One of the biggest shocking sports moments of the week had to be Jason Whitlock suddenly being out at Fox Sports after just a few years.
“Friday was Jason Whitlock’s last day with Fox Sports,” a network statement provided to the New York Post’s Andrew Marchand reads. “We thank Jason for all of his hard work and dedication to the network, and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
No one outside of Fox Sports saw this coming or even why it happened until Whitlock spoke with Front Office Sports.
The 53-year old opened up about his future plans, being ignored in favor of Skip Bayless, and what’s next in his career.
Why are you leaving Fox Sports?
Jason Whitlock: Because I believe in myself and I believe the opportunities in front of me are better than staying at FS1. I had a great, rewarding experience for the last four years hosting and creating the ‘SFY’ show that exists today. The last two years in particular were very rewarding. Charlie Dixon, the head of studio programming, bought into my vision and allowed me to surround myself with Marcellus Wiley, Darnell Smith, and Uncle Jimmy.
I’ve established professional relationships that will last the rest of my working career. I’m the only person in the world who could have a thoughtful, meaningful, and enjoyable conversation with Colin Cowherd and Uncle Jimmy. This second go-round at Fox Sports put me in position to take risks and further capitalize on my brand. By nature, I’m a home-run hitter. It’s time to take another swing for the fences.
Did Fox offer you a contract extension? If so, what was their offer?
JW: They offered me a two-year extension to continue hosting the show at the same pay. Not a bad offer considering the times we live in.
Did the pandemic impact your negotiations? We’re hearing sports media companies are either cutting pay – or keeping salaries flat?
JW: I suspect the pandemic impacted the negotiations. The discussions before the pandemic were completely different from the discussions after the pandemic. But the pandemic was never argued to me as a justification for the offer. At 53, it’s go-time. I’m in my prime. And my unifying message and point of view are more valuable in this era of social-media-driven racial polarization. People want to know how we can all get along. I’m the only person in sports media offering a plausible pathway forward.
Do you think your bosses at Fox did enough to support you, your show?
JW: I think all talent feels they need more support. I bet Denzel Washington and George Clooney think their movies need more marketing. When you are as stunningly attractive as Denzel, Clooney, and myself, you tend to be needy. It’s the downside of good looks. More seriously, [the people who work on SFY] wanted more promotional and marketing support. I think the network prioritized getting eyeballs on ‘Undisputed’ and getting a return on the investment in Skip Bayless. You make a big bet, you do whatever is necessary to cash that ticket.
You’ve worked for ESPN twice. Are you interested in a third go-round?
JW: I talked with ESPN. I like the direction ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro is taking ESPN. But the pandemic submarined those discussions.
Whitlock joined FS1 in 2016 to co-host “Speak for Yourself” alongside fellow former ESPN personality Colin Cowherd before Cowherd left the show.
Before heading to ESPN and Fox Sports — Whitlock made his name as reporter and columnist for the Kansas City Star from 1994-2010.