The CBS Sports Minute is a collection of daily sixty-second commentaries from CBS personalities that air at the top of each hour weekdays from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on almost 120 radio affiliates. But while those commentaries feature some prominent names and are broadcast widely, it’s a bit unusual to see them generating significant discussion. That happened Tuesday with one from Boomer Esiason, though; one of the five commentaries from him Tuesday discussed Ray Rice, with the hook that it was Rice’s birthday, and that got some attention on Twitter from people like Funhouse:
Boomer Esiason gives a nice birthday shout-out to Ray Rice. Hopefully Boomer remembers O.J. Simpson's birthday in July. pic.twitter.com/kOsCJSCAcl
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) January 22, 2019
That led to a lot of people yelling at Funhouse that O.J. is worse than Rice, but that’s not really the point from a media perspective. It’s more interesting that Esiason would choose to spotlight Ray Rice’s birthday as a significant thing in the world of sports, one worth looking back at, and that he would choose to wish Rice a happy birthday in a widely-played radio segment.
Of course, this segment isn’t just a straight promotion of Rice. Esiason mentions Rice’s on-field accomplishments, but spends more time talking about the incident where Rice knocked his then-fiancee out in an elevator, which eventually saw him kicked out of the NFL once that footage emerged. Esiason then discussed how Rice has since said he deserved that punishment, how he thinks the NFL is “doing the work to help protect against domestic violence” and how he’s offered to work with Kareem Hunt (released last fall after video of his assault on a woman emerged). But using Rice’s birthday as a reason to bring this up is curious, as most birthday mentions tend to be about positively-thought-of figures. And wishing Rice a happy birthday to conclude this feels like a somewhat controversial move, given that he’s anything but widely loved.
It’s also worth noting that the clip title on the CBS Sports Minute website is just “1-22 Boomer Esiason CBS Sports Minute on Ray Rice: Boomer gives a birthday shout-out to this former NFL All-Pro running back.” Yes, if you actually listen to the clip, it’s more nuanced than that, but the headline suggests something not great. And really, it’s the birthday connection that’s particularly odd here; Esiason doesn’t really opine on the Rice case or the Hunt case, only mentioning what happened and Rice’s own comments, and if this wasn’t tied to Rice’s birthday, it probably wouldn’t have been noticed.
But “Happy birthday, Ray Rice” is a curious statement to make, and it’s probably not the best entry point to a discussion around the NFL and violence against women. If Esiason had waited until there was some news on Hunt and then said most of these same things, it wouldn’t have gotten much attention, but bringing this up in the context of Rice’s birthday feels strange. There are probably better ways to discuss problematic athletes than by sending them birthday wishes.