Stephen A. Smith crossed the line again on Thursday’s episode of First Take when he screamed on air about former Lakers forward Lamar Odom’s crack addiction in reference to Phil Jackson’s poor history as a general manager. Now Odom is calling Smith’s comments “slander,” asking ESPN to denounce what Smith said and use the situation as an opportunity to become more active in fighting drug addiction.
Here’s the letter to ESPN written by Odom’s lawyer, Saam Zangeneh:
— LAMAR ODOM (@RealLamarOdom) June 23, 2017
The letter not only asks for ESPN to “actively voice their disdain for Mr. Smith’s inappropriate statement,” but also touches on the importance of viewing drug addiction as a disease rather than a weakness or behavioral problem:
“Let’s put aside the fact that Lamar passed all the required physicals and medical tests necessary to play in the league.
“Mr. Smith chose to shout out the fact that Lamar was sick, and to use his disease as the butt of a joke. To say his conduct was outrageous and unacceptable does not scratch the surface. Think about the others that are battling addiction. Those that have not had the strength or opportunity to share their struggle like Lamar.”
Stephen A. Smith with an all-timer here. "..Lamar Odom, WHO WAS ON CRACK!"
Posted by Awful Announcing on Thursday, June 22, 2017
Stephen A. Smith has since released a statement in response (via Deadspin):
Because of my personal affection for Lamar Odom — and only for that reason — I want to return to my comments about something I’ve repeated quite often over the last few days: the flagrant ineptitude that I feel has been on continual display by Knick’s President Phil Jackson.
My comments were NOT to put any more focus on Lamar Odom’s much publicized drug use and addiction. He was not the target of my ire.
The sole focus of my comments were directed at the unmitigated disaster that Phil Jackson has created since he’s arrived in New York. It my opinion, he simply couldn’t leave soon enough.
Lamar Odom is simply one of the nicest athletes any of us have encountered, and has always been a gentlemen to everyone in NBA circles — including me — which is something I’ve repeated throughout the years.
That’s why it’s worth repeating: Lamar Odom was not the focus of my ire. My comments were entirely, totally, meant for Phil Jackson. Anyone who loves the NY Knicks, who’ve witnessed what has been transpiring over the last three years, know exactly who I was directing my comments to.
Odom nearly lost his life to drugs when after a three-day binge left him in a coma in 2015. As the letter states, Odom has made an effort to not only improve his personal life since then, but he’s also joined the larger fight against drug addiction by sharing his story.
We’ll see if Odom actually takes any legal action. Although he added #slander to the tweet, the letter itself seems more concerned with ESPN disciplining Smith in some manner.
And ESPN should. Making light of someone’s disease — of any kind — should never go unpunished.