Selective silence: sports media mum on violent women

In the wake of the National Football League star Jovan Belcher’s murder-suicide last fall, the ESPN sports network’s Jemele Hill urged us to End The Silence on Domestic Violence. It should come as no surprise that the title verbiage of her piece is lifted word for word from Dr. Phil, who instructs that when your female partner strikes you, it’s not domestic violence. In sports media, the female abuse evasion is even more ensconced, the feminist/traditionalist symmetry even more pronounced. Nonetheless, I would agree with Ms. Hill, Dr. Phil and others that it is time for the silence to end. Indeed, recent events prove that the silence is indeed real, damning and intentional.

As I pointed out in a piece on my blog, last November a high-profile athlete, considered one of the best ever, followed an ex-girlfriend in her SUV and cut her off in traffic. The basketball player then exited the vehicle, smashed the girlfriend’s Range Rover window with a bat, and fired into the vehicle with a pistol. By February a true bill for aggravated assault was issued, with the athlete facing 65 years incarceration in the Georgia Dept. of Corrections. Shortly thereafter, a famous champion tennis player was cited for stalking and assaulting an ex on Valentine’s Day in North Palm Beach Florida, even going so far as to show up at their work and pound on the window. The victim sought an order of protection last fall, which was denied, likely emboldening the abuser to escalate their behavior.

There has been scant coverage of either incident, and what coverage there was did not use the term “domestic violence.”

The tennis star’s May hearing was continued to July 12. According to local reporter  Marc Freeman, no one from the tennis or sports media showed up to the first hearing.  To date, there have been no published interviews with the victim, or the witnesses interviewed by police. In the case of the basketball player, no one has interviewed, or really profiled, the victim.

The athletes’ names are Chamique Holdsclaw and Jennifer Capriati.

A Hall Of Famer, Jennifer Capriati is the former top player in the world, a three-time champion of tennis’ signature Grand Slam events. A tennis prodigy, she made the cover of Sports Illustrated as the youngest player to win a tour event. Holdsclaw is a three-time National Champion, having played during the Golden Era of Women’s College Basketball as part of the Tennessee-Connecticut rivalry, which for about ten years was as popular a rivalry on TV as any men’s college basketball matchup.

To add a little more sugar to the Kool-Aid, Ms. Holdsclaw was put in the Criminal Justice Express Lane, and offered a plea by the Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on June 14.

She will indeed pay for act of violent domestic terror as follows. Three years of probation, with a chaser of community service, with no outrage, and indeed no coverage, from Ms. Hill, ESPN’s women’s sports page, nor anyone else. In the same state where a child (high school football star Genarlow Wilson) lost his shot at Division I football glory and served prison time as a “child molester” for sex with classmates, a 35-year-old all-time great female athlete gets 65 years of (potential) prison time peremptorily purged.

For some perspective, aggravated domestic terror and assault (Holdsclaw) and escalated batterer behavior (Capriati) committed by two all-time female greats warrants less coverage than a marginal NFL cornerback smacking a woman who is assaulting him, or comments by a tennis player about a crime.

This pattern is alarmingly consistent. In 2009 Sahel Kazeemi shot the great Steve McNair 4 times, killing him as he slept, and no one dared call it by its proper name, except Glenn Sacks. There were even suggestions he “deserved it.” Contrast that to the murder-suicide of Kasandra Perkins by her beau, Kansas City linebacker Jovan Belcher, which triggered a national moral panic, amplified first in feminist circles, and then over several weeks by all major media outlets and framed as a “wake-up call” to the epidemic of Domestic Violence. In February, former University of Pennsylvania and Final Four basketball star Matthew White was stabbed to death by wife Maria Pellon-White as he slept, with his killer alleging that he was looking at porn. No memorials, no calls to arms. Contrast that to a murder of a University Of Virginia lacrosse player by her boyfriend on the men’s team, which made national headlines, topped the morning broadcasts, and was the subject of many investigative reports on ESPN. Credit goes to Jemele Hill for being the only sports journalist of note to venture a true apology to the Duke Lacrosse players, but there was no call for the arrest of Crystal Mangum, who went on to abuse two children and, not altogether surprisingly, murder her boyfriend Reginald Daye. Oh, and she got bond.

The Holdsclaw case gave us just the chance to see if preventing violence against women was at the top of the priority list. It backed the feminist, and feminist supplicants in sports media, into a corner. We have a woman followed – pro basketball player Jennifer Lacy – cut off in broad daylight and terrorized, the perp having gone both Mark McGwire and Annie Oakley on her Range Rover windows. This time, though, The Menace was not male, and thus got the pass without even a shrug, and has recently gotten the windfall of a 1-on-1 interview with an ESPN reporter (yet to air).

The variable was isolated, and they’ve been exposed.  They care not about partner violence, nor violence against women. They care about patriarchal perpetrators with penises. Exposing the alarming rate of violence in the lesbian community would throw the train off the rails.

They talk a grand game about how athletes (mis)treat women, yet here is a woman only alive due to poor aim, the assailant with a judicial mosquito bite, and…crickets?

The only mention of the Holdsclaw case on the ESPNW network (the platform focused on women’s sports) is this bit by Jane McManus arguing that women pay a steeper price for transgressions than male athletes (feel free to laugh out loud). Of her examples is the case of a domestic abuse call involving women’s soccer star Hope Solo and husband, NFL tight end Jeramy Stevens. She does a Heisman-worthy stiff arm on the facts, failing to point out that Stevens, not Solo, was arrested. If it spookily echoes the Hillary Clinton sentiment that “women are the true victims of war,” that’s not likely a coincidence. It seems even some women sportswriters are given to delusional self-damseling victim-speak. (She did not respond to my tweet to her on the inconsistency)

New York Times writer and ESPN tennis commentator LZ Granderson deserves credit for responding  to my tweet to him on the matter during Wimbledon, and I have no doubt his response was earnest and sincere. However, I have a hard time believing  the standard is “current stars.” If so, why were all of ESPN’s platforms saturated with coverage of a high school rape case in a town few people can spell, even fewer can pronounce, where the local justice system did everything right by a girl who was obviously rag-dolled by two meatheads as she was passed out?  Indeed, on the eve of a tournament she was the prohibitive favorite to win for a sixth time, Serena Williams was swiftly cut to pieces by the blogosphere and sports media for her comments on the matter.

Let me run that by y’all one mo’ ‘gin.

Famous female athlete busts bats AND caps into multiple car windows with ex-girlfriend still inside, gets off, and mum’s the word.

Famous female athlete makes comments on rape case, and pearl-clutching goes viral, faster than the zombie disease in 28 Days Later.

In the tradition of Progressive activist Jim Hightower, I’m encouraging my fellow sports fans to join me in making some calls . . .and emails and tweets. Call the Fulton County DA Public Affairs unit, and ask how many people have received probation for aggravated domestic assault with two deadly weapons, and no jail as a condition. Contact ESPN Content Executives such as Craig Bengtson, Dwayne Bray and Steve Anderson, and ask why an anonymous town’s rape case saw in-depth coverage on all their platforms while the actions of Holdsclaw, Mangum, Capriati and others have been blacked out, and why the first full discussion of Holdsclaw’s case was an interview with her, post-traves…err, sentencing. Moreover, email and tweet both the brass and reporters of ESPNW and ask why searches of “Holdsclaw” and “Capriati” reveal scarcely anything on their cases,  while a search of Steubenville reveals several entries. Contact the editors of magazines like TENNIS, and ask them why there were no national media at the May 17th Capriati preliminary hearing, and if they’ll attend the one on July 12th, or at least do some cursory investigation. Email or tweet such prominent women’s sports advocates as Dave Zirin, Jemele Hill, Christine Brennan and Sally Jenkins as to their silence, and Jane McManus as to how a journalist can come to a conclusion that does such violence to reality. Tweet Josina Anderson, who recently interviewed Holdsclaw, and let her know our community will be watching, and if she will seek to interview the victim, or discuss partner violence in the lesbian community.

Let’s show them what “ending the silence” truly means, MHRA style.

Recommended Content

%d bloggers like this: