ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith has made a second career out of blaming the victim. Or perhaps, he’s too preoccupied with maintaining his “close, personal” friendship with so many notables in sports that he’s become incapable of calling out their nonsense.
In his latest bit of social commentary, the controversial ESPN analyst addressed the NFL’s suspension of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice following an incident in Atlantic City, N.J. where Rice and his now-wife were arrested for a domestic incident. Footage surfaced of Rice dragging her unconscious body into an elevator following the altercation. The NFL announced that Rice would be suspended two games for the incident.
On ESPN’s “First Take,” Smith offered his perspective on the incident between Rice and his wife.
“We keep talking about the guys. We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don’t know how many times I can reiterate that,” Smith said. “I know what I’m going to do if somebody touches a female member of my family. I know what I’m going to do. I know what my boys are going to do. But what I’ve tried to employ to female members of my family…let’s make sure that we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions. Because if I come…after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we do our part to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
“Now, we’ve got some dudes that are just horrible and they are going to do it anyway and there’s never any excuse to put your hands on a woman,” he went on. “But domestic violence or whatever the case may be…is obviously a very real issue in our society and I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do; we’ve got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to try and make sure it doesn’t happen.”
Smith is one of the more prominent personalities on ESPN and he has consistently taken the “blame the victim” position with hot-button issues. In the wake of the Mark Cuban’s admission that he would “cross the street” if he saw a black kid in a hoodie coming his way, Smith fervently defended the Dallas Mavericks owner’s right to be a bigot. When a Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver was caught threatening to “fight every n—-r in here” at a Kenny Chesney concert last summer, Smith stated on the air that black people should take some responsibility for Cooper’s behavior because of the liberal use of the N-word in the black community. During this latest rant, he went on to speak about “elements of provocation,” and how that subject isn’t “broached enough.”
Smith considers himself a sports insider. He loves to remind viewers and co-hosts of his “close” relationship with many of the biggest names in professional and collegiate sports. Perhaps Smith’s affection for his “buddies” clouds his ability to be clear-eyed and objective in his assessment. Or perhaps he’s just the mouthpiece for a larger segment of American culture; the people that ask, “What was she wearing?” when a woman has been sexually-assaulted, the people who think poor people should’ve just “worked harder,” and black boys should “pull their pants up” to avoid being profiled.
An abuser is an abuser, so instead of teaching women not to provoke, we should teach men to control themselves. Instead of examining what she could’ve done to make him angry, we should find out how to recognize violent tendencies and seek help for abusive personalities. The world could use a lot more empathy for the people who have been victimized.
And the world could use a lot less Stephen A. Smith.