Stephen A. Smith and Malika Andrews tense back and forth over the Ime Udoka scandal on “First Take.”
ESPN talent would eventually land the plane in the segment, but it started with furiously thrown barbs on both sides.
Andrews, the 27-year-old “NBA Today” host, called the show after the Celtics held a press conference on Udoka.
“If I could start with this first: Stephen A., with all due respect, this is not about pointing fingers. Stop,” Andrews said. “What struck me in that press conference was that we don’t have all the information here. It was frustrating, to me, that the Celtics refused to elaborate or give more details on what exactly was the rule violation that got us to this point.
Andrews said it occurred to her that Brad Stevens was upset by the “creeping bulls of Twitter – t” that were thrown at the women of the Celtics organization on social media this week, and that she found out about the speculation about women suspected of having an affair with Udoka. was “rude and unnecessary”. She criticized the Celtics for not giving more details about Udoka’s offenses during the press conference.
“The fact that it could last 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 blame women any further. That’s to say not why we are here,” Andrews said.
Smith, 54, replied: “First of all. Let me be very clear. I don’t understand where you are coming from. I don’t blame anyone except Ime Udoka. He deserved to be fired if they were going to fire him. If you’re not going to fire him, then don’t fire him. My problem is that all of this is publicized. The point I’m trying to make…”
Andrews interrupted her and Smith cut her off.
“Excuse me,” he said. “I listened to you. You’re the one telling me to stop my show. It doesn’t happen. OK? It’s number 1. Number 2, I’ve said it before, he deserves to be fired, or to be there and let them deal with it privately. If you’re not going to handle it privately, to make it public that way, then obviously that causes everybody wanting to know Ok, who are the parties involved? »
The crux of the misunderstanding concerns what was reported by ESPN and what was reported elsewhere. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Udoka conducted a “consensual affair” with a woman from the organization. Shams Charania reported in The Athletic that Udoka was also accused of making “undesirable comments” towards the woman.
ESPN has yet to report any details on these allegations. In similar situations in the past, ESPN PR said it would not rely on reports from other news outlets involving sensitive information.
Smith’s comment on “First Take” on Thursday and Friday stems from the news report that Udoka had a consensual affair. He did not apologize to Udoka and repeatedly said that the coach had made an error in judgment, but at the same time he also said that workplace affairs happen in all professional sports and said referred to an alleged imbalance in how it is handled for people who are black (like Udoka) versus white.
Smith accused the Celtics of disclosing that Udoka had an affair. Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck vehemently denied the claims at a press conference on Friday.
Smith’s overriding point is that Udoka should have been retained or fired. The one-year suspension by the Celtics as they hunker down on his contractual rights and reserve the right to make a decision on his employment at a later date is inappropriate.
“Given how pervasive this stuff has been in professional sports for many years,” Smith told Andrews, meaning consensual business, “all I’m saying is you make sure to handle it the way it always has. You could have fired it and we could have speculated until the cows came home, but it’s gone. But keep it there, but suspending it for a year and then that year is indefinite is the problem I have.
“No one is trying to protect Ime Udoka and certainly no one is trying to urge the women involved. I’m talking about how things like this are usually handled from an HR point of view, from a organizational view. This does not match 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 who is put in this position.
Andrews replied, “I appreciate that clarification. And I think going back to Molly [Qerim]the original question. My reaction to the press conference is the only thing that was clear to me is that we are missing key information. This is my reaction. »
Qerim asked what she meant by that.
Andrews said that if she had been at the press conference, her question would have been: ‘You are not helping the women you want to protect that you are claiming the organization needs to look into your business. Women need transparency. In the spirit of transparency, was there sexual harassment that you needed to address within your organization? »
During the press conference, Grousbeck avoided a direct question about the existence of sexual harassment imposed by Udoka, but described the suspension of the coaches as “well justified” and “supported by substantial research, evidence and evidence”. facts”.