ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith responded to criticism of his public support for Floyd Mayweather and his recent role as a Mayweather hype man on today’s First Take, claiming everyone bears responsibility for the serial woman-beater’s success and ability to become wealthy through boxing because “they could never be who they are ... if we didn’t allow it collectively to happen.”
Smith maintained that Mayweather (and other athletes convicted of violent crimes against women, like Mike Tyson) “are relevant because as fighters they are great and people want to see them. ... That’s the reality of the world that we are living in. We all need to just grow up and own up to that reality.”
Smith then blamed the “glorification” of wealth, saying that “if they put their foot down, there would be nothing to cheer for.” (Smith did not mention that his own role in specifically glorifying Mayweather’s wealth will air six times on ESPN and ABC networks this week.) Meanwhile, both on-air talent and behind-the-scenes ESPN staffers have privately expressed the desire and attempts to do exactly that—put their foot down, especially with regard to Stephen A. himself.
Of course, throughout this conversation one voice is lacking: that of Cari Champion. She finally comes in to close the conversation, and it’s not difficult to read her statement as dripping with sarcasm, as she testifies that ESPN has no obligation to do anything but make itself money.
Full, unedited closed captioning transcript:
SAS: You can complain and draw Attention to these issues that Affect floyd mayweather just Like it affected mike tyson. In the end, once the court of Law has dealt with them, in Whatever way they choose, we Ultimately get back to why they Are relevant in the first place. They are relevant because as Fighters they are great and People want to see them. Whether it’s seeing them win or Seeing them get knocked out. That’s the reality of the world That we are living in. We all need to just grow up and Own up to that reality because They could never be who they are In terms of how they affect us As a society. If we didn’t allow it Collectively to happen. But we seem to do that in America and then turn around and Wonder why others do it as well. I don’t understand that.
Skip: I hear what you’re saying. Obviously boxing is different From the national football League because boxing, floyd Mayweather jr. In particular, is Not governed by a league. He’s not sanctioned by one Commissioner of one league. He can fight in las vegas in Nevada. He can fight in new york. It’s all different. But i hope that post-ray rice, Because we have all opened our Eyes, that maybe boxing can open Its eyes going forward and start To look in the mirror. Remember, floyd was denied a Visa back in february because he Wanted to go do a promotion, a Tour in australia, and they said No. You can’t leave this country Because of your history of Domestic violence. So maybe boxing should take a Cue there. I agree. This is all about huge money and Huge interest. But at some point, you need to Step back and say should we Continue to help clean up our Sport the way of commissioner of The national football league Finally saw fit fit to clean up His sport. I would hope that would happen.
SAS: Where we part ways. I’m not going to put more Responsibility on the athletic Boxing commission than i would Put on joe public, the rest of Us. If we weren’t standing up and Supporting the fight the way That we clearly are, then they Wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t do that with tyson, They wouldn’t do it. If we didn’t do it with the nfl, They would not do it.The fact is a lot of this stuff Has happened because the Industries themselves wlrks it’s The national football league — Whether it’s the national Football league, whether it’s The nevada athletic commission, The list goes on and on, when You have a growing public that’s Sitting there and salivate Towards your product and towards Your brand and what you bring toThe table, and they don’t Particularly care in terms of it Getting in the way of them Seeing what they want to see, Then what are they supposed to Do? Hollywood does the same thing. To me i look at it and it’s like Stuff that goes on in the inner City community. We can point to the way a lot of Folks act and the way they Conduct themselves, but when It’s glorified in hollywood, When it’s glorified in the music Industry and beyond and people Are getting paid, what do you Expect to happen? Because it’s being fed by Somebody. If they sat there and put their Foot down, then it would be Nothing to cheer for. But you-all want to look at joe Public and just throw that Aside. I can’t do that. We are all a part of it. We are all a part of it. Myself included. I’m guilty of it.
Cari: That’s the uncomfortable Part about covering this. I now we are learning how to Figure it out as we go along. But it has been uncomfortable For us as a network because we Are covering it. At the end of the day we can’t Worry about everyone else. We have to make sure we do What’s right for ourselves Honestly. We can’t worry about joe public. Leave it there, stephen a.