Stephen A. Smith Pat McAfee Screen grab: The Stephen A. Smith Show

Earlier this week, Stephen A. Smith made headlines when he told Barstool Sports’ Bussin’ With The Boys that Pat McAfee doesn’t need to be as polished politically as he is because McAfee is white.

“I love Pat McAfee, love him to death. I love his swag; I love the fact that he’s an honest brother. He don’t give a s*** … That’s my kind of dude,” Smith said. “That works for me. Now, is he as polished politically as me? Nope, because he has no desire to be number one. And number two, if we’re being honest, he’s white, and I’m Black; he doesn’t have to be. I had to be. So I get all that, and I’m not knocking him for it.”

Yet despite Smith heaping praise on McAfee throughout, some attempted to portray his answer as some sort of schism between the First Take host and his ESPN colleague.

On the latest episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show, Smith clarified that there’s no issue between himself and McAfee; he was merely using the example the podcast’s hosts presented him with. In fact, when it comes to the former All-Pro punter’s deal with ESPN, McAfee might not have a bigger fan at the company than Smith.

“I was not talking about Pat McAfee. I was not talking about his show. I support him and his show,” Smith said. “The more successful they are, the more successful I become. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again many, many times over. Hell, whether he believes it or not, I don’t really know. We’ve never really talked about it. I can tell you this for a fact: One of the greatest things that ever happened to somebody in my position is Pat McAfee and his show coming to ESPN and them getting paid. Because you set the market.

“Some people will say that and they’ll call that ‘pocket watching.’ You’re damn right. We all do. But it’s not to lament what somebody else is earning. It’s to applaud them and thank them for what they’re earning, because our turn comes. And I’m not apologizing for that to anybody.”

Conveniently for Smith, his turn is scheduled to come next year, when his current deal at ESPN is reportedly set to expire. And the former Highly Questionable host hasn’t been shy about setting himself up for a payday, whether it’s at ESPN or elsewhere.

This isn’t the first time Smith has invoked McAfee’s deal at ESPN, which is licensing The Pat McAfee Show for a reported price of $85 million over five years. Considering the success of First Take, it would hardly be a surprise if the former Philadelphia Inquirer columnist views McAfee’s deal as a starting point for his own future contract.

While Smith will almost assuredly vie to be ESPN’s highest paid talent, it will be interesting to see whether he also seeks to control his content in a manner similar to McAfee. And it will be equally interesting to see what ESPN is willing to agree to in what is shaping up to be one of the more fascinating sports media negotiations in recent memory.

[The Stephen A. Smith Show]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.