I've been trying to parse out what makes me so uncomfortable watching my appearance on HuffPost Live on Wednesday September 10, 2014 discussing Ray Rice's assault on his then-fiancee (now wife) Janay. It's not just that, as the late lamented Nora Ephron put it, I feel bad about my neck. No, it's that the segment getting all the play is where I insist that firing the Ravens' running back just punishes the victim yet again.
Sure, it's a valid point: Fire him, and instead of living with a violent abusive spouse she gets to live with a violent abusive, unemployed spouse who's extra pissed off at her. Throw him in jail, and he simply compounds that anger with a bunch of other violent abusive men simmering in their own resentment.
Nor does firing the Kommissar of Football -- complete with a generous Golden Parachute, no doubt -- do anything to alleviate domestic violence.
It galls me, though, how hungrily the men of America grabbed at that rationale. "Yeah, that's the ticket! We should let him play... for her sake." When what they really want is their fantasy football line-up back together. They just don't want to sound like utter jerks asking for it. This way, they get to paste a veneer of chivalry on top of it.
So I hereby reverse myself and say go ahead and fire their butts. All of them. Players, managers, coaches, owners, commissioners -- everyone in professional sports who has committed or covered up domestic abuse. They deserve it. Just don't for a minute think that that the abuse victims are going to thank you for it, or that you are going to stop domestic abuse. That isn't how it works.
As anyone following the #WhyIStayed campaign has learned -- and as I tried, often inelegantly, to say on HuffPost Live -- it's more complicated than that. Not all abuse victims are women. Some women stay in abusive relationships because they can't afford to leave. They stay because they will lose their children. They stay because he will kill them. They stay because they think it's normal.
And, even though the well-meaning women's shelter ladies like Ariel Zwang from my panel are aghast at the idea, sometimes we stay because we damn well want to. We stay because we are in love, even if that love is as toxic as an alcoholic's love of whisky. We stay because we are addicted to the s.o.b.
Here's my modest proposal: We have, in only a few decades, changed society's acceptance of another addiction: tobacco. Can we make it as socially unacceptable to hit a woman in a elevator as to light a cigarette in one? I think we can. And I think we can do it the same way.
Let the NFL pay for anti-Domestic Violence campaigns, the way cigarette manufacturers paid for anti-smoking campaigns. Every tax dollar that goes to a stadium skybox should be matched by a dollar for a battered women's shelter. And Ray Rice can spend part of his long and remunerative football career visiting high school locker rooms around the country bearing a simple message: Don't hit girls.
We quit Marlboros. We can quit the Marlboro Man, too.