Stephen A. Smith Threatens Legal Action Against Jonathan Papelbon's Claims

Tensions flare between sports personalities over public accusations.

by Nouman Rasool
Stephen A. Smith Threatens Legal Action Against Jonathan Papelbon's Claims
© Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

Stephen A. Smith, a veteran sports commentator, robustly refuted allegations of racism and xenophobia made by former MLB player Jonathan Papelbon during a fiery 12-minute segment on “The Stephen A. Smith Show”. Smith, who has a three-decade tenure as a reporter and commentator, was accused by Papelbon of being forcibly removed from the Phillies clubhouse a claim he vehemently denies.

Smith expressed outrage over Papelbon's assertions. “What do you mean I was thrown out of a Major League Baseball clubhouse?” he questioned, visibly frustrated. “I have been a sports commentator for 30 years.

That has never happened in any sport. I’ve never been thrown out of a locker room or a clubhouse… That is a lie. Now, I could sue your ass for lying, telling such a lie like that. But I won’t. I won’t waste my time”.

Feud Ignites Controversy

The dispute traces back to Smith's earlier comments on ESPN’s “First Take” where he critiqued Angels star Mike Trout for his frequent injuries, sparking Papelbon to lash out on the “Foul Territory” show, labeling Smith a “complete joke and really shady,” and even comparing his narcissism to Donald Trump's.

Papelbon challenged ESPN to take action against Smith, accusing him of speaking only for social media engagement without genuine understanding, dismissing him as “just another idiot who doesn’t know what he’s talking about”.

Smith clarified that he had already left the Philadelphia Inquirer before Papelbon joined the Phillies and emphasized that they had never directly communicated. Addressing the racist claims, Smith pointed out, “I think that when people bring up the word racist, if they looked at you and I sitting together, I think they would look at you before they looked at me.

I’ve never talked about you. You’re irrelevant. At least until today”. Further deepening the context, Smith referred to his controversial 2021 comments about Shohei Ohtani’s suitability as the face of MLB, citing his need for an interpreter as a barrier, which he believed was harming the sport.

He also noted his discussions on ESPN, where he brought on MLB insider Jeff Passan and former ESPN reporter Joon Lee to counter his views publicly. In his closing remarks, Smith addressed Papelbon directly: “And because I mention that, you would go on the air, Papelbon, knowing nothing about me, and you would call me a racist.

I’m a black man. We have a history of experiencing racism. And a lot of times, those experiences come courtesy of people who look like you. And I would never think to call you a racist. What you said is wrong, is irresponsible, is petty, and if it was to get a reaction, it’s desperate.

Because now that you don’t have your playing career to lean on anymore, I guess you need help in other areas. Be a grown-up, bro. The things that you said about me sound like a damn racist, and I still wouldn’t call you that unless I was sure”.