ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith craves attention, so I always hesitate before writing about his outlandish claims. I hesitated before I wrote that Smith hinted Chip Kelly was racist, and I hesitated before writing about Smith’s comments on today’s episode of ESPN First Take.
But ignoring Smith won’t make him go away, so let’s just deal head on with it. Smith claimed today that he has a source telling him that the NFL is likely to uphold Tom Brady’s four-game suspension, and that Brady destroyed his cell phone to hide text messages to the Patriots’ ball boys.
“I’m hearing that Tom Brady actually destroyed his cell phone,” Smith said on the air.
Smith later clarified that he was just “hearing” that Brady destroyed his phone, and can’t confirm that for certain.
“I don’t know,” Smith added.
Regarding the first part of Smith’s report, that the NFL is “likely” to uphold Brady’s suspension, that comes across as little more than a guess. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell either will or won’t uphold Brady’s suspension, and claiming that he’s “likely” to go either way at this point doesn’t mean much. It especially doesn’t mean much coming from someone like Smith, who has no history of scoops coming out of the league office. If ESPN’s respected veteran NFL reporters say they’re “hearing” what Goodell is “likely” to do, we can reasonably surmise that they’re “hearing” it from well-placed sources within the league office. Even if such a report turned out to be wrong, if it came from a respected reporter it was probably based on contact with sources who are in a position to know what they’re talking about. When it comes from Smith, it doesn’t mean anything.
The part about Brady destroying his cell phone — the part that Smith acknowledges he doesn’t “know” — just sounds silly. Brady has already refused to hand over his phone to the Ted Wells investigation. It’s not like Wells has the power to send the cops into Brady’s house to execute a search warrant and seize his phone. Why would Brady need to destroy it? And even if Brady did destroy his physical phone, that wouldn’t make the records of any texts or calls to the Patriots’ ball boys disappear. The “report” doesn’t make a lot of sense, and if the “reporter” “hears” something like that, he needs to express more skepticism and ask his “source” to clarify where this “information” is coming from.
But that’s not how Smith operates. If he “hears” something that will get us all talking, he’ll repeat it on the air. And now we’re talking about Stephen A. Smith. Mission accomplished.