SBD/July 28, 2014/Media

ESPN's Smith Apologizes For "Most Egregious Error" In Domestic Violence Comments

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Smith received heavy criticism for comments he made during Friday's show
ESPN's Stephen A. Smith this morning addressed comments he made on domestic violence during Friday's edition of "First Take" and called them the "most egregious error of my career." Speaking at the outset of today's show, Smith apologized for insinuating women could play a role in domestic violence against them. Smith said, "I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman's role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word 'provoke' in my diatribe. My words came across that it is somehow a woman's fault. This was not my intent. It was not what I was trying to say. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders. To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious." Following Smith's statement, "First Take" co-host Cari Champion said, "I know where he was going and what he was trying to say. Obviously, he failed, and he said he failed to do so." She added, "For us here on 'First Take,' we all learned a very important lesson: To communicate better. As the lone woman on this show, to speak up, to say what we want to hear and make sure it's being done well. Again, communicate better. That was our lesson. We will try to do better" ("First Take," ESPN2, 7/28). Smith during Friday's show said, "Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions. ... Let’s try to do our part in making sure that doesn’t happen." ESPN's Michelle Beadle "lambasted the segment on Twitter." She wrote she would "never feel clean again." Smith Friday afternoon in a series of tweets said that his initial comments "were not clearly articulated and therefore were misunderstood by some viewers" (LATIMES.com, 7/26). USA TODAY's Chris Chase wrote, "Chalk up some of it to the perils of being on live television without a net." Smith "goes around and around before getting to his point." Viewers can "almost hear the regret while he’s delivering the kicker" (USATODAY.com, 7/25).

BREAKING THE UNWRITTEN RULE
: SI.com's Richard Deitsch wrote Beadle's Twitter response to Smith's comments "game-changed what likely would have been just another horrible day at First Take" and "set up a narrative (correct or not) of an ESPN employee publicly condemning another ESPN employee." News outlets around the country "posted stories on it." However, outside of ESPN’s Jemele Hill and espnW’s Jane McManus, women talking about the Ray Rice issue "on ESPN’s airwaves were non-existent" (SI.com, 7/27). SPORTS ON EARTH's Will Leitch writes Beadle's Twitter response was "the most important thing she'll ever do in journalism" and "legitimately one of the most courageous things I've ever seen someone in sports journalism do." Beadle "didn't just call out Smith; she started a conversation that we desperately needed to have." She "called attention to Smith, and the scores of others like him." We are all "still talking about Stephen A. Smith and domestic violence and Ray Rice because of Michelle Beadle." Leitch: "Do not think that Beadle ... did all this without considerable risk." Keeping criticism in-house is "a matter of public policy" at ESPN. That Beadle would "call out a colleague took guts, and legitimate outrage." But the wrath of ESPN execs is "nothing compared to what Beadle exposed herself to online" (SPORTSONEARTH.com, 7/28).

ARE YOU SIRIUS? In N.Y., Bob Raissman reported Smith will "soon leave" ESPN Radio 98.7 N.Y. in favor of Sirius XM's "Mad Dog Radio." Smith currently co-hosts a 1:00pm-3:00pm ET program with Ryan Ruocco on ESPN Radio. His new show on MDR also will "probably air" from 1:00pm-3:00pm (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 7/27). However, in N.Y., Phil Mushnick asks, "Why has Smith become sports TV and radio executives’ ideal go-to guy in the pursuit of diversity?" He is "a circle-talking windsock." He "simultaneously knows everything and nothing, while he dances in place until the con becomes apparent, until you realize that you’re either listening but not hearing, or hearing but not listening" (N.Y. POST, 7/28).
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