ESPN Benches Smith for Domestic Violence Comments

Jonathan Bernstein crisis communication, crisis communications, crisis management, Crisis Prevention, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, Jonathan Bernstein, PR, public relations, reputation management, sports crisis management Leave a Comment

Understandably angry stakeholders and poor crisis management leave sports reporter in a bad spot

ESPN anchor Stephen A. Smith won’t be stepping up to the mic for at least a week following his on-air comments regarding domestic violence – specifically that women should avoid “provoking” men into assaulting them.

Smith did issue a recorded apology during his program on Monday before being suspended, but in our opinion it’s not going to be to enough to satisfy critics, or his employer.

“On Friday, speaking right here on ‘First Take’ on the subject of domestic violence, I made what can only amount to the most egregious error of my career. While elaborating on thoughts concerning the NFL’s ruling versus Ray Rice following a domestic dispute with his then-fiancee, I ventured beyond the scope of our discussion by alluding to a woman’s role in such heinous matters, going so far as to use the word “provoke” in my diatribe. My words came across that it is somehow a woman’s fault. This was not my intent. It is not what I’m trying to say. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders. To say what I actually said was foolish is an understatement. To say I was wrong is obvious. To apologize to say I’m sorry, doesn’t do the matter it’s proper justice, to be quite honest. But I do sincerely apologize.”

It’s an apology, but it’s not the right apology. Especially touching on an issue as sensitive as domestic violence, Smith desperately needed to show compassion. Did he? Not a drop. Smith also needed to show he was a normal human who can make mistakes. Instead, he opted for overly complex wording, alienating him further from stakeholders.

When you make a major mistake in the glare of the spotlights, crisis management must come swiftly, and be done properly. Considering the degree of Smith’s mistake, and his failure to take the proper steps after, we predict this story isn’t over yet.

The BCM Blogging Team

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