Here's Why Stephen A. Smith Hates 'Fat Bastard' Jason Whitlock: A Timeline of the Beef

Stephen A. Smith and Jason Whitlock exchanged insults this week but this beef has been built up over time. Here's a timeline of the history of beef between Whitlock and Stephen A.

mage via Jason Whitlock/YouTube & Stephen A. Smith/YouTube

In the wild world of sports punditry, where hot takes reign supreme, few analysts are as influential as Stephen A. Smith. The ESPN First Take host has come a long way since his newspaper-writing days of the 1990s. 

When there’s a major sports story today, many eagerly await Smith’s opinion on the topic. You just know he’s got something spicy cooking – and ESPN’s audience always seems to be salivating for a taste. Hence why the man rakes in an estimated $12 million per year from the worldwide leader in sports

Smith is far from universally beloved, though. Some simply don’t like what he represents in sports media, whereas others have personal beef with him. For example, he has long had a contentious relationship with a fellow polarizing sports journalist: Jason Whitlock. 

Though they were once colleagues at ESPN, Smith and Whitlock have never gotten along, and their disagreement became a major sports media story this week. Let’s look back over everything we know about their feud.

2013-2015: Overlap at ESPN

Smith and Whitlock have both worked for a number of prominent media companies throughout their careers, and their paths collided between 2013-2015 at ESPN.

Smith became a columnist for and radio host for ESPN in 2011. Whitlock left Fox Sports for his second tour with ESPN in 2013 (he had previously worked for ESPN from 2002-2006).

Smith has been with ESPN ever since, emerging as a household name during his days hosting First Take alongside Skip Bayless. John Skipper brought Whitlock back to ESPN to launch The Undefeated, known as the “Black Grantland,” but leadership issues led to repeated delays. In October 2015, Whitlock and ESPN parted ways.

He returned to Fox and joined the show Speak for Yourself, which he originally hosted with Colin Cowherd (followed by Marcellus Wiley).

Whitlock is now the host of Fearless with Jason Whitlock on the conservative outlet Blaze Media, where he unabashedly shares unpopular takes – hence the name of the show.

The working relationship between Smith and Whitlock at ESPN wasn’t particularly newsworthy. Or so we thought.

2015: The Email & Contract Clause

During his rant that went viral this week, Smith alluded to a 2015 Deadspin article about Whitlock’s failures with The Undefeated. 

That article stated that Smith, along with several other prominent Black sportswriters (such as Jemele Hill), refused to work with Whitlock despite Whitlock trying to recruit them. Perhaps that played a role in the administrative issues with launching the site.

Smith said that weeks after that article was published, Whitlock emailed him with a “lengthy apology” and begged Smith for forgiveness.

According to Smith, he added a clause to his contract that year that “specifically stipulates that I never work with Jason Whitlock.” That’s how much Smith didn’t like him.

Whitlock called that news “embarrassing.”

This is embarrassing, Andrew. SAS just made a fool of himself. We've never seen anyone at a major media company react this unprofessionally to a review of their work or just act this publicly unprofessional. And this is your takeaway? Your expectations for SAS are so low that…

— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) January 11, 2024
Twitter: @WhitlockJason

2017: Stephen A. “Shtick” 

Jason Whitlock throws shade at Lavar Ball & Stephen A. Smith #ShotsFired

— History of Sports (@BeforeFamePics) May 17, 2017
Twitter: @BeforeFamePics

Remember when LaVar Ball was constantly in the headlines as he manifested that his son, Lonzo, would play for the Lakers? Good times.

At the time, Whitlock was with Fox, co-hosting Speak for Yourself with Cowherd. As they closed a segment on Ball, Whitlock took a quick shot at his former ESPN colleague, referring to Smith as “Stephen A. Shtick.” 

2021-2022: Minor Shots Fired

View this video on YouTube

Between 2017-2021, little happened publicly between these two. But then, in fall 2021, Whitlock started taking aim at Smith again. 

First, in September, Whitlock implied Smith was a sellout. Then, the next month, Whitlock had former NBA player Kwame Brown on his show, and they both dissed Smith. 

“He’s playing a character,” Whitlock said, also calling Smith “a voice for the establishment.”

And about a year later, in August 2022, Whitlock blasted Smith for his take on Kyrie Irving and the COVID-19 vaccine.

View this video on YouTube

At this point, Smith held off on responding.

2023: Major Shots Fired

View this video on YouTube

Then, last year, the feud really reignited. In the spring, Whitlock criticized Smith for claiming he was underpaid.

Then, following mass ESPN layoffs, Smith claimed that he, himself, could be laid off next. Whitlock again called out Smith.

SAS has been upset since ESPN dropped bags on Buck, Aikman, and McAfee. He's looking for $25 mil a year. Wonder if Fox Sports (in conjunction with Fox News) would give it to him? Every public word SAS utters is a negotiating tactic.

— Jason Whitlock (@WhitlockJason) July 5, 2023
Twitter: @WhitlockJason

Around the same time, Shannon Sharpe left Fox to join Smith on First Take. As Smith began to publicly discuss the deal, he painted Sharpe as a victim, claiming the former All-Pro tight end had been forced off of Undisputed. This led to Whitlock calling B.S. on that narrative and threatening to “expose” Sharpe and what really went down with him at Fox.

View this video on YouTube

This back-and-forth led to Smith threatening that he was close to “the moment” that he would “go nuclear” on “that fat bastard.”

View this video on YouTube

2024: Nuclear!

Today is the day I finally speak my mind about that no good fat bastard.

You know who I’m talking about.

Recording now. You will want to see this.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) January 10, 2024
Twitter: @stephenasmith

It all came to a head last week. Whitlock published a column that described Smith a “fraud” and “gimmick,” as he criticized Smith’s 2023 book, Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes. The book includes a description of Smith’s road to playing basketball for Winston-Salem State, but Whitlock’s column calls into question whether Smith actually played college ball. In fact, Whitlock challenged numerous parts of Smith’s narrative, calling it an “alleged memoir.”

Smith, 56, said he’s “sat back for years, at least nine to 10 years” without speaking his mind on Whitlock. But this column was the straw, it seems, that broke the camel’s back.

As promised, Smith fired off a memorable, expletive-ridden, 45-minute tirade against his former colleague. The video has already racked up nearly 1 million views. If you don’t want to watch the full 45 minutes, skip ahead to the 18:30 mark.

View this video on YouTube

Smith absolutely laid into Whitlock, describing him as the “worst, most despicable, lying, no-good fatass human being I have ever known in my life,” and calling Whitlock a “b****” and “fat piece of s***.” He also said Whitlock was "worse than a white supremacist." 

Whitlock responded on an episode of Fearless.

View this video on YouTube

He doubled down on his original take, saying Smith’s stories in his book don’t “pass the smell test” and documenting the research behind his take. 

As the verbal blows continue to be exchanged on social media, this saga remains an ongoing spectacle in sports media.

Latest in Sports