By Wendy Widom
CHICAGO (CBS) — ESPN sports reporter and host Michelle Beadle took to Twitter today to slam colleague Stephen A. Smith over his inflammatory comments on First Take about domestic violence.
Smith’s comments come on the heels of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issuing a two-game suspension to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who allegedly knocked out his wife (then girlfriend) in an elevator and dragged her limp body down the hallway.
Much has been made across the blogosphere today about Rice’s relatively light punishment. Other players such as Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon will likely sit out the entire 2014 season for marijuana use, and Ace Sanders faces a four-game suspension as well for testing positive for marijuana.
Gwyn Kaitis, Director of the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line at the Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network, views Rice’s punishment as part of a larger problem within the NFL. “We believe that a two game suspension and fine is a supremely inadequate response by the National Football League.” She adds, “They have an abysmal record of responding to domestic violence amongst their players.”
Loveisrespect.org, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Break the Cycle, notes that domestic abuse is surprisingly common. According to its website, “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.”
Despite the alarming statistics, Smith asserted today on First Take that “elements of provocation” must be addressed to prevent domestic violence.
“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.”
CBS reached out to Loveisrespect.org to learn more about the notion that a victim can provoke a battering. “Victim blaming is something that you see a lot in this kind of work,” says Whitney Laas, Digital Service Operations Manager. “At the end of the day, it’s only in the control of the person doing the hurting.”
Friday afternoon, Smith issued a statement in response to the criticism over his assertions: “I completely recognize the sensitivity of the issues and the confusion and disgust that my comments caused.”
In his first public comments about the incident, Rice acknowledged the abuse. “I failed miserably,” he claims.
Says Kaitis, “Rice describes himself as ‘role model’ and yet nowhere does he truly take responsibility for his actions. What message does this give to young people who look up to him?”
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence and you live in Illinois, call the Illinois Domestic Violence Help Line at (312)743-0289.
UPDATE: ESPN announces that Stephen A. Smith has been suspended for one week over his “provocation” comments.