Two weeks ago before a video emerged of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice brutally hitting his wife in a hotel elevator, I gave my students an assignment as a writing prompt. “NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said if a player is accused of domestic abuse moving forward, the punishment will be a six-game suspension for the first offense and indefinite suspension after the second. Is this penalty too harsh or not harsh enough?”
One of my female students had no clue about the Rice scandal, so I briefly explained it to her. The question she responded with stunned me: “Well, I mean, it all depends. What did she say to him? She may have deserved to be hit.”
In that all-too-brief moment, I realized this young woman had somehow in her life received the communication being hit was justified if the situation “called for punishment.” In the most clear and concise response possible, I stated it didn’t matter what provoked the action. Hitting another person, especially a woman who you are about to walk down the aisle with, is never justified.
This week, I encountered another shocker. When discussing the Adrian Peterson child abuse case with a class of students, the majority was in favor of no punishment for the Vikings star. “Yeah, yeah, I’ve been hit like that many times,” one said. “Nothing wrong with that.”
Let me get this clear: it’s perfectly OK for a father to take a tree limb and not simply whip a child, but beat them on multiple areas of the body? It’s OK to actually leave marks on a young boy’s hands as he lifts them to stop the limb from making contact with his forehead?
I’m a football fan. That’s how I spend most weekends in the fall: taking in the college games on Saturdays and the professional games on Sundays. I watch the Saints take the field every week with a tremendous amount of pride for the organization and the wonderful fan base that roots it on to success.
The messages I’ve heard in my classroom the last few weeks have lead me to criticize the League in a way I never thought I would. Something has got to be done here. It’s time to clean house. The management associated with these scandals has got to go. The League has to develop a zero-tolerance policy on abuse of any kind.
And if it can’t? It needs to close down. I’m sure eyes are rolling at that comment as being too extreme, but it’s not. The longer the NFL is in business like it currently is and has people who condone the events that have occurred in recent weeks, it doesn’t just send a black eye to the business and its fans. It reinforces the message my students have received somewhere in the past, the message domestic abuse can be justified.
I love football, but I love a world where children are getting positive, non-violent messages even more. The NFL isn’t sending those messages right now. Something has got to give. If the League can’t get its act together, it shouldn’t have an act at all.