The Blame Game: NFL Edition

Ray Rice is a despicable human being. So are far too many players in the NFL (Erin Gloria Ryan has a good run-down at Jezebel). A two-game suspension for knocking out a woman when smoking pot gets you four? The NFL is getting well-deserved criticism for this mind-blowing decision.

And Stephen A. Smith, and those like him, are so eager to protect the sport and its corruption that he blames women for getting hit and abused. Oh, of course he Tweeted, then issued, retractions after the outrage, but who believes him? He began his tirade with this:

This will be a long tweeted message, folks. So please stay with me and let me finish my complete thought before responding…b/c i’m ANNOYED

— Stephen A Smith (@stephenasmith) July 25, 2014

You’re annoyed? You know, I bet all the women who suffer getting hit in the face very day by their “loved one” are pretty “annoyed”, too. No, scratch that. They’re furious that you, on national TV, have told them, and their abusers, that it is possible for them to not be battered. You told those women that it is somehow possible to calm the raging asshole in the abuser. You implied to abusers that they are, in some ways, justified in their abuse, because their women provoke it. Abusers search for ways to justify their actions, Mr. Smith, and they are going to ignore your response to the outrage because it’s just a PR stunt. They are going to take your initial words and add them to a list of reasons that rationalize why they abusing their girlfriend/fiancée/ wife. The harm is already done, and you can’t take that back.

I knew a woman whose husband would become furious if a complete stranger passed them in the grocery store and that stranger smiled at her as he/she reached past them to get some product. The husband would angrily grill her about who the person was, where she knew them from, why they smiled at her, etc etc. How is it possible to stop another person from smiling at you? That’s all it takes to invoke the fury of an abuser in some instances. Saying women can somehow do something to placate her abuser and stop abuse is like yelling at a hurricane to go the other way. It’s impossible. The only way to stop an abuser beating you is to leave (and then you get to go to court and relive every terrible thing while trying to get custody of kids, get stalked, etc.).

This is rape culture expanded. This is our “blame the victim for everything” society, one that so many are so proud of. They bemoan the bad luck and falling graces of the perpetrator. They fight tooth and nail to make sure the woman is shamed and ostracized. They make sure that everyone knows that, no matter what happens to the woman, the man (or men) will be forgiven and promoted.

Funny, how many of the terrible, horrible stories to hit national media about abuse and rape involve football players. They start young (Steubenville), continue their illegal behavior through college (recent expose on Hobart and William Smith College) and hone themselves into truly horrendous human beings by the time they hit pro (NFL, too many to count). Players are never taught to respect others, never punished for their transgressions, and they know that they can get away with practically murder (almost, and as long as your victims are men, you’ll get charged). They are too important to castigate and it doesn’t take long for them to figure that out.

The more we have jackasses standing up and proudly displaying their ignorance and misogyny by defending these horrible people, and in turn being defended for what pops out of their mouths, the more our society fails and falls. Women are half the population. We deserve better than this. We deserve to be treated like human beings, not a shitty man’s punching bag.

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