Pittsburgh sports reporter Paul Zeise took a lot of heat recently and was taken off a television program he regularly appears on for uttering these poorly chosen words:
Pretty rough stuff from Zeise, a writer at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, who later apologized for his comments.
Recently, MSNBC’s Dan Abrams explored Paul Zeise’s comments and asked what was really offensive – Zeise’s comments or the fact that plays get slaps on the wrist for committing crimes against women?
“Considering the disgusting behavior that a number of NFL players have exhibited against women and the inconsistent punishments for their crimes, Zeise may not be that far off,” Abrams said, citing several NFL players who physically violated and abused the women in their lives and received what amounted to a slap on the wrist. Abrams then asked his guests if Zeise was really that far off. “Does he deserve this sort of public lashing for inartfully stating what appears to be true?”
My answer? Paul Zeise’s insensitive and stupidly-phrased comments in no way discount a larger reality which is this: the Michael Vick story involving the alleged brutal violence against dogs has gotten much more attention than any one of the numerous assault cases against women identified by Dan Abrams or so many others involving with professional athletes that just get swept under the rug. True, some of the media attention around the Michael Vick case involves the fact that Vick is a flashy, talented, and highly visible NFL star. But let’s not kid ourselves. The other part of this story that makes it so salacious is that it is so out of the ordinary. Sadly, it’s a lot more common to hear about a professional athlete who physically violates and/or assaults a woman close to him than it is to hear about a high-profile NFL quarterback allegedly running a dog fighting group that beats, tortures and apparently kills dogs who are not up to par to fight. The other part of the story that makes it so “newsworthy” is the fact that there is graphic video available of dogs fighting, which even if you’re disgusted by, it’s hard not to turn away from.
It’s not about what would be better for Michael Vick, who may be a very deprived and sick individual, but rather what would be better for society, particularly women, who are too often the victims of violence by men in their lives who too often get away with it. Let’s face it, many Americans may not have been overly shocked if Vick had been accused of beating up a woman he’s emotionally involved with. Not because it’s not a horrific act, but rather because we in the media, as well as the American public, have become somewhat desensitized to such a story. I’m not sure if that’s the point Paul Zeise is trying to make, but it’s my point.
Consider that too often when a woman accuses a man of beating her, too many Americans don’t accept her version of the facts and often ask, “What’s the rest of the story?” What’s implied are several things: Did she “deserve it”? Did she “initiate it”? What’s the history of the relationship? Is she trying to get back at this guy for something else? Unfortunately, women who are the victims of domestic violence are sometimes not seen as legitimate victims. Dogs have no free will and are brought into this sickening so-called “sport” and trained to kill and ultimately even be killed themselves if their owners no longer see value in them. For some people, the dogs Michael Vick allegedly tortured are seen more bona fide victims than a woman potentially beaten by a professional athlete. Sick but true.
Finally, consider this: There are some people who respect the life of dogs and other animals more than they do other people. Again, sick but true. Bottom line, this isn’t about Paul Zeise. He said something in an offensive and inconsiderate way and went way too far in saying it by including rape, yet his comments ultimately generated a very important public conversation that questions the values of those of us in the news media as well as our larger society.