How Getting Fired From ‘Undisputed’ Helped Shannon Sharpe Build His Brand and Led To His ESPN Multi-Year Contract

Shannon Sharpe has been on a roll lately. Besides His media-grabbing, viral-going celeb interviews on his podcast “Club Shay Shay,” he’s been making career moves. He recently signed a multi-year contract with ESPN as a result of his presence on the channel’s morning show, “First Take,” a decision that will allow him to expand his footprint on the media platform. 

Shannon Sharpe
ATLANTA, GA – FEBRUARY 02: NFL player Shannon Sharpe attends the 8th Annual NFL Honors at The Fox Theatre on February 2, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

But just last year some were wondering what might happen to Sharpe’s career.

In 2023, the retired NFL tight end and host of the podcast/YouTube channel “Club Shay Shay” Shannon Sharpe parted company with FS1’s “Undisputed,” but he recently said he considers it a pivotal moment in his career that is helping him understand the significance of building a professional brand that integrates entrepreneurship and corporate partnerships. 

“I believed I could be where I am today, but I just thought it was going to take me a couple years,” Sharpe shared on the podcast “Black Money Tree.” “It hurt me to lose, because I put so much into that job. Now, I look at it and say, ‘I’m no longer talent.’ That’s the way I look at my business now, you’re gonna be my partner. You’re no longer just going to cut me a check to do something.”

Sharpe, who played for NFL teams such as the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens for 14 seasons, has net worth estimated to be $14 million. Currently, he hosts the weekly podcast show “Club Shay Shay” on YouTube, interviewing prominent athletes and celebrities. The channel currently has an estimated 3.24 million subscribers. In early 2024, Sharpe’s interview with comedian Katt Williams helped the podcast reach wide notoriety. To date, the interview has more than 70 million views. The success of “Club Shay Shay” success and his other endeavors, such as “Nightcap” with retired athletes Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson and Gilbert Arenas have supported Sharpe in shifting his mindset around entrepreneurship and developing partnerships through his company, Shay Shay Media. 

“You can’t fire me from Shay Shay Media, because I own it,” he told Black Money Tree. “You can’t fire me from ‘Nightcap,’ you can’t fire me from ‘Club Shay Shay,’ I own it.”

Expanding Presence In Sports Analysis 

During his football career, Sharpe became the first tight end to reach over 10,000 receiving years and win three Super Bowl championships. Following Sharpe’s retirement, he became a sports analyst for CBS. He also co-hosted FS1’s “Skip and Shannon: Undisputed” for seven years. Yet, on-air tensions between Sharpe and co-host Skip Bayless are widely believed to have led to Sharpe’s departure, a moment he considers pivotal in his post-NFL career. 

Sharpe quickly joined ESPN’s “First Take” with analyst Stephen A. Smith. Ratings for the show have been successful, reaching their highest views in May. 

“Shannon Sharpe has been an incredible addition to the First Take team, enhancing the show’s dynamic with his engaging presence and insightful commentary,” David Roberts, ESPN’s Head of Event & Studio Production​, said in a press statement about Sharpe’s new deal. “Shannon’s chemistry with Stephen A. Smith has elevated our debates and been another key reason First Take is the premier destination for morning sports discussion.”

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