Sports

Stephen A Smith: Abuse Victims Should Learn 'About The Elements Of Provocation'

On Thursday, the NFL punished Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice with a two-game suspension after the player allegedly knocked out his fiancée during an altercation in February.

While many around the league have been highly critical both of Rice's conduct and of what's been perceived as a lenient punishment, ESPN panelist Stephen A. Smith sought to temper that criticism during a "First Take" segment on Friday.

In a long-winded statement, Smith acknowledged a man has "no business putting [his] hands on a woman," then slowly worked toward the conclusion that women should also do their part not to give men a reason to beat them.

"We know [abusing women is] wrong," Smith concedes, though toward the end of his monologue he casts doubt on who, exactly, is to blame for said abuse, given "the elements of provocation."

Michelle Beadle, a female ESPN host, tweeted a response to Smith's statement, alluding to the rationale of a rapist who believes the victim asked for it by wearing provocative clothing:

In February, after TMZ obtained security camera footage of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator, Smith, while critical, ultimately defended the player at the time. "It's important to recognize and reiterate [that] we do not know what happened ... inside that elevator," said Smith, concluding, "There is absolutely nothing ... that has ever brought [Rice's] integrity into question until now. ... He deserves the benefit of the doubt."

UPDATE: 2:30 p.m. -- Smith responded to the storm of controversy with a series of tweets Friday, seeking to clarify his original comments:

This will be a long tweeted message, folks. So please stay with me and let me finish my complete thought before responding...b/c i'm ANNOYED

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

In discussing the Ray Rice ruling earlier today on @ESPN_FirstTake, me and @RealSkipBayless ventured into discussing domestic violence.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

Upon hearing what I had to say, although admitting I could've been more articulate on the matter, let me be clear: I don't understand how on

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

earth someone could interpret that I somehow was saying women are to blame for domestic violence. And when I saw @MichelleDBeadle -- a

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

colleague I have profound respect for -- tweet what she tweeted, enough is enough. Something needs to be said right now.
REPEATEDLY i said:

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

There is absolutely no excuse to put your hands on a women. REPEATEDLY, I said dudes who do that need to be dealt with. REPEATEDLY, I echoed

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

when confronted by it in the past -- when someone was stupid enough to touch a loved one of this man, raised by 4 older sisters, a mom and

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

numerous female relatives and loved ones, that man was dealt with. From that point, I simply asked: now what about the other side.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

If a man is pathetic and stupid enough to put his hands on a woman -- which I have NEVER DONE, btw -- of course he needs to pay the price.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

Who on earth is denying that? But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong being done upon them?

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

In no way was I accusing a women of being wrong. I was simply saying what that preventive measures always need to be addressed because

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

there's only but so much that can be done after the fact....once the damage is already done. Nothing more.
My apologies to @MichelleDBeadle

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

And any woman out there who misconstrued what I said. I have always -- and will always -- find violence against a women every bit as

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

horrific as women, themselves, find it. Always have. Always will, which my personal behavior exemplifies. I'll strive to be more articulate

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

in the future. But be clear, I wasn't BLAMING women for anything. I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventative

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

purposes. Period.

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

UPDATE: 4:40 p.m. -- Smith has released a longer, more succinct statement, in which he strongly condemns domestic abuse and apologizes for any confusion stemming from his earlier comments:

My series of tweets a short time ago is not an adequate way to capture my thoughts so I am using a single tweet via Twitlonger to more appropriately and effectively clarify my remarks from earlier today about the Ray Rice situation. I completely recognize the sensitivity of the issues and the confusion and disgust that my comments caused. First off, as I said earlier and I want to reiterate strongly, it is never OK to put your hands on a women. Ever. I understand why that important point was lost in my other comments, which did not come out as I intended. I want to state very clearly. I do NOT believe a woman provokes the horrible domestic abuses that are sadly such a major problem in our society. I wasn’t trying to say that or even imply it when I was discussing my own personal upbringing and the important role the women in my family have played in my life. I understand why my comments could be taken another way. I should have done a better job articulating my thoughts and I sincerely apologize.

WATCH Stephen A. Smith's monologue, above.