Not since the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994 has a high-profile Black athlete been made the poster person for domestic violence as has Ray Rice
By MONICA MOOREHEAD
The mainstream media should be indicted for using the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens’ running back Ray Rice case to reinforce racism and women’s oppression. Not since the O.J. Simpson trial in 1994 has a high-profile Black athlete been made the poster person for domestic violence as has Ray Rice.
Ben Roethlisberger, the white Pittsburgh Steelers’ quarterback, was accused of sexual assault twice at a Lake Tahoe hotel in 2008. The NFL slapped him with a six-game suspension. He never faced a jury trial because the district attorney claimed there wasn’t enough “evidence.” It was Roethlisberger’s word versus that of a 20-year-old woman whose own character would have been scrutinized. Where was the media attention about this scandal?
Retired Major League Baseball player Chuck Knoblaugh, who is also white, has been arrested for domestic violence. The billionaire white owner of the Dallas Cowboys, Jerry Jones, is being sued for a 2009 sexual assault of a young woman. Where is the hoopla about these cases? Must crimes be videotaped to bring national headlines and not just blips on a screen?
Four white Lacrosse players at Duke University were exonerated from sexual assault charges against a Black single mother. They were portrayed as innocent victims; she was portrayed as promiscuous.
Eight Black women have accused white police officer Daniel Holtzclaw in Oklahoma of raping them after he arrested them. A judge reduced the bail for this serial rapist, setting him free. Where is the public outcry?
Despite the multimillion-dollar contracts of athletes like Ray Rice, he is still an African-American man who is subject to the same racist stereotypes under capitalism. Columnist Charles M. Blow stated in the Sept. 7 New York Times, citing a Sentencing Project report: “Many media outlets reinforce the public’s racial misconceptions about crime by presenting African Americans and Latinos differently than whites — both quantitatively and qualitatively. Television news programs and newspapers over-represent racial minorities as crime suspects and whites as crime victims.”
While African-American youth, including Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin, are executed in the streets, athletes of color like Ray Rice are demonized and criminalized by a system rooted in white supremacy.
What led to the NFL ultimately suspending Rice was TMZ’s release of extended video footage of the assault inside the elevator; it showed Ray Rice punching his fiancee so hard that her head hit a railing. He then dragged her out of the elevator. Once this video went viral on Sept. 8, it intensified the discussion on the nature of domestic violence and women’s oppression.
The portrayal of Rice, and the woman who is now his wife, also demonstrates the role the media plays in the perpetuation of not just racism, but sexism as well.
The repeated showing of the videotape of Janay Rice’s horrific beating reinforces the nightmare that brings about humiliation and shame; the media’s decision to air it non-stop hurt more than it helped. Janay Rice had no control over the assault or the video of the attack. The video should not have been shown out of respect for her and other women who have had similar experiences.
Janay Rice said on Instagram on Sept. 9, “No one knows the pain that the media and unwanted [opinions] from the public [have] caused my family. To make us relive a moment in our lives that we regret every day is a horrible thing. To take something away from the man I love that has worked his ass off for all his life just to gain ratings is horrific. This is our life! What don’t you all get. If your intentions were to hurt us, embarrass us, make us feel alone, take all happiness away, you succeeded on so many levels.”
Janay Rice’s devastating feelings should not be experienced by any woman, yet many women must endure them. The blame lies with big business media and society’s pervasive views that victimize women and criminalizes Black men in a capitalist culture that puts profits before the dignity and needs of humanity.
Monica Moorehead is a political activist and two-time presidential candidate for the Workers World Party, a Marxist-Leninist, pro-socialist Party. She is a contributing writer for the pamphlet, Feminism and Marxism in the 90’s and author of South Africa: Which Road to Liberation? She also edited the book, Marxism, Reparations, and the Black Freedom Struggle, a collection of articles from Workers World newspaper, written by herself and others. This is an excerpt from a column that originally appeared on the Workers World website and is republished here with permission from the author.