Say what you want about his polarizing hot takes and brash personality, but Stephen A. Smith takes his responsibility to speak the truth very seriously.

Smith joined Game Theory with Bomani Jones Sunday night for the show’s premiere episode on HBO. During the interview, Jones asked Smith about the difficulty of criticizing an athlete with who you have an already established relationship.

Admitting there are times athletes have attempted to intimidate him, Smith said, “I’m in my 50s, I’m not trying to live like that, but I am from New York and I got a lot of friends. And over the years I’ve accumulated a lot of friends in very influential positions. Do you think I’m going to be scared of what you’re going to do to me?”

“Who the hell you think you’re scaring?” Smith recalled telling one athlete who attempted to intimidate him. “Because I did my job? This is what you did. I didn’t get into your personal life. I was talking about the game. Who you think you’re scaring? It ain’t gonna work.”

Monday morning, Jones joined First Take to promote his new HBO show and Smith reiterated the importance of being a truthful journalist who is “decent and respectful.” According to Smith, every journalist should echo his anti-fake news approach and no journalist should be intimidated into withholding the truth.

Smith’s tendency to tell the truth was on full display multiple times in recent months when he repeatedly admitted to pushing Max Kellerman off First Take. The 54-year-old ESPN star also fostered positive relationships with athletes throughout his career, but that hasn’t stopped him from verbally chastising Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons, Lamar Jackson, and others.

Whether his criticisms are always just and warranted can certainly be debated, but Smith vows to never let a personal relationship get in the way of reasonable reproach.

“When you’re a journalist you’re supposed to be in constant pursuit of the truth,” Smith told Jones on First Take. “And you’re supposed to be fearless about disseminating what you believe that truth to be. If you can’t do that, you don’t belong in this business.”

[First Take, Game Theory with Bomani Jones, Barrett Sports Media]

About Brandon Contes

Brandon Contes is a staff writer for Awful Announcing and The Comeback. He previously helped carve the sports vertical for Mediaite and spent more than three years with Barrett Sports Media. Send tips/comments/complaints to