Longtime ESPN radio host Ryen Russillo was on vacation last week when he found out that his Russillo & Kanell co-host Danny Kanell was one of the 100 ESPN employees that was let go in a massive layoff that rocked the sports media world. Outside of a tweet that Russillo sent out on Wednesday afternoon, he didn’t get the chance to say much with regards to Kanell leaving the show that the two shared for about two years.
That changed on Monday afternoon when Russillo got back on the airwaves and started his show off by addressing the situation with Kanell head-on. And Russillo, who is one of the most honest and insightful analysts on ESPN, didn’t hold back as he spoke openly about how upset he was to hear that Kanell wouldn’t be sitting next to him when he returned from vacation. He began by addressing the higher-ups at ESPN directly and explaining why he felt the need to talk about Kanell on the air.
"This radio deal is far more intimate than anything else I think you do here," Russillo said, aiming his comments at ESPN executives. "This is not me just shifting responsibilities and reporting out of a different city or covering a different team or having a different television lineup. I was in a relationship with Danny Kanell for almost two years, OK? I was in a room with him everyday for four to five hours. And now I come in Monday, and because of everything that’s happened, [he’s not here]."
Russillo then explained that he understands "the real facts of business" and gets why Kanell and others were laid off. But he also spoke about the harsh reality that he was hit with when he was told that Kanell wouldn’t be coming back to work.
"I just want to tell you I’m bummed," he said. "Look, I’m bummed he’s not here. I get it. But he’s got a family and I think that it’s one of those deals where you go, when things happen at work, I’m probably not going to see Danny anymore. He’s going to move. He’s going to move somewhere else…So that part just, from a human aspect of it, I’m not complaining, I’m not doing this whole thing, I’m just going to miss my friend."
And after speaking about Kanell for a few minutes, Russillo dropped a bombshell—and showed just how unstable things have been at ESPN in recent weeks—when he revealed that he actually thought he was going to be the one who got fired last week. He admitted that he spent most of his vacation house hunting in a new city and had even said goodbye to some people before leaving ESPN prior to his vacation.
"This thing was just really weird for the two of us because here’s the deal: I thought I was gone, OK?" he said. "For about six weeks, after sniffing around, I thought I was done. I was off last week because I was out in Los Angeles shopping for houses because I was finally going to make the move I’ve kind of talked about a bunch of different times here on the show. Like, 'Hey, eventually I want to go out there. I want to work in television. I want to do all these different things.' And I mean, this is so weird, but I was saying goodbye to Greeny [Mike Greenberg] after a Mike & Mike hit. I said goodbye to a bunch of people at SportsCenter that week. I said goodbye to a couple security guards. [Former radio co-host Scott] Van Pelt and I scheduled a show where he and I were going to work together on the Wednesday on SportsCenter and then Thursday was going to be my last show right before the [NFL] Draft. And then it wasn’t."
Russillo even said that he spent a couple days being really angry at ESPN execs for seemingly turning their backs on him.
"I was right there where competitively I was so mad for like two days," he said. "I’m going, 'Wait a minute, I’m not good enough?’ Like, 'I’m not one of those guys anymore?' And then Danny and I would be going to commercial breaks and I would be looking at houses I was thinking about buying."
And Russillo finished off his opening by letting listeners know that, although Kanell won’t be back, he doesn’t plan to let go of the radio show that has become a staple of ESPN Radio every weekday afternoon. He said it’s still unclear when or even if he’ll get a new co-host—"This thing happened so fast," he said—but he said he’s hoping to "get this thing going in the right direction" in the coming weeks and months.
Fans of Russillo & Kanell, which has now been renamed back to The Russillo Show, the title it used prior to Kanell coming on board, responded positively to Russillo’s words. He’s one of the few ESPN employees to directly address the layoffs on the air (Van Pelt was one of the others), and it looks like people appreciated him taking the time to assess the situation:
The Russillo Show will continue to air on ESPN Radio from 1 to 4 p.m. (EST) every weekday. You can go here to listen to Russillo talk about the ESPN layoffs and Kanell's departure.