While the network may have been peeved at Rihanna’s reaction, this is a terrible decision. The Ray Rice controversy blew up not just because of the video, but also because the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL initially portrayed domestic violence as a couple’s mutual responsibility, instead of holding the abuser solely responsible. By cutting Rihanna’s song in part because she got beat up by her now-ex Chris Brown in 2009, CBS is treating yet another victim like she’s the problem here. The move is also troubling because it suggests that no matter how many records she sells or where she goes with her career, in many people’s eyes (such as those of CBS executives), Rihanna is defined by someone else’s choice to attack her.
Rihanna is exactly the person to put up front if you want to show that you are supporting victims of domestic violence. Sure, she is a flawed person, as we all are, and it was hard watching her struggle so publicly to free herself of a relationship with Brown. But Rihanna is also an example for women who are currently trying to escape the vortex of domestic violence, showing that, while it may be difficult, it can be done. You can escape. You can thrive.
Most importantly, changing the music that runs before games as a way to address the NFL’s domestic violence problem is a joke—an empty symbolic gesture, which in this case, sends the exact opposite message presumably intended. But hey, at least Chris Brown’s new record stinks.