I watched the Green Bay Packers crush the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field last Thursday. It was fun to watch the Packers trounce the Vikings, and I was encouraged to see so many of the players and fans sporting the color pink to raise awareness of breast cancer.
And while the battle against breast cancer is an important one, the NFL missed an important opportunity to raise awareness of another issue that has impacted so many of its players’ families and so many families living in Wisconsin.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. The color purple is to Domestic Violence what pink is to breast cancer. Considering the recent string of domestic violence cases in the NFL, and the major media attention it has received, the league dropped the ball by missing the opportunity to show the public its commitment to addressing this serious issue – a problem which results in the death of 3 women every day.
In the 7 years since NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell implemented a tougher policy on player conduct, players charged with domestic violence routinely received considerably lighter punishments that players accused of other offenses, like drug use or drunken driving. Often, they were not punished at all.
To his credit, Mr. Goodell admitted last month that the NFL player conduct policy needed to be overhauled. The reform of the player conduct policy is only part of the solution though, to truly address the epidemic of domestic violence in society, we must also have tough prosecutors who advocate for the rights of victims, along with tough and fair judges who will not engage in revolving door justice. Remember, the prosecutor and judge in the Ray Rice case allowed Rice to avoid prosecution and a felony charge, in exchange for him entering a “pretrial intervention program” consisting of a year in treatment. Ironically, the initial punishment levied by the NFL against Rice was far tougher that the punishment (or lack) he received in the criminal justice system. Of course, violent offenders need to receive counseling, but there must always be a punishment component, to deter future violence, while protecting victims.
Contrary to what some professional athletes claim, they are indeed role models. The National Football League itself is a role model. We can expect the NFL to be tougher in the future, now it is up to the judiciary to be tough, smart, and fair.
For victims of domestic violence, in Wisconsin, there are a number of resources for victims of domestic abuse. For a complete listing, visit city.milwaukee.gov/staysafe. And if you would like to talk to someone immediately, a coordinator from the Wisconsin Commission on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault is available to help. Simply call: 414.286.2997.