The Ray Rice story, thrust again into the national spotlight this week, produced both exemplary and delinquent journalism.
Some thoughts on media coverage:
### It was awkward enough that ESPN’s Chris Berman and Trent Dilfer attempted to discuss the controversy during Monday’s San Diego-Arizona game, a challenge that was simply too daunting for two broadcasters who don't announce many NFL games. But the conversation careened when Dilfer inexplicably commended the NFL’s handling of the case.
“The NFL sent a strong message,” Dilfer said, as viewers’ jaws dropped.
Amazingly, Berman didn’t dispute that assessment and instead offered a rambling soliloquy about how the NFL could become a leader on the issue before he was mercifully interrupted by a blocked punt.
And this also was odd: Dilfer said he spoke to Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti after the video was released but never said what Bisciotti told him. And Berman, incredibly, didn’t ask.
### Fox and Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, after showing the elevator video, offered this: “I think the message is take the stairs.”
Kilmeade assured everyone the next day that “domestic violence is a very serious issue for us.” Too late for damage control, Brian.
### There have been three suspensions of announcers because of comments made relating to the Rice story: Stephen A. Smith and Max Kellerman (by ESPN earlier this summer) and Ted Robinson, who was benched two games by the San Francisco 49ers and Pac-12 Network this week for saying on air that it was “pathetic” that Janay Palmer married Rice after the incident and criticizing her for not speaking up about being punched.
### Norah O’Donnell, a very good political reporter, asked most, but not all, of the key questions during her CBS interview with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who didn't have a good answer when she asked how TMZ could obtain the video but the NFL could not.
And when Goodell said it “was ambigious” about what happened in the elevator, O’Donnell posed the obvious follow-up: “But what was ambiguous about her laying unconscious on the floor being dragged out by her feet?”
After Goodell said: “There was nothing ambigious about that… We did not know what led up to that,” O’Donnell shot back: “But what changed? On the first tape she was lying unconscious on the ground, being dragged out by her feet. Did you really need to see a videotape of Ray Rice punching her in the face to make this decision?”
But there were other questions that O’Donnell should have asked: What did Rice and Janay specifically say happened in the elevator? What, if anything, did she say to convince Goodell that a lenient two-game suspension was warranted? Why didn’t he ask the casino for the video, which is legal? And why did Goodell interview Janay with Ray Rice present --- something that’s highly inadvisable with domestic abuse victims?
### Best journalism on the story: 1) TMZ not only obtaining the elevator tape but correctly reporting that Goodell never asked the casino for a copy. 2) AP reporting that a law enforcement official sent the tape to an NFL official. 3) ESPN’s Outside The Lines filling in more details, including confirmation that Rice spat on Janay twice before punching her.
### Joy Taylor, sister of Jason Taylor and co-host of 790/104.3 The Ticket’s morning show, wrote a powerful column with first-person perspective:
“I will never forget the first time I was abused,” she wrote. “Everything happened so fast, the attack, the police, my family getting involved, it was the worst night of my life. Until the next time it happened, and the next, and every time after that. When I hear the names that people call Janay Palmer (Rice) I cringe knowing that I was ridiculed the same way. Idiot. Stupid. Weak. I know the judging looks, the shame, the excuses…
“I have endured years of abuse since I was a child. I never thought as an adult I would allow someone to take my power and control me. I defended him and stood by him. I lied for him… I made the decision to forgive my abuser, and I suffered the consequences.”
Taylor, 27, told me that her father “was emotionally and mentally abusive until I was 16… when my parents divorced.” She said the man who physically abused her was a former boyfriend but “no charges were every brought because I didn’t press charges. Eventually, I stopped telling anyone about the abuse because it was so frequent.”
We encourage you to read Taylor’s essay on theticketmiami.com or through her twitter account, @JoyTaylorTalks.
### ESPN made the sensible move by using accomplished reporters (Adam Schefter, Chris Mortensen) and former team executives (Louis Riddick, Andrew Brandt, Mark Dominik) to analyze the case on their evening editions of SportsCenter instead of relying on former players to state the obvious.
### CBS, which debuted its new Thursday NFL package this week, devoted 25 minutes of its pre-game show to the Rice story, and the highlight was James Brown's thoughtful commentary calling for the outrage over this story to be "channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help by so many women and do something about it. Like an ongoing, comprehensive education of men about 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....
"Consider this: According to domestic violence experts, more than three women per day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. That means that since the night of February 15 in Atlantic City, more than 600 women have died. So this is yet another call to men to stand up and take responsibility for their thoughts, their words, their deeds."
### During that CBS pre-game show, Deion Sanders --- who two years ago was cited for misdemeanor assault in an incident that resulted in the arrest of his wife (they have since divorced) --- oddly and akwardly felt compelled to tell viewers that he has never "abused" anyone and wouldn't partake in that "nonsense."
### For those who wondered about this: The assault charge was dropped against Rice earlier this year after he agreed to enter a pre-trial diversion program, and ESPN legal expert Roger Cossack explained that Rice cannot be prosecuted for the assault now because it would be a case of double jeopardy.
Some legal experts disagree with that and say double jeopardy is not in play in this case because Rice did not plead guilty, according to the Wall Street Journal.
### What was lacking in sports cable network coverage was the absence of any medical expert who could have offered insight into how common it is for victims to stand by their abuser, as Janay Rice has done, and why they do it.
### It was uncomfortable but fascinating to see Ed Reed squirming on Showtime’s Inside The NFL set, as he tried to reconcile the violent man he saw on tape with the former teammate he respected. Reed felt clearly conflicted.
### A bit much: Boomer Esiason claiming he would have left the set of Inside the NFL if Showtime had aired a replay of the TMZ elevator video. Esiason said he was concerned about the damage it would do, psychologically, to Janay Rice. But the damage had already been done.
Ultimately, Showtime made a defensible decision to not replay the video because it had been aired numerous times by other outlets.
### NFL free agent linebacker Jonathan Vilma, who has no affection for Goodell because of his handling of the Saints’ Bountygate scandal, said on Twitter: “I know firsthand the commissioner will go great lengths to ‘gather all the evidence,’ but he purposely did not in this instance. If the commissioner had really asked for the video, he would have made it very public and very clear that the casino refused to give it to him.”
### No surprise that ESPN’s Keith Olbermann, who has hammered Goodell repeatedly in recent weeks, called for the commissioner’s resignation on Monday, alleging he and others orchestrated a cover-up and that “Goodell is an enabler of men who beat women.”
AROUND THE DIAL
### CBS is sending Sunday's Dolphins-Bills game to a very small part of the country: Miami-Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, Fort Myers/Naples, Tampa, most of New York (but not New York City) and Erie, Penn.
The game will be called by the lowest team on CBS' depth chart: Philadelphia Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy and former NFL safety Adam Archuleta.
### More migration of sports to cable: Fox announced that it is moving as many as five National Championship League Series games to its cable network, Fox Sports 1. Only Games 1 and 6 of the NLCS would air on Fox.
### According to Sports Business Journal, the NBA is nearing extensions with Turner and ABC/ESPN that would dramatically increase their rights fees. In return, the NBA won't create a new package for Fox or NBC.
### Sun Sports --- Rich Waltz, Tommy Hutton, Craig Minervini and the production crew --- did terrific work handling Thursday's Marlins coverage in Milwaukee, which included Giancarlo Stanton being hit in the face with a pitch, benches clearing and absurd umpiring calls.
The network showed prudent restraint by not airing video of a stadium employee sweeping Stanton's teeth off of home plate. Hutton's outrage --- which percolates from time to time --- was warranted, and it amused us when Hutton admitted on air that he had to make an effort to keep from cursing.
Please see the last post for a lot of on-field (non-media) news from Friday.