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Augustana Observer

Faculty: New media influence Rice exit

The indefinite suspension of running back Ray Rice from the National Football League on Monday showed the power of social media, communication studies professor Stephen Klien said.
Rice was recorded striking his wife, Janay, who was his fiance at the time, in an elevator and then dragging her unconscious body out of it in a video released Monday.
Klien, who specializes in communication theory at Augustana, said social media are holding organizations more accountable for their actions.
“The multimedia element of this is huge,” said Klien. “That really dramatic visual is easy to share all over the Internet. It’s easy for news organizations to disseminate that all over the place, and then Facebook and Twitter make it possible for those kinds of videos to go viral, and then the snowballing effect of responses to it has the potential to explode.”
On Tuesday, Janay reportedly denounced the media for its coverage of the incident, according to the New York Times.
Women’s and Gender Studies professor Jane Simonsen said domestic violence can be problematic because the victims do not want their stories publicized.
“Part of the reason victims of violence don’t come forward is because it’s very shameful and painful, especially if you consider yourself to be a strong person, a successful women, a successful man, to say, ‘oh yeah, and my partner hit me,’ is such a hard issue to handle,” said Simonsen.
She said the media trend should tone down the violence, citing the Rihanna and Chris Brown incident a few years ago.
“You saw her face all battered, which if I were her, I would not want those pictures shown,” said Simonsen. “It should be reported on; this is big news in a lot of ways, because it has to do with violence, and it has to do with a very popular sport in the U.S.”
Simonsen said one way to combat this is to report on awareness, prevention and responses to the issue.
“We have a problem with normalizing violence, sexual violence and all kinds of violence, and that’s bad,” said Simonsen. “So if they open up a discussion of those factors as well in some aspects of the media and ask questions like, ‘what did we learn from this?’ Those are the kinds of things that we have to ask.”
The video of Rice dragging an unconscious Janay out of the elevator surfaced days after the incident in February. The NFL gave Rice a two-game suspension in July before the footage inside the elevator was released.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell was criticized for not giving Rice a harsher punishment, since the penalty for drug use was a longer suspension than domestic assault, according to the New York Times.
Simonsen said the NFL knew what happened in the elevator.
“When you see him dragging her out of there in the first place, you’ve got to be thinking about what was going on in the elevator,” said Simonsen. “So, I think that the NFL has a responsibility to deal with all crimes equally, especially given the long the kind of culture of violence that has long been associated with football in some respects and to keep it the healthy sport it should be.”
The New York Times reported that after this incident, the NFL has imposed a six-game suspension for players who have committed domestic violence.
Simonsen said that the Rice incident created a precedent and will look at how the precedent will affect player’s relationships.
“It suggests that a lot of institutions and a lot of groups need to start talking about (domestic violence), because it’s not like the NFL are these cruel people, but they have a lot of influence over all of these people and a lot of kids, especially young boys,” said Simonsen.
Klien said that whether or not the discussion continues depends on who gets involved in the conversation. He referenced sexual assault as an issue that is being discussed by the White House, which can make an incident high profile.
“These conversations tend to have a particular shelf life,” said Klien. “If anything, one downside of a reliance on social media to drive a public conversation on issues is that being the kind of medium it is fast-paced and an emphasis on novelty and an emphasis on trends, once people get bored with this conversation it’s going to move on to something else.”
He said the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was an example of this. The challenge raised money and awareness for the disease, but questioned if the challenge will have a long-term effect. He thinks the same is true for the Rice incident.
“If I had to lay money on it, Ray Rice will be over in a couple of weeks, and we will be on to something else,” said Klien.

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Faculty: New media influence Rice exit