There’s been a lot said about Stephen A. Smith’s “provoke” comments on First Take over the past week, as well as ESPN’s willingness to keep Smith on the air after his apology. But I’m willing to bet nobody has taken Smith and the Worldwide Leader to task as succinctly and fantastically as legal analyst Mel Robbins did on CNN today.
Robbins joined host Carol Costello (who also called for Smith’s suspension) and Jan Langbein to discuss Smith’s comments in the newsroom, and ripped Smith for his pre-taped apology and the fact that he never actually explained what he was “trying” to say originally. She also zeroed in on the reason ESPN keeps Smith on the air despite this being a repeat offense on his part. Here’s the most salient bit:
They [ESPN] are not going to do more… In this country, race is a much bigger hot button issue, unfortunately, than violence against women. And until it becomes a hot button issue, the way that we react to race instinctively, with outrage, nothing is going to change. In 2012, guys, [Smith] said the exact same thing regarding Chad Johnson. He used the words — in an incident with Chad Johnson, where Chad Johnson was accused of kicking his wife in the head, that we got to look at provocation here and he said he was sick and tired of men being vilified, and ESPN did nothing and it flew under the radar screen. He’s also the guy, by the way, that defended the former NFL coach that said I would never have Michael Sam on my team because it’s a huge distraction. So ESPN makes a lot of money off this guy running his mouth.
And here’s the other thing: He may have apologized, but it was pre-taped, and nothing says sincere like a pre-taped apology. And instead of having a bigger conversation about it — like, okay, wait a minute, you didn’t get to say what you meant? What did you mean exactly by that?
Good on Robbins for seeing past the carefully crafted PR response and to the heart of the matter.
UPDATE: Perhaps ESPN has heeded the call? From their Front Row site:
Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 4:35 p.m. ET: “ESPN announced today that Stephen A. Smith will not appear on First Take or ESPN Radio for the next week. He will return to ESPN next Wednesday.”
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