Stephen A. Smith and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on ESPN Photo credit: ESPN

With ESPN and the NFL reportedly in advanced talked on a deal that would give the league an equity stake in the Worldwide Leader, Stephen A. Smith isn’t concerned about the possible arrangement.

Smith made his second appearance on SiriusXM’s The Howard Stern Show this week. During the interview, The King of All Media pressed him on the NFL potentially owning a stake in ESPN.

“I think it’s feasible, I think it’s plausible, I think it’s something that I don’t think we should be averse to,” Smith admitted. “I can’t speak for everyone else. Stephen A. Smith has no concern about that. I’m gonna say what I feel. I’m gonna make sure it’s fact-based.

“More importantly, I’m gonna reach out. I can reach out to Roger Goodell directly…and say, ‘Yo, this is what I’m gonna do, here’s why. This is where I stand.’ And as long as you’re straight up about where you stand, you do your homework, you cultivate your sources and you have that information, then they can try to stop you, but in the end, it’s something that’s very difficult to do.”

Smith can preach that “as long as you’re straight up about where you stand,” the league can’t stop your reporting or commentary even if it paints them in a negative light. But past occurrences tell a different story.

Ken Rosenthal’s contract was not renewed by MLB Network in 2021, a decision that was reportedly influenced by the reporter’s criticism of commissioner Rob Manfred in the summer of 2020. Jim Trotter’s contract with NFL Network was not renewed last year, and according to the veteran reporter, his questioning of Goodell over NFL Media diversity played a role in that decision.

“As a league, you have every right to push back as strongly as you choose if somebody’s opinions and editorials or what have you are not fact-based and they’re just running their mouths in an effort to denigrate you,” Smith continued.

Stern pressed Smith on the issue further, noting on-air talent might feel more obligated to avoid criticizing Goodell if the NFL enters an equity deal with ESPN. Smith understands the sports media business, surely, he wouldn’t be surprised to learn if the NFL or Roger Goodell attempted to censor reports that could potentially damage their brand, even if they’re fact-based.

“We all make decisions every single day,” Smith said. “There are some things we can say and there are some things we can’t. We understand it and we go accordingly.”

But Stern’s concern, and the audiences concern, about the NFL acquiring an equity stake in ESPN is that more things will fall under that “can’t say that” category. And maybe Stephen A. Smith has built up enough of a resume to overcome those rules. But what about everyone else on ESPN’s airwaves?

[The Howard Stern Show]

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