The NFL has a lot to be outraged about these days. First, there was Deflategate that occupied the media’s coverage for an excessive period. Then, there is the backlash from bad penalty calls to how players choose to express themselves during the National Anthem.
Unfortunately, there has a bigger issue growing amongst the NFL that is receiving too little attention; domestic violence. The Josh Brown incident shows that it’s time for the NFL to craft an effective policy regarding players and domestic violence. Whether you are a football fan or not, it’s time for the public to demand a change.
This topic was brought back to life after former Giants kicker, Josh Brown was suspended one game for an incident in 2015 where he was arrested and charged for domestic violence against his wife. It took new information to leak about how their divorce papers detailed ongoing abuse for the Giants to finally release him from the team.
Looking back at Deflategate, the NFL has shown it can invest millions of dollars into an investigation if they really wanted to discipline a player for violating league policy. The NFL failed to take significant action on the Brown incident because it found “insufficient information to corroborate prior allegations.”
Despite the league’s multiple domestic violence advisors resources, and own investigation unit, they still failed to find anything. That is troubling for a league that has pledged commitment to coming down hard on incidents of domestic violence.
Under the NFL’s current personal conduct policy, there is an automatic six-game suspension for first time offenders of domestic violence. Since its implementation, there have been nine suspensions potentially related to domestic violence. The league upheld suspensions that have been fewer than six games in all but two of the cases. That is despite the fact that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “Our standards, and the consequences of falling short, must be clear, consistent and current,” and that consequences “must be implemented through procedures that are fair and transparent.”
When it comes to incidents of domestic violence, the NFL finds itself in a complicated position that goes beyond what is stated in the personal conduct policy. Factors such as guns and a history of violence haven’t been enough in upholding the length of suspensions as spelled out in the updated conduct policy. Other considerations, such as victim cooperation or lack of cooperation seem to be working in favor of the players.
“It’s really hard, and often, victims aren’t forthcoming,” said Anna Isaacson, NFL vice president of social responsibility. Domestic violence experts and law enforcement have recognized for years that these incidents get more complicated when a victim doesn’t cooperate. It can range from economic reasons to fearing retaliation.
After the graphic video surfaced of former NFL player Ray Rice striking his then fiance and dragging her out of an elevator, it highlighted the issue of domestic violence and how it affects our society.
It is an issue that goes beyond sports. Raising awareness or volunteering time to victims is a positive step but we need to do more. Maybe the culture needs to be changed, but can it be changed?