Daniel Penny’s actions on a subway in New York City is one of the hottest topics in the news cycle. Media outlets left and right are calling Penny everything from a “hero” for subduing a deranged homeless man to a murderer for putting Jordan Neely, a man “who had nothing to live for," in a chokehold that lead to his death.
In all this media back-an- forth, it can be hard to find level-headed voices. That is why it is all the more surprising that ESPN sports talk show host Stephen A. Smith is one of them.
Speaking on “Fox News Tonight” with Will Cain, Smith discussed his view on the details of Penny’s conviction. Surprisingly, he did resort to his usual method of being irrational and racist when assessing the situation (which is in the first 4:30 of the video).
“If you’re skilled enough to know how to put a chokehold on someone, you should be knowledgeable enough to know when enough is enough and to let them go,” Smith said. “Having said all of that, again, I don’t know all the facts, so I’m not ready to convict him like a lot of people, politicians and citizens have been so quick to convict this man of that. I think we need to hear all of the evidence.”
Cain mentioned later in the conversation that according to reports, Penny had changed his position while apprehending the man so Neely could breathe. To his credit, Smith seemed to let that fact alter his opinion on the situation.
Smith’s interaction with Cain says a few things about having mature disagreements. It first reveals that reasonable minds can differ on their viewpoints on a situation, but that one's opinions can be altered when presented with more evidence.
It is also worth noting what Smith didn’t do in this situation. He not only refrained from passing harsh judgement on Penny, but he also avoided making a claim that racism played a part in Neely’s death (notable, since Smith does have a tendency to race-bait). He could have easily made that claim since a white man killed a black man, but he chose not to. Instead, he looked at the available facts and evidence of the situation - while drawing on his experience of living in New York City - and used those to form an opinion.
In an age where civilized disagreements and sound reasoning seem to be a thing of yesteryear, it is highly encouraging to see that these two men, even if just for 10 minutes on cable news, went back to the old ways of having conversations.