Blackistone: Media perpetuating stereotypes about domestic violence and NFL

Wanted to share a commentary Kevin Blackistone wrote for the American Journalism Review about media coverage of the Ray Rice/domestic violence situation in the NFL.

The headline reads: “We haven’t let the facts get in the way of the Ray Rice react.”

Blackistone makes the case that the media is portraying the NFL as being full of players who commit domestic violence. By extension, the main targets are African-American players, who comprised 70 percent of the league.

He writes:

The new polling service Vox Populi reported Saturday that it found a majority of Americans believe the NFL has a widespread epidemic of domestic violence problems, including 70 percent of people who identified themselves as NFL fans and 73 percent who are women.

A college classmate and friend of mine, USA Today sports columnist Christine Brennan, commented during a PBS NewsHour segment we sharedthat the NFL was “full of Ray Rices.”

There is only one problem with these perceptions: still, the numbers don’t bear them out.

His main point.

Benjamin Morris’s statistical analysis was rife with the refrain of a qualifier. It read, one way or another, “…NFL players have much lower arrest rates than average.”

The good news about the FiveThirtyEight story is that it was tempered with that caution. The bad news about the kind of attention most of the media has been apoplectic about concerning Rice – and two other players arrested (one of whom also has been convicted) for domestic violence since Rice’s arrest in February – is that it has been without context. As a result, we in the media – the sports media in particular – have perpetuated a stereotype that football players are more prone towards violent expressions of misogyny than the rest of us. Given that two-thirds of NFL players are, like Rice, black, the reporting also plays down to the narrative of the black athlete as villain.

What is particularly pernicious, however, about much of our reporting and opining about the implications of the Rice case is that the laser focus on the NFL and its players does a disservice to what is a broad campaign to stamp out domestic violence.

“Domestic violence doesn’t know any income level or any particular profession,” Laurie MacDonald, president and CEO of the Center for Victims in Pittsburgh, pointed out last Friday on an edition of NPR’s On Point Radio; I was a guest as well.

“I’ve seen heart surgeons, I’ve seen unemployed mill workers, all sorts of people commit violent acts against women,” she said.

“The Rice family…unfortunately became the family that shined the light on domestic violence in this country, which needed to be done, and I think in many cases, the system fails. The NFL does not have a prosecutorial arm.”

2 thoughts on “Blackistone: Media perpetuating stereotypes about domestic violence and NFL

  1. If the statistical numbers show NFL players have a lower overall percentage of domestic violence than society as a whole, then he does have a very good point.

    That’s tempered by the fact that these are very high profile individuals in said society and in general they are going to be held to higher standards then others. That comes with the territory of a large pay check and appearing on national TV every Sunday.

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