Josh Brown saga shows white privilege is alive and well in NFL

The explanations and rationalizations have come forth from the mouths of Giants brass for days now, all the reasons that they never saw the need to part ways with their wife-beating veteran kicker Josh Brown.

There was the way Brown “attempted to be honest with us,” says owner John Mara, and there was the way he was “working toward improving himself,” according to head coach Ben McAdoo, and both phrases sound pathetically flimsy, given what we all now know about Josh Brown.

But Josh Brown is white, so these statements were believable, and good enough to keep the troubled kicker around. And that’s the sad reality of the way both team and league handled this case: There is a legitimate reason to believe that his skin color is what bought him these last six months in the NFL.

“Greg Hardy not in the league, Ray Rice not in the league,” Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson told the News. “(Brown) definitely shouldn’t be in the league. But it’s the way the world works, bro.”

KING: If Josh Brown were black or took a knee, he’d be despised

The way the NFL currently operates, apparently, is a scary microcosm of how things go in the outside world.

Over the last two years, the league has shown a disturbing dissonance in how it applies its domestic violence policies, in when it chooses to throw the book at players and when it exercises leniency.

And it’s this unforgivable dissonance that nearly forgave Josh Brown, that earned him a new deal in April and let him go about his NFL business for five games, despite the fact that even Mara says the kicker had admitted he’d abused his wife.

This is racial bias in the NFL, the unintended consequence of a league run by white owners and coaches and GMs who, in the case of domestic violence, aren’t effectively policing themselves.

As Josh Brown case proves, the NFL continues to be all talk

The Giants nor the NFL never viewed Josh Brown, who’s done a laundry list of wrongs, as a monster.

The Giants nor the NFL never viewed Josh Brown, who’s done a laundry list of wrongs, as a monster.

(Kathy Willens/AP)

We’re two years removed from Roger Goodell’s promise to crack down on domestic violence in the wake of Ray Rice’s disaster of 2014, and the league has since been harder on domestic violence. But it’s done so in a fashion that leaves African-American players like Richardson and observers of the NFL alike noticing inconsistencies.

“There are different perceptions and different responses to players of different colors doing the very same thing,” said Will Weiner, a noted Manhattan-based sports psychologist. “I think that’s definitely the case in the NFL. It makes it very difficult for athletes, and I think athletes of color are treated differently. I think there’s a softening of responses to white players who get in trouble versus players of color who get in trouble.”

It’s white privilege played out in the sports arena.

The league’s record of dealing with domestic violence reveals that softening. Since Rice’s video emerged two years ago, twelve players have battled domestic violence allegations, according to USA Today, which has kept an updated database of NFL player arrests.

Read the letter the NFL sent to Giants kicker Josh Brown

Three white players – 49ers fullback Bruce Miller, troubled quarterback Johnny Manziel and Brown – combined to serve only a one-game suspension (Brown).

Manziel, who allegedly pulled his girlfriend by the hair in January, was finally released by Cleveland in March, after a myriad of chances to get his life together.

When Miller was involved in a domestic dispute with his then-fiancee and pleaded no contest to disturbing the peace, the NFL didn’t discipline him at all because, according to a league spokesman, “based upon our investigation, we determined that a suspension was not warranted.”

A JUNE 18, 2014 FILE PHOTO

We’re two years removed from Roger Goodell’s promise to crack down on domestic violence in the wake of Ray Rice’s disaster of 2014

(Patrick Semansky/AP)

He was released by the Niners last month, after allegedly assaulting two men, one of whom was 70 years old.

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The other eight players involved in domestic violence cases were African-American. And while former DT Ray McDonald drew no punishment for his first incident (but was later cut by the Niners and Bears after subsequent issues), all other black players have met relatively swift league “justice.”

Four African-American players were cut or released within a week of their incidents and one of those players – Colts safety Josh McNary, who was later acquitted by a jury of domestic violence and rape charges – was instantly placed on the commissioner’s exempt list.

The three other black players drew suspensions following league “investigations” that just happened to turn up more actual evidence than Brown’s case. League officials managed to connect enough dots to suspend receiver Quincy Enunwa, defensive lineman Junior Galette and defensive lineman Greg Hardy for a combined 10 games, but they couldn’t connect the dots between Brown’s issues, despite the fact that he was involved in an altercation with Molly Brown at the Pro Bowl and the NFL itself had to step in to provide her safety.

Yes, the sample set is small. But it’s hard to ignore the racial elements, especially just two months after Colin Kaepernick began a peaceful national anthem protest that against black oppression and police brutality that still remains the subject of controversy.

“It’s America obviously,” said one black player. “Race is everywhere. This may not be race, but i don’t know what else it could be. It’s one of those things where . . . that’s America. It’s why people try to change it.”

The goal isn’t to let everybody off easy, because domestic violence in any form is inexcusable. But it’s also inexcusable that years of issues from Brown essentially drew a one-game ban, a two-year contract and “support” from McAdoo. And it’s completely inexcusable that neither team nor league seemed to truly push hard enough to uncover the stunning revelations of this week.

John Mara, the savvy Giants owner, should have the expendable kicker that we all see and known that it was safer to part ways with the monster.

John Mara, the savvy Giants owner, should have the expendable kicker that we all see and known that it was safer to part ways with the monster.

(Michael Ainsworth/AP)

And yet it makes sense, because again, Brown is white, just like Mara and McAdoo and so many of the faces seated at the head of the NFL table. And when those people question someone of their own skin color, it appears they can feel a level of empathy that they wouldn’t have for a black man, or an Asian or a Latino? Maybe they see a son, a brother. Maybe they see themselves at some point in their lives.

The empathy manifests as leniency, hindering both justice and good business sense. At this point, no good can come from keeping a man who viewed himself as “God” and his wife as his “slave” on payroll, yet Josh Brown sits on the commissioner’s exempt list, collecting a paycheck while the league reinvestigates the situation it botched in the first place.

And Mara, the savvy Giants owner, could have – should have – seen at least that part, and seen the expendable kicker that we all see, known that it was safer to part ways with the monster. Isn’t that how it’s played out with the disposable African-American players charged with domestic violence, and with the radioactive Rice, who, despite so much contrition since his seminal moment, can’t even get a tryout?

“Teams, they worry about their reputations,” said Weiner. “And if they think somebody might be viewed as a monster, they’ll be very quick to dismiss them as well, not even based on their own judgment but in anticipation of public perception.”

There it is.

The Giants nor the NFL never viewed Josh Brown, who’s done a laundry list of wrongs, as a monster.

Is it hard to understand why?

Tags:
nfl
new york giants
josh brown
john mara
bob mcadoo
sheldon richardson
new york jets
ray rice
domestic violence

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