to PFT a quote from Russillo. “What I referenced yesterday was something personal between me and Skip,” Russillo said. “It had nothing to do with ESPN policy.” It’s a fair point, but there’s a huge difference between “policy” and “practice.” If in practice, criticism of Skip Bayless triggered internal complaints from Bayless that were supported directly or indirectly by management, “ESPN policy” is irrelevant.

80 responses to “At ESPN, criticism of Skip Bayless apparently was forbidden

  1. Skip Bayless is consistently wrong (probably 85%+). He will fit in well at Fox. Maybe they can get him into the political discussion as well?

  2. We all knew that skip could dish it out but couldn’t take it. He’s the kindergarten equivalent of when things don’t go his way he takes his ball and goes home.

  3. That’s nonsense. LeBatard torched Skip daily and does so with Steven A. Smith all the time. Maybe they didn’t criticize him because they were the types to go along to get along, which they are.

  4. In Chicago he and Jay Mariotti were always neck and neck for who would be the biggest jerk on any given day.

  5. When he was in Chicago at the Tribune, he was a major tool. I was so glad when he left town. He is NOT a reporter. He provides NO new information or insight. Opinioned, arrogant and divisive wherever he goes. Gee, maybe he could be the VP on the GOP ticket!

  6. in a summer where legends like muhammed ali, david bowie, and harambe the gorilla have left us, this is the saddedst loss by far. say what you want about skip, but he never backed down from his takes and never gave a inch even when facing one of the greatest debaters of modern times.

    ya know, i remmeber another great man who intially became famous for debating a stephen a. thats right, abrham lincoln, and tbh i see a lot of honest abe in skip bayless. if skip had been president during the civil war, it would of been over within 5 months due to gen lee backing down when skip scolded him for not having the clutch gene. in fact, skips probably could have burned atlanta to the ground with one of his takes.

  7. To me this proves that ESPN encouraged Skip to make outrageous remarks.

    Skip most likely agreed to take inaccurate or unpopular stances to generate controversy and ratings, so long as other journalists at ESPN did not attack his reputation.

    True journalists at ESPN should be happy he is gone. It can only raise the credibility of their programming, as Skip spoke nonsense on purpose that he most likely didn’t even believe himself.

    If he continues this at FOX, please dont insult your viewers. At least make him wear a red nose.

  8. people watch ESPN still?

    people still listen to the hot air coming out of Bayliss?

  9. I’d like to see how he handles himself, to be honest. Troy has been retired for a while now, so no excuses for Skip. I’d buy that on PPV.

  10. I always wondered how Bayless stayed on air. I guess there is a large demographic of viewers who are entertained by the so clearly fake and just for shock value things that Bayless always spouted. How people watched him and Stephen A. and their fake arguments each morning boggles my mind.

  11. “But it’s not good for business,” Russillo said. “Business is good, so I respect that part of it. But we’re all big boys, we all say stuff, and all of us, because we’re opinion guys, disagree with each other all the time. ”

    “We’re all opinion guys”….in other words, we can find your equivalents in any given pub, restaurant, sporting event, amusement park or internet board.

    There not a single “personality” on BSPN who’s opinion I’m interested in hearing and they are all utterly bereft of talent.

  12. sportzfan is right on. Lil Skip couldn’t take the heat when Jalen Rose questioned his basketball resume, which was pretty pitiful in hindsight.

  13. Smith & Bayless, both are unwatchable buffoons.
    I tried a few times but couldn’t take more than a minute or two.
    I don’t see how anyone finds either of them entertaining or informative.

  14. I stopped watching ESPN and NFL network about 2 years ago, best thing I ever did. The analysts are all Bias, especially to the teams they used to play for….even though they claim they are not.

  15. Business is so good they laid off what was it, 400 people last year ?

    The worldwide joke of sportscasting

  16. It’s fitting that Bayless, who makes up stuff and is often wrong, is going to work for Fox. Frankly, he’d be a good fit at Fox so-called News, because they’re always making up stuff and are usually wrong over there. Those two entities deserve each other.

  17. I am fairly sure that Skip Bayless has truly earned the title “The Most Hated Man in Sports” for just inexplicably going after people whether it is Tom Landry,Troy Aikman or Lebron James. He has earned a living with internet trolling before there was an internet to troll on. Though most of what he says is completely crazy I do love his take on hockey not being a real sport but just playing pinball with a hockey puck. It makes all the Canadian hockey fans here livid and calling the local radio stations to have him banned. I find it pretty hilarious.

  18. Watching Skip and Stephen A. Smith has literally taken YEARS off my life.

    In the early years, it was like, Gawd, why don’t you make out already?

    In the last few you could see Stephen A’s contempt for the man.

    Put Skip out to pasture. No need for him in TV.

  19. This is just one of many reasons I no longer have ESPN. I cancelled my subscription to the network last year. I haven’t missed it, at all.

  20. Bayless is a complete JERK.. Im sorry he got hired again. Fox is staining themselves with this idiot. I wont watch.

  21. Have any of you considered that maybe Skip is the bad guy just so that there is somebody to hate? It’s television. He may just say things outlandish just so that people will tune him to see him get “punked” by other analysts and players. I hate him at first, but I started to realize that he’s just the protagonist. Part of the show just to have the drama necessary to get people to watch. I don’t believe that he’s actually that stupid.

  22. It’s sad that ESPN sucks so bad. An all sports network sounds great. How they screw it up is beyond comprehension. Russillo and Kanell don’t have a lot of room to talk because they’re terrible as well. Wanted to see some U.S. OPEN or NBA finals talk today around noon and the only option was Russillo and Kanell. Wow!!!! Kanell is a box of rocks and you can literally see Russillo attempting to be compelling and it ain’t working. First take sucks, his and hers sucks, around the horn is ok, PTI is ok. Their NFL coverage is terrible unless you’re an NFC east fan. I remember the day I got cable a long, long time ago. ESPN was amazing. Now I only watch it when I got 15 minutes to kill.

  23. The way I deal with bayless is the way I deal with goodell.

    I simply will never stop and listen to either one. I either quickly change the channel or turn off the TV.

    They are both worthless and I never want to hear them say a thing.

  24. BSPN is trash! Lies, misinformation, and manipulation of the ignorant. If you saw it on BSPN, it’s either wrong or an outright lie!

  25. If you are a grown man whose name is John, and you still go by your childhood nickname “skip”, odds are, you are a moron.

  26. The point of the whole damn show is for Skip to allow Steven A Smith to be a braggart, blowhard and buffoon.

    To allow this, Skip has to take all the ‘other’ positions that aren’t typically acceptable to the world. For the 6 million $$$ a year, I would too. And ABC/ESPN has to keep Skip happy.

    I pitty the next person that has to deal with Steven A. His motto is “I’m always right, and don’t you forget it”…

    All you have to see is Steven A’s reaction to Skip telling the world Monday morning that LaBron was not the real MVP of the series, it was Kyrie Irving. Skip actually had a very good argument, but Steven A, in his “clown” look basically blow off Skip, as he normally does.

  27. I always thought since the show was a debate show, there had to be two sides regardless of how outrageous it may be to make the show entertaining… And that’s why I always felt skip bay less played his part as that guy will crazy opinions… Maybe I was naive but that’s what made the show different from other shows. It would put be a debate show if they agreed on everything

  28. I watch ESPN and the like for LIVE sports,nothing else.Guys like him are paid to spout as much nonsense as possible.Thats why reality television is so popular.Its all made up.

  29. Not sure why Networks hire a tool like skippy. People do not respect him or his views. I for one will not watch people like him. Or SAS, Berman on and on at BSPN or fox. I just don’t care what they have to say.

  30. I’ll never forget when Florida gulf coast university made a run in the NCAA basketball tourney…kind of big underdog story thing. And skip one day said he thought if they played the Miami heat -this was when Lebron was there mind you- he thought Miami would only beat Florida gulf coast by thirty points….

    That was when I realized this guy will say anything to dog Lebron James.

  31. Mike & Mike are unwatchable to a true sports fan.
    Skip at least gave his opinion
    and can take the criticism.
    Just keep giving Golic his dounuts
    so he can’t talk.
    Greenberg…..Grow Some.

  32. If you have watched Skip Bayless long enough on First Take, you will come to notice that Skip forms his opinions based on what he believes the athlete in question is thinking. In other words its like Skip thinks he is a mind reader. I have heard Skip many times go into detail on why an athlete did this or that based on what Skip seem to think he knew exactly what the athlete was thinking. Skip Bayless, Mindreader, would be an appropriate title of his next new show. Best of luck to Skip Bayless and FS1.

  33. ESPN is slowly but surely killing all the golden gooses, from First Take, to Mike & Mike. On First Take for example, I don’t mind Molly Q. being a moderator of sorts, but I do mind Molly Q. joining the fray as if her opinion carries the same weight as the two sports journalists that have covered sports for decades. And on Mike & Mike they have segments with Molly Q. titled Molly’s (something). The segments are usually about tweets or about the crazy socks some athlete wore at a post game press conference. Who knew winning Miss Connecticut would catapult you to top rated shows that the stars of the shows took decades to arrive at.

  34. Hogwash…

    Stephen A. regularly criticized Skip ON AIR on their show.

    If criticism of Skip was forbidden at ESPN then they forget to tell Stephen A. to stop criticizing Skip…

    And he did it on air no less.

    Yes, Skip would criticize Stephen A. and their show was about creating that back and forth kind of like a crazy talk show.

  35. I’m gonna miss Skip,but my wife won’t. Now we can stop buying TVs,since I’ve broken so many after throwing the remotes at them. His hatred of LBJ, love of all things Cowboys and belief in Tebow won’t be missed. Hope FOX knows exactly what they hired,since $10M is a high price for someone that’ll make ppl stop watching whatever show Skip is on.

  36. We can disagree with Skip all we want, but he’s a good on air personality. He is on a debate show both people on show need to have a different stance on the subjects they cover.

  37. Oh, those guys are so brave to talk about it on his last day! As if Skip Bayless is the only problem at ESPN among its talent. The Network has spread itself too thin plus the major sports have their own networks, making unnecessary to wait for Sportscenter. Not to mention, the Internet and radio has the stories long before they come on TV to promote themselves.

  38. Skip became unwatchable once he made an appearance on a Jim Rome show “Rome is Burning” in 2004.

    He worsened even more once Woody Paige left that stupid show they did “First & Pizza” (just kidding).

    The only reason Bayless is treated is better is because of one person only, Stephen A. Smith. Unfortunately, there’s a big reason why Smith is hated undeservingly more than Bayless.

  39. What i hated about First Take (formerly nicknamed by Dan Lebatard as “First & Pizza”) is that it never did research and took stances on crap that was obviously wrong.

    Worst, they never let fans message, tweet, or text them about why they’re legitimately and factually wrong.

  40. He to this day believes the better team got their doors blown off them in SB XXXVII. Good riddance.

  41. I seem to recall Richard Sherman cutting him down and both Skip and Stephen A admitted they were wrong the day after SB 48.

  42. Somehow, some way both Skip and Smith are wrong more times then not, yet they usually disagree with each other, so does that mean espn is a bend in time and space? Seriously, 1 down and 2 to go for espn. If Stephen A and Dilfer go then I may actually watch espn again.

  43. @pftcancer…

    you need to look up the definition of the word protagonist. being “the bad guy just so there’s someone to hate…” is the exact opposite of a protagonist. the word you’re looking for is antagonist…

  44. I like Skip. He serves a purpose. He is THE BAD GUY and he embraces the role. We love to hate him and that’s better than watching bland T.V.

  45. Skip marries the narratives that he would like to see play out. Super stars overcoming obstacles in dire times. The underdog, with dismissed talent, who proves his worth. And the team with an almost regal approach to their game, keeping a tight rein on the crown among the ragtag opposition.

    Skip is insightful. It maybe misdirected at times, but still insightful. Everyone else just lauds LeBron, like he is a good as Jordan, because of his basketball skills and physical prowess. But Skip may be right about LeBron. He doesn’t have the heart of an MJ, Bryant or even Steph. When chips are down, he has a track record of folding.

  46. “What I referenced yesterday was something personal between me and Skip,” Russillo said. “It had nothing to do with ESPN policy.”

    Profiles in courage.

  47. “Skip is insightful. It maybe misdirected at times, but still insightful.”

    No, dude. Making things up and saying them on TV for the sake of ratings is not insightful.

  48. I don’t like skip bayless most the time…however, in his defense, the next journalist I see that doesn’t get defensive when someone disagrees with him will also be the first. Was it a different level with skip? Possibly (I don’t know the guy personally, so i cant say). But I’m sure if a reporter for any company (especially a colleague) publicly criticized Florio as being an uppity know it all sometimes, then Florio would get upset and write an article about it (or leave a snide/condescending comment in parenthesis like he so often does)… It is human nature. One thing I begrudgingly have to give Skip credit for is that I’ve never heard him say anything negative about any of his colleagues (maybe he has but I missed it). And with how often his colleagues publicly bash him, that’s impressive to me. it’s not like his colleagues are all above being criticized…even the very popular ones.

  49. Bayliss is a cable tv carnival barker. I never watch that show or any cable show that features individuals shouting their opinions because it’s mostly, or partly fake, and conceived to entertain. There is very little on cable tv that should be taken seriously: it is a 500 channel wasteland; most shows get ratings that barely register, if that–and thus we get shoutfests…they’re a cheap way to get noticed. There was recently a show on cable about an exterminator in Louisiana–that’s how bad it is. Glenn Beck, idiotic spinner of conspiracy theories and fake tears, was on cable for years. It is a medium in which only clowns thrive–and that is what Bayliss is, a sports TV clown, not to be taken seriously.

  50. I immediately change the channel when I see Bayless. Not at all interesting since we all know his outrageous opinions are all for the shock factor to promote himself. I wish we could all agree to boycott anything related to Skip Bayless. As it is right now, it’s wasted airtime when he is on.

  51. What is he going to do at Fox? He obviously can’t broadcast the 16 Packers games with Buck & Aikman. The only way the pregame show would have room for his mouth is if they got rid of at least 2 people already there. Give him his own radio show? Can’t imagine that would last too long…..

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