In a Friday discussion on First Take about Ray Rice's controversial two-game suspension, Stephen A. Smith went off the rails, delivering a rant that implied some women are to blame for domestic violence.
Smith started off his discussion with Skip Bayless by saying men "have no business putting [their] hands on a woman." It was everything First Take isn't: concise, definitive and unequivocal.
But Smith didn't stop there. He continued, going on a rambling, circuitous rant that seemed to suggest violence is sometimes warranted if it's provoked. Even for the unrefined First Take, with its bluster, manufactured controversy and complete lack of nuance, this was over the line.
"We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don't know how many times I got to reiterate that. But as a man who was raised by women, see I know what I'm going to do if somebody touches a female member of my family. I know what I'm going to do, I know what my boys are going to do. I know what, I'm going to have to remind myself that I work for the Worldwide Leader, I'm going to have to get law enforcement officials involved because of what I'm going to be tempted to do. But 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 again, and this what, I've done this all my life, 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. So let's try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn't happen."
Chalk up some of it to the perils of being on live television without a net. Smith goes around and around before getting to his point. You can almost hear the regret while he's delivering the kicker. He quickly tries to backtrack, but only manages to dig himself in deeper, even while acknowledging Rice deserves more than his two-game suspension.
"Now you got some dudes that are just horrible and they're going to do it anyway, and 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, real issue in our society. And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn't do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn't happen. We know they're wrong. We know they're criminals. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice's case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we 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 got to make sure that you address them, because we've got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don't think that's broached enough, is all I'm saying. No point of blame."
Somewhere buried under all those words is a real discussion. Unfortunately, it's entirely obscured by the larger message — the tone-deaf observation that women shouldn't provoke violence from men.
ESPN did not immediately return a request for comment, though Smith tried to clarify his statements on Twitter.
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