Stephen A. Smith has never been afraid of a challenge.
After all, the ESPN First Take analyst goes toe-to-toe with the highly opinionated Skip Bayless daily. Beginning this afternoon, Smith takes on a new challenge: he’ll join Sirius/XM Radio as their new talent on Chris Russo’s Mad Dog Radio Network.
Smith was contacted by Sirius after a controversial rant in May by shock-jock Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo. In Russo’s rant, he said that there were no black sports radio hosts on his Mad Dog Radio Show because there were no good black sports hosts out there. “I have a national voice in television and I have a national voice in digital,” Smith tells The Source.
“Why not have a national voice in radio?”
Smith left his afternoon show on ESPN New York’s 98.7 with co-host Ryan Ruocco to join Sirius—but will not leave television and print duties with the network. Smith’s new show will air weekdays from 1-3 p.m., will originate from Bristol, Connecticut and will be produced by ESPN’s staff.
The ESPN personality sees his new platform as a good opportunity to prove that there are good African American radio hosts out there just as good—if not better. “I’m not just able to help myself but various African Americans within the radio industry that are looking for opportunities,” said Smith. “I’ve got to be a trendsetter and make it happen because if I drop the ball, I not only drop the ball for me but I drop the ball for us.”
ESPN has never allowed anybody employed by the network to do radio for Sirius/XM radio—Smith bucked the system. According to the Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre, Sirius is paying ESPN a licensing fee for Stephen A’s show. “It’s a trailblazing move because ESPN has a channel on Sirius/XM,” said Smith. “But I’m not on the ESPN channel; I’m on the Mad Dog Channel.”
Never known to bite his tongue, Smith came under fire in July on First Take when he commented on the NFL’s 2-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens star Ray Rice who was caught on tape striking his then-fiancée in an Atlantic City, NJ elevator. Smith reiterated that violence against women is wrong but he also tried to explain that women should not provoke an attack. The term ‘provoke’ created a stir that forced ESPN to suspend Smith for a week. Smith has moved on from the incident. “Number one I’d speak more fluidly and clearly,” he said.
“That is why I did not have a problem with them taking me off the air for the week. Did I feel like I deserved the suspension? Hell no. But at the same time, I’m not blaming ESPN for that. They did the right thing to protect their brand. My problem was I didn’t articulate myself clearly and concisely enough. I fumbled my words in an effort to try and explain something pertaining to domestic abuse that I experienced within my family on several occasions. As a result, I dropped the ball.”
With a brand new show on Sirius/XM radio, Stephen A. has a new platform to continue to be, WELL…himself, while also giving fair and balanced sports coverage—something every sports fan hopes for. “You’ve asked for it, I’m going to give it to you,” he said. “There will be no stuttering, there will be no anything. I’m going to say exactly what the hell I mean, exactly the way I mean it up front—so it’s clear. I’m ready for it and September 2nd, I plan to bring the reign.”