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Stephen A. Smith speaks out about ESPN’s layoffs: ‘I could be next’

<i>Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire/AP</i><br/>ESPN's Stephen A. Smith is pictured here.
Jevone Moore/Icon Sportswire/AP
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith is pictured here.

By Michael Nam, CNN

New York (CNN) — ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is wondering if he too might soon be out of a job.

Smith, host of the network’s sports debate show “First Take,” saw several of his high-profile colleagues — including Jalen Rose, Jeff Van Gundy and Keyshawn Johnson — laid off last week.

“This ain’t the end. More is coming. And yes, ladies and gentlemen, I could be next,” Smith said on his show Monday, acknowledging a difficult time for the media industry.

His laid-off colleagues “deserved better than the times we are living in,” Smith said. ESPN’s cuts are only the latest layoffs across several media companies, including The Athletic, National Geographic and CNN.

ESPN owner Disney (DIS) had announced in February that it would lay off 7,000 people across its businesses, Smith noted, so ESPN employees were aware that cuts were likely coming. But a person familiar with the staff reductions at the sports network told CNN that ESPN’s layoffs were unconnected with Disney (DIS)’s larger layoff plans.

About 20 members of ESPN’s on-air talent pool were laid off last week. Aside from those mentioned by Smith, cuts included “College GameDay” analyst LaPhonso Ellis and NFL sideline reporter Suzy Kolber.

Smith also briefly touched on the issue of race in his discussion about feeling uncomfortable about his job security.

“Don’t ever, ever, ever in your life, as a Black person, take anything for granted,” he said. “I’ve told you before: When White folks catch a cold, Black folks catch pneumonia.”

The multibillion-dollar, cost-cutting initiative to streamline Disney’s operations is underway even as the company reported that operating profit grew 56%, to $12.1 billion, in 2022.

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