Former ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne is claiming the network began monitoring his Twitter account after he broke an order to stay away from politics on social media by poking fun at then-President Donald Trump‘s glowing physical in 2018.
Speaking with The Ringer, Mayne addressed his recent exit from ESPN, which he says resulted from the network’s request that he take a substantial pay cut from his reported $1.4 million salary.
He also discussed the company’s policy agains political tweets, saying that he knew he was being monitored after the Trump tweet.
Former ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne is claiming the network began monitoring his Twitter account after he broke an order to stay away from politics on social media by poking fun at then-President Donald Trump ‘s glowing physical in 2018
Mayne did goof on the President from time to time, like when White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson reported that the then-71-year-old Trump weighed 239 pounds and was in ‘excellent’ overall health in 2018. Trump, who is famously fond of fast food, was accused of a ‘girther’ conspiracy on social media for allegedly having Jackson give a favorable mischaracterization of his overall health. In response to Trump’s physical, Mayne joked that his own time in the 40-yard dash rivaled that of the NFL’s fastest players. ‘President’s doc just hand timed me in the 40 at 4.21 in Snoop Dogg slippers,’ Mayne tweeted. ‘I got a Norby call on that one,’ Mayne said, referring to SportsCenter producer Norby Williamson
‘There’s a group of people that watch your Twitter,’ Mayne said he was told by a colleague.
Mayne admits he was too fearful for his job to go as far as now-former ESPN personality Jemele Hill, who famously called Trump a ‘white supremacist’ on Twitter and has since left the network for The Atlantic.
SportsCenter producer Norby Williamson (pictured) allegedly addressed concerns about Kenny Mayne’s Twitter use with him
However, Mayne did goof on the President from time to time, like when White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson reported that the then-71-year-old Trump weighed 239 pounds and was in ‘excellent’ overall health in 2018. Trump, who is famously fond of fast food, was accused of a ‘girther’ conspiracy on social media for allegedly having Jackson give a favorable mischaracterization of his overall health.
In response to Trump’s physical, Mayne joked that his own time in the 40-yard dash rivaled that of the NFL’s fastest players.
‘President’s doc just hand timed me in the 40 at 4.21 in Snoop Dogg slippers,’ Mayne tweeted.
‘I got a Norby call on that one,’ Mayne said, referring to SportsCenter producer Norby Williamson.
On a separate occasion, Williamson allegedly confronted Mayne about another tweet, although the former ESPN anchor did not specify what he wrote.
‘Why do you have to do the politics?’ Williamson asked, according to Mayne.
‘Because I have four daughters and a wife and I want to look at myself in the mirror,’ Mayne responded, according to his interview with the Ringer.
Trump (pictured here on August 22 in New York) weighed 239 pounds in 2018 and was in good shape, according to White House physician Dr. Ronny Jackson
In May, the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reported that Mayne had been earning $1.5 million annually, but was asked to take a 14 percent cut in work and a 61 percent reduction in pay.
As Mayne told The Ringer, he ‘thought the variance was too much.’
The network sidestepped Mayne’s claim in a statement provided to The Ringer: ‘Kenny was a key figure in building ESPN. We’ll always be grateful for his creativity, passion and work ethic. We wish him continued success.’
In this file photo US Representative Ronny Jackson stands alongside newly-sworn in first-term Republican members of Congress on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, DC on January 4. Previously, as the White House physician, Jackson drew criticism for giving President Donald Trump a clean bill of health in 2018
ESPN previously demanded that anchors avoid politics on social media, although both conservative and liberal TV personalities have accused the network of abandoning this rule due to some perceived bias.
In 2017, a poll conducted by Barrett Sports Media claimed that 60.8 percent of respondents thought ESPN was ‘too liberal.’
Another poll that year, which was conducted by Langer Research Associates and later shared by ESPN, found that 30 percent of viewers felt the network held a conservative viewpoint.
Known for his dry delivery, which was often drenched in sarcasm, Mayne took an uncommon path to the Connecticut-based cable network.
He played quarterback at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where he preceded future NFL Most Valuable Player Randall Cunningham under center for the Running Rebels. Mayne later signed as a free agent with the Seattle Seahawks in his native Washington, but he never fully recovered from an ankle injury he suffered in his senior season, and was ultimately cut by the team.
Mayne frequently poked fun at Trump White House staffers for their praise of the President
Mayne then switched his focus to journalism, and began his career at KSTW in Seattle, where, according to former ESPN sports business reporter Darren Rovell, his first job was to monitor the police scanner.
His move to ESPN was aided by what is likely the most celebrated cover letter in network history.
‘Dear John,’ began the letter from Mayne to then-ESPN executive editor John Walsh in March of 1994. ‘Please mark the appropriate box and return as I am in the process of planning my future.’
The body of the cover letter contained three options for Walsh to check:
‘It just hit us — we love your work. Contract is on the way. Stand by the mailbox.
‘Keep up the field producing. We’ll call you when we need you.
‘We’ll consider hiring you about the time ESPN5 hits the air.’
At the time, the network had just launched ESPN 2.
Mayne was hired shortly thereafter, starting as the host of ESPN’s auto racing show, RPM 2Night, before replacing Keith Olbermann on the SportsCenter desk, where he quickly became one of the network’s stars.
Kenny Mayne pictured as he’s taken off the field by UNLV trainers after his ankle injury in 1980
Kenny Mayne briefly appeared on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars
In addition to his own personalized segments, such as ‘Mayne Street,’ the former college quarterback also gained notoriety for his wisecracking ‘This is SportsCenter’ commercials, and for a brief stint on Dancing with the Stars on ESPN’s parent network, ABC.
There was an outpouring of support for Mayne on social media from his friends and colleagues after he announced his exit in May.
‘So many people use sarcasm as a crutch to be mean,’ wrote Rachel Nichols. ‘@Kenny_Mayne’s secret sauce is sarcasm as a weapon for compassion, brilliant observations mixed with a sense of wonder & appreciation for the good (while still being the most clever guy in the room). I can’t wait for what’s next.’
ESPN’s Major League Baseball insider Jeff Passan responded by sharing a link to a charity with which Mayne was involved.
‘You love @Kenny_Mayne because of course you do,’ Passan tweeted. ‘He started an organization called Run Freely. It provides veterans with leg issues the devices to run again. It is a wonderful cause. If you want to honor the amazing work Kenny did, please do it here.’
Mayne also poked fun of himself in a response to an unrelated tweet from Olberman.
‘There are ENOUGH goddamned podcasts,’ tweeted the former ESPN and MSNBC host.
‘I feel like there’s too for one more,’ Mayne joked.
Mayne announced his exit from ESPN in May, specifically saying he’d miss a vending machine