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:

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.