So, the National Football League gave Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice a 2 game suspension for knocking his wife “smooth out” and to make matters worst, ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith put his foot in his mouth by saying that women have to stop provoking men (to hit them). This is so ridiculous on so many levels it is all I can do to try to write “intelligently” about it. For the sake of transparency I am married to a former NFL player (an offensive lineman) and hitting each other has never been in the equation.
I believe that adult people (for the most part) don’t hit people they view as peers. For one thing, peers can hit them back. If you infantilize someone–treat them like a child–you hit them not expecting them to retaliate. I have heard many young men declare that their father or older brother stopped hitting them the day they hit them back. In the case of domestic abuse, the abuser is counting on the fact that the partner they are abusing will never defend him/herself.
But what about this notion of provocation? I thought that explanation went out the door when we finally decided that women’s choice of dress or state of intoxication did not serve as a catalyst to rape. Somehow, we keep reviving that ridiculous reasoning. Are we saying that Rhianna provoked Chris Brown? Are we saying that Tina Turner provoked Ike? Are we saying that any woman who is trapped in a cycle of abuse is provoking it? I think one of the things that really bothers me about this kind of talk is that we are also demeaning men (although there are indeed women who are abusers) by assuming they are unable to control their emotions and cannot take responsibility for their own actions.
Since this episode began Stephen A. Smith has made a “heartfelt” apology for what he calls his “foolish” and “wrong” statements. ESPN has suspended Smith for a week from its “First Take” broadcast. His punishment is about the same as Ray Rice’s which speaks to the real issue–the NFL is not taking the issue of domestic abuse seriously. It is an ongoing issue among athletes. Former quarterback Warren Moon had domestic abuse issues. Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown had domestic abuse issues. Baseball player Manny Ramirez was charged with domestic violence. The research literature says that athletes are far less likely to receive a harsh penalty when they are charged with domestic violence. Even when we have extreme cases like Kansas City Chief player Jovan Belcher who killed his girlfriend and committed suicide, we are not seeing an institution (the NFL) take decisive action to help its players understand that it will not tolerate domestic violence and abuse. We are not seeing a society that takes domestic abuse seriously. Our solution to all kinds of problems seems to be “beat him/her!” Our society must learn that violence produces violence. It is not the way to solve problems. It does not make us tough, respected, or right. As much as folks snicker about Solange attacking Jay-Z it was Jay-Z who took the high road and acted appropriately (even if it was because he was aware that there was surveillance in the elevator). Yet, the word on the street was that Jay-Z was “punked.” We cannot celebrate family violence in any form. Let’s try to learn to celebrate love and peace!
Stay Black & Smart!