Opinion: The NFL doesn’t care about domestic violence

Matt Poe

Ah, the NFL: it dominates our Sundays, side conversations with friends and colleagues, and much of our viewing habits. I’ve always said that baseball may be our pastime, but football — the NFL in particular — has become our unwavering passion, undeniable in its power and draw on the average sports fan.

Not even domestic violence can get in the way of the NFL, and it certainly doesn’t care about domestic violence involving its players. It never has and it never will.

Domestic violence is once again at the forefront of the NFL. Ex-New York Giants kicker, Josh Brown, had a journal detailing his history of alleged physical, sexual and emotional abuse of his wife come to light this past week. He’s since been put on the commissioner’s exempt list, or as I like to call it, paid timeout. The 37-year-old kicker’s career is likely over, as it should be.

Now, surely the NFL handled this situation with more urgency and competence than they handled the disastrous Ray Rice incident a few years back?

Wrong.

The league instituted a six-game suspension for first-time domestic violence offenders after that incident. Brown, unbelievable to many, was only suspended one game in August for his alleged history of abuse.

You would think after all the public relations hits the league took from the Ray Rice scandal, it would finally learn how to properly handle its domestic violence cases. You, of course, would be wrong to think that because the NFL continues to fumble on its own policies and rules. You would be wrong to place that kind of faith in an organization that doesn’t care about its players or the women who have to live with the results of this abuse.

And maybe that’s our fault. Maybe we shouldn’t care about how the NFL handles domestic violence.

Let’s make something clear: In no way am I advocating for domestic violence or downplaying its severity. It’s a damn epidemic that is often spoken only behind closed doors because of its ugliness. A spotlight needs to be shone upon it to help victims come forward to seek the resources they need. But to continue thinking the NFL is that light or some moral compass on how we should deal with domestic violence is laughable and naive.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and his league have shown this year that they care more about their products rating slip than they do domestic violence, especially in Brown’s case. Look at how they handled similar cases of abuse with future hall of famers (Adrian Peterson, black) and good, midlevel players (Rice, black). Was it because he’s an older, white player who plays a position that many in football feel is not really football at all? I don’t know. But I wouldn’t question you if that’s your line of thinking.

The sad part is that the NFL’s power is so great that schlubs like me and millions of other won’t stop watching games because of this. I’ll still be willing to tune in to watch my Bengals choke away another big game, but I’ll do it with a grain of salt because I can differentiate my team on the field and the people they may be off of it.

It’s time we stop looking at this league that has shown continual negligence and incompetence as some blueprint to deal with important issues. The NFL doesn’t care about breast cancer when its players don pink gear for the month of October; they want to sell you more merchandise.

The NFL doesn’t care about military men and women when they charge the nation’s Department of Defense more than $5 million to honor soldiers during games.

And they sure as hell don’t care about domestic violence perpetrators and victims. It’s an ugly reality, but you’d be wrong to think otherwise.

Matt Poe is a columnist, contact him at [email protected]