She shouldn’t have gotten her face in the way of his fist

Some football player named Ray Rice got in a fight with his fiancée, and knocked her out cold in an elevator — there is surveillance of him dragging her unconscious body out. You would think, maybe, that a professional athlete would have at some time learned that he’s very strong, and that a little caution in dealing physically with other was warranted, and maybe that the appropriate way to deal with someone you purportedly love does not involve beating her unconscious.

Rice has sort-of-apologized in a press conference — to which he brought his new wife to also apologize for her actions (makes you wonder what kind of beating she’d get if she didn’t). And now he’s been sort-of-punished, so the NFL is back to stroking his ego.

It’s also precious as heck that Ray Rice feels an obligation to The Children, what with being a role model and all, but maybe he should not be a role model because, kids, lady-beating is wrong, even if the NFL doesn’t really think so. Sure, it suspended Rice for TWO WHOLE GAMES and fined him $529,411.24, which sounds like a lot of money until you realize that it is merely two games’ worth of pay for Rice the Role Model. But everyone in the sportsball world is tripping over themselves to assure us that Ray Rice really is a nice guy, no really, and he will never ever knock his wife out cold again, he promises, even though the recidivism rate for lady-beaters is about 110 percent. (Okay, not exactly, but pretty close.) Here’s the team’s general manager, Ozzie Newsome, giving Rice some quality reach-around, but not in a gay way of course, because that would be a REAL problem for the NFL:

“We also respect the efforts Ray has made to become the best partner and father he can be.” Newsome said. “That night was not typical of the Ray Rice we know and respect. We believe that he will not let that one night define who he is, and he is determined to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Hmm. I’ve been married for 34 years, and she’s never hit me, and I’ve never hit her. In our case, if I started using her as a punching bag, you could say it’s “not typical”…but even that many years of respectful behavior would not be sufficient to justify doing harm now. But if he’s a pro football player, it’s all water under the bridge.

What I’d like to know is whether, if there is any other issue of domestic violence with this guy, the NFL will come back and say, “We were wrong — turns out thumping women is typical of Ray Rice, he’s an asshole, and he’s fired.” Any takers on that one? I suspect instead the NFL is right now deploying a team of PR specialists prepared to hush up any future incidents.

But here’s a professional apologist for athletes from ESPN commenting on the issue:

But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong done upon them?

But what about addressing women on how they can help prevent the obvious wrong done upon them?

Yeah, ladies, it’s your responsibility to avoid pissing off muscular 200 pound football players. Ultimately, it’s all your fault.


  1. says

    Well, it probably never will happen again. He really has learned his lesson. I mean, lessons.
    1.Be sure that there are no cameras. anywhere,
    2.Never in public, learn to stoke the rage.
    3.Don’t leave any visible marks.
    4.Keep the PR machine well-funded, give the public good face.
    5.That $529,411.24 really hurt!

  2. Kevin Kehres says

    Never been a fan of Smith. This episode only confirms my longstanding practice of changing the channel or using the mute button when his piehole appears on TV.

  3. says

    Now that he got away with it once, it’s going to escalate (the first time’s the hardest!). BUT, he’ll get better at doing it so no one will find out, which will force his wife into being an unwilling, terrified accomplice to his now-secretive abusive behavior. Over 20 years ago, I was married to a soldier, and once his unit found out, he learned to hide it better. He was a “super soldier” so he got a pass “this one time,” which served as incentive for doing it again. And to anyone who says, “She can just leave him,” I say you don’t know what it’s like until you walk in the shoes of an abused woman. The last things she (or any abused woman) needs is someone telling her it’s her fault for staying, or that it’s just easy to walk away from life as she knows it and start over. It’s a complex, heartbreaking scenario that takes time to overcome.

  4. nrdo says

    What’s also sad is that these official league “punishments” seem to be decided entirely on the basis of how much the incident might affect the flow sponsorship and viewership dollars. In other words, they’re a reflection of the sponsors’ priorities, not just the prejudices of the men running the organization.

  5. chigau (違う) says

    I can think of a few ways to prevent the “wrong being done” but they all involve making his death look like an accident.
    Is that what Stephen A Smith has in mind?

  6. says

    Jim Trotter at ESPN thinks the light punishment has to do with NFL politics, and specifically that Commissioner Roger Goodell wants to set up a lenient response to owner Jim Irsay being busted for DUI. If so, that’s might cynical and sad. However, ESPN’s Jamison Henley says the league has a history of going light on woman abusers. Quote:

    “There’s a precedent for first-time offenders like Rice. Many first-time offenders don’t get a suspension of any kind, and many get suspended for less than a month if they are disciplined. In the past three years, only 12 players received more than four-game suspensions, and all violated league policy multiple times. . . . Goodell certainly could have delivered a stronger message with Rice and made an example out of him for the rest of the league’s players. But if Goodell had suspended Rice for eight games or the entire season, it would be difficult to see that punishment sticking.

    Rice would have undoubtedly appealed a harsher suspension because no first-time offender of domestic violence has ever received such a punishment. He could cite two former Ravens, Fabian Washington and Cary Williams, who were suspended a combined three games after being charged with domestic violence. Rice could point to the discipline handed out to wide receiver Brandon Marshall in 2008, when the Denver Broncos wide receiver was suspended only three games (later reduced to one) after multiple domestic disputes. ”

    Unfortunately the NFL culture is still pretty retrograde. But at least sportswriters and fans are starting to get up in arms about it.

  7. borax says

    But at least Ray Rice isn’t bringing distractions that will hurt his team by being gay. Tony Dungy actually said he wouldn’t want Michael Sam on a team because the media attention would hurt the team. Fucked up priorities much?

  8. borax says

    @8 ianeymeaney, And Ben Roethlisberger had to give up being offensive captain after rape. I mean “alleged rape.” I don’t want to commit libel.

  9. says

    It’s not just the USan version of football (which oddly almost never involves the foot touching the ball?), either. Ched Evans was convicted of rape two years ago, for which he was released by Sheffield United when he was sentenced to five years in prison).

    He will be released in October of this year (2.5 years after sentence of five years), and Sheffield United have already been in contact with him – in the prison – to see whether he might be able to come back and play for them again.

    So yeah. Not even close to a problem solely for USan football, or the NFL. All professional sports deal with the same evil in the same way: by ignoring it where possible, doing the minimum they can where they must, and making sure that their precious precious assets aren’t harmed by any silly justice for their victims or anything.

    I’ve adored Tottenham Hotspur my whole life, I bleed lily-white. But if they did something like this, it would be over. Just over.

  10. ButchKitties says

    Michelle Beadle went off on Stephen Smith for his victim blaming, further cementing my liking of her. It was especially cool of her to do considering they are employed by the same network. The world of sports needs more people like her.

  11. Jackie says

    Men like Stephen Smith make a good argument for men like Stephen Smith being kept away from the rest of society. After all, we ladies need be responsible and take steps to prevent men from hitting or raping us and keeping men who hit, rape and apologize for those who do would be the surest step to keeping ourselves safe. With all the power and prestige politicians tell us victimhood grants us, we should be able to make that happen in no time, right? It isn’t like we’re marginalized at all. It isn’t like we need feminism.

  12. illdoittomorrow says

    Apparently, both Rice’s behaviour and the NFL response is par for the course:

    From the second-last paragraph:

    “Domestic violence isn’t isolated to the Ravens or Rice. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune database, 21 of 32 teams last year had a player on their roster who had a domestic or sexual violence charge on their record.”

    Perhaps a name change to National Felon’s League is in order.

  13. lakitha tolbert says

    So Smith is arguing that should I decide to hit him with my minivan, I shouldn’t be held at all accountable. It’s entirely his fault for having pissed me off.

    In Smith’s mind, does all violent crime get a pass? If so, I feel that Smith should at least prove his point and take a punch for the team (preferably from Rice) and then acept the full blame for that.

  14. robnyny says

    Here’s what Smith doesn’t get: Abused women already try to minimize the triggers. And abusive men are creative enough to always find a trigger.

  15. qwints says

    There is nothing redeeming about this story. Another sports star does violence to women and receives a small punishment that’s significantly less than others have received for minor offenses.

  16. favog says

    “Hmm. I’ve been married for 34 years, and she’s never hit me, and I’ve never hit her. In our case, if I started using her as a punching bag, you could say it’s “not typical”…but even that many years of respectful behavior would not be sufficient to justify doing harm now. But if he’s a pro football player, it’s all water under the bridge.”

    But, but, PZ, you were just saying the other day that your football career is over! How could you possibly be a role model?

  17. says

    Beating up his wife isn’t that bad according to the NFL do we need to look back at their caring history.

    I may enjoy the sport, but the way players act outside the game, it baffles me why anyone would call them role models. Vick murdered how many dogs? Then there was Chad Johnson who not only hit his mother but his girlfriends as well. Even Favre got busted sending pictures of his junk to a female employee of the team he was on. Their more interested in injury reports than the players acting like adults.

  18. says

    Wes Aaron

    Wes, I’m not sure why you’re inserting an empty abbreviation tag (<abbr title="">) around parts of your comments. To sighted readers, it merely produces that dotted underline effect. Folks using screen-readers, though, will be informed of an upcoming abbreviation which then won’t appear—which has to be at least slightly confusing.

  19. says

    Daz 19. On my end when I preview or look at my posts it shows nothing. However if I don’t insert these, then the paragraphs get squished together with no breaks. I am not sure why my computer doesn’t apply the codes only to the script within the quotations, but instead does the entire post? So I lose breaks in paragraphs and can’t seem to get it to stop squishing things together. However I think I finally managed to figure it out. When I would search online I couldn’t find an answer, kept telling me a code that doesn’t work in FTB, but I think I got it this time.

    No space between lines.

    Nope spoke too soon, which code resets text to normal? And again no space between lines.

  20. says

    Oh now the spaces show up, but the bold persisted even though it was only added for the last part of the sentence of my first paragraph.

  21. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    But, but, PZ, you were just saying the other day that your football career is over! How could you possibly be a role model?

    He’s a white, straight, cis* man who probably isn’t on food stamps and definitely says things that piss people off. Isn’t that all you need to have FOX declare you a role model these days? You certainly don’t have to be able to play pro football. (:cough: Tebow :cough:)

    Becoming a role model by playing football is for the Black men. Baseball? Latinos & Japanese men. Just ask FOX. They’ll tell you.

  22. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Is he?

    I hadn’t noticed. I do, in fact, watch handegg every once in a while. Far from frequently, but it’s been known to happen that I watch it even when I’m in control of the audio-visuals. Nonetheless, what the guy actually looks like (other than cloth hanging off shoulder pads, topped with a very smooth helmet) had entirely escaped me. I do know that his skin is light enough that if he told me he’s white I wouldn’t think to question his assertion. I don’t know where I found that out, but I was confident of it at one point.

    That’s about all I got.

    I figured it was just because he was a seriously straight, wealthy white boy who occasionally says things that piss people off.

    I mean, Steve Doocy isn’t that nice-looking, is he?

  23. says

    Wes Aaron

    Possibly some of this might be teaching granma to suck eggs. Better to assume lack of knowledge and explain too much, than not explain enough.

    To create a gap between paragraphs, hit the return key twice, and don’t worry about what the preview makes it look like.

    Bolding, italicising etc, make sure to surround only the text you want to emphasise, and make sure to include the closing-tag:

    <em>This text will be emphasised.</em> and this won’t.

    It’s hard to tell from the source, ’cause the comments-software seems to be adding closing-tags kinda randomly, but I’m guessing that’s where you’re going wrong.

    Also, it’s better to use <em> instead of <i> and <strong> instead of <b> (Good explanation here.)

  24. says

    Thanks for the help Daz and Tony.

    I can be computer illiterate on a few items, but I always try to correct it. The Ren and Stimpy reference is kinda amusing.

  25. says

    The computer scientist Scott Aaronson wrote an interesting perspective, “The pedophile upper bound”, on American attitudes towards football & crime following the Sandusky case, along with it’s huge cost to academia.

    This video, “How to Talk to Your Kids About Michael Sam” drives some of that point home brilliantly.
    It’s also where it first started to sink in for me personally how homophobia can be driven by sexism and misogyny.

    But bigger than all that I think is this FRONTLINE episode on the brain damage inflicted by playing tackle football, “A League of Denial”. I can’t help but wonder how the total amount of brain damage caused by decades of football in America stacks up against, say, brain damage caused by drug abuse or addiction.

    (The preview option here is rendering really weird stuff for in-text links so I’m just leaving them plain, but even plain it’s got them right justified for some reason, even though the rest of the text is left justified…)

  26. numerobis says

    codyreisdorf: I hadn’t read that Lance Fortnow article that Aaronson links to. Gross.

  27. David Marjanović says

    Basically, preview lies. It’s completely incompetent. Ignore it; use it only to detect unclosed tags.

  28. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says


    Thanks for the links.

    In return, may I recommend:

    Homophobia, A Weapon of Sexism?

    Pharr is brilliant.

    You can read the book online as a pdf here.

    Of course, I include the original link because buying the book supports one of the most brilliant feminists you’ve never heard of.

    Speaking of brilliant feminists too many people have never heard of, there’s also Tillie Black Bear. I mention her in particular both because her work is relevant to this thread and because we just lost her. I’ve had some small opportunities to work with her – mostly at a pair of conferences we both attended and then a little bit over a distance.

    To bring this discussion back to the original topic, TBB was one of 4 feminists that I thought could together effectively replace everything I’ve ever done to fight domestic & sexual violence. Her work was amazingly influential, not least because:

    Before Tillie, no one was focusing on Native women in a national way. She took in the national movement that was happening to raise awareness around domestic violence and refocused it on Indian Country.

    It’s that “taking a national movement …and refocus[ing] it on” a culturally unique subset of the US population that was so familiar to me, and that helped me later, though I wish I’d had her and her work in my life 5 or 6 years earlier. I would have had a much clearer map of how to do that and could maybe have made a difference in trans* and intersex survivors’ lives 2-4 years earlier. [And so when you’re adding up the damage of racism, make sure you include all the trans* and intersex survivors – of any and every race – that didn’t get help, but would have if TBB’s work had been as widespread as its merit deserved.]

    On the topic of changing cultures of toxic masculinity (in the OP in football), TBB

    worked with the men in law enforcement on the reservation. She would talk to them, and ask, “Do you protect your wife? Yes, he would say. Do you protect your children? Yes, he would say. Will you protect us? Yes, he would say.” And in this way, behind the scene, she was building support and cooperation. Soon we began to see the policemen wearing pins, on their uniforms, supporting the anti-violence movement. Tillie’s strength was in changing the minds of men as well as domestic violence policy in Indian Country in order to change the lives of women.

    I don’t think she could entirely replace the work that I’ve done on her own. She still carried too much gender essentialism with her. The line between converting compulsory toxic masculinity to compulsory “positive” masculinity and simply taking contemporary compulsory toxic masculinity and nudging its inevitable changes in your preferred direction to create tomorrow’s compulsory toxic masculinity is nearly fucking nonexistent. So long as gender is *compulsory* it will end up being *toxic*. TBB did a lot to break down gender roles, but in my experience of her there were limits. In practice, it seemed to me, she argued for much bigger boxes…but they were still boxes, only “free” in comparison to the current cramped confines.

    That would seem to be a serious reservation I have about her work, and it is. One might even think it would turn me off, make me look elsewhere for wisdom.

    But it doesn’t. When we look at the stats for sexual and domestic assaults, we find:

    Federal government studies have consistently shown that American Indian women
    experience much higher levels of sexual violence than other women in the U.S. Data
    gathered by the U.S. Department of Justice indicates that Native American and
    Alaskan Native women are more than 2.5 times more likely to be raped or sexually
    assaulted than women in the USA in general (5 vs 2 per 1000 people-years)


    American Indian women residing on Indian reservations suffer domestic violence
    and physical assault at rates far exceeding women of other ethnicities and
    The Facts on Violence Against American Indian/Alaskan Native Women
    locations.1 A 2004 Department of Justice report estimates these assault rates to be
    as much as 50% higher than the next most victimized demographic.

    Source: Futures Without Violence. “The Facts on Violence Against American Indian/Alaskan Native Women.” Futures Without Violence. Futures Without Violence, n.d. Web. 27 July 2014.

    Even that, however, does not paint an adequate picture of the real desperation on reservations. Anecdotes from the Atlantic can help turn the raw data into a picture of what Tillie Black Bear was facing.

    In response, it’s not surprising to see harm reduction take a prominent role in her activism – and I feel this explains a certain portion of her approach to working with police that otherwise I would find far too deferential to toxic masculinity. Yet she never, ever, lost sight of the goal of eradication. Perhaps her most valuable contribution to my life and work was modeling the delicate balance between the two in one’s writing, work, and priorities, and, both more important on the ground and more difficult to achieve, how to do so while making both harm reduction advocates and eradication advocates feel respected and valued.

    You’re a cop who wants to make money for your small town? Give people a DUI if they fail to walk that line.

    I’ve done a small amount of media education and a small number of media interviews (only 1 on TV, I think, but maybe 2) in relation to domestic violence by professional athletes. There’s a special field here, and it isn’t mine, but from my glimpses into this world, a future issue of the Atlantic could easily write about the culture of impunity for the domestic and sexual violence perpetrated by professional athletes that would turn our stomachs every bit as much as their article, “On Indian Land…”.

    So when we’re considering what to do in response to Ray Rice, maybe our first step should be to read (more) Tillie Black Bear.

    Tillie Black Bear, we hardly knew each other, and I can’t say that over the last 5 years of your life you thought of me even once, though I’d like to think our conversations about the nature of gender did lead to changes valuable to you and your communities, but you have been, and will continue to be, in my thoughts. I will always remember you as the best kind of hero: one whose flaws I could see, but whose work revealed (and healed) previously unguessed flaws of my own.

  29. Monsanto says

    When I played football, I was well over 200 pounds, but I never met a lady who felt it necessary to ram her face into my fist. I think that Stephen Smith jerk is right. Ladies need to be trained not to do that. Why do so many players attract women like that?

  30. Monsanto says


    Perhaps you missed the sarcasm. Perhaps that’s why no one has ever run their face into my fist.