I want to start out being very clear about a couple of things. I think the NFL has handled these recent situations poorly. I think if there is clear evidence, and there has not been any yet, of a coverup or an intentional lack of action, then there needs to be consequences for everyone involved. I also abhor what the accused abusers have done. That being said, I have questions if the overall reaction to the situation is actually productive. These are just questions I am pondering. I don’t proclaim to have the right or wrong answer. As a prior victim of physical and emotional domestic violence, I just am not sure the public flogging is actually a solution or a deterrent.
All over the internet, on my Facebook wall and in my Twitter stream, I am seeing people placing blame on the NFL. I have lost count of the number of people who have now vowed to no longer watch the NFL. Major corporations like Budweiser are calling out the NFL to get its house in order. While everyone is entitled to their opinion and to take the action that their moral compass calls them to take, again, I am left wondering if the reaction is really productive to the underlying problem.
My first question is why does it take professional football players getting caught and/or accused of domestic violence to get everyone in an uproar. Do people really believe that the only perpetrators of domestic violence are professional athletes? As a domestic violence victim, I can tell you it is more likely to be your next door neighbor, the guy or gal that serves your coffee or your accountant. So why is it that so many of the people who are throwing stones at the NFL and the accused players now, are the same ones who will look away at a parent screaming at their child in the store or avert their eyes and not ask any questions when a coworker or employee flinches when you get too close or has “walked into a door” or “fallen down the steps” way too often?
My second question is why do we want to punish the NFL (NOTE: disclaimer above re: a cover-up). They are an employer, just like every other business out there. Why do we not hold the local grocery store or major tech giant to the same standard? Why are we not creating an outcry that they also have a domestic violence policy and strictly enforce it? Are we holding the NFL, and athletes in general, to a higher moral standard then we would hold any other company and its employees? Why is it ok for any other business/employer to not do anything, but not the NFL? What about the NHL, the MLB or any other professional sports organization? What about any business or non-profit or school or religious organization? Are we going to boycott any organization or business that does not have a domestic violence policy or does not enforce it? Are we going to hold a business responsible when one of its employees hits his wife or spanks his child?
I have worked for a lot of companies, large and small. I have been an upper level manager at most of them. None of them has ever had a specific domestic violence policy. Some of them have had ethics and moral clauses in the work agreements. Some of them have had voluntary counseling programs. I have had to have discussions with HR departments about employees that I was confident were being abused or being abusers. Other than intentionally vaguely worded discussions about counseling that was available if there might be a situation where they felt they needed help, nothing was ever done and my hands were tied from doing anything more. So why are we holding the NFL to a different standard then we would hold any other large corporation? And don’t delude yourself into believing it is anything more than a corporation. It is a business entity that employees thousands of people. Boycotting the NFL will have limited impact on the individual players who are abusers. They will be individually impacted by their suspensions, dismissals from teams, loss of endorsements and appropriate legal action. Causing the NFL to have a reduction in income will have a lot of impact on hundreds of innocent people who rely on it for their livelihoods. Are we then going to hold the NFL responsible for the coach or locker room janitor that also hits his wife? Or is the high profile of the players the only “job” worthy of blaming their “employer”? Yes, the NFL needs to do some serious self-examination and likely make some changes. It needs to start looking very closely at its processes, procedures and policies to allow for early intervention in even suspected cases. But if we expect that of the NFL, shouldn’t we expect the same thing of all businesses?
It is good thing that the conversation about domestic violence has once again rose to prominence, but why does it take situations like these to make that happen? Why is it not an everyday discussion? The reality is that we will not wipe domestic violence, or any form of violence, from the face of the earth. It is a sad reality, but it is the reality. I would be a hypocrite if I did not admit that I spanked my kids when they were little. I can count on one hand how many times. I also had very strict self-imposed guidelines for when they were spanked. It was always only with my bare hand, over clothing or diapers and always with fair warning that if the behavior that was getting them in trouble continued, that would be the consequences. That quick light swat across their bottoms got their attention when nothing else would. I rarely ever had to do it. Would I do it again under the same circumstances? Probably not, but I am also older and wiser and it is easy to say that in hindsight.
The only thing we can do is to educate men and women from the earliest age that hitting out of anger or frustration or mentally abusing anyone, especially the ones you love, is NEVER an option. That message has to come from everyone a child comes in contact with – parents, teachers, coaches, friends, family, the media, role models and society in general, but especially their parents. Domestic violence will not be reduced or “solved” until the messages are directed at individuals, not businesses, that there are other options and there is help available.
As a side note and just out of curiosity, does anyone know if Radisson, Nike or Budweiser or any of the other companies who have cancelled endorsement deals, sponsorships or partnerships have domestic violence policies, what they are and how strictly they are enforced?