SALT LAKE CITY — A day after inaccurately portraying LDS beliefs while addressing Utah Jazz fans' behavior, controversial sports commentator Stephen A. Smith said he didn't mean what he said about Mormons not being Christian.
"Not aware I said that," Smith wrote to a fan who informed him on Twitter that members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are 100 percent Christian. "But if I did I’m definitely sorry because I misspoke. I’m completely aware they are Christians. Just was arguing with Max about something totally different."
Not one to shy away from or starting a verbal firestorm, Smith made the comment during ESPN's "First Take" on Monday while taking some Jazz fans to task for their alleged boorish behavior against opponents at games. This subject came up over the weekend after Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook claimed some Utah spectators have a habit of spewing "vulgar, disrespectful things."
"Some of those fans, you certainly don't want to castigate all of them," he said, "but it's a history there with some players."
Smith specifically mentioned Stephen Jackson's claim that Jazz fans shouted racist remarks when he played for the Warriors. Smith also accused Utah faithful for "chanting some very incendiary things about (Derek Fisher's) daughter" after the guard left Utah to return to the Lakers.
"It’s not the first time we’ve heard that about some of those fans in Utah," Smith said. "You talk about the Mormon state and all of this other stuff. You hear a lot of those things from a religious perspective. And so it comes across ..."
Co-host Molly Qerim interrupted: "Well, that’s not Christian."
"Well," Smith responded, "they’re not Christian."
Smith then continued with his original thought about the Vivint Arena environment.
"It comes across as a very wholesome environment, but then you go inside that arena. Some of them — not most, not all — but some of them unfortunately stain the rest of the fan base. It’s something that the NBA may need to address."
That's a point Westbrook made in his postgame press conference after the Jazz eliminated the Thunder in six games.
"Here in Utah, man, a lot of disrespectful, vulgar things are said to the players with these fans. It's truly disrespectful," he said.
"They talk about your family, about your kids, and it’s just a disrespect to the game, and I think it’s something that needs to be brought up," he continued. "I’m tired of just going out and playing and then the fans say what the hell they want to say. I’m not with that, because if I was just on the street they wouldn’t say anything crazy because I don’t play that (expletive). I think it’s disrespectful they get the chance to do whatever they want to do. It needs to be put to a stop, especially here in Utah."
Co-host Max Kellerman agreed.
"Russell Westbrook’s 100 percent right — not even a little bit wrong," Kellerman said to Smith and Qerim. "Buying a ticket does not give you a license to say whatever you want to an athlete. That’s absurd.
"If you want to say, 'You stink' or even with stronger language, I get it, but you can’t start talking about people’s family and stuff like that. Don’t. He's right and whoever did it is wrong. Unequivocally."
Video showed Westbrook confronting two Jazz fans Friday, but there is no recording of any vulgarity or disrespectful family jabs from the game.
Smith's Twitter account was deluged with comments from people, including former BYU player Jackson Emery, trying to correct his statement about Mormons not being Christian.
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