domestic violence

Who Is For Domestic Violence?

“But what I’ve tried to employ the female members of my family, some of who you all met and talked to and what have you, is that again, and this what, I’ve done this all my life, let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions … 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.” – Stephen A. Smith
This ignited a backlash online first reported by Deadspin, and then taken to the level of Twitter feud when fellow ESPN anchor Michelle Beadle joined the fray.

Stephen A apologized on this morning’s First Take, but I think it’s important to hash out a few things in this situation. We actually talked about this very situation of if and when it is ever acceptable for a man to hit a woman in the podcast below.


No One Supports Domestic Violence

I don’t think Stephen A was trying to say that a person is justified in hitting a woman because she “provoked” him. I believe He was saying that people should not intentionally “push” others’ buttons to irritate or anger. It doesn’t justify violence, but why purposefully exacerbate someone during times of heightened emotions? Ray Rice did a terrible thing. If his wife intentionally antagonized him, she did wrong also. This is still no justification for violence, and is not the case with most domestic violence cases. It appears this may have been one of those cases however.

Mrs. Rice’s Appeal to Commissioner Goodell

Roger Goodell levied just a two-game suspension supposedly because Mrs. Rice “made a moving and apparently convincing case to Goodell during a June 16 hearing … that the incident in the hotel elevator was a one-time event, and nothing physical had happened in their relationship before or since.”
Additionally, it was his first violation of any NFL policy; he was not convicted of a crime in conjunction with the incident; he’d been the Ravens’ leading player when it comes to volunteer work in the community; he admitted his mistake soon after the incident and sought counseling. I was for a stronger penalty, but these are legitimate reasons for a lighter penalty. I thought it should have been 6 games with the opportunity to be appealed to 4 similar to Ben Roethlisberger’s penalty for alleged sexual assault.

The Two Sides of Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, for there were certainly negative consequences from what Stephen A. said. I don’t understand why though. He certainly was not advocating violence against women. If the network doesnt want to discuss the full range of opinions of domestic violence, then perhaps they should not have proffered the topic.
On the other hand, ESPN is also entitled to their opinion that what he said was offensive. Asking him to apologize, because they do not want what he said to negatively represent them, is also perfectly reasonable.

Context, Context, Context

When discussing discipline for a 218 pound male allegedly knocking his considerably lighter fiancee out with a punch and then dragging her body off an elevator lift, it was not appropriate to discuss what she did to “induce” him to knock her out. You are changing the subject to her culpability for her own felonious assault. Only when women are attacked do we seem to do that.
While Mrs. Rice’s wife is also guilty of domestic violence, what did she do to “deserve” it? Provocation, outside of the realms of normal self defense, is subjective. Is “provocation” not doing what they tell you to do? Ad hominem attacks because one is losing a verbal argument? An assault? Intentionally keying someone’s car? Sex with an ex? Legally, these provocations permit a VERY different physical response.
Also, Stephen A. Smith, to my knowledge, has had no academic experience with family counseling. He is not qualified to give relationship dispute resolution advice to the public, let alone a sports show.

Too PC?

I don’t think so though I disagree with the need to give an apology here. Americans seem to lack empathy for the victims of violence and discrimination, often supporting the offenders. Communicating an expectation that violence and discrimination should end is ridiculed as being “PC.” when it’s actually just common decency. I’m a Stephen A. fan, but his response should simply have been “he shouldn’t have hit her.” Full stop.