Watch: ESPN Cuts to Commercial When Stephen A. Smith Mentions Israel-Palestine Conflict

The "First Take" commentator brought up the topic during a discussion about Daryl Morey's controversial tweet

ESPN Cuts to Break as Stephen A. Smith Discuses Israel-Palestine Conflict
ESPN host Stephen A. Smith at the Carrier Dome watching Syracuse. (Rich Barnes/Getty)
By Evan Bleier / October 9, 2019 12:11 pm

Following its precedent of trying to separate sports and politics even when they clearly overlap, ESPN cut to a break when Stephen A. Smith brought up the Israel-Palestine conflict while discussing the NBA’s ongoing situation in China yesterday.

Appearing on an episode of First Take, Smith segued from a discussion about Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet and the controversy it has caused to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before co-host Molly Qerim stepped in.

“Before we close,” Smith said, “I would remind you that, throughout this world, one of the things that exists is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I don’t see folks outside of the Jewish community talking about that too often.”

That’s when Qerim stepped in.

The incident shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given that ESPN senior news director Chuck Salituro ealier this week sent a memo to staff “mandating that any discussion of the Daryl Morey story avoid any political discussions about China and Hong Kong, and instead focus on the related basketball issues.”

The whole situation is reminiscent of what happened with Dan LeBatard, another ESPN personality who was silenced (temporarily) after talking politics and calling out the network’s reluctance to discuss them.

“There’s a racial division in this country that’s being instigated by the president and we here at ESPN haven’t had the stomach for that fight,” the veteran TV and radio host said during a rant in July. “Jemele [Hill] did some things on Twitter and … all of a sudden nobody talks politics on anything unless we can use one of these sports figures as a meat-shield in the most cowardly way possible to discuss these subjects. We won’t talk about it unless Russell Wilson is saying something about it on his Instagram page. Then we have the power to run with it. Weak-ass shield.”

LeBatard was off the air for a few days over the summer but has since resumed his regular broadcast schedule.

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