BOSTON (CBS) — ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith saw Brad Stevens get promoted from head coach of the Boston Celtics to president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, despite having no front-office experience in his basketball career. Smith saw that as a serious issue for many candidates who never got the opportunity to get that job.

Smith spoke about his objection to the move and got extremely worked up, to the point where he walked off-camera to ensure that he didn’t say anything to get himself in trouble.

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“There ain’t African-Americans that have been toiling through the terrain and trying to become executives in the National Basketball Association? Last time I checked, that’s the case,” Smith said. “We see coaches on the sideline; they don’t want to become head coaches? They’ve been assistants for years.”

Smith objected not only to the Brooklyn Nets hiring Steve Nash as their head coach last year despite no experience but also to Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving lending their full support to the move. He thus said that Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown should raise an objection to the elevation of Stevens in Boston.

“It’s Boston. Tatum’s your star. Jaylen Brown’s your star. We understand what role that they play, particularly Jaylen Brown in social justice issues,” Smith said. “We’re supposed to be woke. We’re supposed to understand that that knee on George Floyd’s neck wasn’t just about violence, and police brutality. It was also the figurative semblance that it provided, where you’re feeling like constantly, people have their knee on your neck since the time you’ve come out of the womb. We’ve been talking about all this stuff, and people are willing to say, ‘Aw, Stephen A. is bringing out race. Aw, Stephen A. is bringing up George Floyd, and equating that to [Tim] Tebow.’ No I’m not. What I’m saying is from a figurative perspective, what we witnessed and what got the nation up and just inspired, was because what we saw was symptomatic and emblematic of how we feel as a people — consistently being marginalized, consistently being minimized, consistently being underappreciated, undervalued.”

Smith’s biggest issue seemed to be not with the Stevens’ promotion itself but with NBA players not pushing forward Black and/or other people of color as legitimate candidates for the league’s highest-profile jobs.

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“In the world of sports, where you got dudes with guaranteed contracts, making money that will secure their generations — generations of family — you’ve got folks hesitant to speak up. You’ve got players, NBA players are some of the most powerful people in this world, when have they spoken up for Black coaches?” Smith asked. “When?! When have they spoken up for Black coaches and Black executives, GMs, president of basketball operations? When has that happened? LeBron, all of them, everybody! Where the hell have they been? Nobody has done anything.”

Smith pointed out that the NFL has the so-called “Rooney Rule,” which requires teams to interview at least one racial minority candidate for coaching and front-office job openings. But he also noted that the rule hasn’t brought about a proper level of diversity in the actual hiring decisions.

“You know what? I’m gonna walk away,” Smith concluded. “I’ll be right back, because I’m scared I’m going to say something that might get me in trouble. Because I’m pissed. I’m pissed!”

In another segment on “First Take,” Smith pointed out that Stevens had a reported “suspect” relationship with “the Marcus Smarts of the world,” and that it doesn’t make sense for Stevens to be elevated to the position that Danny Ainge was leaving.

“You see, it’s moments like this where I get on people’s nerve, particularly white America, and the NBA community specifically. Because I point out it’s beautiful to be a white guy. It’s just beautiful,” Smith said. “You’re a question mark as a coach in some people’s eyes, including in Boston. But somehow, some way, you’re moving upstairs. And the paucity of opportunities for African-Americans continue to dwindle and dwindle and dwindle.”

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Smith concluded: “Somehow, some way, Brad Stevens — who I like, who I believe deserves to be a head coach on this level — a shaky season, and he’s going upstairs. That’s my reaction to this. I actually don’t give a damn about anything else pertaining to the Boston Celtics right now. That’s where my mind is. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful thing sometimes. It really is.”

CBSBoston.com Staff