Stephen A Smith, Monica McNutt get into heated argument about media's WNBA coverage on ESPN's 'First Take'

The WNBA was top of mind for many sports shows on Monday morning after a wild weekend for Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever, and things got pretty testy on ESPN’s “First Take” because of it. 

Stephen A. Smith and Monica McNutt got into a heated argument during the debate show when the topic of Clark’s incident with Chicago Sky guard Chennedy Carter came up at the top of the program. There have been many narratives regarding the hip-check-turned-flagrant-foul that Carter placed on Clark, and McNutt argued that new WNBA fans may think the league is out to get Clark. 

“You guys may not have said, ‘Everybody,’ but the prevailing sentiment for folks that are just joining the WNBA and following women’s sports is unfair to the women of this league – to your point – who have laid the groundwork for Caitlin Clark to come in and now take it to the next level,” McNutt said on the show. 

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She added: ‘The game is physical, Caitlin is helping to grow the league, these women understand that. But she cannot be babied as a rookie.”

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Smith, though, took it personally when McNutt mentioned the media’s coverage of the WNBA. 

“Who talks about the WNBA, who talks about women’s sports more than No. 1 ‘First Take?'” Smith, a mainstay on the show with Shannon Sharpe, questioned McNutt. 

“Stephen A., respectfully, with your platform, you could’ve been doing this three years ago if you wanted to,” McNutt replied. 

ESPN’S STEHEN A SMITH SAYS SOME WNBA PLAYERS JEALOUS OF CAITLIN CLARK, SUGGESTS RACE IS COMPONENT

“Wow,” Smith said after an awkward silence, but he didn’t stop. “Who does more than us?”

“I’m talking to you! I’m talking to you. Don’t do that. I’m talking to you about the power that you have. I’m talking to you,” McNutt said.

“First Take” host Molly Qerim ended up cutting the argument off after 40 minutes of straight talking on the show for a commercial break. 

The argument started when Smith compared the criticism of women in the WNBA to men’s sports. 

“We’re talking about maximizing their great potential,” Smith said. “And because we bring that up and talk about what potentially might get in their way – which we do to men all the time – now we gotta sit up here and watch every syllable. I resent that, and I’ll leave it at that.”

“Welcome to the world of being a woman Stephen A. How you have to dance about your word choice and you have to please everybody and anybody as you navigate your being,” McNutt countered. 

“How about being a Black man?” Smith said. 

Smith also said on the show that he believes some WNBA players are jealous of Clark’s attention and stardom since entering the league, and race may be playing into that. 

“There are girls – young ladies – in the WNBA who are jealous of Caitlin Clark. She is a White girl that has come into the league,” Smith explained. “She has bursted onto the scene. She hasn’t proven herself yet. It’s not even about them thinking they’re better than her because they probably know it at this particular juncture because they’ve been playing on a level she just arrived to.

“Where the resentment comes in is the hard work, the commitment, the dedication, the pounding of the pavement, the being on the grind all of these years trying to uplift this brand that is the WNBA and is women’s professional basketball and all of their efforts were in vain until this girl comes along and takes the league by storm, takes the sport by form in college and has accomplished in a short period of time what they haven’t been able to.

“One would think that folks would be smart enough to recognize and appreciate that about Caitlin Clark – piggyback off of that to their benefit and praise her and support her for it while competing on the court against her.”

Clark’s Fever have had a poor start to the 2024 season, owning a 2-9 record. 

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.

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