CBS begins its Thursday night primetime NFL package with the Ravens-Steelers game, and its choice for the opening musical sequence generated even more buzz than expected.
In the same way that the old Monday Night Football on ABC had Hank Williams Jr., and NBC's Sunday Night Football had Faith Hill and now Carrie Underwood, CBS tapped Rihanna and Jay-Z to perform at the top of the telecast each week. The song will be Run This Town.
But it won't happen this week. CBS decided Thursday to pull the segment with Rihanna and Jay-Z for this game. Why? Consider this extraordinary dynamic:
The game is in Baltimore, and the biggest sports story this week has been the video of former Ravens running back Ray Rice punching out his then-fiance in an elevator.
Rihanna was the victim of domestic abuse in 2009 when her boyfriend at the time, Chris Brown, assaulted her.
Jay-Z was attacked in a hotel elevator by a woman in May. His sister-in-law, Solange Knowles, kicked and slapped Jay-Z and swatted him with her purse. He got his hands up to protect himself, but he does not strike back:
Call it coincidence. Call it unfortunate timing. It is just impossible to overlook the way that the backstories of Rice, Rihanna and Jay-Z cross over.
"It's important to realize we are not overreacting to this story but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL," CBS Sports chairman Sean McManus told SI.com about the decision to shelve the Rihanna/Jay-Z spot. "We thought journalistically and from a tone standpoint, we needed to have the appropriate tone and coverage. A lot of the production elements we wanted in the show are being eliminated because of time or tone."
Rice knocked out Janay Palmer in the elevator of a casino in Atlantic City, N.J., on Feb. 15. Video of Rice dragging her out of the elevator surfaced just days later.
The second video showing Rice's punch is ghastly enough, but when contrasted to the Jay-Z elevator footage, it only underscores the point that President Obama made in a White House statement on this matter: "Hitting a woman is not something a real man does."
Another intriguing twist is that in March the NFL Competition Committee debated whether the league should penalize players who utter the n-word on the field.
The original version of Run This Town includes it along with other expletives and R-rated content.
Rihanna is reportedly a finalist, along with Katy Perry and Coldplay, to perform at halftime of the Super Bowl this season. She held a concert for the NFL in the week before Super Bowl XLIII in 2009.