No need for an introduction paragraph. Let me get straight to the point.
I debated for a while if I would address this Stephen A. Smith controversy. As a communication major, the word implication urks me to my core. To use the word implication brings in to the conversation that you interpreted my words a certain way whether that is what I meant or not.
We saw it happen last week with Coach Tony Dungy. His statement regarding the drafting of Michael Sam was very clear. If he was still coaching and had the opportunity to draft him, he would have chosen not to because he would not have wanted the distractions that came along with drafting Sam. Somehow, this implied that he would not draft him because of his sexuality. Somehow, this implied that Dungy hated Sam because of his sexuality. Somehow, this implied that Dungy was a Bible thumping Christian who hated people who do not live according to his beliefs.
Seriously? Assumptions were made without research being done. Assumptions were made by people based off what they saw on social media. Assumptions were made simply based off Dungy’s religious beliefs. There were numerous discussions I shut down by pointing out this one simple fact: what Dungy said lined up with his philosophy that he used for years while coaching in the NFL-minimize distractions. Think about it. When he was coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, how many times did you hear of negative happenings in their camp? When Dungy was coach of the Indianapolis Colts, how many times did you hear of negative happenings in their camp? Exactly.
People are quick to twist your words whether you pretzeled them or not.
Back to Smith. I have been a follower of Smith’s work for years. I have always loved his passion for sports and his unique views when addressing certain topics. When I returned home Monday, I was surprised to learn that he was in “hot water” because he “alluded” to the fact that women can provoke men to be abusive while discussing the two game suspension of Ray Rice(who was charged with assault on his then fiance earlier this year). My first reaction was um ok. What did he say wrong? If that is all he said, then what is the issue. However, I knew what the issue was. I have been engulfed in this world of communication long enough to know where this was headed. Unfortunately, I knew it was towards a place that throws up another barrier when it comes to addressing issues that are plaguing our country.
This morning I watched the clip of Smith’s original diatribe on Friday. I also watched his apology that he issued on Monday and I have concluded that what is being lost in this country right now is the right to opinion. Mainly, the right to have an opinion that differs from what is “politically correct” at the moment. Everyone in this country is entitled to their opinion. Everyone in this country is technically protected by the First Amendment guaranteeing them free speech. With that being acknowledged, I acknowledge the fact that there are some things that are unacceptable when it comes to what comes out of ones mouth. However, you are still entitled to your opinion.
What Smith offered up was just that, an opinion. It was not the one that you have probably heard spewed all over the media though. Not once did Smith say that it was ok for a man to hit a woman. Not once did Smith say that a woman deserves to be hit by a man. Not once did Smith insinuate that domestic violence is ok. In fact, he REPEATEDLY reiterated that domestic violence is NEVER ok.
What Smith did was open the door to discuss what has increasingly become an issue that is rarely addressed. Now before you tangle my words, let me be clear. Domestic violence is NEVER ok. NEVER. Let’s break this down though because I understood exactly what Smith was saying. When he alluded to women provoking men, I got it. We(women) know the kind of power we have. Well, most of us do. Most of us also know that there are a lot of men out here who respect women enough to to not lay hands on us. However, there are a lot of men who were raised in environments where this was ok. In turn, they are teaching their young sons that this is an acceptable way to handle their business simply because this is all they know.
At the same time, women know how to push buttons. Been there, done that. If we have not done it ourselves, we have been witness to a woman pushing a man’s buttons so hard that it takes everything in that man to not act on instinct. I have seen women unleash verbal assaults on men that were so lethal that my defending instincts were put on alert. From what I have heard, Smith called in to question the roll Rice’s wife played in the situation. Reports have consistently stated that she was also verbally and physically abusive towards him that night. He also brought up the fact that up until this point, this was out of character for Rice.
Honestly, we can take the domestic aspect out of the conversation and just look at it from a standpoint of person to person. While growing up, there were times that I provoked my mama into reminding me who was the parent. After my lips stop stinging from the quickness of her backhand, I duly noted in my young mind that I might not want to do that again. Did I deserve it? Some will argue no. I say yes. That is the way she chose t discipline me at times. I caused that reaction from her. I provoked her. If I had just gone to my room and pitched a fit behind closed doors, like I did most times, then my lips would not still be tingling minutes later.
While the outcomes of parental discipline and domestic violence are different, the root is the same in some instances. Most people can only take so much chastising, verbal abuse and insults before they reach their boiling point. We all know that when people reach their boiling point things sometimes happen that can take the calmest person out of their character. Domestic violence is not just physical. It is mental as well as emotional. A man that abuses physically can be provoked by a woman who abuses emotionally. Is he wrong? Yes. Is she wrong? Yes.
In opening up the avenue for discussion about this topic, Smith created a firestorm. It is one that I hope will now lead to a discussion that needs to be had on a daily basis and not for just five minutes on ESPN.
Until next time…TOODELLS.