Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Stephen Smith, Michelle Beadle and the Ray Rice Situation: Was Stephen Smith Defending Domestic Violence?

Man got his woman to take his seed /He got the power oh she got the need/ She spends her life through pleasing up her man/She feeds him dinner or anything she can/
She cries alone at night too often/ He smokes and drinks and don't come home at all/
Only women bleed only women bleed only women bleed/
Black eyes all of the time don't spend a dime clean up this grime/
And you there down on your knees begging me please come watch me bleed Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper
As you may have heard Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his then fiancee and now wife Janay Palmer got into some sort of physical altercation in an Atlantic City hotel. Unlike the one way slap and kickfest between Solange Knowles and Jay-Z the public lacks video evidence of what exactly took place but apparently whatever fight took place the new Mrs. Rice lost decisively because we do see the video of Mr. Rice dragging the unconscious Mrs. Rice by her hair and lifting her up after he apparently knocked her out. The police arrested both Rice and Palmer. Each had assault charges filed against them. Janay Palmer's charges were later dropped while Mr. Rice's charges were increased. However as a first time offender, Mr. Rice was eligible to enter into a diversion program, which will allow him to avoid jail or prison. FWIW his wife indicated that she didn't want to pursue charges. In fact at the press conference in which Rice apologized to everyone except her, she said that she regretted the role she played in the incident. Ok. I can't imagine ever becoming violent with a woman. The very idea disgusts me. It's a virtual impossibility. Work it out or walk away. I was raised in a very traditional household. However I am also disgusted by the idea of a woman spitting on me or hitting me as Mrs. Rice is reported to have done to Mr. Rice. I think that everyone should abide by a no-hands rule in interpersonal conflict. When you start a violent confrontation you don't know what the other person might consider an appropriate response to your physical aggression. I have never understood people who hit or beat a spouse or intimate and then go to sleep in the same house as the person they just assaulted. I think that's dumb. You might get some hot grits thrown on you. You might not wake up with everything still attached. You might not wake up at all. So again, no violence against either party should ever be tolerated. This is for both moral reasons and those of pure self-interest. 

So with no jail time upcoming, the only question was what would NFL commissioner Roger Goodell do. Goodell has a media image, one aided by his own pronouncements, as a tough take no prisoners type of guy, who was going to lay down the law to bad guys. Beating your wife certainly is something a bad guy would do. So many people both in and outside of the NFL were a bit taken aback when Goodell announced that Ray Rice would be suspended for two games and have pay withheld for a third game. Some people wanted a tougher sanction. Oft irritating ESPN personality Stephen Smith is paid to be opinionated and loud. So he gave his opinion about the Rice situation. However he walked into a buzzsaw of controversy when he seemingly suggested that women can be taught or advised not to inflame situations. Likely the word that caused the media storm of controversy and set off a wordy twitter battle with fellow ESPN employee Michelle Beadle was "provoke". As expected Smith had to apologize for his statements which he duly did here. It was a pretty good apology as apologies go I guess. I would guess that his bosses at ESPN made it clear that it was not helpful to the network or his continued employment at the network for anyone to think that Smith or the network condoned beating up women. If I go tell the police that I was assaulted I would be taken aback if rather than ask who did it, their first question was "Well what were you doing to cause that? We need to investigate that first sir before we go bother other decent people on your say so." So I understand that discussion of "provoking" violence likely won't be well received by anyone who was the target of said violence.

Nevertheless I feel that Smith and his detractors are talking past one another, purposely or not. If I walked up to a man larger, stronger and entirely more dangerous than myself and said insulting things about his mother, punched him or spit in his face there's a good chance that after I got out of the hospital people might ask me why I thought my actions were appropriate. And those would be fair questions. There are many people who see the NFL as the last remaining he-man woman hater's club. But I don't think that's the case. There are plenty of other situations where businesses or organizations have looked the other way when a man who brings in money behaves poorly or even arguably criminally with women. Former American Apparel CEO Dov Charney, who among other things, pleasured himself in front of a female journalist, and fashion photographer Terry Richardson, who has been accused of everything from generalized sleaziness to sexual harassment and assault, are just two examples of men not working with, in or for the NFL who somehow have managed to until recently avoid mainstream media attention, even after having done or allegedly done acts that are just as bad as what Ray Rice did. The ugly truth of the matter is that just like every other business, the NFL is looking to make money. That's the primary concern. If Charney were still making money for his company American Apparel he would still be in the big seat. And Richardson is skilled enough at what he does to still have legions of admirers and fans. And if Ray Rice rushes for 1300 yards this year, most Ravens fans won't care too much about whatever happened in that elevator. That may be sad and even immoral but it's just the way it is. So I don't think we should pretend that the NFL alone has a problem. 

Domestic violence is all over the place. It's a societal problem, not just a NFL or sports problem. Everyone should be aware of it and seek to stop it, regardless of the victim's gender. I think that is what Smith was trying to say. I think that as soon as Smith used the word "provoke" people thought about the classic stereotype of a woman cutting a man verbally and a man lashing out at her physically or for no reason at all because he's a cowardly POS. Those events still take place. I've seen a few, unfortunately. But times change. There are some quite dangerous women walking around out there. If you were the man unlucky enough to be intimate with Sadie Bell, you had better be ready to defend yourself at all times, up to and including fisticuffs or more. That's reality. 

ESPN on Tuesday announced a one-week suspension for one of its most controversial commentators, Stephen A. Smith, in the wake of his widely-criticized remarks about domestic abuse that referred to possible "provocation" by victims.

What do you think?
Is a two game suspension enough for Ray Rice?
Was Stephen Smith defending domestic violence?
Should Stephen Smith have been suspended?
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