The NFL’s New PR Stunt: Fighting Sexual Violence

2 years ago ccwa 0

senateweb12s-3-webThe uproar began when Ray Rice was caught on camera punching his then-fiancée in an elevator. She, of course, fell to the floor and Rice was filmed dragging her unconscious body out of the elevator. His punishment? Suspended for two games.

Daryl Washington, the inside linebacker for the Cardinals, pled guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend. According to the victim, Washington straddled her in a parking lot and choked her until her collar bone broke. His punishment? Suspended for the season due to a separate incident for violation of the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Adrian Peterson was invited back to the Minnesota Vikings following allegations of child abuse. The offer was only rescinded after an outpouring of rage from fans and the loss of a number of sponsorships including Nike. The list doesn’t stop there. As of now, the NFL has failed to punish at least 14 current players that have a documented history of domestic violence.

The Super Bowl advertisement that was described by so many viewers as “powerful” is not fiction for many. It is based on an actual 911 phone call made by a victim of domestic violence. The NFL has received glowing reviews for its sizeable donation to air an anti-domestic violence advertisement during the Super Bowl, but it may be premature to dole out unconditional praise and accolades to the organization. The NFL has exhibited a history of lenient behavior toward players accused and convicted of sexual assault and domestic violence.

There is a fundamental difference between an advertisement and a policy change: the advertisement repairs an image while the policy change repairs an issue. The NFL has begun collaborating with NO MORE, a public awareness campaign whose goal is to normalize discussions of sexual assault and domestic violence. This implies that the NFL now has exclusive access to a marketing consultant whose sole responsibility is salvaging the NFL’s tarnished image.

In light of the massive publicity generated by the Ray Rice controversy, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell “stepped up” to publicly address the NFL’s problem with domestic violence and sexual assault. The good news? A new personal conduct policy is currently undergoing negotiations. This policy provides a more comprehensive list of prohibited conduct along with actual procedures to be followed if the policy is violated. The bad news? The new policy doesn’t actually add any new punishments, meaning that it might not add up to much more than a public relations ploy. Furthermore, Goodell retains the right to make the final decision on any disciplinary action taken against a player. This is worrisome considering his less than stellar record on handling domestic violence and sexual assault cases involving NFL players.

The NFL sexual assault and domestic violence controversy has erupted at a time when these issues are at the forefront of the American consciousness. The military has experienced considerable backlash for its treatment of victims of sexual assault, and college campuses nationwide are under scrutiny for their suspicious handling of sexual assault accusations. These trends are not new; they are simply more visible due to extensive media coverage and outspoken feminist organizations. Sexual assault and domestic violence have been endemic issues that plagued American society, fundamentally caused by a culture of hyper-masculinity that equates manliness with violence.

The prevailing opinion regarding overblown manliness in society today reveals the public’s complicity and tacit approval. Instilling a hyper-masculine mindset in young boys establishes a dangerous trend that is largely dismissed as ‘boys being boys’. Research illustrates that this mindset has seriously detrimental consequences for women. Crimes of violence, aggression, and sexual abuse are seen as somehow more acceptable when committed by men because the behavioral traits behind these crimes are perceived as inherently “male”. Dominance and aggression are prized in young boys, and as they grow older, this aggression becomes destructive. Simple aggression transforms into sexual aggression as time progresses and we find ourselves living in a culture in which men are encouraged to relieve their frustration through violence against women, rarely being held accountable for their actions.

Organizational apathy toward sexual assault and domestic violence further encourages violent behavior, particularly when perpetrators are rich, powerful, or famous. The NFL donated exactly one minute and one second of its own air time to show an anti-domestic violence advertisement, but what has the NFL truly done to crack down on sexual assault and domestic violence from its players?


by Amelia Spencer

(photo credit: