By Julie Buehler
Oddly enough, my empathy doesn’t stretch to someone who was arrested for domestic violence and wants to be “submerged” in basketball to escape legal woes associated with it, even if this person is crying on the shoulder of an ESPN reporter.
So even if Brittney Griner gets teary-eyed and announces her marriage was a bad decision, she still committed a crime. And a very serious one.
Oh and I’m not going to offer a free pass to anyone accused in police reports of calling cops “bitches” and asserting that if it weren’t for handcuffs, the cops would be getting their “asses kicked.” That seems to me, the kind of stuff that SHOULD get you thrown in the slammer and investigated. But for Hope Solo, she just made the rounds of network television explaining when the “facts come out” she’ll be vindicated. But as more facts come out, more questions are being raised about the incidents that got her arrested and USA Soccer’s limp response to their star keeper’s trouble.
Bottom line: It’s outrageous that top-flight female athletes are offered a platform to cry or explain their way out of the consequences and public backlash their male counterparts rightfully receive.
The cases of Brittney Griner and Hope Solo are a disturbing lesson that domestic violence is STILL a problem we only care about sometimes, but refuse to recognize as problematic all the time.
We are so conditioned to hearing the excuses and rational: “It only happens once in a while…” or “They didn’t mean it, they just lost their temper…” or “I made a terrible mistake…” or the defiant, “When the facts come out, I will be declared innocent!”
These phrases used to be readily accepted coming from men who were assaulting women. Sports fans were eager to imbibe the excuses and defend their sports heroes offering the benefit of the doubt and repulsive victim shaming our culture has allowed for decades.
But the past few years, with social awareness expanding and victims speaking out more and more and the Ray Rice incident in an Atlantic City elevator offering graphic representation of what domestic violence really looks like, it seemed (I’d hoped) that culture of excusing and accusing victims had faded into an unapologetic hardline against domestic abusers.
The NFL upped automatic suspensions of abusers. Ray Rice hasn’t played a down since his transgression, Adrian Peterson was out of football for a year and Greg Hardy will spend the first 10 games of next year on the sidelines despite charges against him being dropped.
The NHL immediately suspended LA Kings defense Slava Voynov for an ugly incident involving his wife and he didn’t spend a moment on the ice for the team all year.
And I’ve written multiple times about Floyd Mayweather’s repeated offenses being ignored by the boxing media and fan base, but through the press for his bout against Manny Pacquiao and subsequent reporting, the formerly glowing reports gave way to a far more dark and truthful look at the planet’s highest paid athlete.
It seemed we were willing to be honest. To just be honest about the reality that some athletes (but few) chose to assert the power bequeathed on them by the public to harm and abuse others.
But I’m not so sure our culture is there yet. Because based on the examples of Brittney Griner and Hope Solo, we’re under the false impression that it’s an issue women face at the hands of men.
Look, Domestic Violence was never about men and women, it was never a gender thing, its ALWAYS been about power. It’s always been about one person willingly and intentionally, regardless of the excuses they muster, asserting their dark intentions over someone they perceive as less powerful.
It’s not always physical, many times domestic abuse is emotional and equally as damaging.
It’s not always a person of larger stature over someone of smaller stature. One of Solo’s alleged victims is her 6’ 8” nephew.
It’s not always a man abusing a woman or a spat between lovers.
But it is ALWAYS about power.
So as long as our sports culture offers athletes and those in the public eye more power than those living a simple life away from publicity, there will be those with dark souls, offered that power, looking to exploit it.
Whether they are the world’s most famous boxer or the first woman to dunk in professional basketball, it does not diminish the dangerous harm and damage caused from their inexcusable power play.
It is my hope that laws are strengthened and the resolve of communities united to shine a spotlight on domestic violence and shun anyone in the public eye guilty of the crime. Regardless of their stature, gender or place in the world.
Julie Buehler hosts the Coachella Valley’s most popular sports talk radio show, “Buehler’s Day Off” every day from 2-4 on 1010 KXPS, the valley’s all sports station. She can also be seen every morning between 6-7am on KMIR sharing the coolest stories in sports. She’s an avid gym rat, slightly sarcastic and more likely to recite Steve Young’s career passing stats than American Idol winners. Tune in M-F 2-4 pst at www.team1010.com or watch “Buehler’s Day Off” on Ustream and KMIR.com for her sports reports.