Stephen A. Smith Apologizes for Saying Rihanna ‘Ain’t Beyoncé’ Ahead of Super Bowl

Rihanna and Stephen A Smith
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Stephen A. Smith is not afraid of controversy. The ESPN sports commentator often makes biting statements about pro athletes, creating waves among fans and the players themselves. But this might be the first time he’s taken a shot at a mega pop star.

On Sherri Shepherd’s talk show Sherri on Wednesday, Smith took a rather large dig at upcoming Super Bowl halftime performer Rihanna while comparing her to another female artist who took the stage at both the 2013 and 2016 Super Bowl: Beyoncé.

During the conversation, Smith said, “Ladies and gentlemen, she’s a lot of things. She’s spectacular actually and congratulations on the new mama hood. There’s one thing she’s not, she ain’t Beyoncé. The only reason I brought up Beyoncé is because Beyoncé recently performed at the Super Bowl.”

Watch his full interview on Sherri below:

The blowback for the comment was swift, from the audience, from Shepherd, and from viewers online. Smith quickly issued an apology and clarified the lack of need for such a comparison of two women at the height of their careers.

“I’m gonna own it. 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,” Smith said in a video posted to his Twitter account. “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.”

Rihanna, for her part, hasn’t replied. Probably because she’s too busy rehearsing for her highly anticipated Super Bowl Halftime show.

Super Bowl LVII, Sunday, February 12, 6:30 pm ET, Fox