The NFL and Domestic Violence

By Jeremy Bamidele

According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year.  Nearly one third of female homicides are committed by an intimate partner.  The cost of intimate partner violence exceeds 5.8 billion dollars a year.  Domestic violence is a serious social issue with violence being communicated, learned, and spread from generation to generation.  Boys who witness domestic violence are over twice as likely as those who do not to repeat this violence against their intimate partners.  It is common for children to witness abuse since 30-60 percent of those who engage in violence against intimate partners also abuse children in the household.  Violence against women is a learned phenomenon and just as boys can grow up learning to abuse women so can they also learn not to abuse.  It is the responsibility of the community to band together to protect its women and daughters against the dangers of domestic abuse. 

Domestic abuse has been declining for the last two centuries; however, it remains prevalent, and if the issue is ignored, it maintains the momentum to once again become part of accepted popular culture.  While laws can help to fight domestic violence by lowering the legal threshold of what is considered by the courts to be abuse, a far more important and effective course of action is public media broadcast aimed at changing the public’s sentiment towards the issue.  The government and those with social influence must co-opt their power to send the message that domestic abuse has no place in modern society.

Most Recently NFL Commissioner Goodell has come under media scrutiny for what many are calling a lax response and penalization towards Baltimore Raven’s running back Ray Rice.  Rice was captured on video dragging his unconscious wife, and then fiance, following a physical domestic dispute out of an elevator in an Atlantic City Casino.  Rice who pled not guilty to assault avoided a trial by agreeing to enter counseling.  Late July the NFL handed down its sentence of half a million dollars and a two day suspension.  This to many may seem like a large sum of money and therefore a reasonable punishment.  However, when compared to other punishments the league has rendered in response to much lesser crimes, the punishment is considered by many to be nothing short of appalling. 

The response to the Rice incident is not ideal.  It sends a message that has too often been modeled in the past—that domestic abuse is not an issue to be taken seriously.  It sends the message to the public and especially their fan base, that it is permissible.  Celebrity has afforded Rice many social benefits, but the ability to batter woman to the point of unconsciousness without reasonable legal and professional reprimand should not be one of them.  Many, including Keith Olbermann, are calling for commissioner Goodell’s resignation.  How the NFL responds will influence the future of its and the public’s reaction towards domestic abuse.

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