FLOWERY BRANCH -- ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith called in to SiriusXM’s The Karen Hunter Show to share his thoughts on Colin Kaepernick and the NFL’s ‘blacklisting’ of the athlete.
Karen Hunter: Colin Kaepernick, in your opinion, is he being blacklisted?
Stephen A. Smith: Without question. He’s definitely being so. But what I was making the argument with you and texting you is that Miami’s not the most egregious example. You have an owner [such] as Stephen Ross and as you just eloquently outlined Cuba’s history and a lot of folks of Cuban descent in the Miami area. While he’s not concerning himself with Cuban history from a literal perspective, he's concerning himself with those folks and how they’ll feel about Colin Kaepernick because of Fidel Castro and how it will affect his bottom line. Not the kneeling during the national anthem but how the Cuban – 34% of the Miami population - is going to react to his arrival. Where the most egregious example lies, Karen, is with the New York Jets. You have a team that has a 38 year old in Josh McCown who is a journeyman, a second or third year player who is a Christian Hackenbird, who's a puppy in the NFL, and some dude named Bryce Petty, none of whom have really played other than Josh McCann who is a journeyman, like I said. Colin Kaepernick, you can make an argument, he’s better than all three of them combined. But, they haven't called Colin Kaepernick. They’re not considering him and remember who their owner is, it’s Woody Johnson, who’s an ambassador to the UK for the Trump administration. So, that's the most egregious example and there are several others no doubt. But Miami, you look at Stephen Ross and thinking about the Cuban populace that helps patronize his product, that’s entirely different because that's not an argument about kneeling during the national anthem. If he has stood up for the national anthem and all that stuff, even that would not have mattered to Stephen Ross one way or another, but wearing that Fidel Castro T-shirt is what resonates in Miami.
Karen Hunter: So, do you not have the ability as an athlete to have a stand the way Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Mohammed Ali, Tommy Smith. Do you not have the right as an athlete to both be great on the field of choice and have a stand in your community? Do you have to make a choice?
Stephen A. Smith: Well, you usually don't in this day and age. There’s a price that’s going to be paid Karen, but look at the analogy that we … discussed … today have made in regards to comparing the NBA to the NFL. The NBA is a global, iconic brand. They’re the number one globalized brand in North American sports. Baseball doesn’t resonate internationally, football doesn't resonate internationally as much as basketball does. So when LeBron James and those guys as individuals, they’re individual commodities, those guys are wearing shorts and a t shirt. They’re not wearing a helmet and shoulder pads. Their imagery isn’t disguise. They aren't 20 to 30 feet away from the fans. You can reach out and touch these individuals literally, figuratively, etc. Plus, they are able to monopolize and establish their brands on a global perspective. The NFL has been incredibly adroit at promoting the shield and literally handpicking a handful of athletes that they allow to be the face of the league. Other than that with hard salary caps even though you sign a due to a guaranteed contract you still have the ability to cut them, waive ‘em, ask them to restructure the deal, take a paycut, etc., etc. They have all the dominoes in their favor on top of a ten year collective bargaining agreement with the Players Association where you've established Core Certainty, all the rules under its shield that you have to capitulate to according to the shield of the NFL. So, they don't have the power that basketball players as individuals have and to answer your question directly it's not that they can't do anything, it’s that the potency of the modern NFL athlete isn't anything compared to that of the NBA athlete and that's the difference.
Karen Hunter: Last question because we've got to pivot out. Can we the people help them have more power? Help them by supporting the efforts of a Kaepernick and supporting Richard Sherman’s speech and supporting by not showing up. Can we help them by withholding our dollars and raising our voices as fans?
Stephen A. Smith: Well, anytime you do that that’s gonna help the cause that's what the owners care about most. But remember, each NFL owner last year Karen got a check for over $246 million dollars a piece in terms of the profit that they generated because of league revenue, in terms of television deal, in terms of things of that nature and they still tried to charge folks for performing at the halftime of the super bowl. That's how greedy these individuals. So if you wanna ask the question if you can do something as a fan base by making you you make sure your voice is heard by withholding your dollars and making your presence known in that way so that is always applicable in any walk of life in society today, absolutely.