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‘Game of Thrones’ sees rising unease over rape’s role in plot

From its very beginnings, “Game of Thrones,” has been riddled with sexual brutality. The franchise, which started as a series of fantasy novels by George R.R. Martin about a bleak, feudal world, has at various times included a warrior king who claims his child bride on their wedding night and the gang rape of a young woman by “half a hundred shouting men behind a tanner’s shop.”

These scenes and others raised concerns, but this discussion was confined to readers and critics of fantasy fiction.

Now the debate about the series’ sexual violence has spilled into the mainstream and grown vehement, fueled by the explosive growth of HBO’s “Game of Thrones” series. In its fourth season, the show, which airs Sunday nights, averages more than 14 million viewers and has become the cable network’s most watched series since “The Sopranos.”

In the latest episode, women held captive in a wintry shelter are sexually brutalized. In the deeply controversial episode that preceded it, a scheming noblewoman in an incestuous relationship with her brother is forced to have sex with him, despite her cries of no.

Rape is often presented in television plot lines, where it has far-reaching and lasting consequences for the affected characters. But critics of “Game of Thrones” fear that rape has become so pervasive in the drama that it is almost background noise — a routine and unshocking occurrence.

—Dave Itzkoff, The New York Times

Poll finds wide support for Sterling penalties

As the fallout continues from the disclosure of racist remarks made by Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, a national New York Times/CBS News poll showed that while there is wide support for the actions taken by the NBA, there are deep racial divisions among basketball fans.

Sixty-five percent said the decision by Commissioner Adam Silver to bar Sterling from the league for life and fine him $2.5 million was an appropriate response to his racist comments, which were made public last weekend. Overall, 21 percent said the league had been too punitive and 10 percent considered Sterling’s penalty too lenient.

Six in 10 black fans think racist beliefs such as those expressed by Sterling are prevalent among team owners in professional sports; only 19 percent of white fans agree.

“I would say that most of these white owners are older and carrying prejudices that stem from their upbringing,” Solomon Kassa, 26, a doctor originally from Ethiopia now living in Boston, said in a follow-up interview. “That generation inherited their superiority complex and racist attitudes. I’m not saying it’s in all of them, but it’s in some of them.”

At the same time, the public regards race relations in the United States as generally good. Again, the views of whites and blacks diverge. Most whites, 60 percent, view race relations in a positive light; 46 percent of black consider race relations good. In a CBS News poll conducted in March — before the earlier news media storm regarding racist statements made by Cliven Bundy, a rancher in Nevada — an equal number of whites called race relations good, but blacks were slightly more positive then, 55 percent describing race relations as good.

Some have contended that Sterling’s privacy had been invaded when the surreptitiously taped conversation was disclosed on the TMZ website. Overall, 54 percent said his punishment was acceptable, while 43 percent said he should not be punished for statements made in private. White fans were split: 48 percent said it was appropriate, 47 percent disagreed.

“They’re clearly setting themselves up for a zero-tolerance policy for this kind of speech, whether you say it u

—Marjorie Connelly, The New York Times