Sports commentator Stephen A. Smith is known for telling it like it is, but he damn near put his foot in his mouth earlier today when he tackled the Ray Rice drama on First Take. The sports world was turned on its head this week when it was announced that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice would only receive a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy over a domestic violence incident with his wife, Janay Palmer. In February, the couple were involved in an altercation at an Atlantic City hotel when Janay allegedly spit on Ray and he retaliated by punching her so hard, it knocked her out cold. Footage later surfaced online which showed the Ravens player dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator. At a press conference the couple held to address the incident weeks later, Janay said that she deeply regretted the role she played in the domestic violence incident, which sent social media into an uproar.
While tackling the subject of domestic violence on First Take, Stephen also ruffled some feathers when he said the conversation about DV shouldn't just stop at men. He says men should never put their hands on a woman, but in order to truly prevent physical altercations, we also have to talk women about how not to provoke the situation.
We keep talking about the guys. We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don't know how many times I gotta reiterate that. But as a man who was raised by women
...see, I know what I'm gon' do if somebody touches a female member of my family. I know what I'm gon' do. I know what my boys are gon' do. I'm gon' have to remind myself that I work for the worldwide leader. I'm gonna have to get law enforcement officials involved because of what I'm gonna be tempted to do.
But what I've tried to implore the female members of my family -- some of whom you've all met and talked to -- is that, again, I've done this all my life...let's not do anything to provoke wrong actions. If I come or somebody else comes whether it's law enforcement, your brothers, 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've already put their hands on you. So let's try and make sure that we can do our part in making sure that doesn't happen.
You've got some dudes that are just horrible and they're going to do it anyway. There's never an excuse to put your hands on a woman. But domestic violence or whatever the case may be with men putting their hands on women, is obviously a very real issue in our society. I think just talking about what guys shouldn't do, we also have to make sure that [women] can do [their] part in doing whatever they can to make sure it doesn't happen. We know they're wrong. We know they're criminal. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice's case, he probably deserves more than the two-game suspension which we've 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've got to make sure that you address them because what we've got to do is do what we can to try and prevent the situation from happening in any way, and I don't think that's broached enough.
There was immediate backlash on social media from people saying Stephen needed to stop blaming the victims and look to the abuser, so to further explain his position he hopped on Twitter to say people took his comments the wrong way.
This will be a long tweeted message, folks. So please stay with me and let me finish my complete thought before responding...b/c i'm ANNOYED. In discussing the Ray Rice ruling earlier today on @ESPN_FirstTake, me and @RealSkipBayless ventured into discussing domestic violence. Upon hearing what I had to say, although admitting I could've been more articulate on the matter, let me be clear: I don't understand how on earth someone could interpret that I somehow was saying women are to blame for domestic violence. And when I saw @MichelleDBeadle -- a colleague I have profound respect for -- tweet what she tweeted, enough is enough. Something needs to be said right now. REPEATEDLY i said: There is absolutely no excuse to put your hands on a women. REPEATEDLY, I said dudes who do that need to be dealt with. REPEATEDLY, I echoed when confronted by it in the past -- when someone was stupid enough to touch a loved one of this man, raised by 4 older sisters, a mom and numerous female relatives and loved ones, that man was dealt with. From that point, I simply asked: now what about the other side. If a man is pathetic and stupid enough to put his hands on a woman -- which I have NEVER DONE, btw -- of course he needs to pay the price. Who on earth is denying that? But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them? In no way was I accusing a women of being wrong. I was simply saying what that preventive measures always need to be addressed because there's only but so much that can be done after the fact....once the damage is already done. Nothing more. My apologies to @MichelleDBeadle and any woman out there who misconstrued what I said. I have always -- and will always -- find violence against a women every bit as horrific as women, themselves, find it. Always have. Always will, which my personal behavior exemplifies. I'll strive to be more articulate in the future. But be clear, I wasn't BLAMING women for anything. I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventative purposes, period."
Twitter lit up with outrage and the feelings were certainly mixed:
Charlamagne Tha God:Stephen A. Smith didn't say what y'all accusing him of saying but I'm sleep tho.....
Lizz Winstead: Stephen A Smith explains he wasn't *blaming* women for getting assaulted, he just wants you to make sure you aren't asking for it.
Craig Calcaterra: .
@stephenasmith My daughter is 10. Is it too early to have the "how not to provoke men into beating you up" talk with her? Or should I wait?
@stephenasmith is not alone. Millions of women face police officers, prosecutors + judges who buy into victim blaming.
Caitlin Kelly: .
@stephenasmith can you please elaborate on the "elements of provocation" that I should avoid, so as not to be beaten unconscious by men?
The big diss, of course, came from ESPN's Michelle Beadle:
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. I'm thinking about wearing a miniskirt this weekend...I'd hate to think what I'd be asking for by doing so
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. Violence isn't the victim's issue. It's the abuser's. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting. Walk. Away.
Watch Stephen explain his stance below:
And here's the disturbing hotel video of Ray dragging Janay out of the elevator after he knocked her out cold.
By the way, whether you agree or disagree with Stephen A. Smith, his stance on the subject of domestic violence isn't anything new. Back in 2012, after Chad was jailed for headbutting Evelyn, Stephen argued on First Take:
“I don't condone any man for putting his hand on a woman, I have never put my hands on a woman and I never will. [...] Chad Johnson to some degree put himself in this situation for a multitude of reasons. Number 1, the constant need to bring attention to himself, but number 2, and more importantly, [...]who he married. Let's just call it what it is. I do not know Evelyn Lozada…I've never met her and maybe she is a wonderful woman. This is 5 weeks in and you already in the news? You got a reality show that's debuting, You already taped most of that. All I have to lean on, for some degree…..I’m looking at reality TV and the character she plays and the way that she conducts herself on TV.”