Here is a link to my Friday column about Ted Robinson. The full text runs below:
Let’s get this straight. The 49ers, those paragons of morality, didn’t bench the player, but they benched the announcer.
Which means the Niners have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to play-by-play guys screwing up. Not so much with players like, you know, Ray McDonald, accused of screwing up big time.
Here’s the background. Robinson was on radio the other day talking about Ray and Janay Rice. Everyone in America was talking about the Rices. On air, Robinson managed to blame Janay for getting knocked cold. Well, not exactly. He blamed her, a victim of domestic violence, for not going to the cops after people scraped her off the floor in that Atlantic City casino.
“That, to me, is the saddest part of it,” Robinson reasoned.
Seriously, Ted, you’re coming down on the victim?
Ted also said Janay’s choice to marry Rice after he cold-cocked her was “pathetic.”
Way to show empathy, Ted.
What does Robinson’s “pathetic” showing tell us? Let me count the lessons.
It says you need to be careful when you go on television or radio. I go on TV once a week at CSN Bay Area and I was on KSRO radio Wednesday, and I constantly remind myself NOT to say stupid things. To be careful what I say. My livelihood and my life hang in the balance every time I open my mouth publicly. It’s that serious.
Robinson is a veteran and should know all this. He does know all this. But a feeling of euphoria comes over you on the air — it’s almost a feeling of omnipotence — and the stern internal governor who lives in your head telling you, “Shut up, big shot,” sometimes takes a coffee break.
Robinson needs a new governor.
There’s more. Sports people like Robinson — and me — are not accustomed to talking about grown-up topics like domestic violence. Give me the infield fly rule any time. Robinson needed to be extra careful when he approached the Rice issue. He wasn’t.
I’ll go further. Many people do not understand domestic violence, don’t understand why abuse victims sometimes stay with their abusers — the isolation, the fear of more beatings or worse. See: Nicole Simpson.
The only good thing about the Ray Rice Disaster is we all are learning. We saw the punch of domestic violence in the grainy grim elevator video. What we didn’t see was everything leading up to it. I’m talking about their relationship.
I’m saying Robinson was out of his depth and didn’t know it. I’m also saying something else.
I’ve known Robinson for decades. Nice man. Good man. But I think being the voice of the Niners has gone to his head. He needs to think about this. Hard. He has become, I believe, an advocate for the 49ers, sometimes criticizing media outlets that do not see things the Niners’ way.
Former 49ers play-by-play announcer Joe Starkey, whose cupboard is filled with his iconic sports calls, never saw himself as a propagandist for the 49ers. Robinson, relegated to home detention two games by the 49ers and two games by the Pac-12 Network for his unfortunate remarks, has time to think about his public stance.
Do I think the 49ers and the Pac-12 should have suspended Robinson?
Is there more to this story?
Here is the 49ers’ statement about Robinson’s suspension — a statement attributed to team president Paraag Marathe:
“The comments made by radio broadcaster Ted Robinson were offensive and in no way reflect the views of the San Francisco 49ers organization. We have made the decision to suspend him for the next two games. I informed Ted of our decision, and we will continue to address this matter with him internally. Our organization stands strongly against domestic violence and will not tolerate comments such as these.”
Those are high-sounding and wonderful sentiments. The 49ers stand strongly against domestic violence. When it comes to announcers. When it comes to announcers saying stupid things. Not to players like McDonald.
The Niners seem more upset by someone saying something than by someone actually doing something. Please, don’t get into a tizzy. I know nothing has been proven against McDonald. But he should be benched along with Robinson until his case gets clarified. He and Robinson can do crossword puzzles together or take a trip to the movies or the zoo.
With McDonald we keep hearing the due-process mantra from the 49ers. They don’t understand that benching McDonald with pay is due process. But the 49ers didn’t worry about due process with Robinson. He got the immediate heave ho.
Why can the Niners act decisively with Robinson and not with McDonald?
Because the 49ers don’t need Ted Robinson. They don’t need him to win a game. He’s irrelevant. A mere media guy. A friend of mine used to call the play-by-play guy the “lead tonsil.” Jed York can get all the tonsils he wants. For two games — no sweat.
The 49ers can afford to go full moral, to take the high road, when nothing is at stake, when they face no real-world consequences — i.e. possibly losing a game without a key player. The Niners feel free to remind us of their high standards for conduct when those standards don’t affect them where it hurts.
An important note: I am not putting down Marathe. He is an exemplary person, an admirable person. He did right to suspend Robinson, and Robinson agrees. Here is Robinson’s statement:
“I want to unconditionally apologize for my comments the other day. As a professional communicator, I am responsible for my words. My choice of words was careless and does not reflect my true feelings about domestic violence. I understand that the cycle of abuse keeps people in unhealthy relationships. No blame or responsibility for domestic violence should ever be placed on a victim.”
So, here’s the sad conclusion to this messy little announcer story. I believe Ted Robinson learned something and will grow from this sad event. I believe we all will. I really do.
Will the Niners grow?
Don’t be so sure.
For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at firstname.lastname@example.org.