ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith stormed off set in a rage Wednesday morning after calling out LeBron James and other Black basketball players for not publicly demanding more Black head coaches and executives.
“I wanna call out the NBA players. You got something to say about everything else. Where you at?” Mr. Smith said on “First Take.” “There ain’t African Americans that have been toiling through the terrain and trying to become executives in the National Basketball Association? Last time I checked that’s the case. We see [assistant] coaches on the sidelines — they don’t want to become head coaches? They’ve been assistants for years.”
Mr. Smith took issue with the opportunities given to White people in the NBA like Steve Nash, who was named head coach of the Brooklyn Nets last year, and Brad Stevens, who was announced as president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics on Wednesday.
“Steve Nash never coached on any level,” he said, Mediaite reported. “And not only does he get the job, he gets the job with the full support of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who by the way, never insisted that a Black candidate be interviewed and be put front and center.”
“We’re supposed to be woke,” he said. “We supposed to understand that that knee on George Floyd’s neck wasn’t just about violence and police brutality. It was also the figurative semblance that it provided, where you’re feeling like, constantly, people have their knee on your neck since the time you come out of the womb. We’ve been talking about all this stuff.”
Speaking more about Floyd’s murder, Mr. Smith said: “From a figurative perspective, what we witnessed and what got the nation up and inspired, was because what we saw was symptomatic and emblematic of how we feel as a people consistently being marginalized, consistently being minimized, consistently being underappreciated, undervalued.”
“NBA players are some of the most powerful people in this world,” he said. “When have they spoken up for Black coaches? When? When have they spoken up for Black executives? GMs? President of Basketball operations? When has that happened? LeBron! All of them. Everybody! Where the hell have they been? Nobody’s done anything. And then when we the media bring it up, you got White folks out here, gonna sit up there and look at Stephen A. and say, ‘Oh, here he is bringing up race.’ And none of the Black players speak up and say, ‘Yo, he’s got a point.’”
“When are we going to say something about it?” he asked. “You know what, I’m gonna walk away, I’ll be right back because I’m scared I’m gonna say something that might get me in trouble. Because I’m pissed! I’m pissed!”
Mr. Smith then stood up and removed his mic and jacket before leaving the set.