An Open Letter To Stephen A Smith

An Open Letter to Stephen A Smith

I remember watching you share a story about being pulled over and 8 cops surrounding you, and the only reason they let you go was because one of the cops recognized you. You also added that the cop very reluctantly released you and when you asked what you did wrong he yelled at you to not get smart with him. And all of this was in front of your 8 year old daughter who I am sure experienced some type of trauma from seeing her father emasculated in front of her by a police officer. But I was glad that you went public about this because it showed that any Black Man, even Stephen A Smith could experience what every Black People in America goes through every single day.

I remember when Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown was tased and handcuffed for a simple parking violation and you boldly expressing on First Take that the apology by the Milwaukee police department wasn’t satisfactory in your opinion and that you wanted the specific names of the officers who violated and abused Sterling Brown the way they did. You also added that you wanted to know exactly what their punishment was. I thought that was great that you used your platform to speak on Sterling’s behalf.

I remember after the Michael Bennett incident with the police in Las Vegas where they had him on the ground with guns pointed at him, you publicly said again on your platform of First Take that you were not surprised and that it has happened to you before as well as to a lot of Black People you know. You also, said you were thankful that Michael Bennett was alive, reminding the audience that these situations can easily go south and end up in an actual loss of life. You even discussed the fact the fact that when white people find themselves in situations with the police that somehow, the police are able to peacefully arrest them while far too often, Black People end up being killed. Very eloquently stated on a national platform.

I have see you use your platform to bring to Mainstream America the issues of Black People. Do you do it all the time ? No there were many issues that you were silent on but I have seen you speak passionately and eloquently on topics pertaining to our community.

Which was why I was so disappointed by your tweet last week Thursday morning where you said,

“Sorry, but I need to start off this day with a non-sports related matter. Watching these videos of kids throwing buckets of water at the NYPD is just flat-out inexcusable. And we all need to speak out AGAINST this. We are really losing ourselves if we find any of this okay!!!!”

Which led me to respond to your Tweet by saying,

“Point taken. I just want to also hear you speak out in outrage about the police consistently murdering our men & women & not having any repercussions. #NYPD officer #DanielPanteleo choked #EricGarner to death on tape & just got away scott free. That’s what’s flat-out inexcusable”

We discussed this at length on my weekly show The Collision “Where Sports And Politics Collide”

And as I said on air, if you are going to use your platform to have this discussion then let’s have it fully. Don’t just discuss the reaction to the injustice without discussing the ACTUAL INJUSTICE!!!!

Not excusing or condoning the reaction of the people throwing the buckets of water at the police, but what you have to realize is that people are tired, frustrated, and disgusted at the consistent injustice that keeps occurring. Right now, the police have a license to kill. They have no repercussions or restrictions or punishments whatsoever.

We both have children, imagine telling your children they can do whatever they want to with no boundaries and no repercussions whatsoever ? That would be ridiculous right ? But your failure to address that leads to the echo chamber of the Mainstream media who ignore the actual issue but voice their disapproval with the form of protest.

I am in the community, setting up panel discussions, fighting for laws to be changed, actively involved in doing something so this epidemic doesn’t continue to keep happening. In fact, I just did an amazing panel discussion through my foundation in Harlem with the Garner Family at Canaan Baptist Church.

Shaun King delivered an educational, informative and inspiring message of how we need to hold the people we elect accountable for promising they make and to be weary of politicians making pledging to do things that they have never been on record of doing.

Ilyasha Shabazz (Malcolm X’s daughter)

connected the effectiveness of protests and demanding justice that her father practiced and related it to the current times while we are pressing for justice for many murders and brutality at the hands of the police. Korey Wise (Of The Exonerated Five) spoke about how the system wasn’t made for us but we have to teach our children and ourselves how to fight for justice and plan for survival and achieve greatness. Emerald Garner (daughter of Eric Garner, have a blistering speech galvanizing the community to continue to support her and her family as they keep pushing for justice. We discussed specific strategies to fight for justice, push for laws to be changed (which as Tiffany Crutcher {twin sister of Terence Crutcher was was killed by officer Betty Shelby who also got away scott free} always says will be the only way to stop these killings from happening) , organize protests and demonstrations, connect with organizations who will combine efforts to push for accountability of police officers. And yes, these are all positive productive active steps toward bringing about a change in this very real problem which is how we police in this society.

But there are other people who are frustrated and fed up and tired of trying to do things the right way. Especially since they always receive the same amount of criticism. There is a quote I keep at the top of my twitter feed from when I interviewed Shannon Sharpe for my book We Matter “Athletes And Activism” that states,

“It used to be said that we utilize peaceful protest, but now, they don’t even want us to do that. Protest is supposed to make people uncomfortable, if it doesn’t take you out of your comfort zone, you won’t be able to hear what I’m trying to get you to hear”

When Kaepernick took a knee, Mainstream America said no that’s not the right place or time to protest. When Lebron James and entire NBA teams wore the I Can’t Breathe shirts after Eric Garner was murdered 5 years ago, Mainstream America said no that’s not the right way to protest either. When Erica Garner was stopping traffic with her megaphone and human blockade Mainstream America said that’s definitely not the right way to protest. So, it appears to be a pattern where anyway we voice our disapproval will be deemed as inappropriate or simply “not the right way”.

When Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid both took a knee, and Kaepernick expresses to the media that his specific reasons were to protest political corruption, systemic racism, and police brutality, that specific message was somehow transformed into being disrespectful to the veterans and the military. Even though Kaepernick specifically said this is not about the military. Even his voice was being unheard by many in Mainstream America who bought into the contortion of his message.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr said,

It is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which caused persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots don’t develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. A riot is the language of the unheard”

That’s what’s happening with these young people. They feel as though they are not being heard. As if their life has no value and that it simply doesn’t matter. So for you to publicly disparage them and their frustrations and their anger with a system that we all should be angry and frustrated with, without acknowledging the injustice and the reasons why they have this negative feeling toward the police, is not only irresponsible but puts you in a light that I don’t think you want to be in.

Now I have seen you on occasions look directly into the camera and say that “You don’t give a damn what the Black Community thinks” You went on a rant after you came under fire by the Black Community for supporting a very unpopular justification of racial profiling that was done by Dallas Mavericks CEO Mark Cuban, you responded with

“When I say I don’t give a damn… that does it no justice. I stand by everything that I said yesterday tenfold, 100-fold. And I don’t care who in the Black Community disagrees with me — I’m not interested in their disagreement on this particular issue because they are not looking at the bigger picture here.”

They ? Their ? That sounds a little OJ ish.

I don’t think you really feel this way. I think you were in your feelings (as the young people say) because of the criticism you received and lashed out. But be very careful using line in the sand language because there could come a time when you’ll need the very community you have appeared to turn your back on. You don’t wanna end up as Ice Cube said many years ago on True to the game,

“You’re out in the cold. No more white fans and no more soul. And you might have a heart attach when you find out the Black folks don’t want you back”

But I don’t think you are in the category of an Uncle Tom ( although In Harriet Beecher Stowe's abolitionist 1852 novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Uncle Tom is a martyr, not a sell-out. His devotion to his fellow slaves is so unshakable that he sacrifices a chance for freedom and, ultimately, his life to help them)

I don’t think you have completely lost yourself as you are the highest paid ESPN analyst and therefore take on the company position in order not to rock the boat. Do I agree with everything you say, no of course not. But that’s not the point. You have a tremendous platform and ability to address topics that will shape the way the country sees and views the topic at hand. That’s power. Malcolm X said,

“The media's the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

Don’t take that power lightly.