Ahmad Brooks

49ers legal troubles: Ted Robinson cites domestic violence among African Americans – “It is a societal problem, not just football.”

49ers Vernon Davis Ted Robinson Patrick Willis

The following exchange was heard on KNBR’s airwaves on Aug. 27 between Larry Krueger and Ted Robinson.

Krueger: I get the question, you probably get these questions as well. And they’re tough questions to answer. The question is, what hand do the 49ers have in this, or what responsibility do they bear to have total accountability for the actions of the players who reside on their roster? Or do you look at this and say this is part of a larger societal issue?

They’ve had more instances of guys running afoul of the law than other teams for the moment. But if you look at things over a 20- or a 25-year period, I don’t know if you can say the 49ers have lawlessness on their side as far as their players’ actions are concerned compared to other teams in the league. How do you weigh in on what responsibility do the 49ers need to take for the sheer number of guys on their roster that have gotten in trouble?

Robinson: Yeah Larry, that is the magic question. And I can speak with some background knowledge on this subject. I think both areas you addressed are true. There is responsibility. When you’re an employer and you have employees, there is some responsibility for every employer in every business. This one is the highest of profiles.

As statistics clearly show — which I can speak to intelligently — there is a majority of domestic violence issues that arise with African American men against African American women. Why that is an issue, that’s not relevant to this genre of sports talk. But that’s fact. So now, you do have responsibility. It is a societal problem, not just football. So both of those areas are true.

I think we all come back to the point that the employer’s responsibility is how you deal with it once it occurs. You can’t prevent; these are adults, you can’t prevent them from acting in their homes, on their time, in those manners. How you act once it’s happened is the standard. And personally, I think the 49ers have set that standard now with the decisions with Ray McDonald and Aldon Smith. And personally, I hope that continues. I think virtually anybody that cares about … gosh, after the backdrop of what happened yesterday, something horrific in Virginia. I think at some point we all in society need to stand up and just say enough, enough. This is not nearly as tragic as what happened yesterday, but at some point I think everybody just has to stand up and say we’ve had it. This is enough. Howard Beale.


I won’t dispute Robinson’s claim that African American women endure domestic violence at higher rates than any other race/gender, although other factors (like income, for instance) may be at play. Yet it’s possible Robinson’s take was influenced by “Why Black Women Struggle More With Domestic Violence,” a story @FeministaJones wrote for Time.com:

And for Black women, it’s an even bigger problem: Black women are almost three times as likely to experience death as a result of DV/IPV than White women. And while Black women only make up 8% of the population, 22% of homicides that result from DV/IPV happen to Black Women and 29% of all victimized women, making it one of the leading causes of death for Black women ages 15 to 35. Statistically, we experience sexual assault and DV/IPV at disproportionate rates and have the highest rates of intra-racial violence against us than any other group. We are also less likely to report or seek help when we are victimized.

However, how are these “statistics,” which Robinson failed to explain in clear terms, relevant when it comes to the 49ers?

— The woman who accused Ray McDonald of rape and Ahmad Brooks of sexual battery is white.

— Aldon Smith got in trouble with the law five times as a member of the 49ers, but he was never accused of domestic violence.

— Bruce Miller was arrested in March and charged with spousal battery. He later was charged with misdemeanor vandalism, and ultimately pleaded no contest to a disturbing the peace charge.

— Jerome Simpson’s scrapes with the law came before he joined the 49ers, and none of his incidents were violence-related.

Robinson was suspended for two weeks by the 49ers and the Pac-12 Network for comments he made about Ray Rice, specifically Janay’s “pathetic” decision to stay with him. After those two weeks were over, Robinson went on KNBR and spoke about what he had learned:

“And I’ve got to tell you something, it’s been the most educational experience I would’ve ever envisioned. The things I’ve learned from colleagues and friends who’ve shared their personal stories about an incredibly sensitive topic, the education I received spending hours last week talking to a professional, someone who spent her career working with victims, both children and adults, actually, of abuse, and learning how powerful this subject is and how many different reasons there are for people to react the way they do.”

This seems like a case where Robinson wanted to let the audience know he’s done the legwork when it comes to educating himself about society’s domestic violence problem. That, and Robinson’s desire to educate the audience on how the 49ers “have set that standard now,” could’ve led to his response to Krueger’s question.

Robinson has also mentioned several times since Chris Borland’s retirement that the sport of football, and the NFL by extension, is “under attack.” Based on what he said to Krueger, it would appear that Robinson believes the Ray Rice case (and possibly McDonald’s domestic violence arrests over the past year-plus, stemming from conflicts with his girlfriend) shows the NFL has been dragged into this “societal problem” of African American domestic violence.

It’d be understandable if Robinson still had the Rice case is still on his brain, considering what happened last year. However, his decision to place the 49ers’ recent rash of off-the-field incidents under the “African American men against African American women” umbrella is both a curious decision on his part, and an incomplete portrayal of what has happened.

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