Smith went on the ESPN show “Get Up!” to discuss how he thought it was “foolish” that Irving reportedly had plans to sit out the NBA season. According to For the Win, Irving participated in a conference call with a large group of players on Friday where they discussed a potential return to the season. The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association, a union, already approved a plan to restart the NBA season in late July with 22 of the league’s 30 teams meeting at Disney World in Orlando.
However, Irving — who is currently recovering from a shoulder injury — reportedly said he was opposed to the season returning in Orlando. Instead, he believed players should focus on ending systematic racism in light of the police brutality and racist violence still plaguing the U.S.
“I agree with Kyrie. Basketball, or entertainment period, isn’t needed at this moment, and will only be a distraction. Sure it might not distract us the players, but we have resources at hand majority of our community don’t have. And the smallest distraction for them, can start a trickle down effect that may never stop.”
Howard went on to say that he would love to win his first NBA Championship but “the unity of My People would be an even bigger Championship.” He ended by saying, “No Basketball till we get things resolved.”
This didn’t make Stephen A. Smith too happy because he went on “Get Up!” and blatantly said, “I think they sound foolish.”
Stephen argued that if Irving and Howard’s refusal to return was based on the coronavirus, he would understand. However, Stephen said that doing it over racial justice could lead to reduced salaries and it would be a missed opportunity for players to advocate issues on live television. Stephen advised the athletes to speak out about issues on T.V. while still playing, and then let the lawyers fight for issues on the judiciary level.
“Racial oppression has existed (and) it’s going to exist after this summer, it’s going to exist next year, it’s going to exist the year after, a year from now, ten years from now, 20 years from now. Anybody in our society that thinks this thing is going to be completely eradicated is fooling themselves. You’re always going to have to deal with these things, so that is not an excuse not to show up to work to do your job. You can fight the fight while still showing up to work.”
Stephen’s view is sure to receive some backlash, considering he’s once again, telling athletes how they should protest in a white supremacist world that’ll already criticize them either way.
Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was slammed by many sports fans for simply taking a knee during the national anthem over police violence. Now, Kaepernick is left without a job and Smith even continued to chastise him when Kaepernic attempted to try out for the National Football League on his own terms.
In this instance, Smith’s white on-air peer, Max Kellerman, had to defend Kaepernick: “Why hasn’t he been working for three years? I will ask those questions, and I will also say while you can focus on the world we actually live in where you wear a Kunta Kinte shirt, the white billionaires aren’t going to like it. I am going to talk about the world we ought to live in. And bring pressure to bear that sooner than later we do live in a world where ‘so the hell what someone shows up with a Kunta Kinte shirt.’”
Smith received backlash from social media for not having the gull to defend his fellow Black man. The sentiment now seems to be revived now that Smith has slammed Irving and Howard.
In another ESPN clip, Smith even goes on to compare Irving and Howard to Black people who destroy their communities after a Black person is killed. He brought up the 1967 Detroit riots saying they “still have never fully recovered from that. How they ravaged their own community at that particular moment in time.”
He continued, “I only bring that up to say this, in this regard, when you’re looking at the NBA, you’re not talking about the players. You’re talking about the collateral effect that it has on people the sport employs, on people in local economies who feeds off of that. The fact is something like that, canceling the NBA season, it’s not just going to affect the players. It’s going to affect thousands upon thousands of people. Millions if not billions of dollars on economies and that’s going to have a ripple effect. You can’t ignore that. Because that’s going to affect us.”
Kellerman responded, “Rioting in their own communities? Black people don’t own those communities. They don’t own those communities. And this culture has been rioting against Black people for hundreds of years now.”
Many people on Black Twitter, once again, sided with Kellerman with one Twitter user writing, “Max Kellerman having more of a grasp on the pulse of the black community than Stephen A Smith continues to be mind boggling.”
Time will tell whether an NBA player boycott is on the horizon or if the athletes will protest on-air in their own way.