A heated exchange between “Undisputed” hosts Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe and the events that led to it helped give a 57% ratings boost to the Fox Sports 1 show.
According to ratings published on ShowBuzz Daily, Wednesday’s show scored a P18-49 rating of 0.11. In comparison, the average P18-49 rating of “Undisputed” episodes between Dec. 19 and Dec. 30 was .07. The surge gave the show 227,000 total viewers for the day.
The argument was prompted by a controversial tweet from Bayless on Monday following the collapse of Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. The 24-year-old suffered cardiac arrest after being hit during a game against the Cincinatti Bengals. Hamlin received CPR on the field for several minutes before being taken to a hospital via ambulance.
“No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how?” Bayless tweeted before the game was officially postponed. “This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.”
After facing prompt backlash for the initial comment, Bayless wrote in a follow-up tweet: “Nothing is more important than that young man’s health. That was the point of my last tweet. I’m sorry if that was misunderstood but his health is all that matters. Again, everything else is irrelevant. I prayed for him & will continue to.”
On Tuesday’s episode of “Undisputed,” Bayless issued another apology.
“I apologize for what we’re going to set out to do here today, if it offends anyone because we’re going to try to do the show pretty much as usual we do the show,” he said. “I’ll admit up front that I’m still shook up what happened last night to Damar Hamlin. In fact, I’m still wrecked. In fact, I’m not sure I’m capable of doing this show today.”
Sharpe ended up skipping Tuesday’s show, but returned Wednesday and immediately brought up Bayless’ tweet.
“I’ve never seen anybody have to be revived and fight for their life on the field,” Sharpe said during his opening monologue. “Skip tweeted something, and although I disagreed with the tweet, and hopefully Skip would take it down. But I didn’t want it…”
Bayless quickly interrupted, saying that he would not take down the tweet because he stands by what he said.
“I cannot even get through a monologue without you interrupting me,” Sharpe replied before trying to redirect the conversation back to Hamlin.
“I was under the impression you weren’t going to bring this up because nobody here had a problem with that tweet,” Bayless fired back.
The conversation about the tweet lasted for about a minute.
On Thursday, the NFL formally canceled the Bills Bengals game.
“This has been a very difficult week,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “We continue to focus on the recovery of Damar Hamlin and are encouraged by the improvements in his condition as well as the tremendous outpouring of support and care for Damar and his family from across the country. We are also incredibly appreciative of the amazing work of the medical personnel and commend each and every one of them.”
In making the decision, the NFL cited the fact that the game won’t affect postseason standings, as no team would qualify or be eliminated based on the outcome of the game. In addition, re-doing the game would delay the postseason games by one week.
The NFL acknowledged that cancelling the game could have negative effects on other teams in the playoffs. During a special meeting on Friday, the teams considered a recommendation by league management to hold the AFC championship game at a neutral site “if the participating teams played an unequal number of games and both could have been the number one seed and hosted the game had all AFC clubs played a full 17-game regular season.”
The Bills have placed Hamlin on injury reserve while he recovers from the incident. In the meantime, cornerback Christian Benford has been activated from the Injured Reserve List.
TheWrap’s Ross Lincoln and Sharon Knolle contributed to this report