“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.
25 Comments Add yours
Did you hear Goodell admitted he got it wrong with Rice? New rules. First offence suspended for six weeks with no pay. Second offence, banished from the league for AT LEAST one year, but no guarantees they will be granted the opportunity to play again.
Love it. Really strong and takes a tough man to admit he got it wrong.
As I said earlier, best administrator in sport, I’ve ever seen.
I hadn’t heard that. That’s really interesting and great to have some parameters because, sadly, this won’t be the last time he has to deal with this. I’m with you – I admire a person who can admit a mistake.
There was huge backlash in the US so he had to do something.
Could be a good foundation for your international standards idea.
Reblogged this on Big Battles, Small Victories and commented:
I am tired of celebrities (including athletes) getting special treatment. A crime was committed. There should be no question as to the punishment. Whether or not his wife wants to press charges, he should be on trial. This should go beyond how the sports world punishes people. Violence is not acceptable and this is going to keep happening until that is made clear. It makes me sick.
Couldn’t agree more, Emily. Thanks for the reblog.
Your welcome. Thanks for the excellent post.
Agreed, but it isn’t just celebrities, is it? When it comes to “domestic” violence (I use quotation marks because I hate that it is treated differently, as though it isn’t just violence) the system uses the victim’s reluctance to press charges/bear witness as a reason not to prosecute, regardless of fame or standing of either the perpetrator or victim.
Great post. Couldn’t agree more.
Saying that violence is a by-product of a contact sport is ridiculous, and quite frankly demeaning to all contact athletes out there by implying that they control their actions off the field. (Never mind that, as she was unconscious, his action were probably illegal even ON the field). I play a contact sport (basketball), and even though it isn’t as rough as football I assure you I do not do off the court the things I do on the court. Ever.
Sports administrators need to stop using excuses for their player’s poor behaviour. They are public figures, whether they like it or not, and they need to act accordingly. They represent a brand, a club, a family that includes children and women.
Administrators must start choosing players based on their personalities and behaviour, not just pure athletic ability. Regardless of their public persona, how does this type of behaviour impact on the performance of the team? Surely at least one other player in his team objects to his behaviour, the media storm surrounding this must distract both him, the rest of the team and the entire club from the business of actually playing and winning. It is for the good of the entire club to demand a high level performance and decency both on and off the field.
Good points, Lucinda. Fortunately, I think we’re reaching a tipping point across many codes in terms of public tolerance. But clubs and administrators still have a long way to go on this one.
What do you think the penalty should have been? Should there be an international penalty for this type of poor behaviour or would this just encourage teams and publicists to cover it up better? Believe me, I’ve seem more cover ups than you could imagine and could ruin many players, clubs and sporting bodies.
In my opinion, Goodell is the greatest sports administrator I’ve ever seen. I just don’t think any sporting body knows how to handle this issue, though. But it needs to be addressed, with consistency.
I can believe it, Joe. A big part of the problem is that when incidents like this occur, the clubs go into damage control instead of putting the victim first. This happens often enough for the players to think they can get away with it. And they do, except thankfully in the court of public opinion.
As for the penalty, how do you put a price on what he’s done? Every morning his wife is going to wake up wondering if that violence is going to be revisited on her. I’m glad he’s getting counselling, but that should be in addition to a lengthy suspension, not in place of it.
Personally, I think he should have to sit out the season. That would send a compelling message. I don’t know enough about Goodell’s wider administration but I think he has badly misjudged things here.
I hope the counselling is done for the real reason and not just PR. I honestly think there needs to be an international sport agreement on penalties to stop inconsistency. I guarantee if a lesser profile player had done this, he would be banned from the club. Marquee players get protected. I understand from a business sense why this happens, but it doesn’t mean it’s correct.
An international agreement – wouldn’t that be fantastic! And really, not out of the realm of possibility, given the number of global governing bodies there are.
It is difficult to know what an appropriate punishment should be. But it should be consistent with other charges – for example, if a player has been suspended for 6 weeks for drug use, I think it is consistent to say that assault is at least as serious so the punishment should be at least that much.
When you say these cover ups could “ruin” players or clubs, are you really sure about this? I think we throw this around too much. Here in Australia we have had football clubs with convictions of drug cheating, bad behaviour at team camps, abuse of reporters and so on. They get really bad press for a while, they may get fined, but come next season, the memory has faded, the crowds are still there and everyone moves on. Individual players have faced rape allegations, drug convictions, but one team sacks them and another picks them up. Not many actually get “ruined”.
I can’t watch any more. In the Ray apology to his wife he didn’t look at his wife once, he did not touch his wife once, he apologised to bosses, fans but did NOT apologise to his wife!?!? Then – she takes the mic and apologises for the role she played in the incident!?!? unfathomable
It’s very hard to watch, isn’t it? And right there is the reason why we can’t be at all equivocal in our language on this issue.
Keith Olberman. Yes!
Wonderful, isn’t it?