Stephen A. Smith wants everyone to know that he doesn’t hate Max Kellerman and he’s not forcing his co-host off the show.
Earlier this week it was reported by Front Office Sports that Kellerman was being likely to be removed from “First Take” and would be shifted to another role within the company.
BREAKING: Max Kellerman’s nearly five-year long stint on ESPN’s “First Take” with Stephen A. Smith may be coming to an end.
The latest from @MMcCarthyREV ⤵️
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) August 18, 2021
Max Kellerman’s nearly five-year long stint on ESPN’s “First Take” may be coming to an end.
Kellerman could leave his debate chair opposite Stephen A. Smith and Molly Qerim Rose for more extended duty on TV and ESPN Radio, sources told Front Office Sports.
The decision is not finalized, said sources, but if Kellerman leaves, Smith is not expected to have a daily debate partner. Instead, he could debate various ESPN personalities as well as high-profile guests.
“It could be Stephen A. vs the World,” said one source.
Even if if Kellerman leaves “First Take,” he’s still expected to play a very prominent role on ESPN. He’s hosted the eponymous “Max Kellerman Show” on ESPN Radio since 2020. He also has his own boxing TV show on ESPN2.
Outkick’s Bobby Burack followed up by claiming that Smith dislikes Kellerman and wanted him off the show.
"Stephen A's disdain for Max Kellerman as a co-host is the worst-kept secret in sports media circles."
My column on how Stephen A’s backstage politics — and friendship with an exec — finally got Kellerman kicked off First Take.
— Bobby Burack (@burackbobby_) August 18, 2021
While Kellerman’s future will get the attention right now, Stephen A. Smith’s backstage politics are the real story. Smith’s disdain for Kellerman as a co-host is the worst kept secret in sports media circles. Kellerman’s removal was even a topic in Smith’s 2019 contract negotiations. Smith lost that battle at the time, and Kellerman stayed. ESPN did raise Smith’s salary to over $10 million a year though, so it wasn’t for nothing.
But Kellerman’s time on First Take always had an expiration date because of Smith’s relationship with ESPN Senior Vice President Dave Roberts, who oversees First Take.
On Thursday, Smith went on The Morning Hustle radio show and denied disliking Kellerman or playing a role in his co-host leaving the show.
Stephen A. Smith on Max Kellerman leaving ESPN's First Take: "Those reports of me disliking Max are an absolute lie. I actually got a lot of love for the guy.
"If he stays on the show, so be it. If he departs, it will be because they have other things they want him to do." pic.twitter.com/OLb5ec991f
— 👑 Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson 📍 (@ScoopB) August 19, 2021