Downplaying Domestic Violence
What Sports Teams’ Response to DV Tells Us
You’ve probably had an experience like this in your childhood. It’s a Tuesday morning at your grammar school and your friend did something they shouldn’t have. Something bad. Let’s say they threw a book at another student. Now they’re out in the hallway receiving a stern lecture from a frightening teacher. Hours later, the bell calls everyone in from recess. Maybe you wanted to take one more pass on the monkey bars or one last trip down the slide. Either way, you’re late getting back into your seat … and you get sent to the principal’s office! Your parents are called and told of your “terrible” behavior and you find yourself grounded after you get home.
Ever had a moment like this? Someone else gets away with a huge wrong and your relatively small infraction receives the heaviest of consequences.
There’s that old saying “Let the punishment fit the crime,” meaning that the severity of penalty for a wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of the infraction. So, what should we understand from the grammar school events we recalled above? That it’s a far worse infraction to be late than to throw a book. That it’s not that big of a deal to attack and harm another person.
That’s just what happened on Monday, May 11th. The NFL loudly proclaimed that it’s not that big of a deal to commit domestic violence.
It was all over the news: “Tom Brady Suspended for Four Games.” The NFL had looked into the accusation that the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots had under-inflated their game footballs and found it to be “more probable than not.” Along with a $1 million fine for the team, the NFL announced Brady’s four game suspension, saying that his actions represented “conduct detrimental to the integrity of the league.”
Flash back to a little over a year ago. In March of 2014, Baltimore Ravens running back, Ray Rice punched his then fiancée (now wife), Janay, in the face in an elevator in Atlantic City. The blow left Janay unconscious, sprawled on the floor. Video footage shows Rice prodding her with his foot and dragging her from the elevator like a sack of potatoes.
This is obviously domestic violence, captured on film and clear for the world to see. A two hundred pound professional athlete attacked someone he professed to love. He knocked her unconscious. It’s difficult to see how any “integrity” is salvaged from this situation.
Rice’s suspension was two games.
This isn’t a question about whether the Patriots and Tom Brady under-inflated footballs. To be truthful, I don’t care what the conclusions of the NFL were on that issue. What I do care about is the punishment. Think about it. Say it out loud. Under-inflating footballs equals a four game suspension. Knocking your fiancée unconscious equals a two game suspension. Four games. Two games.
What are we to take from this? That throwing under-inflated footballs is worse than domestic violence. That a few psi in a game piece is more crucial to “integrity” than attacking and hurting another human being. I don’t know how you can see it any other way.
This isn’t an isolated point of view. As a society, we continue to look at domestic violence as a private affair. We label it something that happens in the home with no effects beyond its walls. We say, “It’s a family issue.”
Domestic violence is everyone’s issue. You know someone who has experienced domestic violence. (Current numbers say 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men.) It’s in your workplace. It affects our nation’s overall economy. In fact, the U.N. recently called it the most prevalent human rights issue of our time.
At the moment, more people are openly discussing domestic violence than ever before. These events have opened the door to honest, upfront dialogue about this widespread issue that lives right in our neighborhoods, in our own homes.
I hope you’re angry about the four game suspension for Tom Brady … but not because of football. I hope you’re angry because you don’t think domestic violence should be overlooked or its impact lessened. Because you don’t think this harrowing human rights issue should exist in the shadows.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Daniel Holloway has worked in the nonprofit field for ten years. He is both passionate about the cause to end domestic violence and a sports fan. Daniel currently serves as Marketing Officer at CORA.