"First Take" after Monica McNutt (second from right) questioned why Stephen A. Smith (L) hadn't talked about the WNBA more in the past. “First Take” after Monica McNutt (second from right) questioned why Stephen A. Smith (L) hadn’t talked about the WNBA more in the past. (Awful Announcing on X/Twitter.)

Tempers sometimes seem to flare on debate shows, and Monday’s First Take on ESPN was no exception. There, Stephen A. Smith and Shannon Sharpe had quite the WNBA discussion with Monica McNutt on Chennedy Carter’s hard foul on Caitlin Clark Saturday and the various reactions to it. And this really went off the rails at the end, with Molly Qerim frantically trying to get the show to a commercial break (after nearly 40 minutes without a break), but with Smith bragging (around 1:25 in the clip below) about the amount of WNBA and women’s sports coverage First Take does, McNutt saying he could have done that earlier, and Smith having quite the reaction:

The clip there starts with Smith talking about the potential of the WNBA and its players to make money (including with endorsements, which he mentions before that clip starts) and saying he “resents” how careful he feels he needs to be when discussing the league. “Now we’ve got to sit up here and watch every syllable.” After that, McNutt says “Welcome to the world of being a woman, Stephen A., and how you have to dance about your word choice, and how you have to please everybody and anybody as you navigate your being.” She then says “We are talking about the world’s greatest athletes” and Smith interrupts with “How about being a Black man?”

Sharpe chimes in too with “How about being Black?” and McNutt cuts them off with “Hold on one second. This is what I’ve been saying to y’all, and I know we’ve got to go to break. And we didn’t necessarily go there, but maybe we should. There are so many layers in this conversation around the way that it’s being discussed.”

McNutt then cuts off Sharpe’s attempt to interject and says “I know, you just shared that you’ve talked about the WNBA on your program too.” She adds “You guys may not have said everybody, but the prevailing sentiment for folks that are just joining the WNBA and following women’s sports is unfair to the women of this league, to your point, who have laid the groundwork for Caitlin Clark to come in and take it to the next level. That’s all I’m saying in these conversations.

“Chennedy Carter’s behavior is not indicative of the entire league. We are still talking about competition where you’re allowed to get an extra elbow in as long as you are competing and do it within the boundaries of the game. The game is physical, Caitlin is helping to grow the league, these women understand that. But she cannot be babied as a rookie. That’s all, I’m out.”

That led to Smith chiming in with “Who talks about the WNBA, who talks about women, who talks about women’s sports more than First Take?” McNutt then says “Stephen A., respectfully, with your platform, you could have been doing this three years ago if you wanted to,” and Smith gives a stunned “Wow,” and quite the expression:

Smith then says “Wow” a couple times more, Qerim desperately tries to get to the break, McNutt says “You know you’re my guys, but,” Smith says “Who does more for the WNBA than us?” and McNutt says “Stephen A., I’m talking to you! I’m talking to you. Don’t do that. I’m talking to you about the power that you have.” Smith says “Oh my Lord. Okay. Okay. I got it. I got it.” McNutt says “You’re my guy, I’m talking to you.”

Qerim then tries again to get the show to break with “Guys, guys, guys,” but Smith says “You’re my girl, but you’ve missed a lot of episodes of First Take, you’ve missed a lot”, McNutt shoots back with “Stephen A., three years ago, you were not talking about the WNBA at this level. Don’t do that,” Sharpe chimes in with “Monica, you’re making Stephen A.’s point!” and then Qerim finally gets out of there with “Please let me do my job, please let me do my job. We’ve gone for 40 minutes straight, it was a riveting discussion, I have to get into commercial break.”

This was a remarkable flare-up to see on the First Take set, and a notable criticism from McNutt of one of ESPN’s biggest stars in Smith. It doesn’t necessarily mean there are problems going forward; debates do sometimes get heated, and both McNutt and Smith referenced the respect they have for each other here. But this did make for an unusually tense First Take moment.

[Awful Announcing on X/Twitter]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.