The NFL: Where “Men” Act Like Boys

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BY PEYTON FINE

How domestic abuse is handled in the NFL.

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As I watch football games, I am constantly bombarded with comments about how this is a “man’s” game. Commentators discuss a player’s toughness, strength, and speed. Players brag about how their play gains them respect from fellow “men.” Then, they leave the gridiron and beat their wives, kids, or kill people. These “men” become boys, who have no respect for anyone in a vulnerable position, no respect for life, no respect for basic decency. And, no one stops them. Other “men” turn blind eyes, dole out slaps on the wrists, or worst of all, follow in the footsteps of the players. It is a sick cycle that has come to a head in the last few weeks, and someone needs to truly step up, not on the field, but in the line. Someone needs to make a play and end this.

Greg Hardy, defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was found guilty of assault and communicating assaults to a female. He was found GUILTY in a court of law. At any other job besides the NFL, he would have been fired on the spot. Hardy actually played in Week 1 for the Panthers. It was not until the wave of public disapproval hit the Panthers that the Panthers front office put Hardy on what is called the exempt list. That sounds like actual discipline, right? Nope. Hardy will be receiving the entirety of his thirteen million dollar salary for doing zero work.

Adrian Peterson, running back for the Minnesota Vikings, took a tree branch and beat his child. His child had cuts, bruises, and welts across his body. He was arrested, then deactivated from the roster, then reactivated, then deactivated again, then placed on the exempt list. Like Hardy, Peterson will receive the entirety of his salary for doing nothing. That sounds like a reward to me.

Ray Rice, running back for the Baltimore Ravens, was convicted of third-degree aggravated assault. In February, he punched his then-fiancée unconscious and then proceeded to drag her limp body out of an elevator. Rather than receiving the normal penalty of serving between eighteen and twenty-four months in prison, Rice was placed in a special program where his prison term was null and void. He only needed to attend a class to vacate the conviction. It is a deal given to less than five percent of the convictions in New Jersey. The Ravens hid the video of the assault from the public in an attempt to shield Rice.
Jonathan Dwyer, running back for the Arizona Cardinals, was detained for assault. Let me describe what constituted assault in this case. Dwyer head-butted his wife after she would not have sex with him. Think about this: he took his head, lowered it as if he were breaking through the line, and rammed into his wife. As if this weren’t enough, the next day, he hit his infant with a shoe. Arizona at least suspended him on the spot when the arrest went public.

Then, we move onto murder. Look at the case of Ray Lewis. After a Super Bowl party in 2000, Lewis was involved in the stabbing of a man outside a club. His bloodstained white suit was never found. Traces of the victim’s DNA were found in Lewis’s limousine. Lewis along with two other men were originally charged in the killing. Lewis was offered a plea deal to testify against the two other men and have the charges dropped except for one conviction of obstruction of justice. Lewis’s career continued with another Super Bowl victory, and he currently is a personality on Monday Night Countdown on ESPN. He is revered within the football community for his passion for the game and playmaking ability. No one brings up the killing.

In the Lewis case, I am bothered that now that the opinion of the public has shifted on Lewis, ESPN is more than happy to brush the issue under the rug. I cannot seriously watch ESPN’s coverage of football when someone like Cris Carter is moved to tears when describing his disgust over the Adrian Peterson incident, but Ray Lewis will come on the air the next day.

The hypocrisy of ESPN may be no more evident than what happened this weekend on College Gameday. Mark May, the host of College Gameday was criticizing Jameis Winston for his actions. First, let me say that Jameis Winston’s actions make me sick. The fact that he found humor in saying something so profane makes me sick. However, for Mark May to say anything is worse. May has been arrested three times during his playing career. Winston for all of his faults has yet to be arrested. One impressive Florida State student created a sign that conveyed this fact on ESPN’s broadcast.

Clearly, the media’s coverage of the above incidents was helpful to these cases. It allowed teams to react faster in their discipline and brought coverage to an issue that needs it. However, as the media condemns these actions, we quickly forget that many of the media members have had their own issues. As a media executive, you should make your employees confront their personal issues head-on on the air or do not allow them on the air. What may be even worse is that multiple media members have simply dropped the ball when responding to domestic violence. Stephen A. Smith, a personality for ESPN’s First Take, told women to be careful not to “provoke” a man into physical violence.

This is a man’s issue, end of story. As a man, I am sick that not only could someone be capable of such violence against a woman or child, but also that those who should be in a position to criticize have either no moral high ground to stand on or say exactly the opposite of what needs to be said. We messed this up completely, and it’s time we fixed it. How? Be a real man. A man is defined by his ability to respect those around him. A man is defined by his ability to make a tough decision even if it will hurt his livelihood, popularity, or image.

Every “man” mentioned in this article remains on a payroll. All of these “men” will most likely one day play in the NFL again or will continue to cover sports. All of these “men” are massive human beings at the pinnacle of their athletic prowess who used it to beat someone in a vulnerable position. Someone be a real man. Roger Goodell, I don’t care how it hurts your league’s image. Ban every single player who has had any sniff of domestic violence. If you are an NFL owner, I don’t care how much it will hurt your team’s winning percentage, cut any player involved in an assault. If you are a media executive, fire every “man” on your coverage who cannot properly discuss domestic violence. Or, stop pretending to be able to cover the issue and just go back to football.

This issue is about so much more than a game. Yet, because these “men” have jobs to play or cover this game, it has somehow been treated in the context of a game. STOP. Treat this like you would anything else. Powerful “men” took advantage of the vulnerable, and no one has stopped them. Take away what they love. Take away the game. Then, maybe these boys can become real men.

Peyton Fine ’17 ([email protected]) is fed up with all of it. Fix it now.