Trying to watch “First Take” lately has been an exercise in futility. Without the Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless dynamic, it’s just another mundane ESPN show lacking character, sizzle or opinion divergence. Stephen A. is still on suspension actually for speaking truth. Here’s an excerpt of what he said:
“In Ray Rice’s case, he probably deserves more than a two-game suspension. But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation, but elements elements of provocation.”
Later, he wrote: “But be clear I wasn’t BLAMING women for anything. I was simply stating to take all things into consideration for preventional purposes. Period.”
Then Smith’s ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle flippantly wrote, “I was just forced to watch this mornings’ ‘First Take.’ A) I’ll never feel clean again B) I’m now aware that I can provoke my own beating.” Later she posted: “I’m thinking about wearing a mini-skirt this weekend…I’d hate to think what I’d be asking for by doing so.”
Stephen A. was suspended by ESPN for 5 days primarily based on Beadle’s misconstrued remarks about her colleague’s comments. The fact is, Beadle most likely violated ESPN’s internal social media policy, which forbids employees against making personal attacks on one another. He spoke about “elements of provocation” and we understand what he meant.
Pro-voke 1. To anger, exasperate or vex. 2. To stir up, arouse, or cause to act or behave in a certain manner. 3. To give rise to: evoke. – Freedictionary.com.
While only Ray and his wife Janay Rice know exactly what happened on that elevator, she has admitted that she hit him. There is also heavy hearsay that she spat on him. So, check out the dictionary definition above and ask yourself: Is it wildly or even remotely possible that either the admitted or alleged activity could be considered an element of provocation? Of course it could.
Violence, any violence against women is ALWAYS wrong. It is never justifiable or right but contrary to what both Stephen A. and Michelle said, it is very, very real. With over 60 combined years of marriage (to the same women) as well as over 100 combined years of manhood, we don’t need Michelle Beadle or ESPN insulting our intelligence or life experience. The insinuation that it is somehow impossible for women to incite, induce or infuriate their significant others to wrong and unfortunate acts of violence, is unrealistic and incorrect. Those are “elements of provocation” or “buttons” that men and women push on each other all the time. A physical altercation (i.e. slapping, spitting, hitting) of any kind is probably the most exacerbated element of provocation possible.
Most parents appropriately teach (taught) their children not to hit. But, let’s carry it a step further. What do most parents teach their children to do if they get hit? Turn the other cheek perhaps? Nope. Most parents teach their children to defend themselves, overwhelmingly meaning to hit back. Boys are typically and correctly taught not to hit girls under any circumstances. But when age, testosterone and big boy emotions like love, sensitivity, insecurity and anger issues kick in, that “don’t hit girls” life lesson sometimes gets kicked to the curb. It’s not right…but it’s real.
In Stephen A.’s defense Whoopi Goldberg told her large, overwhelmingly female audience on “The View”: “If you hit somebody you cannot be sure you are not going to get hit back…you have to teach women; do not live with this idea that men have this chivalry thing still with them. Don’t assume that’s still in place. So don’t be surprised if you hit a man and he hits you back.”
So Stephen A. Smith should return to “First Take” soon and that will be a good thing. He has taken full responsibility for what he said. He’s been apologetic, contrite and taken the media blows and hits against his name and character…like a man. At the end of the day, he did not lie. How he said what he said may not have been right…but it’s real.
(“A Little R&R on Sports” is a nationally syndicated radio show available on hundreds of radio stations and digital platforms. Log onto randronsports.com or stream R&R live Saturdays at 11 a.m. EDT/10 a.m. CDT on sportsbyline.com. In Memphis tune in Saturday mornings, 9 a.m. on AM 790 ESPN Radio.)