ESPN Suspends Stephen A. Smith Over Ray Rice Comments

Posted: Jul 29 2014, 9:44pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Sports News

ESPN Suspends Stephen A. Smith Over Ray Rice Comments
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ESPN suspended "First Take" mainstay Stephen A. Smith on July 29 for his comments on the Ray Rice controversy.

ESPN suspended Stephen A. Smith on July 29 for his comments on the Ray Rice controversy and domestic violence.

According to a press release issued by ESPN, Smith will serve a one-week suspension and will not appear on ESPN 2's First Take and ESPN Radio during that span:

"ESPN has announced that commentator Stephen A. Smith will not be appearing on ESPN2's 'First Take' or on ESPN Radio for the next week. He will return Aug. 6.

"In a statement to employees released Tuesday, ESPN president John Skipper said the following:

"'As many of you know, there has been substantial news coverage in the past few days releated to to comments Stephen A. made last Friday in the wake of the NFL's decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games following charges of assaulting his then fiancee, now wife, a few months ago.

"'We've said publicly and in this space that those remarks did not reflect our company's point of view or our values. They certainly don't reflect my personal beliefs.

"'We have been engaged in thoughtful discussion about appropriate next steps. Those conversations have involved a diverse group of women and men in our company. Our women's (employee resource group) has added to the conversation, and going forward, I know they will help us continue constructive discussion on this and related issues.

"'Stephen has called what took place 'the most egregious mistake' of his career. I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we've collectively experienced. I'm confident we will all move forward with a greater sense of enlightenment and perspective as the lasting impact of these last few days. I want to thank all those whose thoughts have contributed along the way.'"

The New York Times' Richard Sandomir weighed in on Smith's comments in his July 28 article:

"ESPN is such a colossus that it was big news when Michelle Beadle challenged Stephen A. Smith over his misguided remarks on Friday about domestic violence. They are ESPN stars, with nearly three million Twitter followers between them. The ESPN ecosystem is such that any misstep by any of its boldface names can start a digital storm, even if the subject is inane -- or Tim Tebow.

"Domestic violence is anything but silly, though it is difficult to discuss intelligently on a sports debate show like 'First Take' on ESPN2 or without an expert or a victim to provide experience and balance. But Smith was riffing Friday on 'First Take,' on which he and Skip Bayless are the loudmouthed commentators. Smith was discussing the N.F.L's two-game suspension of Ray Rice over allegations that he beat his fiancee, now his wife, in a casino elevator, and Smith suggested that women should avoid provoking men into assaulting them.

"Staking out a position for a longer punishment for Rice is not brave. Anyone could see that N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell had been too lenient. But then Smith went verbally reckless.

"'In Ray Rice's case, he probably deserves more than a two-game suspension, which we both acknowledged,' he said, as Bayless nodded. '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' -- at this point, without letting him finish his sentence as he delved into amateur forensics, you had to wonder which 'elements' he was talking about, when women should accept responsibility for being victimized and why those elements do not add up to 'real provocation.'

"Beadle, who can be tart, funny and challenging on Twitter, responded at first by writing: '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.' Then she posted: 'I'm thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend...I'd hate to think what I'd be asking for by doing so @stephenasmith. #dontprovoke.'

"And then: '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.'

"This was bold stuff that probably violates ESPN's internal social media policy, which warns employees against making personal attacks on one another. But Beadle is unlikely to be disciplined because she offered such bracing and smart responses.

"Smith did not help himself when he responded, wondering why his words had been misconstrued but blaming himself for not being more articulate. 'But be clear,' he wrote. 'I wasn't BLAMING women for anything. I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventive purposes. Period.'"

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The Author

Poch de la Rosa follows all major U.S. sports: NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL and the NCAA. His favorite teams are the Colts, Braves, Pacers, Sharks and Irish, respectively.




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