Stephen A. Smith and Andraya Carter argue over Caitlin Clark being snubbed by Team USA. Screen grab: ESPN ‘First Take’

If you thought Stephen A. Smith’s controversial approach to last week’s Caitlin Clark controversy would cause him to be cautious with his future takes, you don’t know Smith.

On Monday’s episode of First Take, the show predictably discussed the news that Clark has been left off of Team USA’s roster for the 2024 Summer Olympics. And while Smith entered the conversation after Shannon Sharpe, Chiney Ogwumike and Andraya Carter gave their takes, it wasn’t for a lack of interest or enthusiasm, as the ESPN star admonished USA Basketball for not considering the marketing advantages of having Clark on its roster.

“This is about what I will personally label ‘The Idiocy of Team USA Women’s Basketball.’ How dare you make this decision. It’s stupid,” Smith said. “Caitlin Clark does not deserve a spot ahead of any of the players on this roster — if we’re talking just basketball. You know we’re not.”

Smith proceeded to specifically address Ogwumike and Carter — both of whom defended USA Basketball’s decision — comparing how Team USA selects its roster to how he has constructed First Take.

“I think y’all are spectacular. But as spectacular as you are about talking the game of basketball, is that why you think I call for you to be on First Take?” Smith said. “It ain’t just because of your expertise. It’s because you’re great television. You matter. You draw an audience… you make decisions marketing. I want people watching. I want eyeballs. I want advertising dollars. Why? Because [Sharpe] will get paid. Y’all will get paid. And guess who else will get paid? You see where I’m coming from? That’s what it’s about. Stop acting otherwise. We know this.

“You don’t sit up there and pass on Caitlin Clark. Team USA, it was a dumb decision.”

Carter stood strong in her stance that Team USA was right to prioritize basketball more than marketing. But that only prompted Smith to offer the former Tennessee guard some unsolicited career advice.

“Andraya, I strongly suggest you re-think such positions, especially when it comes to you. Because marketing matters,” he said. “I am telling you right now you are going to be underpaid for the rest of what I believe will be an illustrious career unless you get your mind right about that marketing. It matters.”

Carter, however, remained unmoved.

“I hear you, Stephen A. But I will not sacrifice my basketball knowledge and my integrity in terms of the game for marketing,” she said. “My marketing is doing just fine.”

While First Take catches plenty of flak — and oftentimes, deservedly so — this was actually a strong debate in which both sides made compelling cases. Coincidentally or not, the two women on the show defended the basketball merits of Clark being left off the roster, and while the men agreed that she didn’t belong on the team from a basketball standpoint, they used past precedents to argue that marketing has often played a factor in USA Basketball’s roster choices.

“Are we really trying to grow the game? Because this is the most popular women’s basketball player in the world and it ain’t close,” Sharpe said earlier in the show. “So are we really trying to grow the game? Is that what we’re really trying to do? Or are we just talking about ‘we’re trying to grow the game’ and just bull jiving?”

Which side of the argument you fall on likely depends on a number of factors. While most agree there’s a strong basketball argument for leaving Clark off the roster, the debate ultimately boils down to how much responsibility you believe Team USA has to consider other merits — including marketability — when selecting its roster.

[First Take]

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.