Skip Bayless mentioned Stephen A. Smith’s name during the relaunch of Undisputed this week, so naturally, the First Take host had to respond.
With Richard Sherman joining Bayless on Undisputed as a regular contributor, the new FS1 co-hosts took a few minutes Monday morning to clear the air over their infamous fight on First Take from 2013. According to Bayless, he and Smith were auditioning for an afternoon timeslot on ESPN at the time, and First Take was on probation due to some controversial moments.
Sherman joined a 2013 episode of the show and proceeded to blast Bayless as an “ignorant, pompous, egotistical cretin.” With First Take being on probation, Bayless felt restricted and could not risk letting the show spiral out of control by fighting fire with fire.
“Skip Bayless told the truth,” Smith said on his podcast. “We were in dicey situations, no doubt about it. He did not lie to y’all. If you remember, I was considered a relatively controversial individual, and obviously, I ruffled feathers from time to time, no doubt. There’s a lot of mistakes I made in my career, there’s no doubt about that. When I misspoke, speaking about the Ray Rice situation, and I didn’t articulate my thoughts as cogently as I should have, I had an issue there.”
The Ray Rice situation where Smith “misspoke” occurred when he suggested women should not do anything to provoke domestic violence. That comment earned Smith the lone suspension of his career in 2014. The probationary period Bayless was referring to, however, occurred in 2013.
Even though Smith was known as a controversial individual at ESPN in 2013, he wasn’t the only reason First Take was under probation during Sherman’s infamous appearance. Smith claims Bayless’s affinity for Tim Tebow garnered First Take a watchful eye at ESPN, and the show’s increased ratings weren’t enough to get them off probation.
“The part that Skip Bayless left out was the fact that the bosses at the time didn’t care,” Smith said. “They had remembered that Skip Bayless lived off of talking about Tim Tebow every day before I arrived. The public had accused Skip Bayless of being a caricature of himself. And even though Skip was very proud of his Tim Tebow coverage, the bosses weren’t necessarily enamored with it. Skip Bayless was incredibly proud of his coverage of Tim Tebow; the bosses felt otherwise.”
Smith noted Bayless’s infatuation with Tebow did boost First Take’s ratings. Still, ESPN executives weren’t sold that building a show around a quarterback completing 46 percent of his passes would generate long-term success. Strangely, because Bayless loved to talk about Tebow, he couldn’t adequately defend himself from Sherman’s vitriol.
“That appearance by Richard Sherman, even though Skip didn’t go after him, for all the reasons Skip articulated accurately, we didn’t get First Take put on in the afternoon,” Smith claimed. “They left us in the morning. That appearance by Richard Sherman cost us an afternoon slot for First Take.”