It’s Been A Bad Week for Football

The NFL’s poor handling of the Ray Rice domestic-violence situation was just the beginning of the organization’s failure to address bad player behavior. Here’s what you missed this week:

It seemed like mere moments after the release of the TMZ video of Rice punching his fiancee out cold, the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson was being indicted for child abuse and the Vikings were flip-flopping on what to do with him. The Vikings initially removed Peterson from the game against the New England Patriots, but later reinstated him on Sept. 15, as they decided Peterson had merely “disciplined” his child (he reportedly used a switch to spank his son). But as corporate sponsors began issuing statements expressing concern and dissatisfaction (Radisson even suspended its limited sponsorship of the Vikings), the team finally took action. They placed Peterson on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list on Sept. 17, effectively barring him from any team activities until his legal issues are resolved. In the football business, money talks.

On Sept. 15, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced the creation of an advisory board that will spearhead reform in domestic violence and sexual assault policy for the NFL. But the Black Women’s Roundtable, a network of Black female civic leaders, sent a letter to Goodell saying that while they appreciated the NFL’s move to address abuse within its ranks, the lack of women of color (particularly Black women) in the group, was “unacceptable.” Black women “are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault,” they wrote, and “over 66 percent of the NFL players [are] African Americans.” For his part, Goodell seemed to ignore the letter: He later announced the creation of a second anti-domestic violence group that also failed to include any Black women.

And in case you missed it, the NFL currently has over a dozen active players who have been accused of domestic abuse, including Ben Roethlisberger who has a history of sexual assault charges.

It’s not just NFL players who have behaved badly this week: Jameis Winston, the Florida State quarterback who was accused in 2012 of raping a woman student, was seen this week on campus standing on a table yelling rapey obscenities. Florida State took some minor action, suspending Winston for half of one game, but if it weren’t for current football scandals and Winston’s accumulating record, he may have gone unnoticed and unpunished.

Even though the NFL is feeling the heat now, the organization has a reputation for repressing issues of domestic violence and only addressing them when scandal strikes. Because of that, the cases above are not likely to be the last we will hear in the near future, not by a long shot.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Keith Allision licensed under Creative Commons 2.0


Corinne Gaston is currently an editorial intern at Ms. and is working toward a B.A. in Creative Writing at USC. When not in the Ms. office, she is the Associate Opinion Editor at Neon Tommy. Follow her on Twitter @elysehamsa or go to her personal blog.