ESPN's Stephen A. Smith was in Columbus to speak at the annual SaMarc Foundation basketball camp hosted by Minnesota Timberwolves assistant Sam Mitchell.
A transcript of their thoughts on Smith's controversial comments about the Ray Rice domestic abuse incident is provided below.
Stephen A. Smith
On whether there were questions about whether he would still appear at the camp following his controversial comments on Rice last week on ESPN's First Take:
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"First of all, there was no doubt that I was going to be here because there would be no reason for me to cancel. I made a promise to my boy and I was going to be here. Now obviously, there are always occupational commitments. If ESPN said, 'You can't go because we need you on SportsCenter.' Well Sam, I love you dearly, but that brother doesn't pay my bills, so I would have had to pass. But it would have taken something of that magnitude for me not to be here. Regardless of what's going on with my life, that has nothing to do with my friendship with him, the commitment I made to him and these kids here. I was going to exhaust every measure necessary in order to be here.
"The controversy was self-inflicted. I'm on the record saying that I was misunderstood, but that's my responsibility. I have a responsibility to articulate myself concisely and clearly and I failed to do that last week. So the hits that I took were well-deserved. I'm a big boy. I can take it. Last time I checked, 'First Take' with myself and Skip Bayless, we are on the air every day holding folks accountable for the things that they say or the things that they do. You don't do that and then run from it when it's your turn. It's my turn and I took it and I have to continue to take it for as long as I have to continue to take it. But I promise you I will be standing."
On how he planned to address the situation when speaking with campers:
"It's something I'll probably talk about tonight when I'm speaking at the banquet. It's about a responsibility and accountability. I'm very, very big on accountability. Anybody that knows me knows what I'm about. I've got eight nieces. I've got 11 nieces and nephews combined. I was raised by four older sisters. I've got the greatest mother in the world and I'm the youngest of six, so because of that I've always been held accountable. As a result, I'm a nightmarish uncle and brother because I always hold other folks accountable. It comes with the territory. These are big boy rules. I'm on national television every day. I'm going to be on national radio soon, and so because of all of that, it is what it is. You make a mistake, you own up to it and you move forward. That's what I'm doing."
On how long he's been trying to get Smith to appear at the SaMarc basketball camp:
"I've been talking to him for at least two years about doing this. He and I talk all the time because we're friends and we talk basketball. We talk about life and different things because we're friends. But every now and then when we'd talk I'm mention it to him and I kept reminding him of the date and we were fortunate enough that he was able to carve out these 12 hours to get down here."
On whether there were discussions about holding off Smith's appearance in light of the recent controversy:
"No. If you listen to what he said and what he was trying to say is that something happened in a split-second. Accidents happen. But when I looked at the story — and I'm sure it's what (NFL) Commissioner (Roger Goodell) looked at, it's that, one: The woman still married Ray Rice. So she understood. And two, she stood up and took some personal responsibility for letting things escalate. Having been married and been in relationships, that's sometimes how it is. People lose their temper. But if you're in a relationship with someone you're getting ready to marry, you know them. So sometimes you just need to know when to back off and walk away. And I think that's what Stephen was trying to say. When you feel an argument gets to a certain level, that's when both people need to take a break from each other and back off. Sometimes you're able to do that and sometimes you can't.
"But he says controversial stuff all the time. This is his job — to talk about things that are mainstream news. He made a comment that was taken out of context. Like he said, he apologized for it. He didn't mean it. He doesn't advocate it. He doesn't feel that way. Sometimes what people don't understand is that when you're on TV and you've got 45 seconds to talk about something and you lose your train of thought, those types of things happen. You misspeak and you say something you don't mean. People don't understand that because they're not in that business. I've done TV. You've maybe got 45 seconds to get your thought across on live TV and sometimes it's hard to articulate a very good opinion in that short amount of time."
On how much his prior experience as a television analyst figures into his understanding of Smith's comments:
"Mistakes happens. But I know he doesn't feel that way. I've got four daughters. So he and I wouldn't be friends if he actually stood up and said, 'A man should put his hands on a woman in certain circumstances.' I've known him for 20 years and I know who he is and what he stands for. When those types of things happen, I know, like a lot of other things, they're taken out of context."