Home / General / Is It Official ESPN Policy to Allow Employees to Blame Women for the Domestic Violence Athletes Commit Against Them?

Is It Official ESPN Policy to Allow Employees to Blame Women for the Domestic Violence Athletes Commit Against Them?

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Color me shocked that a conversation between Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith on ESPN’s loathsome First Take would lead Smith to blame women for domestic violence.

First Take panelists Stephen A. Smith and Skip Bayless continued to discuss the Ray Rice suspension on this morning’s episode, and Smith seized on the opportunity to say some deeply stupid things about the responsibility women have to not provoke men into violently attacking them.

This is just a train wreck, and Stephen A. doesn’t seem to realize just how dumb his monologue is until it’s way too late. His central point here, to which he keeps returning after throwing out caveats about how domestic violence is not OK, is that if you are a woman who doesn’t want to be beaten by men, you should make sure to do your part by not giving them a reason to do so.

“We also have to make sure that we learn as much as we can,” Smith says, “about elements of provocation.”

The context of course is the NFL’s depressingly small 2 game suspension for Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice knocking out his girlfriend (now wife) in the elevator of an Atlantic City casino. For comparison, a third offense for smoking marijuana is a 4 game suspension.

At least someone can see the employment opportunities here for people of a certain point of view:

Of course the entire NFL is a joke when it comes to domestic violence. The Onion doesn’t even have to try here.

Stephen A. Smith is now very angry that people are mad at him and in defending himself basically makes the same argument he made on the show.

Obviously Smith should be fired. So should Bayless, but that’s more for his whole awful career than anything that happened today per se. But it won’t happen because people are talking about First Take, which is all ESPN cares about.

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  • Linnaeus

    Maybe I shouldn’t be, but I am surprised to see Stephen A. Smith say something like this. I generally regarded him as the more sensible of the two.

    • sharculese

      I had the opposite reaction. I can’t say I’m particularly familiar with the two, but I tend to associate Smith with reflexive displays of reactionary masculinity.

      • howard

        that was going to be my point: not that i watch any of this sort of thing very often but my sense of stephen a. smith is that he is a jerk of the first order.

        p.s. i believe that in the nfl, erik, it’s a first drug suspension is 4 games.

        p.p.s. if you haven’t seen peter king’s article in which he provides the whole series of rationales goodell used to only suspend rice for 2 games, don’t: it will make you vomit.

        • It is a 4 game suspension for 1st use of performance enhancing drugs. For “substances of abuse” the NFL has a different punishment regime.

          • howard

            ah, thank you for clarifying.

          • Karate Bearfighter

            Josh Gordon is on his second failed test for recreational use, and picked up a 16 game suspension. Are they using a different rule to suspend him?

            • Brien Jackson

              I believe its Gordon’s third offense.

              • Alvin Alpaca

                The Browns should give reefer to all their receivers if it’ll help them play like Gordon.

              • Karate Bearfighter

                Everything I’m seeing online says it’s his second. The DWI could be a third (?), but the league had already announced the 16 game suspension months before that happened.

                ETA: It looks like some journos have said that he couldn’t have been suspended after a first failed test, so the “first” failed test in 2013 was probably actually a second failed test.

          • Brien Jackson

            Comparing the two punishment regimes doesn’t really work on a one-to-one basis because of collective bargaining.

        • Linnaeus

          Smith can be a jerk, no doubt, but I have at times seen him call others on their ignorance. Maybe I just caught him on a good day or two.

    • Downpuppy

      I’ve never watched Smith, so I was mostly surprised that someone so incoherent has a job as a talking head. It seems like he wants to talk about prevention, but his language skills are so weak he mixes it up with provocation. Since he clearly knows nothing about the subject, we get the classic formula : Ignorance + Incoherence => Idiocy

      • cpinva

        “I’ve never watched Smith, so I was mostly surprised that someone so incoherent has a job as a talking head.”

        sarah palin not only goes on tv, as a talking……..something, she is invited to go on tv, as a talking something. I believe you’re referencing a bar that was long ago dropped on the floor.

        • Gabriel Ratchet

          Hell, that’s a bar that not only dropped to the floor, but smashed through several stories worth of floorboards and buried itself in the concrete under the building foundation.

          • LosGatosCA

            China syndrome, actually.

            We’re all living with the fallout.

  • cs

    In my perfect world, the NFL wouldn’t ever feel the need to punish players for their actions off the field.

    But given that we don’t live in my perfect world, I don’t have a problem with the length of the suspension. It’s long enough to make a player have second thoughts next time, I bet. Granted the 4 games for marijuana is ridiculous, but I that doesn’t mean we have to scale up everything else to match that one.

    • Shorter cs: “Slap her again! There’s no reason not to!”

      • MPAVictoria

        “It’s long enough to make a player have second thoughts next time, I bet”

        Two games? TWO GAMES? Fuck you buddy. Sports fans can be the worst. It is just a goddamn game.

        • nixnutz

          Yeah, there’s some merit to an objection to punishing players at all for behavior in their personal lives but two games is outrageous in this circumstance.

        • Brien Jackson

          Considering that it’s unpaid (and I believe there’s an additional fine of his entire third game check), I’d wager it’s costing him more money than whatever the legal system fined him. Because, I mean, why shouldn’t corporate America have the authority to decide not to pay employees and make them show up to work for free?

      • cs

        I was assuming that you would agree that, in general, employers should not punish employees for crimes committed while not at work. Now I’m not sure. How do you feel about this? Should a bank teller or janitor be suspended from his job for fighting or assault? Maybe only if they are indicted or convicted?

        (Of course I understand there can be good reasons why the NFL players are treated differently from the typical worker.)

        • njorl

          In general, I’d agree with you, but the truth is that the NFL pays its players enough so that they can afford the costs of subverting justice. Any organization which pays its people enough to do so must police itself, or it takes the moral responsibility for what its people do.

          • Brien Jackson

            Thank god the ethos of sports fans hated unionized workers could never trickle over to other employment fields!

        • DrDick

          Except that off field behavior affects the business in this case. Part of the contract is that the players should not tarnish the reputation of the team or the sport. Generally speaking, I would agree with you, but this is no different from TV personalities or actors in this regard.

          • Brien Jackson

            I don’t know. On the one hand, I don’t think the NFL could possibly demonstrate that this has any actual impact on their earnings whatsoever. On the other hand, this reasoning justifies both Goodell’s massive claims to authority to garnish earnings from players on his own arbitrary whim in general AND the five game suspension of Terrell Pryor for violating the NCAA’s draconian “never have any money ever” rules in particular.

            • L2P

              On the one hand, I don’t think the NFL could possibly demonstrate that this has any actual impact on their earnings whatsoever.

              I’d think they could show that just with lower sales of pink Ray Rice jerseys.

              • Brien Jackson

                Not if the customer allocated their money to buying the jersey of another player instead.

          • mud man

            But the NFL is about aggressive/violent/rageful behavior, hence the idea of a “game face”. If it’s about the business case, they should maybe give him a bonus.

            What I don’t understand is why she went and married the dude. Unless she wants to gain 200 pounds and take karate lessons. “Fool me once …” But it’s the American Way.

            • LosGatosCA

              What I don’t understand is why she went and married the dude.

              Likely it wasn’t the first time he’d been a little ‘physical’ with her. Hard to believe he would go from ‘hey that’s a little annoying, could you stop that’ to ‘take that right in the head you bitch’ and knock her right out in a single step.

              I can’t say I know a GD thing about their relationship but the odds of it working out the way she expects (assuming she is expecting to be treated like a normal human being) are not good. But who knows her motivation, emotional blackmail, or her fears that led to her decision. Maybe she feels safer being an abused wife with access to his wealth than a dead ex, which would be very sad indeed.

            • Origami Isopod

              Yeah, it’s totally her fault for marrying him. Not like domestic abusers gaslight their victims or anything — or society in general does.

        • Turkle

          We had a similar discussion regarding firing CEOs for uttering offensive beliefs in public. The argument there was that if you have a public-facing job, you are obligated to keep your public infractions to a minimum. While I’m not necessarily prepared to do so, one could certainly make a similar argument about sports players – entertainers are, after all, specifically public-facing employees.

          • Brien Jackson

            I’m not even going to entertain the argument that CEOs ought to be treated the same way as unionized workers. And besides, if the NFL seriously believed that Goodell would be the first out on his ass as he’s easily the very most unpopular individual associated with the league amongst fans.

            • L2P

              That seems a little unfair. No commissioner is ever popular with fans. Their entire role is to perform the scutwork so owners and players don’t look like assholes and can say, “Man, I’d LOVE to do xxxx, but the League won’t let me.”

              The unionized workers in the NFL agreed to punishment for offensive behavior. It’s hard to see why that’s not a legitimate agreement for a bunch of workers who make their money literally be selling how much people like them. If the League didn’t discipline them for being assholes they’d have to do it themselves.

              • Brien Jackson

                “That seems a little unfair. No commissioner is ever popular with fans. Their entire role is to perform the scutwork so owners and players don’t look like assholes and can say, “Man, I’d LOVE to do xxxx, but the League won’t let me.””

                Even by this measure though, Goodell seems pretty uniquely unpopular. Even on a personal level comparison with guys who held the job for a long time like Bud Selig and David Stern.

                “The unionized workers in the NFL agreed to punishment for offensive behavior. It’s hard to see why that’s not a legitimate agreement for a bunch of workers who make their money literally be selling how much people like them. If the League didn’t discipline them for being assholes they’d have to do it themselves.”

                The players “agreed” to it under a de facto form of coercion, and continue to be extremely unhappy with it and feel the commissioner has too much power to suspend/fine them. It doesn’t meet a sufficient burden for me to consider it fair.

                • njorl

                  What coercion? I don’t understand why the NFLPA signed such an abysmal labor deal, but I’m not aware of coercion.

                • Brien Jackson

                  Being locked out and staring down the possibility of lost game checks.

                • efgoldman

                  What coercion? I don’t understand why the NFLPA signed such an abysmal labor deal, but I’m not aware of coercion.

                  Being locked out and staring down the possibility of lost game checks.

                  Also because the NFLPA has rolled over for the owners ever since Gene Upshaw gave back the free agency they won in court.
                  The NFLPA needed a Marvin Miller, but one never materialized.

                • Brien Jackson

                  I think De Smith is a decent enough leader, but the players had no real leverage during the lockout, didn’t even have a united front (lots of players publicly said the union should bend over and say “thank you” to keep the game checks coming), and the major fight was over the share of revenue, which left little luxury for a fight over the personal conduct/disciplinary policy.

                  But suffice it to say, that the players are quite vocal about their disapproval of both the amount of power Goodell has and the way he uses it should be enough for anyone genuinely supportive of the rights of workers to have meaningful say in their workplace conditions.

                • LosGatosCA

                  You must have never heard of Boobie Kuhn.

                  And the NHL guy isn’t hated only because nobody knows his name, including me.

    • drkrick

      The relative severity of punishments is a significant part of whatever message the punishment is intended to send. Two games for this when Tyrelle Pryor got 5 for bartering with what was supposed to be his own stuff and a player can miss a whole season for smoking pot isn’t sufficient.

      • Joshua

        Terrelle Pryor was suspended for bartering his own stuff WHEN HE WASN’T EVEN EMPLOYED BY A NFL TEAM!

        I actually see some logic in what cs says about employers not punishing employees for stuff they do “off the clock.” That said, Rog has shown absolutely no hesitation in punishing players for their extracurricular activities. In that context, the 2 game suspension is ridiculous.

        • Brien Jackson

          While I don’t think the NFL should have any such authority anyway (or at the very least there ought to be some union input on the enforcement mechanism), it’s worth pointing out that if we’re going to try to play Goldilocks there’s literally no number of games they could have picked that wouldn’t have resulted in substantial bitching.

          • Joshua

            Maybe not, but once he decided to make himself into the Ginger Hammer, people will look at what he does and does not punish and why. He decided to turn bartering your own college jersey before you are on a NFL squad a 5 game punishment, so it’s reasonable to question why beating your fiancee is a 2 game punishment.

            • Brien Jackson

              Because the NFLPA didn’t give a damn about Pryor’s case.

        • efgoldman

          I actually see some logic in what cs says about employers not punishing employees for stuff they do “off the clock.”

          Hmm. Don’t know about you, but every job application I’ve filled out since high school (1962-63) had a line asking if the applicant has ever been arrested/convicted of anything more than traffic offenses. My assumption, during all those decades, is that a record has a material effect on employment.

          • Marek

            Right, but once you’re hired into a union workplace, you probably have “just cause” protection against discipline. In such an environment, something that happens outside of the workplace is not a valid basis for discipline. Exceptions apply!

          • Brien Jackson

            I don’t think withholding wages or making you work for free would be considered an acceptable measure by said employer.

            • efgoldman

              I don’t think withholding wages or making you work for free would be considered an acceptable measure by said employer.

              You’re right. A regular employer either wouldn’t hire you in the first place, or fire you on the spot.
              Maybe a similar regime would have a salutary effect on both pro and “college” athletics.

              • Brien Jackson

                I certainly wouldn’t disagree that the Ravens would be within their rights to cut Rice, and the other 31 teams could then decide they’d rather not sign him. Indeed, that’s kind of the reason the present regime is so offensive.

                • LosGatosCA

                  I think the whole situation and how all the ramifications play out across several dimensions show how corrupt the whole NFL enterprise is:

                  #1: The NFLPA is a pretty inept union. It’s the perfect reflection of a sports culture (owners/players/fans) that honors authoritarianism, which is incompatible with a strong union mentality.

                  #2: The NFL is pretty clearly fully committed to using up players minds and bodies in the worst possible way and then avoiding any accountability for doing that. In this case they are saying that even the minds and bodies of innocent bystanders are fair game if that’s what it takes to keep functional brains/top bodies available for consumption by the sport.

                  #3: In the act of pretending that #2 is not true, the NFL commissioner is using an authority that may have been badly bargained under #1 to make an arbitrary decision to suspend Rice and in a flawed way that actually exposes the truth of #2. There is no doubt a la Michael Vick that Rice would be signed by another team in a nanosecond – granted at a discount due to his image problem.

                  A weak union, a violent person, and an unconscionable football establishment make for a very bad PR problem. Except for the woman involved, they all deserve each other.

  • Fearless Navigator of the New LGM Comment System

    So should Bayless, but that’s more for his whole awful career than anything that happened today per se.

    I tend to cut ol’ Skip some slack for his brother’s excellent restaurants and generally laudable attempts to save Mexican food in this country from its Americanized pit of despair.

    • Rick and Skip haven’t spoken in decades, so you can cut Skip off.

      • DrS

        That actually does make me feel better.

  • Hogan

    But it won’t happen because people are talking about First Take, which is all ESPN cares about.

    That may not be the only thing PETA and ESPN have in common.

    • Both make me want a burger?

      • efgoldman

        Both make me want a burger?

        With bacon and smoked gouda.

      • Hogan

        Good point. And they treat their tone-deafness as a principle rather than a problem.

  • Incontinentia Buttocks

    Anyone actually shocked at anything said in a Skip Bayless – Stephen A. Smith exchange probably hasn’t watched many Skip Bayless – Stephen A. Smith exchanges.

    • Alvin Alpaca

      Based on a somewhat limited sample of viewing for the last 5 years, Stephen A must have practicing diligently to come off as a bigger cretin than Skip—that man is a professional!

  • ploeg

    Roger Goodell To NFL Players: ‘Murdering Your Wife Will Result In Automatic 4-Game Suspension’

    …if the murder isn’t her fault.

    • ExpatJK

      And when isn’t it, really? If the dinner’s not on the table on time, can one reasonably expect to live?

  • DonN

    The initial video is astounding. First Smith establishes his masculine bona fides by describing how he would rough up anybody touching his property (women), emphasizes that slapping them around is wrong and then explains how it is their fault. Later when he has been called out he essentially repeats what he said on Twitter with some reduction in the manly man talk.

    I am pretty sure that he thinks in some way he is respecting women. The tone about prevention is so similar to the “women don’t drink” advice given around campus rape discussions that the similarity slaps you in the face. Somehow, while acknowledging that rape is wrong it is still their fault. Somehow, while beating up women in wrong it is still their fault. It is depressing.
    DN

    • Aimai

      What I understood him to be saying, underneath all the bluster and incoherence, was almost this:

      Because I am a manly man and many women are surrounded by manly men who would take action in defense of our women then women need to be extra careful not to cause trouble/get beaten because we are obligated to take it to another level and put ourselves at risk meting out this kind of punishment. I’m in the middle of reading I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and Maya Angelou has just been raped by her mother’s lover, and the guy has been arrested, tried, and then extrajudicially killed by her enraged Uncles so this issue is on my mind.

      He’s definitely foregrounding his own masculine experience and his own status in the entire discussion.

  • UncleEbeneezer

    Good news for Tony Dungy!

    • sports guy

      … and Jerry Remy!

  • Karate Bearfighter

    The tone about prevention is so similar to the “women don’t drink” advice given around campus rape discussions that the similarity slaps you in the face.

    Michelle Beadle drew the same connection.

    ETA: Replying to DN.

    • Wyrm2

      If you want to have your faith in America crushed, go and read Beadle’s twitter feed. It’s a veritable sea of hate.

  • comrade oz

    Saying something stupid has become as damaging to one’s career as doing something potentially life threatening. Dafuq?

    • sharculese

      Making excuses for abusers is doing something potentially life threatening.

  • nixnutz

    The “(now wife)” part is depressing.

  • Bitter Scribe

    OK, this is really driving me crazy. Is there any actual evidence that Rice abused that woman? That tape just shows him dragging her, unconscious, out of an elevator, with nothing to indicate how she got that way. Did she tell the cops he’d hit her? I’ve never seen a reference to that either. Nor to any direct confession by him.

    This blog is way understanding of athletes using performance enhancing drugs. I don’t get why you wouldn’t at least give Rice at least a similar benefit of the doubt here.

    • Hogan

      The tape TMZ got shows that. Apparently there’s security video from inside the elevator that hasn’t been released.

      • Brien Jackson

        The story that’s been floating around Baltimore is that the elevator video shows her as the clear aggressor in instigating the fight. No idea what the sourcing of that is, but it would at least explain why the DA up and all but dismissed the charges out of nowhere.

        • rea

          The evidence hasn’t really been made public, but note that she was arrested for domestic violence, too.

          Even if she initiated, you might well think his response was excessive.

          It usually does not work well, either to attempt to reason from one incident to general conclusions about domestic violence, or to reason from the general piss-poor way men treat women in our society to conclusions about the rights and wrongs of a particular incident.

          • Brien Jackson

            Yeah, I’m not saying I have any idea if that’s true, just that it’s been floating around locally. (I should also add that this has been out there since the immediate aftermath of the incident) It seems plausible, as it does comport with the actions of law enforcement.

            On a related note, it seems that I’m the only person who finds it beyond appalling that everyone is so obsessed with demanding Rice’s employer levy harsh discipline and fines on him that they apparently can’t be bothered to so much as ask why the prosecutor all but dropped the case against him? It seriously seems that we’ve all decided that the National Football League is an even greater authority and purveyor of justice, with more legitimacy to act, than society is.

          • Origami Isopod

            It’s not unusual for cops to arrest both parties. Frequently the abuser will tell the cops, “She assaulted me!

            • Brien Jackson

              Except that in this case, the cops presumably saw video footage of the incident at the scene.

    • howard

      you force me to quote from peter king’s column about goodell’s reasoning:

      Rice’s wife, a source said, made a moving and apparently convincing case to Goodell during a June 16 hearing at Goodell’s office in Manhattan—attended by Rice, GM Ozzie Newsome, club president Dick Cass of Baltimore; and Goodell, Jeff Pash and Adolpho Birch of the league—that the incident in the hotel elevator was a one-time event, and nothing physical had happened in their relationship before or since.

      so now can we get back to the real discussion: why did rice get such a light punishment?

      • Bitter Scribe

        Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I agree, this guy stinks.

        • howard

          here to help….

    • McAllen

      I would hope that the difference between using PEDs and domestic abuse is obvious.

      • Ken

        Well of course. One is an offense that no decent person can tolerate, and the other is just what you have to expect from athletes playing at that level.

        • LosGatosCA

          The hard part is telling which one is which.

  • MikeJake

    Two games is bullshit. I mean, he has to sit against Pittsburgh and Cincy, but is allowed back just in time to play Cleveland? Bullshit!

    • Joshua

      To be fair, Rice was just completely awful last year.

    • LosGatosCA

      Must be a Cleveland fan.

      Proof the commissioner hates Cleveland even if God is giving it a temporary pass.

  • wengler

    You really got to hand to the NFL. They had a player last year get indicted for multiple murders, while another shot his girlfriend to death and then killed himself in front of the coaching staff of the team. They had former players shooting themselves in the heart so their brains could be donated to science to see what was wrong with them.

    And yet the party goes on. Goodell is raking in around 30 million a year and the sport is seemingly bulletproof(even if their players and their players’ victims are not).

    • LosGatosCA

      Pretty sickening.

      Then add in that the NFL farm system (NCAA) isn’t paying the ‘non-employee’ help and you have to wonder how much civilization has progressed since the days of Spartacus.

      The people must be entertained.

  • actor212

    Skip Bayless should be fired just because, Skip Bayless.

    • efgoldman

      When I came home after my stroke, in December 2011, I watched Mike & Mike and then First Take, because what the hell, I’m a sports fan and I had nothing but time on my hands.
      I still watch Mike & Mike before I go to work, but it only took a week or two to realize I was going to break every TV in the house if I left the Bayless/Smith show on.
      Worse, that was the time when Bayless was being Saint Timothy Tebow’s personal PR agent.

      • UncleEbeneezer

        That woulda made me almost want to go back to the hospital.

        Both Smith and Bayless seem at this point to be living off their ability to get insider scoops from players. It certainly isn’t the quality of their writing/commentary.

        • Brien Jackson

          Bayless is worthless. He’s surviving on ESPN’s belief that people hate-watch their programming to shout at the TV at him. Smith is a pretty good NBA reporter with excellent sources, and an average at worst NBA analyst. His problem is ESPN wants him to play a (highly racially stereotyped) character opposite Bayless to continue the hate-watch generating.

          • UncleEbeneezer

            Did Smith ever not play that character? That’s about all I’ve ever seen him do, though my sample size is mostly the last 2-5 years.

  • efgoldman

    The Onion doesn’t even have to try here.

    The Onion doesn’t even have to try anywhere, pretty much. The parodies write themselves.

  • dp

    The only explanation for that show’s existence is as an evil experiment by ESPN executives to plant a flag at the point of the very worst sports show anyone could ever broadcast.

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