ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith was a guest on All The Smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, and revealed he and others were working behind the scenes to secure a tryout for blackballed quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In a wide ranging interview with the two NBA champions Smith talks about an encounter with Kaep’s girlfriend, noted personality Nessa, where she asks Smith for his help on getting Kaep a tryout.
Smith goes on to say it wasn’t just Jay-Z and Roc Nation, but he and “a slew of other reporters who will remain nameless” were working the appropriate channels behind-the-scenes in an effort to get Kaep an NFL workout.
Smith does acknowledge the NFL could have done a lot of things differently regarding the workout and its transparency. Saying it was, “a little shaky.” He also believes that any feelings of mistrust from Kaep’s camp towards the NFL should’ve been expected.
“Not only do you not trust them, you sued them,” Smith said of Kaep’s relationship with the NFL. “You filed a grievance against them. You settled! You settled. Who files a grievance against a company, settles, and then still says, ‘I want a job with you?’”
Of Jay-Z’s role in the workout Smith does give the hip-hop mogul credit for not wavering, despite half of the NFL’s owners not wanting to sanction the tryout.
“I happen to know that JAY-Z and Roc Nation was leading the call behind-the-scenes, working with the NFL,” Smith said. “Half the owners didn’t want to do it. They literally said, ‘Bump them.’”
“We got the ratings back. Folks are walking through the turnstiles. We good. And not only that, we got four top league MVP candidates, and all of them are black quarterbacks,” Smith continued. The four likely MVP candidates Smith referred to are Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Pat Mahomes, and Deshaun Watson. “We don’t need him. We ain’t have to do all this. And I was told, ‘JAY-Z was like, ‘Oh hell no, yes you do...I need you to make sure you give this brother an opportunity.’”
It’s important to note that Smith is ESPN’s most visible and highly paid talent. ESPN is a broadcast partner of the NFL’s. That’s not to say Smith is telling lies, but you can question whether or not he is a reliable narrator.
All that being said, it is safe to assume the NFL would like to move on from the Kaep situation, as evidenced by commissioner Roger Goodell’s quote at this week’s league meetings.
The legitimacy of the NFL organized workout and Smith’s claims that Kaep would receive a job within two weeks of said workout don’t matter a whole lot now.
The full interview is below. Smith starts talking about Kaep at the 53 minute mark.
Photo: Rachel Luna/Getty Images and Prince Williams/Wireimage
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