In these waning days of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and as the National Football League season marches on, it’s the perfect time to look back at the past year and share with you a review of what the NFL has accomplished to prevent acts of domestic violence in its circle.
Last year, when the Ray Rice elevator video clip went viral, the NFL’s response was to immediately put the public relations wheels in motion while they “investigated the allegations” and determined what the appropriate reprimand should be. To their credit, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his team quickly instituted counseling services for victims, families and violators. Funding was also authorized for mandatory education-based programs on the severity and depth of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault.
In 2015, the NFL expanded their efforts in education of domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse with a training camp for all players and football personnel. This training camp also addressed issues associated with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and provided cautionary interviews from a player who was affected by DUI drivers and a player who was cited with a DUI. Both of the education sessions were designed with the goal of instilling responsibility and accountability in NFL players and personnel.
The NFL has now revised their Personal Conduct Policy for the purpose of providing clear and consistent discipline procedures for alleged offenders. The policy will be reviewed annually by the league’s Conduct Committee with assistance from outside experts.
The NFL is also addressing issues of domestic violence and sexual assault through the funding of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the National Sexual Assault Resource Center. With increased funding from the NFL, the National Domestic Violence Hotline was able to open an office in Washington D.C. Also at the national level, in conjunction with the “No More” Campaign and the Joyful Heart Foundation, the NFL is sparking a conversation geared toward the public about domestic violence and sexual assault with a series of public service announcements. At the local level, the NFL has released a video, “A Call to Coaches,” for high school, college and recreational coaches designed to instill character in players. A pilot program in Texas and Colorado is underway with a curriculum designed to build character in players of all sports.
Despite the strides the NFL is making with awareness and prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse, there is still a need for more. The NFL’s estimated net worth is $45 billion and the average NFL player makes $1.9 million a year. Such a financially solvent multi-billion dollar corporation has a lot at stake when the media exposes the football players’ run-ins with the law regarding issues of domestic violence. What’s more, the NFL has yet to address the violence that arises from watching televised game broadcasts and especially the Super Bowl. There have been quantitative studies published that support the correlation between reported incidents of domestic violence and the NFL season. The NFL may need to accept some responsibility for potentially instigating violence in the viewer audience. Perhaps a disclaimer may need to come with each game to remind the audience of the violent nature of the sport and to discontinue watching if feelings of hostility are expressed towards others.
The bigger picture here is that domestic violence affects one in every seven adult males and one in every four adult females. The reported numbers of domestic violence victims in the U.S. is staggering. Thus, as National Domestic Violence month comes to a close with the NFL season pushing full force ahead, we must do our part as a community to heal victims of domestic violence and conduct outreach to prevent its occurrences. JFCS helps about 100 local women each year to understand the root causes of domestic violence and abuse and to learn to assess their relationships and make decisions to protect themselves and their children.
Submitted by Pattie Davidson and Chantal Walker