Stephen A. Smith Spouts Stigmatizing Rant About Josh Gordon's Addiction

By Keri Blakinger 12/28/18

The controversial host ranted about the Patriots wide receiver battle with addiction and mental health issues on ESPN.

Stephen A Smith
Photo via YouTube

Perennial hot-take artist and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith delivered a baffling on-air diatribe last week, drawing harsh criticism from the Twitterverse for his stigmatizing rant on addiction and mental health issues. 

Describing drug addiction as “self-inflicted” and refusing to view it as a disease, Smith laid into Patriots Wide Receiver Josh Gordon on Thursday following the announcement that Gordon planned to step away from the game to take care of his mental health. 

“I’m disgusted,” the First Take host said on the air afterward. “I’m sick and tired of this guy getting chances.” 

Smith continued on and on, in a seemingly interminable stream of vitriol, calling out the 27-year-old for taking Xanax in middle school and offering baffling gems like: “I understand it’s sad that he’s an addict, but it appears he’s an addict. That’s what this comes down to.” 

In a separate, shorter clip from Thursday’s ESPN, Smith said he didn’t want to seem “unsympathetic” before questioning whether addiction is a disease and seemingly blaming Gordon for becoming addicted. 

“I don’t want to come across as harsh or unsympathetic to Josh Gordon,” Smith said. “But let’s be very, very clear here. You’ve got a whole bunch of people out there talking about ‘It’s a disease, it’s a disease’ because it’s an addiction.

“Well, I’m not going to debunk or eliminate the notion that it’s a disease, but how did it become one? Because you can’t get addicted to something you never try. This isn’t cancer. This isn’t Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or something like that. This is self-inflicted.”

The video clip circulated online, where it was not at all popular, as social media users and other sports analysts thoroughly dragged Smith for his hottest of takes.

“This is a HORRIBLE take from Stephen A Smith on mental illness and addiction,” tweeted CBS Sports writer Will Brinson. “I’m absolutely appalled this aired on television.”

Armen Keteyian concurred. “So now he’s a mental health expert,” tweeted the executive producer for The Athletic. “I happen to know something about this situation and this is Completely irresponsible.” 

Following a series of suspensions, Gordon was indefinitely suspended from the NFL on Thursday for repeated drug violations. Announcement of the suspension came hours after he announced his departure on Twitter.

"I take my mental health very seriously at this point to ensure I remain able to perform at the highest level,” he tweeted. “I have recently felt like I could have a better grasp on things mentally. With that said, I will be stepping away from the football field for a bit to focus on my mental health.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.