by Kent Sterling
One thing Charles Foster Kane learned in the great film Citizen Kane was that wealth can’t change the truth. Ironically, William Randolph Hearst, the publisher who was the inspiration for Kane, discovered the same thing when he tried to kill the film before its release.
Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti is the latest rich guy to learn that same lesson as he tries to spin the facts to make the Ravens appear more sympathetic as the fallout from the Ray Rice debacle continues to unravel.
Don Van Natta of ESPN reported late last week that the Raven management tried to exert undue influence in keeping Rice’s suspension to a manageable two games, and that coach John Harbaugh wanted to cut Rice but was overruled by Bisciotti and general manager Ozzie Newsome.
Despite refusing to speak to Van Natta, Bisciotti assailed the report as one-sided, “The majority of the sources are people that work for Ray. Almost everything in there is anonymous, but it’s clear from the subject matter that it’s Ray’s attorney, it’s Ray’s agent, it’s Ray’s friends.”
Van Natta countered in a follow-up on espy.com that sources included more than 20 sources over 11 days — team officials, current and former league officials, NFL Players Association representatives and associates, advisers and friends of Rice.
Bisciotti apologized for not pursuing the video from inside the casino elevator where Rice knocked his then-girlfriend unconscious, “There’s no excuse for me to not have [requested] that video except I wasn’t concerned or interested enough to get it. It never crossed my mind. I’m deeply sorry for that.”
That echoed NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s hollow apology last week. It paints Bisciotti as either an idiot or complicit in trying to help Rice escape culpability for his odious actions.
The question that continues to ring in our minds as the comments by Bisciotti and Goodell are evaluated is why either man decided it was a good idea to stand in front of the media and its cameras to say things that only weaken their positions.
Most rich guys are terrible with the media. They are so seldom held accountable for their comments that they believe every word that comes out of their mouths is a pearl of wisdom from on high. A dose of humility is usually forthcoming when they haughtily explain their genius or occasionally throw themselves on a sword, as Bisciotti did for not demanding the video.
Bisciotti shared a series of texts that Van Natta quoted in the Outside the Lines piece. There were some differences in wording, but the message was the same, “I just spent two hours talking to Ozzie. It was all about you. We love you and we will always figure out a way to keep you in our lives. When you are done with football I will hire you to help me raise Great young men. I still love you!!!”
What isn’t different is the implied intent to buy Rice’s silence. Rich men tend to use money for the power it wields over people. Bisciotti’s intent may have been to calm Rice’s concerns about how he might provide for his family in the future, but the result is to keep Rice financially tied to Bisciotti, and exert the control only money can wield.
The pummeling of Janay Palmer (now Rice) began a series of events that revealed a number of men as rigidly pragmatic and unfeeling. As they have been outed through a seemingly endless series of media reports and comments of their own, we have learned a lot about rich and successful people – primarily that they are most fearful of being seen as impotent through their inability to control the thoughts and actions of others.
That is what prompted both the press conferences of Goodell and Bisciotti. Hubris has many forms and outcomes, and Goodell and Bisciotti’s inability to compel a change in the truth should make everyone in the media feel a little better about their role in our society.
They have been revealed as nothing but money grubbing pimps who would gladly toss aside decency and honor as cavalierly as Rice treated Janay as he dragged her limp body from that casino elevator.