*NEW YORK – Never one to hold back an opinion, Stephen A. Smith shared his thoughts on numerous topics, from James Harden partying to taking over “First Take” from Skip Bayless, during a stirring conversation on the latest episode of “The Pivot Podcast” with the show’s co-hosts and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Channing Crowder and Fred Taylor.
In a new episode debuting today at 12 p.m. ET on “The Pivot Podcast” YouTube Channel, Smith is joined by his ESPN colleague Clark, along with Crowder and Taylor, inside Smith’s home as he explained his feelings on his astronomical level of fame in the sports world.
“I never dreamed in my wildest dreams that I would be in a position where I’d walk into an arena and be more popular than 90% of the players,” said Smith.
After Clark and Smith share how they butted heads when they first met, Clark asks Smith about his penchant for protecting players, despite it running contrary to standard journalistic practices.
“To me, it is my job,” said Smith. “I don’t try to protect players from being accountable for what they do. I try to protect players from being character assassinated for who they are. Everyone makes mistakes. But as a black man in a position of influence, what I’m not going to do is allow folks to look at a black athlete and say, ‘this is who you are, because of something you did.’ As black men, we’ve been victimized by that for generations.”
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Taylor seizes on the issue to continue to push Smith further on the position he holds and the influence that he has on athletes in the current landscape. Taylor wonders whether certain athletes see him as “selling out” for not always taking their side, which Smith responds to by addressing his criticism of Colin Kaepernick’s protest and subsequent attempts to return to the NFL.
“A whole bunch of people have called me a sellout, and they can kiss my ass,” said Smith. “I mean that. I sad that Kaepernick was blackballed, I said that he deserved to be in the NFL, I said that the NFL wasn’t doing right by him and that you can’t find 64 better quarterbacks. But because I disagree with an approach that he took, then my blackness comes into question?
“Look at my resume. My record speaks for itself on a multitude of issues I’ve taken up on behalf of my people. I’m not just a black man. I’m a brother to the core. I’ll be damned if someone is going to try to define my blackness because I don’t agree 100% with you.”
The episode also addresses Smith’s recent criticism of Philadelphia 76ers star James Harden, who Smith called out after photos surfaced of Harden partying after a loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the team Harden had just been traded from. In outlining his criticism, Smith invokes Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, who played in Philadelphia throughout Smith’s rise as a columnist in the city.
“The fans have to know that you care as much as they do,” said Smith. “That’s the key. When Allen Iverson was in Philadelphia, nobody partied more than him. The difference is that Iverson usually performed. He had the heart of a lion…What I was saying to Harden is not that I was holding it against him, but that it’s not going to last with the Philly fans if you’re playing like that and partying. It was a warning to him from someone who knows Philly.”
In discussing his career, which took Smith from newspapers in Philadelphia to the number one media star at ESPN, Clark asks Smith how he created the persona that has led to his monumental success.
“I’m a multitude of things,” explained Smith. “I can be mellow, I can be loud. I can be demonstrative, I can be quiet. I can be pissed off, I can be fun-loving. It all depends what the moment calls for. I believe in my soul that I’m a winner. I ain’t trying to lose. On television, it’s about ratings and revenue. My question is, who do you want to stop and watch, when you’re flipping through channels?
“It’s similar to what an athlete does in certain respects. I have something that I bring to the table. I know that I belong on this team. Because of that, I’m going to show y’all. It’s the same principle.”
As the conversation progresses, the group asks Smith about his rise on ESPN and how important his daily debates with Skip Bayless on “First Take” were to that rise. For Smith, the most important thing in his mind is to continue to help the careers of current and future co-hosts with the power he’s amassed on the show, just like Bayless did for Smith.
“The only thing that Skip and I agreed on, was that we liked each other,” said Smith. “We disagreed about everything and we knew that going in. That’s how we were able to become number one in a month…I became who I am because of him. And guess what? The same applies to anyone who comes on ‘First Take’ now and feeds off of that success to make themselves a bigger personality. Just like he did for me, I’m doing that for everybody.”
Crowder tries to press Smith to share more about his personal life and is quickly rebuked, although Smith shares that he is working on a memoir and that he’s only now writing it and working on sharing more about his upbringing after a request from his late mother.
“My mother never wanted me to write a book,” said Smith. “What she said was, ‘if you’re going to write a book, promise me it’ll be when I’m gone.’ Otherwise, this book would have been written years ago. That might be the only time that someone gets me to talk about my personal life like that. Because I just don’t do it.”
To close out a loaded episode, Clark asks Smith directly about what the end goals are that Smith has in mind for the rest of his career.
“I don’t know the answer to that question,” said Smith. “My initial thought was that it would be when I retired. My second thought would be that it’s when I drop dead. Because my attitude is that as long as I’m living and breathing, I’m going for it.
“I’m considered right now arguably the best at what I do. I don’t look at it that way. I look at it as, I have to go on the air tomorrow and do it again…It’s a mistake for anybody who looks at me to think I’m finished or to count me out. Because they don’t know how badly I want it.”
ABOUT “THE PIVOT PODCAST”
“The Pivot Podcast” debuted in January 2022 as popular personalities and former NFL stars Ryan Clark, Fred Taylor and Channing Crowder host a weekly sit-down with A-list stars from the sports world and beyond, delivering relevant football discussion mixed in with every day topics that affect viewers globally. With over 200,000 subscribers since debuting, new episodes drop on Tuesdays at 12 p.m. ET on their YouTube Channel, with audio also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. Follow along on Twitter @ThePivot and Instagram @ThePivot, as well as on Facebook and Tik Tok. The podcast is produced by Shots Studios in collaboration with RFC Productions, an Emmy-award-winning team committed to bringing fans the content they desire.
source: Swanson Communications