The UFC’s broadcast partnership with ESPN has been groundbreaking for the company. But not everyone at ESPN is necessarily on board with the way the fight promotion conducts it business. Chief among the naysayers is fiery ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith.
Smith recently spoke with Larry Wilmore on the Black on the Air podcast, where he was asked about women taking up executive roles in sports, including coaching positions. For some reason, Smith, who is known for his controversial commentary and argumentative style, worked into the conversation his personal distaste for women competing in combat sports.
During the conversation with Wilmore, Smith was asked about San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon taking the role of head coach after the Spurs’ Greg Popovich was ejected from a game opposite the Los Angeles Lakers, and if we should expect to see women start taking these lead roles on teams comprised solely of men.
“First of all, I love it. I think that there’s an awful lot of women who are incredibly qualified to do the jobs they’re doing,” Smith said, before starting down a strange path about women vs. men in the sports world.
“Where I jump off the bandwagon is where they try to engage physically. For example, I don’t ever want to see a woman boxing a man. I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to see a woman in the UFC fighting a man, even though there are some women out there that will kick the dude’s butt.”
That’s not really a controversial thing to say, but Smith then shared his thoughts on women fighting… period. He specifically pointed to the boxing world and the UFC, which has been a broadcast partner with ESPN since January 2019.
“When I think about pugilistic sports, I don’t like to see women involved in that at all. I just don’t like it. I wouldn’t promote legislating laws to prohibit them from doing so, but I don’t want to see women punching each other in the face. I don’t want to see women fighting in the octagon and stuff like that, but that’s just me,” he said.
“What I adamantly would be against is them fighting men. I don’t think that’s cool. I’m not a proponent of that. Plus, you don’t ever want to give men a license to believe that it’s all right to be physical with a woman, to be quite honest with you. You don’t want to do that.”
As much as he has a dislike of seeing women in the combat sports world, Smith was adamant that he wants to see more women in executive and leadership roles.
“Just like we have women in corporate America doing an incredible job leading companies, being executives, pushing businesses forward, etc., etc. There’s no reason on earth why they can’t do the same in the sports world. I support it, I’m a fan of it, and I hope we see more of it.”
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