Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Sigh...Ray Rice

I hate football.

Let me be clear, I don't actually hate football. Like, you don't hate the customer who always has a bunch of questions and needs help with everything and makes you run all over the place. You just hate how they take over your day whenever they show up. Well, that's what I hate about football. Whenever a notable football story pops up, it's all you hear or read about for a day and a half. That's the price of doing business if you're a sports fan in the United States, but it's still frustrating and I hate it.

I had kind of hoped that I'd get through the Ray Rice situation without feeling compelled to write a blog about it. And now I'm writing about it for a second time. Screw you, football.

My first post (which I'm sure seems totally misogynistic and narrow-minded now) talked about how we didn't have enough information to really make a thunderous decision against Ray Rice. There was a good deal of outcry insisting that the two-game suspension fell short of an appropriate punishment, and obviously at this point, that seems to be correct. Having finally seen footage of the moment in question, Rice clearly assaults his then-fiancee (now wife), and while it may not have been his swing that knocked her out, it was his swing that caused her head to slam against the railing, which almost certainly did knock her out. So in this circumstance, I will admit that I took a position that was incorrect, and was based on limited information.

My bad.

It saddens me that all of this happened, though. It's just...I don't know, it's just sad. There's clearly some larger issue going on with Ray and Janay Rice, and I feel like the fact that the national media is trying to pierce this story is only further complicating and exacerbating the situation. Maybe they need counseling, maybe they need to split up, maybe they're fine and they're comfortable with their relationship. But I don't hear anybody trying to find out if Janay Rice is okay, or trying to pivot this incident into positive movements towards a safer world for all victims of abuse. And I don't see how the NFL and the Ravens turning their backs on Ray Rice helps anybody.

I'm disappointed with the Ravens in particular. The NFL has always been a PR machine, and the public demanded that Ray Rice suffer massive consequences for the video that depicted his chilling attack. So be it, suspend him indefinitely. But clearly Ray Rice isn't right. A guy who's got it all together doesn't hit people, whether his girlfriend or a waiter or a stranger. Hell, even most people who don't have it all together don't hit people. Rice is in a position of need here, and the Ravens had the opportunity to say, "We hate what Ray Rice has done, and we fully support the NFL's decision to suspend him indefinitely. But we acknowledge that Ray is a human being, and he's a part of our community, and this is a time for us to help Ray to not be the person in that video ever again."

Where's the football camaraderie that I hear so much about? What happened to sticking by your teammates through thick and thin? The NFL's PR problem goes away with Rice's termination and suspension, but Rice's problems get even bigger. He's lost his livelihood (understandably), but nobody's life is made better by everyone casting him out.

My last point here is kind of hard to articulate, but I'm going to give it a shot. The involvement of so many "regular people" in this story feels icky. Not like they're named in the story, I mean that the "public" has spidered into celebrities' lives through web forums, chat rooms, Reddit, comments sections, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and a hundred other forms of social media and digital interactions. It's got the same kind of vibe as the whole nude photo hacking from a week or two ago. We (the internet public at large) are sticking our noses way deeper than they belong, and we're acting entitled about it. I can't tell you how many people I read/heard say, "Well, I mean, Kate Upton shouldn't have taken those pictures on her phone," or "Jennifer Lawrence has to know that once an image is on the cloud, a hacker can get at it." Similarly, there are countless comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram of people saying they can't understand why Janay Rice would stay with Ray, or demanding a first-hand account of the evening, or any of a thousand other presumptive statements.

We've got to stop.

We've got to stop assuming that because we know someone's name and what they do for a living, we're entitled to make judgments on them, or demand transparency from them. Professional athletes, actresses, singers, they do all have something in common with the rest of us: they're human. They have emotions, and they make decisions not solely based on the possibility of them getting caught, but because they feel things and think things and want things. Jennifer Lawrence is far from the first or last girl to take a sensual picture of herself. She'll be a target of hackers and jealous investigators for a long time, and that comes with the territory. But she shouldn't be chastised for having had her private information stolen. Janay Rice shouldn't be interrogated by fifty thousand strangers via Twitter. Victims of crimes are victims of crimes, and while we may be interested in the sordid details, we are by no means entitled to them.

Let's do our best to respect the humanity of those who are hurt, even if they were in The Hunger Games.

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