ESPN Asks Top Commentators to Take a 15% Pay Cut Due to the Coronavirus
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ESPN Asks Top Commentators to Take a 15% Pay Cut Due to the Coronavirus

Stephen A. Smith
Stephen A. Smith, circa 2017 (Wikimedia Commons)

The results of sports being at a standstill has reverberated across many businesses, especially at television sports networks. ESPN has asked its highest-paid sports commentators to take a 15% reduction in salary over the next three months to help cope with the losses attributed to the coronavirus pandemic, according to CNN.

“We are asking about 100 of our commentators to join with our executives and take a temporary salary reduction,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in a statement. “These are challenging times and we are all in this together.”

ESPN executives are taking a 20%-30% salary reductions as part of cost-cutting measures instituted throughout Walt Disney Corp. The cuts that are being applied amounted to 30% for executive vice presidents, 25% for senior vice presidents, and 20% for vice presidents.

The pay cuts, which are voluntary, are designed to help deter additional furloughs that would directly affect lower-paid network employees who might be more financially vulnerable. The network has already furloughed employees who work on live events.

According to the New York Post, commentators Stephen A. Smith, Scott Van Pelt, and Dick Vitale are among those who have already agreed to the salary reduction. Endeavor president Mark Shapiro, whose sports agency represents Smith and other ESPN talent, said he understands the network’s position.

“Unprecedented times call for unprecedented sacrifices and like our global workforce has demonstrated, the sports talent we represent intellectually understands that and are embracing the request,” Shapiro told the Post.

The 15% voluntary pay reductions are not expected to affect ESPN’s lower-paid talent, who have salaries in the low six figures.

With the NBA suspending its current season, the National College Athletes Association canceling the men and women’s college basketball tournament, and Major League Baseball delaying Opening Day, ESPN has been scrambling to fill the gaps in sports programming left due to the coronavirus outbreak.


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