SBD/July 30, 2014/Media

ESPN Suspends Stephen A. Smith For One Week In Wake Of Domestic Abuse Comments

Smith is also likely to take a break from social media as part of the suspension
ESPN yesterday announced that Stephen A. Smith will not appear on "First Take" or ESPN Radio for the next week. He will return to ESPN next Wednesday. Smith called his remarks on domestic violence following Ravens RB Ray Rice's two-game suspension "the most egregious mistake" of his career. ESPN President John Skipper in a statement said, "I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we've collectively experienced" (ESPN). SI.com's Richard Deitsch reported Smith is "likely to take a break from social media" as part of the suspension. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on whether it is a "paid or unpaid de-facto suspension" (SI.com, 7/29). In N.Y., Richard Sandomir notes Smith’s weeklong suspension "is less severe than the 30 days imposed" on ESPN anchor Max Bretos, who in '10 "used the term 'chink in the armor' in reference" to then-Knicks G Jeremy Lin. "PTI" co-host Tony Kornheiser in '10 was "suspended two weeks for comments he made on radio about an outfit worn" by "SportsCenter" anchor Hannah Storm (N.Y. TIMES, 7/30). The AP's David Bauder noted ESPN "frowns upon its personalities attacking each other on social media or other forums." But the net "did not announce any punishment" for Michelle Beadle after she took to Twitter to call out Smith (AP, 7/29). In Georgia, Ryan Black notes the announcement of the suspension "came after Smith had made an appearance" in Columbus, Ga., at the SaMarc Foundation basketball camp. Smith "owned up to the mistake, noting the controversy was 'self-inflicted.'" He pointed to the apology he made, saying it was his responsibility "to articulate myself concisely and clearly" when on the air. Smith: "I failed to do that last week. So the hits that I took were well-deserved. I'm a big boy. I can take it" (Columbus LEDGER-ENQUIRER, 7/30).

IN OVER THEIR HEADS? VARIETY's Brian Lowry wrote ESPN "has a problem." The net wants to "be in the thick of things, to be part of every major debate pertaining to sports." But its commentators and analysts "can be loose cannons, occasionally getting in over their heads when pressed to address topics that go beyond their areas of expertise." If the goal is "to be provocative," then it "only stands to reason people are occasionally going to say questionable or offensive things, especially when tackling hot-button political issues." ESPN has "taken some steps to bolster its journalistic bona fides," including hiring Keith Olbermann and Jason Whitlock. For the "most part, though, the network is too often left relying on whoever’s available to cover the story of the moment" (VARIETY.com, 7/29).
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