An ESPN panelist who suggested Friday that women should try not to “provoke” domestic violence apologized on-air Monday for the comment, which he called “the most egregious error of my career.”
Stephen A. Smith opened “First Take” with an apology for remarks he made while discussing the two-day suspension NFL player Ray Rice received for assaulting his then-fiancee. Much like his first apology — a stream of tweets posted Friday that have since been deleted — he emphasized that he failed to articulate his point and never meant to imply that domestic abuse victims were at fault.
“I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman’s role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word ‘provoke’ in my diatribe,” 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. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders.”
The commentator went on to apologize in particular to female victims of domestic abuse and to female members of his family, whom he cited in his original remarks about provocation.
ESPN said it did not plan to discipline Smith for those remarks.
“We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic,” the network said in a statement, as quoted by USA Today. “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.”
It’s worth noting that Friday’s show was not the first time Smith had suggested women should not provoke domestic violence. He made a similar comment back in 2012 while discussing former NFL player Chad Johnson’s arrest for allegedly head-butting his wife.
“There are plenty of instances where provocation comes into consideration, instigation comes into consideration, and I will be on the record right here on national television and say that I am sick and tired of men constantly being vilified and accused of things and we stop there,” he said at the time, as quoted by Deadspin. “I’m saying, ‘Can we go a step further?’ Since we want to dig all deeper into Chad Johnson, can we dig in deep to her?”
Watch the apology below:
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.