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Dealing With Scandal: The NFL And Domestic Violence

Caitlin Plummer |
September 22, 2014 | 3:54 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

America’s favorite sport seems to have fallen into a dangerous pattern. Beginning with TMZ’s release of a video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancée, now-wife Janay Palmer, the National Football League has spiraled into a mess of violence and scandal. 

Within a week, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse and booked into a Texas jail, then released on a $15,000 bond. Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy sat out of the team’s home opener one day later. Disregarding JoJo’s immortal words of wisdom, Panthers coach Ron Rivera admitted Hardy’s punishment was for his convicted assault of his ex-girlfriend in July, stating the “climate has changed." Then three whole days passed before the Arizona Cardinals clenched their position in the spotlight when running back Jonathan Dwyer was charged with two accounts of aggravated assault against his wife and his 18-month-old child.

Less than two weeks before TMZ released the Rice video, the NFL announced a new, “stiffer” domestic violence policy as a result of the flak Goodell received for Rice’s two-game suspension in July. Although the policy seems to have been quite effective this season (read: not at all), Goodell is now ignoring calls for his resignation. He even generously hired three women to advise the NFL in developing its stance on domestic violence. (Hint: you shouldn't do it.)

Even more, although the NFL indefinitely suspended Rice after the video was released, the Players Association has filed an appeal hoping Rice will see the field again one day. Peterson was suspended for the game immediately after being charged and then he was allowed back on the field after one week. The Vikings recently said they “do not foresee Peterson in their future,” and have placed him on the Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission List, benching him until his legal case is complete. The Panthers and Cardinals similarly say Hardy and Dwyer will not be playing until their cases are resolved, but it seems the NFL is a lot better at handing out punishments than actually forcing the perpetrators to adhere to them.

Maybe the real scandal here is how the NFL is dealing with an issue as serious and clearly as relevant as domestic violence. When footage of Rice dragging his wife out of an elevator surfaced in July, he was suspended for two games. Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was suspended for a year in late August after testing positive for marijuana, so maybe two games – especially after the discovery of the NFL’s knowledge of the full video – could be considered a little relaxed. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver just announced it would review its own domestic violence policies soon, as if pointing a finger while ducking possible controversies of its own.

Disregarding the NFL’s identity as a powerful and wealthy organization of influence, its choice to largely ignore domestic safety has gone largely without consequence. Although these scandals are prominent stories in the news, they have become obsolete faster than the news of Jennifer Lawrence’s leaked nude pictures. Families are still crowding around the television for their weekly Sunday football game, forgetting the league’s trespasses. Perhaps the lack of importance the NFL places on domestic violence is only condoned because it appears to mirror the importance society places on it as well. Without such overwhelming public support, the NFL might not have the luxury to save face regarding these issues.

If the NFL continues to place talent and profit above human rights, it may be America's job to decide when enough is enough.


Reach Staff Reporter Caitlin Plummer here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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