July 14, 2009
By Carey Roberts
Am I the only one who is disturbed by the double-standard that permeates the media coverage of Steve McNair's shooting death?
On July 4 the former NFL star was killed by girlfriend Sahel Kazemi. McNair was shot as he lay asleep on his couch, first in the left temple, twice in the chest, and finally in his right temple.
So why are the news media stubbornly refusing to put the words "Steve McNair" and "domestic violence" in the same sentence? And where are all the hand-wringers who reflexively shriek we need to break the shroud of silence that surrounds partner abuse?
On July 2 a distraught Kazemi met an acquaintance in the parking lot of the restaurant where she worked. For $100, the 20-year-old woman found herself the new owner of a fully-loaded 9mm semiautomatic pistol.
The following day Kazemi told a co-worker, "my life is a ball of ****, and I should just end it." Leaving the restaurant, the Iranian-American went home, then drove over to McNair's downtown apartment in the Cadillac Escalade the former NFL quarterback had given her. McNair was not home, so she awaited his arrival.
McNair returned to his apartment between 1:30 and 2am. We do not know what words the two exchanged, or what time he eventually fell asleep. When the police arrived at the scene of the crime, there was no evidence that McNair had raised his hands to ward off the shots, confirming the theory that he was asleep at the time.
So what did the media do with the story?
A July 6 article in the New York Times conjectured the incident may have been a "double homicide or part of a murder-suicide." But no mention of domestic violence.
A July 8 story from ESPN relied on artful phrasing to sidestep the dreaded "DV" words. Police "waited for further tests and the revelations about Kazemi's personal problems before concluding that she pulled the trigger," ESPN explained.
Excuse me, but what do revelations about someone's personal life have to do with figuring out whether she pulled the trigger?
By the following day, the rehabilitation of Ms. Kazemi had shifted into high gear. An article in the Washington Post was crafted to evoke the reader's sympathy, informing us she was "increasingly tormented by a rush of personal problems" and "her life was falling apart."
So while the Washington Post article took pains to highlight Kazemi's emotional turmoil, it glossed over how well Steve McNair was coping with the injuries that sidelined him during most of his previous season with the Baltimore Ravens, and how he was coming to terms with his recent retirement following 13 years in the harsh glare of the National Football League.
Domestic violence workers will insist until they're blue in the face that domestic violence is the consequence of patriarchal oppression. As such, women are constitutionally indisposed to resort to such nefarious actions, they claim.
So when women deep-six their boyfriends and husbands, their apologists turn to the thread-bare excuse that she was only acting in self-defense. But in this case the self-defense ploy doesn't fit. Kazemi had bought the gun two days before, she pursued her prey to his apartment, and he was aslumber when she squeezed the trigger.
If the self-defense argument doesn't fly, then go to Plan B — the "he had it coming" excuse. While I certainly don't condone infidelity, there are lots of women I know who have strayed from the straight and narrow. Somehow I don't remember anyone insulting their memory with a "she had it coming" comment.
McNair threw for 174 touchdowns and more than 31,000 yards. His extraordinary skill and exuberant passion for the sport inspired a generation. So let's take a collective deep breath and utter these mournful words: "Former NFL star Steve McNair was a victim of domestic violence, killed at the hand of a spiteful girlfriend."
© Carey Roberts