Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman gave a lengthy interview to Michael McCarthy of Sporting News on First Take’s success in 2017 after moving to ESPN (from ESPN2) and other topics.
One of those topics was President Donald Trump and Jemele Hill. Smith gave an answer that could be regarded as chiding his ESPN colleague for her social media interactions last year.
SN: You guys like to play hardball, so how do you feel about President Trump ripping ESPN, Jemele Hill and protesting NFL players?
SAS: 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 also went on to explain that when Trump engages in a sports topic (like the NFL players kneeling) then it is appropriate to discuss and respond on that issue, but that it’s also important to “play the hits” and understand why people have tuned into ESPN.