I am a lifelong lover of football. I’ve been a loyal fan of the Dallas Cowboys since I was old enough to enjoy watching with my father. What I’ve seen lately in the NFL sickens me, and I suppose it’s always happened, but with the explosive amount of recent media coverage, it’s just so hard to deny that we give NFL players a pass when it comes to their harmful behavior.
In the past weeks, we’ve watched the NFL scramble to recover the fumbles of multiple players, including Ray Rice (Baltimore Ravens) and Adrian Peterson (Minnesota Vikings). The offenses these men committed consisted of a great deal more than a false start or unnecessary roughness. If it were only as simple as the written rules of American football, the penalties would have been easily defined. However, these crimes occurred beyond the boundaries of the field, moving into the arena of everyday life.
Ray Rice has admitted to, and was caught on surveillance, beating down his then fiancée, and dragging her from an elevator. The NFL, which won’t so much as allow a player to partake in “roughing the kicker” decided that this act of domestic violence was initially only worthy of a two game suspension. When the video went viral, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell denied knowing that Rice had actually beaten his now wife, Janay Palmer (Rice), citing he believed Rice only slapped her. Pressured by the media and public response, Rice was suspended indefinitely, though he is reportedly appealing that decision via the player’s union based on the fact he’s “being punished twice for one offense.”
Some feel pity for Rice’s plight of double punishment, but most of us are still astounded that the NFL thought it was acceptable for Rice to abuse his fiancée so long as he only slapped her around. When the biggest celebrity gossip source in the country decides to make this video public, all we are left to think is that even a trashy tabloid can see the horrible flaw in the conduct of the NFL.
Of course, Goodell says he never had access to the video prior to its recent TMZ release, but there is documented proof that he had the video in April. Not exactly a commissioner concerned with a pro-active stance against domestic violence.
The ironic part of all this is this is the year the NFL has actively attempted to pull in a greater female fan base with a more diverse media campaign. A fan base, which has always existed but is only now being recognized. Goodell says he “didn’t get it right” in handling the Rice case, and I can’t disagree. The NFL cannot expect to celebrate their female fans while allowing a player to beat his fiancée unconscious in an elevator, punishing him only with a two game suspension.
It’s sad enough that this abused woman married her abuser the very day after his indictment, and that all his criminal charges were dropped. But for the NFL to effectively tell the world that their player’s careers are more important than the safety and lives of women is revolting. Unfortunately, the NFL seemingly has an epidemic of domestic violence on its hands.
There have been a string of NFL players within the past few weeks suspended for domestic violence: Jonathan Dwyer (Arizona Cardinals), Greg Hardy (Carolina Panthers), and Ray McDonald (San Francisco 49ers). These men were all accused of abusing their girlfriends or wives in some manner, and were all given a minimum six game ban. Six games for abusing a woman while millions of men and boys idolize you? Excuse me while I vomit. Another man, Adrian Peterson of Minnesota Vikings fame, was just accused of child abuse, making the world question the fact we might not only be allowing violence, but breeding it.
Peterson has apologized for his actions from one side of his mouth while justifying them out the other side with the old argument that he’s just disciplining his child as he, himself, was disciplined. This statement only points to the cyclical system of abuse. He doesn’t even really think he did anything wrong, and to be honest, with a media who will downplay this as “spanking” rather than abuse, why would he know better?
In both instances someone is standing behind these abusers protecting them from the truth of their actions. Whether it be the NFL or the media, there are those who will continue to forgive the sins of these men because they entertain us. Meanwhile, those protecting these abusive men expose the victims to abuse and blame. “Palmer must have done something to make Rice so angry.” “Peterson’s kid probably deserved that whipping.” These are the phrases of those who still cannot come to terms with the reality that these men were violent abusers of women and children. Abuse, then, is something not only the NFL will overlook, but apparently, an entire nation.
Am I asking the NFL to reach deep into the private lives of players as some people have suggested? I don’t think so because, based on the recent issues with NFL Cheerleaders, the hands of the NFL already reaches into places they never belong, including subjecting them to “jiggle” tests, pointing directly to the way the NFL sexualizes, objectifies, and dismisses women. Paired with the treatment of openly gay player Michael Sam, we can easily see the lengths the NFL will reach into the lives of players. So, to ask them to be accountable–to hold players accountable, for their actions isn’t asking much at all. They’re willingness to downplay these instances only points to the fact they are an industry with little to no respect for anyone who doesn’t identify as a straight male, and it’s this mentality that kills women,children, and LGBTQ people everyday.
I will never forget the mortified face of Janay Palmer (Rice) at the press conference attended by both her and her husband. As Rice spoke of being forced to relive a “mistake they both regretted”, I couldn’t help but notice it was she who wore a look of embarrassment, sorrow and fear. She said she “regretted the role she played in the incident that night,” apparently still blaming herself for the abuse.But he used the words so many abusers use to manipulate their partners into staying: the counseling worked. The face of Janay Palmer (Rice) was the face I’ve seen in the mirror too many times. The eyes that stared back at me said “you better make this right, or there will be hell to pay later”. What her face also said to me was that it is time to hold abusers accountable instead of allowing them to continue to hurt us, even if it costs the NFL valuable assets.
Are human lives not more valuable than a Sunday afternoon of sports?
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!