Domestic abuse, especially involving women being beaten by men, is a pervasive feature of our society, especially in sports, with superstars from time to time hitting and otherwise brutalizing their spouses or girlfriends. The episode that involved Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice is, therefore, not an isolated incident. But it stands out because of the way it has exposed the despicable way that it is regarded in some quarters.
Mr. Rice is shown in a grainy TMZ Sports video clip dragging his then fiancée, now wife, Janay Palmer, out of an Atlantic City casino elevator on Feb. 15. She is apparently unconscious and he is treating her with total disrespect. He was charged with domestic violence. And that is where the sorry series of events started.
Instead of dealing with the case with the seriousness it deserves, the court allowed Mr. Rice to enter an intervention program after which his arrest would be expunged from the records. Then the NFL, which must know of abuses among its players, compounded that insult by timidly suspending Mr. Rice without pay for two games, along with fining him the equivalent of one game’s pay, under its personal conduct policy.
Now comes Mr. Stephen A. Smith, the ESPN commentator, who said on air that, while he does not condone violence against women, they should not “do anything to provoke wrong actions.”
Women, Mr. Smith said, “have to make sure that we learn as much as we can about elements of provocation. Not that there’s real provocation but the elements of provocation, you got to make sure that you address them, because we’ve got to do is do what we can to try to prevent the situation from happening in any way.” His rant blaming the victims instead of the abusers earned him a one-week suspension from his First Take program.
Taken together, these are four legs of the table on which misogyny rests: abuse of women, leniency by the court and by a major sports organization and offensive remarks by a commentator. They clearly indicate that there is a far way to go before women are treated with respect and as equals.
The hope is that the Ray Rice episode will hasten the process that will lead to much greater awareness and substantial reduction of the incidents of macho men beating up on women.