Perhaps it's true that were Christy Mack not well-known as a porn star and tattoo model, this wouldn't be such big news to begin with. But coming on the heels of very recent headlines about domestic violence, sparked by a video showing Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out of an Atlantic City elevator—hell, coming on the heels of every media account of domestic abuse ever—it makes sense to be wary of how the media will handle this story.
It’s difficult to watch the grainy video of Janay Palmer without getting a knot in the pit of your stomach. A viral video of a football player lugging his unconscious fiancé around like a garbage bag was seen by millions of Americans, each pixel flickering as a celebrated millionaire athlete hauled his incapacitated girlfriend out of an elevator.
• Military sexual assaults are up 50 percent in the last year as a result of increased reporting. The government is specifically targeting male victims who report at an even lower rate than female victims. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a recent news conference, "We have to fight the cultural stigmas that discourage reporting and be clear that sexual assault does not occur because a victim is weak, but rather because an offender disregards our values and the law." [AP]
If you don’t pay attention to the thrilling world of ice hockey, you likely haven’t heard about Semyon Varlamov (above), the star goalie for the Colorado Avalanche hockey team. Last Wednesday, Varlamov turned himself in to Denver police for domestic violence. On more sports fans’ radars is the news this week about Miami Dolphins’ guard Richie Incognito, who is accused of bullying a young teammate so mercilessly with racist and homophobic slurs that the player felt compelled to leave the team.
Both cases highlight the tendency of sports and mainstream media to give athletes a pass for conduct that would be reprehensible in people not worth billions of dollars. But both media and management treated the two cases of abuse very differently. While Incognito’s bullying of a teammate has resulted in a tidal wave of bad PR and administrative punishment, Varlamov’s alleged harassment of his girlfriend has so far resulted in very little comeuppance.