CBS sportscaster James Brown used his time on air during the pregame for the Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers game Thursday night to broadcast a serious message about domestic violence, as outrage over newly-released video depicting former Ravens running back Ray Rice beating his now-wife unconscious continues to ripple through the NFL.
While the league has faced criticism for continually citing Rice’s then-fiancee Janay Palmer’s role in the February incident, Brown’s speech turned the conversation to men’s role in domestic abuse.
“This problem is bigger than football,” Brown says over the din of audience flowing into the stadium. “But wouldn’t it be productive if this collective outrage, as my colleagues have said, could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women and, as they said, do something about it?
“Like an ongoing comprehensive education of men of what healthy, respectful manhood is all about, and it starts with how we view women. Our language is important. For instance, when a guy says ‘you throw the ball like a girl,’ or ‘you’re a little sissy,’ it reflects an attitude that devalues women. And attitudes will eventually manifest in some fashion.”
Sexual assault and domestic violence prevention organizers have long advocated for flipping the conversation about abuse to what men can do to prevent it, rather than how women can get out of the way of men who will inevitably abuse. “When we solely focus on whether a survivor stays with or leaves their abusive partner,” Chai Jindasurat, the programs coordinator for the Anti-Violence Project, told ThinkProgress’s Tara Culp-Ressler in a recent interview, “we place all the responsibility on the survivor rather than holding an abusive partner accountable.”
Instead of asking why women have put themselves in a dangerous position or stayed in one, “A better question,” the National Network to End Domestic Violence says on its website, ” is, Why does the abuser choose to abuse?”
But both the NFL and some other outlets have been slow to take this message to heart. When the incident originally came to light, the Baltimore Ravens tweeted that Janay Rice “says she deeply regrets the role that she played the night of the incident.” That tweet was just recently deleted after the video became public knowledge. Similarly, Fox News host Brian Kilmeade argued last week that Palmer sent a “terrible message” by staying with her abuser, and that since Rice hit her in the elevator, “I think the message is, take the stairs.”