Sports Illustrated ranks top 10 sports media personalities, placing Charles Barkley #1, Stephen A. Smith #2, and omitting Pat McAfee

It’s list season in sports media! As I mentioned in a recent article, businesses are struggling to find sports content. As a former sports radio producer, July meant one thing: Time to make some lists. Sports Illustrated decided to list its Top 10 Most Influential Sports Media Personalities. They ranked Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Smith at the top. Pat McAfee is not on the list at all.

Here’s theirs complete list:

  1. Charles Barkley, Turner Sports
  2. Stephen A. Smith, ESPN
  3. Big Cat and PFT, Barstool Sports
  4. Peyton Manning, Omaha Productions
  5. Adam Schefter, ESPN
  6. Kirk Herbstreit, ESPN
  7. Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN
  8. Bill Simmons, The Ringer
  9. Jeff Passan, ESPN
  10. Tom Brady, FOX

Charles Barkley, Stephen A. Smith rightfully earn top billing on the Sports Illustrated list, but no Pat McAfee

I won’t argue about either Barkley or Smith at the top. Love them or hate them, everyone knows who they are. Like Pat McAfee. But I’ll get to him in a moment.

And I think Barkley belongs at #1 over Stephen A. Smith. He is one of the rare personalities with a media job who speaks his mind. And he crosses political boundaries.

Sports Illustrated listed the most influential members of the sports media and put Charles Barkley at the top. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Stephen A. Smith does some of that with his new podcast, but he plays the race card too often.

Putting the Barstool couple at #3 is an interesting choice, but not egregious. Their podcast is among the most listened to in sports. And their unique style sets them apart from their counterparts.

I don’t know if I consider Peyton Manning to be a full-fledged sports media personality. He does some Monday Night Football broadcasts, but other than that he’s not very visible.

His company produces documentaries which are great, but Peyton himself is not that influential in the industry. He could be one day, but right now that ranking is too high. I wanted him on the list, but lower.

Jeff Passan? Really?

Three of the next five are news breakers. Schefter, Wojnarowski and Passan are simply breaking news in their sport. This makes them influential. However, I would argue that Schefter is the only one who really belongs.

First, the NFL is king. Schefter carries a lot of weight in the league. Wojnarowski is an NBA sensation, but whether he’s even the best in the game is debatable. Shams Charania has an argument. In addition, he is more known and visible among the younger audience.

Jeff Passan? It’s ridiculous. I sometimes forget he even exists. Top 10 Most Influential Sports Media Personality? Not a chance.

Jeff Passan in the guy on the right.  We don't blame you if you didn't know what he looked like.
Jeff Passan in the guy on the right. We don’t blame you if you didn’t know what he looked like. (Photo by Kevin D. Liles/Atlanta Braves/Getty Images)

No misgivings about Kirk Herbstreit. He calls the biggest college football games, including the College Football Playoff, and now joined the NFL to play Thursday Night Football. He is a big name and when he speaks, people listen.

Bill Simmons? Maybe 10 years ago. I honestly don’t know what he does anymore. A podcast, of course. But when was the last time Bill Simmons did or said something that really got people talking? And if they appeared on TV without graphics, would most people even know who he was? I vote no.

I don’t actually hate the Tom Brady inclusion. Sure, he hasn’t done much in the space yet, but he’s already one of the most influential people in sports. Hell, even a simple rumor that he and Kim Kardashian were flirting at a party set tabloids and sports talkers on fire.

Pat McAfee not being included feels personal

But the exclusion of Pat McAfee is indefensible. There is a reason why he is one of the highest paid personalities in the entire industry. His show is excellent, he constantly makes news, and he has connections throughout the NFL.

There must be some personal beef between McAfee and the article’s author, Jimmy Traina. That is the only rational reason not to include McAfee.

Sports Illustrated omitting Pat McAfee from a list of most influential sports media personalities is a laughable mistake.
Sports Illustrated omitting Pat McAfee from a list of most influential sports media personalities is a laughable mistake. (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

In fact, the only argument where McAfee belongs is against Charles Barkley and Stephen A. Smith. There is a fair debate that McAfee could be #1.

Organize them however you want, but these are the top 3.

I think Skip Bayless belongs on this list as well. Again, you can hate him, but the fact is his opinions matter. How do we know? Because athletes respond to his criticism. If he didn’t matter, they would ignore him.

And it’s not a list of the “best” sports media personalities. It is a list of the most “influential”.

This is an important distinction.

Maybe Sports Illustrated just wanted to drum up some content on a weekday in July. And it worked. I write about it.

But there are many problems with this list.

But none is bigger than the McAfee exclusion.

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