Stephen A. Smith Further Lowers the Bar on Violence against Women
My mother was very succinct on the topic of violence against women. A man should NEVER lay his hand on a woman. Her statement was definitive and unambiguous, leaving no room for interpretation. This was a generation ago, when morality and discipline were cast in highly structured and definitive terms. Today, we seek, and even embrace, the gray area in virtually all things. And we suffer for it.
Our beloved NFL, of course, is dogged by a longstanding and pervasive problem with criminal conduct by players. Player offenses run the full range of seriousness, from the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs), to motor vehicle crimes, and at the far extreme, crimes of violence and murder against others, particularly women. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seems to want to cultivate a reputation as a “take no prisoners” enforcer. He often stresses his obligation to make an example of offenders, theoretically deterring bad behavior.
Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens serves as our most recent and horrific example of an NFL violent offender. Last February, Rice allegedly struck his fiancé, Janay Palmer, at an Atlantic City Casino. Later, TMZ ran video of a man believed to be Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer out of an elevator. The sad postscript to this episode is that Palmer actually accepted partial responsibility for what happened that night, and ultimately became Rice’s wife. Perhaps this reconciliation was a factor last week, when Goodell issued a very lenient punishment to Rice, a 2-game suspension and a $58,000 fine.
This brings us to ESPN commentator and controversy-monger Steven A. Smith. Smith seems to truly enjoy stirring the pot, and has sometimes fallen prey to very poor judgment in his commentary. Such as in 2012 when most of the world believes he used a racial epithet on air in discussing a foot injury toKobe Bryant. That same year, in discussing Chad”Ochocinco” Johnson‘s arrest for domestic battery, Smith openly questioned what role Johnson’s then wife, Evelyn Lozada, played in escalating the incident.
Last week, Smith perpetuated his idiocy. Speaking on ESPN2’s First Take, Smith cautiously, but deliberately, suggested that women need to be careful not to do or say anything which might incite a violent attack from the man in their lives. Smith’s directive to women, “…let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come, or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know, if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they put their hands on you. So let’s try to make sure that we can do our part in making sure that that doesn’t happen.” Seriously?
As you might imagine, the fallout has been fast and furious. Smith rushed to issue multiple tweets seeking to clarify his message and assure us that he simply expressed his thoughts poorly. To her credit, ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle openly called Smith to task. She facetiously tweeted, after having watched the segment, that she is, “now aware that I can provoke my own beating”. This time, Smith may have finally jumped the shark. His one-week suspension by ESPN, issued on Monday, will do little to quell the outrage.
What’s most abhorrent about Smith’s commentary is that he has even opened a debate over whether women, by their actions, incite violence against them. They do not. Good men, by their nature, rise above any degree of relationship stress and treat women with respect. There is no room for interpretation, and that’s what I teach my daughters. To suggest that any gray area exists within this area is unconscionable.
Many would suggest that the NFL has few peers in terms of its inclination to tolerate criminal and violent behavior. In some ways, the NFL is the ultimate enabler. Stephen A. Smith, it appears, has joined their ranks.