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ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith says Tim Tebow NFL comeback is ‘white privilege’

ESPN “First Take” host Stephen A. Smith took aim at former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow on Thursday, arguing that “white privilege” was a factor in his NFL comeback at age 33 after years out of the league.

Tebow signed a one-year contract this week with the Jacksonville Jaguars after spending the last several years pursuing a professional baseball career in the New York Mets’ minor league system. During Thursday’s episode of “First Take,” Smith said he “had a problem” with the team’s decision to sign Tebow as a tight end – a position he has never played – while other athletes were left seeking their next opportunity.

“I’m happy for him, meaning Tim Tebow specifically, but when you look at the totality of the situation, If I’m gonna bring up white privilege when I brought up Steve Nash getting the job in Brooklyn, is this not an example of white privilege?” Smith said. “What brother you know is getting this opportunity?”

“That makes people uncomfortable because we’re talking about race when I say something like that,” he added. “Let me be the first to say – I don’t give a damn how you feel. I mean what I say. It is white privilege because that’s not something that’s happening for any brothers out there.”

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Last year, Smith called out the Brooklyn Nets for hiring Nash, a Hall of Fame point guard with no coaching experience, as their head coach. The ESPN host argued the hire was an example of “white privilege” and that the Nets had passed over more qualified Black candidates.

Smith prefaced his remarks by praising Tebow, noting that he considered the former college football star a “really good dude” whose “heart’s in the right place.” 

By signing with the Jaguars, Tebow reunited with Urban Meyer, his former head coach on two national championships teams at the University of Florida. Meter noted that Tebow was in the “best shape of his life” and called him “the most competitive maniac you’re ever gonna talk to.”

“The reality is that Urban Meyer is in a position where he could exercise – I’m not saying he did it for Tim Tebow because he was white or anything like that,” Smith added. “It has nothing to do with race in regard to that. I’m simply saying when you see an opportunity like that happen, it is clear that it happens for white folks and it doesn’t happen for everybody else, and that’s problematic.”

Smith’s co-host, Max Kellerman, said he didn’t have a problem with the Jaguars’ decision to sign Tebow. However, he suggested that Tebow should mention that Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback turned activist who drew national scrutiny for leading protests against police brutality during the national anthem, has not received an opportunity to return to the league.

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“It would be nice for Tim Tebow, who has been given this opportunity – he doesn’t have to apologize for it – but it would be nice for him to mention Kaepernick’s name,” Kellerman said.

Comparisons between Tebow’s and Kaepernick’s career trajectories have proven divisive in the sports world. Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Eric Dickerson recently told TMZ that it was “bulls—” that Tebow was getting another shot at the NFL before Kaepernick. 

A first-round pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, Tebow struggled as a quarterback at the professional level. He last appeared in an NFL game in 2012.

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