Ray Rice’s suspension has spawned another one.
Stephen A. Smith, who foolishly suggested that women may play a role in provoking illegal violence from the men in their lives and then doubled down on Twitter before finally apologizing via teleprompter, has been suspended for a week by ESPN. He won’t appear on ESPN2’s First Take or ESPN Radio (which he’s leaving for Sirius Mad Dog Radio anyway) until August 6.
“I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we’ve collectively experienced,” ESPN president John Skipper said, via the Associated Press.
While Smith’s apology may have been sincere, it apparently wasn’t a one-time slip of the tongue.
Given that the suspension came four days after the comments were uttered, the suspension likely was the result of a more lengthy and detailed conversation that possibly considered other options. Those options may have included a longer suspension, or maybe a permanent one.
On one hand, stupid opinions and/or good opinions articulated stupidly can be stupid enough to result in tangible employment consequences. On the other hand, the “embrace debate” premise of First Take creates an environment in which stupid opinions and/or good opinions articulated stupidly are encouraged, if not required.
Last year, stupid opinions about Robert Griffin III on First Take got Rob Parker fired. Now, Smith has been suspended and possibly placed on a leash so short that he’ll have to tiptoe on eggshells to avoid stepping on a land mine.
Maybe the problem isn’t Parker or Smith but the show itself. Debate should be authentic and organic. When a network demands that a pair of analysts come up with diametrically opposed and yet equally hot takes on multiple topics per day, it’s somewhat amazing that the format hasn’t claimed more careers.