Stephen A. Smith has been criticized for a lot of opinions during his 11 years on ESPN’s First Take, but there’s only one that he still hasn’t gotten over.
Smith recently joined SiriusXM’s Gold Minds with Kevin Hart. During the interview, the comedian asked whether Smith ever went too far during a First Take debate.
According to Smith, it happened twice, once recently during his tense and awkward debate about Kyrie Irving with Jay Williams. The other time occurred in 2014, when Smith implied some women are to blame for some domestic violence incidents while discussing Ray Rice’s suspension from the NFL.
“Years ago, when I got suspended – because the only reprimand I’ve ever received in my career when I uttered the word ‘provoke’ when we were talking about the whole Ray Rice situation,” Smith recalled to Hart. “And it was misconstrued, and ultimately my former boss reneged on telling me it was ‘OK,’ and then suspended me a couple of days later.”
“The fury that I felt, wasn’t about the suspension,” Smith continued. “It was about the fact that I was associated with domestic violence when I’ve never put my hands on a woman in my life. You would Google me and I would be associated with domestic violence. And that’s something I still haven’t gotten, over to be quite honest with you.”
Below is the clip from a July 2014 episode of First Take where Smith made the comments on domestic violence that garnered the lone suspension of his career.
“We keep talking about the guys,” Smith told then-co-host Skip Bayless. “We know you have no business putting your hands on a woman. I don’t know how many times I got to reiterate that. But as a man who was raised by women, see, 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. I know what, I’m going to have to remind myself that I work for the Worldwide Leader, I’m going to have to get law enforcement officials involved because of what I’m going to be tempted to do.
“But what I’ve tried to implore the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this is what, I’ve done this all my life, 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 already 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.”
The above comments occurred on a Friday. Smith was back on First Take the following Monday and opened the show with an apology. On Tuesday, then-ESPN president John Skipper announced Smith would be pulled from First Take for one week. The week off was not labeled a suspension, but according to Smith, that’s what it was.
Smith was not attempting to excuse domestic violence, but his tone-deaf assertion that women provoke violence from men completely overshadowed anything productive that he may have intended to say on the topic of Ray Rice. In the nine years since, Smith has continued to give thousands of takes and opinions, some of which have been condemned and garnered apologies, but having his name attached to domestic violence headlines in any way is the gaffe that still haunts him.