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Stephen A. Smith: Statement by Monica McNutt on ‘First Take’ Was ‘Highly Offensive’

“You ever heard of Monica McNutt? You have now – because she’s on ‘First Take’ a lot.”

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Stephen A. Smith
Courtesy: Bryan Anselm for The Washington Post

ESPN announced on Monday that First Take had attained its most-viewed May ever and accounted for a 22nd consecutive month of year-over-year growth, averaging 513,000 viewers per show. This is up 6% from the average viewership total in 2023 and also included the program’s most-watched episode since mid-February. Yet the debate pertaining to Caitlin Clark and the WNBA that ostensibly turned contentious between Stephen A. Smith and Monica McNutt took headlines on Monday and led to further conversation on social media.

When Smith spoke about how he feels people have to watch every syllable when discussing women’s sports, McNutt delineated that it is how she has felt about being a woman. Later in the conversation, Smith asked McNutt if another show has discussed the WNBA and women’s sports more than First Take. McNutt replied by telling Smith that he could have done it three years ago if he wanted to, leaving him in a state of shock that his query had elicited such discourse.

Smith examined the actions of his colleague during his eponymous program, The Stephen A. Smith Show, on Monday evening, prefacing his commentary by divulging his appreciation for her and the work that she does. Additionally, he spoke about how sometimes in television, the commercial break needs to be forsaken; however, he understands that it is part of the job of First Take host Molly Qerim and stated that it was a subject for another day. Smith then discussed what McNutt said and the umbrage that he felt immediately thereafter.

“To address Monica McNutt’s point, I found it very unfortunate that she would say that,” Smith explained. “Ladies and gentleman, I am the executive producer of First Take. You ever heard of Monica McNutt? You have now – because she’s on First Take a lot.”

Adopting parallel structure in his elocution, Smith mentioned several other women in sports media who have thrived on First Take, including Chiney Ogwumike, Andraya Carter, Kimberley Martin and Molly Qerim. Although he conveyed that he has been subject to criticism from people over the years, some of whom do not know the subject matter of which they are discussing, he simply wants people to be accurate. Smith referred to what McNutt did as “highly offensive” and the “first real disagreement” they had had and again challenged the audience to find another show that discusses the WNBA or women’s sports more than First Take.

“Do you have any idea how offensive it was for me to sit there and hear Monica McNutt say that about me when I’m the one that handpicked our roster on First Take?,” Smith said. “Now again, we’re only talking about this incident. I love Monica McNutt – she’s phenomenal, and she is a friend and I am a supporter, and I’m going to remain a supporter of her’s – I just disagree with that one statement because I have to publicly defend the show.”

A factor of First Take that Smith outlined on his program is that the show has had conversations pertaining to many different subject areas, including sports, social issues, politics and gender issues. Smith asserted that he was given the executive producer responsibilities on First Take by Jimmy Pitaro, the chairman of ESPN, and Dave Roberts, the head of event and studio production for ESPN, without being asked.

Following a 21% rise in viewership during the 2023 regular season and the most-watched WNBA Finals in two decades that averaged 728,000 viewers on ESPN platforms, the league is assimilating into added prominence and becoming even more of a regular part of the everyday conversation. Smith wanted to talk about the WNBA more in the past and implored women to support the league, calling on people to review the tape from previous shows.

“Could I have done more?,” Smith questioned. “Well, if you’re a sports show and a sports news show, you’ve got to talk about what’s percolating, you’ve got to talk about what’s resonating. You’ve got to pay attention to what the masses are paying attention to, and the fact of the matter is they weren’t paying any attention to the WNBA, so there’s but so much I could do until the WNBA did something for itself. And in the second there was a sliver of an opening to do something more for the sport, I have always done something for women’s basketball and women’s sports.”

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Kevin Kelly, Former AEW Announcer, Says He Is Suing the Company

Kelly started with AEW in June of 2023 and was let go in March.

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Graphic for Wise Choices with Eric Bischoff and a screengrab of Kevin Kelly on AEW

Former AEW announcer Kevin Kelly said he is suing All Elite Wrestling over his departure from the company three months ago. Kelly was apparently let go due to several social media posts about why he had not been used more by the company. Kelly also accused fellow AEW announcer Ian Riccaboni of trying to sabotage his career and committing libel against him.

Kelly was a guest of Eric Bischoff on Wise Choices, a second weekly podcast Bischoff puts out in addition to his long-running podcast 83 Weeks.

Kelly told Bischoff that he was struggling mentally due to the situation with Riccaboni and was seeing a psychiatrist provided by the company. He said he was extremely unhappy and took his thoughts to social media and then left an angry message for an HR staffer.

“I went off,” Kelly said about the message he left.

After explaining more of what went on, Bischoff asked, “So what are you going to do? You suing them?”

“Yeah, of course,” Kelly answered. “You have to.”

Kelly, whose real name is Kevin Foote, worked for WWE from 1996-2003 and also worked for Ring of Honor and New Japan Pro-Wrestling prior to his time at AEW. Kelly started with AEW in June of 2023 and was let go in March.

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Jake Marsh Leaving Barstool Sports to Pursue Play-by-Play Opportunities

“I hope one day you are calling a Super Bowl that we are watching and losing bets on…and then blaming you for losing the bets.”

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Logo for Barstool Sports and a photo of Jake Marsh, Dave Portnoy and Dan 'Big Cat' Katz
Photo Courtesy: Barstool Sports (L-R Jake Marsh, Dave Portnoy, Dan 'Big Cat' Katz)

After five years with Barstool Sports, Jake Marsh announced that today was his last episode on Pardon My Take. Marsh said that now is the right time to pursue his dream of being a national network play-by-play broadcaster.

“I’m here to make an announcement,” Marsh said to Dan ‘Big Cat’ Katz and PFT Commenter. “It’s an announcement that was inevitable at some point. After talking with you guys, now makes the most sense. The fact of the matter is this is going to be my last episode on Pardon My Take.”

Big Cat and PFT Commenter said this is something they have been talking about for four or five months, not something Marsh just decided on a whim. “We love having you on the show Jake, you’re a big part of the Pardon My Take story,” PFT Commenter said. “We are very glad you are a part of the story. Me and Big Cat have always said, one day you’re going to go try to do live broadcasts and we are going to wish you the best and we are going to be firmly in your corner. And that is very, very true to this day. I wish you the best career possible. I hope one day you are calling a Super Bowl that we are watching and losing bets on…and then blaming you for losing the bets.”

Marsh explained the reasoning behind his departure. “One of the biggest dominos for this happening right now is the direction Barstool is going in, live broadcasting rights are no longer a priority for this company,” he said. “…And obviously that was my bread and butter here. That’s where I thrive the most. I am so fortunate I got to call multiple bowl games on national television, college basketball, hockey, professional golf.”

Marsh, hired as an intern five years ago, added, “I never thought any of that was remotely possible.”

Marsh said when he started, somebody at Barstool asked him where he sees himself in five to ten years. “Without hesitation I said, ‘I want to be a national network play-by-play broadcaster.’ That brings us to now and that is what I am going all in on.”

Marsh said he is proud of what he has accomplished in his five years with the company. “I have accomplished a lot, thanks to you guys.”

Marsh posted a message to the Barstool community on the website and said, “I’m looking for someone to give me a chance in this business in the booth, just like Pardon My Take gave me a shot five years ago. And I know the first step to making that happen is showing my full availability and flexibility to call games.” 

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Stephen A. Smith: Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson ‘Were Truly an A-Team’

“They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

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Stephen A. Smith
Courtesy: Evan Angelastro, GQ

Jeff Van Gundy, former NBA head coach and television analyst for ESPN, has agreed to a deal to become the lead assistant coach for the LA Clippers, according to a report by ESPN senior NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski. Van Gundy worked as a consultant for the Boston Celtics this past season, which recently culminated in the 18th title in the history of the organization.

Prior to that time, he worked alongside play-by-play announcer Mike Breen and analyst Mark Jackson as part of the lead broadcasting team for the NBA on ESPN, forming a trio that called 15 NBA Finals together. Stephen A. Smith, the featured commentator and executive producer of First Take and analyst on NBA Countdown, recently discussed the reports of Van Gundy joining the Clippers’ coaching staff on his podcast, The Stephen A. Smith Show.

Smith conveyed that he thought Van Gundy may receive an interview for the head coaching role with the Los Angeles Lakers, but that changed upon the report of him joining the Clippers. Van Gundy was laid off by ESPN as a part of cost-cutting measures at the network, and Jackson was let go by the network one month later. In a statement last year, ESPN expressed that these decisions were difficult and “based more on overall efficiency than merit,” but would help the company meet its “financial targets and ensure future growth.”

Smith spoke on his relationship with his former colleagues and prefaced his remarks by saying he was not throwing any shade on Mike Breen, Doris Burke and JJ Redick, the new lead broadcasting team for the network that recently called the 2024 NBA Finals.

“This is not about anything like that,” Smith said. “This is about the fact that Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson were truly an A-team. They were exceptional at their jobs, they were riveting in a lot of ways. They were an illustrious tag team that the basketball world enjoyed for more than a decade.”

During his remarks, Smith expressed that Van Gundy and his brother Stan were good people and also sent his heartfelt condolences to the family upon learning that Stan Van Gundy’s wife passed away as a result of suicide. Stan Van Gundy recently spoke about the loss on an episode of South Beach Sessions with Meadowlark Media co-founder and host Dan Le Batard. Smith then continued to speak on Jeff Van Gundy by expressing that he deserves to do what he wants in the game of basketball.

“I respect the hell out of Jeff and I’m very fond of him, but there’s one thing that we all have to understand, and nobody speaks about this because everybody talks about stuff as unfair and, ‘He got let go,’” Smith explained. “In the world of business, when cuts take place, cuts take place. There’s hundreds of people who lost their jobs, and it wasn’t just at ESPN or at Disney. Have you seen what happened at Meta? Have you seen what has happened in places like Apple and Amazon and other places?”

Although Smith expressed that he is not saying job cuts are right and instead called them “downright cruel,” he questioned when the world of business has been known to be anything otherwise. Smith was sad to see Van Gundy and Jackson leave the network, but he shared that he is not concerned about them recovering because of their reputations and the opportunities that will come in their direction. Moreover, he expressed that it would not be as easy for other people, articulating that it would be more daunting for them to find their footing if they were to lose their roles.

“I work with special people with my day job at ESPN, but nothing’s guaranteed,” Smith said. “Nobody is safe. That includes me, and I’m speaking from experience. Remember, I got fired in 2009. Take nothing for granted in the world of business ladies and gentlemen. No one’s ever safe in this day and age. Numbers make calls, not just people. Numbers dictate a lot.”

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