ESPN’s hit sports talk show First Take underwent drastic changes to its format and personnel in 2012. The show added prominent NBA analyst Stephen A. Smith to face off against longtime commentator Skip Bayless in a debate-style format. What ensued has been arguably the most entertaining sports television to date.
The show isn’t praised for having insightful analysis or legitimate commentary, but it has became popular because Bayless and Smith never fail to deliver the most head-scratching takes of all time. Unfortunately, Bayless has since moved on from the show, but Stephen A. Smith is still out there doing his thing and continuing to make us wonder how he got a job talking about sports in the first place. Here’s a highlight reel of his five most questionable and downright outrageous statements from his time on First Take.
5. Comments About Ray Rice’s Domestic Abuse
In 2014, the talk of the football world was Ray Rice and the leaked video of him knocking his then-fiancee unconscious in an elevator. The NFL handed him a measly two-game suspension and the ensuing backlash was so profound that it completely changed the league’s domestic violence policy. The league’s morality was almost uniformly criticized, but good ol’ Stephen A. Smith had a somewhat differing opinion on the matter.
On an Episode of First Take, he infamously said; “What I’ve tried to implore the female members of my family to do, is let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions. Let’s try to make sure we do our part in making sure that doesn’t happen.”
Sure, people shouldn’t provoke bad actions, but that’s just not relevant to the incident. This was certainly not the time, place, or situation. If you watch the video, you can clearly see Rice knock the bejeezus out of his fiance. There is never any reason for a man, especially a man with NFL-level strength, to punch a woman. The backlash from his comments was so intense that ESPN even suspended him for an episode, which is almost as harsh of a punishment as Ray Rice received.
4. Claiming Tony Romo’s Race is Why He Was Honored After His Retirement
When Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo retired after the 2016 season, the city of Dallas wanted to honor him. The city’s basketball team, the Mavericks, decided to let Romo suit up and sit on the bench for a game to pay homage to him and his stellar high school basketball career. Some people were befuddled by the gesture, considering he didn’t ever win anything. Despite being a great player, he only won two playoff games in his career. It was odd, but likely because of Romo’s long tenure and great numbers with the Cowboys, the move was understandable. Stephen A. Smith, however, saw a different reason for the city honoring Romo.
“I ask a simple question: Do you know of any black athlete that won just two playoff games, didn’t have any kind of postseason success whatsoever, that gets celebrated like this? Do you know who that person is? ‘Cause I don’t know him. I’ve never seen it. Usually, there is a requirement to have a strong level of success in order to garner the kind of celebratory atmosphere and ambiance that we saw for Romo.”
This statement is so unbelievably preposterous and is a clear example of Smith trying to pull a race card. He is right in the sense that I have never seen a black athlete get this kind of treatment, but I have never seen a white athlete other than Romo get it either. A heated debate ensued with his co-hosts Will Cain and Max Kellerman.
Kellerman, who usually sides with Smith on social issues, even called out his comments for being ridiculous. Yes, it was unusual that he received this kind of celebration given his little success. However, claiming it was all about race is completely unfounded and diminishes Romo’s accomplishments as well as the city of Dallas for supporting him.
3. Not Realizing The Onion is a Satirical Newspaper
While this did not occur on First Take, it’s simply too funny to leave out. The Onion, an obviously satirical newspaper, posted a hilarious article about how Stephen A. Smith was going to have a heated argument with his son about the birds and the bees, rather than a traditional educational talk. It was a clever article that pokes fun at how heated he can get during his debates, but Smith did not think it was very funny. In fact, he didn’t even realize it was supposed to be a joke. He sent out a series of outraged tweets about the article, further proving the article’s point about his ridiculously short temper.
2. Tone-Deaf Take on Josh Gordon’s Mental Health
If you watch First Take regularly, you ‘re well aware that Smith is not a fan of the devil’s lettuce, even coining the phrase “STAY OFF THE WEEEEEDUH!” So, in December when Patriots wide receiver Josh Gordon failed his fourth drug test and announced he was stepping away from football to focus on his mental health, I was prepared for Smith to have some questionable comments on the matter.
His take was more than questionable: It was downright disrespectful and completely undermined Gordon’s struggle with mental health. Smith said he was “disgusted” that Gordon kept getting second chances and suggested that his drug problems were all his fault. It was a shallow, uninformed take that doesn’t consider the personal struggles that Gordon was going through and showed complete ignorance to the nuances of mental health as a whole. While Gordon does have a history of drug abuse, Smith did not care to think that maybe that was indicative of a bigger problem. His issues were a lot deeper than just enjoying weed, but unfortunately Stephen A. looked right past that.
1. Chiefs vs. Chargers Preview
Aside from the tweets, all of the takes I have mentioned, though questionable, are opinions and can be questioned and debated. However, earlier this football season our anti-hero made some claims that were just straight up false. While previewing a game between the Chiefs and Chargers, he made several statements that showed he had not done any prior research on the game.
For starters, he forgot that the Chargers no longer play in San Diego. Then he said he was excited for the matchup between Chargers TE Hunter Henry and Chiefs LB Derrick Johnson. Little did he know, Henry had not played at all this year due to a torn ACL and Johnson wasn’t even on the Chiefs last season. He hadn’t been on the roster since 2017. If nothing else, these statements showed us that this loud, opinionated, uninformed man should just stick to basketball.
Never change, Stephen A., never change.