It’s no secret that ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith has foot-in-mouth disease. It’s the reason why ESPN hired him – they wanted a loudmouth who could push the envelope when need be – a kind of Wendy Williams of sports who could generate ratings through provocation. There’s someone like him in every media outlet these days to keep the conversation salacious and to ensure that the dialogue never gets boring, or even more of a rarity, reasoned.
(Let me make a quick disclaimer here – I do know Stephen A. – worked with him as a colleague many years ago and I can attest to the fact that he’s as prone to speaking his mind privately as publicly, no matter what the issue.)
In his latest controversy, Smith’s feet are being held to the fire for comments he made about the NFL suspension of Ravens running back Ray Rice. Rice was charged with third-degree aggravated assault after a surveillance camera in an Atlantic City casino caught the seven-year vet dragging his then-fiancée Janay Palmer out of an elevator. She was unconscious and police reports say it was because Rice knocked her out cold after she spit on him during an argument at a bar.
Palmer is now Rice’s wife. As a first time offender, Rice agreed to a diversion program that will allow him to avoid jail time. Because he was indicted but not convicted of any crime, and because Palmer reportedly told NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that Rice had never been violent with her before, the NFL handed out a 2 game suspension, less than what has been meted out to other players for less serious offenses.
Domestic violence is a known problem in the NFL, as it is in life outside of football. That’s beyond debate. As someone whose job it is to stay abreast of news, I can tell you that that’s one of the most common news stories of any week is a woman – and increasingly entire families – being murdered at the hands of a domestic partner, boyfriend or husband.
In his attempt to make some kind of sense of this, Smith suggested in so many words that women make themselves less of a target for dangerous and violent men. I’m going to believe that what he actually meant was that if you know you are dealing with a nut, you should probably be cautious if you see them ramping up behavior that has proven to be dangerous to you in the past. After public push-back, including from his own colleague Michelle Beadle, Smith sent out a lengthy tweet, which further confused the issue. Then he deleted that tweet and tweeted again, apologizing for being “inarticulate” and reiterating that he didn’t mean what his words were interpreted to mean. Sigh.