Free Stephen A. Smith and your mind while you're at it.
Smith isn't in jail but he has been suspended by ESPN for those comments regarding provocation in dealing with domestic violence. He is currently in the prison of public opinion, which consists majorly of disdain.
For clarity, I understand that Stephen A. Smith HAD to be suspended because of the uproar this caused, but he should have never been scrutinized to begin with. Albeit not necessarily for his statements, but because of his current public perception. With that said, he should not have been suspended at all.
Suspending an analyst - hired for HIS opinions - sends the wrong message to him and the community. That's not the big issue here, however.
Smith shouldn't be suspended because he didn't say anything wrong. He clearly stated that Rice - or any man for that matter - has "no business putting your hands on a woman," and that "there's never an excuse to put your hands on a woman." He qualified that by saying that "we got to also make sure that you can do your part to do whatever you can do to make, to try to make sure it doesn't happen."
From radio shows, television and just casual conversation it seems people believe Smith is saying that women are provoking men into hitting them. That's clearly not the case.
What I got from Smith is this: A man should never hit a woman. BUT society has to acknowledge the fact that sometimes women can push a man's buttons and they must be careful for their own safety not to push those buttons.
In terms of domestic violence there is a necessary double standard here. I laughed when I saw Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z, but had that been Jay Z attacking her I would have been furious.
I think it's safe to say the most important thing is preventing these things from happening and it starts with the men doing everything in their power to never hit a woman, ever. Next is making sure women are careful not to stir the pot, but realizing also that if you are in an abusive relationship YOU are the victim, that's not your fault and you should get out of that relationship.
I stated some of my opinions on the subject matter (basically that there is merit in Stephen A's comments) on Twitter, and with that came some responses from my followers - some people agreed with me, others didn't. But through Twitter came a thought provoking conversation with some of my friends, in which a female friend of mine, Shelby Farmer, provided her feelings on how women feel every day in regards to domestic violence and gender equality.
Here's what Farner sent me in a text:
I literally live a block from my office so half the time I walk to work. Last night we got done around 10 and I had to walk alone in the dark. I left my camera and other devices in the office in case I got robbed. I made sure to put my bag across my body so it wasn't easy to take. I kept my keys in one hand for a sad makeshift weapon. And then I called my mom so I'd have someone in case something happened. Just to walk a few hundred yards. These are things that the majority of women do and feel. I just don't understand how much more careful we're expected to be. And I understand there are those who aren't, but it's still not fair.
Her comments brought a different light to the conversation, one I hadn't considered. One I think more men should consider. She made a valid point and I agree with her on the basis that men should be made aware of how women are forced to live their lives because of gender. I don't live in fear of being beaten in a relationship or mugged at night, but some women do and we have to acknowledge that as a society.
The most important thing Smith's suspension does is bring awareness to the issue at hand. It starts the conversation.
Shakeem Holloway is Sports Editor at the Rockdale News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org