Right after you read this, Google “Ray Rice and Tony Dungy” in the same search. Here’s what you’ll find: The first page reveals twice as many stories about Dungy than Rice. Page 2 and beyond reveal more coverage of Tony Dungy’s insensitive comments than Ray Rice’s punishment for knocking out a woman.
If you’re not a sports fan, let me catch you up on these two stories:
Tony Dungy said he would not have drafted Michael Sam, the NFL’s first openly gay player, because he “wouldn’t want to deal with all of it”
Ray Rice was suspended for two games for literally knocking out his fiancé.
Which story would you guess took up more of the NFL PR Machine’s time? If you guessed a two-game suspension for a professional athlete who beat up a woman, you would be wrong. Which story would you guess drew more of the media’s ire? If you guessed a football player caught on video dragging his girlfriend out of an elevator after knocking her unconscious, you would again be incorrect.
In case you didn’t get the memo, if you say anything other than Michael Sam is the greatest thing to ever happen to the NFL, you will be vilified. And if an athlete beats a woman, it’s okay to make excuses for him and say the NFL’s two-game suspension makes complete sense.
Perhaps Stephen A Smith inadvertently revealed the prevailing/underlying attitude of the NFL and sports media when he said to women, “Let’s make sure we don’t do anything to provoke the wrong action.” He might as well have said, “Women, don’t give guys a reason to hit you.”
Meantime, Keith Olbermann labeled Tony Dungy, “The World’s Worst Person”.
While Olbermann did rail against the NFL for only giving Rice a two-game suspension, I couldn’t find a time when the ESPN broadcaster had given Rice “The World’s Worst Person” moniker.
Those two examples are endemic of the NFL and sports media culture.
The message that has been sent this week is that domestic violence is bad, but not nearly as bad as saying something insensitive. So kids, remember, knocking out a girl might cause you to miss a couple of sports games but saying something insensitive will make you “The World’s Worst Person”.