Fox Sports 1 debuted Undisputed today with Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe. Bayless is arguably the biggest name to join the network since it started ramping up its talent department. He comes with baggage, including an unsubstantiated claim that Troy Aikman was gay he made in a book about the 1990s Dallas Cowboys.
Aikman, a 15-year veteran of Fox and the network’s top NFL analyst, didn’t mince words when asked about Bayless’ hire by Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch.
“To say I’m disappointed in the hiring of Skip Bayless would be an enormous understatement,” Aikman said. “Clearly, [Fox Sports president of national networks] Jamie Horowitz and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to building a successful organization. I believe success is achieved by acquiring and developing talented, respected and credible individuals, none of which applies to Skip Bayless.”
Aikman expressed his distaste for Bayless in the past, saying the former ESPN personality does everything for attention. It’s not surprising that his feelings haven’t changed just because both parties are now under the same employ.
Anecdotally, Aikman is in a much freer position to criticize a network talent decision like this than he would be at, say, ESPN. For example, Ryen Rusillo described how it was clear in the organization that pushback on Bayless when he worked there was not worth the headache that would ensue.
Fox has seen Katie Nolan vs. Julie Stewart-Binks, Katie Nolan vs. Clay Travis and Katie Nolan vs. Dan O’Toole play out publicly in recent months. Aikman’s shot at Bayless is undeniably stronger than any of these.
But it’s backed by a strong resume and long tenure. Aikman, as a three-time Super Bowl champion, would not lack for outside opportunities.