Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Why Do Mike Rice and his Basketball Team Matter More than DisabledPeople?

In this March 12, 2013, file photo, Rutgers coach Mike Rice yells out to his team during an NCAA college basketball game against DePaul at the Big East tournament in New York. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

I have CNN "Early Start" on this morning, as I often do in the mornings, and they've just finished a story about basketball coach Mike Rice and a video of him physically and verbally abusing members of the Rutgers University team.

The video, which shows Mike Rice shoving and kicking players and hurling basketballs at them, as well as yelling obscenities and homophobic slurs, was shown to Rutgers officials in December 2012. Rutgers suspended Mike Rice for three games and fined him $50 000. However, now that the video has been broadcast on ESPN and gone viral, an outcry has gone up over why Mike Rice wasn't fired. Lebron James and New Jersey governor Chris Christie have weighed in, and the head of the New Jersey Assembly has even called for Mike Rice to fired.

Don't Get Me Wrong...Mike Rice Should Be Fired!

It's by no means a bad thing for a society to be protective of its young athletes. It's certainly appropriate, when anyone abuses a position of power for them to be held accountable, as Jerry Sandusky was and as it looks like Mike Rice will further be. The video is difficult to watch and it's understandable that people are outraged that Mike Rice wasn't fired on the spot when it surfaced.

Even as I'm typing, there's an interview going on with an expert that's saying that Mike Rice did is unequivocally abuse and that he needs to be fired because there's no context in which his actions are appropriate. My question, however, is why these stories get *so* much coverage and generate so much outrage when when only the most minimal of coverage gets given to the daily situation of:

  • What the UN has officially declared torture going on at the Judge Rotenberg Center, where electric shock is used to "discipline" disabled children

  • Restraint and seclusion going on (with no policy to govern their use in the US) in public special education classes.

  • A pattern of abuse that was identified in New York state group homes for intellectually disabled people approximately eighteen months ago by the New York Times.

It's great that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and the head of the Assembly felt moved to make a statement about the Mike Rice situation...I wonder why Christie  didn't feel like he or any of his people needed to attend February's Joint Legislative Hearing on the closing of two institutions in New Jersey? Are the people affected by that not important too?

I'm not suggesting that concern for abused athletes is misplaced in inappropriate. It just seems sad to me (and frustrating) that even when it comes to abuse, it just seems like some stories are more "worthy" of coverage and immediate action than others, and that, as usual, disabled people and their concerns seem to be consistently getting pushed into the background by the media and government.


  1. Particularly abuse of African-American disabled children and adults - often get ignored in favor of more "normal" people who are abused. Thank you for this, Sarah.

  2. Unfortunately its all about readership numbers and tv ratings...disability does not sell papers or get people to watch's a sad indictment of culture and I am pessimistic about a change.

  3. That's my question to: How come stories like this get so much outrage when the stories of disabled people who are suffering gets pushed into the background.