ESPN Host Apologizes for Implying Women Provoke Domestic Abuse

July 28, 2014 - 2:00 PM

Stephen A. Smith

Stephen A. Smith, host of ESPN's "First Take" (AP Photo)

( – ESPN host Stephen A. Smith apologized Monday for comments he made on Friday’s edition of “First Take” which seemed to blame the victim in cases of domestic violence.

“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. To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious,” said Smith. “To apologize, to say I’m sorry doesn’t do the matter its proper justice, to be quite honest, but I do sincerely apologize.”

Smith was commenting on the subject of domestic violence after the NFL suspended Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice two games following a Feb. 15 domestic dispute in Atlantic City with his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer. Rice pleaded not guilty to third-degree aggravated assault for the incident, during which Rice allegedly struck Palmer and was caught on video dragging her from a casino elevator.

Rice avoided trial by being accepted into a pre-trial intervention program in May. He married his fiancée one day after he was indicted.

“As a man raised by the greatest mother in the world and four older sisters, I’ve religiously spoken out against domestic violence all of my life. I’ve done so repeatedly over 20 years in this business as well as over these very airwaves – right here on First Take,” Smith said Monday.

“My primary reason for doing so is because I’ve experienced and dealt with the matter within my own family. Unfortunately, I did an incredibly poor job of asserting my point of view this past Friday. For that again I am truly, truly sorry, particularly the victims of domestic abuse and to my female family members and loved ones I’ve disappointed and who know I know better,” Smith added.

“You all deserved a better professional and quite frankly, a better man last Friday sitting on this very set in this very chair. My heartfelt apologies to each and every single one of you,” he said.

On Friday’s “First Take,” Smith said, “We keep talking about the guys. We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman.”

Then he addressed women, saying, “Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions,” because contacting law enforcement afterwards “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,” he said.

“We know they’re wrong. We know they’re criminal. We know they probably deserve to be in jail,” Smith said, adding that in Rice’s case, “he probably deserves more than the two-game suspension.”

“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,” Smith said.

“You gotta make sure that you address it, because what we gotta 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,” he said at the time.