ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith has not endorsed Republican candidate Chris Christie for president. But he is supporting fundraising for Christie’s presidential campaign, which certainly seems like an endorsement. (Even if he claims that’s only to get Christie to a threshold where he’ll receive debate invitations.)
Friday afternoon, Smith surprised some of his fans and social media followers by tweeting out a link for people to make financial contributions to Christie’s campaign.
Yes, I know the Gov. Yes, he’s a friend. But this has nothing to do with endorsing him nor anyone else.
This is about helping the Gov get on that debate stage so we can all see who’s the best man or woman for the job.
This is a way to make that happen: https://t.co/0yK1YnqHXj
— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) June 9, 2023
“Yes, I know the Gov. Yes, he’s a friend. But this has nothing to do with endorsing him nor anyone else,” Smith tweeted. “This is about helping the Gov get on that debate stage so we can all see who’s the best man or woman for the job.”
The First Take host recently spoke about the former New Jersey governor on his podcast The Stephen A. Smith Show. And he similarly touted Christie during a recent appearance with Sean Hannity on Fox News.
“I’d vote for [Christie] before I’d vote for any of the Democratic candidates that I’ve seen,” Smith told Hannity earlier this week as he blasted the idea of current president Joe Biden earning a second term in the White House. “That’s not the same with DeSantis or Trump,” Smith added, to reaffirm that he won’t be voting for just any Republican in the 2024 presidential election.
Smith’s decision to ask his followers to support Christie’s presidential campaign might come as a bit of a surprise, considering ESPN’s desire to avoid politics. The recent endorsements, albeit not official endorsements, of Christie were not made on ESPN platforms. Jemele Hill, however, during her tenure at the Worldwide Leader, was suspended in 2017 for violating ESPN’s social media guidelines around her comments on Twitter saying Dallas Cowboys sponsors should boycott the team. That’s not to say Smith deserves a suspension, but ESPN has monitored the personal social media platforms of its talent in the past, and punished Hill and others for comments there.
There’s no question Smith receives freedoms at ESPN that aren’t necessarily afforded to all of the network’s talent. Not everyone at ESPN would be allowed to go outside the company to host a more politically-driven podcast either. But even as Smith is afforded those freedoms, it’s reasonable to wonder whether ESPN appreciates their foremost talent publicly fundraising for Christie.