Yesterday morning First Take was busy chipping away at the souls of all mankind like any other normal weekday morning. Except, Stephen A. Smith appeared to drop a terrible world that should never be uttered on television under any circumstances while talking to Dahntay Jones. To most people watching, Smith said, "ni**a please!" Here's the video evidence...
I've listened to that clip 50 times and I think Stephen A. Smith said "ni**a please" on national television. In fact, I'm mostly positive he said it. But, I can't definitively say that's what happened because it's so hard to clearly decipher what Smith said in that moment. It sure sounds like Smith dropped the n word on ESPN2, though. Moreover, there aren't any other reasonable explanations for what word he actually did say there, unless he's incorporating unintelligible gibberish into his debating. Then again, maybe that would be an improvement over the status quo.
If Smith didn't say the n word, then what did he say?
Well, that's a question SAS didn't bother to answer when offering this denial on the replay of First Take. Instead, he delivered a stern message and excused himself as a fast-talking New Yorker who got misconstrued. Smith's rationale seems to be that if he did say that word, he would have apologized and ESPN would not have condoned it. In other words, you just have to take his word for it, no matter what you think you heard...
So we're left with a bizarre situation where the internet says Stephen A. Smith said a bad word he said he didn't say. Clear as mud, right? Unfortunately, the video leaves little doubt what Smith said, but just enough ambiguity to offer a strong denial and attempt to sweep it under the rug as if nothing unusual or controversial happened.
But then, just as the controversy should have died down and evaporated in the lightning-quick news cycle, ESPN edited out whatever it was Smith said before saying "please!" in the First Take replay.
Regarding the editing job, ESPN told Outkick The Coverage, ""Stephen A. Smith vehemently denies using any inappropriate language. We didn't leave it on the re-air as we didn't want to create more confusion if people misunderstood him."
If Stephen A. didn't use inappropriate language, then what is there to edit? Either he said it... or he didn't. Either there's something to wipe away or not. The only confusion that exists is why ESPN would edit out a non-offensive, hard-to-understand word from the First Take replay? You'll notice the statement also refuses to say definitively whether or not SAS actually said what we all think he said, just that he "vehemently denies" it. Well, that's helpful, but again it doesn't answer the question of what he did say if it wasn't "ni**a please!"
Furthermore, ESPN has precedence with how to handle racially charged offensive words from just this year. An ESPN.com editor was fired for using a "chink in the armor" headline about Jeremy Lin. ESPN anchor Max Bretos was suspended 30 days for using a similar phrase when asking a question about Lin as well, even though it was clear Bretos was making no attempt at a joke.
So what about Stephen A. Smith and ESPN's decision to stand behind him in this case? What about their decision to edit out a word that was supposedly clean, which only creates a massive state of cognitive dissonance.
Smith himself hasn't informed us what word or noise emerged from his mouth, only a denial and defiance.
You can choose to believe Smith and ESPN or your ears in this case. You may also choose to make a larger statement about racial discourse in sports moving forward from these clips. But what I find disconcerting in the wake of all of this is the lack of clear answers from the parties involved. We don't know what Smith claims to have said. We don't know why ESPN would edit out a non-profanity, other than to avoid and create more confusion. We don't know whether or not Smith is being shown favortism by Bristol and a double standard exists. We don't know the extent to which ESPN is protecting one of their prized assets in this case - a man whose career has been resurrected from the dead thanks to ESPN's fixation with high debate and high volume.
Maybe that's all we do know from this episode. ESPN is all-in with Stephen A. Smith. At all costs. And much like Smith's words, the true meaning to that reality is open to interpretation.
Gimme a break! I'm at LEAST 90 percent white, and _I_ heard the man say nigga (not nigger, which is whitebread, but nigga). Here's the deal: _Smith_, a black man, said nigga. If he wants to wield a word that will always have negative connotations as friendly jibe, that's his right -- just a Jewish guy can spout kike and (usually young and dumb) women can call each other bitch. But when the words come back to haunt you -- in the form of hateful words spoken out of racism or misogyny -- you can't go crying to either the media or to local or state authorities. Bottom line: Don't start nothin', won't be nothin'.
I'm not a fan of Stephen "A." Smith and that's putting it mildly! However, in this case I did not here him say what he was accused of.
I don't really care that he said "nigga please" on the air. But his blatant lying and trying to vaguely cover it up is way more off putting.
I think you are way overreacting here Matt. I am not condoning the use of the word, I think it should be thrown out of everyone's vocab. But it is a word that is used in movies, music, the internet, and everyday life in the black community all the time. That stuff is played everywhere and no one complains. If SAS said it (and I think he did) he should have apologized, but it truly isn't the end of the world, especially since it was used far out of any sort of racist context.
I actually completely disagree with this post and its major premise regarding the editing. I don't think Stephen A said the word. Judging by how clear this blog makes it that it detests Skip, Stephen A and all First Take, I assume I listen to the show more often than Matt does. Stephen A frequently stutters when he is making his arguments and when he gets worked up, as he was here, the stutters become more frequent and more dramatic. I believe this is exactly what happened here.As for the comment ESPN made about editing, as usual Matt is overreacting because he HATES First Take. It makes perfect sense for ESPN to edit out the comment, REGARDLESS of what Stephen A said. Why continue to air something that some people (mistakenly, in my opinion) believe contains inappropriate language. To keep it would be ludicrous. Matt: You need to look past your hatred and realize how ridiculous your suggestion is. Regardless of what was said, no company (or network) would leave something up that is generating this much negative publicity. Give me a break.
It is mindblowing that we live in a world where someone can blatantly make a statement, have it recorded and reaired across myriad venues, then stand up and deny making the statement, when that denial is essentially a lie. There is no grey area here. If I get on television and yell "F% F% F% F% F%" and then say "I absolutely did not say F% F% F% F% F%," am I off the hook? What is this, the twilight zone?
@awfulannouncing - who the f- cares about SAS? I turned him into white noise years ago. Can't remember the last time I took jim seriously.
@awfulannouncing Stephen A Smith makes money for ESPN and is (almost) irreplaceable. The guy who wrote the "chink in armor" copy...is.
@awfulannouncing now if that had been a white or latino or asian etc etc say it they would have been suspended and had to apologize.
@awfulannouncing Him saying he didn't use that word is like Richard Pryor telling his wife her eyes were lying when she caught him cheating!
@VintMacCabe you heard the slang n bomb (lol, not putting myself in that position by typing it)? So he DID say something. If that's how your crew sits around the bar, the locker room, whatever, and talk, that's fine. But Stephen A is a "respected journalist" (notice the quotes) on a national network. Simply put, that's not exactly a place where you drop the n word - whether it be ending in -er or in -A. I'm not saying he has to be proper and speak like a Harvard professor, but using that word and thinking he wouldn't catch any slack over it....twice?In his words: "Are you crazy?!? ________ please"
Oh I agree, I'm not saying SAS should be fired or anything. The problem (as we've learned from so many other walks of life) is that the cover up is worse than the crime. Had he admitted to saying it and apologized, everyone would have moved on a lot sooner. That said, SAS blamed the internet instead of taking responsibility and ESPN willfully covered it up for him while pretending there was nothing to cover up. Made the whole thing much worse.
@PackerFan ok,that's fine. Everybody has an opinion on this. You don't think he said it? Cool. Then tell us what he did say?
@PackerFan "I don't think Stephen A said the word. "
What? Ok, I'll try it too. I don't think the sky is blue. Grass is definitely not green. And we all know that bears don't poop in the woods.
@PackerFan sounds like you are defending a guy you like. Guilty of exactly what you are criticizing this blog for. You LOVE First Take which is why you, with the exception of ESPN and Stephen A. Smith, are the only who doesn't hear the racial slur.
@RyanCrinnigan I know right? I really don't care that he said it, but the absolute lye on TV is kinda crazy.
@myoder84 Matt, I think the problem would be if SAS admitted it and ESPN did not discipline him, is it would create a set of different issues ranging from double standard (he is the co-star of the show as opposed to an anchor or web admin) and the racial component. Would a caucasian anchor/analyst received a pass if he mistakenly used the phrase even with an apology? Its a slippery slope and ESPN has to wish it goes away a lot sooner than later.
I expect NO REACTION from the paid hacks called the Poynter Sisters.
@poit77 I do not LOVE First Take, but I don't dislike it either, which makes it seem like I am obsessed with it when compared to this blog. Regardless, my biggest problem with this post was Matt taking issue with ESPN editing the clip out of subsequent reairs. I am not defending Stephen A out of bias, I just don't think he says the word this blog and many others are saying he did.
@PackerFan @poit77 My problems with First Take are welllllll documented, but the question remains, why edit out a word that's clean? If it's just an innocent stutter, what needs to be edited? If it's a mistake that we all think SAS said that word and he vehemently denies saying it, in theory there should be nothing to edit, no?