Veteran sports journalist Stephen A. Smith and ESPN are teaming up for a new weeknight series that will air exclusively on ESPN+. Premiering January 11, “Stephen A’s World” intends to “go beyond the sports headlines to give the audience an authentic and unique understanding of the stories that matter.” Fans are used to seeing the New Yorker provide expert analysis on ESPN’s popular morning program “First Take” and occasionally during primetime ahead of NBA games, but Smith says this show will introduce a more personal side of him.
Speaking with Yahoo Sports, the 53-year-old went in-depth on the development behind some segments and teased celebrity guests. Smith also provided his thoughts on the need for more Black head coaches across sports and why Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes has quite a few years before he surpasses Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers in the GOAT conversation.
NFL and NBA’s lack of Black coaches
The firing of former Los Angeles Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn reignited the dialogue around the NFL’s lack of Black head coaches. A staunch supporter of more Black leaders in the NFL and NBA, Smith discussed what steps owners and general managers should take to ensure significant representation occurs moving forward.
“It has to be shown that it’s in their best interest to hire them and a detriment otherwise,” Smith said. “The reality of the situation is, we can look at it from a football perspective and we can transfer that to regular society. There needs to be more ownership, more Black people in executive positions.
“We can also transfer it to the overall sports world when we look at social justice issues that took place just months ago in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing. We had a number of players working diligently and very hard to bring attention to racial injustice. But, that was also an opportunity we had where we could have had an opportunity to bring attention to the need for inclusion at the upper echelon level and emphasize the need for Black individuals in higher positions of power.
“Of course, there was a justifiable reason. Our focus was on the killings of unarmed Black individuals at the hands of law enforcement. We’ve got a lot of things plaguing us as a community and I think when you have an opportunity to highlight where the problems lie, we’ve made a concerted effort to do so. How effective it has been to me remains a challenging thing to answer at the moment.”
With Lynn’s exit, only two Black head coaches remain in the NFL: Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Brian Flores of the Miami Dolphins.
Why we should hold off on comparing Patrick Mahomes to Aaron Rodgers
Fans of “First Take” and football know there are two truths about Smith: he loathes the Dallas Cowboys and thinks Rodgers is a “baaaaaad man.” With the NFL playoffs set to kickoff on Saturday, the Winston-Salem State graduate made his case as to why despite the dominance Mahomes has shown the last several years, Rodgers still boasts the league’s most prolific arm.
“From a talent position, he is the greatest quarterback I’ve ever seen,” Smith declared. “Patrick Mahomes has arrived, and we’re seeing him do things we didn’t see Aaron Rodgers do. My only reason I haven’t given it fully to Patrick Mahomes yet is that I need to see some longevity. The last two, three years you did it. Do it for five years. Clearly, what we’re seeing from Mahomes is he’s the best in the world. He might be the best we’ve ever seen in that position. Resume is Tom Brady, he has the greatest resume. From a talent perspective, Aaron Rodgers is a bad man.”
What to expect on Stephen A’s ESPN+ show
“Stephen A’s World” will feature a variety of segments, including one called the “Love Doctor.” Smith—who also serves as executive producer with his production company Mr. SAS Productions—revealed the name for the bit was inspired by an episode of popular 90s sitcom “Martin. Titular character Martin Lawerence becomes a so-called “expert” on all things love, and of course things fo askew. The segment first came to life on Smith’s radio show when listeners would phone in asking for suggestions on how to tackle everyday relationship conflicts.
“I was raised by five women, I have four older sisters,” he explained. “Because of me being surrounded by women all my life and having a whole bunch of female friends that always approached me for input, that’s where the Love Doctor stuff came about. There’s a comedic element to it, but the advice is serious.”
When asked who are some celebrities that could be making a cameo on the program, Smith disclosed that he wants to have anyone associated with Black Hollywood. From soap opera stars to rap artists, expect a wide range of talent with opinions just as strong as Smith’s. As for who his dream guest would be, Smith said none other than Martin Lawrence himself.
Catch “Stephen A’s World” every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday night on ESPN+ starting January 11.
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