Last week, when ESPN informed nearly 100 staffers they were being laid off, one of the biggest names on the list of well-respected reporters and recognizable broadcasters was longtime NFL insider Ed Werder.
Werder, who had covered the NFL for ESPN since 1998, opened up about being laid off on his new Dallas Cowboys show (and the somewhat appropriately named), The Doomsday Podcast, which he co-hosts every week with former ESPN Dallas columnist Matt Mosley.
“We knew there was going to be a significant talent cut,” Werder said. “I had not accepted that my name might be included, although I had not eliminated the possibility either.”
Werder said that he began to worry after a conversation with fellow NFL insider Chris Mortensen, who told him his understanding was that the quality of someone’s work was not going to be a consideration in who was ultimately let go.
His worries became reality last Wednesday, when he received a text message to call his boss, who sat with a human resources person on the other end of the line and verified -- “unbelievable” to Werder -- that he was going to be laid off.
“When they finished telling me I was laid off, they said this was effective immediately, and the next thing they told me to do as a former employee of ESPN was stay and cover the Saints’ draft, which seemed like an odd way to begin your unemployment,” Werder said.
Werder wasn’t the only former employee the network asked to stay on for the draft. Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry said she found out that same Wednesday that the company had laid her off, but chose to come to Philadelphia anyway to cover the NFL draft. She appeared on SportsCenter and ESPN Radio throughout the three-day event.
Mahomes watching ESPN's Britt McHenry's report alluding to him. pic.twitter.com/lAIkoViEso
— Mike Graham (@Mike_ETSN) April 27, 2017
Unlike McHenry, Werder turned down the request to cover the draft for a company for which he no longer worked.
“I just didn’t feel like it was the right place for me to be, alone in a hotel room and then out in public as a former employee, representing ESPN with the New Orleans Saints,” Werder said.
After being laid off, Werder switched his Twitter handle from "EdwerderESPN" to "EdwerderRFA." On the podcast, he told Mosley that RFA stood for “restricted free agent,” which he said was a nod to the non-compete clause he’s basically forced to honor for the duration of his contract.
“They’re allowing us to go pursue other opportunities if there are some, but if you get a job you want, what I’ve been told is, then you have to take the job knowing you’re not going to be paid by ESPN,” Werder said, adding that he did have permission to do the podcast.
Werder said the depth of the layoffs, especially among reporters like himself, causes him to question the future direction of the network he called home for 19 years.
“What is ESPN about?” Werder asked. “I thought it was about news and information and highlights, and I’m not sure if that’s the point of emphasis anymore.”
Listen to the full podcast here: