February 16, 2019

Why the NFL Should Crackdown on Domestic Abuse, if Only Fans Cared

Eva Hale '20

There have been 122 cases of domestic violence among players in the National Football League since 2000. The most recent stars to join this group were running back Kareem Hunt and linebacker Reuben Foster. Both were convicted of domestic violence and have been put on the commissioner Roger Goodell’s exempt list, meaning they cannot practice or play until the NFL’s investigations have been completed.
The NFL has a serious domestic violence problem. It has always had one.
Foster was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins less than two days after he was arrested. This is the third time in the last year Foster has been arrested and the third time in the last four months he has been accused of domestic violence. He has a criminal history, aside from the aforementioned domestic violence incidents, dating back to high school. Yet, it took less than 48 hours for him to find another job in the NFL.
The Redskins said they will let the legal process play out and that Foster will not play for them until it does. However, their decision to have him on the team is immoral in of itself. Washington views Foster as a former first round pick who, once he serves his suspension, can help them win games, not a hero that fans should look up to.
The league’s executives and coaches know their fans can get past almost anything, as long as a player is good enough. Unfortunately, they are not wrong.
Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones, who has been arrested 10 times since he has been in the NFL, was an active player for nearly half of 2018 season and the Cincinnati Bengals have not suffered any bad publicity for it. His crimes include assault, drug crimes and coercion with a firearm.
Adam "Pacman" Jones
While sports media and fans look past strong legal issues in players, there is one thing owners believe their fans – more specifically, their sponsors – cannot look past: kneeling during the national anthem. Somehow, there are active football players with multiple credible domestic violence accusations, assault arrests and DUIs, yet, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick still does not have a job.
It does not make a difference if you believe what Kaepernick’s kneeling did was right. It says something about the NFL that they would rather hire people who beat their wives and girlfriends than someone who kneeled for the national anthem as a form of protesting police brutality against African Americans.
For NFL owners, this is a business decision. If Foster helps the Redskins win, the fans will move past his questionable character. Fans got past it with Ezekiel Elliot, despite his domestic abuse allegations, and Brandon Marshall, despite his eight separate domestic violence allegations. The fans of whichever team signs Hunt will get past it.
Just the same, no team decided to sign Kaepernick as a business decision. Many of their personal and business interests, sponsors, fans and networks have been vocally opposed to Kaepernick, despite his ability and legal soundness.
The NFL has said they are trying to change by creating a domestic violence committee. However, Deborah Epstein and Susan Else, the only two people on that committee qualified when it comes to domestic violence, have walked out on the committee, saying it has done nothing.
Part of this is our fault as fans. If I were a Cowboys fan, I would still root for Ezekiel Elliott, because he is one of the best running back in the NFL. Unfortunately, the owners are not wrong in thinking fans can excuse any type of bad behavior if a player can help them win games.
The one time it seemed there might be a cultural shift in the NFL was when Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back, was caught beating his fiancee on video. With Rice, we saw what happened with our own eyes, showing millions exactly what happened. Without direct evidence like that, however, fans will continue to look past any wrongdoing.
It is important to recognize that the Rice video is what domestic violence looks like. Just because we do not see it with our own eyes does not mean that Foster and Hunt are not just as guilty as Rice.

The NFL will not change unless this affects what the goal of any organization is–sales. Unless fans make the effort by no longer purchasing jerseys or tickets and boycotting goods from NFL sponsors, criminals will continue to play professional football as admired stars.

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