Stephen A. Smith deals with firestorm over Rihanna Super Bowl remarks

Stephen A. Smith officially pissed off “The Navy.”

The “First Take” host posted a three-minute apology video after he said that Rihanna “ain’t no Beyonce” while discussing RiRi’s upcoming Super Bowl halftime performance on the “Sherri” show Wednesday.

“I’m gonna own it,” Smith said in a video posted to Twitter and Instagram later that day. “I know what y’all trying to do, but I’m gonna own it because I get paid to speak for a living, so I need to be more careful.

“I want Rihanna to know, you’re a superstar, you’re sensational, you’re spectacular, you’re no joke and you are a worthy person to be doing the Super Bowl halftime show.”

Smith said he noticed he made headlines for his comments about Rihanna after he finished taping Wednesday’s installment of ESPN’s “First Take.”

“… I’m a Beyonce fan,” Smith said in his apology video. “I think that Beyoncé is not only a phenomenal performer, but the phenomenal performer. The only reason any kind of comparison came into play is because Beyonce performed at halftime at the Super Bowl, not just by herself [in 2013], but one separate performance with Bruno Mars and Coldplay [in 2016] — and I thought those were two of the greatest shows that I’ve ever seen.

Rihanna performs during the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 28, 2018 in New York City.
Getty Images for NARAS

“… I meant it as no disrespect to Rihanna. I know she is phenomenal and she is my sister. Nothing but love for her, but Beyonce is my sister too. I got love for the both of them. I just think that Beyonce is the greatest performer out there today. That’s me, that doesn’t mean I’m hating on anybody else and that doesn’t mean I’m damn well wishing for Rihanna to fail. I think she’s going to be great.”

Smith then apologized to Rihanna and wished her luck before she takes the Super Bowl halftime stage next month in Arizona.

“Rihanna, go do your thing,” Smith said. “I apologize for creating whatever brouhaha comes of this. I gotta be more careful, where people twist it and turn it into something it ain’t. My bad on that.”

The sports personality made his initial comments when Sherri Shepherd asked if he’s excited about Rihanna’s upcoming Super Bowl gig — and “The Navy” [Rihanna’s fanbase] wasn’t happy about what he had to say.

“I don’t want to say I’m not excited,” Smith said. “She’s fantastic. That’s not where I’m going with this. Ladies and gentleman, she’s a lot of things, she’s spectacular and congratulations on new [motherhood].

“There’s one thing she’s not, she ain’t Beyonce,” Smith said as the audience let out a collective gasp. “The only reason I brought up Beyonce is because Beyonce recently performed at the Super Bowl… there’s levels, you know.

“Rihanna’s music is fantastic, she’s great, she’s a sister. I love her dearly, I listen to her music, I’m gonna support her ’til the cows come home. I’m just telling you for me, there is Beyonce and then there’s everybody else… She’s going to be good. She can’t be bad, she’s too great not to be good.”

Stephen A. Smith at the Cincoro Tequila Gold launch party on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022 in New York City.
Stephen A. Smith at the Cincoro Tequila Gold launch party on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022 in New York City.
Getty Images for Cincoro Tequila

Rihanna will take the stage to perform the Super Bowl halftime show on Feb. 12.

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