Consider everything you will learn in four years of college. Think about the work you completed, the relentless studying — all you learned about the world and the people in it.

Now consider what the NFL learned about violence against women in that same period: nothing.

Four years ago, Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice beat his then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an elevator at a casino, as revealed by TMZ in a video published Sept. 8, 2014. Rice was released and suspended indefinitely from the Ravens only after the video’s release. The organization claimed it was unaware of the magnitude of the events before the video surfaced.

The scandal sparked significant backlash for the league, prompting NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to create a new policy for handling domestic violence, instituted Dec. 10, 2014. Among other things, this new policy included hiring new executives.

At the time, the NFL finally seemed to be taking violence against women seriously.

Events this week regarding former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt proved the NFL has learned nothing.

On Friday, TMZ released a video of Hunt assaulting a woman in a hotel. Neither the Chiefs nor the NFL had seen the video before its public release, an official said, but neither entity had interviewed Hunt or the alleged victim in their investigation. Both parties attempted to get in contact with the alleged victim.

Shortly after the video was released, the Chiefs released Hunt.

As reports trickle in regarding details of the case, countless stories have appeared proclaiming “the NFL has a domestic violence problem.”

Though these provocative headlines are true, they miss an important point, in addition to missing the fact that Hunt’s altercation wasn’t intimate partner violence and therefore not “domestic” violence.

The NFL’s domestic violence problem is a microcosm of a problem many industries and professional sports leagues face today.

Domestic violence is not just an NFL problem. It is everyone’s problem.

The NFL is doing at least one thing worse than many companies: failing to distance itself from allegations in the first place. If a company has even the slightest inkling that a job candidate may have committed domestic violence, they likely won’t hire the candidate. The NFL still doesn’t abide by this general rule, and it does not hold its athletes to the higher standard they deserve as public figures.

The NFL should be asking a few questions. For any of these questions, if one substitutes their company or university for the NFL, they can see how pervasive these unanswered questions regarding assaulting women are in many corners of our country.

First, what obligation does the league have to investigate these allegations? Does it play judge and jury or await law enforcement? What protocol does it follow to conduct an investigation?

Answers to these questions don’t have to be difficult. Former CEO of the NFL’s Oakland Raiders, Amy Trask, offered a comprehensive plan for how a team should investigate an assault case.

“When you learn of a situation, you mobilize immediately,” Trask said in an interview with CBS Sports. “You’ve got to assume that in this day and age, there will be a video recording of everything. And I would search like Nancy Drew to find that video recording.”

Next, the NFL must establish a leaguewide plan to consistently deal with perpetrators.

Currently, the league has a six-game suspension policy for any player who has committed assault. However, the policy is almost never upheld.

The league must develop universal, severe punishments to set a precedent and incentivize players to think before they act and lose incentive bonuses for players who have been suspended.

These questions alone do not illustrate how blatant callousness toward assaulting women persists outside the NFL.

The Ringer’s Kevin Clark wrote Dec. 1 that the NFL believes it is scandal-proof and no amount of drama will cause the demise of its ratings. So far, it has been right. Just as the Redskins claimed linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers because they thought they could weather a public-relations hit, the NFL believes it can push assault aside because its fans still consume its product, no matter the scandal. Foster was arrested Nov. 24 on domestic violence charges for hitting his ex-girlfriend.

This season, NFL games have accounted for 46 of the top 50 most-watched shows on television. NFL fans don’t seem to mind the immorality of the NFL, so the company has no financial incentive to make changes.

Boycotting games and not purchasing merchandise may be a way to get the league to listen, but the likelihood of mobilizing enough fans to actually affect the NFL’s bottom line is almost zero.  

After this week, one thing is clear: The executives sitting in their swanky NFL offices are not the only problem. We, the football fans, are at fault too.

The 19th paragraph of this article was edited to better reflect the author’s original intent.

Have a reaction to this article? Write a letter to the editor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*