Memo to ESPN, Stephen A.: Enough BS

Stephen A. Smith and ESPN think we forgot the fool-me idiom. Shame on them.

For the second time in less than a year, the black beard paid to mask Skip Bayless‘ blatant negro-baiting uttered “N-word, please” on a national-television platform allegedly reserved for non-profane, professional discussion.

The first time was in December during a debate about LeBron James. Smith tweeted a denial. The second time was Thursday, when Smith was discussing Kobe Bryant. Smith, this time, taped a post-show denial.

I’m not going to waste a lot of time breaking down the weakness of Smith’s latest denial. He dropped the N-word. The audio and video speak for themselves. Smith’s laughable denial — saying he’s from New York and sometimes speaks too "fastly" — doesn’t even attempt to explain what he said if not “n—a, please.”

Nope. The discussion today should focus on First Take, and why this particular show can’t avoid sprinkling the N-word into its discourse.

Think about it. Across the television landscape, there are hundreds of talk shows. As best I can tell only one show and only one host are struggling to contain their love of the N-word while on national TV. I could be wrong — I don’t watch everything on TV — but is there another TV talk show where a host is annually blurting out the N-word? Are Kornheiser and Wilbon struggling with this? Michael and Kelly? The cast of Around the Horn? Bill O’Reilly? The crew on Morning Joe?

Now, think about this: Stephen A. Smith has been running his mouth on TV for more than a decade. He’s good at it. He’s bright, articulate, passionate and quite informed on the NBA. I’m a Stephen A. Smith fan. I consider Smith a friend. When ESPN gave him his own talk show seven years ago, I thought Smith had a chance to be this generation’s Howard Cosell. When Smith’s show failed, I still believed in his talents. I believed he just needed more seasoning, more knowledge of the sports world beyond the NBA.

My point is that in all of his years of television — including consistent appearances on political talk shows discussing race — there’s only one place where Smith can’t control his desire to say “n—a, please.”

Why? What’s so special about First Take?

It baits Negroes to act like n—as.

That’s the job. For years, ESPN pitted a parade of attention-starved, mostly black stooges against Skip Bayless to legitimize and sanitize Skip’s over-the-top attacks on Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, LeBron James and all the other low-hanging black fruit Skip could reach from his debate chair. The parade of stooges failed to properly protect Bayless. You could still see he was an insecure, disingenuous version of Glenn Beck.

Enter Stephen A. Smith, desperate to re-emerge as a high-six-figures TV celebrity, desperate for his next hit from the TV crack pipe. Smith campaigned for the role of Skip’s beard.

Recognizing that its black viewers couldn’t resist Skip’s bait, ESPN doubled down, making Smith an equal partner in the show and re-imagining First Take as the black barbershop of sports talk. The rap-music bumpers, the black, eye-candy female host, the guest appearances by rappers and Smith are all an attempt to make Skip’s negro-baiting palatable, marketable and justifiable.

The show has been dumbed down and ghetto-ized. An environment has been created that entices Smith and others to bojangle and stoop to Bayless’ level of discourse. Terrell Suggs was celebrated for coming on the show and calling Bayless a “douchebag.”

Do not misconstrue my main point. In my opinion, Skip Bayless is not the bad guy. He is what he is. He’s never hid it. He will unfairly climb the back of any athlete — regardless of color — to compensate for his personal demons and insecurities. Bayless exposed himself decades ago when he groundlessly suggested a white, high-profile NFL quarterback was gay.

No. Stephen A. Smith is the villain in this scenario. Smith has enormous broadcasting talent. Dancing for Bayless is beneath Smith. He also has the intellect to see how ESPN and Bayless are using him. Smith could be the Adam Schefter/Chris Mortensen of the NBA, a high-paid, invaluable information-and-insight guru. But taking on Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski is hard work. Dancing for Bayless is easy. Being half of ESPN’s hip hop, N-word-dropping sports show makes you more popular with celebrities. It’s fun.

Smith has fallen for the okeydoke.

You don’t have to. You were fooled the first time. And maybe you were fooled when ESPN took no action against Mike Greenberg when he said Martin Luther Coon on Martin Luther King’s national holiday.

I’m not calling for Smith to be fired. He doesn’t deserve that. But don’t bring me this Mickey Mouse $h*# that he didn’t say it. Don’t do it when you unfairly suspended Max Bretos for a month for uttering a cliche about a flaw in Jeremy Lin’s armor.

"We asked Stephen A. what he said when the confusion arose over his remarks on First Take,” an ESPN executive told Dan Patrick’s radio show Friday morning. “He vehemently denied using any inappropriate language. We removed that part from the First Take re-air to avoid creating additional confusion if people misunderstood him . . . We believe him and no further action will occur."

Well, that settles it. I vehemently deny ever overeating! I’m a Midwesterner, and I chew my food really fast, so it occasionally appears I’m overeating.

I’m no fool. This is a horrendous look for black journalists. Where are the standards? How will we have any credibility the next time a white broadcaster says anything remotely racist if we sit quiet while Smith gets away with this?

Smith owes us an apology and a few days off work to think about how to properly and respectfully use the immense broadcasting talents he’s been blessed with.