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Stephen A. Finally Admits He Wanted Max Kellerman Off ‘First Take’

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OutKick reported on August 18 that, after trying for three years to convince ESPN bosses to remove Max Kellerman from First Take, Stephen A. Smith finally got Kellerman kicked off. At first, Smith lied and said that he hadn’t done that. How do I know he lied? Because he admitted he it on Thursday. 

Speaking to Ebro Darden and Peter Rosenberg on Hot 97, Smith confessed that he wanted Kellerman off the show and had tried to remove him for three years. This time, he finally got his way.

“The rumor’s accurate in terms of me wanting [Max] off the show,” Smith said.

“We, together, as far as I was concerned, was not a great partnership anymore and that was something that needed to change.”

Here is the full clip:

Interesting.

Smith told ESPN’s executives in the summer of 2019, 2020, and 2021 that he did not want Kellerman to return for the fall.

That means that Smith lied about something else. In August, Smith said that if Kellerman left First Take, it would be because Kellerman graduated to new opportunities, not because Smith wanted him gone. That is inaccurate. ESPN Senior VP Dave Roberts, who is Smith’s instrument, removed Kellerman to keep Smith happy. Roberts demoted Kellerman, not promote him. Roberts doesn’t like Kellerman, sources say.

We previously reported the following reasons why Smith pushed hard to part ways with Kellerman:

Sources say Smith had several issues with Kellerman as a co-host. Smith felt Kellerman did not routinely take a definitive stance in a debate. When Smith co-hosted First Take with Skip Bayless, Smith would take one side and Bayless would take the other. Next, they would defend their positions by cutting animated promos. Smith enjoyed this — it elevated him to the face of ESPN. 

Second — and Smith will never admit this — Kellerman is more intelligent than he is. A lot smarter. Smith felt uncomfortable discussing social issues with Kellerman on set, which became a fixture after 2016. Kellerman ran circles around Smith. And while, baselessly yelling white privilege is Smith’s go-to, Kellerman often beat him to that destination.

Finally, Stephen A. Smith didn’t respect Kellerman as an equal. Aside from Skip Bayless and Michael Wilbon, Smith doesn’t think anyone else is on his level. Thus, to appease Smith, Roberts will replace Kellerman with a rotation of analysts, rather than a single partner.

As for Smith’s new non-diverse — not even close to diverse — rotation of partners on First Take: good luck. You’re going to need it. At least for the limited time Smith and Roberts allow you on set. 

Written by Bobby Burack

Bobby Burack covers media, politics, and sports at OutKick.

5 Comments

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  1. Reading articles about the latest dysfunctional mayhem at ESPN is akin to slowing down to watch roadkill. It’s hard not to … slow down to stare. Like many Outkick readers … I haven’t watched an ESPN studio show for at least five years … but do watch their CFB telecasts.

    I do realize that these ESPN updates are part of Outkick’s agenda ……. a daily reminder of our overall societal decline. … sigh.

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