It seems Hugh Douglas and Michael Smith, two of the co-hosts for ESPN's Numbers Never Lie program, took the network's push to "embrace debate" a little too literally this Friday while in Orlando for the National Association of Black Journalists convention.
UPDATE: Tuesday, Aug. 13, at 1:30 p.m. ET
From Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated:
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UPDATE: Tuesday, Aug. 6, at 2:25 p.m. ET by Ian Hanford
From The Big Lead's Jason McIntyre:
Hugh Douglas was inebriated and threatened to beat up his colleague Michael Smith three times Friday night, a source who witnessed the altercation at the House of Blues in Orlando tells The Big Lead. According to the source, Douglas, who appears on Numbers Never Lie on ESPN with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill, was trying to get on stage where the DJ was playing, and threatened to beat up Smith if he couldn’t help out. After the third threat, Smith tried to walk away, at which point Douglas grabbed Smith’s wrist and hurled two racial epithets at him. Smith, the witness says, turned around to protect himself, at which point onlookers rushed in to break it up.
Three independent sources have verified this version of events.
Douglas was then pulled aside by someone from ESPN who was in attendance, and the two briefly spoke. Douglas then left the party.
McIntyre also notes that, "A source at ESPN says that Douglas has been yanked off Numbers Never Lie until the network can sort out details from the night."
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Sources privy to the situation told The Big Lead that Douglas and Smith were involved in a heated argument at a Sports Task Force party in Orlando's House of Blues. The altercation became so intense that parties had to intervene and break the two men up.
It's unclear whether any punches were thrown or whether the situation got physical in any nature. However, it's clear that tensions boiled over. It got to the point where one source questioned whether Douglas would be able to return to the set. Someone who saw a majority of the action described the scene as “very ugly.”
For Smith's sake, we're happy the folks on hand didn't let things get too out of control. There are no measurables for the former Boston Globe reporter-turned-ESPN personality, but it's pretty clear he'd be fighting out of his weight class. Douglas was listed at 6'2" and 281 pounds during his decade-long NFL career.
A three-time Pro Bowler, Douglas has been with ESPN since 2011. He joined Numbers Never Lie as a permanent co-host last September, replacing Charissa Thompson. Jemele Hill serves as the show's third host, taking over a position vacated by Jalen Rose.
Smith has been with ESPN since July of 2004. In addition to his hosting duties on Numbers Never Lie, he is a regular panelist on Around the Horn and E:60.
It's unclear whether there had been tensions in the past between the two. Douglas tweeted a picture of himself, Smith and Hill all sitting at a panel Friday for the NABJ, which hosts a yearly convention aimed at inspiring black journalists and celebrating their accomplishments. The convention ran through Sunday.
The Big Lead's story notes that neither party has tweeted since the incident. Smith has since returned to social media, while Douglas is still silent. Neither party has given a statement on the matter or acknowledged the report's veracity.
ESPN initially declined to comment, but spokesperson David Scott later said the company was aware of an alleged incident.
"We are aware there was a disagreement between Hugh Douglas and Michael Smith on Friday," Scott said. "We are looking into the situation."
Numbers Never Lie debuted in September of 2011. Smith has been the show's only mainstay, as it has been shuffled multiple times due to poor ratings and departures.
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