Kenny Smith walked off the “NBA on TNT” set on Wednesday as the show went to air.
The broadcast was slated as pre-game programming ahead of the playoff game scheduled between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets. That game and all others in the NBA were postponed after the Milwaukee Bucks initiated a player walkout before Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic to protest racial injustice in the wake of the shooting of Jacob Blake by Kenosha, Wisconsin police.
Smith, a longtime TNT analyst and 10-year NBA veteran spoke as the show took the air and explained his reasoning before leaving the set.
‘As a Black man and former player ...’
Kenny Smith just walked out on NBA on TNT in support of the players' boycott pic.twitter.com/N4Ix6CPTLG
— Chris Montano (@gswchris) August 26, 2020
“I think the biggest thing now — as a Black man and a former player — I think it’s best for me to not be here tonight,” Smith said.
“I respect that,” host Ernie Johnson responded.
Smith then took off his microphone and left his chair between Johnson and fellow analyst Charles Barkley.
Johnson, Barkley and analyst Shaquille O’Neal sat in silence for a moment. It’s not clear if they were aware of Smith’s plan to leave the set beforehand.
Programming then resumed as O’Neal speculated on what’s next for players and the studio threw to a report from the NBA campus from Yahoo Sports and TNT reporter Chris Haynes.
Smith played in the NBA from 1987-97, winning two NBA championships as the starting point guard for the Houston Rockets. Smith joined Turner Sports shortly after his retirement from the NBA and is a staple of the award-winning “Inside the NBA” studio show and TNT’s NBA coverage.
The fate of the remainder of the NBA season remains unclear as of Wednesday evening. After the games were postponed, the Bucks released a statement demanding accountability from Kenosha police and Wisconsin lawmakers.
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