By Diane Roberts
Sing along to the fight song; holler with the crowd; watch the ESPN cameraman get a shot up that cheerleader’s skirt; and smell the testosterone on the grill — it’s football season, that special time of year when men are men, and women, er, are not.
I’m here to tell you, sports fans, it’s going to be an exciting season for misogyny, both on and off the field.
How ‘bout that Ray Rice! The Baltimore Ravens running back has been “suspended indefinitely” by NFL commissioner and noted feminist Roger Goodell, who originally gave Rice a two-game suspension.
Goodell claims he’s just now seen the whole videotape, including the part where Ray punches his then-fiancée’s lights out. I guess two games seemed about right based on the bit of the video where Ray drags Janay Palmer out of the elevator like a sack of old clothes, leaving her to lie face down in a hotel corridor. Because, you know, no biggie.
There are loads of possible mansplanations: she could have accidentally banged her face on his fist. She could have become possessed by demons. She could have mouthed off and forced him to hit her.
As ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reminded the ladies back in July: “let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke wrong actions.” Girls, quit making dudes mad enough to beat you senseless!
But now that the NFL has gotten to the bottom of this sorry episode, Rice is out, verboten, exiled, suspended indefinitely. That’ll teach football players to stop solving problems with violence, yeah?
Not that Rice is the only football player known to slap the missus around: San Francisco 49er Ray McDonald was arrested for “suspicion of felony domestic abuse” on Sept. 1. Seems he whupped up on his pregnant girlfriend at his 30th birthday party. He’s still playing. Carolina Panther Greg Hardy’s still playing, too, though he was convicted of assaulting an ex-girlfriend in July. His case is on appeal.
Fans are surely appalled. Enraged. Up in arms demanding justice and zero tolerance for domestic violence. We’re all feminists now, aren’t we? Anyone? Mr. Goodell?
Uh, yeah. Well, I listened to NPR’s well-judged Sept. 8 story on Ray Rice, then had a look at the website to read some thoughtful comments. Among the 680-plus, some expressed predictable disgust with Rice and the NFL’s frozen-molasses reaction to domestic violence.
But there were many, many insisting:
- She hit him first; he merely defended himself.
- She pissed him off — don’t you know you shouldn’t antagonize somebody who weighs 220 pounds and bench presses 450?.
- The whole thing is the fault of the women’s rights movement.
I’m not making this up. There were scores of comments along the lines of “She slapped him! He had every right to hit her,” and the bizarre “Don’t start a fight you don’t intend to finish!” Some cited the “domestic violence industry” — obviously somebody profits from getting beaten up.
A guy using the nom d’Internet “Beefmachine” opined that Janay Rice either needs to “work on her right cross or her self-control.”
This was National-freaking Public Radio, y’all. If you want to see worse examples of victim-blaming and punch out-celebrating, check out the comments on ESPN and Sports Illustrated: all knuckle-dragging, lizard-brain, screeching Id.
Remember last season when FSU’s star quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of rape? The young woman was called a prostitute, a slut, a gold-digger. She received death threats and had to withdraw from classes.
Remember when then-Miami Dolphin Jonathan Martin went public with Richie Incognito’s bullying? Players and fans figured it was his fault: Giants safety Antrel Rolle harrumphed, “You’re not a little boy. You’re not a freshman in college. You’re a man. You’re a grown-ass man.”
Others called Martin a “coward,” told him to “man up” and fight Incognito, reminded him that football is “a man’s game” or just cut to the heart of the matter and called him a “pussy.”
To recap: America loves football. Women, maybe not so much. Fighting? Hell, yeah! Talking? What are you, a wuss? Or, even worse, a girl?
As Ray Rice said at his press conference in May — the one where he apologized to everyone except Janay — “Failure is not getting knocked down, it’s not getting back up.”
Diane Roberts lives in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.