It’s Time the NFL Takes a Stand

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I love football. I’m not sure exactly why but I just do. It probably has something to do with being raised in a small rural northern Michigan football town and having a family loyal to college football and torn between being a fan of the Detroit Lions or Green Bay. But here I am, a feminist who loves to watch football.

As a woman, I should feel right at home with the NFL. They love women right? I mean look at how nicely they have adopted the use of pink in all of their October games, demonstrating their concern over breast cancer by wearing pink shoes, pink gloves, and pink ribbons everywhere. So of course they love women. They especially love all the women who buy all of the pink themed NFL jerseys and other merchandise, helping the NFL stuff their pockets with green.

They love women so much that they suspended Ray Rice for two whole games, after he was caught on tape dragging his girlfriend out of an elevator after punching her. Two whole games! Thank goodness it wasn’t any longer than that, he might miss out on wearing pink in October.

According to UT-San Diego, 21 out of 32 NFL teams employee at least one player that has a domestic or sexual violence charge, arrest or conviction. And this number could certainly be higher as the data is only pulled from known reported cases and we know that not every case of domestic or sexual violence is reported. The NFL has suspended players for significantly more time (some an entire season) for marijuana use, use of banned drugs, DUI’s, etc. Heck even an illegal tackle during a game of a fully helmeted and padded player will fetch you a suspension of two games or more. Maybe the statement by Rice’s coach, John Harbaugh, sums it up best, “It’s not a big deal, I stand behind Ray. He’s a heck of a guy. He’s done everything right since.”

Domestic violence is a big deal. When at least 25% of women are victimized by such violence, it is a big deal. Just picture an NFL stadium and the thousands and thousands of women filling those stands, more than 25% of them have had a Ray Rice, “not a big deal” violent incident.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell in handing down Rice’s punishment wrote, “The league is an entity that depends on integrity and in the confidence of the public, and we simply cannot tolerate conduct that endangers others or reflects negatively on our game. This is particularly true with respect to domestic violence.” The one thing that I am confident about – the NFL doesn’t want to hold its players accountable for domestic violence. I guess no lessons were learned from the murder/suicide of Jovan Belcher.

HAVEN has had the good fortune of having a 20+ year relationship with the Detroit Lions, serving as it’s “Courage House”. During our relationship we have had many discussions, frustrations and disappointments regarding the handling of domestic and sexual violence cases by the team and/or NFL. But we are thankful for the platform this relationship has afforded us, an opportunity to routinely educate Lions’ personnel, players, and fans about the crimes of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse. We recognize that many of the players are our biggest allies and are sincere about using their celebrity status to elevate awareness.

So if the NFL isn’t ready to hold individual players accountable for their actions, it can start by holding themselves accountable to bring stronger awareness about the epidemic of violence against women in our culture. Maybe they can join companies such Verizon, Liz Claiborne, and others who are willing to take a stand putting their philanthropic priorities and their policies to work.
As Fox Sports 1 analyst Scott Fujita, stated on Twitter, “The message to my wife & 3 daughters today? The business that’s been such a big part of our life, really doesn’t give a f**k about you.”

Commissioner Goodell, drowning us women in a sea of pink, just doesn’t cut it. Prove to Scott Fujita and the rest of us that the NFL really does care. Sign the petition here calling on the NFL to implement harsher punishments for players involved in incidents of violence against women. 

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