NFL, Giants Show They Don’t Care About Domestic Violence

Being a football fan and a feminist may not be mutually exclusive, but the two don’t go easily together. American Football is as testosterone-driven a sport as there is. While watching the games, whether at stadiums or sports bars, one can often see some of the worst excesses of male behavior.

Few are naïve enough to think that the National Football League is ever going to honestly give a damn about the domestic violence that has plagued it. Every time the issue has come up, it has been all about covering it up and, failing that, doing damage control. I don’t expect that to change.

Woman abuser Josh Brown

Woman abuser Josh Brown

But the latest ugly incident of domestic violence involving an NFL player has exposed the core of indifference to the issue in the league, and has also hit me personally because my team is the one acting in a most shameful manner.

Josh Brown, the kicker for my very own New York Giants confessed, in documents released earlier this week, to very serious and numerous incidents of domestic violence. He has now, finally, been placed on the commissioner’s exempt list. That means he is still collecting his salary until the league decides what to do with him. Given their shameful response to the matter thus far, that is probably enough for the Giants to wash their hands of the matter.

But let’s not let either the NFL or the Giants off the hook that easily. They have both acted horribly throughout from the beginning and continue to do so. The NFL has shown that they have learned nothing from the Ray Rice incident or any of the far too numerous cases of abuse of women involving NFL players. And the Giants, for their part, have made it clear that, if John Mara has not betrayed the dignity that characterized his family’s reputation in running this team through the years, then perhaps that reputation was never deserved in the first place.

Brown was arrested for domestic on May 22, 2015. Eventually, the charges were dropped. That’s not unusual, of course, in domestic violence cases. Earlier this year, Brown was mysteriously suspended for one game by the NFL, and it was only then that his arrest in 2015 was made public. The league claimed that they could not speak to Molly, who was, by that time, Brown’s ex-wife (and I don’t know what her last name is now, or whether it’s still Brown, hence I only use her first) nor get information from the police. So, they were only suspending Brown for one game. The Giants, from ownership to the head coach to the quarterback, all stood by Brown.

The implication, of course, was that they presumed Brown’s general innocence, that this was a one-time incident where tempers flared. Even aside from the fact that even one incident of domestic violence is one too many, that’s an inadequate explanation in and of itself; in 2014, in the wake of the Ray Rice assault case, the NFL sent the following letter to all the teams: “Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force, will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant.” Obviously, they didn’t follow that policy in Brown’s case. He got one game.

The Giants come off no better. When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell put John Mara, along with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney, in charge of overseeing the FBI’s investigation of the NFL’s handling of the Ray Rice case, Mara said, “Many of us were dissatisfied with the original two-game suspension of Ray Rice. The commissioner took responsibility for that in his Aug. 28th memo to the owners when he stated, ‘I didn’t get it right. Simply put, we have to do better. And we will.’ He then took appropriate steps to address this matter.”

Mara didn’t do better when it was up to him. Despite being aware of the charges against Brown, he signed the kicker to a two-year deal worth $4 million. This is a kicker, and, unlike other players, they are easily replaced. Yet Mara went forward.

Can that decision be excused by the possibility that this was a one-time lapse of temper by Brown? Even if one accepts such reasoning, and I absolutely do not, it is simply not true that the Giants believed this was a one-time incident. While they may have been unaware that there was a pattern of spousal abuse by Brown since 2009, they knew this was not a one-time incident. How? Because of an incident at the Pro Bowl earlier this year, well before the Giants re-signed Brown. The kicker was drunk and tried to break into his wife’s room (they were staying in separate rooms, which says a lot in and of itself). Earlier in the day, he was verbally abusive to her and took her phone to inspect her texts. Eventually, NFL and hotel security dragged Brown away and moved his estranged wife and her children, one of whom was Brown’s own child, who were in the room with her at the time to a new room.

So let’s cut out the nonsense that the Giants or the NFL thought Brown’s arrest was an anomaly. They knew this man was an abuser and they didn’t care.

Maybe, one might argue, they knew Brown had issues, but they were trying to support him in therapy and get him to work through his problems. After all, one could argue, if he’s really working and making progress on his issues, taking his livelihood away from him is likely to be counterproductive.

Again, that’s a weak line of argument. If that’s how things are being approached, he should still have faced the full six game suspension Goodell committed to. Moreover, the Giants needed to say that this was their approach in their words of support for Brown back in August to avoid the appearance of condoning domestic violence. But none of that happened.live_and_learn_staff_pose_with_a_stop_violence_against_women_sign-_10708149455

And here matters get even worse. After Brown got the one-game suspension that was widely condemned as too light, this was his response: “I’m not going to go into detail about anything. My major concern is my three kids and the things that are put out there and the things that are being said. This moment happened over a year ago. The case was dropped five days after the moment happened. We’ve moved on with our lives at this point. While I’m not OK with the decision, I have to respect it. So I look forward to a 15-game season and moving forward with my teammates.”

Does that sound to you like a man who realizes he did something wrong? No, it’s more like a man who felt that getting a much lighter sentence than he supposed to was still an injustice done to him! And he was supported in this by his teammates and team.

Jason Pierre-Paul was asked in August if Brown should be cut. “No,” he said. “Why should we cut him? Every guy needs a chance.”

Justin Pugh had this to say: “Obviously, it’s a sad situation he’s been going through, and obviously, you have to be there for your team teammate. It’s definitely something that is tough. I don’t want to get too into it because I don’t know all the details either. So that is something that — I know Josh has spoken with everybody and settled that — but all we can do is support our teammate and make sure we’re there for him. It’s definitely a tough thing to go through.”

After Brown came back from his week off, quarterback Eli Manning said “I’m glad to have Josh back. Support him and support your teammates through everything that goes on. Good to have him back on the team and kicking for us this week. Just saw him and said, ‘hey, good to have you back.’ That’s about it. Move on.” Given some of the things Eli’s father and brother have been accused of, I guess he has a good deal of practice with that.

Head Coach Ben McAdoo said “I do support Josh as a man, a father, and a player.”

Now, with the allegations out, little has changed. On WFAN yesterday, I listened as Giants owner John Mara continued to double-talk about this, with his “waiting until we have all the facts” nonsense. But when host Mike Francesa asked if, given what we now know, Mara felt hoodwinked by Brown, Mara wasted not one heartbeat before saying firmly, “Absolutely not.” So, Mara seems to have known plenty before. He just didn’t care, because, after all, it was just some woman and one who was already divorcing his player.

McAdoo? He says “we’re not going to turn our back on Josh.”

Keep in mind, this is a player who has not shown the briefest glimpse of remorse or the slightest indication that he ever did anything wrong. Getting 1/6 of the penalty he was supposed to get for this horrific crime was deemed an injustice by him.

Nothing has changed in the NFL. And the ironic part is, in the end, Josh Brown is probably the worse off for it. Had the league done the right thing in the first place and waited until the police investigation was closed and these documents released, then given him the full six game suspension that Goodell had committed to, there’s every chance Brown could have made a public apology, served his suspension and been, albeit grudgingly by some like me, given a second chance, having paid a price for his crime.

Instead, Brown’s career is almost certainly over. The Giants have moved on with Robbie Gould. But justice has not been served. Nothing has changed. No message was sent. The NFL still thinks that as long as they put some pink shoes on the players a few times a year and turn one or two of their TV ads into pathetic and self-interested pandering to women they don’t need to address the culture of their sport which, from high school on up, is infused with a misogynistic disdain for women as anything other than sex toys.

And the Giants? Their image as a class organization has weathered some hits over the years, but most of the scandals associated with players on their team occurred after those players had left (Lawrence Taylor, Dave Meggett, Mark Ingram) or caused their departure (Plaxico Burress). This was an instance of the Giants coddling and, one could argue, even condoning spousal abuse. This will forever tarnish the team’s image.

And me? I’ll still root for the Giants on Sunday. But it will be less enthusiastic than it has been in the past, and I don’t know if I will ever be able to support this team the way I have in the past. I can tell you, I will never again purchase a piece of Giants merchandise until the Mara family sells the team, and that probably does indeed mean never.

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The Death of David Bowie

By now, most of you will have heard of the passing of David Bowie.

I write this as I sob uncontrollably for the death of a man I never met. But through his music and some other parts of his public persona, he had the single greatest effect on my life, on my spirit, and on my sense of self of any person outside of a very few family members and close friends.

I first fell in love with Bowie at the age of only nine years old, in 1976. I listened to his recently released compilation album, ChangesOneBowie.  I was captivated by Space Oddity, and my interest held through several more songs. But it was Suffragette City that really caught my nine-year old heart. I bought the album the very next day. By the time ‘Heroes’ came out, in late 1977, I already had all his albums to date. I didn’t have any idea what to make of Low or of ‘Heroes’ but I would learn, and eventually recognize them for the incredible works of genius they were.

It would be about a decade before I would see him in concert. In 1980, just short of my fourteenth birthday, I did get to see him live as he performed the lead role in the Broadway production of The Elephant Man. My first Broadway show, too. Shortly after, I wrote him a fan letter and he rewarded me with a thank you note and a hand-signed photograph. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine. 

By the time Scary Monsters (and Supercreeps) came out, that same year, I had matured enough to recognize the Berlin trilogy (Low, ‘Heroes’ and Lodger, the trilogy Bowie produced with Brian Eno) for what it was. Now, with this new album,  I was ready to fully appreciate it. And while video for Ashes to Ashes might look primitive today, in 1980 it was like nothing I had ever seen.

He, more than anyone, inspired me to learn to play music, to love being on a stage, to approach music as art and to feel music deep in my heart. More than that, David Bowie opened my mind to a much larger world than I had been born into. He led me into ideas, philosophies, and thought I doubt I would have otherwise explored. His music and abstract lyrics made me consider the relationship of art to the artist as distinct from the consumer of art, and thus to begin to contemplate perception and how different it is for every individual.

How ironic, then, that after lampooning fashion in the song of the same name on Scary Monsters, Bowie would turn his back on abstraction, on complex, experimental or adventurous music. I supposed at the time that he was entitled to get back to making big bucks and to show the world that he could make better pop drivel than anyone else. But it came with extra baggage and, even worse, it lasted for most of the 1980s. 

As with any great love, there were times of tribulation for me with Bowie. His dive into pop vapidity with Let’s Dance, and especially with the execrable and ironically titled Never Let Me Down came to symbolize the 80s for me as a decade when music lost its creativity and even those who, in the previous decade, had reached for the highest star to make music unlike any that had been heard before were now simply printing out the pop moneymakers. Bowie wasn’t alone for me. Many of the progressive rock musicians of the previous decade were doing the same. And I had no delusions about Bowie cashing in on his art. Ziggy Stardust had been a marvelous fusion of art, rock, and marketing. He created a show on and off stage that was at once creative and groundbreaking and also commercial. In different ways, his subsequent records until the Berlin trilogy were that also. An artist is entitled to make as much as he or she can off their art, and no one should begrudge them this. But the three albums in the 80s (Tonight, the second one, was a slight exception, with a bit more adventure on it than the other two, but only a bit) were the same sound a thousand other singers were putting out. 

With Never Let Me Down, Bowie bottomed out, with an album that didn’t sell very well, got universally panned and seemed to convince him to finally reinvent himself again. Tin Machine was his foray into being in an actual band. Lead guitar player Reeves Gabrels began a long association with Bowie there and, while the band’s two studio and one live albums were not great, they represented Bowie’s return to creativity. There were some real gems there, like Under the God and Shopping for Girls.  The lyrics had a lot more direct social commentary than was usual for Bowie and, best of all, Tin Machine played small clubs, and so I got to see a show where I was literally standing inches from Bowie. By 1994, when he again teamed with Eno for the brilliant 1.Outside, Bowie was back, and never really left again.

But the tribulations for me with Bowie were most acute in sifting through some of his early, quite Nietzchean lyrics and, the most pointed, in the 1980s when he said that his claim of being bisexual was just a ruse or a phase (which he retracted again in his later years). David Bowie’s persona helped me to accept my own sexuality, something I struggled with in my youth, as so many people have. Years later, I published this piece, the only time I ever really published an article about Bowie and which, I am proud to say, has been republished in an anthology of writing by bisexual men. I think if you read it, it will help demonstrate just how much impact and in how many different ways David Bowie affected my life and those of others like me. 

Bowie’s artistic journey was unlike any other artist I am aware of in its multi-faceted ways. He was sometimes one to redefine genres that others had already made gold out of, as he did with Young Americans. But he was at his best when breaking new ground, as he did with Eno on Low, ‘Heroes’ and Lodger, three records the critics all hated at the time (as did the public for the most part) and later were recognized for the genius they were.

Bowie left us with a masterpiece in his last album, Blackstar. A fitting summation, apparently from a man who knew he didn’t have much more time. From the time Major Tom first blasted off, Bowie led me and so many of us on an incredible journey. The wonderfully lewd lyrics of Width of a Circle, the oddly delightful Kooks, moving around like tigers on Vaseline in Hang Onto Yourself, the blatant decadence of Cracked Actor, the apocalypticism of the entire Diamond Dogs album, one-upping the Beatles and having John Lennon help him do it with his cover of Across the Universe, through the dark optimism of ‘Heroes’, the lamentation of Warszawa, the imagery of Look Back In Anger, and on and on…A journey that brought great guitar players like Mick Ronson, Earl Slick, Robert Fripp, Adrian Belew, Carlos Alomar, Gabrels and even Stevie Ray Vaughn to audiences who might not otherwise have heard them. 

Wherever we go after this, I hope it is a place where David Bowie’s creativity can continue to flourish. Rest in peace, David, and we’ll keep Ziggy, the Thin White Duke, Nathan Adler, the Blackstar preacher and all the other characters and personae alive down here. There are generations for you to still fascinate. 

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Don’t Make a Hero of Snowden — Yet

Edward Snowden must not be made a hero! That probably comes as a surprise to anyone who read my previous two pieces on PRISM,

This guy gets it

This guy gets it

but it’s a genuine concern. The question of Snowden as hero or traitor threatens to derail the much more important conversation that we need to have in the United States.

Bipartisan attacks on Snowden are already being leveled. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Bill Nelson, both Democrats, and the Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner have all called Snowden a traitor. Others are praising him as a hero. And, as the go-to newspaper for lobbyists, POLITICO has already pointed out, the debate itself is precisely what President Obama wants. While we debate the pros and cons of Ed Snowden, we’re not discussing PRISM.

Snowden, of course, did a courageous thing. He threw away a very highly paid job because he couldn’t stomach what he was doing. He could have simply quit, but he thought it was important that people know about this program. If we have some real reform that stops the US government from spying on innocent citizens, here and around the world, or at least stops them from doing it on such a huge scale, we can stop and give him the honor he deserves. Continue reading

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Star Trek: Into Darkness: A Fun Film That Could Have Been So Much More

The release of a new Star Trek movie is my opportunity to geek out. I started watching Star Trek when I was just three years old, so I’ve been following it for 43 years, through TV series, movies, books, games of all sorts and way more trinkets, clothing and paraphernalia purchased than I care to admit. That should establish my street cred for this review of Star Trek: Into Darkness.


8695748163_e2c8aa74c3_m Continue reading

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Cheapening Our Bodies, Male and Female

So, apparently the CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch has a really big problem with bigger people. A&F will not sell larger sizes because, as CEO Mike Jeffries tells a Business Insider reporter, “…we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”beauty-comes-in-all-shapes

So, not only does Jeffries want us all to believe that someone with some meat on her/his bones is unattractive, s/he is also “not cool.” Is there a clearer example of how shallow and incipid the image-driven world is?

I also found it interesting that the article that criticized this focused only on women’s sizes. I get, of course, that body image is a very serious problem among women, with the associated insecurities, eating disorders and daily judgments based on their appearance.

But guess what? A&F isn’t treating men much better. Yes, unlike women’s sizes, A&F does offer up to XL sizes for men…but check out how they define XL. Yeah, XL for men means a 36-inch waist!

Jeffries makes so many disgusting, hateful comments in his interview, it’s nauseating to even read it. Here’s just one quote, elaborating on the above: “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.” Continue reading

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We Can Be Heroes

This article originally appeared in Souciant, where I maintain a weekly column. Please support our work, we depend on you. 

Leftists often bemoan a perceived lack of progress on the issues they work on. Fighting economic injustice, war or discrimination can feel like a thankless task. On top of the

difficulty of the work, too often we fail to celebrate success and lose a longer historical view of how the world has changed for the better.

That’s why this week’s revelation by National Basketball Association veteran Jason Collins that he is gay is so important. Collins is the first professional player in a major US male team sport to come out while he was still active, and the media as well as most other athletes who have spoken publicly have been extremely supportive. It’s worthwhile to stop and realize that only a few short years ago the response would have been very different.

As an avid athletics fan who often listens to sports talk radio, I can say that the worst of the responses I’ve heard have been measured and usually consist of asking “why does he even have to bring it up?” That is a very long way from the open hate directed at Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) people that I’ve heard most of my life, in every social realm. Still, it’s worth examining just why it is so important that Collins came out publicly.

The fact is, statements and stances by public figures can have a strong impact on people who are struggling with their identity. It’s a terrifying way to live when you are hiding who you are and afraid of what those dear to you might think if they found out. That is an experience I know too well. And it leaves one very vulnerable to the actions, both positive and negative, of famous people who dare talk about “it.”

By the age of nine, I knew I was bisexual, even though I couldn’t articulate that idea even in my own mind. As I got older and moved into my teens, I grappled with shame, denial and an overwhelming fear of discovery. Though actively bi from the time I was 14, I didn’t tell anyone, not even friends who were gay, let alone my family, until I was 26.

One of the things that got me through those difficult times was my favorite (to this day) musician, David Bowie. I had been listening to Bowie since I was nine, and didn’t really get the whole bisexual thing about him until I was twelve or thirteen. That was, as it turned out, just when I needed it the most. Continue reading

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What Rape Culture Means

Of you want to know why I keep pounding away on this topic, Think Progress offers just a few sample statistics to explain why this is such a problem. And the message needs to be heard by MEN, because the vast majority of rapists are men. It goes well beyond the actual act. It is about respecting women as people as much as you respect other men. Too many of us don’t do that, even if they don’t go so far as sexual assault.



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Missing the Point: An Important and Unfunny Cartoon

My thanks to a new follower of this blog for posting this cartoon on her own blog  I do think it is important for young men and boys to stop destroying their own lives and futures by sexual assaulting another. But ultimately, they are making that choice, the victim is not, so it is not about their lives it’s about the lives they have damaged or even destroyed with their vicious act. I’ll add again, that is so whether it is a man or a woman, whether s/he is a sex worker, a gender bender, a “slut,” or any other person whom someone might think “deserves it.” This is is an inviolable right, and no one loses it for any reason. Is it really rocket science to understand that NO means NO?!

And hey, media folks! I’m a journalist too. Can any of you explain to me what possessed you to report on a horrifying act of rape through the lens of sympathizing with the rapists rather than the victim?




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After Steubenville: A Male Reflection On The Horror Of Rape

It is absolutely shocking to me that the girl who was raped in Steubenville, Ohio is now being subjected to threats and harassment for coming forward, as is the blogger who helped shine a national spotlight on this appalling case. It is a sad comment on how far we still have to go regarding the treatment of women in our culture. It is also a sad comment on how freely rape permeates so much of the society around us.

Photo by Toban B., Published under a Creative Commons license.

Photo by Toban B., Published under a Creative Commons license.

Some are blaming team sports, media, religion, or whatever they see as the root cause of rape. Yet in fact, rape is pervasive. It happens in every community. It happens to men as well as women. It is mostly perpetrated by men, but women too sometimes engage in rape. It happens among secular people as well as religious. It happens in egalitarian groups. It happens in sex-positive environments as well as sexually suppressed ones. No matter where you turn, rape happens.

Rape is often, but not always, perpetrated for the feeling of power over another. But sometimes rape happens due to a sense of entitlement, and it can even happen as an act of sex—an overly desperate person sees an opportunity with someone in a compromised position, drunk or unconscious, and takes advantage. Rape has many forms, sometimes including only verbal coercion, sometimes merely taking advantage of a person whose wits are not about them, sometimes using massive physical force. It is not as one dimensional as some would have it be, and that just makes the problem more vexing. Continue reading

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In Guns We Trust

This article originally appeared at Souciant, where I have a weekly column

The United States is the only country where owning a gun is considered a God-given right. For some, perhaps, it is merely held to be a constitutional right (in this, it stands with only three other countries: Guatemala, Haiti and Mexico.) But whatever level of divinity is bestowed upon it, the gun is American culture’s Golden Calf.

After the horrifying shootings at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where twenty children, along with six adults, were repeatedly shot dead, half the country demanded limitations on the availability of guns, especially semi-automatic weaponry.

The other half, incredibly, argued that guns were not the problem and, in a refrain that was far too common, suggested that if the teachers were armed, the killer would have been stopped. The vociferousness with which this proposal was put forward, was astonishing, considering the bloodshed. Support came from a variety of establishment quarters, and included numerous and prominent Republican officials.

Unfortunately, firearms advocates have constitutional backing, which plays no small part in undergirding our country’s culture of violence. The US Constitution was a groundbreaking document in its day, even if it has been improved upon in other countries since. However, the Second Amendment to that Constitution, which grants Americans the right to own guns, was a masterpiece of  vagueness that has left a bloody legacy behind it. Continue reading

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