ESPN host Stephen A. Smith has apologized to Rihanna after he recently joked that the nine-time Grammy-winning beauty and music icon “isn’t Beyoncé.”
smith said in a video sorry posted on Twitter Wednesday that he was going to “own” his comments about Rihanna’s upcoming Super Bowl halftime show, though he appeared to blame the media for the way his comments were reported.
“I know what they’re trying to do, but I’m going to be the owner because I get paid to talk for a living, so I need to be more careful,” he said. “I want Rihanna to know that you are a superstar, you are sensational, you are spectacular, you are no joke and you are a person worthy of being at the Super Bowl halftime show.”
Smith later said that he is a fan of Beyoncé, whom he called a “phenomenal performer”, and that he only compared the two superstars because Beyoncé has performed the halftime show twice.
“I thought those were two of the best shows I’ve ever seen,” he said. “So what I’m saying is anybody has to live up to that.”
Smith made the comment during an appearance on Sherri Shepherd’s daytime talk show “Sherri” on Wednesday.
When Shepherd asked Smith if he was excited to see Rihanna take the stage at the big game, the sportscaster replied: “I don’t want to say I’m not excited, she’s fantastic. That’s not where I’m going with this.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, she is many things, she is spectacular, actually, and congratulations on the new mama hood,” she continued. “There’s one thing she’s not: she’s not Beyoncé.”
He later added that he loves Rihanna “affectionately” but “there’s Beyoncé and there’s everyone else.”
Smith’s sarcastic comment drew boos from the studio audience and, unsurprisingly, later sparked a firestorm among Rihanna fans on social media.
In 2013, Beyoncé memorably headlined a spectacular Super Bowl halftime performance, which included an appearance by her former Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams.
Queen Bey then shocked fans in 2016 when she performed her then-new single, “Formation,” during Coldplay’s halftime show, which also featured Bruno Mars.
Rihanna’s fans have continued to express their excitement to see the singer’s halftime show since she first announced her participation in the event in September. The last big live performance of hers was at the 2018 Grammys, according to Billboard.
Rihanna’s boyfriend, rapper A$AP Rocky, recently stated that he is very excited for Rihanna’s performance at the Super Bowl on February 12.
The rapper, who welcomed a baby boy with the singer in May 2022, told Zane Lowe on Apple Music 1 that he’s “super excited” about the show.
“This is huge. This is incredible. I am very happy that my lady is back to making music and all that, and that she is going out again, ”she said.