Stephen A. Smith on First Take Photo credit: ESPN

Two weeks after reporting Jaylen Brown is “not liked,” Stephen A. Smith wondered if the Boston Celtics star isn’t more marketable because of his religion.

Last month on First Take, Smith read disparaging comments about Brown from an unnamed source which essentially blamed his ego for a lack of marketing opportunities. Two weeks later, Smith clarified the report and condemned everyone else for not looking further into what he was saying about Brown.

“People were hopping on that narrative acting like I’m saying it,” Smith said Friday morning on First Take. “It just shows how shortsighted people can be when it comes to certain things. They just heard the fact that he wasn’t liked. They didn’t dissect what I was trying to say.”

Expecting others to dissect what you’re trying to say instead of just leading with what you’re trying to say is a strategy that doesn’t usually work in media. But Friday morning, Smith went ahead and dissected the narrative himself, offering a list of reasons why Brown isn’t a more popular and marketable NBA player.

“Brilliant young man,” Smith acknowledged of Brown. “Superstar caliber kind of talent. Big time talent. $300 million player. Model citizen. Doesn’t get into any trouble whatsoever. He’s an activist at heart. Politically consciousness. Speaks his mind. Believes in speaking truth to power. And I think from what I’ve been told, he’s also a Muslim. And I bring all of that up because when we talk about marketability, you think about all of the kinds of things that should say, ‘this guy should be every bit as marketable as anybody in the NBA.’”

“When we bring up the biases that exist in this nation…from a political perspective to an activist perspective, some people believe in terms of religion – remember somebody asked Joe Mazzulla just the other day about being an African American coach and what that means with him and Jason Kidd and he brought up, ‘Hey, how many of them were Christian?’ And the whole room went silent,” Smith continued. “In other words, sometimes these things play a role. It’s unfortunate, it’s unfair, it’s not right. And that’s what I was pointing out about Jaylen Brown. He deserves better.”

Smith is correct in pointing out there are a lot of biases in this country, religion being one of them. And he’s right in pointing out that Brown has commendably been outspoken on social issues throughout his NBA career. Brown has spoken out against police brutality, racial wealth disparity, racism in Boston, systemic racism, and inequality in education. In 2020, Brown even drove 15 hours to lead a peaceful protest in his hometown of Atlanta following the murder of George Floyd.

But Smith saying, “I think from what I’ve been told, he’s also a Muslim” implies he only recently learned about Brown’s religion. And if Smith recently had to be told Brown is Muslim, what makes him think the common fan has any idea about his religion?

Smith also made it seem like this was what he was alluding to last month when he broached the topic of Brown’s popularity. But he cited an unnamed source and said Brown isn’t liked “because of his I-am-better-than-you attitude.” How was everyone else supposed to dissect that into meaning ‘he’s not liked because of his social activism and it’s not fair.’ As a savvy media member, Smith has to know you can’t expect your audience to get from point A to point B without leading them there.

Is Brown not marketable or does Brown not want to be marketed? That question remains. For years, Brown has been perceived as the Celtics’ second-best player to Tatum. This season, particularly in the playoffs, everyone is starting to realize Brown and Tatum are more Kobe and Shaq than they are Jordan and Pippen or Steph and Klay. They’re closer to being equal talents who are equally important to this current championship run for the Celtics.

If Brown wants to assist his $300 million NBA contract with significant endorsement deals, those opportunities should be available to him. And if Smith believes those opportunities aren’t available because of his religion and social stances, he should lead with that before reporting Brown just isn’t liked because of his ego.

[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