Stephen A. Smith had a friendly conversation with Mark Levin on Wednesday after the ESPN host called into “The Mark Levin Show” to discuss the controversy surrounding the anti-Semitic posts made by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
Smith began by acknowledging that Levin had the right to be “incredibly upset” at Jackson, who posted quotes attributed to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler and rhetoric from Louis Farrakhan, who has been labeled as anti-Semitic by numerous hate watchdogs. The ESPN host told Levin that the social media posts were “inappropriate” and that there was “no excuse” for them, though he did credit the NFL star for making an immediate apology and that he has “opened himself up” to be educated by the Jewish community.
“In the 13 years that he’s been in the National Football league, he’s certainly never had something like this come up before, but it’s still no excuse,” Smith said.
However, Smith took issue with Levin’s call for Jackson to be “let go” by the Eagles, but Levin pushed back, calling Jackson’s actions a “hard mistake.”
“I mean, you’re praising Hitler?” Levin exclaimed. “To Jews… that is it.”
Smith then revealed to Levin that he had called Jackson when he found out about the Instagram posts and the first thing he told him was “What the hell are you doing?! Why would you do something like that?” He explained that Jackson claimed he was trying to “uplift Black folks.”
“I said, ‘What the hell are you doing mentioning Hitler?! Why would you do that?! That makes no sense!” Smith recalled telling Jackson.
The discussion later shifted to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem, something Smith reiterated he opposed at the time but acknowledged the quarterback’s right to do so.
“You took a lot of heat for this,” Levin told Smith.
“I don’t give a damn, you know me,” the “First Take” commentator responded. “I say what I feel. I mean what I say. And let the chips fall where they may. If I’m wrong, then I’ll stand and correct myself and say I was wrong, but if I was right, I’m not budging.”
“When it comes to him, all I would say is because I know you have a lot of folks out there that obviously felt that it was a patriotic issue. What I’m telling you… when Colin Kaepernick took a knee, we didn’t take it that way… We might not have done that, but he has the right to do it as an American citizen.”
“Do you think this helps sports?” the “Life, Liberty, & Levin” host then asked. “Politics aside, seriously, I can’t watch this stuff anymore, Stephen A. Honestly.”
As someone who has been to many games, Smith pointed out that there are “many people” who don’t stand or sing for the national anthem but he “still manages” to enjoy the game and asked why someone with opposing political views can’t do the same.
“I’ll tell you the difference. I’m not watching a football game or going to a football game to watch some slob with a beer in the stands. I’m going there to watch the players,” Levin responded. “I’m buying the jerseys. I’m buying their sneakers. I’m buying what they’re selling… I’m into the team, not some shmuck who’s standing behind me doing whatever the hell he’s doing.”
“What Colin Kaepernick does, even if you disagree with it, didn’t stop you from watching the game because he did nothing during the game,” Smith later shot back. “It was before the game!”
Levin stressed to Smith that the average American can’t walk into work wearing “T-shirts with political statements” since it’s against employer rules and that the First Amendment has “nothing to do with the football game.”
The conservative radio host also blasted NFL Commissioner Roger Gooddell, who he called a “gutless wonder” for flipping on the issue of kneeling.
“Get a spine, take a position, and stick with your position!” Levin exclaimed.
Before ending the conversation, Levin floated the idea of him and Smith collaborating to form a new show.
“You and I ought to do a nationally-syndicated TV show together,” Levin suggested.
“In terms of you and I, we’d win,” Smith said. “I mean, I’d win the sports debate. You’d win the political debate. We’d both win in the ratings.”
“But we’d have fun and everybody would know how to talk to each other,” Levin added.
“That would be true,” Smith agreed. “Because you and I talk off the record all the time.”