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JR Smith challenges ESPN's Stephen A. Smith for hoodie criticism

JR Smith wasn't pleased with the comments made by Stephen A. Smith regarding his decision to wear a hoodie on the bench. Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

NEW ORLEANS -- JR Smith wore the hoodie on his warm-up jacket pulled snuggly over his head for his entire pregame workout prior to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 123-101 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans on Saturday.

It was only a couple of hours after Smith took to Twitter to challenge ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith for recent commentary Smith made criticizing the Cavs guard for keeping his hoodie on while he was sitting on the bench.

“That’s what I’ve always done,” the Cavs guard said following the Pelicans game when asked whether his choice to keep the hoodie on pregame was an extension of his stand against the ESPN host.

Stephen A. Smith made his comments on JR Smith after Dwyane Wade reportedly volunteered to head to the bench and give up the starting shooting guard spot last weekend.

“In Game 1, when they played against Boston, JR Smith was sitting on that bench with a hoodie on,” Stephen A. Smith said. “I don’t know why the hell Nike made these damn uniforms that had hoods attached to it, by the way. You got a lot of white folks in the audience that are gonna think this is Trayvon Martin being revisited, and I’m not joking about it. The bench is no place for someone to be wearing hoodies.

“I have no problem with hoodies. People shouldn’t be stereotyped and stigmatized for wearing hoodies. I totally agree with the Miami Heat and Dwyane Wade and LeBron James and Chris Bosh and Ray Allen and all of those guys when they donned those hoodies back then, after the shooting of Trayvon Martin by wannabe cop Mr. Zimmerman, who should have been convicted. But the bench? For a basketball player? Sitting on the bench with his team, that is no place for a hoodie. I don’t know why the hell Nike did that. They need to get rid of them damn hoodies. There’s no place for a hoodie. A hoodie shouldn’t be attached to a uniform that you can wear while you’re on the bench during a game, but JR Smith had it on and he wasn’t happy. And psychologically, he can’t deal with the relegation [to the bench] the way Dwyane Wade dealt with it.”

Stephen A. Smith was referring to the entire Heat team posing for a photo with hoodies on and their heads bowing down following Martin’s murder in 2012.

JR Smith said he was not wearing his hoodie as a show of solidarity for Martin, but didn’t see any harm in it if it was interpreted that way.

“I mean, that’s ridiculous,” JR Smith said. “Stephen A. said that me wearing my hoodie on the bench makes white people remember Trayvon Martin. For one, they should remember him. Everybody should remember him. But for two, I’ve always worn a hoodie. I used to wear my hoodie in New York.”

Stephen A. Smith clarified his position on Twitter.

JR Smith said he did not understand why Stephen A. Smith chose to single him out for wearing his hoodie, when many players do so throughout the league. During pregame warm-ups in New Orleans on Saturday, for instance, Cavs teammates Tristan Thompson and Jae Crowder also had their hoodies pulled over their heads. He also acknowledged that you see Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona often wearing a hoodie in the dugout. The Indians are outfitted by Majestic.

“To bring race into that and for me, out of all people, why would you bring me into it? I have nothing to do with it,” JR Smith said. “I could see if you want to critique me on my playing, but don’t do that. That’s ridiculous.”

The 14-year veteran has struggled mightily to start the season, averaging 4.5 points on 24.4 percent shooting (and 14.3 percent from 3).

“And there’s 450-plus players in the league,” JR Smith added. “Since they put the hoodie [warm-ups] in, you see guys who don’t even play wearing it. So it’s not like it’s a just-me thing. Everybody, well not everybody, but a majority of guys wear hoodies.”

JR Smith also said that Stephen A. Smith expressed concern to him in person about him wearing his hoodie following the Cavs’ season opener against the Boston Celtics, but it was a different message than what he shared publicly.

“It’s crazy because after our first game when we played Boston, I saw him in the tunnel and he said, ‘Be careful wearing your hoodie because people are going to mistake that for you not wanting to play because you’re not starting or you being frustrated,’” JR Smith said.

“I said, ‘OK, I can see that.’ But then you’re switching it up to say what you said [about Martin], it’s like, what are you talking about? It’s cool. I mean, I expect it. I should expect that at this point.”