In recent weeks, the typically lighthearted argument about NBA MVP candidates has been hijacked by a race debate.
After ESPN’s Kendrick Perkins alleged NBA MVP voters are racially biased against the league’s Black players, it sparked a heated debate with JJ Redick on First Take as Stephen A. Smith stayed on the sideline of his own show, during a TV segment that Dan Le Batard believes was “insulting.”
“Kendrick Perkins, while colorful and good on television, is not, after George Floyd, who it is that I want speaking on behalf of the center of my company and the centerpiece of that company, as Stephen A. Smith sits off to the side physically on something that got a ton of activity on the internet because this stuff sells,” Le Batard said this week in response to the viral clip of Redick and Perkins arguing about racial bias in the NBA.
Dan Le Batard is no stranger to discussing sensitive topics on an ESPN platform, something he frequented during his tenure at the Worldwide Leader. But there was little productivity in Redick and Perkins tensely yelling “yes you did” – “I did not” back and forth during a conversation about race.
“A lot of people will watch if you have that sort of racial division and tension,” Le Batard acknowledged. “And so, Stephen A. Smith is sitting to the side of this thing that he has spawned, which is, imitators. JJ Redick and Kendrick Perkins are given the floor on his show and right next to him, have a pretty empty, meaningless, useless race discussion. Like useless, insulting that it would pass for television. But sparks are enough. Sparks will do.”
In response to that “useless race discussion,” First Take was forced to issue a correction after Perkins brazenly stated “80 percent” of NBA MVP voters are white. First Take host Molly Qerim was later tasked with sharing that the NBA MVP voting panel is more diverse than Perkins presented.
In the wake of his accusation, Perkins has been blasted on social media and accused of having “ESPN disease” by Charles Barkley, who claimed the First Take NBA analyst was just speaking provocatively for clicks. But Perkins maintained “this is how a lot of former African American players have been feeling for decades now,” a sentiment shared by Amin Elhassan on The Le Batard Show.
“What Kendrick Perkins said – reckless, incorrect, all that stuff. But there are a sh*t ton of players who think like that, man,” Elhassan told Le Batard. “That’s not an out-there opinion…he says things that a lot of players think.”