Stephen A. Smith talks to Charlamagne tha God. Stephen A. Smith talks to Charlamagne tha God.

The recent antisemitic comments from Kanye West (now going by Ye) have wound up linked to plenty of sports stories, but they’re also drawing comment from sports figures in non-sports arenas. One of those is Stephen A. Smith, who in addition to his sports work for ESPN has the “Know Mercy” podcast for Audacy’s Cadence13 on cultural topics and social issues.

In Know Mercy‘s most recent episode, which was released Monday, Smith spoke to radio host Charlamagne Tha God (Lenard McKelvey) of nationally-syndicated show The Breakfast Club. They discussed mental health, and Charlamagne turned that conversation to West (who has discussed mental health issues in the past). He said West shouldn’t be able to use mental health issues “as an excuse for bigotry,” and Smith agreed. Here’s that clip:

A transcription provided by Know Mercy/Cadence 13:

Stephen A. Smith: “Knowing how much mental health means to you, how much effort you put towards addressing those issues while taking into account the fact that when people find themselves in these precarious situations where it would provoke intrigue and probing by somebody such as yourself, they can fall back on the whole mental health issue as being a cause for some of the mistakes that they may spew or they may make along the way. How do you deal with that?”

Charlamagne Tha God: “Well, I think two things can be true. I think that you can…suffer from mental health issues and still make bad choices and bad decisions that don’t have anything to do…with your mental health issues. I’m never gonna discredit anybody’s mental health issues. But man, a lot of these brothers, man, and a lot of these…sisters…I’m gonna really stick with the brothers right now, but they have every access to the best resources and don’t take advantage of them…”

Stephen A. Smith: “Tell our audience that, when you say they have access to the best resources…”

Charlamagne Tha God: “They have access to, they have access to the best psychiatrists, the best therapists, the best spiritual advisors…they can go away to these retreats…for a year or two until they get their mind right…they have access to some of the best medications…they have access to just some of the best healing that…the world has to offer, and they’re not taking advantage of it…and I mean, how much can you sit around and say that you’re dealing with mental health issues, but not actually go out there and attempt to get that help? You know? And, you know, people have been bringing that up in regards to…Mr. Kanye West, but I’m like, man…”

Stephen A. Smith: “I was getting ready to go there.”

Charlamagne Tha God: “For me, it’s like, man, if we let Kanye use that as an excuse for bigotry, then every white supremacist can use that as an excuse for bigotry. You know, everybody that wants to be anti-Black, antisemitic…homophobic, whatever, they can use that as the reason, ‘Oh, I got, you know, mental health issues.’ Alright, I think two things can be true. I think you can…have mental health issues and still be a bigot. I don’t think that those things are …mutually exclusive at all…I don’t think those things are tied together at all. I think those things are two separate…entities…if you ask me.”

Most of the comments specifically on West there are from Charlamagne, but Smith has discussed West himself.  Smith devoted a 44-minute Oct. 22 episode of Know Mercy largely to West, titling it “Kanye West Part 2: The Tide Is Turning.” One notable clip there saw Smith go against West’s specific claim that Jews are bad for his business deals:

A transcription from Know Mercy/Cadence13:

“[Kanye] West continued his rhetoric that Jewish people are the reason for his bad business deals, and for the backlash he has received. I thought the brother was worth billions. What [do] you mean? What bad deals? How many bad deals did you have if you’re worth $7 billion? How many bad deals did you have if you’re worth, if you’re calling yourself the richest black man in American history? How many bad deals did you have? What do you mean? Which way is it, Kanye? If Jewish folks are at fault for the bad business deals that cost you money, how are you saying that while bragging about being the richest black man in American history? Which one is it? Either they helped you or hurt you. They helped you or they hurt you. Pick one. They did both? That’s what they did? Really, really?”

That Oct. 22 podcast also saw Smith “modify his thinking” on West.  He’d previously said in an Oct. 10 podcast titled “Kanye; He’s Not Going Away” that criticism of West’s comments (particularly, “going Death Con 3 on Jewish people”) was fair, but “y’all can complain all day ‘til the cows come home. You can’t touch him. He’s worth $6.6 billion according to some publications.” In the Oct. 22 podcast, Smith said he might have been wrong there considering both what West himself has said since and what’s since happened to him. Some selected quotes there from Know Mercy/Cadence13:

“Rarities occur in life. It happens all the time, and I’m no exception, but I tell you something that is foreign to me. I tell you something that does resonate with me in a way that I’m not accustomed to. That’s me admitting that I may have been wrong. It’s not something I do… very often, ladies and gentlemen, because the reality of the situation is most of the time, I don’t believe I’m wrong, not even a little bit, but I’m a human being. I’m flawed in the eyes of God, just like anybody else. And perfection is not my middle name. And when it comes to Kanye West, that certainly applies here.”

…“Clearly it’s not about the money with Kanye West. It’s about the ability to have a voice, a voice that’s gonna resonate…[with]… the masses and be heard by all, so much so that they’re receptive to it in a fashion and in a way that can’t dilute his reach. Well, I’m seeing evidence that says to me, people are challenging that. They’re saying, wait a minute. Since October 10th, this brother Kanye West has not only refused to stop talking, he just keeps getting more brazen, digging a deeper and deeper grave, and as a result, people are cutting ties all over the place. And I gotta admit, I didn’t see that coming…I really didn’t because especially in the United States of America, which is the only place I’ve ever lived, the bottom line is if you make people money, they’re gonna flow with you. They’re going to flow with you.”

“Let me tell you on October 10th, I thought that way. It’s now late October, and I’ve modified my thinking to some degree to say the least. Let me count the ways. On October 10th, Kanye West was suspended from Instagram, following his suspension on Twitter for using the antisemitic language, Instagram then followed suit after West shared an exchange he had with his friend, a black man, P. Diddy. During that exchange, he continued with this hate language saying, I’m gonna use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. So P. Diddy can’t have a mind of his own. He can’t just be looking out for the brother. He got to be influenced by the Jewish community. So not only are you dogging P. Diddy, you’re implying, by implying that [the] only reason he’s talking to you is to appease Jewish folks. You’re implying Jewish folks have an agenda and they reached out to P. Diddy to influence you. That’s one of the many strikes.”

Interestingly enough, before this podcast was posted (but after it was recorded), West posted to Instagram about Smith, seemingly praising Smith’s past comments on how he’s built his brand and value (but providing an interpretation of them Smith might not agree with):


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ye (@kanyewest)

It’s notable to see how Smith’s tone on West has changed over this month’s events, and it’s also interesting to see Smith discuss that his thinking has changed. With sports takes in particular, many analysts stake out a position and stick to it come what may. But there can certainly be times where new information can change one’s perspective, and Smith’s move to alter his position here makes sense.

[Know Mercy on Apple Podcasts]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.