Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith gives thousands of brash hot takes on ESPN each year, but thanks to contract security, he approaches every day and topic with an unmatched fearlessness.

Smith joined The Pivot Podcast hosted by Channing Crowder, Fred Taylor and Ryan Clark this week where the ESPN star estimated he gives 3,300 takes annually.

First Take’s been No. 1 for 10 years,” Smith said. “I arrived in the spring of 2012 and within 30 days we were No. 1 and we’ve been the No. 1 morning sports show ever since…In my 10 years on First Take, I have given approximately 34,000 takes live. And I’ve been suspended once. Who can say that?

“Nobody really thinks about like, I’m live!” Smith reiterated. “In the heat of debate with somebody else who might be saying some bullcrap that I don’t agree with…and with 34,000 takes, two might have gotten me in trouble.”

According to The New York Post, Smith makes around $12 million per year, which means ESPN pays him more than $3,600 per take. And part of the reason Smith is so comfortable in toeing the line of controversy on-air is because that contract is guaranteed.

“If you’re debating somebody, in the moment that you’re heatedly debating, you might get caught up in going in a back and forth with them and not realizing every single syllable that comes out your mouth,” Smith said. “Now that doesn’t mean that I’m not responsible because ultimately I’m paid to be the professional that I am and I’m supposed to avoid all that.

“When I got in trouble with the Shohei Ohtani thing…I wasn’t trying to say that he’s not worthy of being marketed because he doesn’t speak English. I was saying Major League Baseball won’t do it because of it because they had a history of promoting white individuals.”

Smith caused one of the biggest controversies of his career last year when he claimed Ohtani can’t be the face of baseball because he uses an interpreter during interviews. This came after Ohtani was already the face of baseball and certainly the All-Star Game amid his historic 2021 MLB season.

Smith’s lone suspension from ESPN came in 2014, when he reprehensibly suggested some women provoke domestic violence. In 2015, Smith was criticized for a bad joke claiming female soccer players at the World Cup didn’t want to mess up their hair. And just last month, Smith apologized to Jehovah’s Witnesses after wrongly implying they were opposed to the COVID vaccine.

Despite some of his brutal jokes, blunders and offensive statements, Smith explained why he still has confidence in his opinions.

“Here’s the reason why I never worry,” Smith said. “Number one, my contract’s guaranteed…so when people were acting like ‘you know Steve is in trouble,’ I’m like OK. I am gonna get paid, y’all do know that. Secondly it wasn’t my intent and that’s really the most important thing it wasn’t my intent and my apology was sincere.”

But more than anything, Smith leaned on his track record. 33,000 takes in 10 years and only one caused him a suspension. Clearly, however, one suspension shouldn’t mean Smith has given just one regrettable take in the last decade.

[The Pivot Podcast]

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