For better or worse, stephen a smith is an inescapable reality in the sports media landscape. His bombast and dour delivery are a constant presence on ESPN airwaves. But recently, there's been a noticeable silence on the airwaves and in social media from ESPN's signature talking head. So, what happened to Stephen A. Smith on first take?
One reason might be that he's been busy running his own independent podcast, where he has embraced the third rail of politics. Sources tell Deadspin that he's had multiple discussions with Sean Hannity about Donald Trump, and has even discussed politics on the Disney-owned podcast network ESPN+. As one of ESPN's highest-paid personalities, Smith has significant clout at the company -- and is one of the only stars with enough leverage to call ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro directly when needed.
Smith also has a reputation for having strong loyalty to people who have his back. For instance, when Skip Bayless became a pariah after his callous reaction to Damar Hamlin's heart attack, Smith was one of the few voices to publicly stand up for the former host.
But despite his clout, Smith's ruthless competitive streak occasionally gets him in trouble with ESPN brass. For example, last year he jokingly warned fans at a live taping of First Take that the Cleveland Cavaliers' J. R. Smith might be high on marijuana before he committed a costly blunder in Game 1 of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors.