The Ray Rice incident has exploded far beyond criticism for the actions of one man who committed an act of brutality. The public release of the video has cast a light on how we turn a blind eye to this criminal act because looking more closely might upset our fantasy football picks. We knew weeks ago that Rice had punched his girlfriend knocking her unconscious. Only when we (the public)actually saw the brutality of that assault did the NFL take swift and decisive action. Until we couldn’t look away there was a certain tolerance for abuse.  

If there’s any doubt that the locker room accepts and even lightheartedly excuses violence, Daryl Srawberry’s account of the ‘Kevin Mitchell cat incident’ squashes those doubts. Accompanied by chuckles all around, Strawberry explains Mitchell was in a dispute with his girlfriend, a couple of the guys were there, and he decapitated the girlfriend’s cat. While Strawberry looks a bit uncomfortable and notes Mitchell was affiliated with gangs, there’s  a clear brotherhood that seeks to excuse the behavior and diminish it.  Laughing, Strawberry says, “That’s a pretty good story. [Kevin] was a different type of guy… great guy… super teammate… great person…he figured the girlfriend was acting a little crazy, so “I’ll kill her cat.” 

Hey fun times then we had some beers…  boy those were the days…really? This incident happened decades ago, but today we still see this tendency to look the other way and make excuses instead of noting when someone we know,  man or  woman, is abusive.

Comparing Strawberry’s telling of this ‘zany incident’ to ESPN’s Keith Olbermann’s outrage about the Rice response. While the cat incident describes an act of intimidation, coercion and brutality there’s no sense of outrage. I can’t help imagining what it feels like to have several athletes watch your boyfriend murder your cat to ‘keep you in line’…and not one of them steps in and says :”Whoa buddy… what the heck!” Instead it’s laughed about for years…”what  a great guy… a super person!” I’ll take Olbermann on my team any day.

In our school prevention classes we teach kids, boys and girls, about standing up and speaking out when they see someone bullied. These kids learn that character, strength and leadership aren’t just about not doing bad things, they’re about having the courage to not turn your back or laugh it off when you see someone intimidating another person. Third graders get it… but we don’t ?