by Chris Stevenson
The head-slap didn’t go away after all, players just moved it from the turf to the carpets of their homes. Or as in one case to the elevator of a casino. The TMZ (9/8/14) video footage of Ray Rice formerly of the Baltimore Ravens will be looked upon as the breaking point, the case that changed things for all NFL domestic abuse situations. And it didn’t happen overnight. In fact, the league didn’t want anything to happen at all. But now they have no other choice.
If only they took the head-trauma (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) of their former players that seriously instead of just waiting for them to die off, maybe a lot of domestic problems would have been solved. The case of Rice seems to be a bit of a departure, both sides are responsible for what took place last February 15. I cannot stress more strongly the role Janay’s actions play in that horrible elevator incident, she is not just the victim. She is a co-perpetrator. I’m probably the first journalist you ever seen make such a statement in this case, but this begs being called down the middle.
The NFL is a $250 billion dollar industry that believes in accountability until it’s time to become accountable, or until you find out differently. This is pretty much how they have approached most of their off-the-field issues, brain-injuries, suicides, drugs, and now domestic abuse. It should go without saying that most of these matters are inter-related.
When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said back in September that he “got it wrong,” he forgot to add ‘now that you know.’ During the footage shown last summer of then-Baltimore Ravens Ray Rice dragging his unconscious then-fiancee Janay out of an elevator last Feb., everything was fine, so long as we couldn’t see what transpired that lead up to that point. Once the inside footage was released by mid-September, well… after further review, Rice’ meager little 2-game suspension now becomes indefinite. Outrage went viral, as it should have.
ESPN even suspended Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons for 3 weeks because he called Goodell a “liar” in an angry outburst he did on podcast. Grantland is a website owned by ESPN, Of course they know better, understand their letters really mean Enable Star Players’ Negative-Behavior. A 10/2 USA Today report reveals that since 2006 law enforcement has “pursued 50 domestic abuse cases against NFL players.” Welcome to the ITFL, the Ike Turner Football League. A league featuring a history of abusive players that go decades back, most visibly back to the days of OJ Simpson (‘89). After those 50 players were arrested in ‘07 Goodell stated “it is my job-not law enforcement’s job-to protect the National Football League.” Was this an arrogant swipe toward law enforcement for arresting so many of his boys?
Back in those days police officers would drive up to the home of a current or ex-NFL player, stare his black-eyed wife in the eye, and then ask him for an autograph. Those were the good ole’ days to Goodell most likely. Goodell did come out with a personal conduct policy, one with harsh measures against drugs, DWI, etc., but considerably light punishment towards players guilty of domestic abuse. Soon after the ‘07 arrests came the ‘08 rape allegations against Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the league and the fans would become more put-off by Michael Vick’s dog-fighting ring, than a player’s amoral treatment of women. He would eventually be charged, convicted and forced to do hard-time in a league that openly pitched it’s product to a nation where killing dogs isn’t just normal, but a requirement (China)
Three days after Goodell’s new domestic violence policy, yet another Ray was hit with felony domestic violence charges; Ray McDonald of the San Francisco 49ers. Other recent offenders include Jonathan Dwyer of the Arizona Cardinals, Greg Hardy and Quincy Enunwa of the New York Jets, A.J. Jefferson and Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings. Peterson and Dwyer’s cases are particularly troubling because of their alleged treatment of children. Wikipedia summed it up best: “On September 12, 2014, Peterson was indicted on child abuse charges, and subsequently deactivated for Minnesota’s week-2 game against the New England Patriots. Amid child abuse allegations, on September 15, the Vikings reinstated Peterson and he was scheduled to play against the New Orleans Saints. Then, on September 17, Peterson was placed on the NFL’s Exempt/Commissioner’s Permission list, which requires that Peterson “remain away from all team activities… Photos posted onTMZ.com revealed his 4-year-old son’s legs with slash-like wounds. The prosecution in the case alleges that Peterson used a tree branch to beat his young son repeatedly on his back, buttocks, genitals, ankles, and legs.”
As of this writing Peterson cut a deal of no-contest to reckless assault of his son. In return he will not go to jail but will do community service (80 hours) and pay back some of the salary he was still receiving from the Vikings during his suspension.
Peterson is one of a long line of young parents trying to use old-style disciplinarian corporal punishment and simply does not know how to do it. What the above quote describes is by no means a spanking, not when you leave cuts and bruises going so far to even damage the genital area. From the standpoint of someone who probably holds the family record for spankings, I can say my parents never broke skin. They knew what they were doing. If you think Peterson is bad, Dwyer assaulted his 18-month-old along with the child’s mother.
A major part of the problem is between the players who balled while I was growing up, and the ones playing now. In between was a rising number of NFL players from broken homes, or raised by just their mothers. Knowing how to act around the opposite sex in a relationship, much less how to raise children is virtually an impossible dream with too many of them. But that’s the circumstance most of the players listed come from. Ordinary everyday situations seem to baffle many a single mom’s black boys nowadays, just compound that with the general spoiled treatment and attitude that goes with being an athlete. By the time he becomes a man, it’s like he’s a mutated man, a walking non-political sleeper-cell quick to hold grudges. Most of them are loud-talking, but not outspoken. What you are essentially getting is male-nagging due to the inability to adjust to “he looked at me” or “she left me.” The only persona he’s seen cope with this is his mother. So though not gay or effeminate, he still takes on much of her mannerism.
The domestic abuse cases I lumped together under the name of the late-famous co-founder of rock & roll, pop and r&b Ike Turner due to his brutal treatment of women-most notably then-wife Tina Turner-have already been a part of 767 NFL arrests tracked by a sportswriter. USA Today’s Brent Schrotenboer started his own database. Of course this type of behavior is not just exclusive to pro football. I recall writing roughly 20-years ago about goalie Mark Fitzpatrick of the then expansion-Florida Panthers mistook his 8-months-pregnant wife for a puck and began assaulting her. Then there was Krzysztof Oliwa, the NHLs ex-goon beat up his wife with a hockey stick years ago. Reportedly he broke her nose and some of her ribs. Even today the NHL has similar examples of domestic violence as the NFL, including a case where a player knocked his girlfriend unconscious. In 2013 Semyon Varlamov of the Colorado Avalanche also faced charges of 2nd degree kidnapping of Evgenia Vavinyuk (then-24), along with knocking her out Varlamov was accused of stomping, kicking, and dragging her around the house. In time his misdemeanor assault charge was dropped.
Why aren’t news of these hockey players as common knowledge as the NFL players? If you just go by headlines and national exposure it looks like the leagues with the highest percentage of black players have the most domestic abuse cases, and the whitest league (NHL) has the most civilized husbands/boyfriends. One statistic even seems to support this; of the four major professional team sports leagues, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL from January of 2010 to September 2014, the NFL and NBA take the lead with the highest arrest rates. Their numbers are reached by dividing each year’s arrest by the number of players and multiplied by 100,000, NFL 2,466, NBA 2,157 MLB 553, NHL 175. Given hockey’s well publicized reputation for fights during games, are we to believe these players all become Prince Charming at home? What is not widely-known is the NHL has a culture of no arrests, and no suspensions and the national sports media has obviously not been anxious to focus on them the same as they have with the NFL. I’m not saying these incidents happen more than with the NFL, I’m saying the amount of spousal abuse is much higher than their low arrest percentage reveals. Sports no longer seems important in the face of such tragic behavior.
The NHL has been watching the handling of Ray Rice and other suspensions and began suspending players as well. One recent ruling may be considered a step back, McDonald, a defensive end has been and will continue playing. As of 11/10 the Santa Clara DA’s office decided not to file charges, stating “we cannot prove a crime occurred” in spite of “visible injuries” to a woman believed to be his fiance noted on a police report. Emphasis seem to be on him being “cooperative” with police. Is that all it takes in these situations, or do the 49ers have some kind of invisible arrangement going on between them and their local PD? It looks like somebody fumbled the ball. If we are going back to the days of 2000 when the general attitude was ‘we can’t be bothered, Ray’s got a football game to play,’ then we are still getting it wrong. That “No More” campaign needs to include ‘No More Backdoor Deals.’
As for Ray Rice he is going through a grievance hearing he filed against the Ravens on October 21. TMZ just ran a report stating Rice will be interviewed by Matt Lauer of the “Today” show between now and the 11/26. Part of Rice’ contention is the September 8 video footage does not include actions by Janay that led up to him hitting her. I don’t approve of what Rice did, but there is always the possibility of two sides to a story, especially in today’s reality TV-era of crazy young women. It may be Janay was just acting out on what she was trained to do. I jokingly call it the Ike Turner Football League, but these are Ike’s with muscles and professional training, in other words strength and endurance. Most of their women are not Tina Turners; athletically built trained female performers. While how a female is built is no justification for physical abuse either, Janay’s petite figure provides no protection from any blows from Ray.
Given that football is a violent game, things still didn’t have to be as bad as they are now. If the NFL made honest efforts at examining, diagnosing and treating head injuries and swiftly disciplining players in domestic abuse cases the game would be much safer and still exciting to watch. But the league has demonstrated for decades it was never interested in player’s health.
Chris Stevenson is a regular columnist for blackcommentator, and a contributor to the Hampton Institute, his own blog www.thebuffalobullet.com, and a syndicated columnist. Follow him on Twitter, and Facebook, you don’t have to join any of them. Watch his video commentary Policy & Prejudice for clbTV & Follow his Blogtalkradio interviews on 36OOseconds. Respond to him on the comment link below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.