‘First Take’ host Stephen A. Smith takes on, then apologizes to, ESPN’s Michelle Beadle over domestic abuse statements related to Ray Rice’s suspension


Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, speaks alongside his wife Janay during an NFL football news conference in May. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

UPDATE: Shortly after this article was posted, Smith used a longer format to apologize for his original comments. That statement can be found in full at the bottom of this post.

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When you have your own talk show, it seems like a great place to be able to expound at great length about your views on a certain subject. So when talk show hosts choose instead to take to Twitter’s 140-character-or-less platform to clarify their thoughts it’s always a bit confounding.

Enter Stephen A. Smith.

Earlier today, the “First Take”  host decided to discuss the two-game suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. To catch you up, the NFL suspended the Rice for violating the league’s personal conduct policy. Rice allegedly abused his then-fiancee, now-wife by knocking her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino’s elevator. Rice entered a not-guilty plea and ultimately avoided a trial by being accepted into a pretrial intervention program in May.

After the suspension was announced on Thursday, many complained Rice’s punishment was too light and questions emerged about how this might reflect on the NFL’s marketing toward women, a group that makes up a rather large chunk of football’s viewing audience.

This morning, Smith added a new, much more controversial dynamic to the conversation on “First Take.”

After squeezing in a line about how Rice’s punishment does seem short compared to the alleged crime, Smith veered away from the particulars to talk instead about domestic abuse in general. While he began by saying men have “have no business putting [their] hands on a woman,” the host quickly swerved into dangerous territory, seemingly implying that sometimes women are to blame for getting abused by “provoking” their domestic abusers.

Needless to say, Smith’s comments did not go over well.

His ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle had a few words of her own for Smith.

In response, Smith then sent out a series of tweets so long you almost had to wait for Twitter to reload to read them all. (These are screen captures of Smith’s rebuttal that the Washington Post took in the case that Smith’s tweets are ever deleted. UPDATE: The tweets were deleted.)

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UPDATE:

A short while after ending his Twitter narrative, Smith posted a longer statement via TwitLonger, which reads:

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.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Marissa Payne · July 25

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