Last Thursday night, CBS and the NFL Network decided to pull its planned opener—the Jay Z and Rihanna song “Run This Town”—during its pregame broadcast, hoping to strike a more serious tone in light of the Ray Rice video. “At the time, CBS Sports President Sean McManus said Rihanna’s own history as a victim of domestic violence was one part of the decision but not the overriding one,” reported ESPN.
Rihanna was not having it, taking to Twitter to complain:
Now, CBS has decided to cut Rihanna from Thursday Night Football altogether. “Beginning this Thursday, we will be moving in a different direction with some elements of our Thursday Night Football open,” a CBS statement reads. “We will be using our newly created Thursday Night Football theme music to open our game broadcast.”
While the network may have been peeved at Rihanna’s reaction, this is a terrible decision. The Ray Rice controversy blew up not just because of the video, but also because the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL initially portrayed domestic violence as a couple’s mutual responsibility, instead of holding the abuser solely responsible. By cutting Rihanna’s song in part because she got beat up by her now-ex Chris Brown in 2009, CBS is treating yet another victim like she’s the problem here. The move is also troubling because it suggests that no matter how many records she sells or where she goes with her career, in many people’s eyes (such as those of CBS executives), Rihanna is defined by someone else’s choice to attack her.
Rihanna is exactly the person to put up front if you want to show that you are supporting victims of domestic violence. Sure, she is a flawed person, as we all are, and it was hard watching her struggle so publicly to free herself of a relationship with Brown. But Rihanna is also an example for women who are currently trying to escape the vortex of domestic violence, showing that, while it may be difficult, it can be done. You can escape. You can thrive.
Most importantly, changing the music that runs before games as a way to address the NFL’s domestic violence problem is a joke—an empty symbolic gesture, which in this case, sends the exact opposite message presumably intended. But hey, at least Chris Brown’s new record stinks.