After attempting to recruit Shannon Sharpe to First Take, Stephen A. Smith clarified that he won’t change his ESPN show for the Pro Football Hall of Famer.
Last week, it was reported that Fox Sports reached a buyout agreement with Sharpe. The agreement is expected to make Sharpe a free agent after the NBA Finals. Upon learning Sharpe was destined for a divorce from former First Take host Skip Bayless, Smith announced he would support bringing him over to ESPN.
But on a more recent episode of The Stephen A. Smith Show podcast, the ESPN host clarified that while the invite to Sharpe remains open, he wouldn’t alter First Take for him.
“Let me revisit a discussion that I had last week about Shannon Sharpe real quick. I meant what I said, I respect the brother. And if he wants to come on First Take, I’m here for it,” Smith said. “I support him. He wants to go elsewhere, that’s fine. He wants to get his own show, he has his own aspirations, I’m fine with that too.”
“Whatever happened with him and Skip Bayless is their business. I know nothing about it. I don’t want to know. The only reason I brought it up is because it had been announced that he had been bought out by Fox. Otherwise I would have never broached that subject because I would never disrespect Skip Bayless like that.”
Smith meant no disrespect to Skip Bayless by recruiting Shannon Sharpe fresh off the news of their pending divorce. But he also meant no disrespect to the NFL analysts who are already in First Take’s rotation.
“I got a lot of respect for Shannon Sharpe, but make no mistake about it, I love my crew,” Smith said before rattling off his cast of NFL contributors, including Michael Irvin, whose media future remains murky after being accused of sexual misconduct earlier this year.
“I welcome Shannon Sharpe to First Take, but it would be in the mix of being part of the family. I’m not looking for an everyday person on First Take. So, for all of you clamoring for that, get over it,” Smith said definitively. “I like the potpourri of contributors. I like the action and the excitement and the fun on the show. Adding people into the mix, is one thing. Changing the complete makeup and formula of the show is entirely different. And that ain’t happening, for anyone.”
Smith has used a rotation of debate partners and analysts since deciding Max Kellerman was no longer a fit on First Take nearly two years ago. The change has brought a unique energy and surprising chemistry to the show. But after building his platform for nearly eight years as a full-time co-host on FS1’s Undisputed, reverting to weekly appearances on ESPN seems like an unlikely landing spot for Sharpe.