Stephen A. Smith's signature brand of incendiary hot takery inspires deep, impassioned vitriol. That's what he gets paid to do, and Smith is paid very well to do it. He earns over $3 million a year at a job that demands that he latch onto various controversies passing through the sports news stream, slather them with preposterous adjectives and pop-eyed put-on incredulity, and then breathe all that out of his mouth as loudly as he can, either until he loses consciousness or it's time for a commercial break.
The problem with Stephen A. Smith in blackout mode, though, is that the point he's making winds up being incidental to him making it. Sometimes this results in him making outlandish predictions about innocuous things like a win or a loss based on a feeling. But when the sports conversation touches upon more complex social dynamics, Smith can come across as downright offensive, if only because his Just Saying Stuff approach is not sufficient for the moment. On Thursday night Smith took to explaining—nay, mansplaining—how Ayesha Curry should be a better wife to her husband by, well, not saying things. Smith even went out of his way to say this not once, but twice.
In the clip above, Stephen A Smith launched a critique on Ayesha Curry for getting vocal on Twitter about her husband's ejection from last night's Game 6 of the NBA Finals. Curry tweeted, and quickly deleted, an insinuation that the NBA might've rigged Steph Curry's foul—and consequent ejection—so that the Cavs vs. Warriors series could go to Game 7.
Sure, it's a loose and speculative theory, and hard to prove. But speaking of people who operate on loose and speculative theories…
"If that was Savannah, LeBron's wife. If that were Gloria, LeBron's mother. What would we be saying?" Smith asked today on his show First Take. "LeBron James has a mom and has a wife, has kids, great guy, an even greater ambassador of the game of basketball than Steph Curry because he's done it over the test of time. Wonderful, beautiful father. And I've got news for you: as beautiful as everyone wants to say Ayesha Curry is, and she is, Savannah is something special. I'm here to tell you something right now. Ain't a man alive, particularly a black man, that's going to look at LeBron James's wife and not say that that woman ain't gorgeous. She's wonderful inside and out. She sits there, she doesn't bring any attention to herself. She never tweets and goes out there and calls out the league and stuff like that. And nobody—nobody—is more scrutinized than her husband. But yet, she thinks about how she represents him and as a result, she doesn't do that."
Smith later added,"If this were Savannah, acting like this, do you know how much heat LeBron James may have taken? I just want people to think about that and I'll leave it at that."
Smith sets up a false binary—and rolls out a gratuitous hypothetical situation—to make the point that LeBron's wife, who Smith goes out of his way to objectify as a way of creating another goofy binary, is a better wife to her husband because she shuts her mouth. To reiterate: "she sits there, she doesn't bring any attention to herself." She wifes like a champion, in other words.
Understandably so, Ayesha Curry was offended when she found out what Smith was implying:
And Smith responded to her tweet later in the show. Instead of apologizing, or even hedging, Smith made a last heroic stand for his weird not-really-a-point, armed only with naked sexism and brass balls.
"Allow me to explain something," Smith says as if he's ever needed our permission. "Ayesha Curry is a wonderful, wonderful woman. I would never, ever, disrespect the wife of a player. Period."
Just take a look at Smith's face when he says that, and tell me if you think he truly believes his own Trump-esque "I love Mexicans" statement. Then, in another Trumpian flourish, Smith goes about trying to make up for this loss in volume by listing the women who've influenced his life:
"I was raised by five women — my mother and my four older sisters, okay? What I am trying to explain to you, Mrs. Ayesha Curry, is that it's not me, it's you. Because what happens is that when you're out there tweeting and saying the things that you're saying, you are putting your husband in a precarious position. And I'm saying if that were LeBron James and his wife, it would've been treated differently by the media and by the masses. So it's not pitting you and Savannah against each other, it's allowing you to know that others would not hesitate to do it, which is why it's something you should watch out for because I don't want you to do something I know you don't want to do, which is hurt yourself or your husband or your family in any way. Your father-in-law, Del Curry, is a wonderful guy."
"Your mother-in-law, his wife, is wonderful. Steph Curry is one of the best people I know and, Ayesha Curry, so, do you appear to be. I'm just saying to you you need to watch yourself because it may put your husband in a compromising position that I'm sure you don't want and Savannah James, whose been around, who has a husband who is universally recognized as one of the greatest players in the world, has been around for quite a long time, and she appears to know that. It's not about comparing or anything. It's giving you an example of what may work, and what you might want to avoid like she's avoiding it, before the media and everybody else uses your tweet as a tool to attack you and possibly your husband. That's all I'm saying. That's all I have to say. I meant no disrespect, I certainly don't mean it now."
The lone woman on First Take, Molly Qerim makes the deft final note:"Part of the reason LeBron and Steph are so successful is that they do have such wonderful, strong women behind them."
The problem with Smith's breathless rant on how a woman should be a wife, besides how impossibly stupid and unnecessary it is, is that it doesn't just coincidentally echo the idea that women are better seen and not heard but directly follows the logic that "women are better seen and not heard." Smith repeatedly went out of his way to talk about the two women's beauty, and how their voice should take back seat to their husbands' careers. In a sports world that is dominated by loud-mouthed male demagogues, it's never a great idea to tell a woman to shut up and look pretty. Smith did that, although it could also be argued that he was just doing his (terrible) job.