ESPN Host Stephen A. Smith Apologizes For 'Horrific' Mistake After His Social Team Posted Video About Rihanna

 Rihanna and Stephen A. Smith
Rihanna and Stephen A. Smith

In less than a month, Super Bowl LVIII will be upon us, gracing sports fans with a game between two of the best teams the NFL has to offer. Some people may not be as excited for the actual matchup as they are for the always popular halftime show, though. This year’s game will see Rihanna take center stage and headline the event for the first time. Many have been talking about the performance, including ESPN host Stephen A. Smith. But now, the journalist is apologizing for a "horrific" mistake after his social media team posted a video of the chat.

Stephen A. Smith recently appeared on Sherri, where the titular talk show host mentioned that the Barbadian singer – whose full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty – would be performing at this year’s show. Smith stated that he wasn't unexcited for the show but said, among other things, that the singer "ain't Beyoncé":

I don’t want to say I’m not excited. She’s fantastic. That’s not where I’m going with this. She’s a lot of things. She’s spectacular. And congratulations on new mama hood. There’s one thing she’s not. She ain't Beyoncé. [In response to audience boos:] The only reason I brought up Beyoncé is because Beyoncé recently performed at the Super Bowl. And without Bruno Mars and Coldplay.

Stephen A. Smith did give Rihanna her flowers later in the interview, saying that her music is "fantastic" and that he loves her "dearly" while also saying that "I’m just telling you for me, there’s Beyoncé and there’s everybody else." Smith eventually drew the ire of the "Umbrella" singer's fans when the clip was posted to social media and ultimately took to Twitter to provide some clarification, breaking up his message into two tweets:

Horrific mistake. Something that was suppose to be a fun moment on the Sherri Shepard show has gotten out of hand. An overzealous member on my MGMT team — which has access to my account — posted something I would NEVER say about @rihanna, her fans or any other artist. The post… Has been removed. My social management team will never make a mistake like this again. My apologies again to @Rihanna. And just to be clear, I’m a huge fan. Sherri and I were just having fun. That is all.

In addition to the tweets, the analyst shared a video in which he further explained his intent. You can see it down below:

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The sports commentator is widely known for his hot takes, and the responses to said viewpoints can vary. Based on his comments here, it would seem that he didn't mean any ill will towards the Ocean's 8 alum and wasn't trying to pit her and Queen Bey against one another.

One could argue that both women know how to put on a show. Beyoncé definitely left it all out on the field when she appeared at the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2016. Few would deny that the director and producer of Netflix’s Homecoming just has “it." But let’s not forget that RiRi is far from a slouch. She’s sold out various venues over nearly two decades now and produced certified hits like “Diamonds,” “What's My Name?” and "Only Girl (In the World).” Her efforts have earned her numerous accolades, including nine Grammys and 13 American Music Awards.

For the past few years, Rihanna has been on a music hiatus – during which she became a billionaire, held Vol. 4 of her Savage Fenty Show and had her first child with A$AP Rocky. (So yeah, she’s been busy.) She stepped back into the studio recently, though, to record the hit single “Lift Me Up” for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever. When it comes to performing at the Super Bowl, she admitted to be “nervous” but excited. Given her track record, there’s reasons to believe that she’ll rock Allegiant Stadium and, based on his most recent statement, Stephen A. Smith will be one of the many rooting her on.

Check out Rihanna’s performance when Super Bowl LVIII airs Sunday, February 12, at 6:30 p.m. ET. And while you wait for the show, check out other small-screen offerings that are part of the 2023 TV schedule.