I haven’t commented publicly about the whole Mike Ribeiro thing. That has been for a number of reasons, but my silence has been an uncomfortable one. It’s over now.
I firmly believe that the Nashville Predators are within their rights to suspend a player while they investigate whether he committed a heinous act. As more than one person has noted, it would not be some great miscarriage of justice. They are a private enterprise and he is an employee with a high public profile. I firmly believe that it is—or used to be—within their character to understand that higher principles come first.
As a Predators fan and a survivor of domestic violence and rape, I am angry and ashamed to have Mike Ribeiro on the active roster. It’s a betrayal, a punch in my face and I’ve had quite enough of those to last a lifetime. The Predators care more about him than about me.
And it is a betrayal for the writers at On the Forecheck to have acted the way they have towards those who have critiqued their position. I am angry and ashamed over this as well. On the Forecheck has shown more interest in their damaged pride than in justice.
I don’t think the staff members there (or Dirk Hoag, for that matter) are malicious when it comes to these issues. Or at least I don’t think that they started out as malicious. By now, this has gone beyond its initial forms.
Instead they are entrenched in a system that rewards them in ways they are unable to relinquish. They are rewarded for being white, male, heterosexual, middle class, educated, and “clean cut.” They are what the system is designed to foster.
It is no surprise that even while acknowledging that the justice system is horribly, terribly broken, these men turn to it for sense and comfort. To do otherwise would be to admit to themselves that they’ve been participating in and benefitting from constant and never-redressed injustice against the most vulnerable. It would necessitate understanding their own guilt.
It would turn the entire world upside down.
The system that they claim should be left alone to produce justice will never produce justice. It is incapable of justice. It punishes victims for being abused. This is a system that gives zero protection to victims and massive protections to abusers. It is a system that has allowed TENS OF THOUSANDS of rape kits to go untested. TENS OF THOUSANDS of victims, mostly poor women and children of color, who have been told by this very system to fuck off.
This is a system that equates a man’s reputation with justice but not a woman’s safety. It is a system that bends over backwards not to inconvenience those accused, not to believe their accusers, not to hear the testimony or see the reality of abuse. It is a system that didn’t believe Ray Rice when he said he hit his wife until they actually saw him hit his wife.
Someone said to me that it would be unfair to Mike Ribeiro to damage his reputation because he might be innocent. I still don’t think that person understands the implication of that position. It requires preferring the virtual certainty of major injustice against a young woman in order to avoid inconveniencing a prominent man. It’s not a position any sane person would take in regards to any investigation that didn’t involve sexual or gendered violence.
“Thank you for reporting this theft. We will investigate this matter as fully as possible as long as no one in the general public finds out about our investigation. Once someone starts gossiping, though, we’ll have to stop because they might be innocent.”
Is this the ideal of justice we’re pursuing?
For any other species of wrongdoing we are willing to accept the necessary pains of investigation. For domestic and sexual violence, we demand that a man’s prospects never be diminished no matter the cost to the accuser, society, or the concept of justice.
This system will remain profoundly broken until we are willing to accept that fixing the system means not doing things the way we’ve always done them. It will mean accepting that those accused of domestic and sexual violence will have to undergo the same treatment as those accused of other kinds of wrongdoing. It will mean facing up to this case—this one right here in front of us right now.
And Dirk Hoag, the staff at On the Forecheck, and most importantly the Nashville Predators and the National Hockey League have all shown themselves completely unwilling to do that.