Stephen A. Smith has finally crossed the line, and he needs to be punished for it.
Thursday morning's edition of ESPN's First Take was going along just like any other episode. Smith and his colleagues were arguing—at pitch levels that only dogs could hear—about whether or not Kobe Bryant would start the Los Angeles Lakers season opener.
"Blah, blah, blah," Smith said.
"Counter, counter, counter," someone else yelled at the same time so neither man could be understood.
"Tebow, Tebow, Tebow," Skip Bayless chimed in.
All-in-all, it was going off without a hitch.
Then this happened (warning: language NSFW):
If you're wondering if what you heard at the 10-second mark of the above video is, in fact, what you think you heard, it most certainly was.
Smith did the unthinkable and dropped the N-word on live television.
Of course, shortly after, he came back and issued a statement saying that he didn't actually say the word that 99 percent of viewers clearly heard come out of his mouth:
Yes, he really just said, "I am a New Yorker. I speak very, very fastly."
That was his main argument.
Not only is that a pathetic excuse for an explanation, there are also many other aspects working against the controversial personality here.
First of all, what else could he really be saying there? I've tried to find a word that fits in the middle of that sentence, but nothing makes sense.
Second, if he didn't say the word, why did ESPN take it out during the airings that came later?
Finally, this isn't his first offense.
I understand that there will never be a way to fully prove what exactly it was that Smith muttered on Thursday morning, but the evidence certainly stacks up against him. And it's sufficient evidence to warrant him at least a small suspension.
It's far from likely that Bretos was some closet racist who decided to suddenly let his emotions out on a random broadcast.
But that wasn't the point.
He had to be suspended because it was an insensitive and inappropriate line that crossed a racial barrier.
And Stephen A. Smith, no matter his intent, crossed the same barrier with a similar inappropriate comment.
ESPN has reportedly stated it will not suspend Smith, but it's never too late to go back and give him the punishment that fits the crime.