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Kenny Mayne on Controversial ESPN Exit: ‘It Was the Right Move for Everybody’: TRAINA THOUGHTS

1. It’s been about six months since popular SportsCenter anchor Kenny Mayne and ESPN parted ways after the company asked him to take a 61% pay cut.

On this week’s SI Media Podcast, I asked Mayne whether he felt the same way about his departure today as he did in the early months after it happened.

“That’s hard to quantify,” Mayne said. “It’s a great question, but I don’t know if I can answer it. I think I feel better about leaving because I know that it all turned out O.K. for me and my family.

"At the time, I was kinda running on high energy. Gretchen [Mayne’s wife] called it the ‘Kenny Mayne Ego Tour’ as I was getting all these podcasts requests and whatnot. She’s probably right. There’s probably something to that. But I didn’t invite it. I wasn’t out saying, ‘Hey, put me on.’ Like I said, I don’t have anybody fronting for me. Maybe I’d be smarter if I did.

"I feel fine with it and my story remains the same. Truly, there’s no malice. I have so many friends, I stay in touch with most of the same ones, I play golf with a bunch of them still, I’m still in Connecticut. And I wish them well. I watch Monday Night Football. I’m not boycotting ESPN.”

Mayne continued, “They’d have to explain their side. I can’t explain their side, I can only explain my side, which was they made an offer for me to stay, and said all the right things, ‘You’re valuable, and we want you to stay, and it would be tough if you left,’ and all that kind of stuff. But they set up a scenario that I think they knew, I was going to be like, ‘There’s no middle ground to this, it’s this or leave?'

"So I left. And I don’t regret it. They made a business decision that they needed to cut back and make more money for Disney, and I was one of the casualties of the salary cap situation. Oh, well.”

I then asked Mayne whether his disappointment level with ESPN for not negotiating was the same today as it was in May.

“Again, I go out of my way to qualify my answers. I’m not here to bash ESPN; I’m not. They decided, whoever ‘they’ are, I assume it was Jimmy [Pitaro, president] and Norby [Williamson, executive vice president], the top people, ‘All right, here’s our budget, here’s what we’re paying different people to do different things. Oh God, he’s making this much? Let’s cut him by 61% and have him keep doing late night, you know, Cubs-Marlins games.‘ Or, come to the middle if there’s a middle ground.

"But they asked, ‘So you’re definitely saying no? You are not accepting this offer?’ I said, ‘Well, not as it stands.’ That’s kind of an open door; I would have maybe, maybe not listened to something. And I’m glad I didn’t because what if they had only cut it by 28% or something? I might have stayed, because that was a lot of money.

"I’ve got four daughters, I got remarried, and we’ve got two each, so four together, two in college, one graduated, one’s gonna go. We’ve got overhead still. And I don’t feel that old; I feel I can still do more things. I’m not ready to retire.

"It was the right move for everybody. They saved some money. I replaced it with Caesars and the other things I’m doing. Everybody did O.K.”

Did Mayne think at the time that everybody would be O.K.?

“I didn’t know,” he said. “I had a good amount of confidence and the incoming calls quickly led me to believe this is gonna turn out O.K. I had no idea that many people would care, period.”

Many other topics were covered with Mayne during his appearance on the SI Media Podcast.

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• Getting in trouble with ESPN higher-ups over political tweets.

• Navigating post-ESPN life without an agent.

• What he texted Aaron Rodgers after the Packers quarterback got COVID-19.

• Whether a daily sports-themed comedy show can work.

• Bitcoin.

You can listen to the podcast below or download it on Apple, Spotify and Stitcher.

You can also watch the SI Media Podcast on YouTube.

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Be sure to catch up on past editions of Traina Thoughts and check out the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast hosted by Jimmy Traina on AppleSpotify or Stitcher. You can also follow Jimmy on Twitter and Instagram.