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Sports Media

Stephen A. Smith Wants Biggest Contract At ESPN

Stephen. A Smith

(Tori Lynn Schneider / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Stephen. A Smith
(Tori Lynn Schneider / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Stephen A. Smith Wants Biggest Contract At ESPN

If you watch sports or follow sports media, you know who Stephen A. Smith is. He has become one of the most recognizable faces in the sports media world and he gets paid handsomely because of it. Smith joined Clay Travis for an interview recently and spoke about the importance of becoming the highest-paid person at ESPN.

“Yes. I’m not stuttering. Hell, yes, that’s absolutely true,” Smith said. “I’ve mastered my own business in the world of sports television. Clay Travis, I’ve been number one for 12 years. April 1st will mark 12 consecutive years I’ve been number one. Not only have I been number one every year, I’ve been number one every week and every month of every year for the last 12 years.

You don’t get to say that about too many people. I look at whether it’s Pat McAfee, it’s Mike Greenberg, it’s Scott Van Pelt, it’s Troy Aikman, it’s Joe Buck, it’s Kirk Herbstreit. The list goes on and on. I’m so honored to have the colleagues that I have that I work with at ESPN every day. And at the end of the day, it would be nice, one day, for this man to stand before everyone and be like, ‘I’m number one and this says I’m number one.’”

Although Smith isn’t the highest-paid person at ESPN right now, he still makes $12 million a year. Pat McAfee is an example of someone who makes more than Smith at ESPN right now and it makes sense. McAfee pretty much goes viral every weekend on College Gameday and hosts his own show during the week. What he has done recently for ESPN ratings has been nuts.

Not saying that Smith doesn’t pull in a ton of ratings, because he does, but for right now McAfee’s shows are just rowdier and can be pretty funny. Smith said “I don’t give a damn” that McAfee makes more than him and he’s probably telling the truth.

On top of the fact that the two are probably friends, Smith can use McAfee’s contract as leverage next year when has to negotiate a new deal.

“I’m not just a talent. I’m a business,” Smith said. “I’ve got my own production company. I’ve got my own YouTube channel. I’ve got my own show. It’s not even just a podcast. It’s a show with a fully loaded television studio. That’s what I built for myself, that could go linear or digital. The list goes on and on. I’m doing all of these things. I’m not doing all of that to be in second place. I’m not doing all of that to look up at somebody else and see that they’re making more than me when I’m producing superior ratings and revenue. No, I’m not doing that. And I’m not apologizing to anybody for it.”

I’m sure that the two parties will work out a deal next year. Smith enjoys working for ESPN and, if he really wanted to, he could walk away and do his own thing, although deep down I don’t think that’s what he wants.

“I’ve been treated incredibly well by ESPN,” Smith said. “I expect to continue to be treated well by ESPN. Again, I’ve got great relationships and what have you, but this is a business and Disney has a right to run its business the way it sees fit. ESPN does as well. But if they do, so do I. I hope that we’re able to work it out. I’m confident that we will, because I’m incredibly happy there. But we’ll see.”

I don’t think Smith will go anywhere because of the value he provides to the network. They will likely strike a lucrative deal that satisfies both parties. It feels like Smith is playing a game with ESPN right now by being so vocal about this situation. I’m sure he knows what he is doing and will get that money one way or another.

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