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Stephen A. Smith under fire for apparent use of racial slur on ESPN

The Turnstile

ESPN's Stephen A. Smith has never been one to shy away from strong opinions, as he's happy to remind you, frequently and at high volume. But every so often, it seems the mouth may outrun the mind. Witness this exchange above, from ESPN's First Take, in which Smith gets strangely feisty about the thought of Kobe Bryant missing a game with a foot injury, and drops a "[n-word] please" shot. Or so it seems.

Did he? Didn't he? Smith sure doesn't believe he did anything wrong. Here's his explanation:

Vehement denial, but then, no explanation for what he might have said. ESPN has said there will be no discipline for Smith. The network did bleep out the offending word, whatever it may have been, in a re-airing of the show on Thursday.

As he alluded to in the explanation above, this is the second time Smith has come under fire for the use of the word. He apparently was also "speaking too fast" back in December 2011 when he said LeBron James needed to be more like Bryant and may have dropped the same word. (That incident seems a lot more suspect and open to interpretation than this one.)

The whole topic of whether the word in itself is beyond the scope of this particular story, but what's irrefutable is this: Smith's entire public persona is built on courting controversy and sparking debate. Well, he's done exactly that. Sometimes the flames you fan get a little higher than you expect.

-Follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.-

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