if I have a seed Imma guide him right...
Why you got these kids' minds,
thinkin' that they evil?
While the preacher's gettin' freaky,
you say honor God's people...
Is God just another cop?
Waiting to beat my ass, if i don't go pop?...
It's hard enough to live now,
in these times of greed...
You gotta find a way to make it out the game.
- 2 Pac, Blast 4 Me
Perhaps, it is our fault – the young men of my generation – for investing too much trust, too much understanding, in these men who are seemingly like us. I know that I have become tremendously disillusioned with the journalist and TV personality Stephen A. Smith lately. As a member of Omega Psi Phi, Incorporated, Smith has really surprised me with the level of advocacy with which he espouses adherence to the handbook of acquiescence. As one who travels all around the United States expounding on black men, black manhood and black masculinity, I find it very heartbreaking that Smith does not use the platform earned and the voice developed to speak more publicly and openly and honestly about the plight and challenges of black men in America.
Stephen A. Smith Skip Bayless Cari Champion
Nobody wants to hear excuses… Nobody wants to hear, “They’re keeping me down.” “No, you’re keeping yourself down”… “Saying that is an excuse to accept mediocrity. You’re looking for people to blame instead of looking in the mirror.” (Bell)
Ben Jealous: It was disappointing but not surprising. Racism so infects our national discourse that we still think the majority of crack users in this country are Black. White people are 65% of crack users.
Stephen A. Smith: If I went on my radio show and said that, we’d have a problem.
Tricia Rose: Why?
Stephen A. Smith: I’m in 207 markets across the country and most of it is Middle America, which is a term for white America. They don’t want to hear that.
Tricia Rose: How do you know?
Stephen A. Smith: Because the White folks who make the decisions, who show you the numbers, will point out that White America does not want to hear it. It is like pulling teeth to get them to engage in a dialogue about race.
Stephen A. Smith: “You should have your own show on CNN!” [to Soledad O’Brien]
Sheryl Underwood: Tell me why?
Stephen A. Smith: If you give her that platform, what is the likelihood of her addressing the very issues we are discussing? She is not going to hesitate. (Bell)
Smith on niggas, blackness, black men and human beings.
There is no arguing against the fact that at times throughout their careers, both Kobe Bryant and LeBron James have been vilified as the worst types of black men in America. And, the argument could be made that both Bryant and James were, in part, to blame for providing the screens and landscapes onto which America could paint them as the big-lipped, dishonest ravishers of white female domesticity and sexuality that the men were to become. But the ease with which Smith displays his internalization and views and acquiescence to such a position is just awful; Smith has no problem referring to black men such as Bryant and James as niggas on the national airwaves of America for all to hear. He has found himself in hot water for using the n-word more than once on First Take. The first time he said it was in December 2011, referring to James as “this nigga” (Lee). More recently, during an airing of First Take on October 25th, 2012, Smith expressed his disbelief that Kobe Bryant would miss time with an injury by saying “nigga, please” (Petchesky). Now, we can debate whether Smith was referring to Bryant or just speaking to black men in general. But, he said it.
December 12, 2012. In response to a statement made by journalist Rob Parker about the Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffith III – Parker said, “He’s kind of black, but he’s not really” - Smith stated:
First of all, let me say this: I’m uncomfortable with where we just went…RG3, the ethnicity or the color of his[white] fiancée is none of our business, it’s irrelevant, he can live his life in whatever way he chooses. The braids that he has in his hair, that’s his business, that’s his life, he can live his life. I don’t judge someone’s blackness based on those kinds of things. I just don’t do that. I’m not that kind of guy. (Smith)
Enter the curious case of Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson. I could write an entire book on Johnson and the complicity of some black men regarding their sometimes damning representation in America. So, it is difficult to use him as an example of one judged a bit too harshly by Smith; yet, I will. For I believe that Smith’s criticism of Johnson reveals more about Smith than it does Johnson. But first, the case of Johnson.
Johnson was released earlier this week after serving seven days of a thirty day jail sentence for probation violation. If you are unaware of how Johnson found himself in such a predicament, then please allow me a moment to recap events. Johnson met, seemingly feel in love with and then married VH1 reality-show star Evelyn Lozada, of Basketball Wives (funny, she was no one’s wife), after meeting the woman on Twitter and dating her on her reality-show. Their wedding also presented the opportunity for the couple to film another reality show, which was broadcasted to the world. Johnson, in the mist of this social media roller coaster, was moved from the New England Patriots to the Miami Dolphins, which happened to be featured on the HBO reality-show Hard Knocks. After assaulting his wife, either in response to her disgust that he may have been adulterous and may have practiced infidelity, or, in response to his disgust that Lozada allegedly had been the sex-kitten of Cash Money CEO Ronald “Slim” Williams, Johnson was publicly released from the Dolphins on television and was eventually sentenced to twelve months of supervised probation for the assault on Lozada – he head-butted her.
Evelyn Lozada Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson
During the June 10th, 2013 airing of First Take, Smith went off on Johnson. He began by saying, “I cannot even put into words how disgusted I am…at this man right now” (First Take). He then proceeded to put into words his view of Johnson as an idiot. Here are the highlights of what Smith had to say:
Skip has been incredibly fair to this man [Johnson], this show [First Take] has been incredibly fair to this man, this network [ESPN] has been incredibly fair to this man, this COUNTRY has been incredibly fair to this man…Imma be very, very clear…I understand this is going to be controversial, but it needs to be said. You slap your attorney playfully in court…you are a BLACK man! In court!...the judge…Kathleen McHugh…I don’t know any men named Kathleen…You [Johnson] don’t have the common sense to know that you can’t be in court, playfully…what is wrong with him? I don’t understand it, I don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense to me…the HEIGHT of idiocy…I can’t believe he could be that idiotic! (First Take)
Whitlock writes, in an article entitled, “Memo to ESPN, Stephen A.: Enough BS,”
First Take…It baits Negroes to act like n---as.
That’s the job. For years, ESPN pitted a parade of attention-starved, mostly black stooges against Skip Bayless to legitimize and sanitize Skip’s over-the-top attacks on Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, LeBron James and all the other low-hanging black fruit Skip could reach from his debate chair. The parade of stooges failed to properly protect Bayless. You could still see he was an insecure, disingenuous version of Glenn Beck.
Enter Stephen A. Smith, desperate to re-emerge as a high-six-figures TV celebrity, desperate for his next hit from the TV crack pipe. Smith campaigned for the role of Skip’s beard.
Recognizing that its black viewers couldn’t resist Skip’s bait, ESPN doubled down, making Smith an equal partner in the show and re-imagining First Take as the black barbershop of sports talk. The rap-music bumpers, the black, eye-candy female host, the guest appearances by rappers and Smith are all an attempt to make Skip’s negro-baiting palatable, marketable and justifiable.
The show has been dumbed down and ghetto-ized. An environment has been created that entices Smith and others to bojangle and stoop to Bayless’ level of discourse. Terrell Suggs was celebrated for coming on the show and calling Bayless a “douchebag.”
Stephen A. Smith is the villain in this scenario. Smith has enormous broadcasting talent. Dancing for Bayless is beneath Smith. He also has the intellect to see how ESPN and Bayless are using him. Smith could be the Adam Schefter/Chris Mortensen of the NBA, a high-paid, invaluable information-and-insight guru. But taking on Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is hard work. Dancing for Bayless is easy. Being half of ESPN’s hip hop, N-word-dropping sports show makes you more popular with celebrities. It’s fun.
Smith has fallen for the okeydoke.
I’m no fool. This is a horrendous look for black journalists. Where are the standards? How will we have any credibility the next time a white broadcaster says anything remotely racist if we sit quiet while Smith gets away with this?
Smith owes us an apology. (Whitlock)
FoxSports' Jason Whitlock
Bell, Harold. “Winston Salem State Graduates Bamboozled: Stephen A. Smith Talking Out of Both Sides of His Mouth.”
Bunn, Curtis. The Rise, Fall and Rise Of Stephen A. Smith
“ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith: “Most black men” can’t relate to Donovan McNabb.”
First Take. ESPN. 10 June 1013.
Lee, Amber. “The 20 Dumbest Things Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith Have Said.”
Smith, Michael David. “ESPN commentator on RG3: “He’s kind of black, but he’s not really””
Whitlock, Jason. “Memo to ESPN, Stephen A.: Enough BS.”