ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith Warns Sports Media Not to ‘Step Out of Our Lane’ With Trump Attacks

AP John Salangsang
AP Photo/John Salangsang

In a new interview, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith warned sports media to steer clear of attacking President Donald Trump and to avoid commenting on politics in general.

In the interview with Michael McCarthy of Sporting News, Smith chided his ESPN colleague, Jemele Hill, who has repeatedly violated the network’s rules against commenting on politics, The Big Lead reported.

McCarthy asked Smith what he thought of the president, the controversies Jemele Hill continues to roil, the NFL’s protesting players, and the whole problem of mixing sports and politics. Smith’s answer was to the point and his comments echoed ESPN’s point that they are about sports, not politics:

Do I believe the President should be wasting his time commenting about stuff like that? No. Do I believe the President has been a bit juvenile in his behavior? Yes he has. Having said that, it’s one thing to attack what he does, it’s an entirely different matter to attack him. When you attack him, then we are stepping out of our lane. We are a sports network. We have an obligation to wake up every day with the mindset that we not only speak for ourselves but we speak on behalf of the brand. It is not a brand that we own. It is a brand that employs us. It has entrusted us to represent it just as much as we care about representing ourselves. So with that in mind, we have to be cognizant of all those things.

Smith did allow that when Trump jumps into sports, as he did by criticizing the NFL’s national anthem protests, it is appropriate for sports reporters to comment on the situation. But Smith reiterated that a sports reporter should stick to sports for the most part.

Smith’s ESPN bosses would likely look on his comments with a nod of approval. Indeed, network bosses reiterated their ban on political speech with a mandatory, company-wide meeting held in December at the network’s Connecticut headquarters. More than 450 employees gathered to listen to network bosses tell them to stick to sports.

Despite the meeting, though, some hosts have refused to abide by the rules. Even since the meeting Jemele Hill has repeatedly engaged in political talk giving several interviews where she expressed no regret for attacking President Trump.

Hill isn’t alone. Only days ago, ESPN host Katie Nolan attacked Trump as a “f*ck*ng stupid person.” Despite her violation of the company’s rules, ESPN bosses decided not to punish Nolan.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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