Stephen A. Smith apologizes for his “provocation” remarks

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On Friday’s edition of First Take, Stephen A. Smith embraced something far more than debate by suggesting in connection with the Ray Rice suspension that female victims of domestic abuse need to be careful to avoid provoking the men in their lives to commit violence.  The comments drew a very strong reaction, including pointed comments on Twitter from ESPN’s Michelle Beadle, who said among other things after watching Friday’s show, “I’ll never feel clean again” and “I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating.”

Smith responded by clumsily attempting to explain himself on Twitter, but in reality digging in deep enough that he eventually deleted the stream of tweets and posted a lengthy apology.

To launch Monday’s edition of First Take, Smith delivered what seemed to be a heartfelt apology, apology while reading from a teleprompter.

“Good morning,” Smith began.  “On Friday, speaking right here on First Take on the subject of domestic violence, I made what can only amount to the most egregious error of my career.  While elaborating on thoughts concerning the NFL’s ruling versus Ray Rice, following a domestic dispute with his then fiancee, 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.  My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault.  This was not my intent.  It is not what I was trying to say.  Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders.  To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement.  To say I was wrong is obvious.  To apologize, to say I’m sorry, doesn’t do the matter its proper justice to be quite honest.”

Based on his grave delivery of that line, I actually wondered whether the next comment would be that he’s stepping down, for a week or a month or forever. That’s not the case.

“But I do sincerely apologize,” Smith continued.  “As a man raised by the greatest mother in the world and four older sisters, I’ve religiously spoken out against domestic violence all of my life.  I’ve done so repeatedly over 20 years in this business, as well as over these very airwaves.  Right here on First Take.  My primary reason for doing so is because I’ve experienced and dealt with the matter within my own family.  Unfortunately, I did an incredibly poor job of asserting my point of view last Friday.  For that, again, I am truly, truly sorry.  Particularly to victims of domestic abuse and to my female family members and loved ones I’ve disappointed and who know I know better, you all deserved a better professional and quite frankly a better man last Friday sitting on this very set, in this very chair.  My heartfelt apologies to each and every one of you.”

Smith paused and looked down for dramatic effect before saying “in this very chair,” which made me think of another guy who said something stupid about Donovan McNabb in one of the various chairs at ESPN roughly 11 years ago.  That guy was dumped.  Smith wasn’t.

While the situations may be distinguishable in many ways, ESPN has shown a hair trigger in the past when it comes to suspending on-air talent for a week or two.  Smith apparently won’t be suspended or otherwise disciplined.

“We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic,” ESPN said in a statement released after Smith’s on-air apology.  “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.”

We’ll leave it for others to argue whether Smith should or shouldn’t be fired or suspended.  But his remarks were clearly wrong.  When it comes to domestic violence, there’s no “last straw” that justifies an attack.  Disengage from the argument.  Run away, to a stream of insults if need be.  Assume a defensive posture as a last resort.  But find a way out before it ever gets to the point where anyone could even begin to think that the actions of another justify something like an uppercut to the chin.

105 responses to “Stephen A. Smith apologizes for his “provocation” remarks

  1. You’d have to be deaf dumb and blind to not realize what his motivations were in his initial statements… It’s as plain as day

  2. ABC knows it was an uppercut that did Rice’s wife in? If it was a right cross then he might have received 4 games?

    Steven- Go away.

  3. I personally know Stephen A. Smith’s baby mama (not something I’m necessarily proud of) — let’s just say this guy is a piece of work on and off camera.

  4. You use a lot of quotes there, but left out the most important one.

    Stephen A. Smith should be referred to as on air “talent”.

  5. And yet STILL no video evidence of an “uppercut to the chin” or any punch at all.

    Video just disappeared? Plenty of videos get out to public, but THIS ONE can’t be found anywhere?

    Just Obama trying to distract y’all.

  6. he should leave because he is terrible, a racist, screams too loud for no reason, generally gives me a headache and I change the station as soon as I hear his voice, not a very good reporter and said a horribly stupid thing about women.

  7. I now have epic respect for Michelle Beadle for calling him , one of ESPNs golden boys, out! I am over Smit and his ego, his over use of big words, and his overblown opinions!
    I sat there Friday hoping he would be suspended or he would step down, But like Ray Rice….he just had to get a slap on the wrist….

  8. Dating back to his first words, every comment Stephen A. Smith has ever made was a provocation.

  9. To even think that a Pro-football player would not be able to (as a last resort) control the situation without resorting to violence is….

    well… I am not able to come up with an appropriate phrase…

    Hell, as an out of shape 54 year old man I am able to avoid actually harming a woman in an argument.

    Striking back at a woman is just not right….

  10. Ok so now that he admits that he was wrong and has apologized, can he get back to explaining what he was “trying to say”? It’s probably wise though to say that line of the apology piece was also a mistake, unless he’s got a really good way of putting what he was “trying to say”.

    I’d say fire him unless he apologizes for what “trying to say” insinuates which is that his original point is still valid if only he said it a little more precisely of which he still hasn’t done but is privately thinking.

  11. If you’re physically attacked by your spouse, don’t you have the right to physically defend yourself?

    No one would berate a woman for fighting back against a man who was attacking her.

  12. Why would they suspend him? They pay him to make stupid, controversial remarks. To be the counterpoint on whatever argument he’s a part of. This is what they want from him. It’s also why I never watch ESPN anymore.

  13. Stephen A Smith is one of the biggest buffoons on tv. He tries to talk while showing all this ridiculous uneeded emotion and facial expressions (Just like Warren Sapp). And don’t get me started on Skip Bayless. First Take is a joke.

  14. He needs to be properly educated so he can overcome the “blame the victim” mentality. This is just another reason why sports fans should ignore his work.

  15. Never liked Stephen A Smith from the first day I heard him run his mouth. To people who don’t think for themselves he sounds like he’s knowledgable and articulate, for those who think for themselves-he’s a jackass!

  16. This guy is the biggest sanctimonious jerk ever to be handed a microphone and allowed to air his opinion.
    I don’t know who I dislike more. Smith or Cosell back in the day.
    Let the station owners give us a vote on whether to keep this guy. Even if he stays… I am sure he wouldn’t be humbled. Maybe next time he will open his mouth big enough to fit both his shoes in. And that might shut him up.

  17. Smith is a great NBA reporter. He usually has the right connections to get the facts about trades and so on.

    Otherwise, he’s an old fashioned loudmouthed radio talk show host, a descendant of Pete Franklin, cousin to Mad Dog Russo, the sports version of a Rush Limbaugh. And like those people, he is going to say something stupid every so often. And probably generate higher ratings in the process. Odds are he isn’t going to vanish from the scene till the public stops watching or listening.

  18. The irony of people citing freedom of speech and the lack of understanding that it applies to both the one who asserts his opinion as well as those who judge him for it–is awesome.

    Keep at it humblemind!

  19. This is why I only tune to the four-letter for live games, college game day, and most of the 30 for 30’s.

  20. He made mistake, he got destroyed on social media for it, and he has stood up and apologized. He didn’t run from it, he didn’t try to minimize it, he owned out. He made a monumental mistake and he is taking 100% ownership as a man should. We all make horrible mistakes in our lives, I’m proud of Mr. Smith for being responsible enough to not hide from it.

    Now if ESPN wants to suspend him I will be ok with that. If they want to fire him, I’m good with that as well.

  21. Lets look back to something that recently occurred and what his reaction was to it.
    After Donald Sterling offered that apology for his comments regarding Magic Johnson, I do believe Stephen A. Smith did not accept the apology and demanded that Sterling be banished from the NBA because he’s a racist. No matter the apology, he was holding Sterling to his words from the recording.
    Well Stephen A. Smith, it’s time you live by your own words. It’s time ESPN fires you and you should never be allowed to work in the sports industry ever again.
    You can’t have it both ways. If what you say is what you are, well then you’re a person who believes that it’s the woman’s fault for the beating.
    We all know how ESPN was all over the Sterling matter. I’m going to be very interested to see how ESPN reacts to Smith’s comments.
    Yeah, we all know what’s not coming.
    The double standard continues.

  22. Another case of Hold Up, Lemme Say What’s Really On My Mind!

    (2 Days Later)

    I apologize for my behavior, I’ve never thought about that in my entire life, I’ve been raised knowing that’s not true, but my mouth “got the best of me” in the heat of the moment. Surely I didn’t mean to have such a crazy stance on something during a heated discussion where opposing viewpoints were encouraged. Please don’t shun me, America.

  23. Smith is an ijit – not good enough for idiots. I always love the “trying to say” remarks, always from the source or an apologist. Just a stupid, stupid phrase, “trying to say.”

  24. Screamin’ A. Smith. He is one of many reasons I stopped watching the four letter network, but clearly, one of the biggest. He’s as obnoxious as they come. And I’ve met him.

  25. Worse case scenario, you’re stuck in a confined space with a woman who is physically attacking you and you’re as strong as Ray Rice, you can physically restrain her in a bear hug. Never does an knock out punch become the answer.

  26. I for one can’t watch him or Bayless so I only read about his statements. It’s my understanding he’s signed a contract with Sirrius Radio and thus no longer ESPN’S problem; GOOD RIDDANCE!

  27. As my very intelligent wife says about women in general, ‘equality, unless it’s to my advantage to be a victim’.

  28. Freedom of speech is allowed..just like companies are free to fire or suspend employees for doing dumb things. Sorry if us “humbleminded” people have a problem with someone who stopped just short of promoting domestic violence.

  29. How is First Take still on? I know no one who watches that junk. Unless a lot are secretly watching it, along with other shows nobody watches (Glee).

  30. I can’t stand the guy. Think he should be fired for poor TV and personality skills.
    But, to fire someone hired to state his opinion on a TV show, geared towards people stating opinions, is just stupid.
    Sure his opinion is inane or was presented unclearly (again see above as to why he should be fired). But if ESPN has to ‘like’ the opinions, in essence clearing them, the show is no longer one about people stating their opinion.

  31. smiths a buffoon and a parody of himself. he’s a breathing SNL skit and an idiot.

    rice’s wife, and no women provoke anything more than debate and conversation. ever.

    dump him…sure there’s a million blowhards lined up to replace him

  32. Oh and that guy who got fired for the stupid comment about McNabb, wasn’t talking about McNabb. It was about how a specific segment of people treated McNabb.

  33. What Stephen A said was very stupid and dumb. But you guys that are bashing first take know very well you watch first take and will continue to.

  34. This dude needs face some repercussions and pronto!!! Being politically correct is one thing but these thoughts and sentiments coming out of this dude mouths have been the same for years!! The dude is pure hate.

  35. Steven A along with Skip Baseless are a worn out schtick that need to go. Its bad enough witnessing the non-stop blabbering of Lebron and Tebow now it has just gotten stupid and hypocritical.

  36. The rule that all men should live by is never hit a woman under any circumstances. If the woman is being verbally abusive or hits the man, the man should leave.

    Any woman who feels like she should be worried not to provoke a man incase he hits her should find another man immediately.

  37. so he’s sorry we all misunderstood him? how is that an apology?

    sounds like he thinks he’s sorry we’re not bright enough to know what he really meant…which is more of a backhanded insult than an apology imo

  38. Apparently ESPN didn’t view this offensive enough to fire him. You the viewer have a choice to bash him online, stop watching ESPN or first take.

  39. I think it’s pretty sad and frankly, awful that it took all weekend for him to be persuaded to apologize for his words. I don’t think his apology is at all genuine and I’m sure he’ll say something again in the future that will cause a backlash.

  40. This guy is but one example of the weak so called “talent” on ESPN. The whole network is filled with guys who frequently open their mouth thinking that they are the greatest sages in sports. Bayless, Hodge, Jaworski, etc. The truth is that they are nothing but irritating clowns who offer nothing in the way of valuable information or analysis.

    They just like to hear themselves talk. Steven A is simply the ring leader.

  41. Hmmm…Don Imus apologized in person for making a JOKE and was fired. Stephen A stated an actual belief of his and nothing happens. Its called racism.

  42. I Know I am in the minority here but I don’t think he had anything to apologize for. Maybe I just interpreted what he said differently than those who have been bashing him. I do not condone hitting women and I don’t think he does either.

    I think all he was trying to say is that when people are obviously irritated/agitated/mad, that is not the time to get in their face to make your point. Back off and let things cool down rather than provoking a regrettable incident. What is wrong with saying that? It seems like common sense to me. I am not saying that women who get beat deserve it. There is no excuse for that, but some of those women could have avoided the altercation but chose to make it worse and then got hit. The guy is still in the wrong but the woman chose not to avoid it.

  43. Why is it so wrong to assume that sometimes women start fights? It happens all the time? The man should always resist returning the favor, but to ignore the fact that there are, in fact circumstances where the woman is the aggressor is naive. This could very well be the case w Rice and his wife. And before you say it, me saying this doesn’t mean that I am blaming victims in other situations. I recognize that the PC police will kill me for this

  44. whats funny is that he was actually right in what he said

    how is janay rice not at least partially to blame for this incident if it happened like whats being reported?

    sure ray could have probably subdued her or pushed her away until he got out of the elevator, but you know what would have guaranteed Janay not getting KOd??? how about not elevating the situation to violence in the first place??

    we don’t ask police officers to shoot bad guys in the legs, you wanna act like a man don’t get mad when youre treated like one

    ray rice makes millions off his body he cant gamble with the 1 in a million freak chances of him getting hurt from some crazy drunk girl

  45. I think all he was trying to say is that when people are obviously irritated/agitated/mad, that is not the time to get in their face to make your point. Back off and let things cool down rather than provoking a regrettable incident. What is wrong with saying that? It seems like common sense to me. I am not saying that women who get beat deserve it. There is no excuse for that, but some of those women could have avoided the altercation but chose to make it worse and then got hit. The guy is still in the wrong but the woman chose not to avoid it.
    ——————————

    Bingo. This is the same advice any human being should live by. As a man, I don’t provoke fights with anyone and I do so by doing exactly what you describe.

    He’s not victim blaming here, he is just trying to give the victim advice on how to avoid confrontation. If your angry husband is raging mad, don’t get into his face and start pointing at/shoving him.

    I get it that many domestic conflicts are unavoidable and many women truly are being beaten for no good reason, but there are also situations that happen that could be avoided…his message was to the latter folks.

  46. If we don’t think provocation is part of DV then we have a much bigger problem. Yes it’s a sensitive subject that will draw an emotional response, as it did here, but to snuff it out with a scripted apology for PR reasons is not the answer.

  47. If ESPN should stand up and take Smith off the air for a month. He is always allowed to apologize and all is well.

  48. The message — which only Cari Champion got — was that if you initiate domestic violence by striking a person first, it can provoke retaliation back to you. So Cari Champion said no violence should be tolerated from men OR women. It was his use of the word “provoked” that provoked Beadle.

    I will state up front I am an SAS fan. That being said, ESPN would NOT keep him OR the show if the ratings weren’t sufficient. In addition, have you noted the impressive list of celebs from all venues that “love” the show and “always” wanted to come on to debate? You haters are in the minority so just accept it and continue not to watch. I personally will never watch Michelle Beadle again but I realize that matters to no one.

  49. When are “sports people” going to realize that they should stick to sports and leave the social issue commentaries to others?
    I couldn’t care less about who is or who isn’t gay, or who is or isn’t racist, or who is or isn’t offended by a team’s nickname.
    Bottom line: The woman who Rice beat up, married him a month later. If she’s good with that, so am I.
    Stop the nonsense.
    Stick to sports.

  50. watermelon1 says:
    Jul 28, 2014 10:53 AM
    And yet STILL no video evidence of an “uppercut to the chin” or any punch at all.

    Video just disappeared? Plenty of videos get out to public, but THIS ONE can’t be found anywhere?

    Just Obama trying to distract y’all.
    *****************
    I call Stephen A. Smith, Oswald Bates and can barely tolerate listening to his arguments. They rarely are sound. But you guys citing Obama, Imus, Rush Limp Paw, racist, etc. are very funny.

    It’s amazing how bigots find a way to work either Obama or Geno Smith into every post, no matter what the subject may be.

  51. CKL says:
    Jul 28, 2014 1:18 PM

    This is actually a better apology than Rice’s.

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    Report comment

    mburkett1980 says:
    Jul 28, 2014 1:22 PM

    I think all he was trying to say is that when people are obviously irritated/agitated/mad, that is not the time to get in their face to make your point. Back off and let things cool down rather than provoking a regrettable incident. What is wrong with saying that? It seems like common sense to me. I am not saying that women who get beat deserve it. There is no excuse for that, but some of those women could have avoided the altercation but chose to make it worse and then got hit. The guy is still in the wrong but the woman chose not to avoid it.
    ——————————

    Bingo. This is the same advice any human being should live by. As a man, I don’t provoke fights with anyone and I do so by doing exactly what you describe.

    He’s not victim blaming here, he is just trying to give the victim advice on how to avoid confrontation. If your angry husband is raging mad, don’t get into his face and start pointing at/shoving him.

    I get it that many domestic conflicts are unavoidable and many women truly are being beaten for no good reason, but there are also situations that happen that could be avoided…his message was to the latter folks

    Neanderthals!

  52. Also, I used to like Beadle because I thought she was an anti drama queen woman. I see I am wrong. She seriously feels unclean after some on air words by another person? No one can make you feel any type of way with mere words unless you give them that power. So she’s just a garden variety drama queen after all. That makes me sad.

  53. In full disclosure, I can’t stand Stephen A. Smith. He’s a professional provocateur and the fact that his bosses made him apologize is laughable considering that they know exactly what he is and obviously condone his approach by having him on the air.

    That being said, is there the tiniest possibility that underneath all the nonsense he might have a point here?

    In no way am I condoning a man striking a woman, ever. Please don’t misunderstand.

    But I’ve seen plenty of women (and was married to one once) that positively got off by trying their darndest into getting their boyfriend/husband so upset to the point of resorting to physical violence. That’s a scary combination when the boyfriend/husband in question is a professional athlete with more testosterone than blood.

    I know it’s not P.C. to state or imply that there’s a problem in some cases with women’s behavior when it comes to domestic violence. Any acknowledgement of that problem is automatically (and wrongly) viewed as tacit approval of male on female violence even though it’s not. But for once, I have to say that there’s a small part of me that does understand where Stephen is coming from.

  54. CKL says:
    Jul 28, 2014 1:51 PM

    Also, I used to like Beadle because I thought she was an anti drama queen woman. I see I am wrong. She seriously feels unclean after some on air words by another person? No one can make you feel any type of way with mere words unless you give them that power. So she’s just a garden variety drama queen after all. That makes me sad.

    Your posting makes me sad. She has been the victim of abuse so who would be more appropriate to comment? Lets use this analogy. A 6th grader beats up a 2nd grader (size difference man vs woman) because the 2nd grader antagonizes him and people try to justify and minimize it saying you don’t know the whole story. I and anyone with half a brain knows there is no justifying it unless you have some caveman mentality.

  55. garyridgway says: Jul 28, 2014 10:56 AM
    He and Skip Bayless are shock jocks and I have no time for that garbage. I flip the channel if either of those clowns are on TV.
    ————————————————-
    I do the same. ESPN should take a poll as to how many of their viewers choose not to watch either of these two. Perhaps that would get them off the air permanently.

  56. “I do the same. ESPN should take a poll as to how many of their viewers choose not to watch either of these two. Perhaps that would get them off the air permanently.”

    What makes you think they don’t have that information? Most of the times the show is going over and over the same news, especially this time of year. If it were not getting enough viewers, it wouldn’t be on.

  57. Stephen A is a total joke! He talks like the next comment he makes is the most important thing in the world. He and along with his side kick “useless” just plain suck. Do what I do, change the channel when they come on or even better, don’t watch ESPN unless a game is on. Their programming is horrible!

  58. If Stephen A. gets fired for commenting on Ray Rice’s situation, regardless of how wrong his comments were, then Ray Rice himself, the man who actually hit a female and dragged her unconscious body out an elevator, deserves to be kicked out the NFL…simple as that.

  59. S A S and Skippy are just as lame as the idiots on NFL NETWORK ….. Over played media is horrible ….. Watch the games then wait for the next one

  60. Rush Limbaugh’s comments on how many in the media treat McNabb was accurate and right on the mark. He said nothing wrong. As far as violence against women. I don’t care if your a man or a woman. If you assault me or my family members you will be pummeled.

  61. Can someone please explain to me what was so wrong about his remarks?
    I mean surely he could’ve articulated the message better, but the main message is understandable. He said it’s better if women don’t provoke their men to be violent. I am sure that this message applies vice versa as well, men should try not to provoke their women to be violent. Everyone is backlashing him by stating things like “i can’t believe he would create an excuse for violence” or “he should be fired for blaming women and for thinking violence is acceptable”. He is not saying it is an excuse or that it is acceptable, in your response please do not use those words. I plead to the many bloggers who are criticizing him, to please explain to me in a coherent way why his words are so criticizable? Is it not common sense that it is better not to provoke others for your own safety? If you see a buff guy you don’t know with his girlfriend, is it not wise to never say something like, “waow your girl has a nice behind, I’d like to tap that”, as this would maybe provoke him to attack you? So please explain to me why is it wrong to say people shouldn’t provoke others for their own safety? I say “people” and not women, because if we’re going to criticize him for his statement, we should not make this a sexist conversation. In the rice scenario, the woman was hit so that’s why he was sending a message to women. But i don’t think it is fair to assume he would not say the same to men.

  62. I don’t believe Stephen A. really said any of this. Nowhere in his statement did he try to use the work antidisestablishmentarianism in the context of sports. Perhaps electropalatography could help his indecipherability?

  63. He wasn’t fired for one simple reason…..

    ESPN began as a Sports Entertainment Programming network who aired anything that closely resembled sports. They fought and scratched to land big time sports. Over time the network was successful in one by one trading in demolition derbies and lumberjack competitions for real mainstream sports like those with letters in front of their names:MLB, NHL,NBA,NFL….not to mention a treasure trove of NCAA sports.

    All along the way they did something else….they went ALL IN on developing “on air” talent…..promoting those who READ the nightly sports in much the same way as PT Barnum might have. What we now have is a network that lost it’s hunger, a network that forgot the most important lesson of them all……NOONE is bigger than the game.

    Today, that’s what we have……Sports Readers who have been groomed to be “larger” than the game they read to us about each day. Personalities who have bought in with hook, line and sinker……the adage that they themselves are the reason we tune in.

    Unfortunately, the list is long of those who are guilty as charged…..those who have bought in to the hype…those who have embraced the E in ESPN at the expense of the most important letter of all……the S.

    Steven A. Smith is just one byproduct of a Network that lost it’s way.

  64. Let the man live . Donald Sterling still owns the Clippers people . Stephen A is a good man who tries to make himself better every day . I respect his work ethic & his views . Make him attend some rally’s & foundations against domestic violence & call it a day . It’s not like he actually hit a woman . Ray Rice should be on the hotseat .

  65. Just hard to figure him out. Two weeks ago, he makes a great statement calling out Josh Gordon for screwing up his opportunity to be in the NFL, overcome the odds, blah blah blah. Of course he uses himself as the paragon of virtue in the same speech. Now he completely screws up himself. Yes, he should be fired. if the playing field is really level, which we all know it isn’t when it comes to big media. And this is why sports reporters should stay in their lane.

  66. ESPN First Take is one of the better shows on SC. You people have nothing better to do but to strongly criticise a well educated person (Steven A. Smith) for something that wasn’t really that big of a deal. Sure, he mad a mistake because he didn’t clarify what he really meant, but he and skip (who i can’t stand sometimes) are brilliant at what they do. True, a man should not hit a woman, but if a woman hit a man (depending on how hard) then she might need a uppercut.

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