They’re not calling it a suspension, but ESPN has decided to keep Stephen A. Smith off its airwaves for a little while.
The network, in a statement released to the press on Tuesday, 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.” ESPN did not say whether or not Smith would be paid during what is effectively a suspension, though the Worldwide Leader did not term it a suspension.
Smith is in boiling water for his asinine comments on Friday’s First Take, where he said the following:
But domestic violence or whatever the case may be, with men putting their hands on women, is obviously a very real, real issue in our society. And I think that just talking about what guys shouldn’t do, we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn’t happen. We know they’re wrong. We know they’re criminals. We know they probably deserve to be in jail. In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a 2-game suspension which we both acknowledged. But at the same time, 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.
Smith issued a taped apology on Monday, though he poked the bear again later in the show, saying that Ben Roethlisberger “has never come across as a bad guy.”
Perhaps worth noting on one side of this is that Smith is reportedly about to leave ESPN Radio — Smith co-hosts a show on the New York-affiliated station — for SiriusXM’s Mad Dog Radio. Smith’s move to SiriusXM appears to have been in the works regardless of what was happening on the television side.
That’s that, for now. We all get a respite from this ugly, ugly news cycle. We’ll see if Smith addresses it when he returns in eight days, but likely we’ll all have heard the last of this, as First Take tries to move on from yet another terrible moment of its insipid existence.
UPDATE: ESPN President John Skipper sent out his own comments via an in-house memo leaked to SI:
“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 ERG 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.”