I was talking to my friend, Jamie, yesterday, about the recent domestic violence cases in the NFL. Within weeks of one another, Ray Rice knocked his wife unconscious and Adrian Peterson beat his four-year-old with a stick.
A video showed Ray Rice pulling Janay Palmer's unconscious body from an elevator. To be clear, Palmer was conscious when she entered the elevator, but the Ravens and the NFL wanted to give Rice the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what his 5'1" fiance did to deserve it? Who knows how she left him no choice but to cold clock her? They suspended Rice for two games.
Adrian Peterson was suspended for one game after he whipped his son until the boy bled (including severe injuries to the boy's leg and scrotum).
Both of these men have been dealt harsher punishments from the NFL since then.
I'm assuming you've heard about these stories.
Speaking of violence against women and children, I don't care if you, person reading this, think you are a good person. I hope you feel like a good person. I don't want you to feel bad or uncomfortable, but that is emphatically not the point. Resist the impulse to get defensive, if you can, because this matters a lot.
Violence against women and children is a demonstrable fact, and we live in a society that is slow to respond, reluctant or unwilling to step in on behalf of those who suffer from it. Our response, is to blame the victim, to lament the ruined future of the accused, to rage about the feminization of U.S. culture, to argue that men have the right to hit a woman, or to give up, to concede that violence against women and children is inevitable.
The epiphany I had while talking to Jamie is how we can change all that. Domestic violence will go away when all parts of society find it unacceptable. It's like in soccer when a defense holds its line; as long as nobody falls back, they can keep their opponent offsides, away from the goal. The NFL could be part of that line. Needs to be part of that line.
Former NFL player Cris Carter said, regarding the Adrian Peterson case, in a room of men that mostly disagreed with him:
"Take him off the field...Take him off the doggone field. Because you know what? As a man, that's the only thing we really respect. "
What if the NFL, that totem of masculinity and wholesome Americanness, considered the lives of women and children more important than football? What then? Maybe we could get other bubbles, other segments of society, on board. At once discouraging people from assaulting women because of the consequences and teaching everyone else what has what value.
The most revelatory thing about this is that I can picture it. The is the most-watched league of professional sports by far. It is a powerful organization. Get the right commissioner in there. Things can really change.