Editor’s Note: Our readers responded strongly to this story when it originally ran; we’re re-posting it here in case you missed it.
If there was ever a poster child for the variety of issues plaguing ESPN right now, “First Take” co-host and radio personality Stephen A. Smith would be it.
The latest example of this might be the most damning.
In a segment on his eponymous radio show, Smith lamented the fact that “we got black (NFL) coaches falling away by the wayside.”
Smith was speaking about the myriad of head coach firings in the NFL since the end of the regular season.
There were eight coaching vacancies in the league after the annual purge that’s referred to as “Black Monday.”
Smith was particularly miffed that five of those vacancies were previously filled by black coaches.
He had no interest in going over any of the resumes of the allegedly aggrieved black coaches. He just needed the smallest of excuses to go off on a racially charged screed about “white America.”
“You got some people who’ll say, ‘I thought we were beyond that,'” Smith began, referring to labeling coaches based on the color of their skin. “I just want to say a few words to white America: I’m getting sick and tired of that nonsense.
“It’s easy for you — ‘I thought we were past it.’ Well, when were you a part of it? When did you have to worry about fairness? When did you have to worry about being prejudiced against? When did you have to worry about being pigeonholed and minimized?”
— Parakeet Cortes (@Ryan_Cortes) January 3, 2019
Yes, because things like unfairness and being minimized are exclusive to people of a certain skin color.
“For folks out there in white America … so quick to point out, ‘I thought we were beyond this,’ could you do me a favor please and be quiet?” Smith continued.
“Be decent enough to understand that you don’t understand and shut the hell up!” Smith yelled. “You don’t understand! You don’t get it!”
He went on, “We got a league (the NFL) that’s 70 percent black players. We now have two black coaches. There’s 32 jobs! Two! Two!”
Smith then dared anyone who had a problem or was uncomfortable with his comments to push for more minority personalities as national radio hosts.
“But until then, I’mma stay all up in y’all,” Smith said to end his monologue. “And I’mma be relentless with it.”
Wow. There’s a lot to unpack there.
First of all, of the five black coaches who were fired, there was only one who might have a legitimate case that he was unjustly fired. Steve Wilks was dumped by the Arizona Cardinals after one horrid 3-13 season, and to be fair, coaches should probably get more than one year when saddled with a bad team and a rookie quarterback.
But I’ll see your Steve Wilks and raise you an Adam Gase. The former Miami Dolphins coach had to deal with Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler for his three years in the league. That’s about as untenable of a situation for an offensive-minded coach as one can imagine.
The other black coaches who were fired deserved it, and skin color had nothing to do with it. Hue Jackson had a brutal 3-36-1 record with the Cleveland Browns. The New York Jets took on the lifelessness of Todd Bowles as they sputtered to a 14-34 record over the last three seasons. Vance Joseph led the Denver Broncos to back-to-back losing seasons, something the franchise hadn’t experienced since the 1970s. And Marvin Lewis was given 16 years at the helm of the Cincinnati Bengals and produced as many playoff victories for them as I did (zero).
Smith might have had a point if only those five coaches were fired. But the last I checked, Gase, Mike McCarthy and Dirk Koetter are all white and they were fired as well.
So no, Mr. Smith, race has nothing to do with it. Sports are a meritocracy, no matter what kind of race-baiting identity politics you want to inject into them.
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