Stephen A. Smith alluded to the controversial phrase many believed he said in Thursday’s edition of “First Take” during the opening moments of Friday’s show, telling viewers he would speak “slowly and clearly” to avoid future misunderstandings.
“You know what? I’m very, very good,” Smith said after being introduced by the show’s moderator. “I’m just very determined to speak very slowly and clearly today, so everybody’s clear about the things that come out of my mouth.”
Smith and fellow debater Skip Bayless then were asked to discuss Sunday’s New York Giants-Dallas Cowboys game. He again mentioned that he would speak slowly.
“Well, speaking very slowly, I cannot believe that this is even a legitimate question. I do not believe that the New York Giants will lose twice to the Dallas Cowboys in the same season.”
Many people who watched Thursday’s show, or later saw the clip online (watch it here), believe Smith said “n—a please” during a discussion about Kobe Bryant.
During another appearance on ESPN later in the day, Smith denied saying that phrase.
“There have been numerous reports out there that I uttered a word that I should not have uttered. I’m going to repeat this one more time: I did not do so.
“I’m a New Yorker, I speak very, very fastly, and sometimes my words are misconstrued and I get that. If I were to say such a word, because I work for this network, because this network would never condone such a thing, I would instantly issue an apology because obviously it would be a huge mistake on my part if I did utter such a word. But I did not.
“I was speaking fast and I can understand how it could be misconstrued for those that were listening. But I did not utter that word. This is the second time in my career at First Take that I’ve had to say I did not utter that word.
“I hope this is not something that I have to revisit in the future. Maybe I need to slow down, articulate myself more clearly and precisely every single word that I utter out of my mouth. But please understand I did not say the things they are reporting that I said. And hopefully I will not have to ever address this again.”
We have reached out to Smith via email to ask him what he did say.