Counterpoint: Sports media has already provided great dialogue

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UPDATE: In between Hasani’s post and my own contribution, the AP reported that the jig is even more up for Roger Goodell.

 

I’m writing this to present another view in the ongoing Ray Rice saga. I particularly want to touch on a few points that Hasani wrote about it in his piece on the media coverage of this situation. Most importantly, I ask: why can’t sports media comment on this? If there was ever a time for sports media to take the lead on a serious national issue, this is it. It’s a national story about domestic violence that happened smack dab in the sports realm. If anyone knows the principal players in this particular situation, it’s the sports media.

I think saying that the media isn’t qualified to speak on this issue is a slight at the overall intelligence of the sports media, and also an easy out. If they’re not able to address complex issues like these, then they’re forgiven for not digging deeper. However, I’d like to think that a lot of these people DO have the ability to discuss domestic violence in this country, but that they don’t. It goes back to what Hasani said: when they try to dig deeper, they end up getting slapped with suspensions. When your checks are on the line, you tend to go with plan “keep getting paid.” However, this is an organizational flaw, not a population-related problem. If most of big-time sports media wasn’t centered on dumbing topics down with minimal (actual, not manufactured) controversy presented, then we may be able to broach these topics on TV. However, I would say that while ESPN is the primary source of sports news for Americans, we should not be looking to the Worldwide Leader for insight on this topic.

A quick side note: I agree with Hasani about the fear of suspensions castrating the assorted sports media on such tough topics. But if that’s what Stephen A. Smith sees as “digging deeper,” then we need to ban him from shovels forever. Where I’m from, what Smith said about “not provoking” physical violence sounds like good old-fashioned victim blaming, just like your aunt used to make it. That isn’t a lack of communication skills on Smith’s part. That’s just Smith going down a very dark road, a road where being incensed is in some way an excuse for exploiting power dynamics.

Anyways, ESPN isn’t the best place for insight, yadda yadda yadda. The sports world has already provided a shitload of good coverage on this terrible, terrible incident. The problem is that we don’t usually go to these people for their views on sports. The picture at the top of this post is a pretty good indication of what I’m talking about. Yes, we have female sports reporters. No, they are given nowhere near the kind of liberties to actually talk about sports. Wait, why am I the one saying this? Katie Nolan is better at this than I am:

“Because, the truth is, the NFL will never respect women and their opinions as long as the media it answers to doesn’t. I’m ready when you are, Fox.”

AND THEN SHE CALLED OUT HER EMPLOYER. TURN ALL THE WAY UP, KATIE.

Want more good stuff? Let’s take a look at Michelle Beadle taking Stephen A. Smith to the woodshed, in four simple tweets.

The gall to reach across the ESPN universe and virtually smack the shit out of a colleague will never stop impressing me. Beadle could have caused herself a lot of trouble there, especially with “First Take” rotting the brains of viewers nationwide being a ratings boon. She confronted Smith’s words head-on, and made excellent points about victim blaming and abuse being the abuser’s problem. The world could use a few more Beadles.

Oh, hey, there’s Sarah Kogod! Over at SB Nation, she’s written a short article titled, “Why I stayed.” It looks to be going on the top headlines section of the internet media giant’s page for two days now. In the piece, Kogod details her own experiences in an abusive relationship, and what made her stay with such a man:

I wish I could say I was strong enough at the time to leave him. I wasn’t. Our relationship ended after almost two years when he left me for a girl he had been cheating on me with. I’m not one of those women, like my mom, who was able to stand up for herself. That will never be my narrative. But I also know that I’m fortunate. There are millions of women who aren’t lucky enough to have their abusers leave them.

I can’t tell you why Janay Rice stayed. I can tell you why I did, and it has nothing to do with my race or whether or not I was dating an athlete. I was sure, deep down in my heart, that one day the man I loved would prove everyone wrong and get better, and we would be able to look back and see how far we had come.

And if you think men with their silly penises and testosterone are incapable of touching on this subject in a thoughtful, moving manner, let’s check in on Tomas Rios. After the Ray Rice press conference fiasco in May, Rios did the damn thing. Rios goes deep into numbers to help make his case, pleasing the stat nerds living in all of us.

A woman has publicly sided with her abuser before, but the collusion between athlete and team to impose a feel-good narrative of personal redemption on the public sends a horrifying message. In the U.S. alone, 22 percent of women experience intimate partner violence and account for 85 percent of all domestic violence victims. However, only one quarter of all intimate partner assaults are reported to the police. The rates are worse for women of color. Consider this, then think about the message sent when a reported assault ends with the victim on television sharing the blame. The message is clear: Reporting intimate partner violence is pointless.

Please, go read the rest of that article, and really, definitely, surely or you’re a communist go read all of Sarah Kogod’s. We’ve gotten a lot of perspective on this already. I’d say starting with these is a good step toward understanding domestic violence better.

As far as where do we go from here? Well, Goodell hollering at that unemployment line next week or so wouldn’t exactly ruin my day, but we’re still a ways away from that. Media dialogue-wise, I hope we start to focus more deeply on the raw numbers Rios mentions, as well as the power dynamics at play. The threat of violence, both physical and sexual, has been an extreme lever of control over women for, well, however long there have been men and women. That’s where I get pissed with the “provoking” take: provoking is a moving target, and provoking could entail a woman acting irately, because she finally is reacting to impropriety in the relationship. A man using force, because he so happened to be born with more muscles and also be more of an asshole, to put a shiny new gloss on said impropriety ain’t gonna cut it.

Where do you think this dialogue should go, and how do we get worthwhile dialogue to the people who need to hear this shit?

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