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Somewhat buried in an otherwise busy news week is the story about Ray Rice, running back for the NFL Baltimore Ravens, who was suspended for two games - two whole games! - for beating his then fiancée until she passed out.  Apparently, smoking pot would merit a four game suspension.  With some outcry, maybe the powers that be in the NFL will re-consider their policies.

But, as all to often happens in a story where some sports "hero" looks bad, someone has to try to deflect the blame and in this case, that someone was ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith.

Smith took to the air to say that yes, a man - in this case, a man that is 5'8" and 220 pounds - hitting a woman is a bad thing and shame on Rice for that.  The incident is disturbing; per Wikipedia:

On February 15, 2014, Rice and his fiancée were arrested and charged with simple assault after a physical altercation at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, NJ. The website TMZ has posted a video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an elevator after an incident in Atlantic City on Friday evening.

In USA Today, the story continues that "Rice was [later] indicted by a grand jury on the more serious charge of third-degree assault for allegedly knocking her unconscious. The charge carried a potential sentence of three to five years in prison upon conviction. ... At a press conference a few days after entering the program for first-time offenders, Rice pledged to again become a role model."

Unfortunately, Smith couldn't help but add that women should look in the mirror about these incidents, saying:

“But at the same time,” he concluded, “we need to learn as much as we can about elements of provocation, not that there is real provocation, but the elements of provocation, you have to make sure you address it.”  (Emphasis added).
 

Called out on his attempt to blame women, Smith should have apologized for his thoughtless comment and left it at that.  Instead, he doubled down, to wit: "I was simply saying to take all things into consideration for preventative purposes.  Period."

Maybe he meant well and he claims that he was raised by four older sisters along with his mom - I'd be curious what they think - but it's unfortunate that in 2014 we still have guys that think that a woman is at fault for some unknown "element of provocation" that results in her being beaten unconscious.  Wouldn't it be great if sports figures - and those who worship them - would instead work to get the message out that nothing - and that's absolutely nothing- "provocative" by your wife, fiancée, girlfriend, or any other woman merits physically abusing her?

Originally posted to Darmok on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by This Week in the War on Women.

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