Stephen A. Smith responded to reports that Shannon Sharpe might be joining him on ESPN’s “First Take.”
Smith led off his podcast “The Stephen A. Smith Show” on Friday, July 21 by addressing the report from Front Office Sports that the former “Undisputed” host would be joining The Walt Disney Co. (DIS) – Get Free Report sports network’s number one show.
“I’m not going to tell you that’s true — I’m not going to tell you it’s not either,” Smith said. “What I can tell you is that the honchos are talking to Shannon Sharpe. What I can tell you is that the honchos are fully aware that Stephen A. Smith wants Shannon Sharpe on First Take.”
Smith reiterated multiple times on his show that Sharpe’s presence at ESPN is not yet confirmed, but stressed that he is pushing hard to acquire the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
“Nothing’s finalized, there’s still work to be done. But make no mistake about it — ESPN is talking to him. And make no mistake about it, it’s primarily because I want them to talk to him,” Smith said.
Smith made sure to recognize that he also wants ESPN analysts such as Ryan Clark, Dan Orlovsky, and Mina Kimes on “First Take,” confirming reports that Sharpe’s role on the debate show would likely be as a member of a rotating cast instead of as a daily fixture.
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While Smith said he wants Sharpe on the network and not just “First Take,” that role could allow Sharpe the flexibility to continue his “Club Shay Shay” podcast and explore obligations with other networks like FanDuel TV.
Smith also indicated that he wants to do better by Sharpe because of the way he was last treated at Fox, though he reiterated that he didn’t want to throw shots at the rival network or his former “First Take” co-host Skip Bayless.
“I want [Sharpe] to have a shinier light placed on him than a few of the times we last saw him,” Smith said, referring to the argument that Bayless and Sharpe had on a January episode of “Undisputed” involving Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin. “I’m not throwing shade on anybody, especially not my man Skip Bayless. But what happened, happened. It was for public consumption. And I knew at that moment: it was the beginning of the end.”
Smith may have not been intentionally throwing shade, but he did take a subtle jab at Bayless, who reportedly has final say at his next partner at “Undisputed” to make sure he isn’t overshadowed.
“I’m not one of those insecure brothers that’s scared of his greatness thinking that it’s going to sully mine,” Smith said. “Iron sharpens iron. We elevate one another.”
There are still steps to take for ESPN to finalize its talks with Sharpe, which Smith said are up to his bosses and “above his pay grade.” But it’s certainly serious enough for one of the network’s biggest faces to adamantly speak on it in public.