“And Who Else is Responsible?”

Ray Rice Press Conference

By now almost everyone has either seen or heard about the vicious assault that former NFL player Ray Rice did against his then fiance (now wife) Janay. Now we are in that place that America loves to go…analyzing what went wrong and who is at fault. The media, talking heads, and social media is going crazy with critiques on Ray Rice and indeed, he deserves the harshest punishment we can mete out but I must ask the question, “Who else is responsible?”
For one, we know the NFL is responsible. Domestic violence is notorious in the league. Some of you might remember that activist and Hall of Famer Jim Brown had a reputation for abusing women. He allegedly threw a woman off a balcony. Ahmad Brooks (Green Bay Packers, San Francisco 49ers) abused his partner. Warren Moon (former Houston Oilers, and Canadian football player) allegedly abused his wife. Brandon Marshall (Chicago Bears) was involved in domestic violence. The statistics indicate that NFL players are more often involved in reported incidents of domestic violence. The league knows this, the coaches know this, and the Commissioner knows this. Clearly the NFL is also responsible for the domestic abuse Janay Rice experienced. But it is not only the NFL.
The justice system is also responsible. When we check how few NFL players are actually arrested and sentenced to jail time for domestic violence we recognize that the justice system turns a blind eye to these assaults. Many years ago a woman named Roxanne Gay was accused of stabbing her husband to death while he slept. Her husband was Philadelphia Eagle, Blenda Gay. The records indicate that Mrs. Gay called the police 20 times during the course of their marriage. At her murder trial she indicated that when she called the police they showed up and then fell under the awe of the celebrity of a local football star. Instead of responding to Mrs. Gay’s complaints and cries for help, the police officers sat around listening to football stories and getting autographs. So indeed, the justice system is responsible.
But who else is responsible? I say we are ALL responsible. We are posting and tweeting about Janay and victimizing her all over again. We ask why she stays when most of us have no idea what it is like to be in her situation. We claim we wouldn’t take this or that when the truth is most of us don’t actually know what we would do in her situation. We know nothing of her terror. We know nothing of her economic dependence. We know nothing of her emotional dependence. Instead, we gladly participate in the “victim porn” that this situation has become.
I ache for Janay Rice individually but I ache for women, particularly Black women, collectively. Through this entire ordeal all I could think about is how Black women’s bodies continue to be devalued and disrespected. We have watched them brutalized, sexualized, and objectified. When we view, post, and re-post fights between women and attacks on women we become responsible for what happened to Janay Rice. Who else is responsible…We ALL are!

Stay Black & Smart!

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12 thoughts on ““And Who Else is Responsible?”

  1. From Romans 8:28 King (KJV) “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” The Ray Rice situation is not new. Physical abuse, bullying in all forms, and violent crime are rampant in our society. The Lord is trying to get our attention using Ray and Janay Rice as the vehicle. Let’s stop the finger pointing and have an honest dialogue about how we can prevent problems similar situations. This includes getting help for victims and perpetrators, especially the Rice family. We are ALL responsible for the problem and responsible for developing the answers. I believe that the “Ray and Janay Rice” event occurs too often in our society and the Lord is trying to get our attention.

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  2. There’s also the issue of head trauma, and the mounting evidence that links repeated head trauma to CTE, dementia, significant changes in anger and violent tendencies, etc. The NFL has steadfastly refused to acknowledge the severity of these issues, downplayed it significantly, all because it’s built into the very fabric of this multibillion dollar enterprise. It doesn’t surprise me that the NFL largely doesn’t care about the women (and probably men, too) who suffer domestic violence at the hands of its players because it obviously doesn’t care enough about even about those athletes’ longterm welfare, let alone how repeated head trauma can lead to diminished mental capacity and potentially violence. Not to excuse Ray Rice’s individual behavior whatsoever, but after we see it over and over again, we need to ask these questions. There is probably an issue of selection, in the sense that being able to be physically aggressive is a trait overrepresented in the NFL, since that’s a requirement of nearly every player, but I don’t believe that the only explanations are that NFL players are more violent than the general population or they get away with it more because of their status. While I think both are true, we have to ask whether the very nature of their job and the effects of chronic pain and repeated blows to the head impair their abilities to control impulses or lead to violent outbursts.

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  3. Absolutely enough “responsibility” to go around! I was very surprised that many students in one of my classes had not seen the video. They had some response but no much. At that “teachable moment” I decided to show the video. Of course they were horrified and the discussion about domestic violence elevated and they were more passionate about her well being, head trauma, the media and the NFL. While I hate the “victim porn” , the video did one important thing as stated by one student, “I have NEVER seen any domestic violence so I knew about it but this video put a face on the issue.” Another student stated, ” Now when I talk about what happened in my house as a kid growing up people will get it.” Often the women (and children) who have become a “face” for the “cause” did not ask for it ( e.g.Treyvon Martin and his mother, Mark Brown and his mother). My heart breaks for all the Rice family (especially thier little girl) who know have to deal with their human failings in the public eye, but if there is a “silver lining” we can be thankful that for many the concern with an age old problem, domestic violence now has a “face” that moved many to become “responsible”. #mytwocents

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