More Rice Coverage

Some thoughts:

1) I still don’t understand how the question of whether the league saw the video before yesterday is being discussed now compared with July. As noted yesterday, Peter King, Chris Mortensen and others said back in July that the NFL had seen the inside-the-elevator video. Now, of course, the official line is that no one from the league office or the Ravens had before yesterday. King has attempted to explain the discrepancy. I haven’t seen whether others have tried to do the same.

Among the oddities that don’t add up here is the laissez-faire way that King himself wrote yesterday about having, apparently, been misled by the source who, back in July, led King to believe that the NFL had seen the tape released yesterday.

From Sports Media Guy:

King’s behavior speaks to so many of the ills of the elite sporting press. It shows the danger of using anonymous sources – notice that King does not give us any information about the source except that he’s a league source and has been “impeccable.” Traditional journalist ethics dictate that you’re supposed to give as much information about the source’s identity as possible, but never mind that. He didn’t call the league for comment, which he called “a lapse,” and which I’d call “a gigantic hole in your story, since you made it sound like you had talked to the league, what with your ‘league source’ and all.”

Most significantly, King didn’t call out the source. Even though the source at best provided misleading information, or at worst lied to King. None of the members of the elite sport press called out the league sources they willfully quoted over the summer — even though those sources violated the only rule that governed their relationship with journalists.

Never lie to me.

I don’t personally believe the league’s claim that it hadn’t seen the tape before yesterday or, at an absolute minimum, had not been apprised of its contents before it completed its investigation this summer. What I do believe is that it was very surprised by the reaction to the original two-game suspension. It went into damage control. Among the elements of that damage control, perhaps, was to leak insinuations to trusted media sources with large platforms to suggest, at a minimum, that what we couldn’t see made the case more complicated than what seemed incontrovertible on the original tape. Of course, I am speculating. But something is not adding up at all about attempts to explain the discrepancies between what was reported in July and what the NFL is now insisting is the case.

It is, in any event, fair to ask whether it was necessary at all to have seen yesterday’s video before the league and the team handed down the harsher discipline they belatedly did. As Susan Reimer wrote in today’s Baltimore Sun, the video only “confirmed what we already knew from the police report, that Rice hit his then-fiancee hard enough to knock her unconscious.”

2) There has been lots of discussion today about Janay Palmer Rice’s angry attack on those who, in her words, have forced her and her husband to relive the terrible events of that February night and of the ongoing damage it is doing to her family. There is no way to be inside her head. Or to guess about whether her relationship with Rice might, as Reimer wrote, “survive and flourish.” What is clear, though, is that there is a paucity of women’s voices in elite sports media and that gap is especially glaring right now. For example, we’ve witnessed a bizarre and anachronistic – if well-meaning – demonstration of chivalry from a parade of current and former football players insisting that it’s never OK to hit a woman. But leaving aside the likelihood that something less than 100% of the individuals making such declarations have actually lived by that dictum, such sentiments hardly get us to a better understanding of the nature and depth of the problem of domestic violence.

ESPN and the wider world of sports commentary are dominated by male voices, and that is driving a discourse long on good intentions for the moment, but short on analysis of the pervasiveness of sexism in society more broadly and in the sports world in particular. Indeed, only in such a context was it possible for the insinuation that Palmer Rice was responsible in some way for her own assault to have advanced as far as it did. Amazingly, as Amy Goodman pointed out today in her interview with Dave Zirin, the Baltimore Ravens had the following tweet up on their website for over three months, until freaking yesterday: “Janay Rice says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.”

Stephen A. Smith, recall, was suspended for two days this summer when he made heavily qualified comments about how, while he would never condone violence against women, he’d want to council them on not doing anything to provoke men to violence.  For three and a half months, the Ravens posted a statement on their official site saying, in effect, that Janay Palmer Rice provoked the assault that rendered her unconscious without repercussion.

Only in a culture of pervasive sexism could such a thing pass with scarcely any commentary, let alone any repercussions.

3) As always, the Onion:

Following public outcry over his mishandling of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice’s aggravated assault of his then-fiancée, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced Tuesday that the league has adopted a new zero-tolerance policy toward all videotaped domestic abuse. “We hold our players to the highest standards both as professional athletes and as people, so any violence toward women that is recorded, authenticated, and then publicly distributed will be met with an automatic suspension and fine,” said Goodell, adding that the new, stricter guidelines reflect the league’s hard-line stance against any spousal abuse that is clearly and irrefutably captured on film.






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