Tensions have been running high in the sports journalism world in the wake of the NFL's toothless two-game ban of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice following his arrest for domestic violence in the off-season. In a debate on ESPN's First Take with Skip Bayless this morning, Stephen A. Smith took his thoughts on the matter in a curious direction. (Emphasis ours)
But what I've tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I've done this all my life, let's make sure we don't do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it's law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn't negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let's try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn't happen."
He later added:
We know they're wrong. We know they're criminals. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice's case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there's real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we've got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don't think that's broached enough, is all I'm saying. No point of blame.
This series of points (peppered with condemnations of domestic assault) unsurprisingly didn't go down too well with a lot of people, most notably Smith's ESPN co-worker Michelle Beadle.
So I was just forced to watch this morning's First Take. A) I'll never feel clean again B) I'm now aware that I can provoke my own beating.— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) July 25, 2014
I was in an abusive relationship once. I'm aware that men & women can both be the abuser. To spread a message that we not 'provoke' is wrong— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) July 25, 2014
Violence isn't the victim's issue. It's the abuser's. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) July 25, 2014
Beadle's candid reaction provoked a defensive series of tweets from Smith that he may already be regretting. The rant is too long to summarize here, but can be viewed as his Twitter page. Essentially: Smith is both sorry and annoyed (but more annoyed) that we took his comments the wrong way. Of COURSE he doesn't approve of domestic violence, which he calls "horrific" and "pathetic and stupid."
But...women should still watch out and address "preventative measures" (whatever those are) "because there's only but so much that can be done after the fact." He even addresses one tweet to "any woman out there who misconstrued what I said," which is not going to do him any favors.
This situation continues to develop, and it's unclear what, if anything, ESPN is going to do about it. But Smith's efforts to address his statement have so far been extremely successful in burying him deeper in his own hole.
Update: On Tuesday, ESPN suspended Smith from their TV and radio broadcasts for for one week.