The Student Voice: Domestic Violence in the NFL Speaks Volumes

Posted on 24 September 2014 by admin

Staff writer Brittney explores how the NFL is turning women away from the sport with the Ray Rice scandal



Staff Writer

I love football and I enjoy watching it. As a die-hard Patriots fan it’s unlikely I will even leave the house come NFL Sunday. With that being said, the situation with Ray Rice is turning me away from the sport I love so m u c h , simply because of the way it’s being handled.

Unlike many other major sports leagues in the country, the NFL has never had a squeaky-clean image. It has a certain reputation for letting the criminal records of its players fade away into nothing with a very “hands-off ” approach. Speculations of Ray Rice beating his now-wife Janay Palmer have been around for months now, but it was not until the video was officially released that anyone within the organization directly addressed the issue. Until it was released, officials could deny the claims all they wanted. With a video as evidence, however, there is not much room to make excuses. It’s inherently clear that Rice was cut from the Ravens not because he beat his wife, but because a video of him beating his wife surfaced.

After he was cut from the team, I checked my social media. When I access social media I expect to see inappropriate responses to social issues, but I was disgusted when I realized that most of the responses were jokes. No one seemed to realize how disgusting domestic violence really is.

My first year in college I watched from the sidelines as one of my best friends unknowingly entered an abusive relationship. She had no way of knowing that her partner would hurt her. Instead, the abuse built up gradually over time through small, seemingly insignificant actions and criticisms. Nothing she did was right, and within a few months I watched helplessly as someone I loved transformed from a strong willed, happy individual into someone who constantly doubted herself and her abilities.

For months I watched as this guy cut all ties my best friend had; he slowly drew her away from her family and friends and filled her head with manipulative lies. Throughout that time I tried everything I could to get her to leave him, but she no longer had any other support systems. After she ignored every option I put on the table, I gave up. By the time he started abusing her physically, she and I were no longer speaking.

My friend was not stupid. She knew the relationship was wrong. Still, she was terrified of leaving not only because she was afraid of being hurt, but because she no longer had any other support. Fortunately, she found the courage she needed and was able to get out. We reconciled, and I watched as she pieced her life together through a series of therapy sessions and doctor visits. She cried and drank a lot, but in the end she came out of it. Still, it took a lot of time and care for her to turn her life around. So many times domestic violence can turn deadly, and when you get down to it the only real difference between Ray Rice and my friend’s abuser was how much money they made.

It’s easy for us as a society to look at Rice’s wife and wonder why she stayed. It’s never easy to understand why people do things that will inevitably hurt them. By pointing the finger at Janay Palmer though, we are essential taking the blame away from Rice. Even if she had left him after the abuse, there is nothing to promise us Ray Rice would not beat another woman.

Throughout this scandal I almost feel like the NFL has treated the situation like it’s an elaborate joke. When asked about the domestic violence NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he felt as if Ray Rice would definitely be back in the league soon, and he had already taken enough accountability. This is a direct slap in the face to me, and to any other female football fans.

According to statistics from the Washington Post, women make up forty five percent of football’s fan base. Despite that, it does not seem to matter how we feel about abuse. Being a professional football player seems to come with many perks such as fame and fortune, and yet the responsibilities that come along with those perks seem to hardly matter. I was under the impression that not beating your wife in an elevator was a pretty simple thing to do, but I suppose it’s acceptable so long as you can catch a ball.

By continuing to allow violent athletes to play despite the wrongs they have done, the NFL is sending me and any other women who follow the sport a very clear message: we do not matter. We are disposable and our business does not mean anything to an organization that has not evolved past basic human decency.

By even attempting to defend Rice, the League is stepping on every effort my friend and other victims of domestic violence have made to correct their situations. I hope, in the near future, that the National Football League decides to stop treating domestic violence like a minor threat it can sweep under a rug, but until it does I do not know how I – as
a young woman who has seen the way abuse functions – can support it.


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