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ESPN has suspended Stephen A. Smith from its TV and radio airwaves for a week following his controversial comments about Baltimore running back Ray Rice’s wife, according to Sports Illustrated.
The NFL’s two-game suspension of Rice was already a hotly debated topic and Smith threw gasoline on the fire, suggesting on “First Take” that Rice’s then-fiancée Janay Palmer could have done something to prevent last year’s alleged domestic violence incident in an Atlantic City elevator.
“What I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family — some of who you all met and talked to and what have you — is that … 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.”
Most notably, Smith’s ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle drew attention to Smith’s insensitive commentary.
Soon afterward, Smith unleashed another ill-conceived rant on Twitter during his first attempt at an apology, reiterating in response to Beadle on Friday, “But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them? In no way was I accusing 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.”
Given the weekend for a Third Take, Smith reformed his apology on the air Monday.
“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,” Smith said. “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.”
That apology wasn’t enough to avoid suspension from his employer. ESPN president John Skipper issued a memorandum to the company’s employees obtained by SI’s Richard Deitsch.
“As many of you know, there has been substantial news coverage in the past few days related 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 fiancée, 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.”
Skipper further explained the decision to suspend Smith until Aug. 6 came as the result of discussions with ESPN’s women’s employee resource group.
ESPN currently broadcasts Monday Night Football, and for those counting at home Smith’s suspension is just one week shy of Rice’s.