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OPINION

Stephen A. Smith: America’s Last Honest Sports Pundit?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith is a brave man.

Years ago, his network went woke. ESPN, which is owned by Disney, began injecting race into just about every discussion of every sport, pushing gun control, pushing the left’s agenda where it clearly doesn’t and never will belong. Game highlights and analysis took a back seat to political pontificating. 

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Smith didn’t publicly resist that, but he didn’t really go along either. He’s never really seemed interested in wokeness. He has frequently appeared on Fox with Sean Hannity and Jesse Watters, which is usually two strikes against anyone who wants to avoid being canceled. 

Lately, Smith has been flirting with a third strike. 

Once Donald Trump decided to run for president in 2015, all of the media turned on him. The host and star of the most successful reality show ever, The Apprentice, and the man behind the global brand of resorts, Miss USA and Miss Universe, and the man who had built an entire football league around Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker, was suddenly branded a “racist.” Trump had been controversial for decades, but had never been branded with the r-word throughout his career in real estate and everything else he’s done. Democrats and their media stenographers brand any threat to their power as “racist,” and the speed with which they slapped that ignominious title on Trump showed just how much they feared him. Many of Trump’s oldest friends and associates turned on him – all to either make a buck for themselves or stay in good graces with the dishonest media. 

But not Stephen A. Smith.

While Trump is called every insult in the book including the dreaded r-word, Smith isn’t having it. Appearing at the Semafor Media Summit, Smith refused to advance the narrative that Donald Trump is a racist. No Trump apologist, Smith said he would never vote for The Donald – but also said flatly that he is no racist.

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“I knew Trump before he ran for the presidency,” Smith said during the event. “I thoroughly enjoyed talking to him. He was a huge sports fan.”

“He used to throw a lot of events at — you know — at his casinos and stuff like that, and I genuinely liked him,” Smith said.

“I think he’s changed, but I will tell you this: I think when people call him racist and stuff like that, I’ve never thought of Trump that way,” Smith insisted.

“He’s not against black people,” Smith said, adding that he has never seen Trump show any animosity toward black people. 

Smith’s candor comes with no small amount of risk at his woke network. Sage Steele’s promising career at the same ESPN has been chopped after she voiced her opinion on a podcast on COVID mandates and Barack Obama’s decision to identify only as black despite having a white mother. Steele is mixed race and identifies as such, honoring both of her parents – not ignoring or seeming to exclude either one, as Obama does.

For that, Steele was relegated to lesser appearances and ESPN forced her to apologize. She sued Disney, which is one of the world’s most woke, least tolerant corporations, for violation of her free speech.

Over at NBC, NFL sideline mainstay Michele Tafoya says she was told clearly to keep her conservative political opinions to herself. Despite more than a decade at the highest level of sports broadcasting, four-time Emmy winner Tafoya knew she had to leave in order to “come out” as skeptical of the left’s hardline positions that dominate the media. There’s no room at America’s largest sports networks for anything but hard-left opinions. 

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Perhaps Smith can survive at ESPN without pouring hate on Trump, as everyone else seems required to do. Perhaps sports media is still so sexist that it only penalizes women for expressing genuine opinions that stray from the left’s orthodoxy. We may find out. But at this point, Smith has earned credit for stepping outside the left’s shadow and being his own – honest – man. 

A.J. Rice, is President & CEO of Publius PR, Editor-in-Chief of The Publius National Post, and author of the #1 Amazon bestseller, The Woking Dead: How Society's Vogue Virus Destroys Our Culture.

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