ESPN has hit Stephen A. Smith where it hurts most -- his airtime.
The network announced on Tuesday that it was pulling the First Take talker for a week from his ESPN2 morning show and ESPN Radio. He will return to ESPN next Wednesday. Smith is likely to take a break from social media as part of the move.
Asked by Sports Illustrated if it was a paid or unpaid de-facto suspension, an ESPN spokesperson declined comment.
On Monday, in a taped statement read at the top of the show he co-debates with Skip Bayless, Smith offered an on-air apology for comments made on last Friday’s show. On that episode, in the midst of discussing the NFL’s adjudication of Ray Rice, Smith suggested that women should examine their role in provoking domestic violence incidents.
Those comments angered many colleagues, including Sports Nation host Michelle Beadle, who responded to Smith’s words by sending a series of tweets decrying his take on domestic violence. Wrote Beadle: “So I was just forced to watch this morning's First Take. A) I'll never feel clean again B) I'm now aware that I can provoke my own beating" ... "Violence isn't the victim's issue. It's the abuser's. To insinuate otherwise is irresponsible and disgusting.”
On Tuesday ESPN president John Skipper sent an in-house memo to ESPN's employees on Smith's comments:
"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.
"As many of you know, there has been substantial news coverage in the past few days related to comments Stephen A. made last Friday in the wake of the NFL's decision to suspend Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice for two games following charges of assaulting his then fiancée, now wife, a few months ago.
"We've said publicly and in this space that those remarks did not reflect our company's point of view, or our values. They certainly don't reflect my personal beliefs.
"We have been engaged in thoughtful discussion about appropriate next steps. Those conversations have involved a diverse group of women and men in our company. Our women's ERG has added to the conversation and going forward, I know they will help us continue constructive discussion on this and related issues.
"Stephen has called what took place 'the most egregious mistake' of his career. I believe his apology was sincere and that he and we have learned from what we've collectively experienced.
"I'm confident we will all move forward with a greater sense of enlightenment and perspective as the lasting impact of these last few days. I want to thank all those whose thoughts have contributed along the way."