ESPN host Stephen A. Smith said NFL players should not be fined or suspended for expressing their displeasure at seeing a gay NFL player kiss his partner on television.
After he tweeted “OMG” and “horrible” after Michael Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted on Saturday and promptly kissed his boyfriend, Dolphins safety Don James was suspended on Friday and sent to “educational training” after he apologized.
That made Smith uncomfortable.
Monday on ESPN’s First Take, Smith said he understood people who did not “want that in their face” even though he has no problems with it, how Sam chose to express himself, and was liberal on social issues like gay rights.
Smith said it was “very dangerous” if people see something they may have a problem or are uncomfortable with and are subsequently fined for Tweeting about it and expressing themselves. Smith said if advertisers do not want to associate with someone like James or for their views on Twitter, then that is fair game and should be consequences players should accept. But he emphasized that he was uncomfortable with a player being fined and removed from football activities for being expressing his discomfort with a gay kiss in a nation described as a “Christian nation.” A former NFL player even said Sam’s kiss was “disgusting” on national television, regardless of Sam’s sexual orientation.
“But I respect that those who do have a problem with it,” Smith said.
Smith said that even if a straight couple acted like Sam and his partner, Smith’s first reaction would have been, “Get a room.” He also said a store owner told him on Monday while he was walking to the studio that, “what I saw this weekend was a bit too much,” and he admitted that he did not know how to respond to those like the shop owner who complained that “it was constantly in my face.”
He asked if it was wrong if someone, like the shop owner, just did not want to be shown the kiss “over and over and over again” or may have not ben ready for that to be thrust upon them.
“Is that wrong? Is that a crime? Is that something that warrants a fine?” Smith asked.
Smith suggested that the “gay community talks about and alludes to tolerance and an elevated level of understanding” should understand “if somebody else isn’t ready for that.”