Stephen A. Smith, Ryan Clark address Tyre Nichols' death on First Take

On Friday, body cam footage was released of five Memphis police officers beating a Black man, Tyre Nichols, to death.

Nichols, a 29-year-old father, was on his way home from taking pictures of the sunset when he was pulled over in an unjustified traffic stop on Jan. 7. The harrowing footage shows Nichols slumped over and screaming for his mother as he was brutally attacked by five Memphis police officers just minutes from his home. Nichols died three days later at a hospital, and the five officers have been charged with second-degree murder.

Monday morning, Stephen A. Smith, Ryan Clark and Michael Irvin addressed the police killing of Nichols on ESPN’s First Take. Smith began the segment by stating the importance of not just sticking to sports in the wake of tragedy.

“For those that are watching First Take and to wonder why we’ll tackle a subject like this,” Smith began. “We won’t spend an inordinate amount of time on it, because some of it is self-explanatory, and we’re a sports network, not a news network. But nevertheless, we see athletes constantly having to speak out about some of the heinous things we see in our society.”

Friday night, athletes shared their outrage, sadness, frustration and fear after seeing another Black man killed by the police. Individual players spoke out and were joined by the NBA, WNBA and NFL, which offered statements to address the disturbing videos that were released. The Memphis Grizzlies held a moment of silence before their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves in Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered nearly two years ago.

During Monday’s First Take segment, Smith read the names of the five police officers who killed Nichols. When it was Ryan Clark’s turn to speak, he began by noting Smith forgot to refer to those officers as murderers and cowards.

“To have someone restrained and to continue to beat them to death, I don’t think you can even put into words the amount of hate you have to have, the amount of hurtful, malicious, murderous intent you have to have to beat a human to death,” Clark said.

“All the times when we get people who push against Black Lives Matter and you have to explain to them, ‘No, we’re not saying that other lives don’t matter, we’re saying that Black lives matter too because they matter to us.’ Now you can’t even scream that they matter to us because these five cowards look just like Tyre Nichols,” he continued.

“Whatever the pollution is, whatever the poison is, whatever the rhetoric is that says someone that looks like Tyre Nichols and Tyre Nichols himself is not worth living, they fed into that,” Clark said of the five Memphis police officers who were charged with second-degree murder. “And so now, it wasn’t about black, it wasn’t about white, it wasn’t about brown, it wasn’t about yellow. It was about blue and the way that blue sees black.”

After Smith, Clark and Irvin addressed the police killing of Nichols, Molly Qerim closed the segment through tears, adding, “I’ll continue to pray that there’s an end to these kinds of things. I don’t know what else to say. An important conversation. Grateful we have the platform to do it.”

[First Take]

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