It took less than one full quarter for NBC’s Opening Night broadcasting team, helmed by Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth, to demonstrate exactly how little they care for the women watching the game.
In the first quarter of the season opener between Dallas and Tampa Bay, Michaels brought up Antonio Brown’s “past issues.” Only he never said what those issues were.
So let’s review. Antonio Brown has been accused of sexually harassing an artist working in his home, throwing a bag of gummy dicks at police officersand screaming profanities all caught on video, calling the mother of his children a “broke ass whore” in front of said children, and of committing a violent sexual assault , an allegation made in a civil suit which he settled this spring, after a trial court judge set the trial for this coming December. (Brown has denied engaging in any acts of sexual harassment or assault.)
Let’s take a look at the allegations, in which Brown is accused of three separate acts of sexual assault by his former trainer, Britney Taylor. You can read the entire federal lawsuit for yourself here. (Brown denied he assaulted or raped Taylor and countersued for defamation.)
“In June 2017, Brown sexually assaulted Ms. Taylor twice while they were together for training sessions. First, Brown exposed himself and kissed Ms. Taylor without her consent. Later that month, Brown, while positioned behind Ms. Taylor, began masturbating near her without her knowledge and ejaculated on her back. Ms. Taylor realized what occurred when she felt a wet spot soak through her clothing. Later, in astonishingly profane and angry text messages, Brown bragged about the incident to her.”
And it gets much worse.
“On May 20, 2018, Brown cornered Ms. Taylor, forced her down onto a bed, pushed her face into the mattress, and forcibly raped her. Ms. Taylor tried to resist him, but Brown was too strong and physically overpowered her. She screamed and cried throughout the entire rape, repeatedly shouting ‘no’ and ‘stop.’ Brown refused and penetrated her.. Brown’s assaults and rape have severely traumatized Ms. Taylor. Ms. Taylor has suffered near-daily panic attacks and suicidal ideations.”
The lawsuit, and what Brown was accused of, was never mentioned by Michaels, and was quickly followed up by a sideline hit from the usually terrific Michelle Tafoya, which focused on what a great friend Tom Brady has been for standing by Brown through his “issues.” “Issues” which we have already discussed include allegedly treating various women like absolute trash. Brady even allowed Brown to stay in his home with him and his family, including his wife and daughter. That’s not something that should be celebrated, and it’s long past time that someone asked Brady (and Bruce Arians, for that matter) if he has anything to say to the women Brown has been accused of brutalizing.
Us women, who by the NFL’s own accounting, make up 47 percent of the fanbase, have no delusions about what the NFL thinks of us. The fact that Deshaun Watson has been accused of various forms of sexual misconduct by 22 women and is technically still eligible to play in Week 1 speaks volumes, as does the league’s refusal to acknowledge that Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape by multiple women (Both Watson and Roethlisberger denied any wrongdoing.) And the lack of seriousness with which the league disciplines its players became very clear when Josh Brown was initially given a one-game suspension despite copious evidence of years of abusing his wife (the league latter added six more games after media reports).
We don’t matter. We get it.
The NFL will never change, because it doesn’t have to. Check out some of the replies I got for pointing out that Michaels and Tafoya went out of their way to sanitize Brown for the enjoyment of their male viewers. A random sampling.
There was this guy:
And this guy:
And there is always, always a guy with daughters in his profile pic:
And lots of guys who demand a criminal conviction before they believe an athlete may have raped a woman.
So let’s address a few of these. First of all, to all the guys yelling about charges being “dropped,” you aren’t even in the right court system, much less the right page. Like the overwhelming majority of sexual assault cases, criminal charges were never filed against Brown. It’s difficult to get a rape charge when the accused is not a famous athlete. In fact, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), out of every 1,000 sexual assaults, 995 perpertrators will walk free. And that’s among the common folk, much less when a rich and famous athlete with lawyers, agents, and an NFL team behind him. Especially if it takes a victim time to come to terms with an assault.
Secondly, too many people confuse “innocent until proven guilty,” a standard we use in criminal court to justify depriving someone of their liberty, with public opinion. No one expects Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth to demand Brown be prosecuted or drive him to jail. All I’m asking is for the NFL and its partners to acknowledge what Brown was accused of, rather than chalking it up in the catch-all basket of “issues.” What are “issues,” anyway? You can have “issues” with your neighbor letting his dog bark all night. You can have “issues” with your boss making you work late. What Brown has been accused of is far worse. And for all the #NoMore posturing the NFL has done, they owe it to their female fans to at least acknowledge the facts. Brown was accused of sexual assault and settled the civil suit last spring.
But the main reason Michaels, NBC, and NFL owed it to their fans not to gloss over the allegations against Brown as “issues?” It’s because of how many guys out there tweeted things like this at me:
When we don’t talk about sexual assault (and violence against women in general), these are the narratives that take hold. The number of men who tweeted at me that Brown had been 1) found innocent, 2) that the charges had been dropped, or 3) that Taylor had been “found” to have been a liar, was stunning. None of these things, of course, are true. But shoving rape into a dark corner, particularly when a famous man is accused, has the effect, intended or not, of galvanizing the views so many young men already have ofwomen and their credibility where sexual assault is concened.
And by the way, unless you think a great bunch of guys are getting a raw deal from me, here’s what Bucs’ GM Jason Licht told the media about re-signing Brown for this season:
Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht said Wednesday that he has been negotiating to re-sign Brown for the 2021 season and that the status of the Taylor lawsuit had not affected the talks.“So, to have this resolved, it certainly helps,” Licht said. “But it wasn’t, you know, that isn’t necessarily the deciding factor of whether or not we’re going to continue to talk.”
So the next time you see Roger Goodell going on about how seriously the NFL takes violence against women, or what a great pal Tom Brady is, or how many women the Bucs have on Arians’ coaching staff, just remember that everyone involved refused to even acknowledge the seriousness of Britney Taylor’s accusations.