Sports journalist discusses success, adversity with Kent students


Stephen A. Smith speaks to students regarding adversity at the KIVA on Monday, Nov. 16, 2015.

Weslee Clyde

In a packed KIVA on Monday night, sports journalist and social commentator Stephen A. Smith discussed creating success for one’s self and understanding circumstances.

During his discussion entitled “Adversity, Keeping your head in the game,” Smith spoke about leadership, adversity, and what it takes to be success today.

Smith started as a sports journalist with the “Winston-Salem Journal” and “The Philadelphia Inquirer.”

Moving onto radio in 2005, Smith hosted his own show in New York City, which came to an end when he pursued television.

Once his show “Quite Frankly with Stephen A. Smith” was cancelled in 2007, Smith began to concentrate on the NBA as an analyst.

Smith is most known for his current role on ESPN’s First Take with sports columnist Skip Bayless, which often leads to fiery oppositions as the two butt heads.

Smith is well recognized for his dour delivery and controversial remarks in the sports world.

His speech at Kent State was no less brutal than one of his sports commentary specials. Following a standing welcome from the audience, Smith was not shy to tell the audience what they were in store for.

“I want you to understand the world you’re living in,” Smith said. “I know you think you do. But you don’t.”

Smith went on to tell students to “get over” race conflicts because in the corporate world, it’s all about the brand and what makes the most money.

A large portion of Smith’s discussion revolved around race. He made it clear that race shouldn’t be ignored but that in today’s world everything isn’t about it.

“I know what its like to starve, I know what its like to suffer but I also know I wouldn’t be standing here today chilling, if race was an excuse that I used every time something popped up,” said Smith.

The audience chimed in with sounds of appreciation and approval for Smith’s honesty when it came to racial issues.

“There are people that may not be racist, they just may not like your ass,” Smith said.

Smith moved on to offer advice to college students in today’s society.

“You have to understand that when you leave college you aren’t a finished product, you are a baby,” said Smith.

Smith said that experience and tenacity are key to success for a student who wants a career and not a job. 

Using his own stories of struggle to prove a point, Smith stressed to the audience to not forget that you cannot get to the top alone.

Telling the story of starting as a journalist working for free, Smith explained that he faced adversity and a long road to get where he is.

“The key is to surround yourself with individuals and environments that contribute to your success because if you don’t, you are going to fail,” Smith said at the end of his talk.

Freshman public health major Sarah Kovacs waited in line for an autograph after the show and thought his attitude towards things was admirable.

“I love how honest and truthful Stephen A. is,” Kovacs said. “He doesn’t sugar coat anything even if its not what people want to hear.”

Smith is the last of the Center for Student Involvement’s 2015 leadership speaker series.