BY ELIZABETH SCHMITT
Full Disclosure: I am not a football fan, I know very little about the NFL and couldn’t tell you if Ray Rice was a football player or a student at St. Norbert until a week ago. Chances are, many of you watched the Packer game on Sunday without considering what it meant to support an NFL game in light of the scandal. I’m asking you to consider what it means that you supported an organization that condones domestic violence.
While there are many important things to consider with this scandal, I’d like to draw attention to the NFL’s role in the ordeal. As a football player for an NFL team, Rice is required to follow the rules of conduct set by the governing body. The paltry two-game suspension Rice received left me desiring a heck of a lot more. Luckily, Rice received an indefinite suspension after the public pressured Roger Goodell.
An organization that doesn’t immediately consider indefinite suspension or termination after an incident of domestic violence is not an organization I am willing to support. The suspension tells me this: The NFL doesn’t care about women. An organization that has anything less than a zero-tolerance policy towards domestic violence doesn’t care about women. Period.
The NFL hasn’t cared about women for a long time. According to the San Francisco Gate, a recent report listed 56 allegations of domestic abuse against NFL players since Goodell became commissioner in 2006. What this says to me is that the NFL is an organization that permits domestic violence and one that pays their players boatloads of money regardless of their actions off the field.
Football lovers must ask themselves if they are willing to support an organization that condones domestic violence. Though it was not the NFL who committed a heinous act against a woman, a player under their watch did and received what I would consider an inadequate punishment. The NFL has a responsibility to the game of football and to the public, to not let criminals or alleged domestic abusers be paid vast sums of money and continue to play.
Feminist bloggers all across the Internet tell me to boycott the NFL and their games. Well, lucky for them, I’ve watched approximately 2 full football games in my life and have no interest in starting now. But for some of you, football is a big part of your social lives and you can’t imagine giving up watching the game with friends.
Perhaps you’re on the fence. You are disgusted by Rice’s actions, but are able to separate what he did from the NFL and the League’s response. Then instead of boycotting the NFL, do a few things instead.
First, know what victim blaming looks like and don’t perpetuate it. Victim blaming happens when a victim of a crime is held partially responsible for what happened to them. In the Ray Rice case, people will argue that somehow Janay Palmer/Rice provoked Ray into hitting her. That’s victim blaming. No matter what, it isn’t her fault he hit her. His fist hit her face; therefore, it is his fault and his alone.
Second, sign a petition, converse with a friend or read some articles online surrounding this issue. Call for Roger Goodell’s resignation, talk about the pervasiveness of violence in sports, or how American culture wraps violence and masculinity into one. A league that doesn’t take significant action against all allegations of domestic abuse sends a terrible message to the youth who look up to the men they watch every Sunday: you can treat women this way and still get paid millions. Consider that message and the impact it has on impressionable young men who are aspiring football stars. Work in your own way to insist that violence against any human being is intolerable.
Third, don’t ever let anyone make jokes about domestic violence while you’re around. They aren’t funny, they perpetuate a culture of violence towards women and frankly, they make you seem like a terrible person.
Fourth, keep in mind that the personal is political. What you watch, what you wear, where you shop, what you eat, where you put your money… they are not just isolated incidences. They have larger effects. We all fall into traps, certainly. But with the NFL, we now know exactly what’s in front of us. Support the NFL and you’re allowing an organization to employ people who are domestic abusers. As stated above, boycott or don’t boycott. But consider how your actions, or inactions, play out on a larger scale.