Pat McAfee on Wednesday apologized for airing comments that Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers made toward Jimmy Kimmel on McAfee’s ESPN television show a day earlier suggesting the late-night talk show host had a connection to the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein.
“Some things obviously people get very pissed off about, especially when they’re that serious allegations,” McAfee said. “So we apologize for being a part of it. I can’t wait to hear what Aaron has to say about it. Hopefully those two will just be able to settle this, you know, not work-wise, but be able to chitchat and move along.”
Speaking on his weekly Tuesday appearance on McAfee’s television show on ESPN, Rodgers, a four-time winner of the N.F.L.’s Most Valuable Player Award, suggested that Kimmel, the host of “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” on ABC, was acquainted with Epstein, who was accused of having sex with minors and in 2019 died by suicide while in jail. Epstein was a longtime friend to powerful politicians and business executives, and the names of some of his associates are expected to be publicly released soon in court documents.
“There’s a lot of people, including Jimmy Kimmel, really hoping that doesn’t come out,” Rodgers said on McAfee’s show. Kimmel denied the allegations on X, formerly known as Twitter, and threatened potential legal action against Rodgers.
“Your reckless words put my family in danger,” Kimmel said. “Keep it up and we will debate the facts further in court.”
ESPN and ABC are owned by Disney, placing McAfee and both entities in an uneasy situation. The predicament highlights the leeway ESPN gives McAfee, including the regular appearances by Rodgers, who has used his time on the show to speak out against vaccines and even challenged Travis Kelce to a debate during a recent appearance. In October, McAfee confirmed a report that Rodgers had been paid over $1 million to appear on the show.
Spokesmen for ABC and ESPN did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
ESPN signed McAfee, a former N.F.L. punter, to a reported five-year, $85 million contract last year to bring his popular digital show to the network and to appear on other programing. The hire came as ESPN underwent layoffs as part of an overall cost-cutting strategy from Disney.
McAfee stands out among the network’s other personalities, often using profanity on what had long been family-friendly programming and eschewing the usual business-casual attire for tank tops. Though he has scaled back on the coarse language, ESPN has hoped his show’s freewheeling format would attract new viewers as the network’s business model changes.
“We’re not putting a suit and tie on him,” Burke Magnus, ESPN’s president of content, told The Wall Street Journal in September.