Football allowed us to gather together. I loved the energy, and the plays. I admired the athletes who possessed amazing ability and character, or so I thought. In the mind of a young girl making it to the NFL meant that you had to be truly exceptional. The news has been filled with the NFL’s decision to indefinitely suspend Ray Rice from professional football after TMZ released the video tape of him punching his then fiancée, now wife, in the face. Outrage spread far and wide upon seeing the act of violence occur. The public was furious with the NFL for its lack of diligence in pursuing an appropriate investigation into the matter. Did we really need to see the second video to know that the NFL had epically failed to act appropriately in this situation? Wasn’t the first video of Rice dragging Janay’s unconscious body out of the elevator enough? Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell admitted that the NFL “didn’t get it right” in issuing the 2 game suspension and later went on to say that you didn’t need to see the second video to understand that something very wrong had occurred in that elevator. Therefore, any argument for not indefinitely suspending Rice at the outset falls flat on its face.
Rice clearly was exceptional in a very wrong way and so was the NFL by glossing over the epidemic issue of domestic violence in the United States. The statistics are staggering. The National Coalition of Domestic Violence reports that 1 in every 4 women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. It affects individuals regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background. An estimated 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year, and most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police.
The NFL is one smooth money maker. Last year it recorded over $9 billion in sales. However, profit should not be at the expense of women. Aside from the fact that domestic violence is a revolting crime surely the NFL must look at the 80 million women comprising 45 percent of its fan base. Women make as much as 70 percent of consumer decisions as primary shoppers for their families. Moreover, domestic violence prevention is not an exclusive gender issue. Real men understand right from wrong and should not support an organization that brushes harm under the table. Men have mothers, wives, sisters and daughters who should not live with physical and emotional intimidation. This is really a no-brainer and seeing it on film does not make it any more real. It only documents the act.
The NFL needs to take a stand on domestic violence now – whether it is to preserve its bottom line and/or because it understands the devastating ramifications of domestic violence and clearly wants to advocate against it. Professional football players are role models and their choices impact more than themselves. Video proof should not be the basis of NFL suspensions. What will happen with Ray McDonald and Greg Hardy, two players currently accused of domestic violence? Will teams understand the importance of taking a stand? Domestic violence allegations are in no way new to the NFL. The Ravens still have Terell Suggs on their roster. Suggs’ girlfriend (now wife), Candace Williams, claimed in a protective order filed in 2012, that Suggs punched her in the neck and drove a car containing their two children at a “high rate of speed” while she was being dragged alongside it. I do not need a video to visualize the heinousness of this crime.
Before I’m ready for some football I’m waiting for the NFL to act to support women not only as consumers but as equal players in terms of deserving freedom from physical injury and psychological trauma. This should not be a difficult decision for them to make. It is time for the NFL to take a stand against domestic violence whether you and I have seen a video or not.