Three days after his controversial statements about Ray Rice and domestic violence, Stephen A. Smith was back on ESPN2, making a solemn three-minute apology at the start of First Take before the program oddly transitioned into a discussion about LeBron James.
The original ONTD post on this matter
“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 in a taped segment at the top of the show, referencing his comments that seemed to suggest women provoke men into domestic violence.
“My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault,” he said. “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.”
Smith was measured, rational and articulate in making his apology, everything he wasn’t last week when he tried to explain his thoughts on the Rice suspension. He apologized to victims of domestic abuse, as well as his mother and sisters. “You deserved a better man last Friday,” he said.
This was the right apology — the one he should have made on Friday afternoon instead of digging himself deeper with a lengthy Twitter rant that came across as defiant. This wasn’t perfect though, by any means. The apology was taped, which made it feel rehearsed. Smith got himself into trouble talking on a live microphone, he should have to apologize on one too.
He also never truly said what he was apologizing for, other than casually mentioning his use of “provoke.” He mentioned that he was trying to articulate something different with his comments, but never attempted to explain what that was. The more specific the apology, the better.
Still, it was good enough for ESPN. Minutes after Smith’s segment was aired, the network released a statement saying the analyst wouldn’t be suspended:
“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.”
After Smith finished, Cari Champion, the show’s under-utilized host who is often relegated to playing referee between Smith and Skip Bayless, looked as if she was going to engage Smith in a serious discussion. She accepted Smith’s apology, but talked about his use of trigger words such as “provoke.”
But instead of allowing Champion to “embrace debate,” as the show’s tagline promotes, First Take quickly cut to a live discussion about LeBron James, a bizarre disconnect from the seriousness of the opening. Why not have Champion and Smith talk about Rice’s suspension? Why not advance their discussion about domestic violence? How about truly embracing debate and bringing on Michelle Beadle, who showed on Friday she’s not afraid to stand up for what she believes, even if that means taking on colleagues. By changing the subject, First Take seemed to be saying “we’re only a sports show.” That’s fine, but not when you spent Friday trying, and failing, to be something more.
Sources: 1 & 2