Keith Olbermann is out at ESPN — again.
Late Wednesday afternoon, ESPN brass, out of one side of its mouth, praised Olbermann, calling him a "tremendous talent," but quickly stashed the bouquet to give him the boot.
"While the show's ("Olbermann") content was distinctive and extremely high quality, we ultimately made a business decision to move in another direction," the ESPN Faculty said in a statement. "We wish Keith nothing but the best and trust that his skill and ability will lead him to another programming endeavor."
Olbermann's contract was set to expire at the end of this month. In 2013 he returned to ESPN, where his star once shined while co-anchoring SportsCenter with Dan Patrick, with much fanfare. ESPN's move to hire Olbermann coincided with Fox launching Fox Sports One. At the time, much was made of a "new" Olbermann, a man at peace who was tired of burning bridges, returning "home" for the long term.
Yet last week with the clock running on Olbermann's contract negotiations, reports surfaced claiming ESPN suits told him if he wanted to keep his show, and do a new deal, he could not engage in any commentary. Taking that arrow out of his quiver would amount to neutering Olbermann.
That "stipulation" likely resulted from Olbermann's soliloquies about the way Roger Goodell handled the Ray Rice case. Olbermann called Goodell's initial two-game suspension of Rice "weak, damaging and almost enabling."
Bill Simmons, who recently split ESPN, was also called on the carpet by network execs for trashing Goodell.
To say ESPN is tight with the NFL and the commish is an understatement. ESPN airs NFL-related programming year-round. It pays the NFL a whooping $15.2 billion for the rights to "Monday Night Football" in a deal that runs through 2021.
ESPN denied ever trying to muzzle Olbermann, 56.
"Keith Olbermann has never been told any topic is off limits for his commentary," the network said in a statement last week. "Nor has continuation of it been part of any conversation about his future with the company."
In the end, it likely wasn't any controversy that did Olbermann in. His show wasn't exactly attracting mega eyeballs. "Olbermann" started as an hour-long show beginning at 11 p.m. But in 2014, it went to a half-hour with a 5 p.m. start.