Domestic Violence in the NFL
On Saturday night, SNL’s former host Seth Meyers took shots at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during the 2015 NFL Honors ceremony. It was not the first time the Late Night host has used his comedic talents to call out Goodell. “I know this is obvious, but it’s a pretty bad sign when the face of the NFL can’t show his face,” Meyers said in reference to Goodell’s decision to refrain from attending the season’s first game in San Francisco. Dubbed as the ‘worst commissioner’ in NFL history, Goodell’s legacy will be tarnished by an inability to effectively address the rising domestic violence epidemic among NFL members.
Domestic Violence in the NFL
The daunting statistics speak for themselves. One in four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, and in 2012, 21 of 32 NFL teams had a player with a domestic violence or sexual assault record. We were floored, heartbroken, and disgusted by the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking his fiance (now wife) Janay Rice unconscious. And we were just as shattered to hear about Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s child abuse revelation.
The NFL, an organization that purports to be the face of American athleticism, and Goodell in particular, have done little to attack this mounting societal problem. In 2008, when Broncos wide receiver Brandon Marshall was acquitted for his alleged assault on Rasheeda Whatley (despite horrifying images inculcating Marshall), Goodell reduced his meek three-game suspension to one game on appeal — two years later, Marshall was accused of punching a woman in a nightclub.
The Super Bowl
At the very least, Super Bowl XLIX featured an eerie anti-domestic violence commercial based on a real 911 called received a decade ago in Oregon. A mere 30 seconds does little beyond holding its viewer’s short-lived gaze. The PSA does not change the NFL’s record of coverups and mishandling of domestic violence that haunts the league.
The Super Bowl will forever be a staple of American culture. Football fans will drink beers and shout at their television screens, getting into the spirit of a game they love. It will continue to lure in more than 100 million viewers well into the future and the NFL will continue to rake in billions. But at what expense?
“When it’s hard to talk, it’s up to us to listen,” the commercial urges. The league will likely receive accolades for issuing a troubling commercial that beckons viewers to ‘listen’ to the plight of domestic violence victims while the NFL is in a position to do much more. It has failed to condemn abuse of all forms, and made it easy for players to be absolved of their severe wrongdoings, crimes.
The commercial is a decent first attempt to bring to light this tragic reality, but in essence, that is all it really is, an attempt. The NFL can never reverse its poor record of handling domestic violence cases, but it can certainly be a leader in the fight against abuse going forward, and it must do so for the sake of more than 12 million victims.