ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith for President

Nelson Mandela famously said “I never lose. I either win or learn”. That’s an appropriate sentiment with which to begin reflection on the lessons of last week’s presidential election. With the noise and vitriol fading, now is the time to take stock of where we stand as a country in the days since my candidate lost. Lest you think my candidate was HRC, and at the risk of taking a page out of Jay Cutler’s playbook, I will tell you for whom I cast my vote. Like Inside the NBA’s Ernie Johnson, I too wrote-in my choice for President: Stephen A. Smith.

As a white, 50-year old woman living in Buffalo New York, I have been told that I am a statistical demographic whose vote could have gone either way last week. I live in an economically depressed sports and former steel town; in the once-upon-a-time tony suburbs of a traditionally left-leaning county in Western New York. Had any of the pundits or pollsters bothered to ask me, I would have told them my political views mirror my choices in sports teams—not blindly loyal to only one team, year after year; accustomed to heartbreaking losses (Bills “wide right” / Sabres “no goal”) and defining a “win”, at times, differently from the rest of the country.

Stephen A. has recognized for a while now the interrelation between sports and politics.   His commentaries have a depth of vision that make the recent well-intentioned protest efforts of some NBA players seem less like a moral and organic movement and more like an ordinary and temporary reaction. In speaking about politics and sports, Stephen A. is the voice of middle America—not “white America” or “black America”, but rather the America of the loyal but discouraged who, like himself,  still have a lot of fight left. I never feel like he is talking down to me on First Take; I feel he is talking to me, not about me. He doesn’t distinguish between college educated and non-college educated people like the professional politicos do. He knows what I know: that even though I had the privilege of going to college, while most in my family did not, they are smarter than me in a lot of ways and half of them make more money.  Smith is unique in how he gets his political message across to sports fans. He can talk about political topics in a way that makes it seem like we are sitting across the dinner table from each other with the rest of our family.

Smith, long before Trump made it a campaign slogan, has always “told it like it is”. He took heat for saying that he thought the elite media was biased toward HRC [1] But is there any doubt in hindsight that the New York Times and mainstream “news” channels could barely conceal their deep disappointment about the results last Tuesday? He called out San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick: not because Kaepernick cared enough about social justice to take a knee; but rather because he didn’t care enough to take the time to exercise our most important right as citizens in a democracy. Smith passionately excoriated him for not voting, then announcing it and setting the wrong example for the kids who look up to him as a professional athlete.[2]

Stephen A. also came under fire with some groups when he said the Democratic Party took the black vote for granted, to the detriment of blacks.[3] His point was that the Democrats can be your favorite team but if they are playing poorly, raising ticket prices and disrespecting your fan loyalty, you may want to check out what others have to offer, consider your options, show them respect runs both ways.

Smith pointed out that African Americans heard something different when Trump said “Make America Great Again”. He said they heard “Make America White Again”.[4] Just as many career women heard him say “Make America a Men’s Locker Room Again”. Trump donned a baseball hat and talked about HRC’s lack of stamina. Sports metaphors have always been an effective communication device. Politics as sport and Sports infused with politics is our reality in America today.

In contrast to Kaepernick’s silent, symbolic protest, Smith joined many NBA players, as an active and vocal critic of the injustice they see in America. While stars like Carmelo Anthony[5], Lebron James, Chris Paul, and Dwayne Wade speak out on behalf of political causes and give their followers an outlet for their frustrations, Smith is their articulator-in-chief. Whitehouse press conferences would be relevant again if Stephen A. was the President, or even if he was the Whitehouse spokesperson (Mr. Trump are you listening?)

Events like Trayvon Martin’s murder, gang violence in Chicago, and racially inflammatory speech during the election all inspired NBA players and coaches[6] to DO something, to ACT[7]in the face of racism. I applaud these efforts but want to hold up a mirror for one second. Stephen A. why don’t we hear players asking why Becky Hammon (thanks Pop!) and Nancy Lieberman are the only women coaches in the NBA and demanding equality in that regard? You can hardly find a basketball blog that doesn’t have sponsored ads at the end depicting women in various states of undress. Players in recent memory have been guilty of tweeting pics of their girlfriend’s behinds. Many NBA dance teams put more emphasis on being sexually alluring than showcasing the quite obvious athleticism it takes to entertain crowds for two hours.  Thank heaven for Michelle Roberts. Like so many men, JR Smith wonders what to tell his daughters about the outcome of this election.[8] Its not what you tell her JR, its what you do to make sure she doesn’t experience prejudice the way you do. Instead of worrying about what you’re going to say to her, you should be asking yourself what you’re going to do so that she is never made to feel “less than”.

In this new politically aware age of the NBA, lets see some more white players don a hoodie. And lets not forget to protest discrimination in all its forms. While NBA Commissioner Adam Silver may be the choice of progressive liberals to run for president in 2020[9] I’m supporting a Stephen A. Smith candidacy. He’s a true independent. A man of the people; A voice for all of us out here in the heartland, united behind the NBA and our country even if it they aren’t always perfect.


[2] see Twitter @firsttake @stephenasmith November 10, 2016