“Now look, I don’t condone violence against women…”
When someone says those words, it’s a good idea to brace yourself for some idiocy to follow.
Because all too often, they don’t stop there. There’s a pause, then a ‘but’, then the insertion of a size 12 foot in an equally large gob.
There has been a lot of foot-in-mouth disease following the assault by American football star Ray Rice on his then-fiancee, now wife, Janay Palmer Rice, in February.
It started with Rice’s own lawyer describing what unfolded in that Atlantic City casino elevator as a ‘minor physical altercation’. If you haven’t seen it, this is what a minor physical altercation looks like.
When Ozzie Newsome, general manager of Rice’s club, the Baltimore Ravens, saw this footage, he said: “It doesn’t look good.” Bloody terrible is how it looks, Ozzie.
Several months later, when Rice spoke publicly about the assault, Janay seated next to him, he spoke in the euphemisms of denial about ‘the situation’ and ‘what happened’, as though he’d been a spectator.
In a colossally poor choice of words, he added: “Failure is not gettin’ knocked down, it’s not gettin’ up.” Does that include when you’ve been knocked unconscious by the person you love, Ray?
The verbal diarrhoea has escalated in the wake of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspending Rice for two games and keeping a straight face while claiming: “We have a very firm policy that domestic violence is not acceptable in the NFL.”
Explaining his decision, Goodell said: “I think it’s important to understand that this is a young man who made a terrible mistake.”
Roger, here are some terrible mistakes. Putting haemorrhoid cream on your toothbrush. Drunk dialling. Locking yourself out of the house wearing only a dressing gown. What Ray Rice did, Roger, well there are much better words than ‘mistake’. Like ‘violation’ and ‘criminal act’.
ESPN sports personality Stephen Smith weighed in, helpfully cautioning women: “Don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions.” He bought himself a week on the bench. He was perhaps spared a stiffer penalty by the fact it’s almost impossible to fathom what the hell he was saying.
Rice himself had another crack at a public apology last week. “I made the biggest mistake of my life,” he said. Ray, have a read of what I said to Rog. And you may want to rethink the bit where you said: “It hurts because I can’t go out there and play football.” Right now, you should be grateful you haven’t been decked out in prison orange.
Some observers have latched on to Janay’s refusal to press charges and her plea for leniency towards her husband. Latin Post’s Damon Salvadore argued: “If Janay isn’t bothered by what took place, then why should anybody else?”
Damon, seriously, go and sit on the spiky end of a toilet brush.
John Jackson from ChicagoNow criticised the outraged masses, including “media members who should know better than to look at things in strictly black-and-white terms”. What about black-and-blue terms, John?
And finally, there are those who argue that violence off the field is, for some, an inevitable by-product of contact sport.
“The very thing that makes the NFL appealing has characteristics that some players are unable to leave in the locker when the game is over,” says Bob Taylor of Communities Digital News.
And we wonder why women often blame themselves when they’re assaulted by a partner.
If you’re looking for something to say on domestic violence, try this: “I don’t condone violence against women. Full stop.” No pause, no buts, no qualifiers, no weasel words.
Or you can go with ESPN’s Keith Olbermann’s approach. Just about the best five minutes of television I’ve seen. Ever.