Stephen A. Smith Storms Off ESPN Set After Danny Ainge-Brad Stevens News

Smith wasn't happy about one aspect of the Celtics' shakeup


Jun 3, 2021

Stephen A. Smith was visibly annoyed Wednesday after news broke that Danny Ainge was stepping down as Celtics president of basketball operations and that head coach Brad Stevens would replace him in Boston’s front office.

So much so, in fact, that Smith briefly stormed off the set of ESPN’s “First Take” after a fiery rant.

Smith’s displeasure with the situation stemmed from Stevens’ promotion, an opportunity the ESPN pundit believes Black NBA players should be speaking out against.

As further evidence, Smith pointed to the Nets hiring Steve Nash this past offseason without superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving pushing for Brooklyn to interview a Black candidate.

“Steve Nash never coached on any level. And not only does he get the job. But he gets the job with the full support of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who by the way never insisted that a Black candidate be interviewed and be front and center so we’ll know who that individual is,” Smith said. “We’ve got Brad Stevens here. Boston, (Jayson) Tatum’s your star, Jaylen Brown’s your star. We understand what role they play — particularly Jaylen Brown — in social justice issues. We’re supposed to be woke. We’re supposed to understand that that knee on George Floyd’s neck wasn’t just about violence and police brutality. It was also the figurative semblance that it provided, where you’re feeling like constantly people have their knee on your neck since the time you come out of the womb.

“We’ve been talking about all of this stuff, and people are willing to say, ‘Oh, Stephen A’s bringing up race. Stephen A’s bringing up George Floyd and equating that to (Tim) Tebow.’ No, I’m not. What I’m saying is, from a figurative perspective, what we witnessed and what got the nation up and just inspired was because what we saw was symptomatic and emblematic of how we feel as a people — consistently being marginalized, consistently being minimized, consistently being underappreciated, undervalued. And in a world of sports, where you’ve got dudes with guaranteed contracts making money that will secure their generations, generations of family, you’ve got folks hesitant to speak up. NBA players are some of the most powerful people in this world. When have they spoken up for Black coaches? When? When have they spoken up for Black executives, GMs, presidents of basketball operations? When has that happened?”

It’s entirely possible the Celtics will interview and hire a Black head coach in wake of Stevens assuming the front office role vacated by Ainge. It’s also fair to question if Stevens’ new job truly represents a “promotion,” or if the Celtics more or less are reassigning him amid a necessary shakeup.

Still, Smith raises an interesting conversation. And his passion ultimately led to him standing up and walking away on live TV in order to collect himself.

Thumbnail photo via YouTube screengrab
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens
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