Stephen A. Smith was a guest on ESPN Cleveland’s Golden Boyz Thursday afternoon (the full audio of the segment can be found at the bottom of the page). He responded to Josh Gordon’s open letter to Smith, Charles Barkley, and Cris Carter on The Cauldron (if you haven’t yet read the whole thing run along and do that). To Smith, Gordon responded to this First Take segment and wrote: “You’re done with me, Stephen A.? That presumes we ever actually got started. How, exactly, can you be “done” with someone you have never had a meaningful conversation with beyond a quick First Take spot? Regardless, I am relieved that you no longer need to harbor sympathy for me — mostly because I never asked for it, never wanted it, and certainly never needed it. I am not a victim here; I never claimed to be one, either.”
Smith was still digesting the open letter when he went on air, and this was his immediate response:
Smith acknowledged that the letter was well-written and cogent, but said it missed the bigger picture:
But in the end, what Josh Gordon doesn’t realize in his letter is that he completely and unequivocally acknowledges that his actions led to that. What he’s basically getting on myself, Charles Barkley, Cris Carter and others about is that, “How do you even care about me and you don’t even know me?” And that’s really where his ignorance is heightened. What he’s not realizing is that we’re not speaking about you as an individual, we’re speaking about what you represent. You are a young African-American from the hardcore streets of Houston. You grew up poor — desolate to some degree because of your environment — and as a result you “made it out.”
So for you to be blowing these kinds of opportunities not just speaks to you, but it speaks to an abundance of individuals out in this world — particularly those from the African-American community that could possibly find themselves in this position, but somehow someway blow it. That’s what we’re speaking about when we say we care. When we say we’re disgusted with you. When we say we’re disappointed in you. … We obviously are not just speaking about you as an individual. We’re speaking about what you represent. What you’re emblematic of. And we want you to guard against it because you doing wrong and blowing opportunities can inspire and influence somebody else to go down those same wrong tracks.
So, from here on out, what does Gordon need to do for his community?
His responsibility is not to them as much as to himself. He needs to stay off the weed, which he swears he has done since 2012. And he needs to stay off the alcohol, which supposedly he did after January, but, you know, he took a test four hours after having two beers and two other drinks. WHATEVER. The fact is that alcohol and weed seem to be attached to this dude. And that’s the bottom line. First things first, stay off of it so you can be on the football field. … Just stop embarrassing yourself and letting other people down by doing so. How about that? Is that too much to ask?
Smith’s tone of voice made it clear that he was skeptical of the accuracy of Gordon’s letter. Without knowing Gordon, one cannot be certain one way or another whether he told the truth in the piece. However (and this was implied but unspoken in the segment), given his history of failed drug tests at Baylor — which he acknowledged — one cannot help but wonder if he had a couple drinks on a flight to Vegas with teammates — which he also acknowledged — but abstained from alcohol on a weekend spent with Johnny Manziel in Aspen, during which the two were photographed with several bottles of alcohol in the background. Or, the day he overslept the Browns walkthrough after he was at a party at Manziel’s. Or, if he really (barely) tested positive for weed because of secondhand smoke.
We don’t know Josh Gordon, but we do know that his mistakes have piled up to a degree where, if his letter is accurate, he’s been odds-defyingly unlucky.