Laid-Off ESPN Employee Of 26 Years Fights Back On Facebook
That was apparently the case when Howie Schwab, sports trivia expert and long-time staffer at ESPN, got laid off late Wednesday in the network's most recent round of cost-cutting. How could you know? Because Schwab (pictured above) announced it on his personal Facebook page late Wednesday and took a jab at his former employer of 26 years. Describing himself as "loyal employee," Schwab wrote:
I am extremely disappointed to say farewell. ... I always did everything asked of me and more. What did I get in return today ... word that I should get lost. The only thing that mattered was my salary, which in my view was the lone reason I lost my job.
According to John Koblin at the blog Deadspin, at least a half-dozen people in addition to Schwab were laid off and five open positions were eliminated. This is on top of a reported hundreds laid off in May, despite the fact that ESPN, owned by Disney, has been called the most valuable media brand, estimated to be worth $40 billion. According to Koblin, ESPN's plan was to lay off the higher-paid veterans and replace them with "younger, cheaper, less experienced people."
But why take a risk of burning bridges by posting such a message on your Facebook page? AOL Jobs caught up with Schwab and asked. "I was contacted by a few different people for a comment and I basically wanted to answer it in just one place," Schwab explained.
ESPN refused to comment for this story. During the previous round of layoffs in May, however, the company released a statement, saying, "We are implementing changes across the company to enhance our continued growth while smartly managing costs. While difficult, we are confident that it will make us more competitive, innovative and productive."
On Thursday, there was an outpouring of support for Schwab from his ESPN colleagues. An ESPN public relations person called Schwab, telling him "how much they appreciate me as a friend," Schwab said. An ESPN exec also contacted him and offered support, telling him, "We're still friends and if I can do anything to help, understand it's a business decision, it's not personal.
Schwab says he was up until 5 a.m. responding to all the texts, calls and emails -- and the posts on Facebook and Twitter. Former ESPN The Magazine senior writer Jeff Bradley wrote that he wanted "to puke" because of the layoff. Sports Illustrated writer Richard Deitsch noted a "remarkable outpouring from former (and some current) ESPN-ers ... on Twitter and Facebook." CBS College Football Today host Tim Brando said that everyone else on ESPN "was better because of Howie Schwab." CBS Sports personality Dana Jacobsen called him an "incredibly kind, giving, sweet man ... a good guy."
The tone of some comments almost sounded like a eulogy. "I'm fine by the way," Schwab said, adding, "Those who thought I'd jump under a bridge should have taken the under" (a reference to betting on how many points will be scored in a game).
Schwab started as a freelance researcher at ESPN in 1985 and then hosted a quiz show, "Stump the Schwab"; he has been on various ESPN shows since. What's next? He says that he's already had discussions about possible positions with other media companies. Until a job offer materializes, though, Schwab said, he plans to keep busy -- watching the CBS soap, "The Young and the Restless."
"I'm a ... diehard fan," Schwab says, "Now I have time."
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Erik Sherman is a widely published writer and editor who also does select ghosting and corporate work. Follow him on Twitter at @ErikSherman