ESPN’s “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith made race an issue in taking a shot at former NFL quarterback Tim Tebow’s return to the league this season after being signed as a tight end by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tebow, a Heisman Trophy-winning former college QB who became the first sophomore to win the coveted award, reunited with his Florida head coach Urban Meyer, who is in his first year leading the Jags. But to Smith, the situation smells of “white privilege,” given that Tebow hasn’t played in a meaningful NFL game in a decade and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who is black, remains unsigned.
“I’m happy for him, meaning Tim Tebow specifically, but when you look at just the totality of the situation, once again, if I’m gonna bring up white privilege when I brought up Steve Nash getting the job in Brooklyn, is this not an example of white privilege?” Smith said on Thursday after Tebow signed a one-year contract in Jacksonville. “What brother you know is getting this opportunity?”
Tebow, who tried his hand at professional baseball and has been a college football analyst, has never played tight end.
“That makes people uncomfortable because we’re talking about race when I say something like that,” Smith added. “Let me be the first to say – I don’t give a damn how you feel. I mean what I say. It is white privilege because that’s not something that’s happening for any brothers out there.”
Smith criticized the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets last year for naming as their head coach the Canadian-born Nash, a white Hall of Fame point guard with no previous head coaching experience. Smith called that hiring another example of “white privilege” because, in his view, the Nets took Nash over more qualified black coaching candidates.
The “First Take” host did preface his remarks by describing Tebow as a “really good dude” whose “heart’s in the right place.”
After signing Tebow, Meyer said his college star QB with whom he won two national championships, two Southeastern Conference titles, and 48 games overall between 2006-2009, is in the “best shape of his life,” adding that he’s “the most competitive maniac you’re ever gonna talk to.”
“The reality is that Urban Meyer is in a position where he could exercise – I’m not saying he did it for Tim Tebow because he was white or anything like that,” Smith went on to say. “It has nothing to do with race in regard to that.
“I’m simply saying when you see an opportunity like that happen, it is clear that it happens for white folks and it doesn’t happen for everybody else, and that’s problematic,” he alleged.
Nearly 60 percent of the NFL’s players are black, according to the most recent stats.
Smith’s co-host, Max Kellerman, noted that he was okay with Tebow getting his shot while going on to suggest the newly signed tight end mention Kaepernick, who is best known for leading anti-police protests while taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem.
Kellerman claimed that “no one is even looking at” Kaepernick, but in fact, the controversial QB was given a tryout in 2019 that many criticized because he appeared to use the occasion as a PR stunt rather than a legitimate comeback opportunity.
And in fact, Smith was one of the sports analysts who were the most critical.
“Twenty-five teams show up in Georgia at the Atlanta Falcons practice facility — a state-of-the-art facility with NFL personnel, equipment, video, everything — and what does Colin Kaepernick do? Colin Kaepernick wants to change the venue,” he said at the time, adding: “He don’t want to play! He wants to be a martyr.”
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