It seems like every week some new controversy happens at ESPN.  Whether it’s another Bill Simmons feud, popular comedians accusing the network of stealing their work or one of their paid carnival barkers saying something regretful, it’s been a particularly stressful time for the network’s public relations department.  The week of November 17th is no exception.

Once again, Stephen A. Smith has opened his prodigious wordhole and spewed more rubbish that is continually enabled by the ESPN power structure.

This time, Smith’s target was Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams.  MCW referenced Smith in a column on Derek Jeter’s Players’ Tribune website in a column entitled “Don’t Talk to Me About Tanking.”  He said that Smith came to cover the Sixers when they were set to break the all-time record for longest losing streak last season in a game against the Pistons.  When the Sixers won that night, Carter-Williams said Smith and other media members left.  He also wrote that Smith plays a character on television and intimated that the 76ers are using the media’s presence that night as motivation.

All fairly reasonable, harmless stuff… right?  Not in the world of Stephen A. Smith.

The Big Lead captured the quote from Smith on Sirius Radio where he responded to Carter-Williams and issued this very vague and ominous threat:

“They’re gonna learn something quick, fast, in a hurry if they don’t learn it already. You’ve never going to have the last word over us. And you damn sure ain’t going to have the last word over me. I’m not going to start problems, but I can damn sure finish them. If these guys want to come at me, let them do it at their own peril. It will be a mistake.”

Smith also tweeted this a few days ago:

This sure looks like an ESPN personality threatening harm upon an NBA player’s career like he thinks he’s Tony Soprano.  It’s incomprehensible to think that any legitimate media member would be justified in abandoning their journalistic responsibility and publicly threatening retaliation against a professional athlete.  With Smith, it seems par for the course.  Maybe Smith will defend it by saying he was “provoked.”

In all seriousness, this is everything wrong with “Embrace Debate” and the decline of journalistic integrity at ESPN and beyond.  By building up Smith and Bayless and the toxic environment created by round-the-clock debate, ESPN has made the analysts more important than the athletes themselves.  It was only a matter of time before Bayless and/or Smith moved from baiting athletes to threatening them.

ESPN should be ashamed of this kind of commentary, but then again this is far from the first time that Smith has stained the network’s brand.  Maybe we should just accept the reality that ESPN fully endorses and supports this kind of behavior because it keeps happening time and time again.