With the suspensions of Max Kellerman and Stephen A. Smith, it’s not surprising that original, critical thought on the broader issues surrounding the eruption of gender violence discourse is hard to find in sports media.
That’s exactly what makes Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo of ESPN Radio so refreshing. They strike that balance of critical thought without being frivolously contrarian, asking tough questions without being strident, all the while avoiding the “hot button” words that ascribe or absolve the principals in any particular case.
Regardless of the “heat” emanating from an issue, they refuse to pander to their audience. Instead, their dialogue comes the closest in the sports-talk universe to Socratic dialogue; you can see both men working through the issue as they ask questions of each other earnestly. There is never a “gotcha” intent.
In the first 10 minutes of this podcast from September 17, they discuss “where we are going” when the societal discourse is driven by anger, when the “mob” is bloodthirsty, whether the thirst is based in righteousness or not. Russillo in particular seems to have little tolerance for folks who “stay mad” even when the NFL comes to the decision they want.
They discuss the danger of a “one size fits all” approach to these allegations and further analyze the controversy surrounding Jameis Winston’s newer travails and how the prism of the prior allegations of sexual assault impact the court of public opinion with the latest, more benign incidents.
Van Pelt and Russillo reference primarily the cases that have been most in the spotlight, those of Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, and also touch on Jameis Winston. Adrian Peterson is the running back for the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings who was indicted for child abuse. He is scheduled for trial beginning December 1, 2014. Greg Hardy, offensive lineman for the Carolina Panthers, was found guilty in a July bench trial of domestic violence in a bizarre case in which he and a third party both called 911; under North Carolina law, he is exercising his right to appeal to a jury trial. Ray Rice essentially pled no contest for his part in a New Jersey incident with his fiancée, which ended with her unconscious after being struck in the face and hitting her head in the railing on the way down.
Peterson and Hardy have been placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list, a sort of limbo where players are paid while they await disposition of a criminal matter. Rice was initially suspended for two games. Upon the September release of the full surveillance tape, the NFL suspended him indefinitely and the Baltimore Ravens terminated his contract, citing the additional footage as “new evidence” and asserting Rice was not completely forthcoming. There is a dispute as to whether league officials saw the video prior to when they say they did, with reports saying it was received, and the NFL and Baltimore Ravens are disputing that claim.
Rice has filed a grievance alleging what amounts to double punishment under the collective bargaining agreement between the players and owners. An independent arbitrator is scheduled to hear the grievance in November, with both Janay Rice and Commissioner Goodell likely to testify.
Jameis Winston is the controversial quarterback for Florida State University. Widely regarded as college football’s best player, he won the Heisman Trophy last fall after charges he had raped a co-ed in December 2012 were dismissed. His team went on to win the BCS National Championship. As a result of that case, the Justice Department has opened a Title IX investigation into Florida State. Winston has since been involved in other controversies. In May, he was cited for ordering crab legs and walking out without paying. He was suspended for a game against Clemson for jumping on a table in a campus cafeteria and screaming an Internet meme-based obscenity. He has since been notified that he must answer four student code of conduct allegations, with the hearing to be heard by a retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice.
SVP & Russillo are syndicated by ESPN Radio and can be heard Monday through Friday in various American markets. The first half of their show is simulcast live on TV via ESPN2.