Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews had a tense back-and-forth over the Ime Udoka scandal on “First Take.”
The ESPN talent eventually landed the plane in the segment, but it started with furious barbs thrown furiously by both sides.
Andrews, the 27-year-old host of “NBA Today,” called into the show after the Celtics held a news conference about Udok.
“If I could start with this: Stephen A., with all due respect, this is not about finger pointing. Stop it,” Andrews said. “It became clear to me at this press conference that we don’t have all the information here. I found it frustrating that the Celtics refused to elaborate or elaborate on exactly what the violation was that brought us to this point.
Andrews said she was intrigued that Brad Stevens was upset by the “lush Twitter bull-t” that was hurled at women in the Celtics organization on social media this week, and that she discovered speculation about women believed to be having affairs with They’ll do it. was “gross and unnecessary”. She criticized the Celtics for not providing more details about Udoka’s transgressions at the press conference.
“The fact that it could have gone on all day. The fact that we’re sitting here debating whether or not someone else should be suspended. We are not here, Stephen A., to further blame women. That’s not why we’re here,” Andrews said.
Smith, 54, replied: “First of all. I will make it very clear. I don’t understand where you are going with this. I blame none other than Ime Udoka. He deserved to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to throw it away, don’t throw it away. My problem is that it’s all being published. The point I’m trying to make…”
Andrews interrupted and Smith interrupted.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I listened to you. You’re the one telling me to get off my show. that’s not happening. Good? That’s number 1. Number 2, I said, deserves to be fired, or be there and they’ll deal with it privately. If you’re not going to deal with it privately, posting it in this way, then obviously provoking anyone who wants to know who the parties are?
The core of the misunderstanding concerns what was reported by ESPN and what was reported elsewhere. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Udoka was having a “consensual affair” with a woman in the organization. Shams Charania reported in The Athletic that Udoka was also accused of making “unsolicited comments” towards a woman.
ESPN has not yet released the details of the allegations. In similar situations in the past, ESPN PR has said they will not rely on reports from other news organizations involving sensitive information.
Smith’s comments on “First Take” on Thursday and Friday were based on the report that Udoka had a consensual affair. He didn’t excuse Udoka and repeatedly said the coach made an error in judgment, but he also said workplace issues happen all over professional sports and pointed to an alleged imbalance in how it’s handled for people who are black (like Udoka) versus white.
Smith accused the Celtics of revealing that Udoka was having an affair. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck vehemently denied the claims at a press conference on Friday.
Smith’s main point is that Udoka should have been kept or fired. A year-long suspension by the Celtics while they sit on his contract rights and reserve the right to decide on his employment later is inappropriate.
“Given how pervasive this thing has been in professional sports for many years,” Smith told Andrews, referring to consensual matters, “my goal is to make sure you treat it the same way it’s always been treated.” You could have fired him and then we could speculate until the cows come home, but he’s gone. But to keep it there but suspend it for a year, then that year is indefinite, that’s my problem.
“No one is trying to protect Ime Udoku and certainly no one is trying to scare the women involved. I’m talking about how things are typically handled in this matter from an HR perspective, from an organizational perspective. This is not consistent with what we have seen over the years. I am not trying to attack anyone and if anyone deserves to be attacked it is Ime Udoka for putting himself in this position.”
Andrews responded, “I appreciate the clarification. And I guess I’ll go back to Molly [Qerim’s] opening question. My reaction to the press conference is the only thing that was made clear to me that we are missing key information. That’s my reaction.”
Qerim asked what she meant.
Andrews said that if she had been at a press conference, her question would have been: “You’re not helping the women you want to protect, who you say the organization has to look inward with your business. Women need transparency.