The departure of Dan Le Batard, ESPN’s most successful voice, has been brewing for a while

Illustration for article titled The departure of Dan Le Batard, ESPN’s most successful voice, has been brewing for a while

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In early July, ESPN unveiled their new radio line-up, and the show that garnered the most attention was Dan Le Batard’s. The simulcasted program, and ESPN’s most successful podcast for multiple years running, lost an hour on-air — going from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., to 10 a.m.-noon. Not long after, it was discovered that the show would be moving from ESPN News to ESPN+.

And today, this happened, despite the extension Le Batard signed with ESPN two years ago:

It’s unknown whether Le Batard is bringing the entire brand with him, or whether such a move would include the Le Batard and Friends Network, which houses podcasts by Sarah Spain, Marty Smith, Mina Kimes, Le Batard, Stugotz, and the show’s Shipping Container. He also recently hired one of the fired said Shipping Container members and Le Batard Show producer Chris Cote as his personal assistant to keep him in the building. He even called Cote’s firing the most disrespectful act of his professional career.

Whether or not Le Batard admits it tomorrow morning, it’s long sounded as if this breakup had been brewing for years. On his own show, he’s (sometimes playfully, sometimes not) jabbed at the network’s “stick to sports” mandate under president Jimmy Pitaro, a pushback Jemele Hill wrote about last year, and why he doesn’t want to abide by such structure. Le Batard has not only been the face of ESPN’s audio division — he has been a maverick leading a fanbase of anarchists wanting to shake the table of the billion-dollar establishment. He’s the same man whose show sold out 500 Gramercy Theatre tickets in 30 seconds last May, resulting in Le Batard die-hards complaining online about how quickly they were assed out of meeting the hosts in New York City.

And Le Betard is one of sports media’s most beloved figures. His audience was a testament to his show, which included appearances from Stephen A Smith, Bomani Jones, Pablo Torre, Katie Nolan, and Nick Wright, among many others.

Whenever he steps out of bounds under said structure, speculation arises as to whether or not he’ll get suspended for simply calling out hypocrisy. And in the past, he’s also expressed a wish for the company to report more vigorously on itself.

Maybe he’s not “allowed” to talk about it tomorrow on his show. Maybe he doesn’t care, and maybe he’ll lob one final grenade before his January 4 farewell. But ultimately, whether he admits it or not, Le Batard hasn’t needed ESPN for some time.

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