ESPN Fires Analyst Over ‘Uncle Tom’ Comments

Hugh Douglas is let go over insulting co-host Michael Smith.

Hugh Douglas (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Hugh Douglas (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

ESPN fired analyst Hugh Douglas a week after it was reported that he called co-host Michael Smith an Uncle Tom, Sports Illustrated reported on Tuesday.

Asked Sunday by where the situation stood, ESPN spokesperson Rob Tobias said, We are continuing to look into it and we expect a resolution this week.

That resolution has come today.

The incident between Douglas, a former defensive player for the Philadelphia Eagles, and Smith took place at an event at the National Black Journalists Association in Orlando, Fla., and was first reported by the Big League. 

Douglas and Smith, both in Orlando for the National Association of Black Journalists convention, were attending a Sports Task Force party at the House of Blues when tensions rose and the pair had to be separated, sources said.

Douglas, a former NFL defensive lineman, is 6-foot-2 and more than 280 pounds; Smith, a journalist, is considerably smaller. It is unclear if the altercation got physical, but a source who witnessed most of the skirmish described the dust-up as “very ugly.”

How ugly did it get? Deadspin reports that Douglas called Smith an Uncle Tom.

Lots of people were drinking, so this was less of a big deal, but then he started making some movements toward the stage at the club. ESPN has had experience with drunk commentators doing regrettable things in public, as with Dana Jacobson in 2008. Things seemed to be headed in that direction. One person told us that Smith — who wasn’t drinking — told Douglas not to go up. It would be a mistake. Douglas apparently wasn’t in a state to be reasoned with. He didn’t go up there, but a few minutes later, Douglas was angry enough to finally tell Smith off.

“Uncle Tom,” Douglas told Smith, according to two people familiar with the altercation. Smith apparently did his best to ignore this. Shortly thereafter, Douglas had more words to say to Smith. He grabbed him by his arm. He threatened to beat him up. Some people, including security, had to break it up.