NFL under fire, burned by public

Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner,  has come under fire for various NFL scandals. Photo courtesy Thomas E. Franklin | AP
Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, has come under fire for various NFL scandals. Photo courtesy Thomas E. Franklin | AP

In recent weeks, the NFL has been rocked with various domestic abuse scandals befitting for a MTV reality TV show: A video showing Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice brutally assaulting his then-fiancee Janay Palmer was released and not long after that, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was served charges of child abuse for spanking his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. 

The public was understandably outraged.  Many wondered about the NFL’s hand in covering up these events, particularly in Rice’s case. However, bipartisan parties have also implicated the public in the steadily increasing rates of domestic abuse in America. These allegations raise an important question: Who should be held accountable for these heinous actions?

Plenty of organizations have submitted their answers to this question. The National Organization for Women said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s lackluster approach to disciplining these players’ actions warranted his immediate resignation or firing. The media tended to lay blame elsewhere. A.J. Delgado, of the Miami Herald penned an article headlined, “The NFL didn’t hit her, Rice did,” which illustrated why the NFL should not be blamed for the actions of its employees.

However, Delgado did not completely degrade the character of Rice and Peterson. She said the media’s fixation with the NFL’s role in these abusive situations suspiciously ignores the real root of the problem: the abuse itself. Another issue is the disproportionate amount of men of color being arrested for these crimes. Of the 86 arrests made in the NFL since 2000, 97 percent of them have been young, African-American men. “It’s easier to blame Goodell than have an uncomfortable dialogue,” Delgado said.

Delgado raised the taboo topic of race, which highlighted the fact that both Rice and Peterson, along with many other NFL players, stem from low-income families and neighborhoods where the effects of domestic violence are common. When a serial killer is apprehended, one of the many aspects investigated by police is their background. Analysts not only want to know who committed the crime, but why they did it and what motivated them. None of this excuses their behavior, however there is pertinence in exploring a subject’s background in order to understand their character and actions.

Clay Travis of Fox Sports took a similar stance on the issue of accountability. He didn’t blame Goodell for the problems of Rice and Peterson. He instead accused the American public of being idiots for letting themselves be beguiled in the first place. He criticized Americans and the media for needing a video to get riled up about Rice assaulting his fiancee.

Travis vented his frustration with the media for placing the blame on the commissioner for the actions of grown men. Travis blamed the media’s virtual silence on the subject for impacting rates of domestic violence in the United States. Ultimately, the NFL is simply a job; the most they can do is fire Goodell. It is up to law enforcement officials to enforce  the laws on domestic abuse and ensure that these men receive just punishments.

On Sept. 19, Roger Goodell hosted a 45-minute press conference and managed not to say much. He promised to implement better policies to address issues of abuse, drug use, etc., within the NFL and to partner with organizations such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Only time will tell whether these solutions will take hold and affect change within the NFL. Even so, this solution is one only for the NFL. It does not address the greater problem of domestic abuse in America. Who should be held accountable for that? The answer to that is anyone with a voice and an opinion.

Too often people are willing to sweep abuse under the rug like the NFL unsuccessfully did with Rice’s scandal. The public allowed this to occur until it unceremoniously reared its ugly head in the form of a TMZ video footage or the pictures of welts on a 4-year-old child’s legs. If more people took a stand on the issue and made their voices heard, collective change could be made.

A change could be as simple as voicing one’s opinion on social media or something as momentous as boycotting the NFL to show solidarity with the prevention of domestic violence. The possibilities are endless. It is time to take a stance on domestic abuse and stop the cycle of violence swirling through the United States.