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Press box perspective

Sports Editor John Conway discusses the NFL's latest controversy.

October 1, 2014

It seems like the National Football League (NFL) combats a major controversy every season. This year, the NFL’s internal adversary is the domestic violence charges against four of its big-name athletes.

Even worse for the NFL, commissioner Roger Goodell’s claim of plausible deniability for the Ravens’ running back Ray Rice was fully discredited, and the outcry for his resignation echoed from a number of US senators and activists. But despite the horrific accounts gleaned from investigations, Reuters reports that nearly all major networks have seen an increase in NFL viewership. It is as though Goodell is not the only person to respond indifferently to domestic violence; we all have.

Consider this. According to Domestic Violence Statistics, in America, a woman is beaten or abused every 9 seconds. More shocking still, 60 percent of sexual abuse cases are never reported to the police, and 97 percent of rapists will never spend a day in jail for their crimes, according to the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network. Maybe Americans have become so numb to accounts of abuse in daily life that we have also come to accept it in pro sports.

It is easy to blame the sport for the behavior of its athletes. Violence is an inherent part of football, and body-crushing blows are often applauded on the field. Brain damage is a known occupational hazard for veterans of the sport. It is almost inevitable that violent behaviors sometimes carry over into the rest of their lives.

But to blame these reports solely on the occupation of the athletes is a cop out. It downplays the fact that the NFL, the governing body of the sport, allowed it to take place, and then attempted to protect their athletes rather than the victims. It downplays the fact that assault and abuse are nothing short of epidemics in the US. But more importantly, it downplays the fact that when news of this issue finally broke, fans did little in response. By continually supporting the NFL, the viewing public condoned the fact that Goodell gave Ray Rice a 2-week suspension for knocking his fiancée unconscious.

We must not continuously turn a blind eye to the problem at hand. When incidences of domestic violence, spousal abuse or any other form of violent misconduct occur, we must sympathize with the victim as if they were our own loved ones. We cannot excuse the actions of those involved in the Ray Rice scandal, or the cover-up.

It is all well that the NFL has adopted a 2-strike domestic abuse policy and is working to initiate preventative workshops for domestic violence. But until Goodell and the National Football League receive adequate reprimands for their mistakes, I personally will not view football games this season. I urge all fans to do the same.

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