Why Stephen A. Smith Hasn’t Been Fired for His Domestic Abuse Victim-Blaming

Because he’s not the only one who thinks women provoke violent men.


Update: Smith has been suspended by ESPN for his comments.

Stephen A. Smith (or “Screamin’ A,” as one of my Twitter followers calls him) gave a corporate apology at the top of ESPN’s First Take yesterday for his ridiculous domestic violence victim-blaming in relation to Ray Rice’s controversial two-game suspension resulting from an ugly incident earlier this year at Revel. It was the type of apology that we’ve all come to expect during a dust-up when a public figure who gains prominence for vocalizing a controversial opinion wants to sweep the furor under the rug. In that way, it was entirely uneventful.

It took 72 hours (he should be thanking God for small favors in the form of the weekend news cycle drag), but with a smidge less heat surrounding him, Smith delivered his contrition with standard applications of feigned revelation and self-interest. There are debates about whether or not Smith should be allowed to keep his job; those debates are not without merit, though as of this writing Smith has announced (well-timed!) plans to leave the network and head over to more irreverent pastures at SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio.

That the same hand of mercy covers Smith and Ray Rice in equal measure.

You see, the problem with Smith’s statements is that he’s not the only one who feels that way. This is why he hasn’t been fired. This is why Ray Rice still plays football. Don’t believe me? Check Smith’s mentions on Twitter. There is a subversive belief that, yes, domestic violence at some level involves provocation. Barring the death of the victim, when it becomes insurmountably obvious that she could not protect herself, it is not unusual to hear one ask what a woman did to incite the violence against her.

Under this logic, surviving doesn’t make a woman courageous — it makes her culpable.

Putting your hands on someone is wrong — this rule applies to men and women. There are few opportunities in life to put things so declaratively, so I will seize the opportunity here: Putting your hands on someone is wrong. It shouldn’t happen. And no matter how much reconciliation and rehabilitation can exist between two people, it doesn’t excuse the abuse. It’s still wrong. Moreover, despite Smith’s claims that abuse correlates to some level of provocation, studies show that the risk of death or injury to a victim is greatest when leaving an abusive relationship or shortly thereafter.

And so as Smith — who has deleted the series of misguided, ego-inflated Tweets that followed his on-air statements — boxes up his cube and heads to the next big thing, my thoughts are with Janay Rice, who made a choice to marry the man who dragged her unconscious from an elevator after knocking her out, hoping that her safety doesn’t require for that to be swept under the rug, too.

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  • Danielzinho

    There was absolutely no victim blaming here. You’re an idiot if you think otherwise. Did this idiot author even watch what Stephen A. Smith (Who I can’t stand) said? This article is just repeating the exact same thing that Smith already said like 5 times during his rant.

    • JEB

      I could not agree more. There is never any excuse to put your hands on a women, but being female does not give you the right to be disrespectful. I have a close friend going though a divorce and his ex his suing for mental cruelty, and may win. But most women are stronger and are more skilled with the tongue, which is a strength they may have over their male counterpart. And in most cases men are physically stronger than the average women, an if not stronger more aggressive and would probably win any physical altercation. So why is it more acceptable in the article or in the minds of the equal when convent gang for women to use their strengths against men, but when men do the same or someone writes about the accountability of ones words they are demonized. AGAIN, VOLIENCE SOLVES NOTHING, BUT THAT IS NOT OUR REALLITY AS AMERICANS! I never post anything, but could not resists!

  • Tinto

    I dont know why people are quick to criticize others, even when u and i know what he was Stephe A was trying to say,
    I dont see anything wrong with what he said. The only mistake he made is using the word provoke and not explaining what he means clearly

    • Danielzinho

      provoke was a fine word to use. It was an apt word. It was just a word that stupid people feel like they want to misconstrue and jump on it.

  • Charliefoxtrot

    Thought exercise for feminists-if a gay guy punches his much bigger lover, and gets hit in return, is this evidence of #Patriarchy, or….should one generally not hit those of us who are bigger?

    Should a nerdy guy punch the captain of the football team, and be surprised when he gets hit back?

    I’m not excusing/condoning violence against women-just pointing out that there exists a cause and effect to human interaction.

    Of course it’s wrong what Rice did, but had a man in the elevator been a rival fan punching Ray Rice, (who’s stronger than 99% of all men) a reasonable person would conclude that one shouldn’t be in the habit of punching NFL running backs no matter what your gender is.

    To prove my point, I’d like every feminist to head to your local women’s lacrosse league, then argue with and punch the biggest female player, and carefully study the Patriarchy apparently punching you back.

    • Anonymous

      “I’d like every feminist to head to your local women’s lacrosse league, then argue with and punch the biggest female player, and carefully study the Patriarchy apparently punching you back.” – ahahah this is too classic! Great response.

    • Danielzinho

      Women don’t like to be blamed for their actions, or the direct results of their actions. That is a fact.

  • A.S.

    Words mean things, guys. What he SAID is the problem. He used the word provoke. Everyone that attempts to support him always use the phrase “well what he meant was…” His alleged thoughts and what he actually said are not the same. If he is not able to articulate his thoughts and people have to read his mind, then maybe talking on camera isn’t for him.

    Also, well done, Maya!!!

    • Danielzinho

      So you’re saying that people don’t provoke other people? In real life… people don’t provoke people? That’s just stupid. Sorry to break it to you. Some people do provoke ass-beating. That’s just the truth of real life. I’m going to need you to accept it in order to continue any further conversation. Some dudes are psychopaths. Some women are psychopaths. Handing down an ass beating isn’t right… but real life should have you understand that you and I have the power to provoke people to do certain things… and we also have the power to make decisions to try and not provoke people. That’s just real life. He said NOTHING wrong.

    • Danielzinho

      I bet if you walk down the street and pass 10 random guys and do nothing to them, say nothing to them… nothing will happen to you. Now I bet if you want down the street and pass 10 random guys and slap each of them in the face… do you think the outcome of your walk will be different? Provocation. It’s a real thing. It sometimes leads to altercations. It’s best to avoid it. You have common sense, right?

    • Danielzinho

      I’ve got another question for you. I bet if I took a stroll through West Philly or North Philly and started shouting and dropping N-bombs left and right….. you wouldn’t be surprised if I got my ass beat, right? (I’m white). I bet you really wouldn’t be surprised. I bet that you would, in fact, say… “well, what did you think was gonna happen?” You might even say I deserved it for being so offensive and racist. Well… guess what… that’s real life. That’s called provocation. It IS possible to say things that are so disrespectful that you can almost ensure yourself of getting your #ss beat by a stranger, loved one, parent, cop… whoever. It’s real. You just have to starting thinking about things more thoroughly.

  • Anonymous

    Steven A. did not place sole blame on all domestic violent victims, so lets first stop making his comments generalized. What he said was let us hold both people responsible for their actions if in fact both parties are in the wrong, After all, she was the one who initiated physical contact. It is sad that women think they can actually say and physically do whatever they want to men or people in general and not be held accountable for their actions because they’re the “weaker” sex.

    Now understanding we live in a Godless culture and time, my next point will probably go over people’s head, but as a Christian I have to point out that the Bible clearly speaks about provoking FOOLS to anger- not provoking a wise man, but provoking a fool because “anger resides in their lap” (Ecclesiastes 7:9) Any man that would harm a women or a child is a fool, and when you provoke (keyword: fools) you’ve voluntarily put yourself in a situation that then makes you liable to get knocked out in a elevator and dragged by the love of your life :/ Does that then make the abuse right or justifiable? No….but can it still happen? Yes!

    More people are outraged and talking about Steven A than the actually person who committed the offense ( Ray Rice) and the fact that “the victim” still married this fool ! Know your worth ladies and gentlemen.

    • Danielzinho

      You are 100% right. I respect this comment. It’s just common sense. If you’re a woman… and you choose to be with an abusive man for whatever reason… Love… lifestyle… money.. etc. If you refuse to leave that man, if you refuse to call the cops on that man…. the only real advice you can be given to avoid being abused is do your best not to provoke his rage. Yes… it’s not a great answer… but who’s the dumbass who’s choosing to stay with someone who abuses them?

  • Coleen1027

    Personally, as a woman, I don’t think Steven Smith is wrong. He’s saying there is absolutely no reason to ever put your hands on a woman. He is also saying that women need to do whatever they can to keep themselves safe and to get out of a situation before it escalates. Very good advice.

  • Servus servorum Dei

    Stephen A. Smith is correct…women are protected like polar bears…and they always have “upper hand”…no matter who’s right or wrong, man gets “silver bracelets” first…hire attorney,find bail money, get record…and by the time you prove your innocence,you’ll broke,fired, homeless…and the list goes on…always be “politically correct”, and do as you’re told….otherwise we’ll make example out of you…”living in America”,…great song… ;)))

  • m gang

    espn sucks if they fire sa smith for telling the truth he had to swallow his pride to stay employed

  • NoThanksNecessary

    This Author is so far off target here. They should be ashamed of themselves for suggesting Stephen A should be fired for those comments. I wasted believe I even wasted my time reading such garbage. Ignorant hack!