Stephen A. Smith and Kendrick Perkins discuss Ja Morant on First Take

After Ja Morant’s latest public misstep, Stephen A. Smith vows not to let society spin the NBA star’s incident against the Black community.

Early Saturday morning, Morant went on Instagram Live from a nightclub and displayed what appeared to be a gun. After the video went viral on social media, Morant apologized for the incident and stated he was going to take time away from the Memphis Grizzlies to receive help. But with Morant recently being linked to multiple gun-related incidents, Stephen A. Smith wants to make sure his matters aren’t branded as a Black issue.

“Ja Morant ain’t messing anything up for the next generation,” Smith said Monday morning on First Take. “Load management might mess things up and some of the conduct in terms of a willingness or lack thereof to show up to work…but let me tell you something, I don’t want white America to think for one second that this is an example that you’re gonna use to shine a light on the collective problem on the Black community and all this other stuff.

“There are countless Black athletes that show up and show out,” Smith continued. “They bust their butt, they work hard, they represent us in exemplary fashion and society is not gonna use one issue as a reason to sit up there and paint everybody with a broad brush and all of a sudden talk about how young Black men, ‘you can’t give them this, you can’t give them that.’ Young Black men in the world of sports have been showing, for quite a long time, that you can provide those opportunities to us and we can take it and run with it in a very positive, productive fashion…I ain’t letting white America get away with that. I can tell you that right now.”

Smith didn’t appear to be accusing society or the media of blaming Morant’s incident on a larger cultural issue at this time, but he was warning against it.

Throughout history, the media has repeatedly used isolated incidents to deceptively fault the NBA for having a widespread “thug mentality.” Headlines featuring the “NBA” and “thug” ran rampant after The Malice at the Palace in 2004, and the narrative resurfaced in 2010 when Washington Wizards teammates Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton pulled firearms on each other in the locker room.

Maybe my assessment of this latest incident with Morant is misguided, but the coverage seems more aptly focused on him, rather than linking it to a culture or NBA issue. Aside from Skip Bayless questioning whether Morant is a Crips gang member, most people assessing the incident are hopeful to see the NBA superstar learn from his recent missteps to ensure his budding career stays on track. Surely, there are some pushing the narrative Smith warned against, but it doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming talking point, at least not yet.

[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