During Smith’s recent appearance on The Old Man and The Three podcast with JJ Redick and Tommy Alter, the First Take host revealed that not only does he have an interest in politics, but he was once approached about running for U.S. Senate.
“If I were doing politics, we’re talking about real life issues, things that affect the average everyday American. And the thing that would be dangerous about me is I’m not one-sided,” Smith said. “Sometimes the liberals are right, sometimes the conservatives are right, it’s on a case-by-case basis, but the thing I could assure you of is I would piss off millions. Literally. Subject by subject. Because I’m taking a side, and I’m not scared to do that.”
Smith touted his more than 150 appearances on cable news networks and even mentioned having conversations about launching a show on CNN, but the political endeavors he considered nearly surpassed the entertainment industry.
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith says he was once approached by former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell to run for Senate. pic.twitter.com/EBmKYi0uPO
— The Recount (@therecount) June 10, 2022
“One time I was approached by Governor Ed Rendell in Pennsylvania,” Smith admitted. “He wanted me to run for Senate. Yeah, he said, ‘You should do it.’ I said, ‘I’m not a liberal, I’m not a conservative either!’ He said, ‘It don’t matter with you, you’re a voice that needs to be heard.’ He told me this close to 10 years ago.”
Rendell was the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania from 2003-2011, but earlier in his political career, he was Philadelphia’s mayor from 1992-2000. Around the same time, Smith was a sports columnist and 76ers beat writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Considering Rendell’s well-known sports fandom, it’s no surprise that he developed a relationship with Smith during the ‘90s.
Smith declined Rendell’s recruitment, instead becoming ESPN’s highest-paid employee for a period of time and the architect of First Take. But could you imagine Smith during an election debate, or Smith vs Mitch McConnell on the Senate floor? Social media would lose it over those imaginary clips.
Considering Smith’s affinity for late-night shows, his interest in cable news and tendency to speak on the social or political issues that are important to him, it’s fair to wonder if the current face of ESPN will ever get bored of sports. If Smith ends up running for office at some point in the next 10 years, I will only be slightly surprised, but highly amused.