Yesterday Stephen A Smith issued an apology for having made statements last Friday that women should avoid doing anything to provoke domestic violence against them.
From the New York Daily News:
Smith said he has “dealt with the matter” of domestic violence within his own family and apologized to his mother and sisters for the way he represented himself. “You all deserved … a better man last Friday sitting on this very set, in this very chair.”
ESPN echoed Smith’s remarks, issuing its own statement, saying, “We will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic. Stephen’s comments last Friday do not reflect our company’s point of view. As his apology demonstrates, he recognizes his mistakes and has a deeper appreciation of our company values.”
I listened to the apology. I believe he is sincere and repentant.
My original concern about the impact of his original statements remains, however. The words he spoke are already “out there” and have the power to perpetuate the ignorant reasoning that abusers maintain that when they hit a woman it is the woman’s fault.
So, I view this apology in the same way I view apologies from abusive men who are engaged in the cycle of violence with women. An apology after an assault (and Smith’s statement on Friday was an assault) is intended, within the context of a violent relationship, to end the discussion.
ESPN was wise to state that they “will continue to have constructive dialogue on this important topic.” Hopefully, it will be a very public dialogue every time a professional sports player engages in domestic violence.
Hopefully, the public dialogue will include the essential topics that must be addressed if domestic violence is going to be understood at the level required to eliminate it.
Certainly, ESPN and Stephen A. Smith would do well to look at this analysis of the issue within the context of the football culture.
Many of Smith’s fans have said that he constantly makes statements against Domestic Violence. I believe that if he is to do that effectively, he must do more than pay lip service. He needs to understand the issues at a deeper level and speak to those deeper issues about cause and responsibility.
If the behaviors after the apology remain the same as the behaviors before the apology, nothing changes.
Victims will still be victimized.
There will still be men out there, Mr. Smith, that believe you apologized because of pressure. Because you had to. Demonstrate that you understand and believe in the deeper issues and you will be doing something to further the cause of eliminating domestic violence. Until then, your apology simply isn’t enough.