Tonight's Thursday Night Football game will feature the scandal ridden Baltimore Ravens versus the Pittsburgh Steelers. This will be the Ravens first game since running back Ray Rice was terminated from the team and indefinitely suspended from the NFL over a domestic violence incident. Usually, Thursday Night Football pre-game ceremonies jam-packed with primetime entertainment before the sports get going, but tonight's program under went some revision after that revelations of this week.
As Sports Illustrated reported, the original CBS Sports pregame show was set to feature music from Rihanna, an opening from Don Cheadle, and a comedy segment. That's all been canceled, as has the standard pre-game predictions from regular Thursday Night Football staffers. The selection of Rihanna was already heavily criticized since she is herself a former victim of domestic violence, and it has been known for months that Rice was meant to be suspended for this game.
Instead, it will be hosted by the news division's Norah O'Donnell, who interviewed NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell earlier this week. Her co-anchor will be James Brown, live from the Ravens home base of Baltimore. Though O'Donnell and Brown will host the show, Jody Battista from the NFL Network will offer insight into NFL headquarters, presumably a recap into Goodell's roller coaster week.
CBS says the decision to change the pregame show came straight from Sean McManus, CBS Sports Chairman.
McManus explained his decision to SI, "It’s important to realize we are not overreacting to this story, but it is as big a story as has faced the NFL. 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."
McManus was also careful to stress that the NFL did not pressure CBS executives to alter the pre-game show. Former FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III is conducting an independent investigation of the handling of the Ray Rice situation. The information from the investigation will be publicly available when completed. Goodell continues to stress he did not have access to the tape before making the decision to suspend Rice for only two games, but there are indication he had a lot more information he has been willing to admit.