It’s been a rough week for one of the Worldwide Leader’s most prominent voices. But the next seven days should be easier for Stephen A. Smith now that ESPN has suspended him for on-air comments he made women provoking domestic violence. “Stephen A. Smith will not appear on First Take or ESPN Radio for the next week,” the sports giant said in statement today. “He will return to ESPN next Wednesday.” (Read ESPN President John Skipper’s statement to employees below.) On Friday morning’s episode of First Take, Smith was debating with archfoil Skip Bayless about the NFL’s two-game suspension of Ray Rice after the star running back was seen on video dragging his then-fiancée out of an elevator. “There’s never an excuse to put your hands on a woman,” the often polarizing analyst said at one point in his nearly 2 1/2-minute monologue (watch it below). But later he added: “We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way. And I don’t think that’s broached enough, is all I’m saying. No point of blame.”
His remarks touched of a maelstrom of criticism on social and traditional media, and Monday’s First Take opened with an on-camera apology from Smith. But ESPN sent him to the sidelines today. Here is Skipper’s statement to ESPN staffers; below that is video of Smith’s initial remarks followed by Monday’s apology:
“As many of you know, there has been substantial news coverage in the past few days related to comments Stephen A. made last Friday in the wake of the NFL’s decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games following charges of assaulting his then fiancée, now wife, a few months ago.
“We’ve said publicly and in this space that those remarks did not reflect our company’s point of view or our values. They certainly don’t reflect my personal beliefs.
“We have been engaged in thoughtful discussion about appropriate next steps. Those conversations have involved a diverse group of women and men in our company. Our women’s [employee resource group] has added to the conversation, and going forward, I know they will help us continue constructive discussion on this and related issues.
“Stephen has called what took place ‘the most egregious mistake’ of his career. I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we’ve collectively experienced. I’m confident we will all move forward with a greater sense of enlightenment and perspective as the lasting impact of these last few days. I want to thank all those whose thoughts have contributed along the way.”