Thursday, July 24, 2014

In the Case of Ray Rice, There is Something More Upsetting Than His2-Game Suspension

"You know I only say it 'cause I'm truly genuine. Don't be a hard rock when you're really a gem. Babygirl, respect is just a minimum. "

Lyric from: Doo Wop (That Thing) from the album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Written By: Lauryn Hill
Performed By: Lauryn Hill

Photo of Ray Rice courtesy of

A few months ago TMZ treated us to a video of someone that appeared to be Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice dragging his then fiancĂ© out of an elevator after an altercation between the two resulted in him knocking her unconscious. 


After a review of all of the evidence, the verdict is in for Rice. The NFL handed him a 2-game suspension to start the season. Case closed. 

Outrage ensues.

Fans are upset, appropriately so, by what appears to be a lack of reasonableness in the way that the NFL punishes deplorable conduct by it players. Many have pointed out on social media that guys have gotten suspended longer for marijuana offenses. But, as in the case of Rice, render your wife lifeless in a fit of rage and you might slide by with a figurative slap on the wrist.

Yep, that’s right, she’s his wife now. 

Apparently in the time since this incident played out for all the world to see, Rice has become more lovable. 

We talk all the time about how sports folks-coaches, league officials and media alike-are selectively willing to look the other way in the face of some awful behavior by their most likable, charismatic and profitable employees.

It’s unacceptable for sure. In a domestic violence case like this one, maybe it’s just one more example in a line of examples that demonstrates how little this society values its women. Or maybe, they’re just taking their “look the other way” cues from the women in these relationships.

It’s hard to know exactly what would make a woman stay with a man that beats her. I have been candid in this blog about having been in an abusive relationship before. I stayed in it just long enough to realize that it really wasn’t my fault that my boyfriend’s anger turned violent from time to time and, then I was out of it. It wasn’t easy but, the break was made easier by the fact that I had loving parents at home, supportive friends who told me that I deserved better and a  keen awareness of the fact that my peace and sanity were worth way more than any of the “stuff” that being with him afforded me.

Subtract any of those factors from the equation, however, and for some women, it will be a story with an altogether different ending. 

And in these times where it seems that everyone everywhere is all about “stuff”-how hard we’re grinding to get it, how much we spent on it, how ours is better than yours and how much happier (allegedly) you’ll be the more of it you have-stuff carries more weight and is way more difficult to walk away from than it should be.

In this recent Deadspin piece titled The Trouble with Floyd Mayweather which chides boxing media and officials for the same type of soft handling of Floyd and his reprehensible treatment of women as the NFL is being criticized for today, the hypnotic effect and appeal of Floyd’s wealth is hard not to miss as a major point of emphasis and is quite obviously a determining factor in how much he is able to get away with, not only from the boxing community and the court system but from the women in his life as well. 

And that’s as sad as it is regrettable.

Then again, maybe the NFL is taking its cues from the rest of us. Those of us that hypocritically laugh and meme and retweet the misogynistic humor that would be decidedly less funny if the words were addressed to us, to our faces. And those of us that bounce and nod our heads to songs with lyrics that claim “it ain’t nothin’ to cut that b*tch off”.

It’s all fun and games ‘til the "b*tch" in question is you or your mother, sister or dear friend.

If you don’t think a guy that refers to women as b*tches and h*s all of time is that much closer to hitting one, you’re wrong. And if a woman doesn’t think that all of the retweeting and laughing and head bobbing is a subtle endorsement of her diminishing value, she is wrong as well.
This domestic violence thing is an “us” issue. Maybe when we start doing our part, the NFL will too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pam Oliver Gets Replaced by Erin Andrews and, Once Again I'm BloggingAbout Race

"I am not my hair. I am not this skin. I am not your expectations, no, no. I am a soul that lives within. "

Lyric from: I Am Not My Hair from the album Testimony: Vol. 1, Life & Relationship
Written By: India Arie Simpson, Shannon Sanders, Drew Ramsey and Aliaune Thiam
Performed By: India.Arie

Photo of Pam Oliver courtesy of Fox Sports

Back in 2009 I had a real job in corporate America with responsibilities that required me to travel all throughout the Southeastern US. That means that I spent a lot of time flying into and out of the Atlanta Jackson-Hartsfield International Airport.

At the end of one particularly grueling week of business travel made even more insulting by a 7 am flight out of Atlanta back into Memphis, I had the pleasure of being behind Pam Oliver in the security line at the airport. This was a major “celebrity” sighting for me because for as long as I could remember I had wanted to be her. To do what she did. To be respected for doing the same type of top-notch work that she was doing week to week. That Friday morning she was probably headed out to meet Joe and Troy to cover the NFL game of the week for Fox and, here I was sloughing back home to talk sales numbers and door swings and brand perception and market recovery plans.

I stared at her until I finally settled in on giving her an acknowledging nod and a smile. I stopped short of asking for an autograph. It didn’t feel right. And a photo was out of the question because a 7 am departure time means that hair and makeup were the sacrificial lambs of both of our morning preparations.

For that reason I feared asking for a photo might have even offended her thus ruining any chance we’d have of being best friends or at the very least ruining any chance I’d have of convincing her to be my mentor if I ever made my way into a sports broadcasting career.

Fans were pretty hard on Pam this last NFL season. Nearly every Sunday Twitter exploded with vitriolic taunts about everything other than the way she did her job. Most of the criticism was directed at questionable makeup choices and hairstyles that seemed just a bit off, both of which contributed to an appearance that overall seemed a bit unkempt. 

This is not what we expect from our on-air personalities. It’s certainly not what I expected of my Pam Oliver. After all, on some of those Sundays on national TV she seemed a mere stroke of mascara away from what I saw that early Friday morning in that airport back in 2009.

Black Twitter in particular served up some cruel but humorous punishment and, black women especially unleashed a tongue lashing that often cut pretty deep. We know from the Gabby Douglas hair controversy of the 2012 Olympics just how irritated black women can get when other black women dare not present themselves perfectly in front of the camera.  Perfection though, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

I wrote about the ridiculousness of the Gabby criticism in this piece and how it all stemmed from the pressure that black folks put on other black folks to be a perfect prototype of all the black folks all over the world. A hair out of place for all the world to see often in our mind means that all other ethnic groups, mainly white people here in the US, will be left with the impression that all black folks will leave a hair out of place as part of some sort of cultural rite of passage.

And even more ridiculous than a black person’s fear of that happening is the fact that it probably will. Even in 2014 blacks are represented so sparingly from work places to network television that the images we present there will translate into how non-blacks interact with the next black person with whom he or she comes into contact. 

For any black person who does not agree with that, let he who did not get a congratulatory “You Go Boy” or “You Go Girl” from a white teacher, professor or manager back in the 90s compliments of the popular TV show Martin cast the first stone.

But make no mistake about it. For all of the hurtful criticism hurled at Pam Oliver, it was not unreasonable for folks-black, white or other- to demand that she do better by her appearance. No matter what you thought of Gabby’s hairstyle back in 2012, unlike her, it’s part of Oliver’s job to be put-together. It is sexist to require that female sportscasters be eye candy but, it is rational to oblige them to take great pride and care in presenting the absolute best version of their outer shells. 

In this For the Win piece at USA Today about the NFL’s boot camp for players hoping to make a leap into broadcasting when their playing days are done, a reference is made to NFL Network director of media talent Marc Watts’ criticism of retiree Brendon Ayanbadejo’s loose tie knot during a practice run of a studio show taping. Watts was reported to have said, “I can’t get past the distraction.”

Much like that loose tie knot, a wayward lip color or an unruly hair piece is a distraction not likely to be tolerated in the world of broadcasting either. Even if it gets past the powers that be, fans won’t be as forgiving. And thanks to social media, their disapproval can be heard loud and clear and in real time.

Since news spread over the last couple of days of Oliver being replaced by Erin Andrews on Fox’s number one NFL broadcasting team, many blacks on Twitter and Facebook and some black media outlets have called for a repentance of sorts for the critics who might have contributed to Oliver’s mocking last season.

I like the sentiment. I just fear it’s being requested for the wrong reason. 

Yes, Oliver was one of few black women to do that job. Without her in the role we lose a valuable representation of ourselves on national TV and, I lose weekly inspiration from a personal hero of mine. Fans could have gone about it better but, they shouldn’t be asked to apologize for being unwilling to let her off the hook because she is black. As trivial as you may consider a well slept, well hydrated, well moisturized, well trimmed, well cropped, well made up and altogether well kept look to be in your personal life, it’s in the job description of a broadcaster. It’s as essential to the role as subject/verb agreement.

And in the case of the latter, I’m even more so irritated when expected to give someone a pass because of race. It’s unfair to ask blacks in the spotlight to bear the responsibility for representing an entire race to perfection but, it’s warranted that we call on them to represent us well.

I love to see blacks on TV just not at the expense of setting a lower bar of excellence.

For any black person who disagrees with this, let he who has not been offended by being offered “you are so articulate” as high praise from a teacher, professor or manager cast the first stone.

Let’s direct our frustration in this case of Andrews over Oliver at the fact that we all saw this coming. 

From the minute Andrews went to Fox. From the minute she started working NFL sidelines. From the minute she worked a sideline opposite from Oliver in the playoffs. 

We knew her presence would likely cost Oliver her job.

And I doubt very seriously it had anything to do with hair or makeup.