Yesterday, I wrote in the Chicago Tribune that the Ray Rice fallout would blunt what should have been a festive night for CBS with the launching of its new Thursday night NFL package.
Later in the day, CBS decided the celebration will have to wait for another day.
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus opted to can the theatrics to focus on the huge news that is rocking the NFL. From Richard Deitsch at SI.com:
CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus said the network has also pulled an opener featuring actor Don Cheadle doing narration over Jay Z’s “Run This Town,” which is sung by Rihanna. A comedic segment was also jettisoned.
“It’s important to realize we are not overreacting to this story but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL,” McManus told SI.com from Baltimore Thursday afternoon. “We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone and coverage. A lot of the production elements we wanted in the show are being eliminated because of time or tone.”
The pregame show on NFL Network, in collaboration with CBS, opened with 30 minutes on the Rice saga. Writes David Zurawik of the Baltimore Sun:
The premiere of “Thursday Night Football” on CBS was a winner in my book before a second of the game between the Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers was played at M&T Bank Stadium.
Given the nuclear fallout all week from the TMZ video that showed Ray Rice beating his then-fiancée, CBS found itself about to launch one of the biggest productions in the history of the network in a highly emotional and totally unstable situation. In some ways, it was a situation without precedent for a TV sports operation.
The network made a daring call and scrapped all the entertainment and showbiz elements of its pregame show and went for the first 30 minutes with news and analysis of one of the biggest stories in league history.
Chad Finn of the Boston Globe praised James Brown for his essay saying the NFL needs to step up this time to confront the problems of domestic violence.
“Now let’s be clear: this problem is bigger than football,’’ said Brown, who was joined at the desk by Bill Cowher and Deion Sanders. “There has been, appropriately so, intense and wide-spread outrage following this video showing what happened in the elevator at the casino. Now wouldn’t it be productive if this collective outrage could be channeled to truly hear and address the long-suffering cries for help from so many women, and do something about it?”
Brown, who made a similar plea after Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend in a murder-suicide two years ago, said men must be educated — and must be willing to be educated — about how they treat and view women.
“Our language is important, for example,’’ said Brown. “When a guy says you throw a ball like a girl or you’re a sissy, it reflects an attitude that devalues women and attitudes that will eventually manifest in some fashion.”
He noted that domestic violence experts estimate that three women a day lose their lives at the hands of their partners. Then he provided viewers with the heartbreaking math.
“That means since the night of February 15 in Atlantic City [when Rice was caught on video punching Janay Palmer], m”ore 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, and to get help. Because our silence is deafening and deadly.
All in all, journalism prevailed over show business Thursday. It’s a long season, and CBS will have plenty of time to roll out Rihanna and all of its production numbers.
Thursday wasn’t a night for celebration. It was a night for examination and reflection. The network made the right call.