Domestic Violence Is Not a Game

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Fan interest in the NFL has reached a fever pitch with the upcoming Super Bowl, however, many eyes have been fixated on the league all season, and not just for the love of the game.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson became notorious for their actions off of the field, but are not the only players in 2014 to be charged with domestic violence crimes. Four other players were charged with domestic violence, not including those whose crimes against women were categorized as assault. Since the start of 2015 alone, there have also been two cases of domestic violence– making domestic violence the number one cause for arrest among NFL players.

Commissioner Roger Goodell’s failure to publicly address both Rice and Peterson’s criminal activity in a timely manner led to an absolute PR nightmare for the NFL.  For a league that has had numerous domestic abuse charges filed against some of its players over the past few years,  it’s almost unimaginable – and certainly inexcusable – that there was not an existing domestic violence policy in place. The NFL’s failure to hand down timely and fair punishments to these  players  disrespects  the game and its fans, makes a mockery of its campaign to attract more female fans, and calls attention to the reactive and self-serving nature of the league. Not good for the game.

Clearly, domestic violence and sexual assault against both men and women is not limited to the NFL. In actuality, the rate of domestic violence and rape cases among NFL players is less than that of the general population.  The news is not so encouraging on our college campuses, where recent reports of abuse and violence against women and men have exposed a toxic environment where violence and sexual abuse is frequently brushed aside – and sometimes even facilitated. Having recently graduated college and compared notes with my friends at other schools, it seems that only recently have colleges and universities revamped their programs on sexual education, bystander intervention, and emotional support for victims to be relevant to today’s society. And when penalties are meted out for the abuser, they are frequently slight and well after the fact. Moreover, imposing policies after an assault is important but does nothing to fix the real issue at hand, the misconception that assault just happens.

As one of the greatest sports leagues in our country, the NFL has an opportunity – and arguably an obligation as a corporate citizen – to change the way our nation addresses sexual and domestic violence from grade school on. The new policy enacted in August is an important first step, but the league has miles to go before they win my vote of confidence.

It is my hope that in 2015, the NFL will take advantage of the opportunity sitting in front of them and set an example for the rest of the country on how to handle sexual and domestic abusers. Indeed, no person – no matter how many touch-downs they’ve scored, or how many tackles they had in college, or how popular their fraternity is – is above swift and fair punishment.  It’s time for the NFL to go on the offensive and take proactive – not reactive – steps over time towards changing the way we perceive assault and combating the current environment that permits the violation of our basic human rights.

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— Lucie Dufour, Associate, Tiller

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