Kenny Mayne To Exit ESPN, Calling Himself A “Salary Cap Casualty”

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Kenny Mayne, a longtime anchor and correspondent on ESPN who was also a wisecracking presence at the network’s annual upfront presentation, is exiting after a 27-year run.

“I am leaving ESPN,” he tweeted, in a laconic style suited to his on-air demeanor. “Salary cap casualty.” Among the people he thanked in the tweet was current anchor Scott Van Pelt. “I will miss the people,” Mayne wrote. “I will miss the people. I will miss the vending machine set up over by the old Van Pelt joint. We had everything.”

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In a subsequent tweet, Mayne said he would continue appearing on the network until May 24.

Reaction poured in on Twitter. Former ESPN host Mike Golic spoke for many when he tweeted, “We are getting to the point of being able to start a new network with former ESPN employees that were [shown] the door.” Former SportsCenter anchor Jemele Hill, who left in 2018, tweeted a wordless clip from The Shawshank Redemption, showing Morgan Freeman’s character leaving prison. “See you on the other side,” she told Mayne. Even those at ESPN rivals Bleacher Report and Barstool Sports expressed their fondness.

In addition to being a visible part of ESPN’s rise in the 1990s and its years of dominance beyond that, Mayne also became a highly anticipated draw at the Disney network’s upfront. Often held at the Minskoff Theatre on Broadway, on the same morning as ABC’s afternoon showcase uptown at Lincoln Center, the pitch to advertisers was leavened by Mayne’s jabs at marketers and the network itself. While Jimmy Kimmel’s similarly modulated set at ABC has long been a highlight, Mayne developed a parallel following for his riffs on a wide range of topics, rendered in his trademark, dry style.

In 2018, he took the stage in a yogi’s floor-length white robe and goofed on meditation and spiritual uplift, leaning into the irony of doing so for a roomful of ad executives. “When I climbed the last 500 feet of Mount Rainier, I was never more alive,” he said as the screen behind him filled with a bucolic mountain image. “I looked at the perfect creation in front of me and I envisioned how some 30-second spots could be repurposed into 15s and run on autoplay on the ESPN app. Namaste. Be the best you. Find your authentic self, even if you have to lie to yourself to find it.”

That was the last year the ESPN upfront was held as a separate event. Disney has been consolidating the various events under its umbrella, especially after taking control of Hulu and networks like FX after buying most of 21st Century Fox.

In addition to his ESPN tenure, Mayne also notched a few experiences beyond the sports news arena, including a stint on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars in 2006. He also produced and starred as himself in Mayne Street, a scripted digital series set in a fictionalized version of the sports network.

Without ever playing up his jock credentials as so many sports personalities do, Mayne was able to draw on his experience playing college football at UNLV. He signed as a free agent with his home-state Seattle Seahawks in the NFL, but TV quickly became his true calling, with work in the Seattle-Tacoma market and Las Vegas eventually leading him to ESPN.

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