Domestic violence in American football

It is undeniable that sports are deeply ingrained in many cultures around the world. So, naturally, moral dilemmas and other problems seem to continuously pop-up in that society’s sport organizations; this is true whether you’re talking about the NFL, FIFA, NBA, or NCAA. In each sport organization, you can find traces of the larger problems that affect that particular society.

The NFL (National Football League) has been under heat the past year for the sheer amount of athletes arrested for domestic violence. Some names that you may be familiar with are Ray Rice, Bruce Miller, Adrian Peterson, Ray McDonald, and Greg Hardy, among others. These athletes clearly reflect a larger problem in Western society: violence in the household, specifically that directed towards women and children. One interesting study,  which explores athletes as reflections of society, shows that despite the many athletes convicted of domestic abuse, the rate of domestic crime arrests among NFL athletes is actually lower than that of the national average.

At some point, being a sports fan gets trumped by being a father, husband, wanting to do what’s right for women, so this is not a good thing.

This issue gained a lot of publicity a few months ago, when several arrests occurred within a period of a few weeks. The Ray Rice incident, when he knocked his fiance unconscious on video, and the Greg Hardy incident, when he was found guilty of assaulting his girlfriend, were greatly criticized by many. These, in combination with the Adrian Peterson incident, when he hurt his son while physically disciplining him, led to a very strong backlash from the American community, sports fans or not. A huge wave of criticism targeted towards NFL policies occurred across various sources of media. Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, was accused of being too lenient towards these NFL players. These accusations stem from the suspicion that Roger Goodell allegedly already knew about the video of Ray Rice hitting his wife before it became public, yet he waited until it was publicized to suspend him indefinitely.

One feminist organization know as UltraViolet went as far as to fly banners reading “#OutwithGoodell”  across the sky over the MetLife Stadium, located in New York City, during a football game. This slogan supported a petition, which received over 15,000 signatures, calling for Goodell’s resignation. In response to the backlash, Goodell attempted to appease this group by announcing that a team of women, led by Terry O’Brien (the president of the National Organization of Women), would be initiating the crack-down on domestic violence. However, despite this effort, Goodell continued to receive criticism in the coming months. Jessica Valenti of The Guardian wrote in her article response, “Throwing money at women’s rights groups is not how you fix a fundamentally misogynist institution.”

Recently, more criticism returned to Goodell and the NFL when Greg Hardy, after being found guilty by a county judge, appealed, and charges against him were dropped by his accuser. Following this, he was placed on the NFL exempt list, where he was not allowed to play but would still collect a multi-million dollar paycheck. Recently, Hardy signed a contract worth nearly $13 million with the Dallas Cowboys.

Many people believe that this contract proves that “suspect” men can still receive huge paydays from NFL teams, which is unacceptable. Jim Mitchell, of The Dallas Morning News, wrote that Greg Hardy’s new “gig” shows that football is a stone-cold business. Mike Rawlings, the mayor of the city of Dallas, expressed his own thoughts in an interview: “I’m a big Cowboys fan. I love them to death and I want them to beat the Eagles every time they play. But at some point, being a sports fan gets trumped by being a father, husband, wanting to do what’s right for women, so this is not a good thing. I don’t think I’m going to be buying Hardy jerseys any time soon.”

From a contrary perspective, quarterback Tony Romo of the Cowboys said in an interview that men like Ray Rice and Greg Hardy “deserve second chances.” He expressed that “everybody has their skeletons in their closet. If everything was shown over everyone’s head, no one would be given a second chance. That’s part of the way I think we think.”

Aside from Tony Romo’s obvious bias, it is important to consider whether his argument has any truth. Does Greg Hardy deserve to be awarded $13 million simply because he can perform a physical feat that few humans can? Or should he own up to his crime and take responsibility for his actions?