Dan Le Batard’s 24-hour “Freedumb” event celebrating his new, $50-million partnership with DraftKings is underway with guests pouring in from all over the sports media landscape including radio veteran Jim Rome, whose devoted fan base of “clones” in many ways laid the foundation for Le Batard’s own success in that medium. For all his accomplishments in radio and TV, the CBS Sports personality is still arguably best known for his infamous confrontation with former NFL quarterback Jim Everett, who lunged at Rome after he repeatedly called him “Chris” (a reference to female tennis star Chris Evert) during an interview in 1994.
“That was not a good night at the office for me,” said Rome, reflecting on the incident in his sit-down with Le Batard. “When I first broke into the business, late 20s, early 30s, we did stuff like that. We talked a lot of s---. That’s kind of what my brand was.”
When he first came to prominence in the 90s, Rome adopted an edgy on-air persona, ruffling feathers with his brash demeanor and blunt criticism of players like Everett, one of Rome’s favorite targets early in his ESPN tenure.
“Call this guy up and let him know, there’s not going to be a sandbag, we’re not going to ambush this guy. You let him know, in the event that he doesn’t know I call him Chris Evert, that if he’s coming on the TV show, I will say to his face what I said behind his back on the radio. I will be true and authentic to this,” said Rome, who warned Everett ahead of time that things could get hairy. “It’s not going to be the whole interview. Make sure he knows this. And make sure he knows it’s going to be a really good interview because nobody can leave with a bad experience because nobody ever has. And Everett’s response was, ‘I know exactly where I’m going. I know what the show’s about. I want to do this.’”
A man of his word, Rome made good on his promise, wasting no time in antagonizing Everett. “I get into it, it’s live, I’m young, I’m immature. I hit him once with it. I hit him a second time. He says, ‘I bet you don’t do it again.’ Me being 30 and not that bright I go, ‘I bet I do.’” That’s when Everett, who stands 6’5,” pounced at Rome, prompting ESPN to cut to a commercial.
“It was not a setup. It was not staged. I did not want that to be my whole career,” expressed a regretful Rome. “However, I did it. It was my fault. I own it. It’s a part of who I am. I was Tonya Harding for a week. I got the treatment on Saturday Night Live. Everybody was coming for me.”
Rome later tried to make things right, pleading for a chance to clear the air, but Everett never gave him that opportunity. “He and I have never spoken since,” Rome revealed. “For 10 years, I tried to redo the interview. For 10 years I wanted closure. And he always said, ‘No, man. I don’t need that.’ And I finally stopped asking.”
Le Batard joked that he would try to reunite them on the livestream, offering to play the role of peacekeeper, but with so many other guests scheduled to appear throughout Friday’s 24-hour marathon, the odds of Everett coming on to patch up his differences with Rome seem pretty slim.