NFL Column: Domestic Assault Cases and Policy


While the firestorm rains down upon Roger Goodell for the mishandling of Ray Rice’s punishment for the assault of his then-fiancé, I can’t help to wonder if fans and critics have any idea just how often these sad occurrences happen within the NFL.

The league has a bleak history of domestic violence and inconsistent-at-best punishment for those instances since the Goodell era began in September of 2006.

Since Goodell took office, 56 arrests have been made of NFL players for domestic violence against women.

Of those 56 incarcerations, the players who were connected with those arrests have been suspended a 13 total of games.

Women make up about half of the league’s fan base, easily the largest in America, and is largely responsible for the NFL’s $9 billion in annual revenue and Goodell’s reported $44 million annual earnings.

This complete lack of punishment seems to say Goodell and the NFL owners who employ him do not care about the female fans that generate substantial portions of their profits, so long as the NFL can sit upon its throne and print money.

However, Rice is not the only player to be handcuffed due to a domestic assault in recent months.

On June 15, a North Carolina judge found Carolina Panthers All-Pro defensive end Greg Hardy guilty of assaulting his ex-girlfriend and threatening to kill her. Hardy was sentenced to 18 months of probation and a suspended 60-day jail sentence.

The arrest warrant claims that Hardy assaulted the woman by “grabbing victim and throwing her to the floor, throwing her into a bath tub, slamming her against a futon, and strangling her.”

The victim went on to explain that after she was thrown around the apartment, “Hardy picked me up over his head and threw me onto a couch covered in assault rifles and/or shotguns. I landed on those weapons. Hardy bragged that all of those assault rifles were loaded.”

Hardy was deactivated on Sunday only after the Vikings deactivated Adrian Peterson for his indictment on charges of child abuse in Texas. Hardy still played in week one.

There is no tape of Hardy’s crime, likewise there was no immediate public shaming of Hardy compared to that of Rice.

To add to the mockery, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, was given a humanitarian award, the “Echo Award for Indifference” in Charlotte last week.

In addition to Hardy’s suspension, the world learned on Sunday that Adrian Peterson, would be inactive for the day’s game against the Patriots because he had been indicted two days prior for charges of child abuse against his own son. Allegedly Peterson left visible and open wounds on his son’s thighs–amongst other areas–after beating him with a “switch,” or a tree branch.

On Monday, the Vikings reinstated Peterson and expect him to play Sunday against the Saints. Owners Zygi and Mark Wilf claim that “this issue is very important” and “we take very seriously any matter that involves the welfare of a child” in a statement released by the team Monday morning.

The Vikings only rushed for 54 yards in Sunday’s 30 to 7 home loss to the Patriots. Clearly, winning games is more important than the welfare of a child.

Since the backlash for the lack of punishment for Rice was so universally voiced, the NFL has instituted a new domestic violence policy stating that first offenders will be suspended for six games, followed by a lifetime ban from the league after a second offense. This was put into effect as of September 1.

Goodell had the perfect opportunity to take a step in the right direction and show that he meant business against domestic violence, at the very least save a little face, when 49ers defensive-lineman Ray McDonald was arrested on felony domestic violence charges over Labor Day weekend after an altercation with his pregnant fiancé.

According to San Jose Police Department, McDonald’s fiancé showed “visible injuries,” and the Sacramento Bee has reported that this is not the first time that police have been called to the McDonald residence.

Under the new policy, McDonald should be suspended an automatic six games. However, instead of committing to the bare minimum of six games, or at least suspending him under the NFL’s Personal Conduct Policy, the 49ers and Goodell have allowed McDonald to play thus far.

Tennessee Titans 2014 first round draft pick, offensive lineman Taylor Lewan has been accused of intimidating a young woman into not filing sexual assault charges against Lewan’s University of Michigan teammate, kicker Brendan Gibbons.

According to the Detroit Free Press, an Ann Arbor police report indicates that Lewan made threats to a friend of the victim by saying if the victim pursued charges against Gibbons, “then I’m going to rape her because he didn’t.”

Gibbons was not formally charged by police, but has been expelled from the university for violation of the school’s sexual assault policy.

Lewan signed a four year contract with the Titans worth about $11.5 million in July.

According to USA Today, NFL players have been arrested 713 times since 2000. 85 of those arrests involve some sort of domestic violence.

Fair or not, those who work in professional sports are role models for the rest of us, especially to our youth. The logos of teams and leagues represent our communities, cities, states and our entire nation, they must be held to a higher standard. The NFL, the most popular leauge in America, should want and strive to be that higher standard.

It is time for the NFL’s fans and sponsors to stand up the league, its owners, and Commissioner Goodell. These tone deaf league officals need to know that allowing violence against women, and now children, to go unchecked will not and cannot be tolerated, period.

Once sponor’s and fans of the league decide to take their money elsewhere, the NFL will finally learn, and that is a sad fact.

 

For more NFL columns, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Sport.

To contact sports editor Connor Grott, email sports@mtsusidelines.com

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