Sexism is a fact of life. Still. But, as bad as it can be among the masses, in sports it is even worse. At least it gets more air time. This hasn’t been lost on Keith Olbermann. The former host of Countdown plies his trade on ESPN nowadays, but he still manages to stray into his former territory now and then.
Thursday night was one of those times. In a powerful segment on the Ray Rice issue, Olbermann excoriated the NFL for its weak-handed punishment of the Baltimore Ravens running back. Though Rice violated the league’s personal conduct policy and was arrested and charged with aggravated assault, the NFL decided that a 2-game suspension was punishment enough. Olbermann — and many Americans — disagree.
Setting up the segment with a litany of instances in which female athletes were met with sexist remarks, questions and attacks (and including his own mea culpa), Olbermann displayed the passion many of us so admire. Citing comments about Gabby Douglas’ hair, Marion Bartoli’s looks and the gender identity of Brittney Griner (among others), Olbermann pointed out how…
“… by some tiny amount, each one of those things lowers the level of basic human respect for women in sports. And, sooner or later, there are so many tiny amounts that the level of basic human respect is gone altogether. And, eventually, after all of the ‘b-words’ and ‘ho’ comments and penis remarks and nudity demands and waitress jokes, the most powerful national sports league in the world can then get away with suspending a wife beater for just two games for doing this and whatever, precisely, led up to this.”
The TMZ video is then shown, for 45 silent seconds. In it, we see Rice drag his unconscious then-fiance, now-wife from an elevator. He drops her on the floor, her legs still inside the elevator as another man approaches him. Rice leaves this woman he purports to love in a heap between the elevator doors as he speaks to the unidentified man. For this, he was arrested and charge with aggravated assault. But only suspended for two games.
Olbermann goes on to point out that Tennessee Titans defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth, who stepped on the bare head of a center from the Dallas Cowboys, he was suspended for 5 games. The center, Olbermann points out, still had pounds of protective gear on though his helmet was off. As he cuts back to the video of Rice dragging his unconscious wife from that elevator, Olbermann asks:
“Does this look like a game? Is this during a play? Is this part of a violent sport? Does it look like this victim had been wearing a helmet? The National Football League’s concern for Janay Palmer Rice is slightly less than the concern for her that Ray Rice showed on that tape.”
Indeed. And those who comment that “she was hitting him” and “she had it coming” and “she spat in his face” are all part of the problem. They are the enablers. They are the ones who laughed when Brittney Griner got asked about her penis. Who giggled when Don Imus called the members of a WNBA team “nappy-headed hos.” Who smirked when Marion Bartoli was called “not a looker.” They don’t care that women are treated unfairly and, apparently, think that crimes — of any degree — against them are okay.
When smoking pot in a state where it is legal for recreational use is met with an indefinite suspension while wife-beating only draws a 2-game one, something is very wrong. The NFL cares about one thing: money. As the beneficiary of a 501(c)(6) status, the NFL pays no taxes. Their convoluted explanations notwithstanding, the NFL gets away with not paying about $91 billion in taxes every year. Must be nice. It must also be nice to be able to get away with imposing such ridiculously unbalanced punishments on your members.
Olbermann wants women to take away one important fact: “The NFL wants your money. They will do nothing else for you.” Exactly.
Here’s the whole segment — a Special Comment in everything but name. Man, I miss this: