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The NFL and its commissioner Roger Goodell have been on the receiving end of much spite and harsh words over the past few days, as the aftermath of Ray Rice’s aggravated assault arrest earlier this year was reinvigorated by TMZ’s recent leaked video of the incident. The video convinced the Baltimore Ravens to kick Rice off the team, and he was suspended indefinitely by the NFL. The latest repercussion of Rice’s crime is the weirdest yet, as CBS’ Thursday Night Football decided to preempt their scheduled pre-game entertainment to focus more on Rice, Rice, Rice.
Who got shafted in this decision? Rihanna, whose hook for Jay-Z’s song “Run This Town” was going to play during the opening, and actor Don Cheadle, who was to provide narration over the song to give the game of the night some context. The NFL has long used music and celebrities to introduce its primetime telecasts, with Carrie Underwood currently handling the Sunday Night Football theme. And while it isn’t a travesty for audiences to miss out on one of the fluffiest aspects of an NFL broadcast, it seems like a strange move when one of the people in question was the victim of her own domestic abuse case a few years ago. (You may recall Rihanna’s then-boyfriend Chris Brown getting arrested in 2009 for felony assault.)
Obviously her history and Rice’s story inherently have nothing to do with one another. The opening was also scheduled to have some kind of a comedic segment, according to Sports Illustrated, which was also understandably shelved. The point here was for CBS Sports to become sort of serious, despite the fact that the next three hours of football would involve thousands of people cheering, with commentators who generally stick to bright and cheery subject matter.
It’s beyond me why they felt the need to start the program with CBS Evening News anchor Scot Pelley running play by play on the case, including showing a Goodell interview with CBS This Morning’s Norah O’Donnell, which is something that people could have found elsewhere. None of this gets people in the mood to watch football, and NFL Network has been running this case into the ground with coverage. That said, here’s how CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus explained their motivations.
It’s important to realize we are not overreacting to this story but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL. We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone and coverage. A lot of the production elements we wanted in the show are being eliminated because of time or tone.”
Personally, I’d rather the telecast have started with Jimmy Kimmel putting Ray Rice through one of his Mean Tweets segments, but that just might have been controversial in and of itself. How do you guys feel about CBS putting Rihanna and Cheadle in the backseat for more Rice and Goodell talk?