Former “First Take” host Skip Bayless is no stranger to controversy, but he sounds like it could have been even worse as he says he was often held back by the Disney-owned ESPN.
Bayless, who is set to join Fox, told Marisa Guthrie of The Hollywood Reporter that those in charge at ESPN were “a little too fearful” of what could and could not be said on air.
“Too many people in charge at ESPN, for my taste, were a little too fearful,” Bayless told THR. “It’s a Disney network. There are just certain boundaries that you can’t even tiptoe along.”
Bayless, who partnered with Stephen A. Smith on the “Embrace Debate” ratings hit, “First Take,” is set to host a new debate-style show on Fox where he will reportedly make $6 million per year on a new 4-year contract.
Bayless and Smith were often criticised by fans and the media for their over-the-top commentary that often digressed into screaming at each other. This has also led to sharp criticism from people like Mark Cuban and Chris Bosh.
However, despite the criticisms, “First Take” has been a ratings hit for ESPN in a time slot where sports networks struggle to find content that resonates with fans. This has led the self-proclaimed Worldwide Leader in Sports to add more debate shows, and for ESPN executives to try and keep Bayless, according to Guthrie, at a time when ESPN was laying off employees and other high-priced talent was being shown the door.
Despite the vow to take off the handcuffs, Bayless says he is not going to become a “shock jock.”
“I’m not suggesting I’m going to become some sort of shock jock because that’s not me,” Bayless told THR. “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.”
For those who have watched a fair share of “First Take,” that will have to be seen to be believed.
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