Ray Rice, America, money, media access, sports culture, and bro’s before ho’s
Slightly more than a year ago, — when my daughter was still in grad school — we were kicking around topics for her thesis and had a long talks about how sports media covers sex crimes against women by athletes. During those months, we talked about the Steubenville rape case that was still rearing its ugly small-town head and how Florida authorities were doing everything they could to avoid investigating Jameis Winston lest it interfere with a mythical National Championship and Heisman Trophy campaign.
If you’re wondering how those cases played out, one of the convicted Steubenville rapists, Ma’lik Richmond, is back on the field in football-crazy Steubenville, and Florida State is just now getting around to taking a look at the 2012 rape allegations against Winston.
In the case of Florida State, either they are just now coming down from their National Championship high, or it’s a warning shot to Winston that they expect a repeat… or else.
My daughter chose a different path to receive her masters but we still talk about the subject because, quite frankly, athletes acting badly and receiving cover from sports journalists and fans is a feature of sports in America and not a bug.
Which is is why it is no surprise when leading sports “journalism” enterprises like ESPN and Sports Illustrated were in “Are you ready for some football!” mode, TMZ — home to all things Kardashian — ate their lunch on the Ray Rice story. This isn’t to say that ESPN and SI didn’t do a few days of tsk-tsking and sad faces over the slap on the wrist that Rice received from NFL commissioner and situational moral scold Roger Goodell, but hey, the suspension is in the record book now so let’s play ball.
ESPN has south of $15.2 billion reasons to look the other way when their BFF, the NFL, has a family squabble that they would prefer to address behind closed doors where all the best beatings occur. The same goes for other networks for whom NFL games are bottomless ATMs, but with concussions.
Writing for ESPN, Jason Whitlock now wants America to stop looking at video of Ray Rice punching out his then fiancee because of the pain it causes her to have people see it, and who is to say what her reasons are; for that I guess you could turn to the #WhyIStayed #WhyILeft tweets. It just rings a little hollow for a journalistic endeavor which failed to do its job in the first place to now say, let’s move on away from a conversation that they studioulsy avoided in the first place.
Sports Illustrated, which exists solely to pump out a bathing suit issue once a year for people too dumb to figure out how to get on the Victoria’s Secret mailing list, ceased doing journalism years ago — Jason Collins handed them their last big story — and lead NFL writer Peter King isn’t about to go where the NFL doesn’t want him to go lest his Sunday night booty call texting with NFL players dry up like word got out that he has an STD.
This opened the door for TMZ which, like Deadspin, isn’t worried that someone at the league office won’t return their calls.
Then there is the money, because this is America after all.
Commissioner Roger Goodell likes to claims that the NFL is a force for good and not evil.
“Much of the criticism stemmed from a fundamental recognition that the NFL is a leader, that we do stand for important values, and that we can project those values in ways that have a positive impact beyond professional football. We embrace this role and the responsibility that comes with it.”
But it is important to note that Goodell is, by trade, an economist whose real job is to direct the league in such a manner that every NFL multi-millionaire owner dies a billionaire. There are no complex moral equations in Roger Goodell’s playbook, it all about the cost-benefit analysis. What is the minimum that can we get away with that is the least damaging to the brand.
America is a country that is obsessed with sports, and the NFL leads the pack. What was once a Sunday game became a Monday game and then a Thursday game and even a Saturday game late in the season because we can’t get enough of it, so why not put it on TV 4 out of seven days a week. Despite the physical toll it takes a player’s body to strap it on Thursday night when they haven’t finished healing from the previous Sunday, we expect them to do it because they are the manliest of men playing the manliest of sports. And in return, we’re willing to forgive and forget some minor liberties they may have taken with the ladies — Goodell now says Rice may be able to return to the league, that was quick — because we need entertaining and because women are only important to the NFL as far as pink jersey sales go.
As for the fans, they won’t give a damn as long as the ladies continue to rustle up some wings and dip and keep the beers coming while the guys watch the game and check their fantasy numbers.
So, here we are now, entertain us.
And don’t you gals forget the nachos, if you know what’s good for you….
[Image via MarineCorps NewYork on FLICKR, Creative Commons licensed]