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NFL Culture: A Response to the Ray Rice Response
September 12, 2014
Most people who know me well know that the closest I get to watching a NFL football game is the watching the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader’s reality show on CMT. And even then, my interest is waning at best. But this recent Ray Rice controversy has peaked my interest to say the least. If you have been sleeping under a rock for the last 48 hours, you may have missed the graphic video of Ray Rice punching his, then fiance (now wife), in the face, laying her out in an elevator, and then dragging her from the elevator into the hotel.
Watching television sportscasters, news anchors, and radio disc jockeys bring this incidence of domestic violence to the forefront of public discourse has been incredibly moving. But watching them tear apart the NFL for not doing anything until the video went public is highly interesting.
My question is this: What if the video had never gone public and the NFL chose to dissolve Rice’s contract early on, would the public have supported or criticized that decision? Would they have said that the NFL was acting too quickly, and moved to hold protests against the decision?
What if the sad reality is that the general public needs video evidence to have an appropriate response to domestic violence, because without it we turn a blind eye?
Not long ago singer Chris Brown was accused of beating up (then girlfriend) singer Rhianna, and was met with a wave of support from fans across the globe. Despite photos of her wounded face, Brown is still making hits, and the world has seemed to forgotten this trespass. Would they remember if there were a viral video released by TMZ showing what really happened? Would her abuse matter more if it were public?
The public response can be a tricky and incredibly inconsistent thing.
Two years ago, I was organizing a campaign against domestic violence, and my investor tried his best to dissuade me. He told me, “I know its going to sound terrible, but the general public doesn’t really care about violence towards women and children. For every $1000 you raise for a political candidate, gun rights/control, and healthcare, you will raise $1 for violence towards women and children.”
His words hurt me, but everything he said was true. That campaign bombed worse than any other campaign because the general public reflects this NFL culture. A culture where the only reaction we have to domestic violence is a public reaction. A culture where turning a blind eye is completely acceptable until it suddenly isn’t.
So today we criticize the NFL for not doing anything sooner about Ray Rice. But what will we say tomorrow when a senior pastor advises an abused wife to stay in her marriage because God hates divorce? Or when we notice another set of marks on a co-worker’s arm?
Statistically, if you know more than 2 women in America, you know someone who has been or is being abused. The NFL mirrors a culture we have all contributed to, a culture that says its better to mind your own business than actively stand against abuse. And more often than not, we unintentionally accept the ideology of this culture. We keep our mouths closed and agree to not be disturbed by the reality hidden behind a closed door and attractive lawn.
Violence has no demographic, no target audience. It is intentional and must be handled intentionally. And though a late reaction to some, the NFL is beginning to establish rules to curb abuse among its players. My hope is that instead of pointing angry fingers at the NFL, we take a moment to point at ourselves. What reaction can we have towards this incident to curb abuse among our loved ones?
Because if one thing is for sure, abuse is happening in the community surrounding you, and you have a say in what you do to respond.
Don’t wait til it goes public. Respond now.
Sign the official petition against gender based violence. If you are experiencing abuse, you are not alone. Please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
Marquita De Jesus is the Executive Director of Silence the Violence, and author of the new book, Radically Ordinary, radicallyordinary.tateauthor.com