The NFL has a violence problem.
It’s not a secret and it hasn’t been for a while. There are 48 documented cases of domestic violence, battery and assault by NFL Players in the last four years and in the first two months of 2019 the league added numbers 49 and 50 to the pile. While all three of these are just as bad as the next, domestic violence seems to be the area that gets highlighted the most.
These domestic violence cases have become so familiar that we can call the next play before it happens. It’s the simple formula of a player committing a violent act, then said player apologies hitting what sports journalist Katie Nolan likes to call the “Big Three.” They apologize to everyone but the victim, say how hard this is for them emotionally and list all of the women they are related to getting bonus points for mentioning their grandmother.
The most recent cases came last September when Reuben Foster, linebacker for the Washington Redskins was arrested for domestic violence. He made his public apology and then was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list.
This is a special list of players that have violated the NFL’s Code of Conduct in such a way that they have to go through a league investigation and be banned from all football activities whether that be games, practices, or media appearances.
It wasn’t even a week after the Foster case that football fans across the nation got that here we go again feeling when a video surfaced of former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt shoving down a woman and kicking her after having to be restrained by people several times.
Nolan summed up these two incidents best in one word: Resignation. We feel for the victims but it’s starting to get to the point were when we hear of this happening we tend to change the channel or radio station because it’s the same old story. Honestly it is starting to get hard supporting a league that only springs into action when something threatens their reputation.
It’s unacceptable and it brings up the question of what is the NFL doing help protect these victims?
The answer: nothing.
It took an incident similar to Hunts for the league to even realize they had a problem. In 2014 the now infamous Ray Rice domestic dispute were he knocked out his then-fiancee, now wife in a hotel elevator was a turning point for the league.
The then Baltimore Ravens running back received a two game unpaid suspension and had to attend a diversion program before the video of the incident surfaced. Rice’s’ punishment then turned into a lifetime ban from the NFL.
It took a media beatdown for Commissioner Roger Goodell to finally wake up make a change. Goodell released a letter to NFL owners admitting he made a mistake in the light punishment handed to Rice.
In his letter he promised that there was going to be change and to be fair there was.
Working alongside the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) the commissioner changed the players Code of Conduct so that if a player is a first-time offender they are to receive a six game unpaid suspension with the amount of games varying depending on the severity of the violation. For a second violation of the rules they are subject to be banned from the league.
“These steps are based on a clear, simple principle: domestic violence and sexual assault are wrong. They are illegal.” Goodell stated in his letter, “They have no place in the NFL and are unacceptable in any way, under any circumstances. That has been and remains our policy.”
Changes were being made, rules were being enforced and they even formed a team of experts in this field from outside the league. Things were going great right?
Well that’s what the NFL would have you believe, but three years later the league failed once again with the news of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was charged with domestic abuse. The young player appealed the claims dragging it through four different court systems.
While Elliott did eventually serve his six game suspension it was only after four months of fighting it.
Players should not be allowed to fight the punishment that is handed to them especially in Elliott’s case as he had already gone through a year long investigation that found solid proof against him.
The Code of Conduct needs to have a stricter policy on punishments being served when they are given. No one wants to continually hear about a player trying to escape punishment. Serve the suspension like the mature adult you claim to be and move on with your career.
There is a way to minimize or even cease domestic and all other forms of violence in the league.
The NFL can start with who they draft. After the news of Foster’s arrest broke, The New York Times ran a story about how certain teams throughout the NFL didn’t have the young running back on their radar during the 2017 draft due to reports of his ‘immaturity’ and ‘issues of life skills’.
Had the 49er’s not ignored his violent history that had presented itself in his college career at Alabama and through the combine, we wouldn’t have to be talking about yet another domestic issue.
Another way that the league can help this problem is by not allowing players to sign contracts or even be picked up by a team.
The Cleveland Browns signed Kareem Hunt to a contract rumored to be worth $1 million, so no matter what punishment Hunt receives it has already been undermined.
The NFL needs to take a hard look at the players in the organization because this is a fixable problem. When a player decided to lay his hands on anyone else in a violent way he forfeits his right to play.
- US-NEWS-KAREEM-HUNT-ADMITS-HE-MISLED-WRE.jpg: WREG-TV | Used With Permission
- LaDainian Tomlinson on Elliott: “Zeke has earned a new contract” with Cowboys: Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/TNS | Used With Permission
- Kareem Hunt, Robbie Gould could head Bears offseason shopping list: (John Sleezer/Kansas City Star/TNS) | Used With Permission