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Chris Brown:

A Bad Choice For ESPYs

Image by Eva Rinaldi and used under a Creative Commons license.

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Sure, Rihanna Might Have Forgiven Her Former Boyfriend, But Judging By Brown’s Comments At The Sports Network’s Awards Show, He Is Not An Example Of Good Judgment For Anyone


By Wayne Schutsky
Modern Times Magazine

July 22, 2013 — ESPN’s annual ESPYs awards show took place last week and at first, it seemed to be going off without a hitch: It was a somewhat entertaining display of mutual glad handing between Hollywood and the sports industry that we’ve grown so relatively fond of.

While the ESPYs are nothing spectacular, they are usually quite innocuous and they should be: It’s just a few hours of skits and generic awards for the sport’s top producers, with a few special emotional moments mixed in.

But, something about this year’s version bothered me. It wasn’t the overplayed skits or tired glossing of egos. It was one choice in entertainment.

Midway through the show, host Drake participated in a skit with R&B singer Chris Brown. Drake and Brown have engaged in a “war of words” in the past and the skit was a funny way to poke fun at that and move past it.

It wasn’t the content of the skit that touched me the wrong way. It was Brown’s inclusion in the show at all. What does it say about ESPN that the network would purposefully give airtime to a man (and his personal brand) who was convicted of a grotesque act of domestic violence and hasn’t shown much remorse?

In 2009, Brown assaulted then girlfriend Rihanna so severely that she needed medical attention. He subsequently pleaded guilty and and received probation and community service as part of a plea deal.

In the wake of the domestic assault, Brown said and did all the right things. He appeared on television alongside his mother and apologized. He said he couldn’t believe he did it. That’s all well and good, but he never actually took responsibility.

He told Larry King he couldn’t remember doing it, which sounds like complete bullshit. It sounds like the excuse made by a person who still can’t admit to doing what we all know he did. Then, he skipped out on some of his community service, resulting in another court hearing.

So, while he tried to say all the right things, Brown really never showed anyone that he was actually sorry for what he did. In California, those convicted of assaulting a spouse or girlfriend can face  a fine, probation and up to a year in prison. Brown got off easy with probation and community service, but couldn’t even complete that.

Further proving he is not above degrading women — even five years since almost throwing away his career — Brown responded to satirical criticism from comedian Jenny Johnson in 2012 with some extremely offensive remarks. In response to a seemingly innocuous tweet from Brown that said “I look old as f***, I’m only 23” Johnson tweeted “I know! Being a worthless piece of shit can really age a person.”

Granted, that response would make anyone angry, so a vitriolic response is expected. But, instead of realizing that Johnson is a comedian, and Brown has a pretty sordid history when it comes to how he treats the opposite sex, Brown chose to respond with many hate-filled tweets, proving he both has no sense of humor and a complete inability to control himself.

Most of Brown’s tweets referenced performing depraved sexual acts on Johnson. He then ended it with “Ask Rihanna if she mad?”

So, he now justifies his outburst by capitalizing on the fact that his victim has forgiven him. Many behavioral researchers have actually cited Rihanna’s acceptance of Chris Brown’s behavior as an example of a dangerous trend of women returning to their abusers. So, if anything, that fact further implicates the singer in perpetuating a cycle that victimizes women. This is a cycle he is apparently fine with.

And that’s not all. Brown is now currently facing assault charges in Washington D.C. for allegedly punching a fan who tried to interrupt a photo he was taking with two women. He is innocent until proven guilty, but his history shows he is prone towards violence.

Yet, in light of his history and current legal situation, ESPN felt it appropriate to include Brown in the event. For what? A few laughs and a ratings boost. Sure, Brown still draws eyeballs. He has a legion of dedicated (and possibly pathological) fans who think he can do no wrong, so, in that sense, ESPN is pandering to the lowest common denominator in order to boost ratings for an event that has experienced a steady decline in viewership.

Never-mind the fact that the event is supposed to celebrate athletes, both male and female. And never-mind that some of the very few people watching the show are young boys and girls looking to see if their favorite athlete gets an award.

What does Brown’s inclusion in the event tell young female athletes everywhere who have been witness to or victims of domestic violence? It says that on sport’s brightest stage (though ratings are low, it is still a premier event from the industry’s top television network) abusers are given a free pass and free publicity.

I guess, for ESPN, the statute of limitations on domestic abuse is only a few years.

Wayne Schutsky is a senior contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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