The NFL Tackles Domestic Violence

by Dish Staff

The NFL announced (NYT) a new policy yesterday:

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell said Thursday that he had mishandled the Ray Rice case, in which the Baltimore Ravens running back was suspended for two games after being accused of assaulting his fiancée. … Goodell said that effective immediately any N.F.L. employee — not only a player — who is found to have engaged in assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involved physical force will be suspended without pay for six games for a first offense. Second-time offenders will be banished from the league for at least one year.

Ian Crouch states, reasonably enough, that “Thursday’s announcement should be the beginning of the N.F.L.’s response to domestic violence, not the end”:

The players need to be involved in the league’s attempts to combat violence against women, not simply as the potential recipients of fines and suspensions but as participants in its prohibition and enforcement.

In a recent column for ESPN, Jane McManus argued that owners and players should insert regulations relating to violence and sexual assault directly into the collective-bargaining agreement. (The current one doesn’t expire until 2021, but this particular change could be made without opening the entire document up for renegotiation.) The C.B.A. already includes rules against taking performance-enhancing drugs and driving while intoxicated. Adding the kinds of punishments that Goodell introduced today to a document that both players and owners have signed on to would demonstrate that all sides appreciate the seriousness of the problem within their own ranks, and also that they recognize the N.F.L.’s opportunity, as a major part of the culture, to be not just an object lesson but an advocate for change.

Kavitha A. Davidson’s take:

This came about purely because of the sustained backlash against the league’s paltry two-game suspension of Ray Rice, and despite numerous attempts to defend itself while hiding behind the lack of a comprehensive domestic violence policy. As [Jessica] Luther notes, this also means that the NFL must have talked and actually listened to advocacy groups that tout prevention over punishment. This happened because feminists, and especially feminist sportswriters including Luther and Jane McManus (who brilliantly outlined how the commish could get domestic violence written into the league’s disciplinary measures) simply wouldn’t go away.

She adds that, “Instead of patting Goodell on the back for his far-too-late admission that he “got it wrong,” we need to stay on his case to make sure he actually gets it right.” Last but not least, Alyssa Rosenberg considers how the NFL treats women more generally. She admits, “Being a female sports fan can be a difficult thing”:

There are little indignities, like the cheesy pink gear that suggests our enthusiasms are second to our wardrobe choices. There are bigger ones, like the ongoing employment of scantily-clad cheerleaders to act as inducement to presumptively straight male players and eye candy for presumptively straight, male crowds. And to add injury to irritant, these women are subject to wage theft and degrading employment conditions.

And beyond that, there is the challenge of the players themselves. It is one thing to think that bad men can make great art, or that bad men can throw beautiful spiral passes or lay down devastating hits. It is another to root for men who occasionally act in ways that suggest that they think women are garbage, or that the truest way for a woman to be a fan is to be sexually available. I hesitate a little every time I buy a new Patriots jersey, worried that the man whose name I emblazon across my back might end up acting in a way that casts shame on my enthusiasm for him. Most of the time, I pick out gear with nobody’s name on the back.