By Doug Porter
There was a time, back when I ran a sports bar in Washington DC, when celebrating our national gladiator sport was a near obsession for me. Televised games (no matter who was playing), betting pools, fantasy teams and the ultimate thrill of a couple of actual seats in an stadium were a big deal.
Not any more. The onset of the NFL marketing mix this year leaves me feeling empty. And sad. And mad.
It’s no longer about the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. (It never was, but that’s another story.) Now its about brain damage. Now it’s about closing the ranks to hide egregious behavior. Now it’s about money, power and a platform for flaunting greed.
The big news yesterday was Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice. He was banned from the sport following release of a February 15th elevator video showing him punching his fiance.
The video didn’t just materialize. It’s been there at the casino where the event occurred all along. The National Football League (which maintains its own security forces) supposedly never thought to ask for it.
From CBS Radio’s Scott Gray:
The NFL and it’s teams, combined, spend tens of millions of dollars a year on security forces made up of retired law officers, from local to the FBI. The video security measures on casino properties are well known, the existence of videos, sometimes particularly in elevators, is no secret.
How did “TMZ” get this video before the NFL? Or did they? Why couldn’t the NFL think to ask for it, or at least for the opportunity to view it? Or did they?
Once the evidence was out there for all to see, the league did what it thought it had to do. And it was too little, too late. It took actually seeing him punch a woman–when it’s been obvious all along that is what happened–to force their hand.
Ray Rice pleaded not guilty to assault charges in May and was permitted to enter a pre-trial intervention program to avoid prosecution. The police, by the way, did have a copy of both the during and after video. So did Ray Rice’s lawyers.
Comforting the Violent and Afflicting the Victim
In the wake of widespread criticism for the two-game suspension of Rice for actions seen in the “after” video, NFL Commissioner Goodell announced changes to the NFL’s policies on domestic violence punishments in August.
ESPN’s Keith Olbermann called for the NFL Commissioner’s head yesterday:
“Mr. Goodell’s ineptitude has not merely rendered this football season meaningless and irrelevant by contrast, it has not only reduced supporting or watching NFL football to a distasteful even a disrespectful act, but most importantly it has comforted the violent and afflicted the victim,” Olbermann said.
“His push to increase NFL punishment of domestic abusers to roughly one-third that of repeat pot smokers, his decision today to suspend Rice indefinitely after the Ravens had fired him are elements of classic tragedy wherein the right thing is finally done only after it is too late to matter. “
“Roger Goodell’s existence, who he is, what he has turned the NFL Commissioner’s office into is now symbolized by Ray Rice’s brutal left hand striking Janay Palmer, and striking her again. Mr. Goodell is an enabler of men who beat women. His position within the National Football League is no longer tenable.”
The Scope of the Problem, Illustrated
I say there’s a lot to be learned from the various reactions in the media about just how pervasive this willingness to defend or deflect the seriousness of what the very public airing Ray Rice incident represents.
I found the quote that does sum up the situation in UT-San Diego, of all places. Some writer deserves credit for this insight, but the UT doesn’t care enough about its online product to bother.
Crimes involving grown men with children generally leave the culprit excommunicated from society. Crimes involving grown men with women leave the culprit briefly inconvenienced before collecting seven figures.
Make no mistake — domestic violence is hardly a problem exclusive to celebrities. In San Diego County, 16,689 incidents were reported to law enforcement last year — an average of about 44 per day. And from 2006 to 2012, the county saw an annual average of 139 emergency-room visits related to domestic violence.
Still, as alarming as some of these numbers may be, those pertaining to professional football are far more jarring. Perhaps the scariest stat of all is how often charges are dropped. A Los Angeles Times investigation discovered that while the general conviction rate for domestic violence cases is 77 percent, it’s only 36 among athletes.
At Fox News, It’s Joke Material
HaHa! Said the Fox morning crew.
From Huffington Post
Without giving many details about the assault, the hosts quickly began comparing the incident to other cases of domestic violence among celebrities. But rather than putting any kind of blame on the abuser, the co-hosts pointed the finger at the women.
“She still married him!” Steve Doocy said of Rice’s wife, Janay Palmer.
“Rihanna went back to Chris Brown right after [he assaulted her],” Brian Kilmeade said. “A lot of people thought that was a terrible message.”
Doocy compared the video to the elevator incident between Jay Z and Solange. To which Kilmeade then– you guessed it– defended Jay Z for not hitting back.
“I think the message is, take the stairs,” Kilmeade concluded.
No. That’s really not the message.
Doocy then chimed in once more.
“The message is, when you’re in an elevator, there’s a camera.”
Now Brian Kilmeade did spend all of 13 seconds this morning, walking back that bit of misogyny. Don’t blink if you click on the link to watch that video.
From Media Matters:
CO-HOST BRIAN KILMEADE: Comments that we made during this story yesterday made some feel like we were taking the situation too lightly. We are not. We were not. Domestic abuse is a very serious issue to us, I can assure you.
At DiGiono Pizza It Was a Stupid Tweet
On Monday evening, thousands of women across the Internet took to Twitter using the hashtag #WhyIStayed in a sign of solidarity for Janay Palmer, wife of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, after a TMZ released a leaked video of Rice knocking Palmer unconscious last February.
It was a powerful moment of solidarity and support on an Internet often overrun with mankind’s vilest impulses.
Then, this happened:
Example of a brand using a trending topic without understanding the context #Advertising #SocialMedia #WhyIStayed pic.twitter.com/iTSmfaT6Xv
— Scott Paul (@scottatslee) September 9, 2014
DiGiorno did apologize later. And Alex Goldman over at On The Media noted that the company went out of their way to contact individuals and say they were sorry.
It is absolutely the responsibility of a “social media manager” to know how to communicate carefully and effectively. But if you are a business and you are are this tone deaf in public, it seems like it is actually a pretty thoughtful move to spend the next twelve hours apologizing. It shows a willingness to be transparent about how the company made this mistake in the first place, to reach out to victims of domestic violence acknowledging a stupid error, and to try and actually utilize social media not just as a messaging platform but as a dialogue with potential customers.
This sort of thing will definitely happen again in the future. For the time being, DiGiorno has set the standard by which other companies should handle social media mistakes.
Seau’s Family Takes a Stand
Former Chargers linebacker Junior Seau’s family told the NFL to take hike yesterday. They rejected a proposed settlement between the league and thousands of former players stemming from lawsuits alleging the NFL concealed the dangers of football-related head trauma.
Seau suicide in 2012 was a wake up call. An autopsy showed the former football great was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a neurodegenerative disease, found in dozens of other deceased NFL players.
The announcement, coming on the eve of the 2014 season, is a serious blow to the NFL’s efforts to put the concussion issue to rest. It raises the specter of continuing litigation that would pit the NFL against the family of one of its most popular players. Seau, a certain Hall of Famer, played 20 years in the NFL.
“The family want to know why this settlement seems designed for expediency for the NFL and to ensure that information doesn’t come out,” said Seau lawyer Steven Strauss, a partner in the firm Cooley LLP. “And the Seau family wants the truth to come out. Since this litigation started, there hasn’t been one document produced, there hasn’t been one deposition taken. It seems very clearly designed to nip this in the bud and not have the truth come out, and that’s not acceptable to the Seau family, and it’s not acceptable to Junior’s legacy.”
About the Rest of that NFL Season
It’s not like I just woke yesterday and decided No More Football. My disengagement from the sport has been a process.
The stupidly racist attitude emanating from the ownership of the Washington franchise [They were my favorites for many years] stoked my dissatisfaction, along with each report of incurable damage to players, greedy owners seeking taxpayer support and growing evidence of a culture of abuse within the league.
Yesterday’s news just made me more self-aware of what I’m feeling about the NFL.
This isn’t to say I won’t watch a game this weekend. But it won’t feel the same. And maybe I’ll just up my par for books read from two to three per week.
A New Chargers Stadium?
I’m certain that the staff at KPBS was unaware of the Ray Rice video when this story was posted yesterday. None-the-less, the irony of it’s timing struck me.
Here’s the first few sentences:
Could a solid Chargers season mean more than a return to the playoffs?
The Chargers play the Arizona Cardinals on national TV on Monday night, starting a year where results on the field could help the team off it.
For a dozen years the Chargers have explored options to replace Qualcomm Stadium. It appears they have a willing partner in new Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
The story goes on to include that good old re-write of history thing so popular lately. Yesterday we learned that former Mayor Jerry Sanders was a union tool when he ran for office in 2004 & 2008. (And now he’s not) Today we learn that he also hates football.
The Chargers, by the way, lost last night.
Way More Than Football
This is about way more than football. The cop shooting the kid in Ferguson, the mob blocking the bus full of refugees and the football player dragging his fiance out the elevator door are connected.
At the root of each incident are belief systems that allow and even encourage people to think of other human beings as being lesser life forms. Racism and sexism encompass our economy, our social structures and customs and the way we are governed.
It’s time we stopped pretending they don’t exist.
North Park Attacker: Light to Dark?
Police have reportedly arrested a suspect in the six assaults of women that have occurred in North Park and City Heights over the past three months. But this report from KFMB-TV kinda blows it:
According to reliable sources, the suspect in the North Park assaults is in custody and was thrown in jail around 2:15 a.m. Tuesday.
He’s described as a light to dark skin male, about 6 feet tall, with a mustache.
His name isn’t being released right now.
Sources tell CBS News 8, that San Diego police had him under surveillance and took him in for questioning last night.
On This Day:1776 – The second Continental Congress officially made the term “United States”, replacing the previous term “United Colonies.” 1956 – Elvis Presley made his first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show “Toast of the Town.” He was shot from just the waist up during the performance. 1973 – United Auto Workers President Leonard Woodcock was named in Pres. Richard Nixon’s “Enemy’s List,” a White House compilation of Americans Nixon regarded as major political opponents. Another dozen union presidents were added later. The existence of the list was revealed during Senate Watergate Committee hearings
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Rugby is a much better sport anyway. Even without the helmets are there are much fewer head injuries (probably because there is no blocking), the action keep going, there is more of a spirit of comradery ( tradition is both teams get together after the game for beers), even at the highest pro ranks and even despite the occasional on field scuffle. There is more of a community feel to the game. The players just simply have a love for the game, more so than American football IMHO.
It’s baffling to me why Rugby isn’t more popular in the States.
It’s more that rugby involves holding and pull/pushing instead of crashing into other players. Little need for helmets or padding. Lots of bruises but very few major injuries.
The saying was, “it takes leather balls to play rugby.” Perhaps that’s why it hasn’t become more popular in the States.
Very possible (the reason it’s not more popular in the USA). I myself l love watching it. In the early 00’s I was living with some South African roommates who played in the OMBAC league and got me hooked. To me it’s a great game and has some very cool tradition that go with it also.
bob dorn says
Why do we say football is sport? Back in the day, I played.
I would not now if I were 40 years younger.
Today’s football is not a game at any level, even the peewee leagues,
where parents can be heard roaring and screaming at 7-year-olds, some
of them, like stage mothers, hoping to see their kids exceed their own
accomplishments, others banking on the kid to bring in real money and
pay for his own college education.
Football is an industry. It asks people to injure each other, and then
insufficiently indemnifies them for their injuries.
And you’re right, Doug Porter, to point out that football offers a model
of our larger indifference to fair play and the humans standing in front
of us, many of them strong individuals who’ve achieved much.
Instead, our games have become patriotic national expressions, offering
violence and intimidation. We tune in to down-channel cable reality
shows celebrating people who are willing to dive into piles of manure
or break their bones in moto crashes so that we can have a few laughs.
How ’bout NASCAR’s calculated crashes?
How ’bout FOX Sports’ Metallic Robot that proves his/her invincibility
before, during and after the “games” in which real human beings take a
very long time getting up from the turf, or not getting up at all?
Why do we say this is sport?
John Lawrence says
Soccer is increasing in popularity. It far surpasses American football in the rest of the world. Maybe the US will join the rest of the world and make soccer its more popular pastime soon. But don’t expect that we will call it “football” like the rest of the world does any time soon.
In his book, Free Lunch David Cay Johnston points out that sports teams are not profitable except for the fact that they get subsidies from the taxpayers to build new sports stadia. He says: “In a market economy, the team owners would have to adjust or cover the losses out of their own deep pockets. Instead they rely on the kindness of taxpayers to enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority who never attend these sporting events.”
Since we are responding to the above commentary, are you advocating for soccer as being “better” than football? It absolutely is NOT.
The sport is just as injurious, the players are just as misogynistic, the culture surrounding it is just as anti-social, and the fans are just as violent – if not even more so – as American football is.
Whatever sport is better is a matter of preference. As I posted above I like rugby better than both American football AND soccer. Others like Hockey. Still I like soccer. I agree that the players are just as misogynistic. That and shameless, especially with faking just how bad their injuries are just to get the other team red carded. An exception of course being Neymar Jr who really DID break his vertebra. Overall I disagree that soccer injuries are as bad on average as American Football. Even rugby has less (as you even stated). As to whether or not soccer will surpass football in popularity remains to be seen. I’m not holding my breath. Here in the States it always goes on an up streak for a while and then slips back down. ON a separate note, it IS called soccer in a few other countries ie Canada, Australia, South Africa and maybe some others.
Speaking of people seeing other humans as lesser beings: NYT article on bombing Gaza as a spectator sport