The NFL's violence against women problem
Earlier this year, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested for the aggravated assault of Janay Palmer, his fiancee. The assault was especially newsworthy because video of Rice dragging an unconscious Palmer off an elevator went viral, but it’s hardly the only incident of violence against women involving NFL players.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has complete discretion in punishing players for violations of the league’s personal conduct policy. Yesterday, he gave Rice a two-game suspension and a $58,000 fine. His decision to dole out such a light punishment has sent shockwaves through the league and the media.
By suspending Rice for two games, a lighter sentence than players who smoke marijuana receive, the NFL’s leadership is sending a terrible message that violence against women doesn’t matter to the league.
Enough’s enough: Tell NFL Commissioner Goodell to take violence against women seriously.
Violence against women is an obvious, long-term problem facing the NFL.1 But as high-profile arrests of players for domestic violence and sexual assault continue, the league has done little or nothing. Most players involved in domestic violence incidents have received suspensions of one to three games. Commissioner Roger Goodell has issued longer suspensions for pot smoking, taking Adderall, DUI’s, illegal tattoos, and dogfighting.2
The commissioner has unilateral authority to punish people whose behavior is viewed as "detrimental to the welfare" of the league. But while players who are caught using marijuana or performance enhancing drugs are routinely issued serious punishments of four or more games, the NFL has consistently shied away from meaningful punishments for domestic abuse, sexual assault, and violence against women in general.
What does it tell young men and women about women's value when players receive harsher punishment for smoking pot than for violence against women? The “boys will be boys” culture that spawned the Steubenville tragedy and many a rape and abuse case in football programs around the country is reinforced by a ruling like this.
When the NFL fails to deal seriously with incidents of violence against women, it sends a message to every league employee and fan that violence against women is OK. Tell Commissioner Goodell it’s time for a change.
Thanks for standing up for women.
“Here’s What Happens When an NFL Player Beats His Fiancée Unconscious, Dave Zirin, The Nation, 07/24/2014.
“The NFL's Domestic Violence Problem,”Jane McManus, ESPNW, 07/24/2014.