Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe And Others Have Become Cultural Commentators, But What Responsibility Do They Bear?

Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe And Others Have Become Cultural Commentators, But What Responsibility Do They Bear? | Photo: Rob Carr via Getty Images
Stephen A. Smith, Shannon Sharpe And Others Have Become Cultural Commentators, But What Responsibility Do They Bear? | Photo: Rob Carr via Getty Images
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We’re in such an exciting time in Black media. The media industry itself can certainly be a cold place. This is especially true with the rash of layoffs that we constantly see. I would by no means negate the effects of that. And I wish for a healthier landscape in the near future. But what I’m speaking to is this era of sports personalities seeking to create their own lanes with their voices. More recently we’ve become accustomed to the likes of Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe creating their own shows separate from ESPN. And on said shows, they’re able to tackle sports yes, but also, so much more. They’re able to do so without the constraints of network television, and that’s a plus.

Sharpe’s Club Shay Shay, and Smith’s Stephen A. Smith Show boast drastically different presentations but seek to offer candor in a way that they haven’t been able to prior. But this has been a trend, And it’s one that I’ve been enjoying former professional athletes capitalizing on.

You see, there’s value in presenting a specific perspective. It automatically adds credibility to your brand and makes it unique. So for example, there’s Quinton Richardson and Darius Miles with their Knuckleheads podcast. Then Kevin Garnett has KG Certified. And lastly, of some of these former athletes, there’s Gilbert Arenas with Gil’s Arena. These shows showcase content from the perspective of basketball being discussed by former NBA players. They go into granular detail about their experiences on the court and how they apply those principles to the game in the present day.

We now can make our way to the perspective of the fan. And there isn’t a better sports show out, from the fan perspective, than It Is What It Is with Cam’Ron and Ma$e. With Treasure “Statbaby” Wilson steering the ship, Ma$e and Cam bring an unfiltered brand of sports analysis damn near to the mainstream. It’s as close as it can get. What’s amazing about the show, is that they do it all, while still being authentically themselves.

Now for the majority of the subjects that I just profiled, this is their first foray into the world of being media personalities. In real-time they’re learning the ways of navigating difficult subjects in manners that need to be handled respectfully. Nevertheless, most of these analysts are new to this and are learning on the job. For that matter, and the most part, I think they’ve done a good job at making that transition. However, I do think some grace is given to them with us having that knowledge.

That’s what sets Club Shay Shay and The Stephen A. Smith shows apart. Both Smith and Sharpe have been in the media game for some time now. Smith is going on almost 30 years at it in some capacity. But in these waters where you’re able to navigate a host of subjects on a given show, you must also remember the reach that your voice has.

By now we’ve all seen Katt Williams‘ entertaining visit to Club Shay Shay. His appearance made waves and in my opinion, has cemented Club Shay Shay as a show to always check for. In his appearance, he discussed a lot about his personal life. But he also discussed much more about his gripes with the ugliness of Hollywood and the disingenuousness of some of his peers. His conversation with Sharpe in large part came off as him outing the industry in a sense. And with Mo’Nique’s recent appearance, it was much of the same. Extremely entertaining, and filled with her truths. But, in my opinion, something Sharpe should keep in mind is to not let his show become a place where the conversations are sensationalized. I am always on the side of being entertaining and engaging. But don’t let Club Shay Shay become a one-dimensional vehicle. You want to be able to showcase not only your guest’s depth but your own.

So this brings us to Smith. Aside from Smith’s quips about entertainment and sports topics, he also gets into political commentary. In recent weeks he has shared his opinions on Snoop Dogg having “nothing but love” for former president Donald Trump. And even more recently has shared his ideas on local immigration laws in New York City. The latter comes off as an indictment on why these migrants are receiving financial support while other poor people in America seemingly aren’t.

We’re in the most volatile period in the lifetime of almost anyone reading this article right now. There’s so much at stake in this year’s presidential election. So it behooves those of us with any substantial platforms to be responsible in how we convey our thoughts and information. A key word for me, above all else, is nuance. And it’s my opinion, that Stephen A. Smith hasn’t exhibited any nuance in his political stances on his show.

So, for instance, in the above video, the main crux of it is that Snoop has the freedom to feel how he feels, and support who he wants to support. I don’t think that any of us can logically disagree with that statement. But if that be the case, is it even worth bringing up and giving it any life? I think a much more efficient use of this moment would’ve been to highlight the actual dangers of another Trump presidency. Give Snoop some game about the nuances of the political process regardless of the options we seemingly have. What’s the harm in saying, “I respect your freedom Snoop, but understand that this can be construed as having no issue with Donald Trump becoming president again. We can’t chance that.”

It seems as if these notable figures walk on eggshells around the people who may be able to give them a few cool points. Trust me, there’s a way to educate your people without coming off like you’re “son’ing” them. It’s blatantly irresponsible for Smith to leave his comments at “Hey, he’s free to feel how he feels.” It’s insulting to our intelligence at large. It’s negligent to give extended commentary on New York City’s migrant situation without highlighting that New York City has services that help the impoverished as it is. And it’s the migrants who wouldn’t have had that assistance otherwise. This isn’t a time in history where we can afford to speak frivolously on issues of immense importance. Your responsibility is different, especially being a Black man as Smith is never shy to allude to.

But ironically enough, if you haven’t noticed, I’m a fan of everyone I mentioned in this piece. I admire all of their work, I watch all of their shows. I am a fan as much as I am a student. But I have zero qualms in imparting some points that these personalities may overlook. We can’t afford that. During such a precarious season, it behooves us all to think critically about how we convey our thoughts. What cause are these sentiments furthering or impeding? Unfortunately, those can be the only two results. We’re either pushing for the prospect of progression, or we’re demolishing it.