Let me start by saying this: Stephen A Smith is pretty good at his job.
There: I admit it. However, while I value the artistry to Smith’s “debate” performances, I think the man is often wrong and he was wrong again this week when he told Sports News (SN) that ESPN anchors should avoid talking about Trump:
Smith: “Do I believe the President should be wasting his time commenting about stuff like that? No. Do I believe the President has been a bit juvenile in his behavior? Yes he has. Having said that, it’s one thing to attack what he does, it’s an entirely different matter to attack him . When you attack him, then we are stepping out of our lane. We are a sports network. We have an obligation to wake up every day with the mindset that we not only speak for ourselves but we speak on behalf of the brand. “
In this context, it seems most likely that Smith is commenting on Jemele Hill
. For those who didn’t follow the story in September: Hill called President Trump a “white supremacist” on her twitter account and then the White House Press Secretary said Hill should be fired. Essentially, a White House representative said that calling someone a racist should have the same repercussions as actually saying something racist.
From the best I can tell, Smith is saying that ESPN analysts need to comport themselves in a certain way when off-screen, and that behavior like Hill’s reflects poorly on the brand.
Those are Big words coming a network firebrand who, like Trump himself, has made a career out of being bombastic.
ESPN is not a news program and, as far as I can tell, their hosts are not required to portray issues in a neutral manner. I don’t see why that should change just because there is a political aspect to the subject they’re covering.
If Smith is saying that sports analysts shouldn’t go out of their way to politicize issues, I can understand that argument. However, if he’s saying that hosts on the network should steer away from political controversy, I think that’s ridiculous.I’m not saying everyone should be forced to talk about politics, but there’s no reason people should be forced to ignore it either. You pay these people to have opinions, and when politics bleeds into the sporting world, it becomes part of their purview.
Since taking office, President Trump
has commented on Colin Kaepernick, got into a dispute with the Golden State Warriors, said the NFL should fire players for protesting, and he got into a dispute with Lavar Ball.
Those are just a few of the clearly political issues that have been at play in the sports world for the last year. Willfully ignoring those issues would be a dereliction of duty on the part of anyone who is supposed to be providing sports coverage.