ESPN's Norby Williamson out after nearly 40 years, months after Pat McAfee called out top exec for 'sabotage'

Williamson’s departure had nothing to do with McAfee, a source said

ESPN has split with longtime executive Norby Williamson after nearly four decades with the network, a move that comes just months after popular sports analyst Pat McAfee called him out on air and accused him of "attempting to sabotage our program."

The New York Post first reported news of Williamson’s departure from the network on Friday. 

Norby Williamson at Emmys

Norby Williamson during the 26th Annual Sports Emmy Awards - Press Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. (Jemal Countess/WireImage)

Sources told the Post that Williamson – the executive senior vice president of studio and event production – was at odds with Burke Magnus, who was promoted to president of content in March 2023.  


In an email sent to employees obtained by Fox News Digital, Magnus confirmed the split. 

"Norby Williamson will be leaving the company today after nearly 40 years of dedicated service," the note read. 

"During Norby’s career, he made significant contributions across many important roles within Content. Through his steadfast commitment and attention to detail, Norby has had a lasting impact on the sports fans’ experience. His wide-ranging influence includes SportsCenter, breaking news coverage, immense creativity within event and studio productions and diverse storytelling across various ESPN platforms."

Norby Williamson in a meeting

Norby Williamson leads a staff meeting in the executive conference room of ESPN headquarters on Nov. 15, 2018. (Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

A statement from Williamson was also sent to employees. 

"Almost 40 years ago in 1985, I was so very fortunate to be offered an opportunity at ESPN. Due to the exceptional hard work, creativity and commitment of the people of ESPN, and to a much lesser extent my contributions, I’d like to think we’ve left our great company in a far better place than we found it."


Tension behind the scenes seemingly found its way to the airwaves earlier this year when former NFL player Pat McAfee, who joined the network last year, called out Williamson over leaked reports about "The Pat McAfee Show." 

Pat McAfee runs his show

Pat McAfee talks at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center ahead of Super Bowl LVIII on Feb. 8, 2024, in Las Vegas. (Candice Ward/Getty Images)

"There are folks actively trying to sabotage us from within ESPN. More specifically, I believe Norby Williamson is the guy attempting to sabotage our program. I’m not 100% sure – that is just seemingly the only human that has information, and then somehow that information gets leaked and it's wrong, and then it sets a narrative of what our show is," McAfee said back in January. 

In a later show, he clarified his support of Magnus and ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro, adding that "there is quite a transition era here between the old and the new. And the old don’t like what the new be do."

But a source familiar with the situation told Fox News Digital that Williamson’s departure had nothing to do with McAfee. 

ESPN will begin its search for a replacement immediately.

Williamson first joined the company in 1985, working in the company’s mailroom. He climbed his way up through the years until he was promoted to his latest role in 2017. His responsibilities expanded in June to include all of ESPN’s football content, including college football.

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