ESPN's Hannah Storm delivered an emotional monologue at the end of Sunday's "SportsCenter" questioning how the NFL's handling of domestic violence cases involving its players affects the league's female fans like her.
"On Monday, I was genuinely excited to come to work and break down what I thought was a fascinating first weekend in the NFL," Storm, who described herself as a "lifelong" NFL fan, began. "Instead I kicked off ESPN's coverage of the horrific Ray Rice elevator video."
Storm, a 52-year-old mother of three daughters, said one of them is participating in her first fantasy football league this season.
"At breakfast this week, instead of discussing how her team was doing, we watched the Ray Rice video play out again in all of its ugliness," Storm said, holding back tears. "I spent this week answering seemingly impossible questions about the league's biggest stars. 'Mom, why did he do that? Why isn't he in jail? Why didn't he get fired?' And yesterday, 'Why don't they even have control of their own players?'
"So here's a question," she continued. "What does all of this mean for the future? What does it mean for female fans, whose dollars are so coveted by the NFL, who make up an estimated 45 percent of the NFL's fanbase? Are fans and are families, are we as parents supposed to compartmentalize everything that's happening? Are we supposed to simply separate a violent game on the field from violent acts off the field? And if we do, what message does that send?"
Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, was indicted in March by a grand jury on third-degree aggravated assault after video surfaced showing the aftermath of an assault on his then-fiancée, Janay Palmer, but the charges were later dropped. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Rice for two games for the incident.
Last week, TMZ released surveillance video showing Rice knocking Palmer unconscious inside an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice was subsequently released by the Ravens, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Goodell said at the time that the league had not seen the elevator video, but media reports by The Associated Press and ESPN contradicted his account.
"In the NFL, apparently seeing is believing," Storm said. "If the NFL and the Ravens had to see that video to be moved to significant action, then shouldn't those who support the league demand the same? To see action? To see change before believing, as we all wait on the answer to the central question: What exactly does the NFL stand for?"
Storm wasn't the only ESPN broadcaster to get emotional on the air.
Cris Carter, ESPN analyst and former Minnesota Vikings receiver, gave a passionate assessment of the child abuse case involving Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who was deactivated for Sunday's game in light of charges that he beat his son.
"The only thing I am proud about is the team that I played for, they did the right thing," Carter said. "Take him off the field. ... As a man, that's the only thing we really respect. We don't respect no dang women. We don't respect no kids. The only thing Roger [Goodell] and them can do ... take them off the dang field."