ESPN First Take host Stephen A. Smith sparked controversy in July when he spoke out in defense of Ray Rice, the now-former Baltimore Ravens player who had received a paltry two-game suspension after copping a plea deal for assaulting his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer.
After news of the two-game suspension, Smith attempted to mansplain domestic violence and stated that a man should never hit a woman under any circumstances, but he also also stated that he tells the women in his family that they should never "provoke" a man. After making those comments, Smith apologized and was also put on leave from ESPN's First Take.
"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," Smith said in July.
"My words came across that it is somehow a woman's fault," he said. "This was not my intent. It is not what I was trying to say. Yet the failure to clearly articulate something different lies squarely on my shoulders."
Last night Smith made a comparison between Rice and another NFL player whose career was surrounded in controversy.
Smith appeared with Sean Hannity and was asked whether Rice could ever make a comeback to the NFL. This question came on the heels of Rice being dropped by the Ravens and suspended from the NFL indefinitely after a full video of him assaulting Palmer, who is now his wife, was released.
Smith, oddly, attempted to make a parallel between Rice and Michael Vick, whose dogfighting scandal temporarily had him sidelined. Smith said that if Vick returned to the NFL, then there's hope for Rice, too.
Smith went on to say that it's doubtful Rice would be allowed back in the NFL this season because he's "nuclear." He went on to say that Vick made his way back into the NFL correctly because he "showed the appropriate level of contrition," made himself available for questions and also volunteered with animal shelters. Smith said that if Rice wants to rehabilitate himself, he "can't hide, he's got to be front and center."
Unlike Smith, there's one NFL player who isn't ready and willing to forgive Rice and allow him back on the field. Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton shared his opinion of Rice on Twitter, and it wasn't anything nice.
Although both domestic violence and animal abuse are inherently deplorable, what Smith fails to remember is that Vick actually served jail time for his acts. Rice, on the other hand, received a slap on the wrist from the New Jersey court system and from the NFL when the video was released. Vick probably learned his lesson because there was no hesitation in his punishment.
With Rice, I can't be too certain he learned his lesson when he received the two-game suspension, but maybe he's on the road to learning a lesson now. People can be rehabilitated and put in time doing "do-good" work to prove that they are, but it's a bit too soon to want to welcome Rice back into the NFL with open arms. And maybe if the NFL ends its open-arm treatment of players, then players would know not to get into situations that can jeopardize their careers.