ESPN host Stephen A. Smith believes that athletes, particularly those that jump into the fray of discussing political issues, are held to a higher standard by the public than elected officials, according to a recent interview with conservative commentator Mark Levin.
In an interview with Levin on his Fox News program “Life, Liberty & Levin,” Smith, who was on to promote his new memoir “Straight Shooter,” said that the overlap between the sports world and broader political conversations has created a set of double standards for athletes to abide by.
“When you speak on a plethora of issues, you’ve got to have some idea of what you’re talking about,” said Smith.
“I don’t think it’s beyond the pale for the public or for pundits and commentators… not wanting them to do so if they have something to say, but wanting them to be quiet if they don’t have anything to say and you’re just talking to be talking.”
Smith said to Levin that because of the business relationships that form between athletes with sponsors and other financial arrangements, they have an obligation to understand cultural and political issues that may impact how the public views them.
“They certainly have a right to speak on the state of affairs in our society,” he continued. “They just have to need to know what they’re talking about, and they need to be fair-minded when they do so.”
Levin asked Smith specifically about how some major athletes deflect conversations regarding China, to which Smith stated that while athletes need to be up to date and aware of current issues going on, on the flip side athletes should not be held to the same level of criticism and scrutiny as elected officials whose job it is to understand complex issues of economics and politics.
“Here’s my issue, when you’re talking about the athletes themselves — it’s just like when Phil Mickelson and all of these guys got involved with LIV Golf, and golfers were willing to do business with Saudi Arabia,” he said. “What the American public needs to understand is that it’s far easier to hold somebody like Phil Mickelson, Gary Player or other folks accountable, but our government does business with these people.”
He then asked, “If you’re so abhorred, and you find it so reprehensible to do business with these countries as individuals… then why are we not holding our government to the same level of accountability?”
Smith called the double standard that the public places on athletes in regards to their individual political reviews and responses to certain situations as “pervasive.”
“On far too many occasions, we’re holding people accountable — they have nothing to do with raising our taxes. They have nothing to do with protecting our borders. They have nothing to do with the economy, with inflation, with recession…” said Smith.
“They’re just athletes, OK, that are out there performing and trying to entertain and make an honest living doing so… There’s something hypocritical about that,” he asserted.
Ironically, Smith himself is known by most sports fans more for his interjection of political and cultural topics than his sports analysis. In November, 2022, Smith said that basketball player Kyrie Irving should have been suspended for sharing the cover to a documentary deemed to be anti-semitic to his social media accounts.
A month prior, Smith even implied that the Dallas Cowboys should sign controversial player Colin Kaepernick while at the same time insulting the state of Texas for being too “patriotic.”
What do you think? Do you agree with Smith or disagree? Let us know in the comments.