There’s no other way to parse it.

Last night’s domestic violence discussion on Monday Night Football was abjectly horrifying.

Sometime during the fourth quarter, with a competitive game still going on, the crew brought up the Redskins’ decision to claim Reuben Foster off of waivers following his release from San Francisco after another DV arrest. That led to a sort of clunky non-diatribe from Jason Witten, which was picked up by Booger McFarland and carried through several possessions that included an Eagles interception.

Going through the broadcast again, I came up with eight reasons why they totally missed the mark:

  1. A conversation about domestic violence needs to have female voices. You can’t have a discussion about the topic featuring two men.
  2. This topic requires time, nuance, and detail, and you can’t do any that when you shove it into a three-minute window during the fourth quarter of a football game.
  3. People aren’t paying attention to the words when they’re focused on the football game, so even if you make some valid points, they are just going in one ear and out the other.
  4. The discussion was ultimately counterproductive because it felt awkward, hurried, and forced, almost like a public service announcement rather than anything truly sincere. It felt like they were just covering their bases.
  5. They didn’t say anything interesting. They didn’t move the conversation forward. They basically took a stand on something that 95% of people agree with. You’re not exactly going out on a limb when you say, “I don’t think a man should ever hit a woman.”
  6. From a television production standpoint, you have dedicated 5-7 minute blocks during the pregame and halftime shows where you can devote the necessary time to this topic. The broadcast producers and director, or whoever was in charge of the show rundown, really blew it. If you wanted a serious discussion on Reuben Foster, you could have done it on a halftime or pregame panel with a diverse crew, rather than putting the onus on two color commentators to talk about a complicated subject.
  7. ESPN literally does 18 hours a day of First Take and Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn and various other discussion shows where you can dedicate infinite amounts of time to these topics.
  8. Reuben Foster is on the commissioner’s exemption list. He’s not on the Washington roster and probably won’t play this year. He might not ever play for the Redskins.

Expanding on bullet point #4, I think you have a faction of people out there who say something like this:

“Yeah, well, how are we supposed to get people to take the topic seriously? Maybe you need to bring it up in the middle of the game to force their attention.”

I get that, but I still think it’s counterproductive, because you risk annoying them and probably pushing them even further away from the subject. Picture 49-year-old Joe Schmoe watching the game with a beer in hand. He’s alright with signing Reuben Foster and maybe Kareem Hunt. He’s a “just let me watch football” type of guy. Do you really think you’re going to get him to seriously consider domestic violence when you interrupt his football game to start talking about it?

There’s a thin line to walk when bringing a key topic to the forefront, because “stick to sports” people are gonna be quick to reach for the remote and hit the mute button. You have to truly consider the approach.

The other issue is that Jason Witten, who has a history of domestic violence in his family and probably actually can speak on the topic with authority, looks like a hypocrite because of comments he made when the Cowboys signed ex-teammate Greg Hardy:

Yeah, Witten didn’t really have much of a choice back then. He didn’t sign Greg Hardy, but he talked about welcoming these kinds of players and left the door open to a guy working to improve himself and his situation. He played the good teammate card, and that’s fine, but it’s then incongruous to rip Washington for claiming Reuben Foster in a similar situation.

The problem again goes back to ESPN producers, who should have seen this coming when/if the Foster topic was broached. That’s part of the pregame preparation that you’re required to do, to consider all possibilities and look for conflicts. If anything, producers should have found a way to get the Hardy topic in there to nip the hypocrisy angle in the bud. They didn’t do that, and now it’s all over social media. One of the first rules of being a producer or director is that you have to protect your talent, especially nascent talent.

My biggest takeaway is that I think they marginalized an important topic because they didn’t address it correctly. They didn’t give it the proper time. They didn’t place it correctly in the rundown. They didn’t have the right people talking about it.

If you’re gonna tackle a difficult issue, you have to get it right, because last night was a counterproductive train wreck.