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Stephen A. apologizes for three minutes, ESPN satisfied

Stephen A. Smith poses with John Saunders of ESPN   May 2014
Photo by Larry Busacca

Today on ESPN's morning debate-fest First Take Stephen A. Smith took responsibility for misspeaking on the subject of domestic violence and abuse. He issued a lengthy on-air apology for having set off a bit of a firestorm among victims of abuse and people in general.

Michelle Beadle, an ESPN colleague of Smith's had taken offense to his language used to buttress his points about the NFL punishment handed out to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. After what was treated as a domestic violence incident by law enforcement Rice received a two-game suspension, which will begin as the 2014 season opens in September.

Usually, ESPN takes a dim view of colleague-on-colleague criticism of a certain sort, but Beadle's tweets of rebuke would not get her punished by her employer. Her complaint was centered on Smith adding a bit of advice and what he thought was wisdom, to his general feelings about the length of Rice's suspension.

Smith said that while no one, including himself condones violence by a man against a woman, that "...we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation.” How else could that have been interpreted? It's not that difficult. Beadle tweeted out her disgust and criticism.

Instead of calling someone to calm him down, or ask whether he should go on a Twitter rant about Michelle Beadles' comments, he posted 15 separate tweets of outrage, without backing down for one nanosecond.

That ended today in a three-minute on-air apology, summed up this way: “You deserved a better man last Friday.” Nonetheless, he didn't specify what he apologized for, while using the word "provoke" as one that might have been misplaced.

For those that didn't catch the broadcast, USA Today reported on it. The news organization notes that the tagline for First Take is "Embrace Debate", but not only wasn't there a debate on the subject by his sparring partner Bayless or even the show's host Carrie Champion, the show quickly changed the subject to LeBron James.

As previously noted by this writer, what Smith needs is a series of elocution lessons and as well as a course in how to edit himself. He gets into trouble by attempting to reiterate his point, using different words and phrases. "Provoke" was not one to use in this context. He could have stopped after his condemnation of violence against women but he did not.

ESPN issued a statement that Smith's views are not theirs and saying his apology demonstrates that he understands where he went wrong. Are we sure of that? Nope, but tomorrow morning as sure as the sun rises in the east, First Take will once again embrace debate.

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