Women provoke abuse? ESPN Stephen Smith suspended after apology

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(Credit: Text Added, Photo via Twitter)

ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith apologized on air yesterday for suggesting women “provoke” assault, The Guardian reported.

An ESPN spokesperson just emailed iMediaEthics a statement: “ESPN announced today that Stephen A. Smith will not appear on First Take or ESPN Radio for the next week. He will return to ESPN next Wednesday.”

Smith’s sexist comments were made during ESPN’s First Take program discussing the two-game suspension of NFL player Ray Rice. Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ running back, was punished by the NFL for being arrested on a charge of assaulting his wife earlier this year, NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk reported.

During that July 25 discussion, Smith said that people need to discuss “the elements of provocation” to help “prevent the situation from happening.”

He added,

“What I’ve tried to employ [to] the female members of my family … is … 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.”

Watch his on-air comments July 25.


Smith apologized on air yesterday after criticism of his comments.  He admitted he “did an incredibly poor job of asserting my point of view.”

He called it “the most egregious error of my career.”

Smith explained,  “I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman’s role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word ‘provoke’ in my diatribe.”  He added that he didn’t mean for people to think assault was the “woman’s fault.”

Smith went on,

“To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious. To apologise, to say I’m sorry, doesn’t do the matter its proper justice, to be quite honest. But I do sincerely apologise.”

Watch his full apology below.

Before his on-air apology yesterday, Smith walked back his comments on Twitter Friday.  In a TwitLonger post, he said he wanted to “more appropriately and effectively clarify my remarks.”  He said he understands why people were upset about what he said and confirm he doesn’t think it’s “OK to put your hands on a woman.”

“I do NOT believe a woman provokes the horrible domestic abuses that are sadly such a major problem in our society,” Smith wrote. “I wasn’t trying to say that or even imply it when I was discussing my own personal upbringing and the important role the women in my family have played in my life. I understand why my comments could be taken another way. I should have done a better job articulating my thoughts and I sincerely apologize.”

iMediaEthics is writing to ESPN for comment.

Below, see tweeters’ response to Smith’s comments.











UPDATE: 7/29/2014 12:28 PM EST

An ESPN spokesperson told iMediaEthics by e-mail that Smith “planned” to apologize and ESPN “supported” it.  ESPN also issued a statement about Smith’s comments. See below:

“We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view. As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.”


UPDATE:  5:27PM EST: An ESPN statement was added

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Women provoke abuse? ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith suspended after apology

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