Prominent sports commentator and TV personality Stephen A. Smith gave the keynote address at this year’s Black Professionals Network (BPN), held at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood Hollywood, Florida, where he encouraged attendees to take accountability to achieve success.
“The main message I wanted to get across was as Black folks, we got it hard, but we also have to accept accountability for the hardships we bring upon ourselves,” he shared with EBONY after a standing ovation.
“When we get into an environment like [this summit], we are quick to believe all of us are like this: business-minded, forward-thinking and all mindful of supporting and uplifting one another, but excuse my language, that s#%t aint true,” Stephen A. Smith declared.
“The reality is there are a lot of our own who get in our way because their definition of success is pulling you down to their level instead of uplifting them on your level.”
Smith’s words resonated with the theme of this year’s summit: MVP: Mastery. Value. Performance., which underscores the importance of adopting the mentality of elevating your game and striving for excellence in all that you do as a professional.
“Often, I bring up the whole thing about selling out. That’s why I forever appreciate Snoop Dogg when he called into my radio show years ago. He was like, ‘You ain’t selling out, you looking out. You tipping us off to the minefields that lie in wait to avoid the pitfalls that you fell into.’ I am thankful and appreciative of my brother saying that about me because it is the truth.”
Smith released his memoir, Straight Shooter: A Memoir of Second Chances and First Takes, in January 2023, where he shares those challenges he faced in childhood and in his career, including initially being let go from ESPN, only to return to greater triumphant.
“There are many nuggets of wisdom [in my book], but what stands out in my mind is the importance of mastering my own business. I will reiterate until the cows come home when I was let go in 2009, I did not know the business. My definition of popularity was people screaming my name, yelling my name in the streets, wanting an autograph—that was defined success for me,” Stephen A. Smith revealed.
“When I went to the negotiating table it didn’t mean anything because they had a different version of what qualified success for me. They thought I was worth significantly less than what I was, and I said the hell with that and turned down opportunities; things snowballed from there and I nearly ruined my career. My arrogance and lack of education about the business had me looking like a damn fool because I didn’t know. “
Black Professionals Network (BPN) is a social learning non-profit founded in 2014 with the mission to advance careers, power up businesses and build up social capital for Black professionals on a journey to become certified legacy builders. The network offers opportunities for members to participate in events, workshops and mentorship programs that facilitate skill-building, career development and business growth.