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ESPN commentator passionately pleads for NBA to take violence against women more seriously

“It’s not a mistake. It’s a choice.”

Jeff Van Gundy speaks before Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif. CREDIT: Ben Margot/AP
Jeff Van Gundy speaks before Game 1 of basketball’s NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Oakland, Calif. CREDIT: Ben Margot/AP

On Tuesday night, an otherwise forgettable NBA preseason game between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks was noteworthy because point guard Derrick Rose was making his Knicks debut on the same day his civil trial for gang rape began in Los Angeles.

Early in the game, ESPN announcers didn’t talk much about Rose, who was allowed to miss jury selection on Tuesday but will join the trial in L.A. later this week.

But later in the game, ESPN announcer Mark Jones brought up the civil suit to his broadcasting partner, Jeff Van Gundy — a former head coach of both the Knicks and the Rockets. Instead of immediately switching the conversation back to Rose’s on-court performance, which would have been the easy way out, Van Gundy decided to address the topic of violence against women in a thoughtful, informed way.

Van Gundy called the crime an “epidemic,” and said he had attended a conference earlier in the day where he learned that a woman is assaulted every nine seconds in this country. He added that the NBA needs to take violence against women more seriously, and scolded the eight-day suspension handed out last week to Darren Collison of the Sacramento Kings, who plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery this summer.

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“My one suggestion going forward is that any felony committed against a woman should be a full-season suspension,” Van Gundy said.

The whole conversation was transcribed by Sean Highkin of The Athletic:

Van Gundy’s comments were informative, sincere, and direct. He didn’t jump to conclusions about Rose’s case, but still conveyed the enormity of the subject itself.

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It was a stark contrast to how some at ESPN have addressed violence against women in the past, and a sharp contrast from how some in sports media have brushed Rose’s case off as “noise.”