Let’s face it: as far as the NFL is concerned, domestic violence is nothing but a hassle that they’ll gladly ignore if they believe they can get away with it.
It’s been clear for a while now that despite a lot of rhetoric claiming otherwise, the NFL really doesn’t care to deal with the tricky and burdensome issue of domestic violence. But since news broke on Thursday morning of police documents that reveal Giants kicker Josh Brown admitted to domestic violence against his ex-wife, the general assumption of the NFL’s apathy has shifted from “pretty obvious” to “undeniable.”
As the Josh Brown case shows us once again: the NFL does not care about domestic violence https://t.co/Af9LAaNmGx
— Shutdown Corner (@YShutdownCorner) October 20, 2016
NFL cares more about TD celebrations, how players wear their socks & what cleats players wear than domestic violence. That's just a fact.
— Jimmy Traina (@JimmyTraina) October 20, 2016
Josh Brown puts NFL in same spot it was 2 years ago with discipline on domestic violence, with a written admission instead of a video.
— Jane McManus (@janesports) October 20, 2016
The NFL and Roger Goodell do not care one bit about domestic violence. Not one bit. It has never been more clear. https://t.co/uXxgmB3wqj
— Michael Hurley (@michaelFhurley) October 20, 2016
But why don’t they care? It’s not because it would be that hard to prove through investigation and through working with the police, and it’s certainly not because the problem doesn’t come up enough. They don’t want to try to fix the problem because it comes up so often.
Investigations and suspensions hurt the NFL’s bottom line, and this is the kind of issue that could affect that bottom line the most. There are way too many NFL players that have been, and currently are, perpetrators of domestic violence. For the league to crack down on it thoroughly and with consistency, they’d have to hire an entire investigative and legal team to devote themselves full-time to just that one specific problem.
Now to you or I, that may not seem like such a bad idea. The NFL is a multi-billion dollar business that ostensibly has a responsibility to its players, their families and the customers fans. Plus it would result in much more effective fact-gathering procedures which would inevitably help them dole out more well-informed and ethical sanctions.
But it would also be incredibly expensive, and the billionaire owners would undoubtedly lose some very lucrative players.
So despite everything that the NFL has said and done over the last few years to convince us of their concern for dealing with and preventing domestic violence, we are left with a front office and a group of owners whose stance on the issue can be boiled down to a “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality. While there is plenty that is wrong with that approach, the most obvious problem with it is that the nature of domestic violence is such that the victim is often terrified to speak out; particularly when speaking out means going up against not only the law, but also the most profitable sports league in the world.
Here is a definitive list of the things the NFL cares equally or more about than domestic violence, as evidenced by their suspension history across the last 16 years:
- Possible manipulation of PSI of game balls and failing to cooperate with independent investigation: four-game suspension
- Marijuana use: various levels of suspension from one game to indefinitely
- Possession of marijuana: various levels of suspension from one game to four games
- Misdemeanor disorderly conduct: one-game suspension
- Player accidentally shooting himself with a gun, sans permit: four games
Now obviously those are just the issues that have earned player suspensions. It doesn’t include the myriad of other equipment and uniform violations, excessive celebration and dancing penalties and other far more arbitrary rules that the NFL spends countless hours fining and penalizing players over on a week-by-week basis.
From the color of players’ cleats to choreographed performances in the end zone, the league office is consumed with keeping players in line when they are on the field, at the podium and in the locker room. Who they are as human beings is generally of little consequence to Roger Goodell and the owners.
And if you think that Josh Brown’s one-game suspension for suspicion/admission of domestic violence is a one-off occurrence then you should think again. Here are a few of the one-game suspensions involving domestic violence over the past few years, as described by the USA Today NFL Arrest-Database:
- Erik Walden: Jailed after complaint of felony assault against live-in girlfriend. (2011) Diversion program, counseling, 50 hours community service. One-game suspension.
- Jermaine Phillips: Charged with third-degree felony domestic battery for allegedly strangling his wife at home in Tampa after she called 911 (2010) Diversion program. No suspension.
- Quinn Ojinnaka: Accused of tossing his wife down the stairs and throwing her out of the house after an argument over him contacting a girl on Facebook in Gwinnett County, Ga. (2009) Diversion program. One-game suspension
- Michael Boley: Accused of becoming physical with wife during argument at home in Dacula, GA. (2008) Diversion program. One-game suspension
- Rocky Bernard: Accused of hitting his girlfriend in the head at Seattle nightclub. (2008) Diversion program, agreed to have no contact with woman for two years, domestic violence treatment. No suspension.
- Fabian Washington: Accused of domestic battery in Florida after incident with girlfriend. Police observed “slight red marks” on her neck. (2008) Diversion program for first-time offenders. One-game suspension.
It takes a lot for an NFL player to garner more than a one or two-game suspension for domestic assault or domestic violence, and generally it has to be compounded with another crime or be a repeat offense. Unless of course here is a video tape or police documents for the world to see. Even “football royalty” like the Mara family were not willing to put success on the line in order to hold a wife beater accountable for his actions.
At this point, we know what the NFL cares about and what they don’t. If they aren’t going to make genuine strides toward social change in their league, the least they could do is admit as much. And you know, dressing everyone in pink every October. I think we can all agree that empty gestures for PR are worse than just admitting that you don’t give a shit.