ESPN's 'First Take' crew

Analysts on ESPN's "First Take" program are Stephen A. Smith, left, Jay Crawford and Skip Bayless. Smith came under fire for comments made about domestic violence. (ESPN)

A popular ESPN analyst is being highly criticized for comments he made Friday morning about women and what he seemed to imply could be their potential role in domestic violence.

In a discussion on “First Take,” Stephen A. Smith seemed to imply that some women are to blame for domestic violence while he debated Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice's two-game suspension under the personal conduct policy for an alleged February altercation between Rice and his then-fiancee, which ended with her unconscious in an Atlantic City casino elevator. 

“Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions,” Smith said, apparently addressing women who might become victims of domestic violence. Smith said it is never OK for a man to put his hands on a woman to hurt her but added, “Let’s try to do our part in making sure that doesn’t happen,” he said, apparently to women.

Rice “probably” deserves more than a two-game suspension, Smith said. “But at the same time, we also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation.”

Fellow ESPN host Michelle Beadle lambasted the segment on Twitter, saying she would "never feel clean again." Fellow Twitter users hopped on board with her.  

Cindy Southworth, vice president of National Network to End Domestic Violence said she is "outraged" that Smith made the comments, then attempted to clarify his meaning.

"He is in a lose-lose situation," she said of Smith's attempts to clarify what he meant. 

After deleting several tweets late Friday afternoon (Deadspin captured them here) concerning his comments on the show, Smith said his initial comments about domestic violence were not clearly articulated and therefore were misunderstood by some viewers.

In his latest statement, Smith said, “I want to state very clearly. I do NOT believe a woman provokes the horrible domestic abuses that are sadly such a major problem in our society. I wasn’t trying to say that or even imply it when I was discussing my own personal upbringing and the important role the women in my family have played in my life.”

An ESPN spokesman had no comment about the situation. 

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