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Can I Support Football and Domestic Violence Awareness?

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By SK Rice

For many people, the Super Bowl represents the acceptance of domestic violence. In February 2014, Ray Rice brought to light the combination of domestic violence and football when a video of his then-girlfriend falling unconscious out of an elevator went viral. Since then, football players have been under scrutiny about domestic violence and abuse (DVA). Though they have been watched closely, the NFL continues to minimize the significance of what their players and draftees have done when it is domestic violence related.  They state that they want to stop the cycle, yet they reward these men with high paying jobs with only a few games off if they get caught.

They do not seem to value women.  

The NFL Commissioner Goodell was shamed into making an NFL policy, which states:

“Violations involving assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault will result in a baseline six-game suspension without pay, with more if aggravating factors are present, such as the use of a weapon or a crime against a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL.”

If a draft pick has been convicted of domestic violence or any other violent crime they are barred from the combine and other NFL sponsored events. Though this bar-raising has occurred and is relatively new, there are no consequences for a team that hires a player who has a DVA record.

In 2014, the Joe Mixon and Caleb Brantley cases were not considered domestic violence because the women they beat up were not intimate partners. The loophole is that, even if you bust out teeth, knock them unconscious, or break several bones in a woman’s face, if it is not an intimate partner, the NFL does not consider it domestic violence.

Some domestic violence survivors and advocates feel that watching the Super Bowl is in violation of their beliefs to fight on behalf of DVA. However, just because you support survivors doesn’t mean you have to abstain from watching the Super Bowl or enjoying football. It’s possible to enjoy something, even after you recognize that it’s problematic. For example, law enforcement has a significantly greater domestic violence problem than the NFL, but does that cause people to stop supporting law enforcement? Since there has not been an outcry to eliminate officers with DVA problems, nor to boycott them, why would anyone then boycott the Super Bowl because there are a few bad apples, that the NFL does not really know what to do with?

The military is a second group that has problems addressing domestic violence. Thirty-three percent of the military personnel who have experienced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have reported being physically aggressive toward their intimate partner. Ninety-one percent of military members with PTSD have reported being psychologically aggressive.  However, despite this clear problem, it is still rarely a cause for people to stop supporting the military.

In the end, it is the individual’s choice to decide whether or not to watch the Super Bowl and if they feel that watching it would show support for the NFL’s treatment of domestic violence perpetrators. In a society where a blind eye is turned away from law enforcement, military personnel, actors, politicians, and other individuals who commit domestic violence, there are a lot of other ways individuals can show their support for survivors and convince organizations to hold individuals accountable for their domestic violence offenses.

Continuing to raise awareness about domestic violence and making sure to support and believe survivors is an important way to make a change to this culture and can make more of a difference than boycotting the Super Bowl.

Being a domestic violence advocate doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying your favorite things, but it does help to remain aware of the problem and working to educate others about how to show survivors support.

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