Recently, ESPN reporter Stephen A. Smith got a tap on the wrist by ESPN for making victim-blaming comments about domestic violence toward women. At first, he tweeted (in a series of tweets, that is) an apology to fellow ESPN reporter Michelle Beadle, who called him out on his remarks, but didn’t hesitate to reiterate his victim-blaming. Then, he tweeted a longer apology after deleting some of his previous tweets. Then he apologized on-air Monday on “First Take.” Whew.
Smith has a history of using his platform on ESPN First Take to say some ignorant, problematic stuff. But one that comes to mind for me is one he made back in May 2014 in response to viewer backlash over his support of Mark Cuban’s comments related to bigotry and prejudices. The Dallas Maverick’s owner, in the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal, said that we all have prejudices “in one way or another,” and he went on to say that if he saw “a black kid in a hoodie…late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street.”
Stephen, as he is wont to do, didn’t appreciate the backlash, and, among encouraging respectability politics and other things, made the point that instead of (presumably) young black men aspiring to be LeBron or Jay Z, they should aspire to be him, which is pretty arrogant and just as unlikely: “Queens, New York City, left back in the fourth grade, grew up poor, I ultimately graduate high school, attend a historically black university… [where] there is no journalism program. I still graduate with honors. I still beat out thousands of people to get an internship that…slowly transitions…and I’m on national TV everyday.”
As a soon-to-be journalism grad, this job thing isn’t a game. Even internships are incredibly competitive. So, frankly, although I hope to have a successful career working in television production that centers around diverse, multicultural perspectives, everyone doesn’t make it onto TV hosting their own show. For Smith to assert himself as some sort of achievable goal under the guise of pseudo-humility is ridiculous. I don’t aspire to be a rapper, singer or athlete, but it doesn’t mean my peers and I don’t have some odds stacked against us that we’ll have to try to power through.