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Domestic Violence in the Nfl: This Type of Conduct Will Not Be Tolerated

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Billy Nipp

Professor Greg Grewell

English 111G

12/6/14

Domestic Violence in the NFL: This type of conduct will not be tolerated

        Although domestic violence has always been a very serious and destructive crime, recent advancements in technology have allowed the public to visualize and interpret the crimes that professional athletes are committing. Actors, singers, and other famous people don’t often receive the following that athletes do. If they did, then Chris Brown would have received much more hate when he assaulted recording star Rihanna, but even that did not attract the public debate that professional athletes have (Rushin). Recently in the National Football League (NFL), domestic violence has been rampant. Although the league has adjusted the rules that punish players who are charged with these crimes, the league still has not done enough to minimize and eliminate these harsh injustices. The National Football League can work to eliminate domestic violence in the league as well as show the public that domestic violence is unacceptable through proper education, forming a concrete rule, and appropriate understanding of domestic violence.

Under his tenure as commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell has dealt with approximately 50 domestic violence cases, which have all been handled one of three ways. A small suspension for one-two games, no suspension at all, or a grandstand justice, which is when players were released by their teams after getting arrested and then never playing another game in the NFL (Schrotenboer). The NFL is at fault for such short penalties for harsh crimes, but they are reflecting an image of how society has reacted to domestic violence. While law enforcement and policymakers have increased the attention for domestic violence over the past 40 years, domestic violence still had not received enough attention in a public light (Schrotenboer).

Now that domestic violence is a major issue in a professional sport, the public is observing it more closely. The players are people who are admired by many viewers who religiously watch the players every Sunday. Enticed viewers try to emulate what the players do into their own repertoire when it comes game day for them. With all the attention that the players attract, domestic violence is finally receiving the attention it demands. Rene Renick of the National Network to End Domestic Violence explains how much attention the NFL has brought to domestic violence: “We've come a long way in 30 years, but in some ways there are places where I feel we've been stuck. I hope that all the attention on this will move us to that next place"(qtd. in Rushin). The NFL has brought an enormous amount of attention to domestic violence and has provided proper awareness to educate the public about domestic violence. Before domestic violence was a major issue in the NFL, the public avoided talking about it because the sensitivity of the subject is hard for the public to debate. Since it is such a difficult topic to discuss, most do not talk about it, but the NFL has provided a gateway for the public to openly talk about it and not have it cause unrest in the community. If anything positive is to come of all the domestic violence that is happening, it is the light now being shown on domestic violence, which has been taken too lightly for decades (Rushin).

The most famous case of late is that of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. TMZ released security video of Rice cold-cocking Janay Palmer in an elevator at an Atlantic City hotel. The video was so shocking, so brutal and so repulsive that it intensified the reaction of countless people who have suffered, directly or indirectly, from the scourge of domestic violence. Within hours of the clip's release, Baltimore had terminated Rice's contract, and Goodell had suspended him from the league indefinitely (Taylor). Prior to the release of the video, NFL commissioner Goodell deemed a two-game suspension for Rice was acceptable. Once the video was released, Goodell received harsh criticism of his extremely lenient punishment. Indeed, last month, after the public outcry over the lightness of Rice's punishment, the league toughened its policy against domestic abuse, instituting a mandatory six-game ban for a first offense. Roger Goodell himself said of his handling of the Rice case, "I got it wrong" (qtd. in Taylor).

In March 2008, two Pittsburgh Steelers were arrested within two weeks of each other: star linebacker James Harrison and backup wide receiver Cedrick Wilson (Schrotenboer). Harrison was arrested for breaking his girlfriends phone while she was trying to call 911 and slapping her, while Wilson was accused of punching the mother of his child at a restaurant (Schrotenboer). Harrison ended up playing every game in the 2008 season except for one, while Wilson was released from the team the day after his arrest and never played a game in the NFL (Schrotenboer). After cutting Wilson, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney said,” Today's roster move will indicate our intentions and send a message that we will not tolerate this type of conduct" (qtd. in Schrotenboer). Before the development of technology and knowledge of domestic violence, professional teams were able to get away with their players receiving little to no suspension or a small fine, but due to the increased scrutiny and awareness that has taken place for domestic violence, players cannot get away with crimes of the aforementioned degree. Technology has helped a lot by being able to show the public what the players do to their loved ones.

A major part of the problem of domestic violence from players starts during their childhood. Many of the players grew up in either low-income, single parent, or violent homes. They were taught from early on that violence is the answer to solve their problems, and for many of them, physical abuse was the answer to provide discipline for them. They were taught that violence could solve difficult problems that they might encounter during their lives. For most of the players, violence has gotten them to the point where they are at in life, which is the National Football League, but now they have to be taught that violence is not and cannot be the answer to their problems. I do not believe that the NFL is too violent or is causing the players to act out. The players have a pre-determined mindset from their childhood that violence is the answer.

The pre-determined mindset some players get accustomed can lead to the development of aggressive behavior most know as bullying. The forte of bullying is the real or perceived imbalance of power that controls an individual’s dominance between one another. Bullying and domestic violence both have the same basic root cause: a power complex. The stronger, more authoritative person displays their dominance on a weaker individual because the stronger person earns more dexterity. That dexterity that some players gain throughout their childhood and into their everyday lives develops the masculinity that they demonstrate during games.

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