American sports pundit Stephen A. Smith is being criticized for mocking the names of Nigeria’s basketball players while he was speaking about the USA’s loss to Nigeria in a friendly on Sunday. An exhibition game ahead of the Tokyo Olympic Games, Nigeria’s senior basketball team D’Tigers scored a historic win over the United States of America, which had basketball stars like Damian Lillard and Kevin Durant of the NBA.
The team were praised by many people who said they had made Nigeria and Africa proud. But sports pundit Stephen A. Smith, in his popular talk show ‘First Take’, said that the United States had “no excuse to lose to Nigeria… some dude named Gabe Nnamdi who goes by Gabe Vincent, Caleb Ogada, uh… Namu- or however the hell you pronounce his name.”
His comments have angered many people, including the Nigeria Basketball Federation (NBBF) and some D’Tigers’ players. “A one minute clip with no basketball analysis and pure disrespect to the names of our culture. Do better please @stephenasmith. This is low, even for you,” the federation responded on Twitter. “You can lament your loss without slandering the players who gave blood and sweat to grind out a win. Put some respect to their names.”
“You can critique the other team without disrespecting us. Put some respect on the flag and the mother land! Don’t forget where your ancestors came from,” D’Tigers player Josh Okoguie said on Twitter.
Nigerian-American professional basketball player Chiney Ogwumike, who works for ESPN, wrote: “As someone who has seen Mr. Smith’s daily grind, I have so much respect for my ESPN fam… But as a proud Nigerian-American, whose name gets mispronounced daily, we HAVE to do better. Our names have beautiful meaning & should be celebrated.”
“Their names being mispronounced as if they were irrelevant to society is what needed to be said??” a fan, Cliff Tripper, asked on Twitter.
Smith had on Monday been accused of making a xenophobic rant about Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani.
Nigeria shocked the basketball world over the weekend with a 90-87 win over a team with some of the best NBA players. “The team matched the highly-rated American team skill for skill, shot for shot, and in every department, the Nigerian team was on top of its game. Thank you, D’Tigers for again announcing Nigeria’s arrival on the basketball world with a bang,” Nigeria’s Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Sunday Dare, said.
The team also won over Argentina on Monday.