Milwaukee mayor sends gift baskets, message to ESPN 'First Take' hosts after last year's 'terrible city' comments

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson is attempting to mend relations with ESPN "First Take" hosts in his first week in office.

The hosts referred to Milwaukee as a "terrible city" while discussing the possibility of traveling there for the NBA Finals in 2021. 

Johnson sent gift baskets and a recorded message to Stephen A. Smith, Molly Qerim and Kendrick Perkins.

"Stephen A., Molly, Kendrick, you had some harsh words about my city last year, and you were wrong about Milwaukee," Johnson said in a recorded message. "You don't know what you're missing. This is a great city."

Johnson told CBS 58 he was defending Milwaukee.

"Look, I think it's important for us to stand up for our city. It's certainly what I was doing when I reached out to the folks at 'First Take,'" Johnson said. 

During the segment, Qerim thanked Johnson for the gift baskets, which included wine, popcorn, cheese, chocolate, sausage, bratwurst, and a T-shirt. 

"We got a handwritten letter, which is very classy. Don't underestimate the power of the handwritten letter," Qerim said. 

Smith wasn't as impressed.

"That is not a great name for a mayor. OK, Cavalier. OK. It is not a great name, OK," Smith said. "But that's neither here nor here. I'm only making fun of him."

Smith said their original comments weren't about the city of Milwaukee, but rather the weather.

"It's just too damn cold most of the year, and I'm not apologizing for that," Smith said.

He went on to say he knows there's plenty of good things about the city.

"I got a whole bunch of friends in Milwaukee, alright. It's a great city, great fan base, great restaurants, okay. Great people, and you have a great superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo, who personifies everything we want our superstars to be on and off the court," Smith said.

Perkins joked that he was intimidated by Johnson's message because he called him by his first name.

"The way to win me over is by sending food," Perkins said.

Smith also complained about the food at Fiserv Forum. 

"I have to say, I wasn't satisfied with their hotdogs. I want some all beef hotdogs, and they didn't have sauerkraut," Smith said. "Get me some beef hotdog with the sauerkraut and we good."

Johnson invited "First Take" to visit Milwaukee during this year's playoff run. 

"We're a city that loves to celebrate. We'll celebrate almost anything in Milwaukee. So, bring 'First Take' to Milwaukee and we'll celebrate that, too," Johnson said in a recorded message. 

Johnson told CBS 58 his invitation is also extended to tourists. 

"People are paying attention to Milwaukee. They're seeing our city. They know that it's a great place, and we want to continue that momentum in the future here," Johnson said.

The gift baskets were sent in partnership with the Milwaukee Bucks and Visit Milwaukee.

"We are thrilled that Mayor Johnson delivered an impactful message to 'First Take' that Milwaukee is a vibrant and fantastic city. It was great to team up with the mayor and Visit Milwaukee to celebrate some of the authentic offerings that make Milwaukee special. We hope to welcome the show to our city during the Playoffs. Go Bucks," Bucks and Fiserv Forum President Peter Feigin said in a statement to CBS 58.

Watch the full segment on ESPN below:

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