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Stephen A. Smith has loudly taken to his podcast, Know Mercy, and fired back against his harshest critics on Wednesday. Recently, the ESPN commentator has been widely condemned by many Black Americans for refusing to hold Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, publicly accountable after a recently unearthed 1957 photo showed the then-teenager blending in a white crowd confronting Black students outside North Little Rock High School.
On Tuesday, ESPN commentator Mark Jones liked a video on Twitter that seems to call his colleague a “coon” for his defense of Jones.
During Tuesday morning’s ESPN First Take, Smith teased his Wednesday podcast episode of Know Mercy, noting he wants to address the “folks in our community talking smack.” On Wednesday, he did just that.
Detailing his hectic on-air schedule and clarifying the “reach” he wields, Stephen A. Smith confirmed he decides what makes the air and what doesn’t. “I’m in control of the content. I decide what subjects we gon’ tackle and what we avoid,” he said on the podcast.
This comes after critics have called on ESPN and other media outlets to treat white men like Brett Favre and Jones with the same energy they often display toward Black athletes facing controversy such as Kyrie Irving, Deshaun Watson, or Michael Vick.
LeBron James concluded his postgame press conference by rhetorically wondering why the media hasn’t asked him about the Jerry Jones 1957 Little Rock photo, after he was asked about the Kyrie Irving situation. LeBron said he was “disappointed” that he hasn’t been asked about Jones pic.twitter.com/IvdJzZa5Fd
— Michael Corvo (@michaelcorvoNBA) December 1, 2022
While giving Jones a pass for being in the picture, Stephen A. Smith says, “if a preponderance of evidence based on repetitive behavior gives an indication of what your character may be — okay, that’s different. But I’m not going to go off an incident to castigate and demonize you.”
I’ve grown to realize Stephen A Smith is basically Uncle Ruckus …
— Le’Veon Bell (@LeVeonBell) November 26, 2022
Smith defiantly explains on Jones behalf, “Ladies and gentlemen, the year was 1957. Jerry Jones was 14-years-old when this happened.” He later rhetorically asked, “you gon’ pull up a picture of a 14-year-old kid and use that to denigrate him when the picture was a still picture of him standing in the crowd and looking… that’s that reason that we wanna sit up there and assume anything about Jerry Jones? I’m not that guy.”
Smith says because Jones was not seen committing any crimes in the picture, he should not face criticism for being among them. “That is exactly the problem with our community,” Smith generalized.
After inviting white people to turn the podcast off, Smith targets his message directly at those holding him in check before listing other Black people he’s amicably disagreed with before.
When he was let go by ESPN in 2009, Smith recalls later returning as a champion of diversity and was responsible for bringing in the type of Black on-air talent represented at the network presently.
With over $30 million raised in HBCU contributions, Smith says he isn’t “selling out, but looking out.”
While wrestler-yelling his track record of furthering Black causes, Smith illuminates the bigger picture which apparently everyone missed regarding his original message on Jones. He said his greater concern is to “open pandora’s box where a picture can be pulled from 57-years-ago to use as impetus and motivation to castigate, castrate, demonize, and characterize another human being. We really wanna do that?”
After assuming all Black people have seen in-person fighting, he compares us to the 1957 white crowd who simply stood by without influencing any outcome. The thing is, at that time frame specifically, when a large group of white people got together — a Black man, woman, or child’s life was usually in danger.
While Jones’s intentions and actions cannot be proven by one photo, his mere presence within the crowd is reminiscent of the ‘moderate whites’ Martin Luther King Jr. once warned would halt progress more than overt racists themselves.
Stephen A. Smith points out that Black people are the only ones who “question somebody else’s ethnicity when we disagree with each other.” Yet, Black people holding one another accountable for their actions is no more provocative than any member of a race or group doing the very same thing. Every culture can hold its own members to a higher degree of scrutiny because within that culture are agreed-upon principles — that if crossed — will have long-lasting consequences and repercussions.
“I’m sick of it,” he spewed before signing off for a pre-recorded job hiring ad. When Smith returned, he reflected on his time with First Take and his unwavering stance against cannabis for athletes. He acknowledges many in the Black community turned their backs on him at that very moment and have never returned.
After arguing his bigger point in incessantly telling athletes to avoid cannabis was always to “protect their money,” he mentions it was Snoop Dogg who came to his defense.
Smith later defended his public position on Colin Kaepernick, naming media networks on which he appeared to defend the exiled QB, but cites his strategy for Kaep to re-enter the NFL as the reason even more Black people have soured on him.
Venting through it all, Smith says “I love Black people.” He implores that he is a part of the community which has judged him so harshly. He continued, “I’m down for us, but it’s stupidness I ain’t gon’ tolerate.”
After blaming Kaepernick for changing the location of a 2019 NFL workout at the last-minute, Smith suggests the QB is unlikely to ever be employed in the league again, in particular after settling a collusion lawsuit. He asks the listeners, “Y’all going back to a job that y’all sued? And settled with? But to point out that obvious fact is anti-Black and ain’t being down with the brothers.”
Smith says this is “why it’s hard for us to acquire the level of respect we richly deserve.” Yet, he does not acknowledge existing systemic racism, which is exacerbated daily by people in positions of power to tangibly change outcomes but simply decide not to, i.e. Jerry Jones.
He goes on to name all the Black people in ESPN he can think of, including David Roberts, whom he has worked with in order to bring change to the sports network. Despite his stated efforts to bring Black talent to ESPN and donate to HBCUs, it has not changed the perception of many who continue to see Smith as a vocabulary-rich mouthpiece for white society.
Smith says he hears the complaints that he critiques Black athletes harder than white ones. Incredulous, he responded, “do you have any idea how idiotic that sounds?”
— I AM PEACE STAR (@StarburyMarbury) May 1, 2022
Smith then alleges a woman recently called him and voiced her displeasure on his public stance regarding the photo. According to the unverified phone call, Smith suggested she hurt her own argument by asking for Dallas Cowboys tickets at the call’s end.
After mentioning the alleged woman’s hypocritical stance, Smith caught his breath. He’d been running hot for some time now.
Coming off another much needed break, Smith’s monologue opened with him explaining the plight of Black people who “have to be twice as good to get half as much.”
Smith then stated knowing when to pick his battles has always steered his decision making before reading an excerpt from The Washington Post. Mentioned by name in the story, Smith cites their assertion that his affinity for Jones may come as a perk of having friends in high places.
Smith dismissed this, saying, “I do television. I like to have a good time.” After acknowledging a single ride inside Jerry Jones’ helicopter for his show, he adamantly stated, “there is no perk that I have ever received from Jerry Jones.”
While addressing Jones record of not hiring Black head coaches, Smith dry snitches on the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Los Angeles Rams, New Orleans Saints, New England Patriots, and Tennessee Titans who also have never hired Black head coaches.
After the unprovoked what-about-ism, Smith says its Jones’ unparalleled impact and influence which is the real target of our community’s disdain.
Citing Jones’ begrudged and delayed decision to take a unified bent knee in 2017 with his team, Smith paints the Cowboys owner as sacrificial and altruistic for even participating the milquetoast gesture.
Emmett Till was 14 when he was lynched in Money, MS in 1955
George Stinney was 14 when he was wrongfully accused, convicted, and executed in 1944
Jerry Jones was 14 when he blocked Black students from entering North Little Rock HS in 1957
— Bishop Talbert Swan (@TalbertSwan) November 27, 2022
After calling out Pro Football Hall of Famer Terrell Owens for a number of grievances, Smith says, “I wish Colin Kaepernick was in the league today. He deserves to be, he was blackballed unfairly, demonized unfairly. But weren’t you warned about how they would react to you?”
Once he finished victim-blaming, Smith compared Kaepernick to other civil rights leaders of the past century, arguing the former NFL QB had no plan to move his agenda forward.
Discussing his own past memories of a loving mother and abusive father, Smith disavowed and distanced himself from the alleged groupthink which exists inside Black households and become culturally unified opinions.
Stephen A. Smith wants Candace Owens to be heard out
After naming more noteworthy and well-known Black people, Smith says a controversial figure like Candace Owens should receive the benefit of a doubt. “If you disagree with something she said, tell us what it is and why, rather than tell us ‘she’s a sellout.’”
Accusing the Black community of being overly emotional, Smith claims he forms his opinions based on facts provided, not predicated on who he likes or dislikes.
“I put my career on the line everyday fighting for us,” Smith said in his serious voice.
After claiming Latinos “don’t question one another’s raw authenticity and ethnicity” because of disagreements, nearly tuckered out, he screamed, “No one does it but us!”
Stephen A. Smith then claimed Jerry Jones has no responsibility to close the NFL’s racial gaps in head coaching and executive hiring. “Is that his obligation?” Smith asked himself. “His job is to make money and pay players who play for him and coaches who coach for him, and executives who work under him, and security who guard him.”
While arguing Jones is not obligated to the very population who overwhelmingly play for his team and generate his wealth, Smith reiterates, “It’s not somebody else’s obligation to do what we should do for ourselves.”
If merely having an idea or ambition were a prerequisite to the “American Dream,” Black inventors and entrepreneurs of the 1800s wouldn’t have had white men serve as the public face of their companies or routinely struggle to get their creativity patented. Nor would Black homeowners today resort to replacing their in-home photos with white families in order to get a fair selling price.
It’s funny how some folks like Stephen A Smith are trying to minimize Jerry Jones role as a 14-15 year old in the newly surfaced photo in 1957 Arkansas. Black people have too many collaborators roaming free among us. pic.twitter.com/bgEe6Wrint
— Black Mamba (@BlackMa22594604) November 25, 2022
Considering Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989 for $150 million and there’s never been a Black team owner in the history of the NFL before or since his purchase, it’s safe to assume the same saloon doors in Dallas which swung wide open for Jones would’ve also been slammed shut for people who look like Stephen A. Smith in 1989.
Smith signed off committing to do the job he’s always done, saying he’ll “express truth even when it’s unpopular rather than join in the fray with the majority just because it’s comfortable.”
Smith earns about $8 million per year under his current contract with ESPN, the New York Post reported in 2021. The report noted that he also has a “$4 million-per-year production” contract as well. The Athletic reported that Smith’s total annual compensation is $12 million.
Though wealthier than most, after chastising Black athletes and shielding Jones, Smith is finding out respect comes at a price even he cannot afford.