EDITORIAL: NFL’s greatest fumble is not on field
League draws sharp criticisms for how it handles domestic violence
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. From Argentina to New Brunswick, rallies have taken place to condemn violence against women. On Oct. 19, thousands marched in 80 Argentine cities and 58 other cities around the world to rebuke the rape and murder of an Argentine girl as well as the likelihood that this instance may happen again to another victim. This past Sunday, dozens of students and New Brunswick residents marched throughout the city in bridal gowns to promulgate an important message: Domestic violence has no place in this community.
As critical and pervasive this message may be, there’s an institution that doesn’t get it — the National Football League (NFL). FiveThirtyEight’s Benjamin Morris used statistics from federal data to measure the league’s domestic violence arrest rate against the general American male population, ages 25 to 29, and he found that domestic violence accounts for an astonishing 48 percent of arrests for violent crimes among football players, compared to 21 percent among non-football players. Moreover, in 2015, eight NFL players were arrested in suspicion of violently assaulting women, which is an increase from five in 2014, and half of those athletes still play in the league. The NFL clearly has a domestic violence problem.
Testosterone-fueled aggression on the field may spill over off the field, but that’s still no excuse to punch, kick, slap or attack a woman — or any other human being. It doesn’t matter how angry you are, there is no excuse to beat your partner. But the NFL excuses it, thereby allowing it to continue.
After Rutgers alumnus and Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice’s scandal in 2014, it seemed like the NFL implemented tougher punishments for domestic abuse, but now we can see that it’s all talk and no walk.
In 2014 the NFL created policy that allows for disciplinary actions whether or not there are criminal charges. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell wrote the following letter to team owners the year of the controversy: "Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force, will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors as well as longer suspension when circumstances warrant.” Then in August of 2016, the NFL announced that Giants kicker Josh Brown violated that conducted and he was subsequently suspended — for one game and with pay.
The way the NFL addressed this issue was heinous, to say the least. It vowed to apply harsher punishments a few years ago, and when it came time to act they looked the other way. Brown’s case demonstrates the league’s priority and how much it truly values women. Two football players, on separate occasions, celebrated their touchdowns, and apparently that’s a terribly indecent act, so the NFL slapped them with a $12,000 fine. But if you terrorize your wife on 20 different occasions like Brown did, you still get paid. Is deflating a football or testing positive for drug use a more serious offense than attacking your wife? With that you get a four-game suspension, in contrast to a one-game suspension. Why does a bruised leg or a black eye matter anyway? The NFL definitely knew about his issue months ago, and maybe way longer than that, but it wasn’t until the league recently drew sharp criticisms that they were pressured to fire him this week.
The fact that women have to live with knowledge and constant fear that they can be subject to random, unprovoked attacks without institutional protection and accountability shows that gender-equality doesn’t exist. As long as an powerful and culturally significant organization like the NFL disrespects and fails to value women’s safety, then it shows that more progress still needs to be made.
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