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'Sticks and Stones' Don't Matter In NFL, But Names Will Hurt You

Ray Rice - Getty



"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me."

Not in 2014, kid. It's all about the words. They will kill you.

Acts of war, genocide, or terror are now met with hashtags. Therefore, when we hear horrible things, we equate them with the actual crimes themselves.

What we say is seen as far more important than what we do.

Suspended-for-beating-his-then-fiancee Baltimore running back Ray Rice received a pair of loud ovations Monday night when his face appeared on the Jumbotron during the Ravens open practice at their home stadium. Men, women, and children were spotted in the stands wearing "Rice" jerseys. They were not showing their support for Jerry, Condi, or Cajun.

The two-game suspension given to Rice by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell provoked an outroar only matched by the furor directed at Vladimir Putin following the shoot-down of Malaysian Airways Flight No. 17 or the calls to deport WEEI's Kirk Minihane after his crass foolishness concerning Erin Andrews.

Minihane was eventually suspended for a week after he called Andrews a "gutless" well, you-know-what. He apologized but then added that Andrews would be a "Perkins waitress" (See: *1) if she gained 15 pounds.

Stephen A. Smith went 100 light years beyond reason when he spoke of the role women play in "provoking" domestic violence. His ESPN colleague Michelle Beadle led the revolt on Twitter and Stephen A. was suspended for a week on Tuesday.

Rice was suspended two weeks for allegedly beating the hell out of his then-fiancee and dragging her out of an elevator while she was apparently unconscious. Both Rice and the victim, Janay Palmer, were charged in the incident. Rice reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid jail and the couple has since married. The suspension will cost Rice $470,588 in lost pay plus a $58,000 fine.

Anyone care to imagine what the punishment would have been if Rice called his wife - or Andrews - a "gutless you-know-what" on Twitter?

At least four games, if not a lifetime.

Something is out of whack. How does the guy who committed the actual act of domestic violence get two weeks, while the guy who screwed up while talking about it, and issued a truly heart-felt and sober apology, get one?

Does knocking out your fiancee and dragging her from an elevator more or less equate to promulgating the idea that somehow she did something to cause it?

No. The beating is always worse than the tweet.

If Stephen A. gets a week, Ray Rice should get a year.

In today's NFL and throughout society, we continue to give words far more power than they deserve. We saw a gigantic example of this in May when "Twitter blew up" with all those racist P.K. Subban tweets - including one from 2013. In the real world, the closed fist of an NFL running back carries far more sting than the morning banter on the radio or Stephen A. Smith's latest take. But we're not usually around to see or hear its impact.

The league sees words as more dastardly than deeds. Check out the list of NFL 2014 fines, originally posted by the Globe's Ben Volin last week.

NFL Fines

The tweet up top is correct. The fine in the 2014 version of the NFL for a late hit, a hit that could potentially end the career of a Tom Brady or Andrew Luck, is $8,268.

Meanwhile, the fine for "excessive swearing" at officials, other players, or fans is $11,025.

An NFL player will pay a higher price for dropping an "f-bomb" on Tom Brady than he will for dropping Brady after the whistle.

Please don't tell Bernard Pollard.

Given the nuclear throw-weight lent to demeaning comments on the radio, the latest idiotic player tweet, or Smith's very-regrettable stone-age sentiments, it should come as no surprise to anyone that the NFL would assess a greater penalty for verbal abuse than for physical abuse.

A similar duplicitous sanctimony toward sexism extends to Fox, which rallied behind Andrews and pulled its ads off the radio stations owned by WEEI's parent company in the wake of Minihane's initial statement and apology. (Fox has since reversed its decision.)

"The comments made by Mr. Minihane were boorish and sexist," wrote Fox Sports President Eric Shanks in a letter to Entercom.

Shanks' decision to shelve the 53-year-old Pam Oliver in favor of Andrews was "boorish and ageist." Andrews is 17 years younger than Oliver, who had been Fox's top NFL sideline reporter for 12 seasons. Andrews certainly was not chosen over Oliver to be Fox's chief sideline NFL reporter because of her superior journalistic ability, experience, or interviewing skills. That is a simple a statement of fact self-evident to anyone who watches the NFL on Fox, has seen both Oliver and Andrews at work, and understands the English language.

At the time Andrews' promotion was announced, Oliver, entering her 20th season with Fox, was "elevated" to a senior correspondent role, according to a Fox Sports press release.

And they thought WEEI's Minihane was insincere?

Bob Raissman of the New York Daily News absolutely nailed the misogynistic hypocrisy of Fox's actions concerning Oliver and Andrews:

Oliver, like many other women in the television business, is a victim of prejudice. Itís no revelation. Think about it. Men who work for sports divisions are actually paid to find women they think other men will drool over while watching a football telecast. This is more than creepy.

Boom.

The NFL loves to consider itself a mirror of society. In one sense, it is. It sanctions the use of women as sex objects - see cheerleaders and sideline reporters - and goes soft on players who physically abuse them - see Rice. Many fans do the same. But not all. When the Patriots got smoked 28-13 in the 2013 AFC title game, did anyone leave Foxborough that night thinking, "Brady stunk up the joint, but the cheerleaders performed exceptionally well." Doubtful.

The NFL does want you to know that it really cares about women, namely because they represent 51 percent of its potential fan base. Players wear pink for the entire month of October to raise awareness for breast cancer. NFL teams sponsor special clinics for female fans. And you can get your favorite player jersey in any women's size, as well.

When I was a boy, my dad taught me that you "never hit a woman under any circumstances. Period." Seems obvious to me.

That's a lesson lost on Goodell and the NFL. Goodell spoke with Rice's wife before assessing his suspension and reportedly used her input as a factor in his decision. But a history of the suspensions levied by Goodell during his reign shows a serious misplaced set of priorities.

Among those players receiving harsher suspensions than the man who knocked out his fiancee-now-wife in an elevator were Scott Fujita (four games for Bountygate), Terrelle Pryor (five games for an involvement in tattoo scandal while at Ohio State), and Joe Vitt (six games for Bountygate).

Smoke weed? See you in 2015.

A tattoo scandal at Ohio State is 2 1/2-times the crime of knocking out a woman and dragging her body from an elevator.

Welcome to the NFL.

Just don't screw up while talking about it, or things will get really serious.

______

(*1) - I've eaten at Perkins many times. The omelets and Mammoth Muffins are tremendous. I once dined at the infamous Tiger Woods Slept With a Waitress Here Perkins in Windermere, Fla. The restaurant has since closed. Since eating there, I've undergone two liver transplants. Draw your own conclusions about the cleanliness of the tables and utensils.

______


The OBF column is written by award-winning journalist and Bay State native Bill Speros. Hit up Bill on his Obnoxious Boston Fan Facebook page, on Twitter @realOBF or at his
Obnoxious Boston Fan Email Address
. Thanks always for reading.

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