Dear Mr. Smith:
It looks like you’ll now have some extra time on your hands, suspended from ESPN for a week with your self-described “egregious” error and colossal lack of judgment the other day when you suggested that women could avoid domestic violence incidents by not provoking would-be attackers. Your comments came in the wake of the NFL’s extremely lenient penalty to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after a video surveillance camera showed Rice dragging his unconscious, then-fiancée out of an elevator. Rice allegedly knocked her out cold during a domestic dispute inside said elevator. Here’s what you told a national television audience during your show, First Take, amidst discussions of the NFL’s penalty:
“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 … let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions, because if I come — or somebody else come, whether it’s law enforcement officials, your brother or the fellas that you know — if we come after somebody has put their hands on you, it doesn’t negate the fact that they already put their hands on you.”
Now, I realize that you are not a bad person, Mr. Smith, and that in your heart you did not try to insinuate that it’s a woman’s fault when her partner assaults her. But here’s a list of activities you should participate in during your one-week hiatus…
- Slow. It. Down. Hear yourself. Realize that the volume of your delivery doesn’t equate to you being correct. Take your time; take a breath. Chillax. I realize that the off-the-cuff commentary is part of the show’s appeal. But when it comes to these big time issues, save the drama for your, well, the woman that birthed you. Your loud and verbose delivery, ironically, is a similar precursor to many cases of domestic abuse. People do not respond positively to yelling (unless you’re calling Skip Bayless a bitch, of course). By the way, slowing it down, taking a deep breath – these are some of the cool-down tactics domestic abusers should employ the next time they feel their blood boiling. Work this into your welcome back monologue next week.
- Go talk to victims of domestic abuse. Ask them how they were responsible for provoking their husbands, boyfriends or partners to physically beat them. Oftentimes you’ll find that they suffered abuse for the most mundane reasons, like passing the pepper instead of the salt. Take NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell with you. The two of you might find that victims often stick up for the partners who assault them, much like Ray Rice’s now-wife did when she and Rice met with Goodell before he handed down such a “slap on the wrist” penalty.
- Understand the double standard for domestic abuse. What if we were talking about a top female athlete’s husband as the victim? Would you have made the same remarks? The answer would probably be a resounding “no.” That’s because there’s a stigma that comes to male domestic abuse victims; they get labeled as weak or less of a man for not “handling” his woman. And maybe you can figure out a way to discuss this “handling” mindset that guys have in their every day vernacular when it comes to the women in their lives. You and I know it’s nothing more than guy-speak, but not every young man gets that. Use your platform to discuss ways we can steer away from that type of guy-speak – so that douche bags that don’t understand won’t take it literally.
- Lastly, shake it off the way a batter would after fouling one off his foot. Get back in the box. You’re not the first commentator that made a mistake. I personally do not like your style. But hey, you have to be doing something right to be where you are. You’re getting half the suspension that Ray Rice is getting and you didn’t throw a punch. But never forget the old saying, you know, the one about the pen and the sword. Our words can cut deep. And some people were extremely offended by your remark.
Let’s just hope that seven days gives them enough time to forgive you.
Phillip D. Cortez is the author of several children’s books, including the forthcoming Summer Son and Ava & the Monsters.