Once again, a scandal has put football front and center of the media world with the recently unveiled video of now-former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice assaulting his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer Rice.
As is the case with many of these sad incidents, there are those who are using the Rice domestic violence video to further their favorite political causes, as if this incident is the one wake-up call and our fourth estate in America are duty-bound to sound this clarion call on domestic violence and force us all to take a deeper look inside ourselves.
But as is usually the case, those behind these righteous movements take it a little too far, and then here we are — having sports anchors using their platforms to lecture Americans, as if the guy that gives us National Football League score updates from around the league at halftime of the Broncos-Chiefs game is the country’s foremost expert on the subject of domestic violence.
“According to domestic-violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners,” CBS’s James Brown lectured before the Ravens-Pittsburgh Steelers game last week. “That means that since the night of February 15 in Atlantic City more than 600 women have died. So this is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds. And as Deion [Sanders] says, to give help or to get help, because our silence is deafening and deadly.”
I guess it goes to show that inside a lot of sports announcers, there’s an individual looking for a deeper meaning for their career and compelling them to pontificate on weighty issues.
This time, however, it appears to be more of a breaking point than a bloviating sports announcer. The court of public opinion seems to at least be open to the possibility that something is amiss within the sport. The piling-on over several controversies surrounding the sport, whether it be the broader issues of concussions and mental health, domestic violence or these latest incidents involving Rice, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and his child abuse allegations or the 2012 Jovan Belcher murder-suicide, is starting to have an effect.
All these things are serious matters, no doubt about it. But the politicization of football seems to not know any bounds.
Left-leaning elected officials see an opening. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a one-time litigious state attorney general, said he would not “rule out” congressional action to force the league to act on domestic violence.
And it is guys like Blumenthal that are why we can’t have nice things in America. Our ruling class sometimes sees the government as an instrument to socially engineer society and if measures to do so further politics or an ideology, even better.
The government-is-a-cure-all types have made inroads in almost every aspect of the culture — pop music, Hollywood, prime time TV, the news media. Football, both professional and college, was one of the last holdouts. But even in recent years, the NFL has promoted breast cancer awareness for the entire month of October, which some suggest is to soften its image for women viewers. It has also promoted other left-leaning pet cause like diversity with its Hispanic Heritage week, or more recently to promote Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by a NFL team.
With the Rice domestic violence case and the other unfortunate controversies, there will come some type of reaction, perhaps bordering on an overreaction from the NFL to combat the public relations hit it has taken over this. Whether it is high school, college or professional, football is a violent sport and it is ripe for targeting by the PC police.
Perhaps more importantly to Alabama, the NCAA won’t be far behind with college football reacting to these controversies. In Indianapolis at the NCAA’s national headquarters, they’re watching the NFL’s woes very closely, trying to learn from professional football’s mistakes.
NCAA CEO Mark Emmert probably is contemplating the possibility it could have been a college athlete in the elevator striking a woman on videotape.
Where the NFL had its missteps, the NCAA will likely be looking to take preventive action. What form that takes is up in the air. But college programs around the country will be required to meet some sort of obligation.
One ESPN contributor last week said there needed to be a reprogramming of men in our culture where they can’t be called “sissies” or be told “they throw like a girl.”
“I think that’s where you’re going to see change,” espnW columnist Kate Fagan said. “I think that right now all of this reactive behavior is not going to change it, as much as going in and going into the school system and the younger spaces and really reprogramming how we raise men.”
As absurd as that sounds, male college athletes will wind up being required to attend some sensitivity lecture with the ridiculous idea they need to be considerate of one another on and off the field, all in the name of bettering society.
That will be one of the many one-size-fits-all token gestures that will make a negligible difference. Eventually, however, the violent nature of the sport will be blamed if another high-profile incident occurs. It won’t happen overnight, but the do-gooders could seek some very draconian action against football.
Let’s just hope in the future that football players recognize this and follow the paths of Tim Tebow (who somehow is a controversial figure) and Robert Griffin III instead of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.
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