As an avid NFL fan and as a woman, I have done my best to sit back and really soak in all of the facts before rushing to judgment or voicing my opinions on what has been a nightmare of a week for the League. I have watched and listened as the public, the media and the NFL leaders each added their two cents on domestic violence and child abuse, topics that, sadly, sit like a pink elephant squarely on the fifty-yard line in week three of the NFL season.
I have nodded along with Hannah Storm and shook my head at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. I have watched as teams like the Minnesota Vikings make moves to punish the man whose idea of punishment is to lash a four-year-old child with a stick until he is bloodied and bruised. And then reverse the punishment for the man just 24 hours later.
In all my hours of observation, here is what I’ve learned:
The NFL is like Wall Street. It chooses to look past the crimes of its employees, whenever possible and convenient, as long as its stock continues to rise and it brings in ridiculous amounts of money for the wolves in the front office. It has no problem stepping on the little guys, in this case women and children, to ensure an eight-figure salary and a million-dollar yacht. The NFL encourages its players to be violent on Sundays and do their very best not to be violent from Monday to Saturday. But it says, “If you slip up, just make damn sure we can’t see evidence of if because in that case we might have to sit you down, which could mean we both lose a dollar or two. And neither of us want that, now do we?”
And similar to the corruption that has engulfed Wall Street a time or two, when the NFL has no choice but to fess up to the mess, it will blame individuals and hire “independent” investigators. I have no doubt that the NFL saw that video of Ray Rice beating his now-wife unconscious months ago. But Ray Rice sells tickets in Baltimore. And no one else will ever see the footage, right? So they did what’s right for the NFL and slapped Rice on the wrist about 1000x softer than he hit his wife. Two-game suspension. Case closed.
Video leaked. Public and media outrage. Knee jerk reaction from the NFL – let’s lie and say we just got the tape and suspend Rice indefinitely. That should do it.
Caught in a lie again. The AP is saying that the we got the video months ago. Let’s call for an “independent” investigation to be monitored by two of the aforementioned wolves, NFL team owners John Mara and Art Rooney.
This is all a masterful game of deflection in which the NFL attempts to maintain its reputation as the keeper of all that is good and right in the football world, while dodging the real issue. One of its valued employees knocked out his fiance in a fit of rage and the League saw it all on tape. Is this about protecting the NFL’s image or is is about protecting that wolves and the wads of hundreds in their back pockets? You tell me.
Now this isn’t to say that I am letting the men who committed the crimes that led to this nightmare off the hook. Quite the contrary.
The other thing I learned this week — The players don’t get it.
Playing professional football is a privilege. One in which you get to forgo a “real job” in favor of playing a game and in turn making lucrative amounts of money. Yes, I am aware that it takes a ton of talent, athleticism and hard work to play football at the highest level. But a “football player” isn’t a vital component in the function of healthy society. This isn’t something people have to do, it is something you get to do. It is a privilege. Football is a form of entertainment. It allows the doctors, lawyers, farmers and blue collar men and women that make America tick a form of entertainment and escapism from the grind of daily life.
As an NFL player, your job is to entertain. The least you could do is act as if you respect the fans that buy the tickets that subsidize your paycheck. Do you think that if you worked for any other employer, they’d allow you to face an indictment for beating your wife or child and then return to work on Monday? Do you think any other company in this country would allow a man who puts his hands on women and children to represent its brand without any retribution? Think again.
Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Greg Hardy — wake up and look at the opportunities you have been afforded by your athletic ability, by your hard work and by luck. When you put on that NFL jersey, you represent something bigger than yourself, on and off the field. You represent an American pastime and a Sunday ritual. You are heroes to thousands of kids that yearn for the day that they might have the chance to play varsity, or college or maybe, just maybe play NFL football. You are a part of the fabric that makes up the American sports culture, a culture that thousands of men and women have died to protect. Have some pride. You can do much better.
Life is about choices. Choose to be better men. Choose to protect your families with love. Choose to be more like Devon Still. Now that’s a guy I can get behind.